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.
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.