*Check out my latest book review on Burlesque Press: The Explanation for Everything*
I never realized before moving to Seattle what a hilly city it is. To be honest, I knew very little about Seattle at all, except for rain, Nirvana, Starbucks, and the Space Needle (and I didn’t even know what the Space Needle was exactly.) Anyway, turns out that the city is a series of incredibly steep, San Francisco-style hills. Mostly, I like them. They make for some fantastic views of the city, and taking a walk in my neighborhood is like doing two Buns of Steel videos back to back.
But when I very first moved to Seattle, I was a little afraid to drive and park on the hills. One day, for example, I parallel parked on a very steep side street, and when it came time to get the car out of the parking spot, I got a little nervous. I needed to reverse, but I was afraid to take my foot off the brake. I knew as soon as I did, the car was going to roll forward at a frightening speed, and I worried that in the time it took for my foot to move from the brake pedal to the gas, the car was going to hit the BMW parked in front of me.
And this is exactly what happened. Now I was sitting in the car, clutching the steering wheel, my foot on the brake, and my front bumper was smooshed up against the back bumper of the BMW. What was I supposed to do? Of course, I knew that I would have to put the car in reverse and gun the gas, but I was nervous. What if I hit the car behind me? What if somehow I damaged the BMW? I knew that this situation was exactly what bumpers were for, but still, I was afraid. The hill was so steep it was freaking me out, and so I called my boyfriend, Paul.
When I explained the situation, he seemed confused. “I don’t know what you want me to do,” he said. “It sounds like you’re going to have to back up.”
“I know,” I said. “But I’m scared. This hill is really steep, and I’m afraid I’m going to mess something up.”
“Where are you? Do you want me to come and help you?”
“No, no,” I said. “That’s silly You don’t have to come.”
“Are you sure? What street are you on?”
“No.” I was starting to get frustrated. “No. I can do it myself. I’m just scared.”
“Well, what should I do? Should I come find you?”
“Never mind. I can do it myself.” I hung up. Then I put the car in reverse and gunned the engine. It worked, and I was out of the space and on my way in a jiffy. I wondered why I had called Paul, if I’d known what to do all along.
Recently, a few days before Christmas, I found myself in a place that is the opposite of Seattle in many ways: a small town in the North Carolina Piedmont with a flat-flat-flat topography that does not provide nearly as good an opportunity for butt workouts.
Paul and I were staying with his parents, and I wanted to get some kind of exercise, so I said I was going for a walk. “Be sure to call us if you get lost,” his mom said as I headed out the door. I had my cell phone with me, but I seriously doubted I was going to need it. It’s not like I was in New York City.
I started walking down the street, past ranches and colonials; the classier ones decorated with holiday wreaths, and the not-so-classy ones with blow-up snowmen or Spongebob Santas deflating in the front lawns.
I wanted to get a good workout, so I walked and walked and walked. One mile, two miles, three. I turned down a street and then another and then another. I crossed a set of rail road tracks. I was attempting to make a big loop, but streets that I thought would go straight ended up curving around and spitting me out in unexpected places. All the brick houses were starting to look the same, and after I’d been walking for forty-five minutes, I had to go to the bathroom.
I considered turning around and retracing my steps all the way back, but that seemed annoying and inefficient, and I was still hoping to make a loop of some kind. So I called Paul. “I’m sort of lost,” I told him.
“Where are you?”
“Gloucester and Main.”
“What are you doing all the way over there? You’re really far away.”
“Well, what’s the best way to get back from here?”
“Stay where you are. I’ll take my dad’s car and come get you.”
“No, don’t do that. I walked here. I can walk back. Just tell me the best way.” I wouldn’t have minded wandering around until I figured it out, except that now nature was calling. “Should I turn right on Nottingham?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t know which direction you’re going in.”
“I’m going towards your house, I’m pretty sure.”
“Let me just come find you.”
I was getting frustrated. I could hear his parents talking in the back ground. “Where is she?” they were asking. “Is she OK?” Great. Now his parents thought I was an idiot who couldn’t take a simple walk around the neighborhood without getting lost.
“Never mind,” I said. “I’ll just retrace my steps.”
“Can you do that?”
“I assume so.” And with that, I hung up and started to walk. I took a right on Nottingham, and things looked familiar, but in a moment of doubt, I called Paul back. “From Nottingham I take a left on Spencer, is that right?”
“Stay where you are,” he instructed. “My dad and I are on our way to find you.”
Feeling sullen, I stood at the corner and kicked at the curb. They picked me up two minutes later and drove me half a mile back to the house. And yes, I was supposed to take a left on Spencer. Which made me all the more annoyed. I hate feeling stupid. I hate asking for help and then realizing I could have easily done it on my own.
* * *
I’d felt really stupid about the parking thing, too, on the day I had called Paul, freaking out about the steep hill. “I wasn’t sure what you wanted me to do,” he’d told me later. “I wasn’t sure if you wanted me to drive over and help you or what.”
“I’m not sure what I wanted you to do, either,” I said. “I guess I just wanted support. I was freaked out, and I wanted you to tell me that I could do it and to have confidence in myself.”
“That makes sense. Well, I’m glad you called me for support, even if I wasn’t sure what to do.”
This is something Paul and I are still figuring out: how to ask for what we need, and how to give what the other needs, even when they don’t know how to ask for it themselves.
It was the same situation when I got lost on the walk. Paul thought I was asking him to come rescue me, but I wasn’t. I’m not a damsel, and I don’t like feeling helpless or stupid. I didn’t need someone to save me, I needed someone to pump me up so I could save myself. I guess I wanted him to say, “I’m sure you can find your way, Eva. You’re going in the right direction. Follow your instincts.”
Because, at the end of the day, what feels better: getting there because someone else did it for you, or getting there because you drove yourself?
Sometimes all I really want to hear that I’m going the right way. I want people to tell me that they believe in me. That they know I can do it if I try. I’m not a damsel. I just need a little support.