I was deep in serious conversation with the Object of Affections the other day and he said something that precipitated an epiphany around a subject The Bride and I have been debating for a very long time. ‘I’ve always thought I’m pretty self-sufficient,’ he said, ‘but I have realized I’m really lonely.’ And then it all came to me in a big whump–what the fuck does that even mean?
When someone says they’re self sufficient, or they “don’t NEED anybody” (as Lithium is very fond of saying whenever I am feeling particularly insecure of my place in his life), what exactly do they mean? I’ve poked and prodded and probed and usually it seems to come down to ‘I won’t make myself vulnerable to anyone’. On the face of it, that’s a pretty worthy ambition to have. If you’re not vulnerable, then you can’t be devastated by someone (which is usually what’s happened to make people wary of letting it happen again). This makes eminent sense. Only, it is also fairly impossible.
Think about it. What does it mean to be completely emotionally independent? Does it mean that you never call anyone when you’re having a bad day? A good day? A bleh day? Does it mean you never think of any person when you need comfort? Does it mean you never show your emotions to another person? And, most importantly, in the case of people who say they have always been like this, does it mean you never have done any of these things?
For most of us, we have some sort of bond with our families. Maybe only one parent, maybe a sibling.We had at some point, a best friend, a gang of brats we played gully cricket with. A cousin who visited one summer and we spent hours talking to. A first love. A latest love. Homo sapiens is a social species. That’s how it is defined; that’s how it evolved and that’s WHY it evolved. So why must we constantly try and deny this? There are some people who have has horrific lives of abuse and loss and they cannot say they had these things, and we tend to see that as tragic. Then why do we act like this is something we actively want to encourage, like it’s a state of being that should be worked towards?
Because we’re terrified. Heck I’m terrified. I live in a constant state of low-grade terror–that occasionally spikes up to high grade terror–because of the number of people I am vulnerable to. But somewhere along the way I realized the vulnerability is the flip side of love. In some ways the definition of loving someone IS giving them the capacity to hurt you. And they usually do, but that doesn’t mean they don’t love you, or even that they meant to. Sometimes, as happened with Boytoy recently, when he decided he’s ready to find a real girlfriend and move out of our fake relationship, it’s entirely incidental and even you know it. And you know, all the naysayers who told me this was a mistake because he was going to move on and I’d be hurt will be nodding right now, only if I hadn’t let this happen I would never have had all the love he does give me still.
But I digress (as always heh). So what happens is there is a whole generation of people who hold their “self-sufficiency” high like a flag and drown alone in their loneliness, because they cannot even admit to themselves that they ARE lonely, let alone begin to do something to make life better. And that’s what I told OA. How can it be strange for a thirty-year old, like me, to feel the pull of companionship? In my case, I would really love to make a plan that doesn’t have to come with an inbuilt potential date of termination. In my case, when I’m plummeting to the depth of the pit where my demons live, how can I not want a hand to hold, a warm body breathing steadily next to me, or even in the next room? How can we persist in believing that this is abnormal and weak? There is no shame in needing companionship, in seeking a partner, in “settling” because you don’t want to be alone. We are not programmed to be alone–we’re just telling ourselves that because we’re scared.
As for the the other ways to look at self-sfficicency, The Bride has done an excellent job of summarizing our views.