Have you ever been struck down with an ailment or injury that stops you in your tracks? If you lead a busy life and value your independence, suddenly being physically prevented from doing all the things you take for granted can come as a nasty shock.
My friend and colleague T recently endured a series of unfortunate events which culminated in a painful injury. As we worked together from her kitchen table yesterday afternoon (she can't walk, let alone drive anywhere), we half jokingly started speculating on what the universe might be trying to tell her by throwing so many challenges her way. Almost getting swept away by floodwaters whilst driving home from a funeral: sink or swim. House flooding on the eve of hosting a fabulous party: breathe and let go. Tearing a calf muscle and being unable to walk, drive, shop or date: delegate, delegate, delegate.
You see, T is one of those people who is always going out of her way, doing stuff for others altruistically and often at the expense of her own time, resources, health, finances or sanity. She rarely complains, is always concerned for other people's wellbeing, putting her own needs aside for the sake of the comfort of friends, family, and sometimes complete strangers. So when she unexpectedly found herself unable to run around for everyone, she was left no option but to ask for a little something in return - which she admits she has found excessively uncomfortable and awkward.
Yesterday I happily repaid some of T's past good deeds by taking round some dumplings and tofu (from Spicy Fish in Chinatown) for our working lunch, which then turned into dinner and girls-only discussions of travel, men, and general gossip whilst eating reheated leftovers.
Towards the end of my visit, T deliberated over asking various friends and neighbours for favours such as shopping, taxi-ing and doing her washing. I gently but sternly reminded her just how much she does for others and recommended she take this opportunity to let others care for her for a change. I'm willing to bet my house on the fact that once asked, the people around her will happily go out of their way to help T get back on her feet*.
I awoke this morning with a dreadful head cold and was myself forced to call in sick, delegate duties and meetings, and divert calls. My first proper sick day in almost a year; I didn't even check my emails (well, okay, I did peek once in the afternoon but I didn't respond to any). I realised I then had to swallow the most difficult medicine of all: my own advice.
*those who don't, have no business calling themselves friends.