Will Fixing You Fix Me?
I just got back from a walk and, for the first time in a while, I felt like writing. Actually, I shouldn't say that. I always feel like writing, but this year I feel like I haven't had much to write about, which is very frustrating for a writer. I know that sounds crazy with everything that's going on, but I don't write unless it's about a new idea or experience that I need to flesh out. As I say in my professional life, I don't see the need to contribute to digital noise; don't write unless you have something worthwhile to say.
Now I feel like that was a long and roundabout way to start this blog. Guess I'm out of practice.
On my walk I was listening to a podcast that had very little to do with grief or emotion, but I find more inspiration in these unexpected places than I do if I listen to something specifically about grief. If I listened to something that was entirely about widowhood, I would have had nothing to write about. But if I listen to something about...say...parasites or the Mars Rover, then that obviously leads me to think about grief and widowhood.
Actually, this blog isn't even solely about widowhood, although that is a big part of it.
It has to do with fixing.
I'm a fixer and I come from a long line of fixers. I think that most people naturally want to fix things and if you don't you're probably more enlightened than I am and know the honest truth - that not everything can be fixed. In fact, that's probably true of most things.
I don't think I was always a fixer - I think it started the moment my oldest kid was born and everything went downhill from there. The second she started crying for a bottle I wanted to fix it and the moment she called me crying from her college dorm room, I wanted to fix that, too.
This is something that I'm really trying to work on because jumping in to fix things isn't always what people want. Most of the time when people call you to complain about something or let go of some emotion, that's exactly what it is - it's letting go. There is no one phrase that will make someone feel better after a break up or when they're having an issue with a friend or coworker.
So, why do we even try?
Although many of my blogs may come across as snarky and sarcastic, you should know that I'm actually a "glass half full" kind of person - this has been confirmed by several personality and strength tests that I've taken throughout the last few years where the results have said words like "optimistic, "joyful," and "delightful" (you'll have to ask my kids about that last one). What these tests have also shown me - because I've taken them along with other people - is that not everyone approaches life the same way I do.
That means that my delightfulness has the ability to piss people off.
It hasn't quite come to that, but I think I've been pretty close with my kids: Some things cannot be fixed in the moment, Mom. I just want you to listen.
Okay, so I know this about myself now and I'm paying more attention to it. But on my walk today it occurred to me to wonder why I want to fix things. And the answer is simple.
I don't want to feel uncomfortable. I don't want to absorb your emotion. So, I want to fix you so I can fix how you're making me feel.
Sheesh. Talk about an emotional labyrinth.
Emotion, in its rawist form is uncomfortable. It's excruciating. NO ONE likes it. I daresay that the person witnessing probably likes it even less than the person going through it because not only do they have the discomfort of the emotion...they have the helpless feeling that goes along with just sitting there and watching someone be upset.
It's horrible. And we want it to stop.
This, of course, ties directly back to widowhood, grief, pain, all the biggies; when someone tells us "things happen for a reason" or "he's in a better place" it really has nothing to do with you. It's all about the other person doing anything they can to get out of that emotional space by doing what they think might make you feel better. And that's perfectly understandable.
The problem is that when we jump in to fix something for someone because we're trying to feel better we often do exactly what the other person doesn't want; we're being reactive and not really paying attention to the moment. I think if we ask ourselves, "Why am I trying to fix this right now?" and ultimately come to the conclusion, "Because I don't like the way this makes me feel" then we might pause and be more insightful when it comes to the other person's needs.
I feel like I'm talking a good game and I hope it's something I can follow through on. It really hard to pause for a moment when someone you love is in pain. But I do think that acknowledging that fixing things sometimes comes from - I'm going to be harsh here - a selfish place might be better in the long run.
It's okay for someone to cry.
It's okay for someone to feel pain.
It's okay for things to not go 100% our way all the time.
And it's okay to let someone else have that moment.