I’ve been doing things the hard way for as long as I can remember. As an only child who grew up to be a lone wolf, rugged individualism was but a way of life. I did not question that my life, my plans, my love, my struggle were all of me and for me, a perfect vacuum. I was responsible for 100% of what went on, and I was proud to grab my bootstraps over and over to grind it out and get it done, whatever it was.
It seemed to all be part of my big, bad problem with authority, which I do not question. My big, bad problem with authority is one of few authority figures I trust. I know what’s right, and I don’t need input from anyone. Look at me! Showing my back to the Grand Fucking Canyon, looking skeptical, as though issuing a challenge–you can’t impress me. I knew it all at age 25. A rugged individualist is touched by no one and nothing. Unmoved, except by their own self-determination. It’s suddenly grown tiresome.
You see, the rugged individualist is so self-contained, nothing permeates. You do it because nothing permeates. When nothing permeates, the anxiety and suffering and injustice of the world and its individuals cannot be felt. After living this way long enough, it can no longer be sensed.
Ah, such grand blank spaces inside! Such capacity and promise. And the rugged individualist meets her own needs, controls her desires and wants. She’s self-sustaining and capable, and the pride from being that way will get you high. They will call you arrogant, and you will prefer “fabulously” arrogant.
Needless, wantless is what my therapist called me. Living through pure self-determination became ingrained to the point I didn’t see it. I’d been through this before, of course, when I stopped drinking. I found in those early alcohol-free weeks on a mattress in my best friend’s parents’ basement that there were no bootstraps to pull, and that if I didn’t ask for and accept help from others, I was going to die. I asked for help.
It got away from me again, though, when I moved away from my hometown a few years ago. I was on my own the first year, my husband back home, working toward the big move at a different pace than I. It was all up to me again, and I relished the opportunity to leap off the cliff and get it done. Once I landed, however, I forgot that rugged individualist time was over, and that now I needed people. I slipped right back into the old patterns. Sigh.
I forgot it’s better to seek help. I got back into going the long way around to accomplish things on my own. I got back into that foreshortened horizon that is our potential without the assistance of others. No one could tell me anything. I wasn’t asking questions or taking in new information from the mouths of others. It had to come from my perceptions, and mine only. Ugh. Fabulously arrogant stuff.
I forced myself to answer why I was maintaining the rugged individualism with the crisis, the big changes over (for now). What, really was at the root? It’s pride. It’s my stubborn pride I was fiercely protecting by doing things the hard way. Appearing weak, reliant or needy is apparently how I view myself asking for help, and my pride cannot suffer it. Evidently, I became fine suffering from my pride.
I’m making myself practice new behaviors. I’m entering conversations and experiences affirming to myself that I will accept help if given. I’m going into relationships ready to make a direct ask if something isn’t offered freely. So far the response has been quite positive. I feel supported, and new opportunities are revealing themselves. Things feel sort of…easy. I have all these new ideas, where before I saw blankness, waiting to be filled in, no ideas in sight.
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