“The less I needed, the more there was for the others: More time, more money, more dinner, more energy.”
My favorite picture is the one with my sister, Jenny, and I wearing our matching Micky Mouse T-shirts and denim coveralls. With one hand, I was rocking Kelsey, the youngest sister at the time, bundled in a bassinet. With the other, I spread a Golden book and Jenny leaned in over my shoulder, eager to learn from her big sis.
I could stare at this picture for hours. I love the studious look on my face; so serious and committed to the attentions of my little sisters. Never mind that Jenny and I regularly squabbled over who sat next to Daddy at dinner.
At bedtime, in our shared room, Daddy always pulled the covers to our chins, folded them over perfectly and left the door ajar–just a smidge. “Good night. See-you-in-the-morning-love-you.”
We were comfortable. In fact, my friends across the street claimed we had to be rich, because my daddy owned an ancient, butterscotch-colored Mercedes. But usually, my parents drove an old GMC station wagon—one our babysitter was embarrassed to be seen in.
Daddy was frugal. We shopped with coupons, bought velcro sneakers at Walmart, ate tuna helper, bought toilet paper in bulk, turned the lights off economically, only flushed when necessary. I never, ever remember seeing Daddy wear something new.
Everything fits more snuggly, and has to stretch farther when a family grows to six people. Everything, including the number of bedrooms, the hand-me-downs, the dollar, dinner servings, time and energy.
I began to wonder, how my parents could possibly have time for four daughters, earn money for a family of six, afford four special birthdays each year, while accommodating every daughter’s favorite story and Christmas wish list?
Growing up, the mantra I remember was, “You’re the oldest, sweetheart. Could you just let her have her way? Can you give in this time? You need to be the bigger person.”
“And somewhere along the line, without much thought, I reasoned that the less I needed the better.”
The less I needed the more there was for the others: More time, more money, more dinner, more energy.
Weight-loss was unintentional. I only wanted to be a grown up, more self-sufficient … to need less. I whittled away my list of needs and desires. Diminishing my approved grocery list to a sliver, was silent expression.
With loss of fat, I lost my monthly evidence of womanhood. In March I had thought I was growing up. By June, I was somewhere between a girl and a wasting woman.
Needlessness carried me through holidays. I felt strong when I watched Grandma’s cookies disappear from holly shaped plates. Inwardly I mocked family members with no self-control, who caved to their needs of hunger and comfort. Hunger hunted me, but I evaded it at every turn.
At the first real age of independence—16–the family I no longer needed, intervened. They sent me to “The Ranch.” Forty stoic girls like me lived there, all starving, all sad.
At The Ranch, soft, motherly women plied us with food and drink. We clung to the only need we believed in: self-sufficiency. Therapists traced crayons around our bodies and hung our shrunken shapes on the wall before us, desperate to prove we needed help.
Briefly, I remembered how good it felt to need. Maybe it was that my family visited me on my birthday, because they needed me. Maybe it was Heather, a younger girl at The Ranch who tried to slit her wrists. She asked for me, she trusted me, she needed me.
I came home from my second trip to The Ranch at age 18. Two years lost. A complete blur.
I never should have believed I needed a boyfriend. If I had only remained fascinated with myself, my weight, my needlessness, I never would have dated Buck or Josh or Matt or John. I never would have fallen for their lies. I never could have been persuaded to do those things, if I didn’t need anyone. But I did.
Every single night after work, I piled a styrofoam box with iceberg lettuce and 12 sliced Roma tomatoes. I doused my salad with vinegar and grabbed 200 calories of Saltine crackers. Every night I lay in bed with a bulging belly set on fire with the acid from diet Pepsi, vinegar, tomatoes and salt.
With a full class load, I held down two jobs. I needed to not need Daddy to help pay for school. I wanted to be self-sufficient. I needed my parents to know that I didn’t need them.
“Where does an isolated, broken little woman go when all that ordered her days–school and work–is over? But for the grace of God, she starves for the love she refuses … and fades away.”
This time, God intervened. Because of my arrogant independence, God introduced me to a man who needed me. He needed me, because he was more alone than I was.
My new husband was in the Army. Two months after our wedding, he deployed to Iraq. I was left in a brand new home, hundreds of miles from my family with no job and no friends. Needless me–the perfect person for these circumstances.
But this man on the other side of the world continued to need me. He needed me to send him care packages and love letters. He needed me to care for our house and his car and the yard and the bills.
In our cul-de-sac, most of the men were deployed. My church was made of women and kids whose husbands and daddies were on the other side of the world. We needed to believe that the guys would come home. Sometimes we needed a shoulder to cry on, a hand with the kids, the car, the house.
It was in being both a strong military spouse and a married woman who didn’t want to be alone, that I finally recognized truth. It was in being both needed and so obviously in need.
We were created for need. Living from that needy, vulnerable place is beautiful and the fulfillment of our human purpose.
“He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” (Ephesians 4:16)
Dear SheLoves readers, I’d love to hear:
- At what times do you tend to deny yourself?
- Are you aware of it?
- Do you ever deny yourself because you think others are more deserving?
I am a freelance writer, blogger and personal trainer living in Northern, VA. I’m the eldest of four, the wife of one, the owner of the world’s best dog and I drink WAY too much coffee. You can follow my blog here.
Image credit: ©-karuka-Fotolia.com