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Why We Should Stop Trying to ‘Go It Alone’

As I sat and watched the news come out of London last night, I experienced a range of emotions. I felt shocked. I felt angry. I felt fearful. I felt disbelief that this was happening yet again to our friends and our allies in London. Disbelief that this is now our world — the world we all live in.

But then I took a deep breath and reminded myself that there are far more good people in the world than bad, and that these incidents can bring out the best in all of us. So, let us not give in to the fear that these terrorists are hoping we give into. Let us not hide, run or separate ourselves from our friends. Let us band together.

This event, of course, happened just days after we heard world leaders bemoan the United States for its “go it alone” attitude this past week. Watching these comments unfold made me think a lot about our country, but also about my own life.

Those who know me best would say I’ve always been a fiercely independent person. An only girl in a family of boys, I was always determined to chart my own course, pave my own way and “go it alone.”

Not too long ago, I said to one of my brothers, “I feel alone. I just wish I had help.” He stopped me dead in my tracks by saying, “Maria, you have so much help all around you. You’ve always had help and support. You need to do a better job seeing the help that’s around you, and you have to do a better job asking for the help that you need.”

He was right on both counts. Like many people, I know I’m one of those people who likes to do the helping, not the asking. It’s out of my comfort zone.

But, I’ve taken my brother’s advice to heart and found myself asking for a lot of help lately, especially for today’s Move for Minds event that’s being held in eight cities across the country, all at the same time.

What an undertaking it has been. I’ve asked friends to show up on a Sunday, their day of rest. I’ve asked others to donate money and/or raise money for Alzheimer’s research. Others I’ve asked to work their asses off to make the event the success that it is.

I’ve asked family members to stand in for me in the cities where I couldn’t attend. I’ve asked companies for their money and their products. I’ve asked researchers to share their wisdom (see their amazing brain-healthy tips below). I’ve asked, and I’ve asked, and I’ve asked.

It’s never easy to ask for help, whether it’s for a cause like Alzheimer’s, or whether it’s for yourself when you just need someone to listen, to be there, and to offer support. Asking for help requires strength. It’s humbling. Yet, it’s such a moving feeling when you receive it.

I’ve learned that I can ask and I can receive (I’ve got work to do on the receiving part, but I’m on it). I’ve learned that I can ask, be turned down, and survive. I’ve learned that I can rely on my family. (I knew this deep down, but I’m seeing it this weekend. My children, my sister-in-laws, my nieces, and my cousins are all stepping in, and up, to help me.) I’ve learned that my friends are “just say the word” type friends. Without them, I’d be alone, and that’s a tough place to be.

I share my experience because perhaps, like me, asking for help and receiving it isn’t your forte. Yet, I know I’ve never accomplished anything without it.

I’m learning that there are so many people around me who are more than willing to help me. I just have to communicate what I need and slow down long enough to express my gratitude for their help. Expressing gratitude, my friends, is key.

So, if you are one of those “go it alone” types who is afraid to ask for help, take it from me. It’s overwhelming, it’s isolating, and most of all, it’s not sustainable.

Try to open your heart a bit wider, and you will feel things you didn’t feel before. (Yes, some feelings might be painful, but better to know you can feel than to walk through life numb.) Try to calm the anxious child in you that’s telling you no one is there for you, no one can help you, and that you are all alone.

That brings me back to our larger U.S. We the United States of America — with all of our freedom and independence — have always been stronger and better when we are a part of a global community, one where we talk to others, listen to others, include others and ask others for help. Being part of something larger than ourselves open up our hearts and our minds.

As Pope Francis always reminds us, we share a common home: our planet. It’s up to all of us to care for it. We all share a common longing to belong, to be seen, and to be accepted. We all share a common desire for friendship, for support, and for help. Going it alone — whether you are a country or a person — is an illusion of the mind. No one does anything alone. This I have learned. This I know deep in my heart.

Be strong enough to ask for help. Be vulnerable enough to share your desire and/or need. Be brave enough to say thank you.

Going it alone is so … blind. So yesteryear (as in Mad Men era). So old-fashioned.  Be modern. Ask for help. That goes for countries and people. I know I need it. So do our friends in London, and in so many other cities and countries.

Be open to help, be willing to ask for it, be brave enough to be grateful for it, and be generous enough to give it.