Wanting to be taken care of

Wanting to be taken care of

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.

Your thoughts?

12 Comments
  • Andre Leonard
    Posted at 07:34h, 29 September Reply

    It’s usually a mutually agreed trade off. His needs and her needs. While different, when met they both are happy.. This journey called life is made better when both needs are met.

    • Walker
      Posted at 07:40h, 29 September Reply

      I agree with you Andre, having both parties open and willing to share and take the time to care for each other–leads to great sex as well! Thanks.

  • Cathy
    Posted at 08:34h, 29 September Reply

    Walker, since the first time I “met you I found you to be a strong, vibrant, intelligent and self-reliant woman. But we all (or most of us) have a need, that little girl need, to be taken care of. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s what makes us human. Lean into it, accept it and know it’s part of who you are. It doesn’t take anything away from the rest of you. You deserve to be taken care of, my friend. Yup. You certainly do!

    • Walker
      Posted at 08:39h, 29 September Reply

      Thank you Cathy. We do all need to be taken care of at times. And sometimes it is about wanting to know that the person you’re with cares enough to want to do that for us.
      There’s a caregiver element to this as well, as you can imagine. But that’s another story.

  • Laura
    Posted at 11:33h, 29 September Reply

    I am by nature a caretaker which is why I believe admitting I need to be cared for is at times hard for me to admit. I too don’t want to be perceived as “weak” or “needy” or god forbid “high maintenance”. But when I spurn those actions and refuse the care volunteered it ultimately puts up a wall between me and the other person. It becomes a way to thwart emotional intimacy. What a beautiful and brave article you’ve written.

    • Walker
      Posted at 17:41h, 29 September Reply

      Yes, you are so right. I think that’s what I have experienced as well.
      And thank you for the lovely words!

  • Carol Cassara (@ccassara)
    Posted at 20:50h, 29 September Reply

    Vulnerability is human and is beautifully intimate, in my opinion. I’ve had trouble with it, too, but once I had a taste of being taken care of, well….

    • Walker
      Posted at 07:08h, 30 September Reply

      Yes. Once we actually allow ourselves that pleasure…

  • Sienna (@datingseniormen)
    Posted at 21:54h, 29 September Reply

    This is a lovely cautionary tale, Walker, a reminder that if we want to continue growing we must never stop examining ourselves, our attitudes, and our possibilities. Thank you for sharing these thoughts.

    I divorced my first husband largely because I was taking care of him. My second husband, my true life partner, was a grown up. We maintained a division of labor along somewhat traditional lines. We took care of each other, and that erased any feeling I might have had about compromised independence. Ten years after his death I still believe his perception that he took care of me was essential to his self-regard. And I felt validated, not diminished — and I think that’s the possibility you’re addressing in this essay.

    • Walker
      Posted at 07:10h, 30 September Reply

      Sienna, thank you. And, you’re right we never stop growing and examining. I’ve probably had more ‘aha’ moments in the last two years than in the previous 30!

      As you point out that distinction between validation and feeling diminished, I think you’ve noted the crucial piece–how we see ourselves and the person we’ve allowed to enter our lives. Thanks.

  • Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com
    Posted at 12:14h, 30 September Reply

    Hi Walker! These are my favorite kind of posts because they ask questions that are difficult to answer but get us all thinking. I’d say even as a woman who has been happily married for 38 years I still struggle with that question now and then. I LIKE being taken care of most of the time BUT I also can get resentful if I think he is taking it too far OR if he isn’t doing enough. So much of it depends on how I’m feeling about myself at any given time. I also find myself doing it with friends and/or family. I like being strong and confident so usually don’t ask for help. But then sometimes I wish others would be more helpful. It is a paradox for sure. Some of it is habit, and some of it goes back to how I feel about myself in any given moment. I think it is also cultural. In some countries it is just assumed that we take certain roles and a person doesn’t necessarily feel diminished because others help–it’s just expected. Anyway, lots to think about here. ~Kathy

    • Walker
      Posted at 12:36h, 30 September Reply

      I have that same thing around help–sometimes I bemoan the fact that no one is offering to help–while I’m being reluctant to ask when I need it.

      Lots to think about for sure. Thanks for adding your thoughts Kathy.

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