Swallowing pride, one bite at a time (like an elephant)

My mom tells this story of when I was like two years old, frequently resisting help and saying “I do it myself.”  Independence has always been a big deal for me.  Needing help feels so… weak.  It’s one of those qualities that could be a good thing, but it can also become toxic.  I stayed in a bad marriage way longer than I should have because I was too ashamed to admit that my marriage was so bad. Pride and shame are two sides of the same coin.

The thing is that when people need help, if you love them, you help them.  The only time I can recall feeling judgy about someone asking for help was when I saw parents from a wealthy private school raising funds for some of their kids’ sports stuff.  These kids are the children of attorneys, celebrities, and millionaires.  When there’s so much suffering in the world and so many people hungry and homeless, wouldn’t it be nicer to ask for help to solve real problems?  And did any of the mothers on the fundraising committee really think it was responsible to publicly announce this fundraiser?  Had they no shame?  None of these kids were at risk of not being able to play without the fundraiser. In reality, when the parents filter their kids’ sports expenses through a 501c(3) fund, they’re getting a tax write off that they wouldn’t get if they were simply paying for their own kids’ uniforms and equipment.  But did they have to flaunt the “fundraiser?” I mean, honestly. I thought it was incredibly distasteful, and I still do, in spite of a logical understanding of the financial benefits of using a nonprofit this way.

Then again, I’ve already admitted that I have issues with asking for help. I’m going to continue thinking it was distasteful, but I’m also trying to get over the whole huge emotional trauma of asking for help.  It seems this is a theme in my life that I’m not quite over yet.  There’s a strange storm that brews somewhere between “needing help” and “deserving help” that I need to stop obsessing about.  We have a home, we usually have plenty of food, and we have utilities. I have a car. We’re not destitute (today). When I think about whether or not I really NEED help, I find myself reminding me that other people have it so much worse.  But would I really deserve help if I let us turn into a family that was homeless or starving again?  Isn’t that inherently irresponsible and a huge contributing factor in why I’m divorced?  Is there really any such thing as “living within your means” when you’ve got 5 kids in the house, you’re not receiving child support, going to school full time, and living in the 3rd most expensive city in the country?

So my challenge for this week has been to ASK FOR HELP.  It should come as no surprise (because I think I posted this yesterday maybe) that I’m writing a book called “College after 40” since I’m doing it and of course journaling about it.  In an effort to preserve my brain cells, prevent an ulcer, and beat the demon of independence out of myself and not stay up all night long stressing about money or writing $30 articles about things that require research outside of what I’m studying in school, I’ve started a Patreon page for my personal crowd-funded scholarship.  Every morning when I wake up, as I’m sipping my coffee, I send the following message to 20 of my Facebook friends:

(copying and pasting, sorry it’s not personalized)
Hello, sorry if this is unwelcome but I’ll make it quick.

I’m a divorced mom of 6 girls (that’s my grand daughter in my profile pic). I’ve made my living as a writer and the book I’m writing now involves a very long-term research project. It’s called College After 40, and I’m working toward a degree to practice law.

But here’s the thing; life is expensive. I’m sharing my journey at http://patreon.com/LisaRussell and hoping to crowd-source a scholarship fund. If you’re interested in watching the journey, you can subscribe. You can chip in to help if you can spare the cash, you can share this with anyone who might be sympathetic, or you can just keep scrolling. Either way, I hope your day is lovely ❤

I’m hoping it’s short and sweet enough to encourage people to help out, but not at all judgy or rude in case they don’t. I’d hate it if someone felt bad for not wanting to help, or being unable to help.  I’ve reached out to 60 people so far, so this is just the 3rd day of this and today was a lot easier than the first day was. With every “send” I find myself remembering the “how do you eat an elephant” thing; one bite at a time.

So far the response has been sweet, I’ve had a couple people chip in to help every month at the $10 level and I am SUPER DUPER grateful for that, it means so much to me when they do.  School is hard, but poverty is harder and I know the whole point of this school thing is to be in a better position to support my family, but I’ve wanted this degree for so long that pursuing it feels selfish. The alternative, a lifetime of ineligibility for careers that could support us, makes it feel less selfish.

Later today I will update the sidebar here with a graphic link to the Patreon, but as long as I’m in school this website is going to remain focused on travel (which probably won’t be happening much until I’m done) and parenting.  If you want to read me, I think you can subscribe to the Patreon channel even if you’re not chipping in.  I hope to see you there.

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