I. Need. Help.

(Dedicated to ShaZam)

In my twenties, I practiced extreme independence and self-sufficiency.  I didn’t need anyone.  I could handle myself, thank-you-very-much.  From changing the oil in my car, to teaching myself how to sew, there was nothing I wouldn’t take on.

This fierce ‘hear me roar’ persona is one of the qualities that attracted my husband, I’m told.  Looking back, I must have appeared to be quite a catch – a girl who wants to be with a man but has no intention of depending on him.  Husband, bless his thick skin, wasn’t even put off by my frequent declarations of independence.  Me: “I don’t need you, you know.”  Husband: “Yes, dear.  You’ve made that clear.”

To my husband’s amusement, I would throw my 110 pounds into impossible tasks like loosening lug nuts on a tire or carrying roofing shingles up a ladder, refusing to accept help.  He only offered unsolicited help once.  His genuine concern over my safety was met with a Hulk-like reaction.  I didn’t quite sprout muscles or turn green, but my voice did deepen as I spit venom in my husband’s direction.

It’s comical now – my staunch opposition to assistance.   I naively equated dependence with weakness.  My black and white thinking saw no middle ground between complete independence and helplessness.  I wouldn’t let anyone help me for fear that I would be surrendering my power to them.

This supremely invulnerable alter ego continued into motherhood.  I tried to do it all – with a smile.  When number two baby came along seventeen months after number one,  and husband left for a business trip one week later, I finally fell off the scaffolding.  Cradling a colicky baby and a screaming toddler I cried into the phone, “I can’t do it.  I. Need. Help.” …..and the walls of the city crumbled.

The image of invincibility that I had built up was, ironically, as delicate as glass.  What looked like strength was actually weakness.   An attempt to cover up fear.

These days, I hand my husband a jar before I try to open it.  I take my car to the mechanic for an oil change.  I ask a child for help with the computer.   And yet, I feel stronger than ever.

I’ve learned that I do need people to help me through life.  And they need me.  We are inter-dependent.  Us people, we are gifts to each other.  When we wall ourselves off, we do so at our own peril.  And we rob each other of the gift of being able to help.

I still pride myself on my ability to care for myself.  I like being independent.  But I also enjoy knowing that I can ask for, and accept, the love and kindness that others have to give.

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