Thursday, July 02, 2009

You Can't Save All the Starfish...Can You?

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I have been a freely admitting and unabashed Pollyanna about humanity most of the time. My stance has been that I will, until proven otherwise, give folks the benefit of the doubt, believing that their behavior makes sense (at least in their little scheme of things) and that generally they are doing the best they can to get by, and that when they do things that are stupid, hurtful and thoughtless, they really don't mean them in the worst possible way. I excuse a lot, and let people get by with a fair amount. While in many ways this is a trait I like about myself, I think it is also a form of denial that has kept me in some rather insane situations longer than I needed to stay there, and that has allowed others to manipulate me right under my nose while I blithely went along in complete blissful ignorance. R will tell you right up front that he is far more pessimistic about humanity than "Polly" is. When we were first dating we laughed about that bell curve....he the outlier on one side, me on the other. So the two of us together....a good balance?

He has helped me attain some very important clarity about at least one instance of Polly being manipulated by someone. This was a very good thing as it had gone on way too long and it was way past time for clarity. The funny thing was....he didn't have to say a word. He simply witnessed an exchange between me and this person. That was all it observing him observing us....a small mid-course correction, and suddenly I was balanced in a whole new way in that relationship, walking with clarity and confidence along that particular tightrope .

We have been having some serious talks this week about how and with whom we choose to spend our time and energy. Polly still wants to save the world, but she is very, very tired. And she is beginning to see that not everyone wants to be saved. Some of the starfish will persist in crawling back onto the shore no matter how many times you toss them into the ocean. They are that determined to self-destruct. So it is about discernment, too, I guess. I cannot work harder on other people's lives than they do. I have known this professionally for a long time. Perhaps it is a truth that needs to come out into my personal world. I think saving people has been one of my avocations as well as my job. I have been drawn to the wounded birds and the strays. To the needy ones. Yes, it had its payoffs....and its costs. And I think I'm done. After all, you can't walk the tightrope with any kind of grace when your pole is being gabbed by others. It is my pole and I need it for balance. Maybe it's time I take that a little more seriously.


mid-life rookie said...

PollyAnna - yep I so get that. I loved that movie when I was girl - listened to the audio version until I wore the LP out. It shaped me, so I get what you are saying. One thing that helps is to remind myself, I don't do the saving - God does. I just try to provide the means when I can. Sometimes people say no to God by rejecting our help or undoing it. Trying to remember that it's not about me - but darn it's hard. When I'm obviously not the one God will be able to use to reach someone or get through their incredibly thick skull - I start praying for the person who will be the instrument. Again, that helps me as much (or more)as them.

zorra said...

Amen, amen. (to both you and MLR)

Sometimes the most loving thing you can do, both for yourself and the other person, is to realize, "I'm through here," and walk away. As my husband says, you do what you can, then leave it to heaven.

This whole issue is probably why I quit doing therapy several years ago.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I really, really love what this says about your relationship with R. I know that feeling of the sudden ah ha because I've just envisioned something about my life through Michael's eyes.

And I also relate to the lesson of having to learn that I can't work harder on someone else's life than they do.

Brava, Kate.

mompriest said...

One of my favorite books, "How Can I Help" by Ram Dass helped me understand this and gave my Pollyanna-self some perspective. It's a bit dated, now, but I liked it when I read it in 1991....

balance. yes. Good for you.

Kate said...

Yes, seeing the ex's actions through Tim's eyes was one of the things that really helped me realize it was simply unacceptable.

Still working on the part where I can't help those who persist in crawling back out of the water, though. And I know I'm not alone in that, either. Prayers for both of us on that part. :/

sue said...