Interdependence and Relationship (Focus on Relationships)

We Americans are trained from our earliest days to strive to be independent. As parents, we are eager to see our children learn to walk, talk, feed and entertain themselves. We might have overdone it.

April 19, 2022

We Americans are trained from our earliest days to strive to be independent. As parents, we are eager to see our children learn to walk, talk, feed and entertain themselves.

We might have overdone it.  Depending on others is viewed as a sign of weakness.  Dependence looks like being a burden and seems like failure. Have you heard people, or yourself, say,  “I don’t want to be a burden on my children”.

But in relationship, we are mutually dependent, that is, interdependent. When something happens, like an accident or crisis, we surrender our independence.  Miraculously, what can show up is intimacy, connection, and deep appreciation – experiences we long for.

Lon and I recently learned this in a compelling way. I fell hard on our concrete walkway just as we were heading to the airport to fly to Hawaii with our daughters, Kirsten and Heidi.  It didn’t occur to us to cancel the trip, as it was designed as both a consolation and an opportunity for Kirsten to say goodbye to the life she had shared with her much-loved husband Grant, who died suddenly late last year.  The island of Kauai was special to both of them, and Kirsten’s grief is still raw.  The stars had aligned remarkably to allow us all to be together for healing. 

So without a second thought, we delayed getting medical attention until arriving in Kauai.

I hadn’t realized how serious my injuries were, and the degree they would interfere with my daily life. I couldn’t wash my hair, take a shower, or put toothpaste on my toothbrush. Nothing was private anymore. Humor was crucial. I had to forget about preparing food for my family.

Dependent on everyone around me, I was never more conscious of the love and devotion of my family, friends and community.  I was cared for by Lon, my daughters, doctors, and friends in ways I never anticipated. Everyone I asked was willing, even eager, to make my life easier.

My dear husband, Lon, devoted his time and energy to caring for me full-time. His job was never complete. He orchestrated getting help from others. He helped me into and out of bed. He gave his whole self over to my care and comfort.

Lon was deeply afraid he couldn’t take care of me all by himself. The prospect of doing everything for me by himself after our daughters went home was daunting. We weren’t sure he actually could do it alone. He, too, had to recognize that he depends on others.  

This was when we learned exactly how much we rely on our community and are loved by them.  We asked Carol and Jeff, in Northern California, to come all the way to Hawaii, on one day’s notice, to help Lon take care of me!  They barely hesitated before giving a big YES.

On our recent community call, we realized that the crisis caused by my fall created a huge opportunity for contribution, creativity, and waking up to and appreciating our interdependence.

And here we are, safe at home.

What is truly remarkable is that we had a GREAT time in Kauai.  Our nuclear family was together, and there was never a shadow of a doubt that each of us would do all we could do to enjoy our time together in paradise.  We celebrated Grant, and Kirsten took the opportunity to grieve in Grant’s “happy place,” surrounded by her family of origin.

We now know, as a lived experience, the strength of the love that binds us all.  Let’s celebrate interdependence!

~ Sandy

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