Yesterday I got a flat tire on my bike pulling into the YMCA right before my early Monday class. It couldn’t have happened at a more ideal place, but I’m new to being a bike commuter and my very bike-savvy husband does everything for me. I wouldn’t really know how to pump up my own tires without supervision. But he is in finals week and is sleep-deprived, overworked and utilizing every spare moment. The last thing he needed was to come rescue me.
As I’ve done all the other times I’ve broken down (usually in my car), I started brainstorming how I could get to the office for an afternoon of patients and how I could get home again with my bike at the end of the day. Mind you this is all within a two mile radius, so it isn’t that dramatic, but everything is dramatic when I get stressed.
So I asked for help.
The nice thing about being a yoga teacher is that if you teach someone how to set up for Savasana or how to do Upwards Facing Dog without hurting their low back they love you for life. So I asked my most serious biker student if she had a flat kit with her at the end of class. Not only did she say she would help me fix it, she declared she would teach me how to fix it myself for the next time, she went out and bought me a new tube while I taught my third class and brought her car to the Y with a bike rack to guarantee I would have a ride to my office before my first appointment. In fact she got so excited about being able to help me that she thanked me for asking her for help.
In managing to get my problem fixed I also helped her feel useful and talented.
The rest of the day I thought about all of the very clear moments in my life when I’ve been able to help someone out. Giving a friend a ride home from the airport when we got to know each other better, helping a friend build a yoga practice to battle depression, making my big claw foot tub available for a friend coming to visit while I worked late, spoiling a friend with a girls’ weekend two weeks before her first child was born, grocery shopping for friends when they were ill, babysitting for new parents. The list goes on and on and on. I remember vividly those moments when loved ones just called up and asked very vaguely for help. I had to put the pieces together and activate a plan and each time it turned into a bit of adventure. It was a gift to help. A gift to feel needed.
At the end of the day biking home I thought about how when we give fully to someone else we are so fully free of guilt or indebtedness. But when we receive something from someone else we are gently indebted to them or to the universe to do something kind in its exchange.
Yesterday helped me realize I didn’t have to feel guilty about asking for help. I could instead savor the fact that I let my student teach me something she does really well. I let her empower me with knowledge and skills and I could empower her by feeling more useful in the midst of her day.
I am again in awe of how the universe presents lessons and obstacles, and if we stay gentle, we can see that the stumbling points lead us to beauty.