No Man Is An Island: An Ode to Our Neediness
If we were in our first day of class, and our teacher was asking us to go around and describe our summers, this is what I would say:
It was a summer of discovering the joy of cilantro, homemade pico de gallo, and Farmer’s Markets.
It was a summer of happy hours, Frothy mornings (and afternoons, and evenings, and just about all the time), and kayaking the Harpeth.
It was a summer of road trips, margaritas, and Peaches with My Beetches™.
It was a summer of realizing that the act of cooking isn’t half bad, New Girl will always be laugh-out-loud funny even on the sixth viewing, and the new Jonas Brothers album is an absolute bop (this is coming from a girl who was not a teen-girl fan, so I mean serious business when I say this).
It was a summer of learning to “remember not the former things” and instead looking ahead to new things, better things.
But my summer has been this medley of memories only because of the people that populate my days. This summer would have been just a few months of humid, sweaty days were it not for the friends, old and new, that I was able to spend this season with.
The last few years of my life—so basically my Full Grown Adult Years—have been a reinforced lesson in this one simple yet slightly-jarring fact: we need each other. I mean, need-NEED each other.
“No man is an island,” says Thomas Merton, and my bae C.S. Lewis backs this up further by writing, “We need others physically, emotionally, intellectually; we need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves.”
We’re meant to be needy, but why is it so hard to acknowledge and accept this?
Western culture touts Ultimate Independence as the crowning achievement of a life well lived; we’re all a bunch of “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” folks who glorify sacrificing ourselves on the altar of work like a bunch of Old Testament rams—we chase the careers, the promotions, the accolades, all to prove ourselves without the help of others. Have you ever asked your boss or co-worker a question and had them react as if you’re a brainless earthworm? You get it.
If you want something done, do it yourself, we say. We not only shy away but openly reject the neediness of others—because isn’t that an imposition on our own time and resources? Don’t ask me for help; figure it out yourself.
Self-help is a $10 billion industry for a reason. Give me a book with the 247 steps to a life of guaranteed happiness, and I can conquer my own slice of the world without you, thanks very much. It’s self-help for a reason; go away and leave me to my world-conquering alone.
These are all sweeping statements of course. (I’m particularly fond of a good sweeping statement.)
We don’t all operate like this. I’m sure that many of you have realized, or perhaps always known, your need for other people. And not only that, but you’re willing not only to ask for help, but to allow others to help you. If you’re one of those who have been privy to this secret of neediness all along like a wise old wizard with a long, frizzy beard, I admire you. It has taken me way too long to figure it out myself, but I’m getting there. We’re all getting there.
Because expressing neediness can be vulnerable. Asking for help can feel like the emotional equivalent of realizing your outfit, seen with certain backlighting, is just a little too shear.
It can make your insides feel all crunchy—whether it’s asking a stranger to help you put your carryon in the overhead bin or sharing with a friend that you’re about 2.6 seconds away from a breakdown.
I have a dear friend who carries the needs of everyone on her shoulders like a backpack full of high school AP biology textbooks. She is quick to show up for her people, quick to say “yes” to the work or request. Truthfully, I have no idea how she manages it all; where does she get her energy? Does she source it from a magical well of vitality that she stumbled upon in an enchanted wood?
She did it all, for a long time, until she couldn’t do it all anymore.
Finally, and thankfully, she asked for help.
“That’s what life is about,” she told me. “Give and take. Coexistence. Mutual dependence. We wouldn’t have any economy if we were meant to be solely independent.”
She’s absolutely right.
That is what life is about—reaching out, admitting our need, allowing others to see past the facade we like to play puppeteer behind.
That is what life is about—eating tacos with our people, offering a few dollars to the man or woman with the street corner sign, showing up with flowers and Whole 30-approved nut butter when a friend asks for prayers.
That is what life is about—needing other people and allowing other people to need us.
That is what life is about—knowing that no man is an island, and letting that sweet truth sink deeply into your needy, needed soul.
Windrose Magazine is your guide to navigating life in your twenties through a collection of essays, interviews, and advice that will inspire you to chart your own life course, free of comparison.
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