There once was a time, not so very long ago, that I endeavored to make you need me. Finding ways to be invaluable to you, I’d become utterly necessary, completely indispensible. I’d found all the holes in your floors, your squeaky wheels, your cabinets hanging off their hinges; I’d searched out all the spaces that needed a handywoman, that required my unique touch.
I wasn’t ever trying to fix you though, not really – I was simply looking for ways you might come to need me, rely on me for facets of your life that you’d done just fine without before, but since I’d come to stay, now couldn’t live without. Your meals cooked with fresh, organic ingredients, packaged next to mine in the refrigerator, ready for work the next day. Your budget showing excess funds after my spreadsheet workings, where before you’d run into month’s end with just a few dollars and a smile. Dinner parties deftly planned, with artsy table runners and sparkling wine, as you showed up to magnificently hold court. And your business, oh your business, how I provided insight and intuition from my pillow each night, stepping in during the day to handle difficult calls and annoying emails. Yes, oh yes, before you knew it, you came to need me so.
And I needed to be needed. I needed your validation. I required your approval. I couldn’t feel whole or worthy or valuable without these contributions to your life; without the way you’d look at me with your blue, charming boy’s eyes and say, “what would I ever do without you?” Or in the midst of fights and slammed doors, how you’d beg out your apologies, feeding me with the words “but I just can’t live without you.”
And the models in their magazines, all the actors in their movies, would turn my way and nod, affirming wholeheartedly that this was, indeed, love.
“Love is being needed.”
“Love springs from doing.”
“Love is dependency.”
But then, one day, after repeated goodbyes from many different “yous,” I traveled to a place deep inside of myself, that wondered if love could look differently. I lived there alone, learning that I could “do” for me, that I could validate myself, that I could be worthy simply by being, that my value lies in my humanity.
Awaking one day I realized that I could be wanted just for me: for my wide, wide smile, laughing while telling a bad joke. For my clumsy bare feet tripping on the sidewalk, running to embrace a friend. For the extraneous words that bubble over each other when I talk, because they can’t wait to be expressed. For the tears that slip out when I cry, noisily and not the least bit daintily, because life snuck up on me when I wasn’t looking.
It’s an entirely new concept for me, this unexplored way of being, that recognizes that love already exists inside of me and you and her and him. Love isn’t created by doing; rather it’s accessed, tapped into and unleashed, when we meet a kindred soul.
Perhaps it’s trickier in romantic love, but I know this principle to be true as I think about those I love most in the world. While I appreciate what they do for me, my love isn’t a result of their actions. My love swells out of the beauty of their being, in the delight I feel in their presence, within the happiness that overtakes me when they join me on the playground.
So I’ve embarked upon a new endeavor: I’m actively making myself unnecessary. I’m unwinding the cords that I wove around others to make me indispensible in their lives. I’m stepping over the holes in the floor, enjoying the sound of the creaky cabinets, and keeping them company while they fix their own squeaky wheels, handing a wrench and shining a flashlight on the shadows.
I’m learning to be less busy, less caught up in doing. I’m learning to still my hand when it automatically reaches for my tool belt, and to close my mouth when I’m tempted to step in and rescue. I’m learning to walk away from people that are always needing, and letting go of my addiction to being needed.
I’m opening up to those that want to grab some tea and talk about life. That invite me to dinner or to see a play or to watch a band they think we might both like. I’m learning to laugh more and listen better. I’m learning to consider requests instead of immediately answering demands. I’m listening for as many “you”s as “I”s in a conversation; for as many questions as answers.
It’s freeing this relinquishment of the need to be needed.
And in its place I find myself wanting to be wanted. And because I now love, and give to, and do for myself, I’m also learning to be okay with it when I’m not.
Photo: Thea Bea/Devian Art