“The bottom line is that we need each other. And not just the civilised, proper, convenient kind of need. Not one of us gets through this life without expressing desperate, messy, and uncivilised need. The kind we are reminded of when we come face-to-face with someone who is in deep struggle.
Dependence starts when we’re born and lasts until we die. We accept our dependence as babies, and ultimately, with varying levels of resistance, we accept help as we get to the end of our lives. But in the middle of our lives, we mistakenly fall prey to the myth that successful people are those who help rather than need, and broken people need rather than help.”
The magic of conversation
I’m tearing a croissant apart, getting the buttery grease on my fingers. Opposite me sits my sister. She’s sipping her coffee and contemplating my expression as she battles for emotional control in that careful processed way that adults do.
She’s younger than me by only two years which makes her most definitely an adult. Yet, sometimes I struggle to see her as grown-up: I chastise her for leaving a light on, for being absent-minded about sun-cream or for being oblivious to her surroundings. She gives me a reprimanding look as she silently switches the light off, a guilty grin when she gets burnt, and an expression that says ‘well what did you expect’ when I ask her which way to go. Other times I’m in awe of how fierce she is. It seems to me that she will fight for what she believes in, quietly and unassumingly, with the strength of a whole herd of rhinos.
Sometimes she stuns me with her wisdom and insight. I can unravel in front of her and she picks up the sprawled threads of my emotionally distraught story and patches them back together. She lays it out in front of me and navigates as I turn it over and spin it around to see who I am. She watches me cry with an intensity that normally leaves her with tears rolling down her cheeks. When I feel as intact as my half-eaten croissant, she shows me how strong I am inside. And I believe her.
Leaning on each other though is something we’ve had to learn for ourselves. The emotional dependence has taken longer to develop than the logistical. It’s taken a lot of time. Death helped, multiple times. Me screwing up badly with communicating about heartbreak helped. Fear of what will happen if we don’t talk created an urgency that can’t be ignored. But joy helped too.
We talked about talking. Or, more precisely, we talked about not talking. Not talking kills. I told her about how I feel, and how I’ve felt. She flared between anger, hurt and glee. We marvelled at the faults in the fundamental beliefs we have about each other. Before, we didn’t have the courage or maturity to be candid with each other without causing hurt. However, in the past few weeks, we have learnt that we have both been excruciatingly wrong in our assumptions. We redrew a map of our relationship and recognized a vast unexplained, unexplored territory.
It felt, to me, like playing a strategy game for hours and wondering how you can possibly succeed with only one gold mine. Just as you’re beginning to think you are totally incompetent and a failure as a human being, or that the game is botched, one little foot-soldier stumbles across a whole mountain of gold hidden along that dark, unexplored map edge. You feel like a fool, but suddenly know you have the resources necessary for success.