We were standing in front of Penn Station talking about why I didn’t need him to come down to the waiting area with me. I was resisting his offer, for no good reason. It was an unspoken resistance that I now understand was about taking care of myself as opposed to allowing someone to take care of me. We talked for a few minutes, had a nice goodbye kiss, then he left–after escorting me down the escalator to help with my bags. I waited for my train to arrive, alone and regretting the decision.
Seth Godin writes about our fears and dreams. In his list of what one dreamed of was the phrase–being taken care of. In that moment I recognized myself. The emotion that had surfaced on my train ride home and the following day. A mixture of sadness and bewilderment at the intensity of feelings I was experiencing after a long weekend in the city–with a man I had just met. A weekend of long walks and meals and conversation–being seen and heard, and feeling attended to.
On Monday morning it came down to being taking care of as he led me along the crowded city street to the subway, carrying my bag. Checking to make sure I was comfortable taking the subway instead of a cab, navigating the train station. Small stuff, but all focused on my needs in the moment. Considerate, thoughtful, generous.
I’m not always comfortable with being attended to so thoroughly. And I often say no, politely, but a no that serves to isolate me a little and deprive others of the opportunity to do something nice for me. I insist that I can handle it. I shut down a little. I protest, silently, fearing I might be perceived as needy rather than understanding that the offer comes from a different place. The giver has his/her own motive that is based in kindness and concern.
And deep inside, I do want to be taken care of. The little girl who learned to hide her emotions, who fought off feeling helpless at times wants that. The strong woman who has fought too many battles alone would like a strong arm enveloping her–inviting her to relax and lean back a little. But she can’t always allow it. I’ve had to learn that it is OK to fall apart a little and to admit to needing help. And, that none of this diminishes me.
Maybe the only way to fulfil the dreams is to let go, to face the fears–confront my vulnerabilities. Feeling the freedom in letting go and being accepted in all my weaknesses and frailties. My wonderful traits as well. I know I’m not alone. We each have our own lists of fears and dreams. I’m processing my recent experience and thinking about what I need in my life and what I have to do in order to satisfy those dreams and desires. One of the answers, for there are many, is to accept. To trust, to let go, to be willing to embrace my vulnerabilities. And maybe what all of us need is to welcome our fear–knowing that by seeing it and labeling it, we are in charge, no longer controlled by our fears. Creating space for dreams to be filled, for good things to happen, for the right person or right experience to come into our lives.
I’m musing aloud on this. It’s a part of my process, and it’s a bit uncomfortable admitting to this in public, but that’s also part of the process. I used to think it was harder for women to let themselves be taken care of, in our struggles to show our strength and independence in a culture that labels us as the weaker sex. I believe men also have that desire for someone to want to take care of them–it’s what happens when we’re connected to another. It’s not an indicator of neediness or frailty, actually it takes strength to admit to wanting or needing a little assistance or attention at any given moment. It’s not about making one of us weaker, it’s about giving. Pleasure comes in all forms. When the offer is heartfelt and we say no, we have denied both of us an opportunity for something good.