The Curse of The ‘Can-Do’ Attitude

One of my primary personality traits (attributes? factors of Kate?) is that I have a tendency to think I can do pretty much whatever I please. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way, or as in throwing caution to the wind, or having a devil-may-care attitude. I simply mean that if I want to try something new, I research the hell out of it and then… do it. Typically, the biggest downside of this kind of attitude (personality? I don’t know what it is…) is that I have a tendency toward being the “Jack of all trades, master of none”.

I’m a professional hobbyist in many areas: I’m a pretty good dart player. I studied music at the college level and am a reasonably competent violist. I’ve had a short story and a few poems published in literary magazines. I spent a summer making my own wine. I knocked down a wall in my house and renovated the newly-enlarged bathroom space. I learned to cook for soy-free/wheat-free vegans and actually make the food taste really good. I taught myself HTML and then SQL. I sew and knit and crochet and cross-stitch and embroider. I can’t claim expert-level skill in any of these areas, but I can claim above-average level proficiency in many of these areas.

Of course, I also have a tendency to get quite bored with something once I’ve got a pretty basic grasp of a concept and I’m ready to move on to something new. I’m great at starting projects and horrible at finishing them. I don’t list any of my above “talents” (interests is a more appropriate word, I think) to brag about myself, or to garner any sort of praise, but only to emphasize that I sincerely believe that if you want to learn how to do something, you can probably figure it out somehow.

Along with the “Try And See” attitude comes the “Thanks, But I Can Get It!” attitude. One of the hardest things about having twins is that I frequently have to go against my instincts and accept whatever help may be offered. Yes, there is a LOT I can do myself, things I don’t know I ever thought I’d need to do (unlocking the front door while holding two babies, a soda and four days worth of mail… and not dropping anything!), but when people offer assistance, I try to force myself to say, “Yes, please. That would be wonderful.”, “THANK YOU for your help!”, etc. I really am so used to figuring out how to do things myself (since you cannot always rely on having help), that it is harder than it sounds to accept help when it’s offered.

It’s also hard to let go and let someone else do the work (which often means that I skate dangerously close to Burn Out Land). I know how to use the riding mower– it’s really so much easier to just do it myself than to try to teach H how to trouble-shoot various issues with the operation of the mower. I spend the entire time while he’s using the mower worrying that he’s going to either hurt himself or break the mower (or both… egads!). This also means that I skate dangerously close to being a total control freak. I promise that I’m really not– I just know so well how to do things that it’s so much easier to do them myself.

Is that enough of an intro for the story I’d like to share? I hope so, because I’m going to sound like a total fruit loop if not…

Last night was one of the hardest nights I’ve yet had as a parent. Yesterday, around 4:00 p.m., I started having dizzy spells. I thought maybe I just needed some fresh air or some water or a snack (yes, all of those things helped). But around 5:00 or so, the dizziness started to come with a piercing headache and some blurry spots in my vision. I get migraines, and visual disturbances are usually one of my first clues that I have one coming on. But dizziness has never been a factor and usually, migraines come on gradually, hit a peak and then dissipate. These were coming in waves and flashes of excruciating pain. So, when they hadn’t gone away after dinner, we went to the local after-hours clinic. The doctor there took one look at me and heard my symptoms and sent me straight to the emergency room. “You just don’t mess around with headaches that come with vision issues,” she said.

And so, off we went. They got me through the triage and into a room relatively quickly. I even got to see a doctor relatively quickly, though it was already 9:00 p.m. by the time a diagnostic decision was made. The doctor was concerned enough with the situation that he felt strongly that I needed an MRI, to rule out anything jacked up going on with the back of my brain. Having two doctors in relatively quick succession tell you that they’re worried about your head is something that makes you sit up and take notice.

Since I obviously could not drive myself to the doctor, H was with me. And since H was with me, so were the babies. And for the most part, they were quite happy, smiling at the nurses and bouncing in my lap or the stroller, etc., but around nine, when we determined that it was going to be some time before I’d be released, things started to get a little rough. They typically go to bed at around 8:00 p.m., so they were starting to get fussy. Trying to figure out what to do with them, when we had no sitter available, and with H needing to be able to drive me home, and with H having never put the babies to bed by himself, we were really in a bind.

