asking for help - needy - man sitting alone in the shadows

For any of you who’ve been following along for a bit here, you know that I’ve recently returned from an unfairly fantastic and extended vacation to a beautiful home in Naples, Florida.

My younger brother, Jason, is getting married in a few days. It’s a destination wedding for immediate family only, all paid for by the bride and groom. So, though I’ve only been back about three weeks now, I’m headed out once again tomorrow to Miami, and from there on a cruise to Bermuda. Free.

Lest you get the idea that I’m just breezing along between fabulous and free getaways, let me add that there are plenty of not-so-glamorous things going on, as well. But even in the midst of those challenges, a couple of days ago, I quite literally found about $3,000 I didn’t know I had (it was in some sort of investment portfolio that was apparently part of a benefit I had in my name from an old job). This money will pay for the first, last and security of my impending move; so while finding a new place is never fun and I wish I could stay in my current home, the financial part of it is off the plate, by yet another freakishly fortuitous occurrence in my life.

While I was away last month, I wrote a birthday post called “sparkle,” in which I reiterated that happiness is not circumstantial. It’s a choice. In fact, the first three pieces of advice in my book, The Best Advice So Far are as follows:

  1. You always have a choice.
  2. Being miserable is a choice.
  3. Practice positivity.

best advice so far - you always have a choice - tweetable

I’ve written about strategies I use in order to stay present and enjoy moments; about the system I use for banishing worry when it threatens to upend my peace; and about the importance of focusing on what really matters in life. So with all of that having poured out of me recently, I wonder if what I’m about to say today will seem contradictory or even hypocritical. Still, I’ll take my chances. I just feel like it’s important to be transparent and to paint a complete picture, not a fantasy. Otherwise, you may wind up believing that any advice I may share only works for “people like me” who get free vacations or magically find thousands of dollars they didn’t know they had. And then you’ll give yourself an excuse not to try it.

Not to make new choices.

Not to change.

Like I said, I’m willing to get “ugly pretty” here, so that maybe you’ll see I’m not all that unlike you.

So here’s the thing. Despite all these wonderful things of late, I’ve just felt like something is wrong inside. I’m not unhappy exactly. As I said in a recent post, I felt a mounting desire for some “crazy fun.” Lightness. Silliness even. Unrestrained laughter. Something.

And I tried. Honestly, I did. I went out and tried to make (or at least allow) some moments like that. But it became apparent that it’s a little hard to have crazy fun by yourself.

Now, let me stop here and say this. If you were to ask any ten people who know me well, “Who is the least needy person you know?” I would bet my bippy (if I knew what a bippy was) that most, if not all of them, would name me as the least needy. And that’s great. Who wants to be seen as needy, right?

I mean needy is right up there with clingy, desperate, suffocating. And that’s not me.

I’m a giver, not a taker.

I want to leave others feeling inspired, not drained.

I want to breathe life into people, not suck the life out of them.

But I’ve realized lately that the feelings I’d been having weren’t going away. It feels off. Weird. It affects my breathing – like I’m out of breath, but I can physically breathe just fine. Maybe it’s just that I find myself in stretches where I am aware of my breathing, and if I stop being aware of those breaths … in, out, in, out … I’ll never get them back into rhythm. If I stop concentrating on them … in, out, in, out … they’ll just get bigger and bigger and more erratic until they’re too much for my lungs.

Or maybe it’s that thinking about breathing takes away the prickly pressure inside my head. And behind my eyes.

People have always expressed wonder at how in tune with my body I am, how aware I am of the ways in which my emotions affect me physically. But this last month or so has taken some getting used to, some learning. It’s a “me” that feels unfamiliar somehow.

In the moments where the need to think about my breathing passes, I’ve done some soul searching. Was it the birthday? Did it affect me more than I knew? I didn’t think that was it.

Is the upcoming move actually eating up mental space, taking me out of the present in ways I’m not accounting for? That didn’t seem like it, either.

At times, it would seem like I was onto something that had that “Aha!” sort of feel, but then it would slip away before I could put form to it. However, over the course of days, like staring at one of those Magic Eye pictures long enough, the blurry outline coalesced into an image I could see and put form to, if I held my breath and didn’t blink. And here is what I saw:

I needed.

“That’s it?” you say. “You needed? What’s the big deal?”

But to me, it was a big deal. It made me go all rubbery inside.

I mean, I know I “need” to eat and drink, in order to stay alive. I “need” my heart and lungs and a bunch of other organs and systems to keep working. But those are kind of obvious needs. The clarity of what I had been feeling was more like being woken up with a splash of ice water to the face.

