Thursday, October 22, 2015

Rumbling With Need

   I am joining Kate Motaung and others who are writing every day in October. My intention is to record my reactions and feelings about Brené Brown's newest book, "Rising Strong". You can find the other posts I have written here.  

   To be a helper is highly valued in my family and community. If you are a good helper then you are also industrious and by definition functioning well. My family survived worn-torn Germany by functioning well under stress.  Get up! Keep moving! Don't ask for help! Be the helper! I came along five years after the war. My mother was 43 and utterly shocked to have another pregnancy. They wanted to emigrate to America. After three boys, who were now teenagers, I was a sign of hope and renewal. I lived in a family of adults who were all helpers and functioning well, on the surface. 

"Over functioning: I won't feel. I will do. I don't need help. I help.
   Under functioning: I won't function. I will fall apart. I don't help. I need help."

       My daughter was having her second child. She lived an hour away. Her husband was in army boot camp and would not be attending the birth. She had decided to move closer to her family and his to have the help she needed. Two teenage stepsons were living with her which added both help and stress to her life. I gave her assurances that I would be there to see her through it.

   Knowing I struggle with sleeping in other places and other issues of security, I asked my husband to come stay some days with us. He got time off from work and I took time off from teaching to welcome a new grandson. I still remember putting on the scrubs when it was time to go into the C-Section. He was a beautiful baby boy and the birth went well.  The weather was gorgeous in September and everyday I drove from my daughter's home to the hospital to visit and bring supplies. She was amazingly strong and determined to get back on her feet. I always marveled at her strength and resilience. My husband stayed home with the youngest and made sure the boys got to school and home again.

   My reckoning came a few days after my daughter came home from the hospital. The house was full of people, my daughter was stressed and in an angry state. We tried to do things away from home to get out of her way so she could rest. Nothing I did seemed to please her. The pressure exploded and an unpleasant scene erupted. My husband and I went for a walk and I confided that I felt I needed to go home for a day to get my bearings. He was heading back to work that day and with heart heavy with foreboding I said I was coming, too.

  Greeting us outside, before we got back into the door, my daughter unloaded her frustration and I angrily told her I was leaving if we could not be kinder to each other. She told us if we left we would not be allowed to come back. We left. I cried all the way home. I left my recovering daughter with two small children and teenage sons. I abandoned her. I deserted her when she needed help most. Shame flooded my heart and I struggled to justify my decision. I was an under-functioner. I quit. I fell apart. I don't help, I need help.

     By evening I was running a fever and for the next five days I had a terrible flu. In those days during my illness my daughter and I did not talk. When I finally received permission to visit again things were stiff and unsettling. I tried to tell her that my going home was a blessing. I had kept her from getting the flu. This was a reckoning. I started thinking about the story I was telling myself and became curious about what was real and what was a confabulation. Did I under-function when things got hard? Was I really lousy at helping others? Was my daughter over functioning? Things would never be the same again between us.

   "Looking at these two responses through the lens of vulnerability both ways are forms of armor. And, both are learned behaviors to deal with uncertainty."

More about rumbling with need tomorrow. 


  1. Oh Gabriele, I feel for you. (Love the idea of exploring the idea of helping/being helped a little deeper)

  2. It is a good rumble, isn't it?


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