Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I'm Done With This "Being Independent" Thing. It's Way Overrated

I’ve decided that I’m ready to be a dependent again.

Now, I don’t mean that in the gold-digging way that it sounds. You all don’t need to worry that someday you’ll see me on Real Housewives of Denver or something (although that would make for some riveting TV). I just mean that I’m ready to be able to depend on someone again.

I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty independent person. I’ve always kind of done my own thing, had my own opinions about stuff, and could very easily get into a mood where I really don’t care what people think.

Even when I was married, I felt like I was independent. I was the first one to run off and get married at the ripe, old age of 20. For awhile I had a pretty successful career. I was the first one to have a kid. And I was the first one who quit work and actually stayed home with my children.

Now, some people would choose to think of this as “dependent” because my husband was the primary breadwinner. But those of you who have chosen to stay home with your kids, know that it takes a certain amount of courage to withstand those judgmental looks from the other people around you because you’ve given up your career. Actually…we all pretty much get those judgmental looks. Because even if you decide to go back to work, that means you’re neglecting your kids.

Am I right? Or am I right.

Anyway, I’ve pretty much always led the life I wanted to and in the process I confused this with independence. In reality, living the life you want to live and doing what feels right isn’t actually independence. It’s should just be considered…life.

When I quit my job, most of my friends were pretty supportive, some were even admiring. Because after they all started having kids, they understood how strong you have to be to stay at home with a child who sleeps during the day, is up all night, doesn’t talk, and has blowouts at inopportune times all day, every day. This phase only gets replaced by a child who talks all the time, never sleeps, and still has to use the bathroom at inopportune times. Like when you’re 12 deep in the line at Wal-Mart or stuck in traffic on the highway. After awhile, going to work seems like a break.

Boy…we didn’t see that coming in our early 20s, did we?

A few of my friends saw my staying at home as a huge risk. What if my husband should lose his job? What would we do then? How would we make it? But since life had been pretty good to me up until that point and the economy hadn’t tanked yet, I chose to believe that that would probably never happen. And if it did, I knew my husband well enough to know that he would do anything, take any job, to keep us going. And if I needed to, I knew I would do the same.

Who would have thought, years later, that just losing a job would have been something I would have welcomed, given the alternative?

In the comforting stupidity of youth, most of us were na├»ve enough to believe that really bad things didn’t happen to us. You remember how in your teens you were pretty much invincible? Well, in your 20s, you’re just starting to realize that you aren’t. And your 30s are when you start taking the stairs a little bit more carefully, instead of jumping down the last 5 (in case you should hurt yourself). You don’t run and slide on the ice because if you break something and don’t show up the next day for work you won’t get paid, so you tip-toe over it. And you start realizing the true implications of a DUI and that it’s something to be embarrassed about (not bragged about, as it would have been in your younger, wilder days) so you always travel with a DD.

When my husband died in my early 30s, I think I became the first, true wake-up call to my friends that bad things could happen inside our circle. My closest friends started to really check up on what they had for life insurance and disability. Everyone started to give their significant other one extra hug in the morning, just in case. And I started to get some really sad looks because I had been a “dependent” all those years and what in the heck was I going to do now??

I never really knew what it meant to be truly independent until I was forced into it by the death of my husband. But the definition of "independence" has changed for me over the years. The truth is, I’ve come to know myself well enough, that if I need to make something happen, I make it happen. I may not be able to do everything and do it well, but I can make a pretty good stab at it. My breakfast dishes don’t get done until 5 PM, but at least everyone got fed.

I’m in a “glass is half full” kind of mood today. Go with me here.

Where my dependence on my husband was, was in the partnership and friendship we had. Having that person ask about my day. Having someone to call and share news with…good, bad, or otherwise. Having that extension of me and knowing that there was someone out there who cared as much about what happened in my life as I did…’cause it was his life too.

It had absolutely nothing to do with who made the most money.

I’ve realized since he’s been gone, that being dependent takes a lot more guts than being independent. It takes trust. It takes faith. Having the courage to lean on someone else. And having the strength to hold them up as well.


  1. Beautiful last paragraph, just beautiful.

  2. wc, goodonya, I have yet to reach the milestone you are at...one day, I hope, in the not too distant future.
    Thank you for your postings, you do brighten my day.
    jessie w.