Can We Walk This Path Together?


I took a shower this morning for the second time in four days.

No, I’m not hiking, camping or vacationing in some far off locale. I’m not driven by water conservation nor electricity savings. On Sunday morning, I lost my mobility for the foreseeable future when I broke my ankle in two places while out doing my power walk.

The irony isn’t lost on me. Neither is the short term nature of my situation. And although the timing of driving my own car is still unknown (a stick shift car with a left ankle injury), this too, is a solvable issue.

Financial resources. Personal grit resources. Social connections.

And yet, the simple aloneness of attempting to get through the day can be overwhelming. My arms are already sore from getting acclimated to the crutches. As are my armpits, although the towels wrapped around the crutches are helping. The sheer energy involved in getting up to pee, to get a cup of coffee or a bite to eat has me seriously considering how badly I actually need to go to the bathroom, how smelly I am or whether I’m truly hungry or just bored.

I look forward to my butt planting itself on the couch, where I have assembled the requisite items, computer included, to help get me through the day. Its such a simple act, and yet it’s the highlight of my days now. And as I look at my home while sitting on the couch, I realize how truly fortunate I am, that I have friends and family who check on me and the resources to actually sit on this couch and still have food to eat.

When my son called last night to check on me, his concern made me cry. I have become that burden. The one who needs the help, as opposed to the one giving it. It is a very unfamiliar place for me. After four days this is already screwing with my head. I see the future, years from now, when I am old and feeble, the same people calling with the same offers to help and its terrifying.

Yesterday was the day when weariness set it. Today marks deep sadness. I am the girl sitting on the couch with unstoppable tears.

This isn’t me being needy or complaining. I am smart enough to understand that throughout this healing process I am bound to suffer both emotional and physical ups and downs. Lucky enough, with strong legs, to have been able to pull myself up from the bathroom floor when I fell this morning trying to get into the shower.

Because I realize not everyone is this fortunate. Not everyone has the personal, financial or social resources. And knowing how I feel while on this very short term hiatus from mobility, has me wondering how those with long term issues must feel. The ability to see oneself as still contributing, still functioning and still needed is central to maintaining self-esteem.

If I feel this way after only four days…how does it feel to be trapped in a cycle of depending on others for everything? I’m not a social scientist, so I have no big answers, just questions. But it occurs to me that consistently “helping” others is not really helping. Being dependent quickly erodes self-worth. High self-worth is a determining factor is success in job performance and in life. If I think I can, then I will. If I think I can’t, I most likely will stop trying.

How can we work together? What programs need to be in place for long term success of those who’ve been trained to think they can’t?

All I ask is that when you visit, let me do something. Please come by with your friendship. You can bring me dinner, if you’d like. Just please help me to feel useful.

And for more days like today, please bring me waterproof makeup.


Ilene Slatko
Ilene Slatko
Ilene Slatko joined Farr, Miller & Washington in early 2017 as a Vice President of Business Development. She will be bringing her financial education seminars back to the DC area; in particular, her long standing, “Women and Their Money” program. Her knowledge and insights have helped make the difference for many who have sat through her presentations and seminars. Ms. Slatko comes to Farr, Miller & Washington from Delaware Shareholder Services, where, as Principal, she followed bankrupt publicly traded companies for stakeholders around the globe. Prior to DSS, she spent 24 years as a Financial Advisor working with high-net-worth individuals, having started with Merrill Lynch prior to the Crash of 1987.

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  1. Ilene, your message is timely. Yesterday several friends talked at length about boundaries. Whether we are asking for help or someone is asking for something from us, there are dynamics going on. If we are aware of them and seeking the best we know how to balance the give and take. As I read your story it seemed like you were talking the same language. You need help but you don’t want to require too much. You still want to be productive and contribute so you are asking that people recognize that too. Balance and boundaries. Good article.

    • Jane, thank you for your comments. These conversations that you had and that I reference are sometimes just below the surface. And you’re right, it’s a delicate balance.