True story. I once moved a 20-foot pine tree by myself. My boyfriend and his buddy chopped it down (it was already dead) with the intention of cutting it up into logs. They had a change of heart after the initial chop and decided to go ride ATVs instead, thus leaving the downed tree lying in the middle of our driveway. It probably would still be lying there today if I hadn’t wrapped a chain around it and strapped it to my car’s tow hitch to drag it away by myself.
I have a reputation of doing these kinds of things by myself. Not out of want but more out of need. See, I’m kind of a walking contradiction. I’m a Type A, OCD, control freak with a bohemian spirit and carefree soul. What that translates to: I do what I want, when I want, how I want. Because of this, I’ve always just done things on my own. I’ve never been one to ask for help, almost always turning it down even when it’s offered. And it’s not that I wouldn’t welcome the occasional help, but I’ve come to learn that even the best intentions often fall through. So why ask for help when you can do it by yourself? From experience, in the end, doing in on my own usually proves faster, and since I’m the only one on the job, I know things will end up exactly how I intended them to be.
However, the flaw in these characteristics is that I often end up stressed-out or overwhelmed, taking on more than one person should. I’ve always accepted a challenge with determination and the gusto of knowing that I’ll accomplish what I set out to do. But often there are tears involved and the occasional blood and sweat as well. I’ve always been like this–both to the admiration and frustration of those that love me.
So when I had to put up over 1,000 feet of barb-wire fencing around my property the most economically way possible, I was faced with the daunting task of either tackling it alone or reaching out for help. I will admit that the idea of doing it alone was a little intimidating, but it needed to be done–and I was the girl for the job. I didn’t have the finances to hire someone, and I don’t exactly live in a convenient area for friends just to stop by and pitch in. Granted, my boyfriend and his buddy insisted that they would help (as they should), but I knew that I was going to be walking into a deja vu of the pine tree incident. And so I prepared myself for the worst while hoping for the best.
I was on a time schedule. I needed to get the fence up ASAP. I bought all the supplies: post, ties, and a 1,300-foot spool of barb wire. My dad is a retired contractor, and by chance, all of his tools are temporarily stored in my garage, so I had every drill, saw, screw, and wrench I could possibly need at my disposal. I had prepped the poles and needed to saw them in half; never having actually done this before, I called my dad to ask which saw to use. As luck would have it, a friend happened to be over and offered to cut them for me. I didn’t ask for his help, but since I was a sawzall virgin, he offered to cut them and I didn’t say no.
With that feat out of the way, I was ready to secure my posts. Except time kept ticking away between work and home and everything in between, and I needed more hours in my day. I just couldn’t find them. And as the days went by, my anxiety about getting the fence up started to overwhelm me. I began to dread the thought of doing it alone. It was the first time that the pressure to accomplish what I set out to do made me question my ability to get it done.
Then another friend who happened to be staying with us for a few days took it upon himself to put up half of the posts before heading home. I never even mentioned the fence to him, and it had never crossed my mind to ask him to lend a hand. Needless to say, my gratitude was abundant and the relief from his actions made the possibility of finishing the fence alone less daunting. I could see the finish line again even if it was still a distance away.
My dad called the next day for a status update. I told him it was “coming along.” He called me back a couple hours later, and all he said was, “If you need help, all you have to do is ask me.” And it was true, I knew all I had to do was ask him, and he’d come help. But for the life of me, I couldn’t muster up the nerve to say those words. I don’t know if it’s because I didn’t want to be an inconvenience to him or because I’m so damn hard-headed that I wanted to say I did it myself. I told my boyfriend and called my mom about our conversation; both said I should take him up on his offer. And so I did. I called him the next day and asked him for his help, which he was more than happy to provide. He came up on a Monday night, and we had the fence completed by Saturday. I’d probably just be finishing it up now, a month later, had I turned him down.
The moral of the story: there’s an ideal about being able to do it all. The truth is that no one really can do it all without help. It’s a humbling experience. I have to remind myself of that more often than I’d like to admit. I can’t begin to explain why it’s become so difficult to ask others for help. Maybe because I’ve been responsible for so much for so long that I’ve perfected the balancing act of doing everything on my own. It can be a gratifying sense of accomplishment but also an overwhelming task. I guess sometimes you just need to take the hand when it’s offered. It doesn’t make you weak or a failure, it just makes you human. And putting up a fence reminded me that it’s okay to put down my defenses once in a while and ask for help.
Also by Danielle: Why Not Having Children Doesn’t Make Me Selfish
More in Voices: Love: Letting Go of the Past
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Photo: Ivan Karasev via Unsplash