//I am not Atlas

A couple days ago, I pegged Lauren as an ESTP and I read up on her personality type while she read up on mine, INFP. “This is you. This is so you,” she said, after I made a few jokes about why her being the ‘Debater’ wasn’t a surprise. “Spread too thinly, INFPs will run out of energy, and even become dejected and overwhelmed by all the bad in the world that they can’t fix.” After a minute she said, “This is perfect. Any time you’re acting weird, I can just consult this to find what’s up.”

I laughed and stayed until almost three in the morning that night talking an acquaintance through a rough time. As I crashed into bed, I mulled over the phrase ‘spread too thin.’ Like butter over too much bread, as Bilbo would say.

I’ve always attracted people with problems. Something about me apparently whispers I’ll have your back, your secrets are safe with me. I’ve encouraged this in myself, because people – even strangers who strike up conversations while waiting for their Starbucks order – need someone to listen. Sometimes it’s the line between a good day and a bad one or, in some cases, the line between life and death.

Emily Dickenson said, ‘If I can stop one heart from breaking – I have not lived in vain,’ and that phrase has been a reminder to me since I was small. A reminder of what’s really important. I’ll gladly – okay, sometimes grudgingly – give up three or four hours of my day to counsel someone, or listen, or let them know I’m there for them, or pray for them. My soul-sisters Arielle and Lauren can attest to the numerous 2 am’s I’ve groaned, “I just wanted to go to bed.”

Last night, my sister suggested I’m not actually necessary to these people. It took every ounce of self-control I had not to snap at her, or tell her the number of times I’ve had people I barely know message me saying how much something I said two months ago helped them, or in some cases, that they’re still alive because I was willing to listen.

I’ve been a secret-keeper most of my life. As I grow more open with my own secrets, the more honest and transparent I become, the more people seem willing to share their own struggles with me. It’s not an easy thing to carry, but it’s something I’m glad to do. “You should be a therapist” is something I hear several times a week, from many different people. I laugh and tell them that’s why I write books.

Last night, as insomnia plagued me and my brain wandered through every region except the one marked ‘sleep,’ I wondered if my sister was right.

Often, my days are spent wishing I had the mental energy or inspiration to write or draw or engage my mind in a drama; but instead I spend the day giving helpful advice to eight people while I get nothing done in my own life. This is not balance; this is placing me in emotional bankruptcy.

I am not Atlas. I do not hold the world on my shoulders, even when it feels like I do. I can’t save everyone, I can’t help everyone. Would I be happier if I focused on myself and stopped being the anchor keeping so many people from drifting?

SAVE EVERYONE

I came to two conclusions.

ONE

I don’t want to stop being there for people. We’re put here on earth for several reasons, and that’s one of them – to be heaven on earth, to shine as brightly as we can, and I simply can’t do that if my self is my focus.

TWO

Everyone needs a helping hand, but I only have two. I must learn to pick and choose. I must moderate myself so I stop pouring out everything I have and end up empty and exhausted until I replenish myself. I’ll make sure I stay inspired and refreshed – whether that means listening to the same song on repeat all day or browsing an art tumblr for an hour, I will tend myself to make sure I have enough energy and inspiration to do everything I need to do.

Moderation. Not my favorite word, but a principle I desire to better understand. I hope to learn balance, for my own health and the health of those around me. I need to learn that shutting some people out is not the way to let others in. I must learn to choose. I’ve never been good at it – but after all, this is my year for better.

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10 thoughts on “//I am not Atlas

  1. This is so well said. And I’m sorry if I ever left you empty. <3

    Helping people was something I struggled with basically forever – up until I was 16. And then it had to stop (you know why xD); and, since then, I've noticed that I don't let people in very easily. I'm super friendly, but hold people at arm's length. I'll listen to problems, nod my head, and help if I can.

    But I've come to realize that valuing myself based on the number of people I can help or how much I've helped one person is no way to live. People come in your life for a reason; help if you can, but don't get too involved. It's not your life; it's not your choice; you can give advice + pray, but that's all you can do.

