Book Reviews, Random Ramblings

The Art of Asking

I spent a lot of time reading over the summer, plucking books off of my reading list—a list that grows at such a voracious pace I know I will never come close to finishing it off. One of the books I FINALLY read is Amada Palmer’s book: The Art of Asking. Has anyone else read this book? I really enjoyed it!

the art of asking


Now, Amanda Palmer an enigma as far as famous singers go. People seem to either love her or hate her. For those of you unfamiliar with her work, I’d describe her singing and performing style as an old-school Vaudeville act containing hints of burlesque and cabaret, occasional nakedness, irreverent humor, colorfully descriptive lyrics, with frequent use of the ukulele as an accompaniment. In other words, she doesn’t fit neatly into any particular category of musical entertainment. She’s in her forties, the wife of author Neil Gaiman. (They have a young child together, Anthony.) Amanda Palmer is intelligent and educated. She’s a writer, a blogger, a songwriter, a singer, a performer, and a musician.  She was asked to do a TED Talk back in 2013.  This is the talk that inspired her book. It’s the memoir of her life…so far.

I encourage everyone to listen to her TED Talk, even if you never plan on reading her book.

Amanda Palmer’s words hit home, especially once I read her memoir. I’m not the kind person who likes to ask for ANYTHING. I expect my loved ones to cosmically know what I’m thinking. I wait until I feel useless, alone, and depressed before I whine, demand, cajole, and order others about. I used to play the part of the martyr, although not nearly as often anymore. “Poor me! Why doesn’t anyone help me? Nobody cares.” And it’s ridiculous, really. All I needed to do was ASK. Simple. It’s not likely that my family members are going to say no. They love me. If I need help, they will help me. The problem is, I expect them to intuitively know what I need. It’s almost as if the act of asking for the “things” (love, help around the house, whatever) negates the actions of those around me. It’s as if my asking for help with, for example, unloading the dishwasher makes the act of unloading the dishes less valuable than if my family members did it without prompting. Did the dishes get put away?  Yes, but there’s a part of me that thinks that I shouldn’t have to ask, that everyone around me should just KNOW what needs to be done.

Why do I behave this way? Why does anyone? Why is asking so difficult? I think my core problem is that deep down I don’t think I’m worthy of help, that I’m not deserving of it. I feel like a fraud in my own life. Never good enough. Not a REAL grown up, writer, mother, wife, whatever—not like other people. If I were truly worthy, I feel like others would just KNOW what I needed from them and I’d never have to ask for anything. It’s a silly thought process when seen it written down so plainly. I’ve spent years thinking about my behavior, educating myself on why I act the way that I do, on why I create my own misery. The good and bad of this is that I am not alone, not by a long shot.

Amanda Palmer’s husband, author Neil Gaiman, might have said it best on his blog:

Some years ago, I was lucky enough invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realise that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.

On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, “I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”

And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.”

And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.

He’s right of course, and it does make me feel a bit better. It also makes me feel a bit sad, too. For me. For everyone.

xo Juli

Thank you, Sandra, at What Sandra Thinks for inspiring this post and be sure to check out her blog!




11 thoughts on “The Art of Asking”

  1. Thanks for the mention! I’m glad my post sparked an idea for you. And… I feel the same way you do… not feeling worthy or like a real adult… thinking I shoudn’t have to ask but that people around me should just know what I need. I never thought about it quite this way. I think in my head, the fact that I do this was always part of a bigger thing. I never broke it down. But I get what you’re saying. I’ve always thought that having to ask made the end result mean less… or even mean nothing…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re more and welcome!

      Right, my husband and I have been together for 20 years and married for 17 of those years. (Whoa!) I constantly need to remind myself that although he knows ME more than anyone, he’s not a mind reader. I have to do the asking. Even when I don’t want to. Especially when I don’t want to. And…sometimes he forgets. OR sometimes, I’m not good at giving deadlines. “Will you do this for me?” doesn’t mean RIGHT NOW to him—even after two decades. It might mean sometime in the next century or whatever. LOL That’s all fine and well under normal circumstances, but when I’m feeling like I’m not enough, not good enough/worthy enough or whatever, it can send me into a tailspin and my poor hubby, who genuinely loves me and is super supportive, has no idea what to do. He doesn’t see helping with something as mundane as unloading the dishwasher without a prompt as proof of love. That’s not how he’s built or how he was raised. We can look at the same issue and he sees simple steps that just need to be accomplished, while my default mode is to see myself as a big failure. “Why do I keep screwing up? Why can’t I get things done?” When all my energy goes into feeling bad, I can’t see the baby steps I need to take to reach my goals and everything feels nearly impossible to accomplish.

