An Open Letter to Everyone Who's Been Helping Out Lately

Dear Everyone Who’s Been Taking Turns Staying at Our House Lately,

First of all, I wanted to offer my thanks. You’ve all been really wonderful. Your competence, kindness, and compassion have been practically without limit.

But many of you — no, make that every single one of you — have offered (repeatedly) to do anything else in your power to help out, and the truth is, there is one small thing I’d really appreciate if you could do.

I need you to start acting like helping out is hard work. No, not just hard work. Exhaustingly hard work that has taken you right up to your limit, flew right by that limit, orbited the world, and then finished up by flying up behind you and kicking you in the butt.

Do it for me. My reputation’s at stake.

You see, about a third of the time, there isn’t anyone here to help me take care of Susan, the kids, and the house; I handle it all solo. And after about 48 hours of this I start looking for ways to have a debilitating accident. You know, just so I can sit down for a stretch.

And then you breeze in, clean up the place, fix nutritious meals, get the kids off to school, and then have a nice, meaningful chat with Susan.

And you make it look easy.

Then, when it’s time for you to head back home and I grab onto your leg and try to prevent you from leaving and then eventually pull myself together enough to say something like, “Thanks for everything; I couldn’t have made it through this week without you,” you twist the knife by saying, “Oh, it was easy and fun. Kind of a vacation, really.”

And then you leave and I turn around and walk back into the house and everyone stares at me until someone comes out and says it: “See, nobody thinks this is hard but you.”

So here’s what I’m going to need you to do next time you visit:

  1. Reduce the home-cooked meals ratio. When I’m in charge of meals, a Subway sandwich counts as a home-cooked meal, because, well a sandwich from there is no different than if I made the sandwich myself, right? I’m just saving a little time by not having to cut up the vegetables, that’s all. So when you go and turn on the stove, it makes me look like a fool. Order some pizza or have everyone eat cereal for dinner or something. Otherwise you’re just setting unreasonable expectations going forward.
  2. Get irritable over something trivial. I recommend telling the kids that the local post-meal cleanup union has, sadly, gone on strike, meaning they’re going to have to do their own dishes for once. Or tell the twins that somebody told the Cleanup Fairy that he didn’t believe in her, and so she vanished, and now they’re going to have to start cleaning up their own room. My kids never get tired of obtuse sarcasm.
  3. Wander around, looking overwhelmed. I recommend going into the kitchen, standing there for a minute looking lost, then going back to Susan’s room, then remembering what you needed from the kitchen. Repeat 74 times per day.
  4. Lie when it’s time to go. The truth is, folks, I’m not really interested in whether you had a great time with everyone (except me, for I am currently not a pleasant person to be around) while you were here. I need you to tell me, when it’s time to go, how next time you come you’re going to bring a few extra people along, just to keep up with the — frankly impossible — workload. Tell me you don’t know how I do it all by myself. Tell me you are going to go to a spa for a week just to get the kinks in your back and knots in your muscles worked out. Feel free to get expansive on this. Elaborate freely.

In short, everyone, I spend about 30% of my time on the verge of panic. By taking over and making this look easy you’re undercutting my main sympathy tactic. Don’t do that to me.

Finally, if maybe you could call each other and talk a little bit about how amazing it is that I manage as well as I do, and how, frankly, you just about lost it from the constant demands put on you, I’d very much appreciate it. I promise, it’ll get back to me (everything any of you says always does; that’s the way our family and friends network is).

Maybe you should even blog about how hard it was, as opposed to…say…how you heard angels singing when you saw my admittedly-awesome dishwasher.

In advance, thank you for your attention to this matter.

Kind Regards,

Elden Nelson / The (Increasingly) Fat Cyclist

PS: Seriously, everyone who’s been keeping me (more or less) off the ledge: thanks.

PPS: Oh, and while you’re at it, if one of you could figure out who all these casserole dishes ought to be returned to, I’d really appreciate that. Because I personally have no idea.

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