Older, Wiser

Off the grid yesterday and today, but I couldn't a bit more reflection around this milestone.  Having spent most of my first thirty years trying to prove my glorious autonomy to the world, it's awfully refreshing to read Sharon's insight about the false promises that kind of an ideal makes, and the comfort that comes from asserting your dependence on, and vulnerability to, those you love:
I hear all the time the idea that one doesn’t want to be dependent on other people – the idea is expressed in our society by the idea that we should all save a lot of money, invested in the stock market, to make us “independent” if we get old, or less than perfectly able bodied.  But of course, the stock market makes us dependent too – dependent on markets and governments and other people to invest where we have.  People talk about independence as emerging from their ability to pay people to help meet physical needs if they become old or disabled – imagining that an employer-employee/resident-caregiver relationship is inherently more equitable than a family dependency.

But there is no escaping dependency in the greater scheme of things – we depend on systems that break down sometimes whether in our bodies or out in the world.  At times in every person’s life, unless you are one of those rare folks who drops dead in full health (but that has its downside too) we will depend on another – sometimes for short periods when we are temporarily ill or disabled, sometimes for whole lives or for long parts of one.  Coming to terms with the idea of mutual dependency may be as essential as learning to be independent of institutions we deplore.

I say this often.  Every one of us will be dependent at one or more times in our lives.  Every one of us will probably need to give and offer care, and also to learn to accept it.  Learning to come to terms with this is simply a part of our lives, a part of our human condition.  Embedding ourselves in systems of reciprocity, kindness and respect is the only possible answer – there is no escaping the reality of needing others.