I’m a fixer.
Home improvements aside, if I see something that’s off in any way I have the urge to try and make it better. But there are certain things I just can’t fix, and it frustrates me to no end.
When I was little, the fact that my mom was in a full body cast or gone for weeks at a time for surgery was completely normal to me. I thought the X-rays showing all the hardware in her back and neck were neat, and we had a kick-ass collection of braces and medical stuff to use when my friends and I played around.
But as I got older, I realized that despite the fact that she tried to keep everything normalized, my mom was in pain. All the time. She still is. The realization that there was nothing I could do to make it go away left me feeling helpless. All the time. I still do.
At some point you realize that things happen to you and happen around you that can’t be fixed.
And it’s not your job to fix them.
I bring this up because there seems to be a string of pretty crappy things happening to those around me lately, and it feels like every day I’m confronted with another story that proves we all have “something” that we’re dealing with that’s out of our control.
There’s no greater feeling of helplessness than to know that someone you care about is sick, financially strapped, in pain—physically or emotionally—or let’s be honest, dying.
I think a lot of people unintentionally ignore these things at times, not because they don’t care, but simply because they can’t “fix” them and have no clue how to react. Those who are sick or aging aren’t necessarily the same people we’ve known them to be, and selfishly, we want them to be the people they were before they got sick, before they got old, before they became so… mortal.
The realization that things will never be the same—and that you can’t fix it as such—is enough to make you stress yourself out in an attempt to save the world or conversely stay at home curled up in a ball, not dealing with it at all.
But just as much as you don’t want to deal with it, I can guarantee that the person who is sick or struggling doesn’t want to deal with it a million times more—but they do, often with courage and grace.
I think that in and of itself can be intimidating, the fact that you are lucky enough to be in a comparatively better position. The strength of those who aren’t can be inspiring beyond belief, but it can also make us question how we would be if faced with such a challenge.
It takes courage to face the unknown, but it’s much easier to do so when you’re on the right side of the coin, to be the one who has a choice.
But the fact is that as strong as they are or appear to be, they’re probably still scared. So we put the guilt aside for wanting them to be the people they were before they got sick, before they got old, before they became so…mortal—because at their core, they are the same people.
And you know what?
They know that you can’t fix things, and most don’t expect you to. They have no choice but to deal the hand they were dealt, and sometimes they just want you to hold that hand.
They don’t want to do it alone.
That’s one thing I—and you—can fix.
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Bahhh I hate not being able to fix something. Helplessness is no fun.
GOSH I can relate to this in… so many ways. with my own issues (and wishing I could “fix” them), with my dad’s illness (and wishing I could “fix” it), the aspects of this current battle that I do not talk about – the emotional side, the frustration side, and this new role I find myself in, taking care of a parent. tables turned, as they say.
this was my first time reading that poem about your mom – it is so beautifully written!
Selfishly, I was hoping you would stumble on this post at some point. I was thinking of you when I reread it.
First time reading this for me, too. Excellent post.
Yes. And yes. Sometimes we want our hands held, and we don’t even want the hand-holder to say anything.
And I think I have the same blanket.
I love this..so glad you reposted. Perfect timing.
I always want to fix things, too. It’s a frustrating enterprise.
I know this situation too well, and you talk about it so eloquently. To have to deal with your own helplessness, and then witness another in the same situation sucks frankly. This was well worth re posting. Thank you
I still love this post as much as the first time I read it.
I always want to make people feel better and help fix their problems. Recently, I’ve pulled back from that. Not the wanting but the inserting myself. It’s not my place to fix. I try to support and lend an ear or a hand. It’s a tough lesson to learn.
I’m a fixer myself. It might look like a 5 year old did it, but it will work, dammit.
Oh how I know this feeling. In my family, in my relationships, in my work and personal worlds, people always come to me to fix things, smooth them over, make it better. you know what is hard? When I am the one that needs fixing, when I am hurting and I want someone else to see what I need and give it to me..but the people in my life are so used to me being that person, the person who could make it better that I honestly think that I’ll be able to help myself. Who knows?? Maybe I will.
but I liked this piece very much..and want you to know that I’m here for you always, in any capacity I can be.
I know, my friend, and I always appreciate just knowing that people like you still exist. Things are actually not that bad, but we all have our “WTH?” moments of helplessness and frustration…okay, quite a few of them. But you do what you can. Just remember you don’t have to do it alone 🙂
I’m so glad you re-posted this as I had missed it the first time around. I’m exactly the same way, Abby — a fixer. It’s probably part of my control-freak nature, although that has mellowed substantially in the last few years. You’re so right with your ending here. Mostly, people just want to know you’re there and you care. But damn! I do love trying to play God.
I could have sworn you had a button. I’ll just have to make one myself.
Abby, this post touches me so deeply.
I always fear my son will be emotionally scarred by all of my health issues. He sees me in pain all of the time. He’s visited me in the hospital on numerous occasions. He’s even had to call 911 to save me from an anaphylaxis allergic reaction and while he was riding in the ambulance with me I flat lined. They had to use the paddles to bring me back to life.
“There’s no greater feeling of helplessness than to know that someone you care about is sick, financially strapped, in pain—physically or emotionally—or let’s be honest, dying.”
I know. And it breaks my heart that my 16 year old son, who’s obviously old enough and smart enough to realize what’s happening to me, is in a constant state of worry and feels absolutely powerless.
I do my very best to shield him as much as possible and I try to keep things light and funny. But there’s only so much I can do.