I’ve been thinking a lot about self-reliance lately. I’ve always aimed for it, and surrounded myself with people who embody it as well. In doing so I’ve realized there’s a difference between the reasoning for some people’s self-reliant tendencies. I had a serious relationship with someone who I respected immensely for their ability to take care of themselves entirely, but as the relationship went on I realized it was rooted in selfishness. Not in a disparaging way, but in her desire to not be tied to anything or anyone, and it got me thinking about why I strive for being stoic, and self-contained. Yes, it allows me to take care of myself, but more importantly, it means that when someone I care about needs something, I’m there. I started scribbling down some thoughts and as things do with me it turned into something of a personal manifesto.
Make sure you’ve made someone else’s life better every day. Even a small laugh, or a task done that removes a bit of burden from them is better than spending the day self involved.
It will be hard. You will not receive thanks most days. This is not the point. The gratification comes from knowing what you’ve done. If you can end the day checking off things you’ve done for others that you can be proud of instead of slights against you sleep comes much easier. You are stoic, you are self reliant. The difference is that you are this way in order to be the bedrock other people can count on, rather than selfishly inclined. You must make yourself into a strong shelter other’s can hide in, rather than a castle that keeps others out. The walls must be sturdy, but there must always be a gate that lets in anyone who asks. You do not question their intentions until you have reason to. You do not wonder what you will gain from their entrance, only what can you give, and more importantly what they need. If it is in your ability to do so, supply that. if you cannot, help them find a way towards it. You will end most days drained, and you will grow to crave that emptiness as a reward all it’s own. Let it become cavernous, and know that the reason you bother to sleep is to fill it up so it can be drained again the next day.
Your own wants, desires and fears are important, but all we can do is hope that you will find others in your life who will aim to be bedrock for you when you need it. You will build relationships with people based on the first point. They will see dependableness in you, and if they are of the same ilk, will be the same. If they are not, they will drain you and move on. This is not your concern. Your worry is that you will not have done enough to inspire that trust in them, and you will do more. If they move on afterwards, which many will, you will still be able to find self respect and pride in the fact that you gave all you could. Holding a breach in the line is a trope for a reason. You are taking on more than others would, and at cost to yourself, but every minute of holding that line allows others to live better and that is your reward. Hold it until you fall, and if someone else rises to fill your place recover as quickly as you can then throw yourself at their side. Keep self gratification on a short leash. Small doses are needed, but only as momentary distractions, brief repose then back into the work.
Hoc Opus, Hic Labor Est
These are your words. remember them everytime you feel sorry for yourself. You choose everyday to live this way, and no one is forcing you to do so. Remember that at night you can lay down and repeat the names of those you’ve helped that day. Between each name repeat these words. I’m not much for meditation as a form of clearing the mind, but a mantra as a lullaby sung to yourself as you fall asleep makes your last thoughts about others rather than yourself and prevents you worrying about your own desires in a way that leads to those soul crushing “dark nights of the soul”. Go to bed proud not only of the work you did that day, but the people who had it easier because you shouldered part of their burden. The origin of your words are from the aeneid, describing the resolve to drag not only yourself, but someone you care for out of hell itself. Your task is much less daunting. Every tiny pain you take away from others may have been hell for them, and you will never know for sure, but they will. “This is the hard work, this is the toil” and it is the only way of living that will make your endless energy fuel for something greater than yourself.
You will answer to no one that tries to sway you from this path, and simultaneously to everyone that professes a need no matter how small.