I’ve always been an “independent,” individual.
Comfortable in my own skin, never minded being alone, didn’t need a man to complete me; and was financially able to take care of myself.
I had moved out of my parents house and into my own apartment when I was barely 18. They disapproved of my boyfriend, at the time, and since I was “in love,” I got myself two jobs, found a one bedroom apartment and moved out while they were on holiday in Florida. (I know… I know, cruel, right? “Regrets, I have a few…”)
It didn’t work out with the boyfriend (It never does; does it?), but I never moved back home and I never asked my parents for help, financial or otherwise. The line in the sand had been drawn… I did what I had to do to make ends meet, take care of myself, pay my bills and create an “okay,” little, young adult life.
Even during my first two marriages (Yeah, that’s another Blog, entirely! ) I always tried to have my own friends and a life of my own; with my own interests, i.e. school, bowling, (It was the 70’s, don’t judge me), hobbies, etc.
Being “independent,” has always been very important to me; perhaps a little too important… Like so important, it may have become a liability. My “I can do it on my own,” attitude is a little smug and maybe a wee bit brusque.
When you live your life, not needing anyone, you subconsciously begin to build walls and you become suspicious of people when they offer you help. My immediate thoughts would be; “Don’t you think I can do this myself?” “Do you think I’m incapable of doing this?” “Why do you think I need your help?” “I’m not stupid, I can do this by myself!”
I’m not sure why this happens, but it did (it still does).
My reality, regarding a helping hand, is warped and distorted, I admit it. …but they say acknowledgement of a problem, is 50% of that problem solved, right?
When someone tried (in earnest) to help me, that chip, on my shoulder would morph into a shard of glass; and burrow into my Levator Scapulae muscle. It caused (causes) me a great deal of mental and emotional pain.
The person who knows about this “chip” and my inability to accept help, is my current husband… (Yup, third time lucky!)
Over the past 23 years he has had to deal with my “independent streak,” and my ever annoying “No… I got this,” attitude. He perhaps, over the years, has even gotten used it… and at times, stopped offering his help; but in November 2017, all of that changed, for the both of us.
Serious (autoimmune related) health issues, kicked my ass and I was basically incapacitated. I went from being an active, vibrant, self sufficient, social, fun loving “63 is the new 40” minded women, to moving only from the bed, to the couch and back to the bed again.
My husband would leave for work at 7:30 am, with me comatose on the couch, and return about 6:30, with me still comatose, laying on the couch. There was no dinner, no dishes done, no TV turned on, no books read, no blogs written, no friends visited… Just me, a smelly blob; not showered or dressed, laying on the couch, staring at the ceiling.
At some point, I had no choice but to let him “help,” because I had neither the energy nor the inclination to move or resist. It was hard, but we got through it… however, not without some anger, resentment, self judgement, etc.
As the months went on and I started to feel a little bit better, I actually wanted to do the things I used to do… I had the desire, but now, not the strength nor the stamina. Drat.
Little by little things did get better; and in the past 6-9 months, I have slowly gotten back to being (pretty much) my old self. I have learned that I do in fact have limitations and I began accepting (in teeny, tiny doses) my husbands help, i.e. among other things, he helps me change the sheets and duvet cover (When the hell did duvets get so bloody heavy?)
However, on February 18th, everything changed again... I had knee replacement surgery.
Now let me admit right here and now… I was stupid, unprepared, naive and I did not do my homework, which is not like me at all!!!! I didn’t think about the aftermath of a major surgery and how I’d cope at home. I didn’t stop to think that I’m not a “kid,” anymore and “bouncing back,” from a major operation might take some time, some effort and a lot of HELP!
It must have been because I was so blinded by the excruciating pain; and the fact that my quality of life had been drastically impacted… that I jumped at the surgical option without weighing the consequences.
Forget the pain, agony and uncomfortableness that comes with full knee replacement surgery (if you can), you are totally at the mercy of who ever is around you!!!!
You can’t carry anything (that you might need) because you’re on crutches. You can’t lift your own leg onto the bed or coffee table. You can’t get the (much needed) ice packs out of the freezer. You can’t make a meal, a cup of tea, do the laundry, change your disgusting sheets, or bring a glass of water to the bedside. You eat over the sink because, you can’t carry a bowl/dish to the table! (TMI, but truth be told, I barely managed to wipe my own butt!)
In the blink of an eye, I became 95% dependent on this poor man; this lovely, kind, gentle man who, I had metaphorically kept at an arms length away, for 23 years!
Well it was time… the “I got this,” wall, has had to be, deconstructed, brick by brick…
In the last 23 days, I have had to allow, this man (who, YES, I love and cherish!) to see me at my absolute worst; to see my vulnerabilities, my foibles, my inadequacies, my “warts and all!” I have had to allow him to see me in pain, afraid, totally exposed, unsure of myself, irrational, weeping, weak and pathetic.
And worse… I have had to accept his help.
I have had no choice, but to allow him to help me with pretty much everything. And you have no idea (just as he has no idea!) how very hard that has been for me! I mean, come on… people don’t just become dependent overnight, right?
No… not usually, but you CAN!!!!
You can have a surgery (that you never really considered) or a stroke, a heart-attack. There might be a car accident or God forbid cancer! You can easily, and very quickly go from being fiercely independent to becoming totally dependent, in the blink of an eye
It’s taken me almost 65 years, numerous ups and downs, multiple setbacks and heartaches, three marriages, two kids, two debilitating autoimmune diseases and a knee replacement surgery, to truly realise, I am no rock. I am no island. (Sorry Simon and Garfunkel, you got it all wrong!)
Nobody should ever choose to go it alone. We all need someone. We all need help from time to time.
I can now honestly say that I know what it means to really love someone… it means trusting them enough, that you allow them help you, in your time of need. .
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart to my husband; my Superman, my partner, my friend, the person who sees the “real” me and sticks around anyway.
I love you.