Asking for Help by Carol P. Christ


I climbed trees and rode my bike and roller skated on sidewalks for hours on end when I was a child. As an adult, I have always been physically strong without having to work at it. Nor have I had to think much about my health. I have been able to trust my body to do pretty much everything I wanted it to do. I am also fiercely independent. And I don’t always like to be touched because my body is extremely sensitive to other people’s energies.

On the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete I was always the first one in and out of the caves and usually the first or one of the first up and down the mountains too. This changed when I injured my knee a few years ago in one of the caves and then six months later re-injured it in a fall on my front steps. I was told not to stress my knee by the pharmacist, and as a consequence stopped walking and doing yoga. I began to lose my physical strength.

A few days before this fall’s tour, I slipped in a taverna while sopping wet after a wonderful swim in the sea. Landing on my backside on the perpendicular edge of a tiled stair, I developed a large raised swelling called a hematoma that was painful to the touch. When I broke my fall, I pushed back against my injured knee. Luckily, nothing was broken. But I started the tour in a less than optimal physical state.

I had to ask for help in the caves and often for a hand to steady myself on uneven ground on the archaeological sites and even in getting in and out of the sea. This experience was an eye-opener for me. What I found was that touching and being touched by another person while being helped was sensual and extremely comforting.

Because I needed help, I walked arm and arm with one friend down a mountain and with another on the streets of Heraklion at night. I found that physical connection deepened friendships. By the end of the tour, I was so used to physical contact that one of the pilgrims and I walked arm and arm on the way to the museum, even though I didn’t really need any help.

At Mount Juktas, I leaned against a handsome young man who was our van driver for a good half an hour. Though there was nothing sexual about our encounter, I could tell that he really loved helping me and enjoyed taking my arm and holding my hand. This got me to thinking about all those women I have known over the years who (I supposed) feigned helplessness in the presence of men or (perhaps) simply were not too proud to ask for help when they needed it.

As a result of this new experience of physical connection, I am beginning to question my habit of fierce independence. I did not go to the doctor before, during, or immediately after the tour. Who me, I don’t need doctors! But after being badgered by two friends, I am going to an orthopedist today. I want to get strong again. Maybe a doctor can help me better understand how to do that.

When I regain my physical strength, I hope I will not forget the lesson about interdependence and longing for bodily connection I learned when I asked for help. While of course I do not support “you big strong man,” “me little woman” tactics, still I wonder: maybe those damsels in distress I always despised were on to something after all! People like to help each other and we enjoy the physical contact that comes with it.

* * *

a-serpentine-path-amazon-coverGoddess and God in the World final cover designCarol’s new book written with Judith Plaskow, is  Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology.

FAR Press recently released A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess.

Join Carol  on the life-transforming and mind-blowing Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete. Sign up now for 2018! It could change your life!

Carol’s photo by Michael Honegger

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Categories: Body, Earth-based spirituality, Embodiment, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, General

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20 replies

  1. Karolina ,
    There is always a reason things happen. Seems the physical disadvantage, was really a lesson of independence and dependence. A combination of both helps make us a well rounded circle.
    May you heal quickly, and grow stronger from this experience.
    Blessed Be

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a beautiful,touching post! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I hope you regain your strength soon, Carol, and find many loving and helpful hands along the way.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a lovely story about touch, Touch I think is underestimated as a healing force and one that deepens relationship (as your experiences demonstrated).

    Unlike you, I have always liked being hugged etc but as I get older I find the touch of my animals to be the kind I need most. There is something about those furry bodies…

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I was a tomboy, too, climbing trees and roller skating and riding my bike all over the neighborhood, and I was sort of strong. And really independent. But not anymore. Like you, I have learned to ask for help when I need it. A few years ago, I fell off a chair I’d climbed on to reach a high shelf. I broke the chair! Not myself, thank Goddess, though I had some spectacular bruises. Now I go to my neighbor (who is six feet tall) and ask for “tall help.” I wonder if learning to ask for help is something that naturally comes to us as we age or if falls and tumbles are really learning experiences.

    I agree with Sara–I love to pet my cats and have them around me or in my lap. Furry bodies!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The accepting of help can be it’s own kind of strength.

    Your little mountain goat

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This post was wonderful to read. It brought up a lot of different memories and thoughts for me. Thank you for the inspiration to self delve.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wonderful post, Carol. I believe that independence is an overrated value in our culture. In fact, a survey of studies concerning individualism (which has personal independence as a corollary) vs. communalism discovered that the U.S. has the most individualistic culture in the world (I’m not surprised), i.e. that we think the most highly of this value and exhibit it the most. We need to realize that we get by with a little help from our friends, just like every other society.

    Your post also indicates that we probably need to think about our disconnection from touch in a highly independent culture. I certainly grew up with both of those in my family, and learned the joys of hugging when I went to college, bringing it home to my birth family. That would be a very interesting study.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Of course I have been writing about a relational embodied and interdependent world forever. However, one part of my “feminist badge of courage” was to show that I was as strong as men, as smart as men, and as their equal didn’t need their help with doors, suitcases, or anything else.

