It isn’t worse. I don’t always love playing all the instruments myself, but I do trust myself to play them. Is that a hyper-independent, hypervigilant thing to say? I’m working on all of this in therapy, and I do think I’m learning to trust and rely more on others. I still worry about money — retirement, the children’s college tuition, my hundred-year-old house — but I’m not panicking because I know my financial situation.
Now when my boyfriend and I go out, we split the bill, or we take turns — he buys lunch at the vegan cafe, and Chinese takeout is my treat. I don’t Venmo him after he sends me flowers or brings me coffee. There is a difference between kind acts — sharing, giving — and relying on each other. It’s the reliance that still spooks me.
If someone asked me what my priority is in one word, I’d still say, “autonomy.” Being autonomous doesn’t mean being a lone wolf or refusing help. It means building a life in which my ability to do my work and support myself does not depend on romantic partnership.
I need to know that I can thrive on my own, but I also want to love, trust and feel connected. It’s a balance I’m trying to get right. Perhaps the pendulum is swinging back to the center.
I still have a babysitter for my children when I travel for work, but I’m trying not to be rigid about it. My boyfriend always offers to help, and I tend to wave him off with, “I’ve got it.” But recently he stayed here with my children for a night while I was out of town. I knew they were safe, well-fed (my boyfriend’s vegetable curry is legendary) and laughing at his terrible dad jokes.
When I returned (and as I expected, found a huge container of leftover curry in the fridge), I reconsidered the metaphor I’ve been using to describe my life. I don’t have to be a one-woman band. I can be autonomous and still hand off an instrument now and then — the accordion, trumpet, harmonica — and trust him to play.
What will that music sound like? I’m listening.
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