This has been, without a doubt, the hardest lesson that I have ever had to learn, and one I am still learning. Being an empathic person, and due to my own childhood experiences, I used to think I was responsible for fixing problems and people. A friend called it ‘my broken bird’ syndrome. Someone else called it my Jesus complex. Whatever it is called, I would find myself in situations where I would be in relationships, friendships or situations where I would try and ‘fix’ all the problems and the people I encountered. At least that’s what I ‘thought’ I was doing. I now realize I wasn’t. At best I was avoiding dealing with my own problems and at worst I was probably enabling others to keep leaning on people instead of taking responsibility for themselves. But slowly and surely I made a life’s work of it and it became my GO TO personality trait. Even now, I can honestly say my intentions where well meaning but my energy and time was misplaced. It is something that I must still guard against and can slip from time to time. But I am much better at spotting the warning signs now and hubby will hold up the mirror when he feels I am drifting off course.
What made me stop? I am glad you asked. You see one day I got sick. In fact I got very sick and could no longer be all things to everybody. I couldn’t run around putting out fires and rescuing people because I couldn’t even fix myself! My body was broken. I was the broken bird. I realized I was the damsel in very deep distress and after many years, tears, tests and medications I realize … I…Cant…Fix…it!
A look around the internet and I could easily see that there are millions like me (maybe not exactly LIKE me) where no one can fix us and even our beloved partners have to face a life of knowing they can’t fix us either. Imagine how they must feel!? Watching us stumble, watching us fall, watching us in terrible, heart wrenching pain, watching us terrified, Blinded, weak, nauseous, shaking, groaning, and heart sick. I said to my husband “I would rather live with the pain of this illness then have to watch someone I love endure it”. He can’t fix me and neither can the all the doctors, medicines and alternative therapies that we have tried in the past eight years. But I don’t want him to think that is his job. I don’t want him (or me) to focus our time and energy trying to fix it, we are ready for the next step…
So what happens now…?
I am glad you asked. Sometimes the hardest thing you have to do is accept something can not be undone or fixed. If you have ever had a loved one die you will have some idea of what I am talking about. Some things cant be fixed but you can accept the reality. This is a process. Its not something to be discussed lightly and truthfully, very few people make it to this stage, for many and various reasons that I wont even attempt to list here. Suffice to say, most people do not embrace acceptance; but the benefits are truly immeasurable. Many view acceptance as a sign of weakness or loss of hope etc and if you prefer to be amongst that group I really don’t mind and I wish you every success, but this piece is about my experience and therefore I will focus on why I like acceptance.
Once I accepted my situation I then turned my mind to what I could do and I could also talk to my husband about what I wanted to spend my time and precious energy doing. We talk about things we want to ‘try’. Since I am not using my precious energy trying to fix my lot in life, change peoples opinions of me, please others, appear ‘normal’ and put myself through terrible emotional and physical pain trying to be who I am not, I can use my time and energy ‘trying’ to do some things, advocating for myself and others, helping my hubby do some things he would like to ‘try’ and getting to know myself (and him) again.
What can others do for me and what can I do for others? I believe we can support each other through a kind word, acceptance, encouragement, sincerity, kindness, respect, love and inspire each other. While I no longer believe my role is to fix people or fix the world, I can still do some little thing each day which is meaningful to me, meaningful for those I truly care about, and those who truly care for me. I can give this new life a try.
Sometimes giving ourselves a chance to embrace a new situation, a new life, evolving and learning is much more important and rewarding than fixing the old person and clinging to a broken situation or identity. My resilience is my new tool and whatever happens I hope I can continue to use the pieces of the old to build something new rather than struggle to fix something that is broken.