boundaries · self-care · service

“You can’t save anyone.”


When ordinarily I’ve heard this phrase, I’ve bristled.  Is it something in me, something wrong with me that I can’t?  If I try harder or fix myself more, will I then be able to?  What if I really really love them?

However, last week, a friend said this declarative sentence to me, and I replied laughingly, “What a relief!”  Phew!  Jeez, that really takes me off the hook now, doesn’t it?

I can’t save anyone.  I don’t have to keep trying, adjusting, modifying, cajoling, coercing, monitoring, mothering.  I can lay it the f* down … and continue working on what I’m really here to work on: Me.

There’s not nearly as much work as there used to be, but certainly a lifetime’s worth.  Which is good, because you stop growing, you start dying!  But overall, I feel healthier now than at many other points in my life.

I feel more able to accept that other people have their own row to hoe, and no amount of my overseeing can change or improve or lessen their work.  I once told my (as of this past week ex-) boyfriend:( that I felt like a sword-fighter against his darkness, and that I needed him to take the sword.  To fight his own battle against his own internal foes.

The rub is, truly, that he never asked me to fight that battle for him, but I leapt in suit of armor and all and said, “Alright beast, let’s go!”  And then I said, “Omigod I’m tired,” and then I said, “This is not a battle I can win. Here, you take it.”

Fighting others’ darkness is a long-earned habit of mine, the daughter of an untreated manic-depressive.  When the yawning darkness of depression descends upon the woman who is to care for you, as a child with few tools, all you can do is set aside your own needs to try to fight her darkness so she can possibly help defend you, too.  And lo, codependence is born:  if you’re okay, I’m okay.

Yet though this is a long-worn caul of mine, that does not mean it fits, makes sense, is healthy, or … is sane!  And it is up to me to stop jumping in to every person’s fight.

Indeed, “coincidentally,” as all this boundary-strengthening/awareness has been taking place in the last few weeks, I’ve had 4 people reach out to me to help them with some self-help work they’re doing (yes, I see the irony there).  At some times, I would have leapt in (Sure man, let’s slay that darkness! How much of me do you need?), but these past few weeks, I’ve taken account of who I know these folks to be and what kind of energy I truly have for assisting them.

And my answer has been, No.  “Thank you for asking, but I’m full up on service right now.”  “I’m grateful you thought of me, but I’m only available to be friends on the path right now.”  “I’m very glad I got to serve for a while, but I need to leave your committee.”

There are voices within that chide it’s selfish or miserly to say No.  But, I imagine that one day, when my boundaries are more firm—when I don’t run for my longsword every time someone says, “Hello”—that I’ll be more able and available for service to people … but for today, for now, saying no to them is saying yes to me.

And that, friends, is progress.

(And yes, home sick with the flu this week—hence no blog—I’ve been reading Game of Thrones and all about longswords.) 😉


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