"Marriage makes you soft," I once told my female co-workers. This was a few years ago, during a very active hurricane season here in Florida. My now ex-husband, Ed, was spending time in rehab, so it was up to me to get the house ready for an approaching storm. I was not handling the task very well.
I'd been doing okay working full-time at a new job, taking care of our many pets and, when I was permitted, driving 15 miles through traffic to visit Ed. But I quickly wore myself out hauling in the lawn furniture, the plants, the grill and all the other stuff we kept outside — in a hurricane, that stuff becomes projectiles.
And then there was that little matter of the steel storm panels, the ones that are supposed to be secured across the sliding glass door. I'd donned high-top sneakers and leather work gloves to give it the old college try, but by the time I'd hauled 3 of the 12 heavy panels from storage, I was exhausted.
Surprised and frustrated to find that I really couldn't do it all, all by myself, I burst into bitter tears. Surely I had not been such a wuss before I became a wife. Wuss or no, I still had to secure the house.
The next morning, as insistent breezes announced the proximity of the storm, I was back at it, determinedly ferrying the storm panels to the front of the house. Two of my neighbors, Bob and Joe, were outside, so I stopped for a few minutes to chat. As I prepared to get back to work, Bob asked, "Do you need some help?"
Do I what? I almost said no. I'd always thought of myself as independent and completely capable. But common sense prevailed. Bob and I got the panels up in a matter of minutes, during which I realized it is a two-person job. Duh. When we finished, I barely managed to keep from crying as I thanked him profusely.
"It's nothing," he said. "That's what neighbors do."
When I told my mother about it, I did cry. So when I realized that Ed and I would have to part, one of the first things I did, after calling a lawyer, was to ask an AA friend if in future he'd help me put up my storm panels. He said he would. And just like that, I dispatched one fear about being alone again. No, I can't do it all, all by myself. But I don't have to.
Fay didn't reach hurricane strength before landfall, but if it had, I would have been safe and sound. How do I know? I know who to ask for help.