Tough Cookies Do Too Crumble

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I actually had a pretty good week this week. At the end of the day today, my co-worker and I were joking around about our little blood pressure clinic downstairs. One of our co-workers discovered how high her blood pressure was due to our little clinic and went to see her doctor to get her meds fixed. We felt like the clinic was working, and we were helping people. We’re now discussing offering acupuncture and blood sugar testing. Anyway, it was great to be laughing as I left the office on a Friday. That hasn’t happened in a really long time.

Not long after I got home, I got triggered by a text that mentioned that we had some ‘tough’ conversations coming up at work. I don’t know why it hit me so hard. Maybe I’d let my guard down with the easiness of the last few days, but I totally fell apart. I took the dog for a walk but cried most of the way home. When I got back in the house, I let it go heaving huge sobs of mascara-smeared tears. Ashok wouldn’t even look at me. I had black all over my face, my eyes were swollen, and my face was as red as a summer tomato when I got done. All I could think about was how tired I was of being tough.

I know I act tough at times, and I can have a really sharp edge, but it’s all an act. I’m a big sensitive 5-year-old underneath all of that who wants the world to be a gentle place full of barbie dolls and backyard picnics. And there are times when I just can’t find the strength inside of me to be tough anymore. Tonight I felt like a wet noodle. I had no fight left in me. I wanted to slide into the arms of a big Daddy figure and let him tell me that he was going to protect me from the big, bad ugly world. I told Ashok that I was tired of being the only one responsible for everything. I was tired of having to work and buy the food all by myself. I imagine she wasn’t looking at me out of shame for her inadequacy in taking care of me and the cats. Well, maybe not, but I do sense that she felt a little guilty for putting so much pressure on me.

The other night one of my single friends sent me a link to an article. She was struggling with the whole being single bit, and this article really resonated with her. This blogger talks about how she’s created this wonderful life being single and has always been adventurous and wiling to jump at new challenges. Her friends thinks she’s so brave, and she flinches when a friend tells her how brave she is to go to a wedding alone. The comment cut her to the core because somewhere deep inside she didn’t want to go to weddings alone either. She doesn’t do it because she’s brave. She does it because she has no choice.

I put on the same facade when I’m doing things adventurous. People tell me I shouldn’t go on camping trips alone, and I know it can be dangerous. But, I made a decision when I realized I might possibly live the rest of my life single that I wasn’t going to sit at home because I didn’t have a companion. I try to get people to go with me, but it’s very difficult to find travel companions who like to do the same exact things I do and who have the time and budget to do it. So, I go alone. It’s not really a choice. I suck it up and make the best of the situation I’m in. I deal with it sometimes better than others. This summer’s camping trip was much harder than some of the others I’ve taken in recent years. One night I was so choked by loneliness I thought I couldn’t breathe. I lay in the tent listening to the animals on a not-so-distant mountain, and I felt the crushing boulder of loneliness smothering my heart. I told myself that ‘this, too, shall pass’ in order to get by, but I didn’t do it because I was brave. I got through it because there was nothing else I could do.

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I look at the years ahead and realize that there is a very real possibility that I will have to support myself for the rest of my life. I often think of the pressure male breadwinners must feel when they have to support others all of their lives. It’s crushing to think that it will always be my responsibility – good or bad – to take care of everything. If the car breaks down, I’ll take care of it. I’ll take the car to the shop. I’ll pay for it. I’ll pick it up. There’s no “Honey, could you pick me up and take me to work?” If the dog gets sick, I’ll take her to the vet. I’ll also pick her up. I’ll also give her meds. I’ll take care of any mess she makes when she’s sick. Nobody else ever buys my groceries, cooks my meals, cleans up my kitchen. Nobody cleans my house or waters my plants. Nobody fixes my DVD player unless I hire somebody. If something needs to be picked up, thrown out, put back together, fixed or bought, that’s on me. Now, I can pay somebody to do things, but, hey, I gotta work to pay for that. And friends do sometimes help out, but, in that case, I have to ask for help. There’s nobody in the living room who’ll say, “I’ll take care of that for you” … EVER. It’s no wonder I want to curl up in front of the TV with the dogs and hide under the covers sometimes for days at a time. I didn’t choose this. It’s just the way it all turned out.

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I don’t want to be tough. I want to work in a gentle work environment. I want to have life be easier than it is almost all of the time. I keep hunting for an easier, softer way to make a living. Because if the truth be known, that tough cookie that brings home the bacon is really soft inside. In order not to be crushed, I have to put up a tough exterior. Some days I just can’t do it anymore. An old friend who was an astrologer told me that I had this really strong desire that someone would take care of me. He told me gently that it would never happen in this lifetime. I felt the crushing sadness of that possibility in my bones. I can’t really remember a time since my 20s that I didn’t have to buck up and take care of myself in a myriad of different ways. I assume everybody has to do the same thing, so I know I’m not alone. It’s just that having plenty of company doesn’t help me when my energy is depleted, my tough exterior is cracked and I’m a scared little 5-year-old girl. I’ve got no answers here. But, if I did, I’d have to find them myself. It is what it is. Now I think I’m going to bed early. After all, tomorrow IS another day. But first I need to walk the dog and clean up the kitchen. Ashok is not going to do it by herself.

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