Don’t Carry It All

The title for this week’s post is courtesy The Decemberists, whose track of the same name has been in regular circulation at the bike shop, in my Delica, at home, and essentially anywhere I can safely put my headphones in. Here it is, for your listening pleasure:


With this song echoing in my head ad nauseam, I noticed something differently last night while playing some drop-in indoor beach volleyball. What caught my attention wasn’t the quality of sand, though it was certainly enjoyable to run, jump, and dive in. It wasn’t the large number of tattooed men and women happy for the opportunity to show off their art (I readily include myself in this group). What I noticed was people calling to their teammates for help when unable to play a ball. At first glance, this is no big deal – it happens all the time on the volleyball court, whether on hardwood or sand, between six teammates or two. Heck, I was calling “Help!” as well, in all my tattooed glory. As insignificant as this is on the court, I found myself considering how it’s quite a different story off the court.

I don’t like to ask for help. I don’t like to admit that I need it, especially with things that actually matteremotional strains, personal shortcomings, relational fuck-ups, you get the idea. I don’t know anyone who feels comfortable asking for help in these areas. We don’t mind asking for help with practical things like, say, choosing a friend’s birthday present, building a new deck, or moving. In the meantime, however, we slog it out alone through personal trials, fighting battles that, in my opinion, cannot be won singlehandedly. Occasionally, progress and solutions can be had in the privacy of one’s own mind, but these instances are few and far between. Why do we have a such a hard time deciphering conflicts in these areas? Because here we are first-person participants complete with biases, prejudices, and grudges – we need outside help.

Now here’s the ironic part: as hesitant as I am to admit inability and ask for help, I will make every effort, within reason, to heed a friend’s request for help. Luckily for me, most of my friends are the same way. I think of an instance where a friend from Vancouver texted me, asking if we could meet in her neighbourhood instead of Fort Langley, where we originally planned. She had perfectly valid and understandable reasons for this and I instinctively wanted to accommodate this change of plans. My depleted energy levels, however, said otherwise and I explained this to her, asking, “Would you mind, terribly, coming this way tomorrow?” She texted back, “No problem! Thx for being honest and asking…” Contrary to popular thought, admitting weakness and asking for help doesn’t put relationships at risk, it strengthens them. It confirms that pretences are unnecessary. It gives an opportunity for the other to show they’ve got your back. Isn’t this the kind of friend we all want and want to be? We aren’t meant to carry it all.

Sometimes we need to look beyond our circles for the help we need. For example, I met with my therapist (more precisely, she’s a psychotherapist but that sounds scarier, doesn’t it?) again today for the first time in about six years. Originally, Dr. DeVita had helped me develop coping strategies for the cognitive and psychological issues that plagued me early on, back when they were warm and fresh. Today we worked on some fine tuning in relational areas, both social and personal, and I’m pretty stoked about it. I think therapists are awesome, despite the taboo and stigma that comes from needing one every now and then.

If we’re serious about becoming better versions of ourselves, we mustn’t allow public opinion, vulnerability, and ridicule determine when or how, or who we ask for help.

Instead, let’s let the yoke fall from our shoulders.


About jaybrandsma

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One Response to Don’t Carry It All

  1. Kristin says:

    so true Jay, acknowledging what I need in a relationship and being able to say it isn’t going to lose me friends, it’s going to make them stronger. Great post. I also listened to it with the music. Perfect.

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