Thursday, September 20, 2012

To ask for help

No man is an island

It was many years ago now that a friend asked if I would help him and his dad put in their seasonal boat dock at their cabin by Mercer. The dock was in pieces, as it had been taken out of the water for the winter and put into storage. At the beginning of each summer the dock needed to be reassembled and put back into the water. The job wasn't all that difficult, but it was time consuming, and an extra set of hands would help things go smoothly.

Simple right? What got me was the way this friend asked me. He asked in a voice that sounded timid, like I would say no, and that asking for my help would burden me, would push me away when really I was more than happy to help. In fact, I literally couldn't wait to help as I thought this would be a good way to express my gratitude for all the hospitality he and his family had extended to me through many years. This was a confirmation that I had something worth giving back, that I could help.

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon in mid-June when we traveled up to the cabin and went to work. The water was cold to wade into, but the sun had some kick, and the view of the lake with all its white pines was second to none. The other two men grumbled a bit, as they had clearly gone through this process before and preferred to just get it over with. I, on the other hand, was eager to learn and happy to help; I became the cheerful one.

As we tinkered and toyed and bolted and latched I made jokes, asked questions, and kept up the pace and focus of the endeavor so that it might be enjoyable for everyone. The level of happiness increased as our progress brought us to the end of the dock, and thus, the end of the project. It was past dinnertime when we finished, and though starving, the three of us stood at the end of the sturdy structure to look out over the lake.

It's a good feeling, working together to complete something. Both of them shook my hand, said thanks, said they really appreciated the helping hand and that I was welcome back any time. For the hundredth time I told them I was more than happy to help, glad to help, glad they asked.

As the years have ticked away at my worldly existence, I've learned to call upon many people for help. If I have discerned one thing during my quarter century, it is that no man is an island. No matter how hard I push, how committed I am, how determined, single minded, or how much flame-kissed focus I summon, I cannot do all of this on my own.

I have been beaten and bullied and scarred and scabbed. I have been kicked and crushed and scathed and hated. I am the butt of jokes, the fake, the liar, the coward, and the criminal. I am shallow, deceitful, empty, and reckless. I have let down everyone close to me, have disappointed every single person I love, have made a mess of personal relationships and watched helplessly as they decay in front of me. I have squandered my chances.

I am full of fear, terrified constantly to come out of my shell, frightened of my future, haunted by my past. There are many, many days that I'm alone in a tiny, bottomless, melancholy armageddon taking place in a cold concrete sewer at the back of my head. So many of my dreams have wilted, withered, and died. There is nothing that anyone can say or do to heal the pocks, divots, and craters that shape my heart - it looks like the surface of the moon. I am the pilot, the plane crashes constantly.

There is a shortage in this world, and it's called the truth. Here, in these writings, I bare my soul to the world. I have no choice. I cannot lock it up and bury it and hide it away; I refuse to do that. True, I have no choice sometimes. I will hide it out of instinct, when the lizard brain in me reflexes in an effort to protect me, I will hide my true self. But know this: writing to you is what challenges me to keep going, to put ink on paper, say what everyone is thinking, to never fake it. I am fortunate then, to have you to talk to. You have helped me. If I can convince you of nothing else, let me at least assure you of one thing, I'll be there to return the favor, to put the dock back together.

You, reader, have not let me go. It is going to take some time, and the water might be way too cold for comfort, but I will wade into it with you. Maybe I'm the grumpy one this time, and it will be on you to cheer me up, but I will try to be there. The extra set of hands will help things go smoothly.

Yoda says, "Do or do not, there is no try." His is a maxim I've believed since childhood. I think it's time to change that, though. I think it's time to let that one go because there is nothing worse than an empty promise. There is nothing worse than saying you've got the team on your back, and then breaking your leg. Nobody will blame you for the inability to follow through at that point, but the promise is broken nonetheless.

My point is this. Keep trying, and when you fall (because you will), please, ask for help. Someday we'll all stand at the end of the dock together, and then each of us can shake hands, thank the other.

“Since it has been my lot to find, at every parting of the road, the helping hand of comrade kind to help me with my heavy load, And since I have no gold to give and love alone must make amends, my humble prayer is, while I live -- God, make me worthy of my friends” -
See you out there,
A woodsman in training.

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