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      • I certainly know the “smart as men” part. I went back to graduate school to prove that I was as smart as any man! In retrospect not the best motivation. And as a feminist of your generation, in the 1970s I gave men crap if they tried to open doors for me. Nowadays I let such little things pass.

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  9. I have reach a point when I have to ask for physical help after being very independent. Last year in Europe, I found I could not walk on cobblestones safely even with a cane without the help of another person. More things hurt even on good days. I now sit to sing in my choral concerts. And I am glad I have continued to sing even with the physical restriction. I sang in a concert yesterday that was a glorious spiritual experience. If I had not been willing to accept that I needed to sit, I would have missed this wonderful experience!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A beautiful post! You are so right about the benefits of allowing yourself to be helped when you need it. I think another spiritual lesson from having health issues is coming to understand what a miracle the human body is. Growing up in western culture, it is so easy to see the human body and the world around us as something impure and unspiritual, which is why so many of us try to bring about a spiritual reverence for the physical world. I think an essential part of that is appreciating how amazing our bodies are, which can happen when something goes wrong and suddenly we realize how strong, flexible, and coordinated all our body’s systems need to be in order for us to do something as basic as walking or how brilliant our immune systems are at protecting us from pathogens. There’s nothing like sitting in a doctor’s office hearing about what has gone wrong to show how incredible it is that everything has gone right for six decades up until now. Partnering with our bodies when they need help to heal and giving our physical selves the same attention, love, and comfort that we would give an ill friend or family member who is especially beloved is to me, a profoundly spiritual act of honoring the sacredness of our physical beings. So, take care of yourself and I look forward to hearing about how you are back to your healthy self!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Right on, Carolyn! To add to the amazement your speak of, we can just think about our senses (all 21 of them, experts now suggest) and how breathtaking they are.As just one example, the ability to detect electromagnetic waves that are oscillating between 430 trillion times per second (red) to 750 trillion times per second (violet) defines our ability to see color.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I want to thank you, Carolyn, & you, Carol, for writing all that you did. I really needed to read this today. I especially loved Carolyn writing about or need of ”partnering with our bodies when they need help to heal and giving our physical selves the same attention, love, and comfort that we would give an ill friend or family member who is especially beloved is to me. . .” and “ honoring the sacredness of our physical beings. . .” Those are words I’ll keep dearly in my heart.

      It’s never easy to ask for help, but when you must, a person can use it as an important teaching regarding how much we need each other. There are so many ways that we rely on others everyday. (One way to increase our consciousness of this is to consider how many hands were involved in some aspect of the things we commonly rely on every day, from the food we eat to the tissues we blow our noses with.)

      I am still a fiercely independent person regardless of the fact that I developed paraneoplastic syndrome. But because of PNS, I also learned how much of my independence is limited. (Duh!) Very rarely, when women have breast cancer or a few other forms of cancer, they develop PNS. I was 50 when I contracted PNS. Some of the antibodies attacked my cerebellum, instead of the breast cancer they were intended to fight. The chances of that happening are about the same as the chances for winning the NY State lottery.

      Before the disease hit, I was an active person, an all-around outdoorswoman. I was a hiker, a backpacker, a cross-country skier, a dancer, and a martial artist. I was a performer, a seminarian, a storyteller, and a teacher, both at the college and public school levels. I also had received numerous grants to teach others how to use their inherited past in order to recreate the present and a possible future. I sang both professionally and for fun. But with the development of PNS, I had to learn how to walk, talk, write and sing, all over again. I even had to learn how to use a keyboard & computer again. All of this happened through hard work, practice, patience, determination, and—most importantly—the many, many gifts of others.

      Sorry for my long-windedness.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Don’t be sorry for your comment – you are an inspiration and I’m so glad I was able to read your story. Thank you for sharing it!

        Liked by 1 person

      • It just seemed so long-winded to me. This is the first time I’ve “gone public” with my story, except with fellow female cancer survivors at a workshop that uses healing & the arts. It felt good to have more support. Thanks.

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  11. Karolina, What a lovely new piece of your serpentine journey! Yes, painful, injury, need play a part but beyond these. touching your own humanity in the humanity and touching of others underscores the quest.I went on a hike recently and I was was nervous because no one I knew was going. I do very well even with Parkinson’s and hiking sticks are steadying. Still,I was grateful to see another person with a walking stick and felt comfortable asking for a hand on up or down when I needed it. If I were with you we could steady one another!. Susana

    Liked by 1 person

  12. That is la ovely piece. I’ve always been a touchy/feely person, but independent. I too am discovering with age the delights of having younger men and women at my side, arm in arm, as I walk, climb hills, pyramids in Mexico, etc.. They are so happy to do it and we touch and it feels so good. Yeah!!

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  13. A beautiful sharing of your experience. Asking for help is something I’m trying to learn also. I have learned the hard way that fierce independence can lead to be very alone. And touch – as yes so very lovely.

    Like

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