I grew up valuing independence. I cherished my ability to do things for myself. I would generally refuse offers of help. Somehow in my mind, I saw this independence as proof of my competence and value as a human being. I didn’t want to owe anyone for my success.
When someone would offer to help, I would often refuse. Sometimes I felt like the offer was an implicit judgement on my ability to produce results on my own, although it was really my own judgement of myself. Sometimes I didn’t want to bother others by appearing to be weak and needy. My words, not theirs.
My independence did allow me to do some things that I may not have done if I needed to create harmony with a partner, but it also created some walls around me. Spirit has a way of offering us lessons that get a little bigger each time until we learn. For me, it took a sledgehammer. Weekly chemo and daily radiation therapy. For seven weeks.
Throughout and after treatment, I was unable to care for myself and my animals. I needed help. I was afraid that being so vulnerable would make people run, and they did – towards me. My friends and family lined up to drive me to treatment (2 hour drive, plus time at the hospital) and I never went to treatment alone. My dogs and horses were cared for.
I learned that when people offer to help, it doesn’t mean they feel I can’t do it myself, only that I don’t have to. They want to share time with me. When I offer to help, it is out of a desire to assist and yet I found it hard to accept that this is true of others.
Relationships cannot be a one way street. I am happy to contribute to community events in addition to helping my friends out with their tasks. Collaboration is much more rewarding than too much time spent alone.
There is satisfaction in having the competence to manage things on my own, but there is joy in sharing even the mundane tasks with family and friends. As we give, we shall receive. I am so grateful for the network of family and friends that allow me to celebrate my independence while contributing their support.