Sunday, February 21, 2010
When Black is White
I read this book when I was in high school during a moment of weakness. My mother loved her romance novels and always had some lying around. I resisted them for the most part, but every once in a while, when I was at a loss for anything to read and the teeny tiny library in town didn't offer anything good, I was forced to pick up one of Mom's books to entertain myself.
I don't recall much of the book except that all of the dysfunctional behaviors the main character displayed might as well have been a giant neon arrow pointing at my head. The premise was that she manipulated situations in her life in order to place herself in the position of being indispensable so that nobody could kick her to the curb. Who can get rid of the one person they so desperately need, right? As I made my way through the book I can remember the increasing heaviness that accumulated in my chest with the realization that, despite her uncanny ability to predict the needs of others and meet them, she was a very sad woman that was never loved the way she wanted to be.
"Need is such a tenuous tie, hon," Bubba pleaded. "It's a transaction. Want is so much stronger than need."
I had to stop and re-evaluate. It is? Really? I have built my position in this family so carefully, certain that if I just work hard enough, stay alert enough, juggle everything so with such adeptness, that Bubba and the girls will realize they can't live without me and I won't be replaced. Or left behind. The trouble comes when I get tired. When the week ahead seems so filled with responsibilities and to-do lists that my chest tightens and my heart races at the mere thought. The notion that I might drop one of the flaming balls of fire I'm keeping in the air sends tremors of fear through me.
"I don't need you, babe. I haven't ever needed you."
His words slice through me. What? I've worked so hard for nearly 20 years to show him what a good wife and mother I can be. I have demonstrated in so many different ways the things he needs me for. What is he saying?
"I am a pretty self-sufficient person. Pretty independent..."
HAH! I want to scream. HAH! Who raises your children while you're away 65% of the time on business? Who feeds them, shops for them, runs them to piano lessons and helps them with homework? Who does research on the best schools for Eve to go to? Who takes the dog to the vet and does the laundry and cleans out the garage and puts in the vegetable garden and changes the light bulbs on the porch? What do you mean you are self-sufficient? My internal tirade is interrupted with his next gentle words and the warm, soft hand he places over mine.
"I'm not here because I need you. I'm here because I want you. I always have. That's more lasting than need."
I can't breathe. I don't know why he wants me, but the fact that he does has to be enough for now. I thought that all this time what I wanted was to be needed. But being needed is exhausting and it's a never-ending uphill struggle to prove myself. As Bubba said, it doesn't breed loyalty. I have to keep working at it. For my entire life, I was certain that if my family needed me, I'd be set. If they couldn't do without me, they would have to keep me.
Work to do. Much work ahead.