I realized that during my time away in Florida, while I was able to sleep regular hours and rejuvenate my body and mind in that way, and though I had a break from output to others – I did not have any input. The distinction is an important one, between lack of output and active input.

One mental picture I got was that I was a vampire – the original vampire, whose blood could heal any other vampire who’d been bitten by werewolves. And everyone had been bitten by werewolves. And everyone needed my blood. And I was giving it to them. Full of holes, I was. Bleeding out. But there was no food for me, no new blood to nourish me back to vitality. And I tried biting myself, but it didn’t have the effect the others seemed to be enjoying. I was just empty. Drained, but still existing somehow. (Don’t call the men in the white coats; I told you, I haven’t been myself lately. And I haven’t been biting myself or anyone else, I promise. Apparently, creativity is a deeper well than what ailed me.)

The point is to say that this was quite a revelation. And it made complete sense. I’d been through a few months where all energies had been going out, yet resources for putting back in were inaccessible. I’m not just talking about the kind of input that comes from cherries and sunset swims and naps. I needed human input, not merely breaks from output.

So how does this fit into the advice that “You always have a choice”? Or that happiness is a choice?

Well, actually, it really does.

As I said in my recent post, I’m not unhappy. I do enjoy helping others reach their goals, listening, talking, blogging, getting word out about the book, and most other things with which I fill my time. I just came to the realization that it was all out energy. And what I needed was in energy.  I’m not sure how else to explain it.

Maybe soul need.

In another recent post, I had this to say: “Being who I am means fully feeling what I feel in the present moment.”

Sentimental tweet: Being who I am means fully feeling what I feel in the present moment.

And in one of the most popular posts to date, I encouraged readers to follow my lead: “Be vulnerable and take risks.”

Be vulnerable and take risks.

Either I believe these things or I don’t.

Either I’m prepared to live them out, or I’m a fraud and have no business writing about them.

And so, you see, I was left with a choice: Do I reach out and let the people in my life know how I’m feeling and that I could use a little extra care right now? Or do I suck it up for one more day, play it safe, and avoid “bothering people” or seeming needy?

Please hear me. Even for me, who writes about these things constantly, this was not an easy choice. The latter would be my inclination by nature. But that’s easier when the feeling I’m trying to describe here lasts for a couple of hours, a day or two at most. This time around, it had been mounting for months.

So I made the choice to be extra intentional and persistent about asking for time with “the right people.” We are all busy of late. But I let them know that I really needed time with my friends right now.  And people started coming through.

Just being with people who didn’t need anything from me was refreshing. I could feel the blood starting to course through my veins again (don’t worry; I didn’t bite anyone). But because there had been some gaps in getting together due to summer plans or bigger projects on everyone’s plates, we fell quickly into “catch-up mode”: painting what we’d been up to in broad strokes. It was good – but I could feel that it was not what I needed. So, in each case, I forced myself so start in and explain this dry spell inside as best I could, and then to specifically ask for a little extra TLC for a short while.

It was hard. Really hard. But I made the choice to do it, rather than to “seem fine,” as people have come to expect. I realized that unless I expressly told them, they wouldn’t know. So I told them.

I told them that I needed them to take the active listener role, to let me spill everything and be messy for a while.

I told them I just wanted to be reminded that they were there and cared.

I told them that I could use a text or email here and there, just asking how I am.

I told them I’d love to be sent pictures of the little moments – even silly things – that made up their day, because it would make me feel included.

I told them that I would appreciate their checking in with me on the things that are important to me: the kids I mentor, the book marketing, etc.

And you know what? They did. They are. Happily so.

I didn’t need money. I didn’t need pampering at a spa. I didn’t need long, emotional talks where someone held me while I cried and rocked in fetal position. I just needed a little extra care. I made the choice to tell people, and they’ve been coming through for me.

For those among us who value a sense of independence, and who really are pretty together most of the time, it’s really hard to be vulnerable when we hit those places. To seem weak (because we are at those times). To need. No one said all of our available choices would be easy. But we do have a choice, nonetheless.

And today, in this very late post, I’ve chosen to let you in on how I’ve been feeling, what choices I made, and how it’s working out. I wanted you to know and understand that we all need input in our lives, the kind that can only come from other real people, and not from anywhere else.

It’s OK to need.

It’s OK to admit it.

It’s OK to ask for help.

It’s more than OK.

It’s necessary.

(Be sure to remind me later that I said this.)

