When You Can’t Fix It

Published in the Ferndale Record, October 1, 2014

One of the best parts about working in an elementary school is making things better. A knee scrape? Bandages make tears stop. Fall off the monkey bars? An ice pack eases that twisted ankle. Even hurt feelings are talked through and children run back to class together, still friends.

Sometimes these quick fixes happen too fast for my liking. The nurturing part of me wants the child to linger so I can dry tears and impart warm words before sending them back into fray. This happens only occasionally.

The dichotomy of circumstances at school and those in other parts of my life is not lost on me. A situation, a person or relationship that I see as troubled gets my attention. My nature is to spring into action, to fix it, to be proactive, to make the hurt go away. The catch is that usually, real life doesn’t work like it does in kindergarten through fifth grade.

It’s not that these other day-to-day situations can’t be fixed, but I’m not necessarily the one to do it. That’s the problem. There lies the anger, the sorrow, and frustration that accompany so many scenarios in the life of a nurturer. Other people help, too. In fact, other people besides me are crucial.

When my best friend’s husband was in an accident that almost claimed his life, I dropped everything – like anyone would, and went to her side. So did many other people and this, I’m sorry to say, annoyed me. She was MY best friend, not someone else’s! I was the one she should lean on. I was the one who would make her life easier.

I expressed these sentiments to my husband and he kindly explained that at this moment in my best friend’s life, she had more needs than one person could fill. I could definitely be who I was to her, but others were wanted and needed, too. It was all about continued, ongoing and widespread support and nothing about me.

My nurturing instinct doesn’t just want to fix problems; it wants to make the pain vanish. If I could do this, as much as I hate to admit it, it would defeat the very things that build character in other people. Pain might go away, but there would be no courage or growth, no accountability or responsibility on the other end. I would effectively erase all of that, too.

Watching people I care about suffer is uncomfortable and at times close to unbearable, but I’ve been through rough spots, too. And I know that’s where personal and spiritual strength is born – in the crucible of suffering.

So, I try to remember the following:

-When I can’t fix it, whatever it is, I remember it’s probably not mine to fix – at least not entirely.

-My job is to be kind, supportive (in the ways most needed, not necessarily in the ways I perceive as helpful) and non-judgmental.

-Prayer, good vibes and white light are things I can offer in the direction of whoever needs it.

I’m more of a positive influence when I stop feeling helpless, and start doing whatever I can with the above rules. Flailing along and making it about my needs are never right.

Toasters and cars are fixed by people who know how to do those things. I can’t definitively mend most situations, but I can let go of what I can’t do and concentrate on what I can.

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