My heart aches, is raw from sadness as I watch someone I love dearly struggle to find solid ground on which to put her feet, roots to curl her toes around as she weathers a storm of her own making. I long to reach in and grab her by the nape of the neck and whisk her out of the howling wind, tuck her beneath a cape that is soft and warm and protective until the gale passes. And yet, I know the cost of such a maneuver. I know that it would make both of us feel relief. I know that this path, well-worn and familiar to us both, needs to be abandoned, it’s trailhead adorned with yellow blinking lights and CAUTION signs. While it beckons like the seductive aroma of coffee in the dark dawn, irresistible and redemptive, it carries with it a punch that is only felt much, much later.
Doing my best to justify my inaction to my sister-in-law the other night, I felt the blood in my wrists begin to move faster. I felt that urgent sense of desperation to convince her that I care. That my resistance to get involved does not signal selfishness or indifference, but a desire to do the right thing. To let this other friend find her own path, learn from the experience, raise herself up and feel empowered. My pulse beat with a mix of love, despair and self-preservation.
She, my sister-in-law, no stranger to such decisions of action and inaction and powerlessness in the face of suffering, nodded her head and understood. And then she said the most profound, most giving, most wonderful thing:
“Sometimes you can use all that energy with the best intentions and not make a bit of difference.”
I was instantly absolved. Because I want to make a difference. I want to use my energy, my love, my intentions wisely and to some good end. I want to effect change. How many times have I acted out of discomfort on my own part – “it’s too hard to watch her suffer/go through this/repeat this pattern” – and only succeeded in wearing down the same old path and not making any substantial change? Too many to count. How many times have I instead sat by and held the power of light and love for her, trusting that her path is her own? Not enough. But when I do, what I discover is that she doesn’t feel any less supported in the long run. When I show her that I care and that I trust her to find her way she is frightened and a little resentful, but she also feels empowered and begins to believe in the notion of unconditional love. We, both of us, had to be taught how to accept love at face-value, divorce it from our actions and intentions or anyone else’s assessment of our worth and believe in its absolute existence. We are both still in need of reminding.
“I wasn’t especially happy as a kid, and if you don’t get the hang of it when you are young, you’re never really good at it.” Linda McCullough Moore
And so I sit and close my eyes, imagining my love pulsating out in waves of golden light, from me to her, surrounding her, lifting her and reminding her. I love her. I wish only the best for her. That energy feels directed and tangible. The cape scenario feels muddled and messy and unpredictable. When I focus on the energy imprint of the two alternatives, I am certain, settled, positive that sending love and light is the most effective response.
Amazing post — I'm going to think about it and you and her all day — what a wonder you are, here.
Too deep this evening for me to decipher. However it reminds me of the line, you cut – I bleed.
Blessings to you both.
You just can't go wrong.
Dear Kari, there is, I think, hard-won wisdom within your words and actions. For so many, many years I tried to help by making the other person's problem mine. Finally I learned the lesson that you present so wonderfully well here.
Learning this was hard for me because it always seemed to me–I always argued with those who encouraged me to "stay out of it"–that the situation needed "active" compassion. But finally I realized that both the questions and the answers to the paths we take and the possibilities we ignore or embrace are singular to every person. I am not all wise; nor am I the savior of all those in pain.
Accepting that has made me take a long look within myself and embrace my own brokenness. Peace.
Beautifully put. Thank you for sharing this.
Your post really touched me, filled with emotion, sensitivity, compassion and love, love for her, love for you.
Sometimes love means doing the hardest, letting the other person know you are here for her and with her and always will be, to love her and support her, but you will allow her to grow from living her own journey.
A few months ago, during a particularly challenging time in my own journey, a person close to my heart told me that she wished she could give me the "arc of growth" and in doing so, allow me to be in less pain, but that there are no short cut that she knows of that can replace the strength and knowledge I am building in living my own journey.
I know Kari, that you so wished you could take all her pain and suffering away, rescue her, but as painful as it is, by sending her all your love and light, you are allowing her to build her own strength and self-knowledge.
Your loving friend,
Beautiful post, Thanks for sharing.
This is so beautiful Kari. I can relate to it soooo much. I love how you remind us we don't have to rescue, and in doing so might actually hold up another's progress.
Thank you for the reminder. xo
Very well spoken and I can relate as well.