Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Care-taking and Being Taken Care Of

So I feel like I'm kinda a "ride or die chick" when it comes to my family. I'm going to be there, no matter what, if someone I feel is family needs me. I might not keep track of extended family the way that my mom does and I might not have a day to day relationship with some family members, but, if something happened to them, I'm pretty sure I'd be there in a heartbeat. Even family members that I'm estranged from, for this or that reason. If my black sheep uncle actually needed me, like he was sick or injured or dying, I'd be there. No matter how crazy my grandma got, I couldn't break that relationship. I know that isn't how many people feel. Moneypenny and his parents have severed their relationship with most of their extended family, which serves them well in many ways, and I don't judge them for that. TyRoy, no matter how much he does love his family, doesn't put the same premium on being with them for holidays, for various reasons, but that doesn't mean that he doesn't love his parents or that he wouldn't give both his kidneys to his niece if she needed them. Once again, different strokes for different folks. And I'm sure that my way hasn't always served me well, has prevented me from saying 'no' when I should have. Right now, I have the future-anxiety of how much I'll be involved in caring for my step-dad's parents, if/when they need more care, and how I'll be able to balance my desire and obligation to care for them with doing the other things I want to do in my life, especially when that means not living in the metro area where I live. The same is also true when I think of my parents growing older, as I'm the only child.

Family is also not defined strictly by blood or marriage for me. I have a few close friends that I think of as family. This very much includes Moneypenny and TyRoy. I think that anyone who I've been romantically involved with who is involved in my day to day life afterwards and has been there 3+ years seems a shoe in for being family. If my uncle showed me anything, it's that you can make your own family and keep your blood family too, and that it helps everyone if you all have others to carry your burdens.

On the other hand, I know that I rely heavily on my close blood relatives, especially my parents, to the point of taking them and their generosity for granted sometimes. They don't have to let me live here, rent free at the moment. They don't have to help me financially when I'm unemployed or in a tight spot. I'll probably never be able to repay them all they've given me, though I'm sure that can be said of most child/parent relationships.

But I'm a bit ambivalent about taking help, especially financially, from others, especially non-blood/marriage relations. Though the family on my mom's side was always close and leaned on each other, my mom pushed me to have my own money and be independent. This is good advice for anyone, but was important advice for her to pass on to me after her experience being married to my father, not being able to leave the relationship when she wanted to because of the financial situation. While I've not been as great at this as I've wanted to be, the principle/aspiration stuck. In the realm of dating, even living together, until I was married, I never had a significant other who regularly paid more than half for things. I'm not faulting them for that. At the time, those people and I were usually pretty broke. Unless it was a birthday, dinner out was usually fast food and whoever had money that week paid. When I first got with BT, I was a bit flush with cash and paid for almost everything until he was getting full pay from the army. While we were married, theoretically, he didn't see any need for me to work and we could make all the necessities and have money left over to save for after he got back (though that was purely theoretic.) I tried to be a good wifey, spend my time taking care of his needs, be available at crazy hours to talk to him online, etc. (Honestly, that was mostly theoretical too.) But I (mostly) didn't feel bad about "mooching" off of him. In fact, the way Army pays, a part of that money was supposed to be JUST for his spouse, even if we were legally separated, up until any divorce was final. The next person I was involved with was TyRoy, who I've never seen let anyone pay for a check in my life. In the day to day, he didn't really spoil me while we were living together, but he paid the general bills. There I didn't really feel bad either because I knew he'd pay the same amount on the bills if I was there or not. I tried to contribute as much as possible in other ways and, in all honesty, I knew he just didn't want to be alone in that big ol' house, so I didn't really think he minded me being there.

But now I'm not romantically with any of these people, or anyone else for that matter, and I'm ambivalent about them helping me financially. I'll be honest- I'm probably not going to turn them down, but will try to be grateful and gracious in accepting their help. What I'm wondering about is if I should feel guilty about that. With the exception of letting them pay for gas to go see them or dinner/concerts/movies when we're together, the things that people have offered to pay for, already paid for, are...well, not necessities, but quite helpful. Like parts for my broken computer so I can look for work online at all hours, not worry about my parents needing their computer or having the light or noise wake them up. Or recharging the A/C in my old car, so I can go to interviews without being remembered as the sweaty woman. These were things they offered, not something I asked for, though I'm not currently turning down. But I worry that accepting this financial help goes against the principle of being self-sufficient and independent that I really want to work on, though am falling woefully short of at the moment. I'm not necessarily the kind of person who can't accept help and gods knows I've tried to help others when I could, even financially. But this feels different.

This week, when I told Therapist (yes, that's her pseudonym!) about TyRoy buying me the components for my computer, which weren't cheap, she asked why I thought he did that. Maybe my ambivalent feelings are coming from that fact that I'm not really sure. I've never really been sure why he was so generous, but I guess I was always afraid that asking would stop that behavior, so I didn't. At the time, I told Therapist that he's just generous. I'd like to say that TyRoy and Moneypenny are generous financially because I'm generous in other ways. Maybe it's that they love (small l love, like you love your family, not in love) me. Maybe it's because they love me (again small l) and want to take care of me. Maybe it's because they're men and they see a woman in distress, know they can help financially so they do. I kinda shoot down the idea that they are trying to get into my pants because that's completely free and neither of them is currently trying to take advantage of that pay in.

I suppose it's difficult for me to think that these friendships, which I view as family, these (male) people that I would do anything for, but have no plans of current or future romantic or sexual relationships with, are actually as deep for them as they are for me. My commitment is that I'd go running to their non-local home to care for them if they needed it, though I can't contribute to their lives financially. Their commitment is that they can contribute financially to these specific one time things that will help me right now, but they can't drop their jobs, their life, where they are now to come take care of me. On both sides, I think it shows that we dedicate what we have, what we can do, what we can give up, to help the other, to demonstrate that we're in this, that we aren't going anywhere. And to me, that's family. Thanks guys. I'll try to pay it forward (and maybe back) when I can.

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