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February 28, 2022

How the Paradox of Dependence creates Anguish.


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It’s Monday. The beginning of a regular week in a regular month in what has not been a regular couple of years.

But still, it’s Monday. I’m a good cook and I’ve made honey-glazed salmon and risotto for dinner. I’ll pull out school papers, unpack lunch boxes, and listen patiently to half-told stories of playground slights. I’ll get the kids bathed and dressed, prepare them for bed, and spend some time with my husband. We’ll laugh while lying next to each other in bed, sharing our daily details and, sometimes, our dreams for the future. Or, the night will end in tears and anguish, and guilt and blame.

So, what happens?

It all comes down to this. Have I made the choices that will throw the night into chaos? Have I checked the place where I am always creating a liquid safety net that toes the line of need and want, but always holds enough to promise a quick passage to the waters of Lethe?

Or have I convinced myself to take a moment and unshackle my wrists and my bones, to take in the world around me without fear? Have I made peace with the part of my brain who asks for more and more, always more, at least for one more night? Did I beat back the fear and longing and craving and desperation?

It all depends.

Dependence is a peculiar thing—it can be romantic and ethereal, like the way my grandparents depended on one another, almost intertwined in deeds and thoughts, for over 50 years. An aspirational state of being. In some way, dependence evokes a mystical type of love and kinship. Dependence keeps herds of animals together and safe. Dependence keeps familial love alive, a slow, simmering glow that begets robust alliances.

But dependence is also a weight. A burden, a hardship heavy and cumbersome. Dependence on a person can sometimes be a hallmark of weakness, of a base inability—a character defect destined to follow you through your relationships, dooming them from the start. For those of us with a tenuous grip on trust, it can feel an unmanageable misery to have to need someone.

Every morning, I awaken with a new, reinvigorated sense of right and wrong, of dependence and reliance on myself and the love that I carry so deeply for my family. I would be all of the things I thought I should; I just have to want it and fight for it badly enough.

But some nights, my dependence shifts. I rely on the blanket of soft, comforting fluid oblivion. A way to dampen the expectations the world has of a working mother, drowning out the barrage of questions and needs and wants and requirements of perfection I’ve embedded nearly completely into my soul.

I depend on two things but they exist in a universe that can not contain both, certainly not in the way that I want them to. In one perfectly round, unsullied globe, I see my children. At two and five, they don’t see their mom the way she sees herself. I am invincible, divine, a kisser of booboos, and baker of cookies. I am the reader of bedtime stories and the maker of T-shirts and the volunteer at school and the one who jumps off the diving board. My love for them is transcendent and holy.

 I am everything.

The other globe I grip almost too firmly in my hand is misshapen, pockmarked by decades of irreparable damage. What I have relied on as the cure for all is now that which threatens me. It knows of the fights and the missing nights. The scorching stream of anxiety I feel every morning, the raw fear of being discovered. The searing and freezing. The pain and the shame. My love for it is anguished and crushing.

I am nothing.

I hold these globes in each of my hands so tightly I am sure they will both crack under the pressure of my grip. I desperately hurl them into one another, hoping they will meld into one. Though I know this can never be true. And I find, the tighter I hold on to each, the closer I am to shattering the glass that contains all I love in the world. I want both, always. But the glass is so close to disintegrating into a million pieces right in front of me.

I clasp tightly to the edge of what I know is right, to that pure, glowing orb, fingers straining, eyes burning.

My life depends on it.


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Allison Egger  |  Contribution: 545

author: Allison Egger

Image: Giselle Dekel/Instagram

Editor: Farah Hany