just ask

A recent article in the NYT called me to myself and my my misplaced self-pity. The writer, Alina Tugend, of this particular piece cites a number of other writers who recommend asking for  help  and who give various reasons for not asking (not wanting to admit defeat, embarrassed to seem incompetent, feeling like an outsider or a stranger not well enough acquainted to beg).  No one mentions pride or need or the hope for an unsolicited gift. In my book about women's diaries I introduced Martha Ballard, (1735-1812) a remarkable American midwife, most remarkable because she kept a very long diary (edited briliiantly by Laura Thatcher Ulrich who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for her book, A Midwife's Tale ). It's a good read and I recommend it.  This is from memory; I think the emotion is sound. 

Ballard's husband was in jail - I think it was for debt - and she was left alone to run their home as winter was coming on. She needed wood for the fires -cooking and heating -  and that involved skill and strength beyond her capacity: cutting and hauling and stacking, and so on. I know what that's about; I lived on a lake in Muskoka for 16 years and though I had the electric wire to power my baseboard heaters, I needed the extra warmth that my  fireplace provided. I couldn't cut or haul -  I paid for that - but i did a lot of stacking and carrying. Ballard had pride and no money and an able-bodied son who she expected to help her without being asked. Darned if she was going to beg.  She didn't ask and he didn't help. 

I thought of her before I read the NYT piece.  I needed a new mattress.  I can do most things by myself but I was paralyzed over this. I had to measure and test and arrange delivery (I don't have a car). I didn't know where to start.  I have asked my able-bodied son for help before, too subtly, I guess, because he always just recommends that I go on-llne.  I buy my books online but not much else; I seem to have trouble/complications that involve time and effort to correct.  Anyway, subtly was getting me nowhere and my back hurt.  I remembered Martha Ballard and I wrote my son an e-mail.  For Subject I wrote "please help me".  He did.

I have a new mattress and my back has stopped hurting (almost.  I am old, you know. )