Eventually, we decided that H would take the boys home and just figure it out for himself. And they thankfully were able to get me in for the MRI rather quickly and the actual scan took only half an hour as opposed to the hour and a half that it could have taken. Before they wheeled me up for the MRI, the nurse gave me a super dose of benadryl and some reglan, both of which can help with migraine stuff, but both of which had the effect of leaving me slightly woozy and not feeling fully in control of myself. I really thought I was going to cry sitting out in that freezing cold hallway waiting for them to wheel me in for the MRI.

And that’s not like me. I can’t say I’m a fan of tight spaces, but I’m a pretty tough person generally. It’s that Can-Do thing, I think. I can figure it out myself. I’m strong. I’m able. And I sat there, inside that metal tube, with the clicking and buzzing, trying my hardest not to cry because I was so incredibly scared. And because all I could think about was wanting to get out, get home, rock my babies, kiss their little heads, and just cuddle up and go to sleep. It almost reminded me of the scene in The Golden Compass where they start to separate Pantalaimon from Lyra and the desperate feeling of just wanting to have that closeness, not wanting to be away from that part of your self. I was in serious need of some comfort, and H was at home trying to do what I really wanted to do. They give you a little squeeze-handle thingy that you can use in the event of an emergency that stops the MRI from doing it’s thing, since the machine is so loud that they cannot hear you and you are essentially caged in on all sides. It took every ounce of mental strength I had to not squeeze the handle. I just wanted to hug and be hugged. I wanted my little unit around me, my boys and my husband, I wanted to be safe, and that was not happening any time soon.

As the radiologists were helping me off the table, I said something to the effect that I was glad it was over, and the guy replied that he would never have guessed that there was anything wrong. Go figure.

So. There is that curse of the Can-Do attitude. People presume that because you are able to pretend to be calm and level-headed and in control of yourself and your environment that you ARE in fact calm, level-headed and in control of your environment. I tell H enough times that I can take care of something and he assumes that he never needs to offer to do that something (which is why he’d never put them to bed by himself). And he assumes that if I’m calmly working out scenarios to him about how to handle getting the boys home and/or getting back here to pick me up, that I am actually calm and not in need of any reassurance.

And that SUCKS. Because as strong as I am, as much as I can figure things out on my own, on occasion, I do need support. I do need comfort. I do need help.

And the best way for that support to happen is to ask for it. I need to say so, and I need to start doing it now.

Fortunately, the MRI showed nothing out of the ordinary, so it was likely just an atypical migraine. Despite the jittery feeling that too much benadryl gives me, the dizziness and headaches did go away after they gave it to me. I feel fine (if a little tired) today. Mostly, I just feel the need to take that Can-Do attitude and turn it toward being able to ask for help more often.

How do you handle getting the help you need?

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13 Responses to The Curse of The ‘Can-Do’ Attitude

  1. Brandy says:

    I’m glad everything is ok! I’m kind of that way too. When I’m at the grocery store and they offer to take my cart out, I always refuse. I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself! And I think I’m the same way with staying calm in stressful situations. I can be dying on the inside, but you would never know by looking at me. I think I don’t want to be seen as weak or something.

  2. strongblonde says:

    good grief. that’s a lot! poor thing.

    i have some of the can-do attitude as well. i’m not good at asking for help at all. i still don’t ask for help. i’m hoping to get better at some point. maybe some other people will have some great ideas?

    mostly i’m just jealous of all of your talents. i usually don’t pick new stuff to learn. i will do stuff that i am certian that i can do: create a new flower bed in the front yard, reorganize the file cabinet, massively clean the closets, paint the bathroom, etc. i don’t have a lot of patience for teaching myself something. i did try to knit while i was writing my phd, but i thought i might distract myself too much so i quit. i still have the little “washcloth” that i was starting. hahahahaha.

    can’t wait to see other people’s ideas!

