Wednesday, March 3rd, 2004 • 2 Comments on Saving the World, One Day At a Time
“Don’t get emotionally involved” should be tattooed backward on my forehead so I can read it every morning while contemplating my crazy mop of hair. Only, I would ignore that sage advice as I always have.
I am the queen of getting emotionally involved. From the time I was a young girl (with the same crazy mop of hair), I have let myself get drawn into other people’s lives and problems, trying to fix what’s broken, cure what’s ailing, heal what’s hurt. In the process, I’ve gotten hurt more than once myself. It’s not always easy to know the difference between a drama queen and a friend in need. Even with the real problems, it’s not always possible to make a difference. I know that, even though I may be too damned stubborn to admit it. Sometimes things are too broken to fix, the wounds too deep to heal. Sometimes, all you can do is hope. And sometimes you have to walk away.
I have found the easiest—and hardest—thing is to assume someone will do what’s right. It’s easiest because it is my nature to expect the best of people. It’s also the hardest because sometimes people screw up. Sometimes they do the exact opposite of what they should do and it is painful and destructive to everyone around them. Still, I’d rather expect the best and be disappointed once in awhile than to always be anticipating the worst. In my experience, people will live up—or down—to my expectations. I would rather raise them up, and walk whatever long, steep road I have to walk with them, than bring them down and cause even more damage to their spirit than they’ve already done to themselves.
As I have been reminded time and again, people have to want to help themselves before you can help them. The thing is, you don’t always know the day and time they’ll come to the realization they need help, so you have to be there—patiently waiting, hoping and praying they figure it out before something goes horribly wrong. Whether it’s the friend in the waiting room of a clinic, eight weeks pregnant with bruises on her face and a fear her boyfriend is going to find out what she’s doing, or the friend who is staring into the bottom of a glass for the thousandth time, or the friend who just doesn’t feel like anything is worth caring about or living for anymore. Sometimes, all you can do is be there. And sometimes, that’s enough.
It would be so easy to turn my back, to walk away, to say it’s not my problem or to judge a situation that hits too painfully close to home. It’s so hard to stay put, listen quietly, lecture as often as necessary and endure watching someone hurt themselves while I hurt along with them. There have been times I have had to walk away because there was nothing more I could do and I was getting hurt by the situation. I hate giving up… hate it. It’s hell to live with that on my conscience and yes, I do feel responsible even if it’s not truly my responsibility. Because there, but for the grace of God, go I… and there, but for the love of someone who knew what to say (or faked it well) or knew when not to leave me alone, go I. It takes a lot for me to give up on someone. A lot. Because I don’t want to contemplate what it might have meant if the people I needed had given up on me.
You can’t save ‘em all, I’ve been told.
Why the hell not? I ask.