This morning while cooking breakfast I had one of those insight moments. Nothing particularly profound or even new, not new to me anyway. But somehow I saw the whole thing in the round. From birth unto death we are dependent to a greater or lesser extent on being taken care of. We expect to take care of the young, to protect and nurture them. To take care they have their every need met, but probably not all of their demands!
Yesterday at the supermarket a young girl with her doll in a buggy were waiting for mother to check through the groceries. A chocolate egg checked through last. Oh!, I said brightly, I wondered if that egg was for dolly as she bent and tucked the egg under the dolls pillow. Mother said, I don’t think that doll’s going to get a look in!
There it is, the tension and the early learning around getting what one wants and giving away what you’d rather have yourself! The tension around the reward of taking care of oneself and the reward of taking care of others. This goes on all through life doesn’t it. Almost the story of our lives. Taking care of oneself too often takes a back seat in the face of the seemingly endless needs presenting each day. Gender roles switch and turn about and yes less tightly packaged, thank goodness.
It is at the other end of life when things get complicated. So often these days we hear of the elderly wanting to remain living in their own homes, and rightly. Wanting to remain independent for as long as possible. I talk to couples worrying about not wanting to be a burden on their partner but seeing and knowing they will be, eventually. Who will go first? How will she cope when I can no longer take care of myself. Becoming a burden to ones relatives, friends, lover – the state can haunt people from quite early times.
I am wondering at what stage in life we take on the mantle of being a burden. For some this comes early, whether or not the need to be taken care of is an actual reality. If I should become dependent on others I hope I’ll accept with good grace.
Taking a break from writing this I watched a documentary on Chanel 4, Giles Duley’s Walking Wounded, Return to the Front Line. This film eclipses anything I might say tonight.
See also this post on Giles Duley posted here back in September last year.