      I’ve had some wonderful mentors and teacher over the years, and I’m grateful for that, but my default mode is really unhealthy and unproductive. I know this, but I’m growing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am very much the same. And my husband and I have been together for 19 yrs, married for 18… but I often don’t feel like he’s super supportive. That’s a whole separate topic, though. But like I said, I feel the same way you do… I see huge failures and hopeless situations where “normal” people see small steps to take to change things. I can’t seem to get myself to take those little steps…!

        Oh… and the deadline thing is an issue with my husband, too. He might do something I mention… about a year after I mention it. Or more. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. LOL Yes! If I say to my hubby, “Will you help me with this thing on Saturday. We could work on around such-and-such time if that works for you?” He is ON it! He might even get started on it early because he has time to make a plan. And if I ask him in a way where he’s comfortable asking for a different timetable than my own, he often comes up with a better idea. It’s like trying to edit a blank page. He can improve on my ideas regarding housework or whatever, but it’s unlikely he’ll take the initiative on his own. That’s not going to happen. But unlike me, he doesn’t feel like a failure. My sister went through this with her hubby. She started to make lists of things that needed to get done by somebody, ANYBODY. She was shocked when her husband would happily do things off of HER personal to do list, but didn’t take initiative on his own. Her thoughts were, “Why should I have to be the one to write a list? My family should KNOW what needs to get done. They don’t appreciate me.” I don’t know what the answer is, but if making a list worked, my thoughts are just make the list and don’t worry about it. And if it feels like the SAME list every time, it’s still easier than not having any help at all. (Which is also easier to say than to do, I know.)

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I honestly don’t think that would work on my husband. I don’t know how to explain him, but he kind of seems to have his own set of priorities… and he acts on those… not mine or anyone else’s. You’re lucky to have a husband who will take care of the list at all. I made a list *with him* when we first moved into this house. A couple of those things never happened. It’s been 18 years. (And some of them stopped needing to happen… but still…!) Maybe I should try again. My daughter always wants to help but there are things she can’t do… she’s 9!


            1. There’s soooo much a nine year CAN do! My husband, not me, taught our kiddo how to do his own laundry once he was old enough to master electronic gadgets. (Hubby’s gift to me.) I think our kiddo was around seven or eight? I thought he was WAAAAAY too young, but my hubby pointed out, “Do you REALLY want to pick up his dirty socks when he gets older?” So, we supervised but let him learn…and he did! If the kiddo can work a smart phone, they can work a couple of buttons on a washer. Now, my kid is a teenager and I almost never touch his laundry. He washes his own clothes, and puts them away, and figures out what goes in what drawer. And no, it’s NOT the way I’d do it, but he’s learning how to be an adult and I try not to be the judgement police. And some stuff we’ve figured out together this way. For instance, my kiddo requested no white socks or underwear, only black or dark, because he hates sorting colors. It’s his clothing and his laundry, so I’m cool with that!

              One of my friends has two boys in college who still can’t work a washing machine! Now, she realizes she didn’t do them any favors by doing all the work, but it’s almost too late. So there she is, picking up the dirty underwear of TWO twenty-somethings, hoping that one day her kids will get married and her daughters-in-law will take over. It makes me want to pound my head against the wall when I see how much work she’s created for herself by NOT asking. And it’s obvious her family loves her, even if they’re clueless. She’s practically a servant in her own home, but she doesn’t want to be a bother. Then she complains to everyone who’s NOT her family. And I GET it! I totally understand it. That could easily be me.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. My husband is in charge of a few things so it’s not all me, thankfully. He does laundry and trash and occasionally dishes. But yes… I need to teach my kids more. My daughter is really good with kitchen stuff… but she can’t reach where everything goes. I’m a little anxious about her getting up on a stool with plates and glasses!

                Liked by 1 person

  2. Amanda’s TED talk is one of my favorites, and I didn’t realize she wrote a memoir afterward. I will definitely have to pick it up and I agree that Neil Gaiman sums up impostor syndrome very well. Asking often doesn’t come easily to people, myself included, so her message is one that I think needs to be shared. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A great post, reminding me of my old self, too. I also had to learn the hard way to ask for what I want. I have made great progress since. Surprisingly, once I do ask, politely, more often than not I do receive what I asked for, even things or gestures I wouldn’t previously have dreamt about.

    Liked by 1 person

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