“Are my clothes cotton?”
I was initially confused when Isaac tentatively knocked on the door to my office to ask me this question. It was 0700, and I was just settling in to my office sofa to write in my journal. My family knows I don’t like to be disturbed during the early hours, as that’s when I journal, read, set intentions, and meditate: my morning ritual.
Alas, regardless of knowing that I don’t like being disturbed, he needed to ask, “Are my clothes made of cotton?”
He’d fallen asleep last night before he’d had the chance to put his clothes in the dryer (yes, my 10 year old does his own laundry!), and while the dryer function is normally set to “delicates,” I’d switched it to “cottons” in order to dry some towels. Hence his very understandable confusion.
Admittedly, I’m normally perturbed when my morning routine is interrupted; it’s truly the only “me” time I get all day, and it’s vital for my ability to be productive and creative throughout the day. But today, I wasn’t perturbed at all–instead I was deeply touched. Proud, even.
Because Isaac had had the courage to ask–and asking, especially when we really do need help, is often the bravest and hardest thing we can manage to do.
It’s hard to ask sometimes. Asking, at it’s core function, puts us in a space where we are incredibly vulnerable. And, because we will never be sure of what the outcome of our ask will be, there’s an element of uncertainty as well. Fear of both of these things-vulnerability and uncertainty-can likely result in simply choosing not to ask at all.
Asking is scary.
In order to ask we must make ourselves amenable to any and all outcomes–we have to practice trust. We need to believe that asking is a fundamental human behavior, and one that-rather than alienate us-brings us closer together. Asking is saying, “I need something from you, and I trust that you will understand. I’ll be open to receiving. And when you need something, I will be ready to give.”
Sometimes asking is essential to our experience of life, and learning how to do it-without shame-can help us grow and evolve. Being able to receive is a skill that the most generous among us have learned to hone.
In her book, The Art of Asking, Amanda Palmer penned a passage that left my heart nearly bursting:
Those who can ask without shame are viewing themselves in collaboration with-rather than in competition with-the world.Asking for help with shame says:
You have the power over me.
Asking for help with condescension says:
I have the power over you.
But asking for help with gratitude says:
We have the power to help each other.
Our internal narrative can spew off a myriad reasons, however, why we shouldn’t ask:Asking makes me weak.
Asking makes me bossy.
I don’t deserve to ask.
I should be able to do this myself.
There will always be reasons not to ask, should we give that narrative power. But if we can begin to step into a space of vulnerability and trust, a space in which the outcome of the ask is not important, but the courage to ask in itself is worth the risk–I believe we can become happier, more connected, and ultimately, more powerful.
Yes, honey, your clothes are made of cotton. You can dry them on the cotton setting. Thank you for asking.