A Fall Reflection on Taking Care and Receiving Help

I read an article recently on medium.com that talked about how we’ve all exceeded our “surge capacity” this year. We feel like we are scraping the bottom of our reservoirs emotionally, mentally, and physically because of the trauma, uncertainty, and transitions 2020 has brought to each of us in real and heavy ways. It’s a lot. It’s been a lot. And it continues to be a lot. With the on start of the new school year, systematic reopening of businesses, and increased conversations about our political landscape, it seems like we’re still drudging through messy attempts to re-center and anchor ourselves to both self and others. In attempt to encourage you in a small way, I want to share a recent project I accomplished that grounded me in a renewed mindset of gratitude and grace for people, place, and ultimately myself.

I moved here more or less three years ago. It’s been a rocky transition in understanding and adapting to the culture and since I travel a lot for work, it hasn’t been the smoothest process to build community. Having lived in other parts of the country and of the world, my home is a sanctuary which reflects the beauty and uniqueness of other cultures I have integrated into my own. Since being here, I’ve had one ongoing side project of creating a yard signpost that would showcase outside of my home all of the places I’ve lived with different slats that capture the city name and how far it is from Whitehall.

I’ve shelved the project multiple times because I was unhappy about my hand lettering on each sign. My internal expectation was to have each one be perfectly uniform, and I was increasingly frustrated about how each rendering was coming out differently. But this summer I decided my enough was enough and my attempt at symmetry went as far as outlining with a pencil and using a smaller paint brush size to get better line accuracy. I finally finished the signage because I had reached a point that I knew my enough was going to be a gift to me. A lesson I’m carrying away this year and encourage you to do as well is that your enough is enough. Sometimes your expectations for self is just that: for yourself. Others will appreciate and value your energy, effort, and “enough.”

Next came the part of hoisting the two long signage beams into the ground. I had no idea what I was doing. Dig a whole with a shovel? A spade? We were having some work done on our house and we asked the builder to take a look at the project idea. He had a machine that drilled the beam holes in less than a minute. The poles were vertically secure in minutes and he also used a nail gun that hung the signs even quicker. I was amazed at these tools. I was even more amazed that he and his teenage son taught me how to use this nail gun to hang the majority of my city signs. My lesson that day was to receive help gracefully. I am so impressed about the skills these two builders demonstrated and that they took the time to teach me a little about their trade. The lesson I encourage you to consider is what skills can you invest in others during the remainder of this year? No matter your age, you’ve got skills to share.

Finally, I had to express gratitude for those who have helped me with this project, namely: my Grandpa. He was the one who took me to Menards three years ago to pick out wood for this project and he cut the signposts in his wood shop. These signposts are a reflection of his investment of time, talent, precision, and energy into my life. Also, special thanks to my Dad who researched where to buy lumber and bought the wood beams in addition to new paint this year. And lastly to our builder and his son who went the extra mile to help me complete this project. The lesson I take away is that you need community to accomplish your goals and to support you in your vision — whatever it is.

Three years ago, I wouldn’t have had either the tools or the people to help finish this project. It’s taken time and my reevaluation of what’s enough and my community here to finish it. I’ve learned that living in a still-new-to-me place during a pandemic period with people who love you for showing up with your ‘enough’ is wildly weird and yet incredibly rewarding. Sometimes it’s difficult to ask for help, but receive it when it comes unexpectantly along. This is how we will refill our capacities this year. Take good care of yourself and of others in your neighborhood. We’re here for each other.