Monday, November 24, 2014

Life Simply Is... Counting on Others

We all have those deep beliefs, about ourselves or about life, which we hold onto regardless of evidence to the contrary.

One of mine, perhaps the most persistent, is that I can’t count on others. It is no accident that I have worked so hard at being self-sufficient, nor an accident that I have spent so much of my life single. It is true that I have been let down in extraordinary ways, at times by those I should have been able to count on; and it is true that I have had to do many things alone even at times when I desperately needed help. But it is also true that I have been helped countless times in my life, in ways both remarkable and humble.

By default I assume I am carrying my burden alone, so sometimes I have to remind myself when I am not.

My recent move provided such an example. Granted, I spent many long, solitary days sorting, packing, selling on craigslist, dropping things off at the thrift store, cleaning, and transporting items from my apartment to my trailer. But without a doubt this move was a team effort.

My son and daughter-in-law worked hard to find a good location for me to live in my trailer. Moving somewhere sight unseen is nerve-wracking, but I knew their judgment would be sound.

Every time I brought items to the trailer (at the time parked in my parents’ backyard), they would prepare lunch or dinner to share with me. Some days my mom would walk out to the trailer and help me with self-improvement projects: sewing curtains and pillow covers, hanging pictures. My dad helped with several projects, often unasked: straightening a bent ceiling fan blade, placing pavers on the ground leading up to my door, and helping me extricate a very obstinate VCR player without breaking anything.

A few weeks before the move, my son drove up from California in his pickup truck. He and my sister-in-law Lauren spent a day transporting my larger and heavier belongings to the trailer.

My big sister Katrina spent two days helping me build the panels for my pet yard, and her help went far beyond practical. This task took on enormous proportions in my brain, symbolizing all the angst and exhaustion of having to do everything alone. While there was nothing about doing it that was beyond my skills and experience, I dragged my feet getting started. Having her come over and help meant that it got done.

As the days and weeks of preparation wore on, and the burden of navigating the move and all that encompassed started to take a toll, what felt most wearying was that I have had to carry my life burdens alone for so long; the cumulative effect of years of taking care of myself. And then I would stop myself and reassess. Truthfully I was getting help from every direction. 

I have spent many years learning to take care of myself, and it does feel great to not depend on others to make changes in my life, nor to conduct my day-to-day affairs. This has been the simpler choice for me, because I avoid both the disappointment and logistical bind that can come from being let down. But it comes at a cost: I have missed the experience of sharing a life with someone; of learning to work through my disappointment; of learning understanding and forgiveness.

And theoretically, a well-balanced relationship is a more efficient, simple unit than a single person. Working in harmony, two can accomplish more together than they could separately.

But…. No need to get ahead of myself. My first step is to learn to be more vulnerable, to trust more, and to rely on close friends and family. I need to accept that when we rely on one another, there is the possibility of being let down: we are only human after all. Living in community with others, entwining my needs with theirs, is messier, more complicated; and with the joys it also brings more potential for sorrow. But it is the more human choice. 

As I embark on this new journey, it is my greatest goal to learn to open my heart to those who have earned my trust, to learn to live more as a human with humans. I do not doubt that this is the most important journey in Life, this journey of the heart.

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