There are times when I wish I didn’t need people. Times when I wish that I could live in a tiny cabin all by myself. My only neighbors would be the ancient pines that surround my home. My only visitors would be the birds and squirrels, which I would gather about me like an army. I’d be entirely self-sufficient.
My self-worth wouldn’t be defined by anyone’s opinion of me, I wouldn’t have to interact with anyone I didn’t want to, and I wouldn’t ever have to ask for help.
This dream of mine is extremely flawed for several reasons, the biggest of which is that tries to throw away something that makes me human: a need for others.
When I am struggling, I like to tell myself, “I can figure it out.”
I’m independent to a fault and to the point of running away from help. I will retreat to my head to think it through until it’s solved — until I’ve written the story, figured out what’s bothering me, or I know what I need to do differently next time. Sometimes it works. Other times, I only succeed in making the problem bigger and more caught up in itself. And it kind of ends up like getting a knot in a kite string and attempting to untangle it while still trying to fly the kite. It doesn’t work, you don’t have enough hands, and the kite crashes to the ground. You will crash, too.
It’s no big deal, it might take a little longer to figure out on you’re own, but you don’t have to ask for help. So you try to work with it, more and more you pull the string through one end, untwist it on one side to have it twist up even more on the other side, and all the while getting yourself tangled up in the knotted string.
Now you’re stuck, attached to the grounded kite, but you’ll still get up and act like you can still walk around normally. There’s nothing wrong with you, you’re just dying on the inside because you just expect people to see it and ask, “Hey, ya seem to be a little caught up in something there. Do ya need some help?”
“No, no,” you’ll say, “I’ve got it under control.”
But here’s the thing, they don’t say anything about the kite. Maybe you’ve done a good job at acting like you’re not tangled up in it. Maybe, out of respect for you, people have waited for you to come to them and ask.
Either way, you will waddle around with the tangled up kite for days or weeks, depending on your willpower, pulling at it in vain. You’ll end up angry that you even tried to undo the knot or even tried to fly the kite in the first place. You start to wonder about using the knife in your back pocket to just cut it all away, but you know you need the kite and you’ll want to fly it again.
Then one day, when a friend comes by and asks you if you’re okay, you’ll finally break down.
“I think I need help.”
They sit down with you and it’s a slow unraveling — messy and uncomfortable. You might be embarrassed because you feel like you shouldn’t be dealing with this problem and they smile sympathetically and say that it’s okay to feel like that, but it’s also okay to be tangled up. The honesty required to ask for help and the humility to accept it — that’s the hard part.
Here’s the good part of asking for help: being able to spend time with someone who cares about you. They will take the time to listen to you, if you let them. They will stay with you until you’ve worked through it. And instead of exhausting yourself by insisting that you can figure it out, they will fill you and inspire you and give you something that you would never be able to find on your own.
When you’re finally free of the kite and the string is completely untangled, the joy in it all is found when you can fly it together.
Sometimes, when my life is a mess, I want to retreat to a cabin in the woods surrounded by nothing but pine trees. But even the old pine trees seem to whisper the wisdom that you can’t grow alone.