there’s a picture of me at the age of four. i’m at my grandma’s house. my light brown hair is swooped into lop-sided pigtails, and i’m standing next to a table smiling with a big cup of yogurt and spoon in my hands.
my smile is huge. it’s toothless and bright. it’s purposeful and knowing.
my eyes are squinting and gleaming.
the ties of my sundress have fallen from one shoulder. the late-day sun is shining behind me and lighting up the bursts of blond in my hair.
i don’t even have the picture in front of me, but i can tell you exactly how it looks. it’s one of my favorite pictures of myself as a kid. because of the glint of unabashed stubbornness i can see in my eyes.
as a child, my mother tells me, i was ferociously independent. “i can do it myself” was my daily dictum. if i wanted to go outside and swing, i did it all by myself. if i wanted some juice, i poured it myself. if i wanted to draw a picture, i got my crayons and paper and i sat down to draw. no help for me, thank ya very much.
when my mother did offer me help, i was offended. mortified. disgusted.
and this independence, this desire to do everything “by myself,” followed me through life. it made for some interesting times as i entered junior high, high school, young adulthood. it seemed that accepting any help from anyone was a mortal sin and a sign of weakness to me.
through two marriages, “i can do it myself” was difficult to surrender. i didn’t want to depend on anyone, even someone who was supposed to be my equal and a sharer of my life. every time i was offered help – whether in the daily minutiae or in problems that weighed heavy on my heart – i seethed at the thought of someone insinuating that i was incapable. that’s how i saw it.
that glint has gotten the best of me. it has made me weather many situations alone when i didn’t have to. it has made me shoulder troubles without having a trusting ear in my vicinity. it has put me on the floor of my bathroom sobbing because i felt that, if i couldn’t do it myself, i was a failure.
within the last year, i have been learning to ask for help… or at least to realize when i am over-burdening myself. though reaching out to another person – a trusting and loyal person – is still quite a relinquishment of power for me, i am gradually, slowly beginning to understand that i can be an independent person even during my vulnerable moments.
i can ask for help, and knowing it’s there will only serve to strengthen my spirit.