Cambrian: Opinion

Circle isn’t complete unless you learn to receive

Friends help clean up the columnist’s garage after it flooded in recent rains.
Friends help clean up the columnist’s garage after it flooded in recent rains. Special to The Cambrian

Not a crisis, just a disruption: My garage flooded in the past rains. Twice — once each storm. Not just a garage, it’s my art studio, clubhouse, zone-out room and for the past two years, where I’ve served Thanksgiving dinner as it’s the only space on the property big enough to do so!

It’s rather a hodgepodge room of cabinets castoff by friends, one or two pieces that remained from the landlord’s workshop days decades ago, one or two units I bought, etc. and padding and carpet — two layers, for some semblance of coziness — that were rescued from a dumpster (hey, they didn’t smell, were big enough and didn’t look too ugly … they fit the criteria).

Having been on a roll since Christmas, traveling hither and yon and ending with a sniffly, icky feeling, I was not worried but not looking forward to dealing with the mess. OK, every time I walked in and smelled the musty muck, I shook my head. And here the story begins.

I have always been the bossy one, the Hulk, lifter of stuff, organizer, dismantler, builder … but someone else came and stepped in. Feeling icky, I think my guard was down.

“We are going to work on your garage tomorrow. What time is best?” said dear-friend-who-is-the-volunteer-extraordinaire.

She brought along other great friend with brains and brawn. I really don’t know what I was feeling at that point.

Not true: Some relief, some confusion over allowing someone to help (someone who I wasn’t sleeping with or hadn’t nagged for assistance or asked in any way … asking for help troubles me so), and a little melancholy at not being able to do it all myself as I usually do. Not because nobody ever offers but because I’m controlling (did I mention that?) and just like things done a certain way and, like my mother before me, deeply dislike bothering others over personal things.

I tried to minimize the amount of work they wanted to do by saying I’d just asked the fellows who were coming to haul the wet carpets away to move things. I also played the honest, “I don’t feel like it” card. To no avail. Darn, my pals are persistent. Bless their hearts.

With often comical, vey filthy and heavy actions, the place got torn apart and the majority of the offending flooring was removed. Golly. I kind of wanted to cry, not out of seeing the place so blasted to pieces but because of the generosity of my friends to take on such a disgusting task, all on their own.

Really, I relish the idea of a redo as it’s been way too many years since any of it’s been moved and, well, you know how things take up residence in nooks and crannies.

Two days later, my friend came with his hauling crew to load the junk up and take it away. Moving the most awkward of pieces, getting out the last soggy padding and rugs and a damaged cabinet (and some large, odd castoffs that someone kindly deposited in my driveway and shed a few months ago!), they swept up and carefully stacked all my crazy goods. And then gave me a long hug, several compliments and drove off … because we’re friends. Great, another day of crying in gratitude.

What’s it all about? I more fully understand the feeling some people get, men and women, who find themselves losing certain skills or abilities to carry out daily duties, such as driving or lifting or whatever. I also understand, as one of my two girlfriends who muscled everything around put it, “You know how good you feel helping others? Well, now we can feel good, too!” I’ve friends right now who’ve had no other choice but to accept help. They do so gracefully.

I am grateful every day. But, gratitude is not just being thankful. It’s allowing others to participate in your life in such a way as you both may benefit. It’s about accepting as well as receiving (just receiving, not complimenting right back, etc.), allowing the circle to be just that, a circle. If you take without ever giving, the circle isn’t complete, it’s out of balance. Judging from how my heart feels, it is the same for the other way.

I’m learning.

Dianne Brooke’s column appears weekly and is special to The Cambrian. Visit her website at Email her at