Evidently, when I was a young child, according to the many stories I was told growing up, my favorite phrase was, “I can do it myself!” My favorite of these stories is when I was just learning to tie my shoes, and my mom and I were heading out to go somewhere and we were running late. On the floor I sat, meticulously working to tie my shoes all by my independent self, and my mother was begging me to let her do it, to which I responded vehemently, “I can do it myself!”
I believe these countless stories I was told, because I grew up to be a very independent teenager, and into an even more independent adult. I’m the queen of ‘not needing anyone’ and have become a jedi master when it comes to handling life all on my own. But the events of the past 9 months have made me wonder, has my independence cost me a support system? Is my independence actually a hindrance in my ability to have people want to be there for me? Is my ability to stand on my own strength keeping me from people offering to help me? And I fear the answer might be yes.
My best friend said the most profound thing to me one time. He said, “You never let me care for you. You’ll let me care about you, but not for you, and that’s weird for me.” He’s the ultimate care giver. So, being someone who didn’t need caring, I’m sure was strange for him. There were times, after something hard was over, I’d make an offhand comment about how it sucked doing that alone, and friends would say things like, ‘I’d have helped, if you’d have let me know.” And that’s a true statement. I don’t often let people know when I need help until it’s too late. Is that their fault? Nope. All me. How can people help you if you don’t ask them. And as the Bard so beautifully had Hamlet speak, “Therein lies the rub.”
Asking for help. Well, to be frank, I suck at it. I’m so used to doing things for myself, by myself that asking for help is as foreign to me as a conscience is to Frank or Claire Underwood. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve done it. Ok, maybe two, but no more than that. I don’t know how to explain what comes over me when I can’t accomplish a task on my own. I feel, well, I feel weak. And if there’s one thing I was taught never to be, it’s weak. I loathe weakness in myself. I don’t particularly like it others, especially don’t like it in women, but in myself, yeah, that’s not an option. So, there must be some part of me that equates asking for help with weakness, and in living that way, I’ve surrounded myself in my independent bubble, and now, at the point in my life where I do need help, I don’t know how to ask for it, and so I’m struggling. And I’m struggling alone.
The last man I dated, while on paper the absolutely wrong man for me, but the feelings we had for each other were so intense, it was like nothing I’d ever felt. And for the first time in my life I wanted to be taken care of; let me rephrase, I wanted to be taken care of by him. He was so strong. So unbelievably strong, and for the first time in my life, he did things for me without my having to ask. Before we even dated, I had a problem with my mom’s house, and without my asking, he sent a buddy to fix it for a fraction of what I’d have had to pay otherwise. On a cold morning, when we were dating, he started my car, and put one cup of coffee just the way I liked it in a to go cup in one cup holder, and a cup full of apple slices and banana slices in the other. I remember that day like it was yesterday. How amazing it felt to have someone take care of me without my having to ask for it. And when my mom died, and he asked me what my priorities were first to start moving forward, I mentioned three things, the most important being the ramp in front of the house I had built for her, that I wanted to have that removed. Second, I wanted a new home for her cats that I was too allergic to to take care of, and third, I needed her car sold.
The next day, I came home from work, and the ramp was gone. The wood was stacked on the side of the house neatly, and he was nowhere to be found. Two days later he showed up with a cat carrier, said he found a home for them, and whisked them away. A few days after that, he arrived with his brother who needed a cheap commuter car, and that was gone as well. I’ll never forget how all that felt. All that caring. So, with all that, why, you might ask, is he my ex boyfriend? I asked him that once. And his answer left a scar.
He dated a woman after me, and even proposed to her. They had decided to take a break, and he and I became good friends. Platonic, good friends. And one day I asked him why, through all the ups and downs with the woman after me, why would he put so much effort into her, when after we broke up, he wouldn’t even give me a second chance. He, being the cowboy that he is said, “M, it’s like having two horses in a pasture. One is stunning, and healthy, and independent, and sure, she likes it when you’re around, but she can find her own food, her own shelter, and she can take care of herself. She doesn’t need me. The other one, well, she’s got health issues, and she’s a little scared of life, and she’s more fragile, and she depends on me for food and shelter, and needs me to take care of her. Which horse do you think will get more of my attention?” He said it so matter of factly, I didn’t know what to say. And I always know what to say. I didn’t that day.
So, what do I do? Do I start being more needy? Do I have to erase this independent, take care of myself attitude in order to be cared for? Maybe.
The past few days have been really rough. I’ve been cleaning out my mother’s house, and it’s no small chore. I could have used help. I did ask a few people, but I’m starting to think that maybe no one takes me seriously when I ask for it. I’ve been chastised a lot in my life for not asking for help, well, when I do, it’s often not well received. I could easily put that on the other people, but the more I think about it, the more I think, maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m just seen as so damn strong and so damn independent, that if they don’t help me, they know I’ll be ok.
So what do I do right now? Well, right now I want to scream this from the rooftops:
But that won’t change anything. I have to do some more changing. I don’t need to be helpless for people to help me, but I don’t have to be all by myself. Don’t wanna be all by myself, annnnnnymoooooooooooooooore!
Seriously, though, as I move through 2014, hopefully to my next chapter, I think in order to have a more fulfilling life, I need to stop living from a “I can do it myself” place. I think I need to allow myself the ability to let people help me; to let people care for me. Cuz, man, when the ex did it, I’ve never felt so good, or so safe. Maybe it’s ok to let more of that come into my life. Maybe I don’t need to walk this world alone if I don’t want to. I guess what I’m figuring out is, just because I can do it myself, doesn’t mean I always have to. And that doesn’t make me weak. It makes me human. And that’s ok, too.
Ciao for now,