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I receive regular supportive mailings from Brave Living/Brabe Girls Club and was particularly touched by a recent one about “When help shows up, open yourself to it.”

i am currently housebound with ‘flu and did need help.   Once I realised this, I sent out a general call to a group of old friends and was grateful for all the replies including those that said “we’ll see you and hope you’re better when we return from skiing”

Then there’s the relatively new friend:  the colleague I’ve only begun to know and enjoy as a friend since Stuart’s death.    I did NOT include him in the “help please” message but simply sent him a message to warn him not to call, if he had intended to, as I was unwell.    I was honestly surprised whe he replied offering to get any shopping I might need and, in a burst of unprotected neediness, said Yes Please for a big box of mansize tissues.   He arrived with them the next morning, handed them laughingly to me at arm’s length and as he turned to leave, said I should send a text if I needed anything else.    I coughed, spluttered and waved goodbye.

I know I am NOT going to ask again.   I know that if I’d been less ill and weak, I would NOT have accepted his first offer, I would have said Thanks, I’m OK and then, I think back to the Brave Living message that when help shows up I should open myself to it, and I wonder what game I think I’m playing?

My only (partial) understanding is that this is a new friendship, to do with the new me and the new life I am having to build and I don’t want to be seen as a responsibility, but rather as a person who can share cheerfulness and isn’t only needy.  

Or maybe I’m entirely mistaken.    Any opinions?    

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Replies to This Discussion

Trust your instincts.  

Hi, Catapan,  

I wonder if anything more has come of this situation that's now almost two weeks old? I just think that this colleague/new friend sounds like a very kind, sincere person and you should try not to overthink it. Be natural, and as things come up in life, we are by turns needy and providing for others' needs. It's ok not to be only cheerful and light; it's ok to be needy and to allow others to provide.  Think how you feel when you do for someone else; it can be a gift we give to others when we let them see our vulnerability and provide for us, even if just a specially delivered box of mansized tissues.  

I wonder also if it's just a little scary to be forming a friendship that is independent of your relationships that were formed when you were part of the couple that you and Stuart were.  

I hope you are quite well, now! 

Nance, how wise.    Two weeks on, I had my first venture into fresh air yesterday (hairdresser, library and some groceries) which has left me ridiculously tired but it’s a first step to recovery.

Simon, Stuart’s friend, sent a text just a couple of days ago to see how I was and when I confirmed I was now beginning to feel human, he called that evening.    As it happened - you talk about us being by turns needy and providing for others’ needs - he obviously needed to unload a huge amount of stuff that’s going on in his life, within the family.    He stayed for almost two hours and just talked and I listened and empathised and when he got up to leave, he said “I feel pounds lighter, having got that off my chest.”  

I understand he’d got what he needed and it had been no hardship for me to give it.   I understand  that giving requires no effort, when it’s sincere, so why I should not accept offers of help in this particularly budding friendship still confuses me.    If it’s easy for me, then it will be easy for him and it’s arrogant of me to decide I know best, that he doesn’t mean his offer really . . . 

Finally, his parting words were “If you need anything, just call.”    I thanked him but said “but I won’t.”    From him:  “I know, but you should.”

You're absolutely right.    It IS scary, to be forming any kind of relationship that’s new, that’s independent of those that were part of my life with Stuart.  Simon was Stuart’s best friend, they did so much together and I sort of watched from the sidelines.    Now I seem to have been “adopted” into a new relationship where I don’t (yet) understand the rules.

Lev (above) said to trust my instincts and you advise me to be natural and try not to overthink.    Ha!    Overthinking has been my default position all my life! I didn’t do it with Stuart, because I felt absolutely safe with him, but I’m in limbo these days and not much feels safe.   There’s little structure, there’s so much that doesn’t feel right and yet, telling you all this and seeing myself sitting, listening to Simon as he just talked and talked, I realise that I was trusting my instincts, I was being natural.

Thank you for responding in a way that has allowed me to consider things a bit more clearly.

catapan, for many of us, the friendships that go way back in our lives sustain us.  Quite a few people who post here have reported re-connecting with people they knew decades ago; some have married them.  A friend I saw last week, who's 80 years old, was at a charity benefit with her second husband- he and his late wife and she and her late husband, had been friends for many years. 

I don't mean to imply that these friendships have to lead to marriage or even intimacy- I've deepened my friendship with a guy I dated in college who lives several states away and is married.  I have no wish to change the status quo but there's just something special about relationships with people "who knew you when" and, in particular, those who knew your late husband. It's one of the reasons I stay with my church community even though I now live 17 miles away and there's a church in my denomination right here in my town.  Most of the people I see every Sunday knew Ron and remember him fondly (especially the cookies he baked for coffee hour).  I still sit one chair removed from the aisle because Ron always had the aisle seat!  I can't bring myself to change my habits and sit with others.

Anyway- enough of my ramblings.  Take your time and see where it goes.  At this age (I'm 65) long-term friends are treasures.   

Catapan, certainly no fun to be ill and on your own. I'm glad you are recovered(?) hopefully? It is so difficult to ask for your help. I'm glad you were able to do that. I too would have a hard time doing that. I knock wood that I will stay healthy enough to not have to put that call out, and yet I know it is a sign of strength to ask for help when you need it.

Athena53, I know what you mean about your church community. It is comforting to stay, or reconnect with those that know you on a more intimate level. What I have discovered in myself is that the majority of my time, and the most comfortable, is spent with widows. I don't know if that's good, bad or indifferent, but it is where my life has gravitated. They are the ones that understand. They seem to be my new "community."

Thank you Tess.    I am free of ‘flu but have a residual cough and I become croaky very soon, if/when I talk for any length of time.   I’m easily  tired, too, but this will pass.

My head knows it’s a sign of strength to ask for help when I need it, but my emotions get in first.    I was raised to be self-reliant, even as a small child.    My (single) mother’s mantra was always “If you want something doing, do it yourself.”   She lived by it, I’ve required myself to live by it and it’s a hard rule I impose on myself.    I wouldn’t ask it of anyone else.  

I know that since I’m in a “new” life, it’s a chance to try to adopt some new behaviours.    I want to say “I’ll try” and there has to be a first step I can take.    

Thank you for your understanding.

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