Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Learning to Take a Step Back

Often we find ourselves performing roles in life and wonder how we got cast in that part. Sometimes it's pretty easy to see. Sometimes not.

As do many women, I perform the role of caretaker. With me, this often transcends that basic role and I function more as the optimistic coach. I'm the one who dusts people off and sets them back on the road. I've been at my new job for only a month and it's already happening there, too.

The problem with coaching is the time it takes from the doing. I have my creative life which requires a lot of alone time, and I have a great deal of my time diverted into coaching.

I'm working at detaching myself from those who come to me. It's incredibly difficult. When I sense another person struggling, I respond. To me, it's like seeing someone whose sleeve has caught on fire. There's no thinking involved. Grab a bucket of water and toss it on the flames.

The problem for me is realizing that the point of every person's life is his or her struggle with something. I struggle, too. I can't throw water on everybody.

What's really exhausting is when the same people erupt in the same flames on the same sleeve. Over the years I've thrown water on them, showed them how to throw water on themselves, showed them how to put the flames out with a blanket, or sand, or even a foam extinguisher. But the flames keep erupting.

I must now learn to concede defeat. For me, this is truly painful.

Today I was talking this over with someone who wondered if perhaps I need to let these 'others' go through the fire on their own. I understand what she means. My struggle with that will be to hold onto my bucket of water the next time the flames leap to life.


Annie Mac said...

Interesting topic. I'm a "fixer." I want to give someone a list of options that they can pick from. But, I've learned, a lot of people don't want to fix it and resent you telling them how to do it. They really just want to vent. So now I try to bite my tongue and nod sympathetically.

julia said...

I suppose I need to reinterpret the phrase "what do you think?" I can give my opinion because I have a lot of opinions. But the person asking for "what I think" probably only needs it as a sounding board. I've got to detach myself from the outcome of the advice I give.

Dara Edmondson said...

I tend to be a problem solver too. But I've realized there are some people who enjoy the fire and the attention they get from it. When it repeates too often, you can olny hope they've learned to stop, drop and roll.