Lori is my oldest Dallas friend. I met her all the way back in 2008 when our dogs became best buddies at our apartment complex. She was single-momming it at the time and we quickly became part of a community in our complex that is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, even to this day.
When we moved from that complex, Lori helped us clean and paint the nasty bachelor duplex. She helped us paint our house when we bought it a few years later. She witnessed us become parents.
She is my oldest friend in Dallas.
Several years ago, Lori was hit with a bout of really strange, crippling medical issues. We took her to the emergency room several times; she was hospitalized a couple times and finally diagnosed with a handful of chronic illnesses. It was a really hard time for her and a learning experience for me. This is where I honed my “bossy hospital advocate” vibe, standing in the doorway of her ER room, staring at people uncomfortably until they brought us what we needed. This is where, in the time span of about an hour, The Kid inexplicably, unprompted laid facedown on the hospital carpet outside Lori’s room (“WHAT ARE YOU DOING? GET UP AND SANITIZE YOUR FACE. DO YOU WANT EBOLA?”) and then snatched a poorly wrapped peppermint sitting on the edge of a trashcan by the elevator and popped it in his mouth (“WHAT ARE YOU DOING? SPIT THAT OUT IMMEDIATELY AND DRINK THIS HAND SANITIZER. DO YOU WANT EBOLA?”)
Chronic disease is no joke. I’ve been with Lori since the beginning and the amount of self-advocacy, doctor visits, insurance calls, medication changes that she’s had to deal with is enough to make any person want to bang their face into a wall. She has really learned to take things in stride. She’s very brave and I’m proud of her for all of the ways that she’s grown in the ways she needed to grow.
Recently, over the Christmas holiday, she came down with another weird thing. At first, we thought it was a side effect of the flu. I took her Subway sandwiches and Sobe LifeWaters so she would eat and stay hydrated. We’d air hug and chat from across the room. At one point, the symptoms got worse and she texted me that she thought maybe she had the mumps, which had both of us scouring Web MD about the mumps. Based on the Complete History of Diseases at Unfortunate Times in the Wise household, I was already composing a children’s book in my head. Here’s some of it:
The Wise’s Have the Mumps
Where could those Wises be today? Where are they now? I’m stumped.
Oh, didn’t you hear? It’s quite serious. The Wises have the mumps.
They can’t go to work or school or to the grocery store. Are they down in the dumps?
Well, yes, of course. Consider the fevers, the dry mouth, the fatigue and the faces all full of lumps.
Fortunately, Lori did not have the mumps. Unfortunately, she did have to be admitted to the hospital for an infection.
Alex and I ran point on walking her dog, Cisco, since we’re basically his godparents. When I’d let myself into her apartment, Cisco would wag his tail so enthusiastically that his spine would practically bend in half. I’d lace his head through his harness and strap him in and then try not to let him drag me down the stairs face first like a cartoon character.
Quite honestly, I’d forgotten how nice it was to be forced to walk a dog. Oh, how terrible! I have to take this happy little creature outside so he can sniff and discover new smells to his complete delight while I soak up the sun and notice the rose bushes.
One forgets these things when you unceremoniously open the back door for your dog to go do god-knows-what in your backyard.
Cisco is a creature of habit and I quickly discovered the best place for him to get down to brass tacks was the little triangular strip of dirt in front of the dumpster. It’s not my favorite place to stop and take a breather, but Cisco quite enjoyed it so we spent some time there.
One day, after I had visited Lori in the hospital, I went over to her apartment and took Cisco on our circuitous route. His excretions are quite large and sometimes, due to his strange eating habits, quite unique. I once watched in shock and horror as Lori pulled a length of clear packing tape out of his anus while we were on a walk. It was like he had a long tapeworm, but minus the worm part. It’s something I still try not to think about to this day.
Anyway, on this particular walk around the complex, when we got to Cisco’s favorite locale, I waited while he stood perched on his tiptoes and let loose. At that moment, I was struck with a revelation, almost as if a lightbulb from heaven shined down on me and my poopy companion.
At the hospital, Lori had voiced her concern that she was putting people out by having to ask for help but she also recognized that she was forced to ask for help. She had no other options. After all, she cannot program her Roomba to take the dog on a walk. Not yet, at least. We talked about how that necessity is a gift, in its own strange, stressful way because we are all cut from the same cloth- the cloth that says it’s good to be independent and asking for help makes you look weak. Her body, in its own roundabout process, was forcing her to ask for help.
While I watched Cisco empty his body of 12 hours worth of shit and ephemera he had eaten out of Lori’s trashcans, I was struck with such gratitude that I got to serve my friend in this manner. My friends don’t usually let me love on them in such concrete ways and here I was, scooping up a humongous pile of dung with a thin plastic bag. I couldn’t have been happier. I was caring for my friend’s dog so that she could focus on getting better.
My counselor’s been talking about how trust and attachment come from this delicate dance involving needs. To build a relationship, you fulfill the other person’s needs and you let them fulfill some of yours. We are wired to rely on one another in this way and yet, we’re often so reluctant to let others in, to see *us* when we’re needy.
It was such an honor to pick up Lori’s dog’s shit and do a few dishes while Cisco took in the fresh night air on the balcony.
I’ve had to allow myself to ask her for help too (usually in the form of sage parenting advice and saying, “Fuck, yeah, I remember those days”. The affirmation that parenting sometimes makes you want to stab yourself with a rusty fork is worth its weight in dog shit. I’ve measured.)
Alex and I admittedly are terrible about asking for help. Sometimes, we muscle through a tough time and then don’t tell people until we’re free on the other side. This is stupid, I know, and circumstances this winter and spring have shown us that we’ve got to get better because we have so many burdens to bear and only two sets of shoulders to bear them. We have come close to being crushed by the emotional weight of everything going on.
Part of this, I think, is that we’re both introverts and, even if we recognize that we need other people, it doesn’t change the fact that other people drain us. When The Baby’s in the hospital, our introvert batteries are already zapped from talking to all of the medical personnel and so while a tofu bahn-mi sounds infinitely better than eating undersalted mashed potatoes that The Baby wouldn’t eat, asking someone to bring me one seems more draining than it’s worth. As introverts, especially under stress, we have to gear ourselves up for social interactions, however brief. Gird your loins, Beth. Charles is coming to bring a sandwich and he might…ask you a question.
During the last hospitalization, Alex and I actually expended emotional energy we didn’t have arguing because I told someone they could bring Alex a smoothie. This illustrates 1) how bad we are at asking for help and 2) how silly we get when we’re tired and emotionally strung out.
We don’t avoid asking for help because we’re ashamed that we’re stressed. Any person with eyeballs can see that we’re stressed. Maybe sometimes, we’re prideful and we think we can do it ourselves, but most of the time, it’s because we’re so tired and stressed and our knee-jerk response is to collapse in on ourselves like a dying star.
A friend and I were catching up recently and she mentioned she’d had an emergency hospitalization and I was PISSED that she didn’t tell me. And then she asked how we were doing and the Baby had had an emergency hospitalization and she was PISSED that I didn’t tell her. We were both PISSED that we didn’t ask for help.
My revelation while walking with Cisco felt significant. I realized that other people want to love me the same way I love Lori and that is significant.
It feels distinctly human, almost holy- this need to rely on one another.
I, for one, am going to try to do better about asking for help when I need it. I don’t want to miss out any longer.