The flu took me down 2 weeks ago. I'm coming back slowly, despite feeling like I missed big chunks of life, because I took it as a sign that it was time to back off from doing and to focus on healing.
That first morning I listened to my family and the morning routine, slightly worried about how they'd do without me but unable to muster the energy to speak. I've been a backseat parent from my sick bed before. But not this time. Days went by like this including my son's 8th birthday party which I had to miss.
What mostly struck me while listening to and observing my family was how much love and kindness was expressed, how willing they were to help, and that they were ok without me.
Reflecting back, I find that there's this interesting tension between wanting to be taken care of and wanting to take care of others and to be in control. Being sick I had to give that up. It was all about surrender.
One of the ways that I feel valued as a person is by being a caretaker. Being in charge of my family and taking care of my kids has given me a sense of power--and the illusion of control.
In the past I've had relationships where I've happily not been in charge--where I've willingly relinquished control. Having someone else in the driver's seat allowed me to be free from responsibility and to feel somewhat taken care of. That all changed with having kids, and growing up and learning to have a voice. The sense of strength I gained was hard won--a near constant struggle with connection vs. submission.
The trouble is, who takes care of the caretakers?
The tension between asking for help and being self-sufficient touches at the heart of vulnerability. How scary is it to rely on others or to admit needing help? Terrifying. And yet essential.
I recently heard the story of The Handless Maiden, a woman who learns to care for herself after going off on her own. She was helpless and relied on others for everything, until she grew back her hands, out of necessity. In Russian version of the story, she grew back her hands to save her baby. That part totally resonated with me: that by necessity, because I was so needed, because I had a child that was utterly dependent on me, I grew. I learned to trust myself and my own ability to nurture and mother and protect.
As my kids have grown my focus over the past few years has shifted back to myself and my need for self care and self sufficiency. Bittersweet it is.
There are times when we do need help--when we maybe feel more helpless than usual. Getting sick, childbirth, and those early days postpartum are a few examples. Anytime you feel overwhelmed that powerless feeling can come up. You may need to ask for help or grow your own hands.
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