Learning To Be Taken Care Of

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“Closed our eyes and took on the world together” — Kelsea Ballerini, “Legends”

I was wrapped up in a comforter on his bed as I complained about cramps and alternated between laughs and chills. That was the last time I remember asking to be taken care of prior to these last few months.

So, last week, when it was four of us at a table, tacos between us, and I was asked if I had trouble letting other people take care of me, I said, “Yes, but I’m learning.”

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On the day my mom died I remember doing. I walked around and tended to my family, looked after my little cousin, made sure my grandmother was okay. I was ten. I’d just gone from being the daughter of a single parent to a daughter without any parent. Yet, my biggest concern was if everyone else was coping okay.

Very little had changed over 15 years, until it changed all at once. Fair-weather friends dropped like flies during a season when my lack of energy to support others meant that all I could do was stand still and look around. The emotional weight I was carrying, it was heavy. The fear I was in the middle of, it was suffocating. The reality that I was the only one who could put one foot in front of the other for myself, it was tear inducing.

I wanted so badly for someone else to stand in my place — to experience the lows and let me benefit from the highs. Hard seasons don’t allow for selective participation though. At least not for the person weathering the storm. For those around the person, there are two options — they’re either all in or not in at all.

I’d send text messages late at night or early in the morning, the underlying question in between the lines of all of them were — are you still with me? Because facing life head on is scary and growing up in the midst of pain is lonely. You can’t turn to friends for every decision you need to make, there isn’t time and they don’t know what it’s like to sit in your feelings, on your butt, on the bed, in the hospital clinic.

During hard times you learn to show up for yourself.

During hard times you learn to go home and let yourself be taken care of. Because you don’t have energy to cook, or to comfort yourself, or to take care of others.

Early on in this season, I felt so indebted to a friend who was showing up for me daily that I sent her a long text message simply thanking her — her response floored me. She told me that she knew that I was always the one doing the taking care of and that it was a big deal that I was letting her take care of me. She basically said that it made her feel even more useful and present in the relationship.

I wanted to cry. For so long I’d taken care of others because that’s how I show love, but I’d forgotten that letting myself be taken care of, it’s how I gave others the chance to show love for me. We so often get wrapped up in needing to do everything for ourselves, in carrying the entirety of the emotional weight in a relationship, that we forget to stop and let ourselves be loved too. We teach people to treat us like their biggest crutch, without ever asking for the time and space for them to be ours.

So this time I asked.

I got care packages with my favorite cookies. I got text messages, all the text messages. I got bible verses. I got prayers from friends who hadn’t prayed. I got hugs and intertwined fingers and kisses. I got unconditional love. I got grace. I got forgiveness. I got people who had been waiting for me to give them the chance to love me well.

I got peace.

In a lot of ways I’m addicted to taking care of people. It makes me feel like in the midst of a world that is so chaotic, I have control of something — making someone’s life better, easier, or more fun. The taking care of, it’s a big part of who I am, but it needs to be married to expecting to being taken care of too. To expecting people to show up for me during hard times. To being okay with removing people from my life, even when they haven’t died. Because my people have taught me the lesson that gets me through every uncomfortable ultrasound — I deserve people who see me asking them to show up for my middle as a true gift. I don’t ask many, so if I do it’s because above all else I love you and know that you’ll choose showing up for me over showing me up.