Many hands make light work. If everyone could take a few minutes and pitch in, the work will be done in no time. We’ve all benefited from this type of sensible advice.
That’s not just practical advice, it also builds a sense of camaraderie. That all rings true unless you are dealing with ABI (Acquired Brain Injury). Since my ABI the opportunity to work with someone else will usually add more demands to my day. At time it seems easier to be a recluse.
Working on something alone makes it less likely that I’ll develop neural fatigue. Help is great. However, working with a helper means there are a variety of social and practical considerations that need to be managed.
When is comes to completing smaller jobs I have always appreciated the opportunity to work with one or two other people. At times it’s the best way to get through a mundane task. Even making it enjoyable.
Assessing offers of help
Now a days, when I receive an offer of help, to simply lend a hand I’m inclined to decline the offer. It’s not that the offer of help makes me feel less capable. It’s just that things quickly get complicated. If on the other hand the offer of help is an offer of taking on the job, I am quite likely to accept it. I’ve learned to delegate things that I can’t complete in a timely manner.
In the last while I’ve had offers of help. An offer to help me pitch my tent – I declined. An offer to help me install a coat rake (for which it seemed I needed three hands) – I declined. Too proud? – no. Too complicated to coordinate.
Often I lose more than I gain by accepting an offer of help. Simply put, I will be more exhausted if someone helps me than if I do it by myself.
When I work alone it is cognitively less demanding; I don’t need to explain how I want to do it. I don’t need to coordinate my efforts with someone else. I don’t need to observe and explain changes in the execution of the job.
When I work alone it is socially less demanding. I don’t need to pay attention to tone or body language. I don’t need to assess how much to explain. Explaining too little can be just as annoying as explaining too much. I don’t have to match my pace to that of my helper.
Working with a helper brings into play a level of multi-tasking. What would have been a simple job, now becomes cognitively more demanding and socially more complicated. This invariably leaves me more exhausted.
Others with ABI have a similar take when working with a helper. For some there are other considerations.
My friend tells me he needs to work alone so that he doesn’t make mistakes. This he finds particularly important when he is baking. Even though he has done the same recipe countless times, whenever he tries to bake with a helper he will miss a step. One can appreciate that with baking a misstep will more likely spell a disaster rather than invent a new recipe.
Making it work
That doesn’t always rule out doing things with someone else. Often enough there are tasks that involve a simple routine. When I was sorting and cleaning our crop of garlic, my four year old grandson was glad to help. He had his part in the process. At the same time, it was relatively easy to monitor how he was doing and make the necessary corrections if he got it wrong.
This is just one more area of my life in which I am learning to be mindful. Rather than just accepting or out of hand rejecting an offer of help, I need to pause and weigh the benefits over the extra demands it will put on me.
Having shared the challenges of receiving help, there is a different dynamic when I offer someone else some help. In many ways this can be easier. Knowing my own limitations I will first ask for an overview of what needs to be done and how the job is to proceed. I will then explain what accommodations I might need. If the job involves processing too many instructions I need to find a way to simplify it. If the job requires some concerted focus, I will suggest the need for some regular breaks or a change in activity after focusing for 20 to 40 minutes.
The benefit of being monitored
What I have appreciated the most when helping someone is having them check in with me. Several of my friends are aware of my limitations at a higher level of understanding. They will check in with me and seem to know when to ask me how I’m doing. That helps me with my mindfulness, since it’s so easy to get caught up in an activity and just focus on getting it done.
The nuances of living in community while living with ABI has a way of bringing out the best in some people. I have had people give me a heads up when something is about to happen that will negatively affect me. Experiences like these reinforces for me a sense that I’m not alone in adjusting to life with ABI.