The Feathered Tribe - Complexity Itself

You learn a lot about yourself and others when you are in a physically compromised situation like I have been for the last six months. Between a couple surgeries and multiple fractures in my back, I’ve been laid low. Having a history of being fiercely independent previously, I have had the opportunity to learn the fine art of being dependent on others, at times feeling like a burden, a very uncomfortable position to say the least!

The Spiritual Squeeze

I have been forced to learn about patience, humility, and grace, none of which comes naturally to me. Quite the contrary. Being a single person for most of my adult life, I have taken undo pride and no small amount of egotism, feeling quite self-satisfied with my own fortitude and sufficiency.

Asking others for help now, sometimes from the smallest gestures to larger ones that might inconvenience them, has been challenging and sometimes downright painful for me in my current situation. It has come easier though is still uncomfortable and sometimes laced with fear and guilt.

I have found some people are generous and offer willingly while others get downright nervous or withdraw, pulling back with the subtlest of mortification, their pupils contracting inward scanning their own lives and responsibilities. Then there are those who offer but don’t really mean it, mostly unavailable when you get right down to the specific request later on.

It is very easy to be judgemental about this latter group, having operated from this very behavior myself in the past. I want to judge them when they turn me down, usually feeling a bit sorry for myself in the process. It is a lonely road. But the catch is, while I want to condemn them for being selfish, absorbed, uncaring or unsympathetic, the finger has quickly curved in on myself with the whiff of past recognition.

Occasional Salvation

One of the greatest gifts of my life, and I say this with all humility, is the occasional ability to move quickly from judgmentalism to forgiveness to acceptance. This was aided not long ago by flashbacks of moments when I’ve declined to help others during my far more vigorous, busy  and able-bodied history. I remember drawing away, pulling back, thinking I’ve got too much on my plate, sometimes offering help but knowing I don’t really mean it myself.


Recently I asked a woman in my apartment building if she could put a pain patch on my back and be available if I needed help for a few days, trying to explain that my regular backup people were away. Recognizing her reluctance from the get go, I tried to make clear it was short term. Her response was vigorous and persistent, telling me she was very busy, she wasn’t the best person to ask, she’d do what she could but couldn’t make a commitment.

Invariably she kept steering me away from her, stating she worked 55 hours a week, could I get a nurse, call the ER, whatever.  I like to think my decline of help to others was gentler, more subtle, but guessing I’ve been as transparent at times as she was with me, I doubt it. Becoming more angry than fearful I wouldn’t have help, I pressed her and she ultimately relented.

Remarkably, while I was very upset initially, I moved quickly to taking stock of my own past behaviors in this regard, knowing, knowing not only did I have to forgive her but also forgive myself. This struck swiftly and thoroughly and I felt relief, free of having to project my judgement onto her. This forgiveness and relief lasted about 12 hours!


It is a hard thing at times having to take a steely-eyed look at ourselves, yet without examining our own behavior, what good are any lessons that are presented to us. After all, isn’t that what we’re here for? To learn, to grow, to evolve, to transcend? If I cannot forgive her how can I forgive me, and vice versa? We are all on a path at times intersecting with others, teachers of a sort, and presented with these golden opportunities. While this might seem like such a simple example, for me it is no less important than the earth shattering larger spiritual or ethical challenges in life.

At the end of the day, we are all at our own place of consciousness and development. When I forget that, that someone else no matter how obnoxious or irritating they might seem to me, or self absorbed and self centered, I am the one who suffers on the inside both emotionally and spiritually. I suffer in the judgment of that other person, But mostly I suffer in the condemnation and judgment of myself. To love oneself is just as important as to love another, to have compassion for the impairment that may be developmental, less visible than broken bones or surgeries in another, that is no less real but far less obvious.

The seemingly complicated state of fleeting forgiveness towards my reluctant neighbor squeezes me spiritually to step back, to really assess why I’m hurt, frustrated or scared and to at least try to identify with her. And even if I can’t stay in that space, I know I’m able to return to it at some point. Oh, the lessons of an illness, what consciousness-raising grist it provides for growth, acknowledging she too has her own struggle of guarded isolation and remoteness, filled with fear and self protection that felt as threatening to her as mine was for me in that moment.

And So It Goes

At the end of the day it does no good to compare me to her, her to me or even her to the two steadfast friends who have provided support and compassion but just happened to be gone at that time of seeking another’s help only to be thwarted by my neighbors reticence, no good at all. Identification is one thing, comparison quite another for comparison is filled with judgment. Whether I get irritated or not is irrelevant at the end of the day if she’s doing the best she can as I was in earlier situations—and even now—but lose the thread of ongoing understanding and forgiveness as a constant I can return to. Because I will invariably have to repeat the lesson, God willing, and by my own intention, be squeezed into that place of love and forgiveness of self and another we all seek until it all sticks.


13 replies
  1. Bob Rubin
    Bob Rubin says:

    This is a thought provoking read. Dependence seems to be a companion of illness and age. It is so stressful.

    You beautifully explore the nuances of coping with dependence. I cannot get through any of it without the help of God. I am too flawed to respond to it any other way. Thank you for walking us through your struggle. It is a meaningful piece.

  2. Margaret
    Margaret says:

    I have been there and it is a very humbling experience. Not at the time but down the road I was thankful for the my lessons learned.
    Is am not the computer person so maybe we can get together an have a nice visit again.
    Call me when you feel up to a visit and I will come if I don’t have another commitment.
    So sorry to hear that you are still not getting around that easily.
    Will be good to see you again.
    By the way I have really enjoyed your book.
    The wheelchair lady

  3. Mary Mancera
    Mary Mancera says:

    Rosalie, congrats on the introspection, the evolved consciousness that gave you the gift of perspective. For all independent spirits, your current predicament is a reminder to pay all kindnesses forward.

    For me, your post is a reminder to be patient. I have a long-time friend who has had a helluva year, health wise. She has rejected all kinds of offers for help, to stay with us, for visits of support. It simply has been too much, she says. Similarly, she has lived alone most of her adult life. It has been difficult to understand her choices, and downright confounding how she could turn away support. But, I guess mine is not to question, but simply to offer even if it means regular rejection. Ah, the mystery and power of FREE WILL.

    Write on my friend.


    • Rosalie
      Rosalie says:

      Thanks Mary. Yes it seems odd to me your friend is rejecting help but none of us know anyone else’s karmic merits, propensities, and lessons in life. While it has been hard for me to Ask others for help, I still do. Especially when they offer. It is a giving on both sides and a receiving on both sides I think. Having said that however, it doesn’t always make it easy or comfortable when you’re used to being so independent. Thank you my friend for your thoughts and your kind words.

  4. Roxanne I Moermond
    Roxanne I Moermond says:

    This is a wonderful article, Rosalie. I really admire your handling of all you have been going through. I can so relate for needing to ask for help and I think you have already learned lessons from it that I have yet to learn. This seems to be a common predicament for those of a certain age especially. Love you!


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