My whole life I’ve cared for other people. I’m not saying that’s uncommon, millions of others do the same every day, all of us for different reasons but all with the same result. Losing yourself.
At the age of seven I was grilling frozen pizzas to feed my younger brother lunch. I quite easily could’ve nagged my father into waking up and getting us something to eat. Instead I chose to provide it myself.
I’d pad bare footed out to the freezer in our shed, haul myself up the side of the chest freezer so I could reach the bottom and grab pizzas or potato waffles. I taught myself how to cook them by reading the instructions on the back of the boxes and decided grilling was less scary than the oven. I’d be less likely to burn myself with the grill.
My brother has a small brain defect and so I’ve been caring for him in various amounts til this day. Whether it’s explaining adult responsibilities to him over a monthly phone call now or trying to cook him lunch every Saturday in 1995.
At sixteen I incorporated myself into a new family as their sons live-in girlfriend; The father was always away with the Royal Marines and mostly lived on camp, the mother worked 72 hours a week because that was all she cared about, the much older brother was a recluse living at his computer and the younger sister was never home. As a result, there was never anything to eat, the house was a constant mess, the dog was never walked and my boyfriend and his sister never attended school.
I could walk away from that easily. But instead I made them go to school, cooked dinner several times a week (with food I paid for with part-time wages) and helped with the laundry. I even got between the parents when I woke up over hearing a particularly vicious argument and stayed til they were calm and wouldn’t wake their own kids. The enfollowing thirteen year relationship wasn’t any different.
Now, at twenty-eight years old, I have taken in my seventh lodger.
Only the fourth out of the seven I’ve charged any rent.
The first I took in so he had somewhere to live in his home town so he could find a job and save enough money to start out. The second I took in when his mother suddenly moved away. The third was that someone’s annoying girlfriend, who I let stay for months even after they’d broken up. The fourth had gotten his girlfriend pregnant and needed somewhere to live cheap and save til it was born. The fifth and sixth needed to save a deposit on their own place and escape the one they were living in. The seventh is partly for me to have some company and extra income, and partly for her to learn how to live almost independently.
The eighth is the one that breaks the chain I’ve been living in. The eighth person I choose to live with is purely for my own happiness. ‘My own happiness’ being a phrase that potrays selfishness.
Love, real all-consuming, nerve tingling love, for me, is the process of someone teaching you how to be happy. Continuously happy, with yourself, your life and your choices.
Whether you ever find complete contentment is irrelevant. It’s the feeling of making progress towards it together, the tiny realisations along the way that make your own outlook on life a little brighter.
Number eight teaches me how to be happy in all the ways. The only negativity I encounter comes from my own mind distorting my happiness into a feeling of selfishness. I haven’t learned how to drown that voice out for myself yet, but Jacob quiets it for me.
It’s nice to be the one taken care of.