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About Erik

I'm an author, speaker, blogger, facilitator, people lover, creative force, conversationalist, problem solver, chance-taker, listener, noticer and lover of life. "It's more about writing lives than writing pages." View all posts by Erik

22 responses to “needy

  • Kev

    Life is good, Eric! 😀


  • Sean P Carlin

    Man, Erik, even by your frank standards, this was an incredibly candid and heartfelt piece; I commend you on being so forthright — for making yourself so emotionally vulnerable to both your friends and your readership. Being sensitive to the needs of others is an incredible gift and privilege — one you’ve accepted with admirable care and responsibility — that is in scarce supply these days, regrettably. But, yes: One needs to remember to be sensitive also to one’s own needs, too. It’s true that we should give more than we take in this life, but we are entitled to take our share, and I hope this experience serves as a reminder to you that you’ve put a lot of good energy into the world, and anyone who’s been the recipient of that would likely jump at the opportunity to give a little bit back. The kind of needy you describe here isn’t vampiric at all — it’s very much human. Hope you got the TLC you needed, my friend.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Erik

      I agree wholeheartedly, Sean. As I said to Phil below, it’s a real balancing act and something we all have to be intentional about keeping up on. Doing my best! Thanks for adding your own encouragement on the matter.

      Liked by 1 person

  • philosophermouseofthehedge

    People are drawn to energy. It never occurs to some that those seeming most “in control” of their lives also need a flow of energy/concern/recognition back their way – just like the way a good conversation flows. Some simply don’t look or pay attention – or they only want to have the attention.
    Good to be around positive people who leave you recharge and limit others. It is like a vampire. Difficult lesson to learn, but an important one. You have to be real and true to yourself as well as others to stay strong, productive, and – yes, helpful. Can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself.
    Enjoy your trip

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erik

      Absolutely (on all counts here). Keeping in touch with my own needs takes constant reflection; it’s so easy for it to slip to a bad place otherwise. What was most important to regarding this post was to let readers know that everyone has challenges and that “You always have a choice” isn’t just advice glibly being given out by someone with easy ones all the time. I trust that was accomplished.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Benjamin Spurlock

    I’ll admit it, Erik, I’m right with you on the ‘defaulting to not wanting to bother people’ position. In my case, I think it’s because I tend to be the out-energy person (though now I can only see it as a vampire, darn you! *laughs*) and it seems like a lot of the people around me kind of need that. And… I hate to admit it, but sometimes I grow to resent it. Kind of the ‘how much of my blood are you going to take?’ kind of feel, to continue the imagery.

    Which then would make me feel like the same thing, being a bother or a vampire on others, which would make them resent me… you know how that train of thought goes.

    But reading this post makes me wonder if that’d really be the case or not. If I’m just reading too much into it and most people would actually be happy to indulge. Perhaps it tickles that part of the brain that wants to be wanted, that needs importance and vindication, and so, having someone asking you for that extra time (for a positive thing, at least) might be seen as a very flattering request.

    Hard to say. But maybe I’ll take your advice and try to get an active input when I’m feeling down. In any case, thanks for the post, and I have to say, speaking just for me, blogs like this one do a pretty good job of getting me rejuvenated. Guess I’m just a bit weird that way, mm? *chuckles*

    Liked by 2 people

    • Erik

      Hey, Benjamin! Thanks so much for sharing this. Interestingly enough, this actually served as input for me today – just hearing that some posts of mine are allowing someone else who feels like this to get some rejuvenation. And, yes, I totally get the way you put things! Uncanny. I love to help; I really do. I don’t feel like I need to help (though I used to when I was younger). But there’s a difference between seeing a need and choosing to meet it &ndash and when people expect you to help, who only seem to talk to you with their hand out. I think that’s where the resentment can creep in, if we’re not careful. I just keep reminding myself: “You always have a choice.” Like I said: I don’t just write this stuff, I rely on it for my baseline of peace, health and happiness. Thanks again for your candid comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  • familyrulesbyplainjane

    Great post, Erik! Lie fallow when needed so as to be ready for what comes next 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  • Anonymous

    Boy talk about hitting the nail on the head or an arrow through the heart!This one was just for me to read,although it may take a while to implement. I have more or less been on my own for almost all my life and have always needed to get things done on my own or get all the answers on my own. So when it comes to asking someone for help, I’m more or less (perhaps more) inclined to go it on my own. I don’t ask for help and almost always decline it even from friends because I have always had to do it myself. I am going to try to get this ball rolling. Thanks, Erik.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erik

      Hi there. I’m not sure if we know one another or not, but I’m glad you caught this post and that it was meaningful to you.

      There are parts of “going it alone” that I do like. I like autonomy and independence. I can get more done alone often. But I do always know that, if I need it, I have help (asking for it is the hard part). It sounds like you aren’t quite sure you even have that kind of person in your life right now, so I hope you’ll be able to develop the kind of relationships where you can be there to support one another. Keep me posted on that “rolling ball”! My email address is in the sidebar on laptops/desktops, or at the bottom on mobile devices.


