I have a confession to make. I’m one of those people who is drawn in by the saddest stories. That includes animals who have been abandoned, people who have been heartbroken, children who are lost. I cannot go in to pet stores because I cannot handle the sad look of an animal through glass and bars. I can’t even imagine going into an orphanage. I would want to take every child home. And I cannot walk away from a person who is hurting. I have a debilitating need to save the world, one hopeless case at a time. It gets me into trouble. Like the time I lived out in the country and my (then) husband decided to light fire to every pile of brush he could see in an effort to clean up our land. As one particular pile burned, my daughter said she thought she could hear meowing. Sure enough, hidden under the pile of burning sticks were newborn kittens. We made a mad dash to put out the flames, carrying bucket after bucket of water across the dirt road. By the time we rescued the kittens–all four of them–the momma cat had already run away. And she never came back for them. I spent weeks carrying kittens with me in a basket to work because they needed to be bottle fed every four hours. I kept telling my family it was temporary–once they were weaned, we were finding homes. We already had one cat in the house. (Another abandoned kitten I had to wean.) But, no, that wasn’t happening. We ended up with five house cats. There are similar dog stories. And people stories.
Truth is, I have trouble saying no to anyone or anything who seems to need me. I will go out of my way to accommodate. Regardless of the effect on me. It pains me to see others in pain and not do anything to help. And there in lies the trouble. It’s not always wise to continue to give beyond personal limits. For example, having too many cats in my house drove me crazy. Finding good homes for some of them would have been wiser than keeping them all. And continuing to give to people who needed me but didn’t appreciate me caused me heartache. On many, many occasions. I’m not saying that I shouldn’t be helpful. It’s just that, like all things, I need to have a balance. Limits. And stick to them. After all, you can’t save the world when you’re losing yourself in the process. And it’s not up to me to save anyone anyway; most people need to learn how to save themselves. But for a person who has an innate desire to help others, to want to ease their pain, or somehow be the person they need me to be, it’s easy to say I’m here for whatever works for you. But really, sometimes, that’s more about me than about them. My need for harmony. My need to feel useful and needed and important to others. Instead, what would be more honest would be for me to say, I’m here for you in this way. And spell it out. Or know when I truly can’t help at all. Because only then I can be effective. And true to myself. I’m learning, slowly. Thankfully.