Leading up to the new year, December is a month for reflection. Where have I been this year? Where am I going? What lessons do I want to carry into the new year? At the end of 2010, I participated in ReVerb which posed a daily prompt for reflective writing. That was somewhat helpful, but I wasn’t sure about some of them and I missed a bunch towards the end as the holidays ramped up. This year, Reverb isn’t happening in the same way and so instead I’m choosing my own internal prompts to write on this month. Some of those will be reflections, some will be recaps based on my blog themes – but by the end of the month I’m hoping to have posted at least fifteen pieces in this vein.
I’m starting off my December posts with a reflection from this past week: I am only responsible for my own life and actions. I am not responsible for the lives and actions of other people.
I often get caught up as a mediator, enabler, or financial caretaker to people who are perfectly able to take care of their own emotional, behavioural, or economic needs. It’s a bit of a pattern for me, pointed out by my naturopath during Monday’s appointment and underscored by a number of issues which have come up this week. Interesting how that happens eh? You receive a lesson and then immediately you see all the instances of it in your life.
So I’m noticing this pattern in a number of places and reflecting on that I realize that setting myself as a universal helper (soft touch) in this way has only ever resulted in resentment, dependency and frustration on my part and on the part of the person who is seemingly needing my assistance in some way. And really, it’s all about feeling needed and included for me isn’t it? Something like that. Not healthy.
I am not referring to my official advocacy here – my union role for instance has boundaries around it which I have learned to define over the years, and which very few people try to overstep. But in our more intimate relationships – our friends and our family – boundaries are difficult to establish and even more difficult to maintain. So often our own perceived emotional needs override the boundaries that we have set, and then a new pattern develops that has to be worked through and so on.
But what’s great about my reflection/realization of the week is that I allow myself to recognize my own true responsibility and let go of my bad feelings about what other people are doing. And not only that, I allow myself to refuse engagement in relationships which are negatively enabling. From there, it’s a little more reflective work to develop strategies for “loving disengagement” from the crises of others while still maintaining the positive aspects of my relationship. Because really, I’m only in these situations with people because they are people who I care about….
At the same time, if I am only responsible for myself, then does that mean I’m not needed? Yeah. It does mean that. But it doesn’t mean that I’m not desired, loved, enjoyed, and part of a greater community of people who want me around. Which is way better than being needed. Because need is such a desperate place, and what we think we need is often wrong, or not need at all.
What I would like for 2012 is to continue to work myself out of the enabler and mediator roles – which is not a new goal, because in 2010 I recognized where some of the relationships in my life were unbalanced and harmful and found ways to extract myself – but my work on this front isn’t done yet. As I have noticed this week, my impulse to fix things is my natural response to pretty much everything – and I need to remind myself that it’s not possible for me to sort anyone out but myself. Sadly. Because if I had a magic wand I would certainly alleviate the struggles of the people I really care about. Given that there is no wand, and that I have