Needed and needy
You know those nights you spend walking up and down the sidewalk on a quiet suburban block, cradling a fussy baby, while inside his sisters sleep and his mom gets ready for a long trip before an early flight the next day? Classic.
Okay, not classic. But that was my night last night, and it was wonderful. Wonderful because I got to hold a baby, and I got some rare quality time with a friend, and I got to perform a small act of service for people I love. Wonderful because I so dearly like to be needed. It’s simple, really. While I certainly can’t claim selflessness or generosity as consistent personality traits (just catch me too early in the morning, or at the end of a trying day, or when I’m not in the mood, and you’ll know), I love when people look to me for help.
But when I’m the one in need? When I can’t do something by myself, or have a load too heavy to bear, or am in need of support or a favor? It makes me squirm. You see, I pride myself on my self-sufficiency, my conscientiousness, my resourcefulness. Thank you, but I’ll carry these four grocery bags the three blocks to my apartment up to the second floor myself. Thank you, but I’ll provide the drinks and appetizer and dessert too, you just bring yourself. Thank you, but I’ll do this long-term, multi-faceted project on my own. But then a bag breaks, or the smoke alarm goes off, or I miss my deadline, and I’m left frustrated, indignant, isolated. Or, that doesn’t happen. I manage to make it in one piece to the fridge, or I present an impeccable three-course meal, or I successfully turn in an impressive project. But then, I could be faced with great exhaustion, or an overwhelming mess, or an inflated ego, all of which would have been entirely preventable by the mere act of asking for, or receiving, help. And then there’s the generosity and charity and fruitfulness I’ve refused or prevented by planting my flag firmly in that self-sufficient camp of mine.
How I fail to see the flawed logic in this so often is beyond me. I cherish those chances my heart has to grow when I open my home, or say yes to volunteering, or drop what I’m doing to come to another’s aid. I love being invited into someone’s life at a vulnerable time, love being seen as a trustworthy friend, love being thought of as approachable and available and kind. And selfishly, I relish that feeling of warm satisfaction when I’ve made a difference or received a thank you.
So, why is this a struggle for me, I wonder? For starters, I’m proud. I don’t want to admit I’m needy, or limited, or incapable. I hold too tightly to my independence. I worry about being an inconvenience or annoyance or burden. While I’m often eager to enter another’s life, I am less willing to open up, show my weakness, reveal the whole messy truth of my own life. I’m afraid.
But you know what they say—admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. So, I admit it. I admit first that I am needy, and dependent, and insufficient on my own. And I admit that I have a problem…admitting that. Even to myself. I want to let others experience the joy and growth and satisfaction involved in extending generosity. I want to accept help, even when I don’t absolutely need it, and quickly ask for it when I do. I want to feel the freedom to be seen as an inconvenience or annoyance or burden—but a lovable, grateful, joyful one at that. I want to live an abundant life, to be needed and needy alike.
What about you? Any other stubborn, strong-willed, independent do-it-yourselfers out there? Do you feel me? Tell me there’s hope.