I have just finished reading ‘The Art of Asking, How I learned to stop worrying and let people help’,( UK, US) Amanda Palmer’s book following her TED talk, which I talk about here. This is not a review of the book, it is a response. There are a lot of reviews of this book, not least because she has hit the New York Times bestseller list, and she really does deserve to.
Reading this book was like a form of therapy and I am sure it will be the same for a lot of people. She talks a lot about the vulnerability of asking people for help. Right now, at this point in my life, it is possibly the best book I could have read.
From what I’ve seen, it isn’t so much the act of asking that paralyses us – it’s what lies beneath the fear of being vulnerable, the fear of rejection, the fear of looking needy or weak. The fear of being seen as a burdensome member of the community instead of a productive one.
It points, fundamentally, to our separation from one another
Amanda talks a lot about community and relationships and how important that is to her as an artist. I am in awe at her abilitiy to do this, but more than that I am in awe at how raw and honest this book is. Being as open and as vunerable as she is in this book takes so much courage and trust. I have always seen keeping a wall of protection up as a way of keeping people at a distance and also that they wouldn’t employ me if they knew the ‘real’ me.
I need more help than I have ever done right now, I have always prided myself on my independence, that I haven’t needed any help from anyone and I have made it here on my own. But now, I do need help, especially from my husband. Now that I am in a wheelchair some of the time, I can’t just ‘pop’ to the shops, the library or the post office any more. It requires thinking. I can do one of them fine, but if I have to do several of them then that become difficult, especially if I have already been working a lot. Most of my energy goes on work, attending meetings or doing client work at home. It takes a toll on me, which means I can’t do as much around the house as I used to.
Asking for help requires authenticity , and vulnerability.
Those who ask without fear learn to say two things, with or without words, to those they are facing:
I deserve to ask
you are welcome to say no.
Because the ask that is conditional cannot be a gift
So I have to ask Gavin for help. The thing is he doens’t mind helping me, but I resent it, oh how I resent it. I want to be able to do everything by myself! But Amanda’s point is that none of us can, we need to work together, to help and to be open to asking for help.
Reading Amanda’s book has helped me to shift that perspective, to try accept help with gratitude and grace. I suspect it is going to take a while for me to put it into practice, but the idea is there now. I will still continue to rail against those who push my chair without my permission!
I do tend to read books fast, but this book I have really savoured and taken my time over, and I suspect it will go on my yearly reading list. I highly recommend this book if you are interested in art, crowdsourcing, trust or really being told what someone goes through in their creative process, as well as their life.