At dinner with friends recently, I realised everyone there was struggling with something. It’s hard being an adult sometimes! If it wasn’t illness, it was relationship stress. If it wasn’t that, it was problems at work or with the kids.
We’re lucky because, when things are tough, we have each other to lean on for support and practical help. Not everyone feels that sense of ‘village’ quite as intensely.
At a recent workshop, I was asked the question: “What happens when you’re the only ‘adult’ in the picture?” In this case, all of the other adults in the extended family were ill, either with serious physical illnesses or mental illness. For others, the lack of village is due to displacement from family—living interstate or overseas.
When the buck stops with you and you feel isolated and weighed down by responsibility, ironically it’s even more important to have ‘me time’. It’s vital to take time out, replenish your energy and look after your health first, before helping others (a la the oxygen mask analogy).
Another irony is that the less support you have, the more important it is to ask for help. You might think that, with responsibilities coming out of your ears, and people leaning on you from everywhere, there’s nobody left who you can call upon.
At the workshop, I asked the room (filled with the woman’s colleagues) if anyone would be prepared to respond to a call for help from her, either day or night.
Guess how many people put their hands up?
EVERYONE. Every. Single. Person. (Which was about forty people.)
Every day in social media groups, I see calls for help from single mums who feel they have no support and are isolated. Every day I see these comment threads swamped by the kindness of strangers offering to meet up or help out.
Recently, when friends needed to arrange for some fresh water and rice to be transported into a remote, cyclone-ravaged island in Vanuatu, the task seemed impossible. That is, until I posted the question on Facebook. Within minutes, it was sorted. We’d had no idea that a stranger would come forward with exactly the transportation needed, because he happened to be involved with a coconut plantation on that very island.
I do not accept that there is ‘no-one to ask’. I do not accept that we have to ‘do it alone’.
People WILL help us, if needed. We DO have a support network around us, even when it seems invisible.
Nine times out of ten, it’s not that nobody is prepared to help. It’s that we’re not prepared to ask.
We create walls that shut out the village that exists around us, always.
The buck doesn’t stop with us unless we let it.