Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Need for Need

This morning I visited a client at her home in Manayunk. She was sick, and had a scratchy throat. We chatted a bit and watched The View on the tv. She is in the process of looking for work, so she has had some time on her hands.

I thought about those times in my past where I was just existing, when the world outside was too big to deal with. Going food shopping was an epic task; taking the bus somewhere was a trepidous adventure. When you "drop out" of life for a time, the world tends to forget you. Sometimes I want to be forgotten, but it's also my worst fear, aka Herman Hesse's Steppenwolf. Things have been low-fi overwhelming with work and school since I got back from Thailand. I also feel like I've dropped right back into the same seat I got up from when I left. I can't help feeling like I've learned nothing, and that nothing's changed.

As painful as those times of depression were, I still look back fondly on that time when I had dropped off the world's radar. Nothing was expected of me. Other people, people who loved me, were helping to carry the weight of my responsibilities. I could rest. Why do I always want to rest these days?

Recently I read that "a man's deepest fear is that he is not good enough or not competent enough." The feeling of failure is accute for a man and it is one that is not shared in the same way by women. The "good enough" and "competent enough" extend to all areas of life. In depression, the unshakable feeling of not being "good enough" attaches itself to the soul like a leach; being convinced that you are not "competent enough" to accomplish even the most basic daily tasks--grocery shopping, showering, etc.--is enough to undermine your feeling of worth as a human being, but especially your usefulness as a man. It translates, essentially, to feeling like a failure at life itself, and that can get pretty low. In that same article it was written:

Men are motivated when they feel needed.

Notice you don't have to be needed...it's enough to simply feel needed. The first step of my hundred mile journey out of depression started with, of all things, a little greenhouse from Home Depot. My friend Joe, who came up from DC to stay with me while I was sick, drove me to Home Depot so we could buy seeds. It was wintertime--I wanted to grow something. I wanted to be responsible for something. But watering a handful of seeds was the only task I felt capable--competent in--at the time. I cared for the seeds; they helped take me out of myself and into something else. By springtime they had gotten to be little sprouts, which my mom planted outside. When I returned for a visit that summer, they had bloomed into full grown tomato plants, and I had come back out of the valley.

Not being in a relationship, I have a lot of time to myself. I spend time with friends, but everyone has their own autonomous lives that we share with each other. There's work, though someone else could easily fill in for me. There's the guys I tutor at St. Vincent's--"they need me," I tell myself. And they do. But they also need someone to help them with math. If someone else comes along who can do that, then they don't need me anymore--I drop off the radar.
Maybe you can judge how old you're getting by when your shifting starts to shift from "I want someone to love me" to "I want someone to love." Loving is an exclusive job...in the context of a relationship, only one person can do it. Men can be bastards, but women also have no idea the extent to which men want to love, protect, and provide. Without the opportunity to do that, it's no wonder why a cold wind blows through the kitchen some nights.

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