  3. Esperanza says:

    Kate, I’m impressed by your list of things you’re above-average at. I’d be super proud if I could do all of that. I’m so sorry you had to go through the migraine stuff. How scary! And how difficult to maneuver without family near by to lend support! I hope you don’t get any more migraines anytime soon (or ever, if that is even possible).

    As for whether or not I can accept help, the answer is yes. I used to be not that great at it but I’m getting better. Having a child has humbled me and I need help more than I did before. Especially when I was in graduate school. I really learned to ask for help then.

  4. Tara (TIMO) says:

    Yikes! Glad to hear you’re feeling better. What a scary experience. I had to text Nav to come home early on Tuesday. I either had food poisoning from or an allergic reaction to almond milk. Dizzy, nauseous, headache, general blechiness. I knew I couldn’t make it until he came home. I was able to rest for about an hour until the boys bawling made me crawl out of bed. I found them all alone in the play yard and Nav in the kitchen making our dinner. It was 6:45 and they hadn’t eaten yet. They usually eat at 6:15. Unbelievable. All that to say I’m glad H was able to relieve some of your burden.

    I’m like you and never ask for help. But having twins was honestly the best teaching lesson. I’m amazed you can put them to bed yourself. Bedtime is exactly why I/we ask someone to come down if Nav is away. I’m not great at it and only ask when he’s gone but it’s getting easier to do the asking.

  5. melissa says:

    I’m glad to hear that you’re doing better!! What a night.

  6. VA Blondie says:

    Glad to hear that everything is all right, and you are feeling better.

    I find it hard to ask for help, too. I think on some level I feel like it is a weakness.
    I need to do better, for both my sanity and Hubby’s sanity!

  7. Sue says:

    Wish I lived closer so I could have helped. Hope you feel better and don’t have any repeat migraines any time soon.

  8. PJ says:

    First, OH MY GOSH Kate, I’m so glad you’re ok!!!

    We are kind of in the same situation. We don’t have any family here. I do have a few friends who would come and babysit for us, and our actual babysitter would probably take the girls for us if we needed her to – but she lives 30 minutes away.

    Totally giving you some assvice, and feel free to stick your tongue out at me and I won’t be offended. 🙂
    I think you need someone you know you can trust to be sort of on call for these situations. I think… you might need to have an actual sitter that the boys get to know and with whom you can drop off on occaision and maybe go and have a little Kate time. Kate time, I think could be theraputic and maybe help with the migraines? I know I would probably need PJ time if I were with the girls 24/7.

    Also, my husband says I am very controlling when it comes to our girls. He says I talk to him like he is a child. I probably do, but I don’t mean to. I don’t really care if things aren’t perfect for me, but I do want things to be perfect for the girls. Ya know?

    Clearly, you are awesome at this mom thing! Having help every once in a while, can be a good thing.

  9. loribeth says:

    How scary!!! I’m so glad you’re OK. And yes, I have trouble asking for help too. I tend to minimize things, even when I probably shouldn’t. E.g., I told all my coworkers that I had some “food sensitivities.” And then we were having lunch & I accidentally ingested some tomato & popped out in hives within seconds. One girl said, “That’s NOT a “sensitivity,” Lori, you have an ALLERGY.” Maybe I’m in denial??

  10. JJ says:

    Goodness! I am so glad you are OK!

    Um, yea….me and the asking for help issue–we have problems. I dont ask for it well, but I am always ready to give it. Why cant there be an equal balance?

    I am ALWAYS here if you need me and that h-e-l-p word 🙂 Lets just get the boys outside to play once this last dose of winter leaves us alone!

  11. Samantha says:

    Glad you’re okay! I’m you can find a neighbor, friend, or someone who can help you out in these types of emergency situations. No one wants to be alone in the ER. I’d be a freaking mess! Take care!

  12. Ellen K. says:

    How frightening! I’m glad you’re OK. I often get terribly anxious just thinking about the girls’ care during a crisis. And this is from someone who does have family in the area and has about 9 hours of scheduled babysitting per week — and who didn’t nurse her twins.

  13. I’m so glad you’re OK!

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