I’ve experienced a fair bit of anxiety this semester regarding needing other people’s help. Marc and I, for the first time, are both taking a class in the time slot. This is the first time that we’ve had to do this. In the past, I’ve always just chosen another class or not taken a class if there was a conflict. Part of the reason I only took one class last semester was because Marc had two other classes to take in that particular time slot. This, being our last semester, I needed to get another in-class class done, and there was literally no other choice. And it was a difficult choice to make, but I have two friends who willingly take Olivia on alternating weeks which makes it a lot easier.
Or, at least it should.
My brain doesn’t always allow it to be so easy. I feel dependent on these friends… because, well, I am dependent on these friends. We swap looking after each others’ kids, so it’s not even like it’s a one-sided deal. And even if I wasn’t in class, Olivia would probably still go to play about once a week, but just knowing that neither Marc or I are available is such a different way of doing things than we’ve done in our 9+ years of parenting, that it’s taken much getting used to. I’m still getting used to it. I still feel somewhat guilty about it. Maybe guilt isn’t quite the right word. It just weighs on me sometimes. Like I’m not holding me own because I need these friends.
A friend out here had twins a few months ago and I have given her a standing invitation to text me any evening she needs me to hold crying babies. (I love holding — or should I say, calming down — crying babies.) She texted the other evening but I’d forgotten that Marc was going curling that night. I didn’t want to miss the chance to help her (since I’d missed her text on one particularly rough night with the babies), so I called my friend who was working at the library to see if she’d come and finish her work at my place. The kids were all sleeping so I figured it wouldn’t make a difference to her.
So, you see, that night it was community in action. A friend helping me so I could go and help a friend.
It was good, except for that little piece where I needed help in order to help my friend. I was more than willing to help a friend, but I sure felt bad about needing help myself. And I can’t pinpoint the reason. I don’t think I need to do things independently. It could be that I think others have that expectation of me. Sometimes it feels like I am especially needy — out here with no family (you know, the people who have to help you), being in school, having one vehicle, needing childcare sometimes to get to appointments and that one class, etc.
Sometimes I wonder if I’m willing to contribute to community but not enter it myself.
This week I realized that when I expect things of others I often end up disappointed and bitter. Instead I think I need to receive what is offered to me in community as a gift — to let it simply be what it is without my preconceived notions of it being enough or not enough. I wonder if that will solve my guilt problems and my frustrations. Maybe seeing community as a gift, with all of its foibles and limits, will help me with the troubles I have living in community.