Recently, my husband and I bought a house, and fortunately, there aren’t too many repairs to complete before we move in. One repair that had me worried due to the possibility of mold was a loose shower wall. You know, when you push on it it feels like there is space between the shower wall and the house wall.

I decided I would look on YouTube for answers, because folks sure are helpful and creative when it comes to DIY projects! I located a slightly intimidating video but felt I could do it myself. I only need a few supplies: masking tape, packing tape, Gorilla glue, newspaper, a syringe (the kind with no needle!), a screwdriver, and a brace made of wood.

However, as I excitedly told my husband about what I found, he started to take over my project. What gives!? I think he assumed that because this was a handyman task that I assumed he would do it, conforming to expected gender roles. And while this is not the norm in our family, we’ve never owned a house and are trying to feel out who we are and what we are responsible for within this new ownership space.

Because I felt like he was being kind and then didn’t process my feelings, I pulled into myself, which stirred up some helplessness. Of course I couldn’t do it, of course he would do it, why would I think I could do it? Then, we addressed the issue between us that we hardly knew existed, because the shower wall was sitting there with no one fixing it.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

It was my idea, and I shared information. I did not ask for help, but he tried giving advice and assistance regardless. Thus, I felt incapable. After we had a conversation, my husband encouraged me to fix the shower by myself while he mowed the lawn. But I couldn’t seem to do it! I could see him outside, and my feelings were shy.

So, I waited until Monday when he went to work to drive to the house and fix the shower without him knowing. I didn’t have the nice brace from the YouTube video, but I found some old wood in the garage and stacked up a plastic tote and some old notebooks to really make a wedge. And it worked!

And afterwards, guess what I felt? Empowered. And so this is how my bathtub taught me more about learned helplessness and empowerment. If we, even with the best intentions, assist someone who has not asked for it, nor have we asked if we can assist and are willing to accept “no” as an answer, we are taking away an opportunity to let that individual — like me! — develop personal strength and fortitude.

Published by Grab the Lapels

I'm a graduate of the MFA fiction writing program at the University of Notre Dame, which inspired me to follow along with trends in teaching, publishing, and reviewing. I also have an MA and BS from Central Michigan University. I used to teach composition, creative writing, and literature in higher education, then did a brief stint at a civic theater, followed by two years at a references desk at a public library. I'm now working toward my ASL Interpreter license.

2 thoughts on “Empowerment

  1. Now you’ve told me where your blog is I’m having a bit of a look (to put off starting the post I’m meant to be writing).
    I have exactly Nick’s reaction when Milly tells me she is going to do handiwork. Sometimes she leaves me to do the job; sometimes she does it herself when I’m not there; sometimes she leaves it and then gets cranky because I haven’t done it – that’s probably the most frequent one.
    I know you think a lot about processing decisions, relationships; Milly does too, and often joins in therapy groups, but I don’t think she articulates it as well as you do; I am a long way behind Nick in responding to cues in these situations – and to be clear, that’s my fault, not Milly’s.
    Anyway, I’m impressed you saw what the problem was, verbalized it and achieved a practical and successful resolution.
    What should I do in the future? This gets back to Milly nearly always sees my response to any suggestion as negative. I don’t always feel negative but I’m sure I often imply I know better. Yes I try to be positive but then Milly sees me as insincere – we have a way to go!


    1. Hey, Bill! I just noticed this comment was in the spam, for some reason. Sorry for the wait for my reply. I think one of the most important lessons many of us can learn is to not help until asked, or be willing to offer instead of just doing. Just doing implies that you are right, or that the other person is incompetent. Offering shows support but a belief in that other person’s capabilities, too. It’s not too much to think about really; would you want Dragan or someone else to just do something you were about to do? It tends to occur between people with power differences: men and women, adults and children, people with a disability and people who are not disabled, etc. And for the context of this blog, people who are hearing and those who are D/deaf.


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