“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”

I’m an independent woman. I always have been, and I believe I always will be. I’ve never let anything get in the way of the things that I do and the things that I want. Instead, I find ways to make those things happen. Sometimes I’ve felt like I had to make things happen by climbing on the backs of other people, and when it was a matter of survival, I think it might’ve been justifiable. I just don’t know that I ever moved past “survival mode,” and maybe that’s the issue I need to work through most — just accepting the fact that life doesn’t always have to be a struggle. I don’t have to fight to survive; I’m alive, and I can just enjoy life.

Anyway, that tendency has earned me labels like “selfish” and “heartless.” Every now and then, I’m referred to as a soul-eater. And, sometimes — rarely, but more so lately — my so-called independence has been called into question.

One of my best friends keeps pushing me to wake up and regain that independence. I’m wondering if I ever really lost it, or if I’m only just starting to see the problem with that form of independence.

I know that I’ve given up a lot to be with PJ. At the very least, I’ve given up some sleep. At the very worst, I’ve given up my freedom and stability.

What I sometimes don’t acknowledge — to myself and to my friends — is that I’ve also gained a lot. He’s supportive with my career. I’d been hoping to get to DC for years, and he helped me get here. He found an apartment for us. He filled the apartment with some important pieces of furniture. Anything I need or want, he goes out of his way to make it happen, and while I love doing things for myself, I love and appreciate that I can be with someone who makes my happiness his priority.

And, in many ways, this is the way that I’ve always maintained my independence, so it’s not as unusual as it may seem to people who are getting a glimpse into my world for the first time. I have a bad history of counting on guys to get me to where I want to be. At some point, I think it was justifiable — even necessary — but I still say that it’s a bad history because it hasn’t been necessary for a few years now. When I didn’t have a roof over my head or food to eat, and I couldn’t obtain those things on my own, it made sense to find someone who loved me enough to make sure that I had everything I needed — even if they (only) loved me in a romantic way rather than a compassionate or paternal way.

So that’s what I grew to know, and that’s what I grew to expect. And, anything less than giving me everything started to seem like it wasn’t worthwhile. I’m sure that I’ve conveyed that, too, and placed some unrealistic expectations on some  (or all) of the men I’ve dated.

It wasn’t clear to me until recently that it’s something I still do. Sometimes I even accused PJ of making me dependent by taking care of a lot of things that I should — and sort of want to — handle on my own. But, he pointed out to me that he does things for me because I ask. Throughout the history of my relationships, I’ve established certain expectations of my partners that make them seem more like personal assistants than anything else.

I can imagine that it’s difficult to be with me — me, with all my mood swings and my endless expectations. I rarely admit it to myself or to anyone, but I know I suffer from a little bit of crazy. And, a lot of my friends are insulated from my particular brand of crazy because I’ve built a wall between myself and almost everyone I know. I’ve allowed a select few men — and almost exclusively men — through that wall, because men in love are my most reliable stepping stones. When I didn’t have parents to rely on, I had men in love. When my needs exceeded the capacity of my closest friends, I had men in love. Because men in love know no bounds, and that’s what I needed for a long time. And, that was the only thing I believed I could trust.

But, I don’t need it anymore. That’s what I really need to wake up and realize: life doesn’t always have to be a struggle; it can be stable, and I can handle it on my own. And, for the things that I can’t quite handle, maybe it’s not fair to pour all of those expectations into a single person.


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