  • dustinfife

    Thanks for the honesty on this. It’s easy to pretend things are perfect and always have been. My wife once had a conversation with a photographer (My wife’s a photographer too) and said photographer was lamenting about how she felt like a complete failure and nothing she did was working out. Then, six months later, this ailing photographer went “viral” and was subsequently interviewed by a podcaster about her success. Said formerly-ailing photographer didn’t even give a metaphorical nod to her past struggles. She spoke as if the dark times never happened–as if she was born to be great and never had a dark moment. It was frustrating, not because she was being deceitful, but she had a real chance to show others that those “on the top” have the exact same insecurities as those “on the bottom.” The only difference, I suspect, is persistence and (as you said) asking for help when you see you need it.

    So, long story short, thanks for being genuine. I’m sure many might be inclined to see that you’ve got it all “figured out.” Well, nobody does. Some may have pieces of the puzzle, but nobody has the complete picture. And somehow, that’s more inspiring than learning that some people have figured out the “secret.”

    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erik

      Thanks, Dustin. The Best Advice So Far comes out of real-life application, not theory. The stories are real. The successes – and the failures – are real ones. As I continue to write and speak, I do always want to keep that baseline of honesty. I don’t think any advice is appealing or that people will be inclined to try it, if it seems like jargon or “motivational speak” only.


  • Jed Jurchenko

    This is such a great post Erik. I love your honesty. The vampire image you paint is so true. I know the feeling of being completely drained, and emotionally exhausted. It’s not fun. And the truth is, I’m there myself far more often than I let on 🙂

    I also love your frequent reminders about how we always have a choice. I read a short book by Tony Robbins years ago, where Tony did an incredibly job of pointing out how our life could look vastly different a week from now, or even in just a few hours, if we simply made the choice to make it that way. He pointed out that changing one’s life in an instant may not always be the wisest thing to do, but it is certainly possible. And I’ve always found a lot of freedom in these thoughts.

    We really do always have a choice, and choices are powerful. Be sure to let me know how I can be of encouragement and support too. It’s been way too long since we last connected by phone. And I think you, I, and Adam talked about doing coffee over Skype at one point. There is no rush, but one day we need to make this happen. It’s not the ideal, real life interaction, I’d hope for. But hopefully these types of connections are in our future too 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Erik

      You’re right, Jed: there is freedom in choice. But with that also comes responsibility. When we accept that we always have a choice, we stop playing the part of the victim in life. But that means we can’t just sulk and point fingers, either.

      As for how you can be an encouragement and support, you are already. Honestly, just knowing other people are “in it” with me – people who know the inside workings in the life of a giver and a writer – helps.

      I’m actually writing this response from Logan airport, heading to Miami for my brother’s wedding. I’ll be out to sea from Monday to Friday, and completely “unplugged.” But let’s definitely make a plan for cyber-coffee when I get back!

      Liked by 2 people

  • D. Wallace Peach

    Ah. I knew somethings was up, Erik. You seemed to have vanished for a little while and I’d gotten used to your cheerful self popping by. You do seem at times like the man of smiles, perpetually positive, on top of the world tossing rainbows and sparkles to the masses. I mean that only in a kind way and I greatly admire your positive energy, but I wondered about the other side, the quieter Erik who needs his deep well replenished in order to continue giving of himself.

    So sharing this about yourself accomplishes much. Certainly your post’s message comes across. We, the readers of your blog, may recognize our own vulnerability, realize that even Erik feels this way now and then, and that it’s perfectly okay. You give concrete and effective steps for reaching out and obtaining the support we need.

    In fact, it’s normal to need support. I’m pretty positive, but I also get tired and cranky and need plenty of TLC. Relationships are based on give and take, and that sharing is beautiful when done with genuine care. It’s the nature of loving relationships that most of us desire, that your brother has found and will soon commit himself to.

    All of your teachings become increasingly real as you take shape before us as a real person. Authenticity is a great gift to give of yourself. It’s a gift we sometimes struggle to share. Yet our vulnerabilities bind us more than our strengths. Friends and lovers weave the nets that catch our falls as we catch theirs.

    Keep filling the well. Thanks so much for the post and for taking the risk. I think you’ll find it was worth it. 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erik

      Thanks for taking the time to share so personally, Diana. I’ve missed your posts and community; but as you experienced with your recent “break,” sometimes you just have to stop kicking against life and go with the flow. Your comment and observations about me bring a certain new take on the idea of “Myths of the Mirror” (a mirror I’m aware of, and trying to break). Taking your gift of words to heart, and they are just another confirmation that it was, in fact, worth it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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