As I have heard people share their stories with me I have started to see a theme. Something that, when I first experienced it, I attributed to my “helping” (okay, downright people-pleasing) personality. Though being a helper-type may intensify the experience, what I’ve heard all kinds of people say is:
“I can’t… because they.”
It is usually something along the lines of, “I can’t live my life, because they need me.”
As reasonable as it is to care for those around us in the hard times, taking care of people isn’t always synonymous with supporting people. Mostly semantics, I know. But, as I see it, “support” involves an even distribution of care between individuals, whereas “taking care of” can describe one person pouring all their fuel into other people’s tanks. When you lose somebody, you’re going to need your tank as full as possible.
When we cross the line from supporter to care-taker, we risk entering a place that can leave us living indefinitely for another person (please keep in mind I am referring to emotional care-taking here). We risk developing the inability to move away from family to follow a life-long dream; giving up other relationships to be a parent’s main companion; keeping feelings and personal struggles hidden for the sake of protecting family members… Raise your hand if you have, like me, ever experienced the belief that your pain is not as important as the pain of another. It’s not true.
My advice to self and others is not necessarily to toss our loved one a Kleenex and run for the hills, but it is to be aware of the levels of our giving and our living. To give up our life for others in the way of emotional dependency means that, in a sense, our life is over too.
Though it may not feel like your life right now, you still own it. Here’s to your very valuable journey, that deserves to be lived.