I’ve talked about interdependence now and then on this blog. Well, “talked” might be a misnomer. I ranted about the subject last year, particularly on how it relates to “strong” female characters.
I was first introduced to the term and the “Dependence < Independence < Interdependence” scheme by a teaching colleague of mine in Armenia, and it’s stayed with me ever since. Particularly now, being disabled.
At Mayo Clinic’s Fibromyalgia/CFS workshop, they taught us to avoid the “patient/caretaker” relationship. Being entirely dependent on another person doesn’t really suit anyone well, (not even children, who often feel resentful of the way they are treated by adults). So, at the workshop we were taught to learn our limitations, to learn how to be resourceful and work within them, to keep as much of our self-reliance as possible.
But it’s unrealistic to say I should be completely independent. There are too many things I can no longer do for myself.
However, the longer I’ve been in this position and the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized this is the way life should be.
For Americans, the concept of Independence is everything. We think that being free from others and doing everything ourselves is the highest ideal. We live in separate houses, with yards that divide us from our neighbors and from our relatives. We’ve traditionally had isolationist policies, keeping us away from the rest of the world. We rarely think about our ancestors, or those who’ve gone before us. Making our own choices, doing our own things–is everything. Children leave home at the earliest possible convenience. Teenagers can’t wait to get a job so they can pay their own way through life. They start driving earlier than most other countries, and they have their own cars. Female characters claim they “can do everything themselves, and they don’t need no men to fight for them”. Having a career and a separate life of her own, rather than an interconnected family, is a modern woman’s dream. And it’s shameful to admit that you can’t solve your own problems by yourself. You should help other people but you should never need to be helped, yourself. Asking for help from friends or family or government, going to a therapist, turning to God, these things we think are worse than doing or solving everything yourself. We prefer individuals to teams: Superman, Spiderman, Batman–vigilantes, lone cowboys. And when we put teams together, they often have a hard time working together–see The Avengers.
I’m not saying that Independence is bad, but what I am saying is that–I used to think it was everything, the final step in an ideal pathway, but now I see I was wrong. It is a step, but it is not The End.
One of my new phrases is, “If God wanted us to do things alone, independently, he would have given us each our own planet.” Okay, that’s a bit facetious, but I think it still makes my point. There are what, 6? 7 billion people on this planet now? It’s ridiculous to expect that we should have to do everything by ourselves.
We need to be self-reliant, yes. We need to be able to support our own selves, to love ourselves, have confidence in ourselves, to accomplish many things of our own will and our own strength and to fulfill our own dreams. But we also need–I’ve found I also need–to be able to rely on others.
I’ve discovered the beauty in seeing others, in watching them make sacrifices and show kindness towards me. Whether it’s making me a sandwich because that “simple” task is complex and hard for me, or buying me an audiobook, or taking the time to visit or drive me somewhere. If I stubbornly tried to do everything myself, I would not get to know these people as well as I have, to see their beauty shine. (Gyeh, now I’m tearing up again, but it means a lot to me).
Most of my new friends have come from people who have stepped out of their way to help me when I needed it. If I had dismissed them, if I had tried to resist and hold on to this “idealized image” of my own independence, I would have missed out on getting to know them, on having new friends.
I am not meant to go through life alone, and neither are you. Life can be so much richer, if we are strong enough to rely on each other. To tear down the walls that we erroneously build to protect ourselves, take a risk, and let someone in.