    Even in the Bible – when asked for advice by the rich boy, He told him to sell everything he had and then to come back. The kid didn't. Jesus didn't run after him and beg to help. He gave all He had: advice. It's our choice to follow it or not.

    It's up to you to help those that ask for it; but it's not up to you to decide what to do with that advice or to judge/value yourself based on who or how you help. <3

    I guess it's not exactly what you're talking about, but it came to mind, so.

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  2. I’m an INFJ, but I relate to this, I always over exhaust myself helping other people, people who don’t care or reciprocate. I always feel like some kind of Counselor, everyone wants to tell me their problems, but seem to have no time for mine. I’m getting better at, detaching myself from people who are simply using me. I’m still struggling with being less of a people person, and learning to say no. I’m working on it.

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  3. The struggle is real.

    As a fellow INFP, I relate to this SO. WELL. Bilbo is right about feeling like butter scraped over too much bread.

    I do want to fix everyone’s problems, and I know I can’t, and it HURTS. It’s also exhausting.

    And I feel so BAD saying “no” to someone… I sometimes say I have ITSN: inability to say no. I need to learn moderation myself as well.

    I hope you will find that! <3

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  4. What has helped me (I draw hurting people as well) with this issue is an episode of Bay Watch ( I was UP LATE WITH A FEVER and it was ON) As I was dazedly channel surfing and came upon David Hasselhoff standing on the beach in his white t- shirt and baggy blue sweat pants (I know, right, such a relief he was in that) I caught the tail end of his lecture to a younger guy who was standing there in red board shorts.

    “What do you do with a rescue caught in a rip tide heading for the pier?” he barked and the man. The young actors face crinkled in pouty puzzlement. “Put your body between the pilings and the rescue’s, so they don’t get mashed.”

    “WRONG” thundered the Hoff “You put the injured person between you and the piling and let their body take the impact—because if the Lifeguard gets injured they both drown. Your health and safety comes before their healthy and safety”

    I lay on the couch, stunned. That was so counter intuitive. Rescuers health and safety was ABOVE the rescue’s heath and safety? What a concept and yet it made sense. It made so much sense. It’s also proof that God can use ANYTHING. Even a light night’s insomnia with fever and the Hoff to get a vital lesson to His daughter.

    ~`~

    Let me tell you something too that very few Christians will ever tell you: Jesus cares more about YOU than He does about what you are doing for Him.

    You, matter more Mirriam. More than your writing, more than your friendships, more than your helping others.

    You. All the bits and pieces that make up the You of You. Your love of makeup and peace signs, the way you see Him, the way you love the world, your love of music, the way you love your family, the wideness and wildness of your heart that echoes His ow t his is what He loves.

    Don’t make me reach through the screen and grab you by the eyelids—because I will. Don’t rush past this truth. Don’t let it go pinging off the surface of your heart. Don’t let your head make it into a spiritual check mark box that you’ve ticked ‘yes I mentally agree with this truth’.

    Jesus did not die for the work that you will do on His behalf. He did not get beaten so badly that He barely resembled a human being so your good works would be preserved in eternity. He wasn’t separated from the Father so that your doing things for others would get done. He bore all that He bore for one single reason. It’s the same reason He did it for me, and for every person who has lived, is living, and will live—He can not bear the thought of not having you (or me, or anyone) with Him in eternity.

    Working for Him, working with Him, letting Him work through you is a fantastic thing—and one that He wants. But not as much as He wants you. Don’t ever forget that.

    If fact, hold still. I might as well tattoo it on the inside of your eyelids while I’m here.

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  5. I’ve struggled with this too, honey. But also remember, just because you reach out to help others doesn’t mean you can’t reach to others for help. You can hold onto someone’s hand and help them WHILE ALSO holding to someone else for help. You don’t need to take care of yourself ON YOUR OWN. There are people in your life who know you also need helping and recharging and loving on. Don’t be afraid to ask for that when you need it.

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  6. I’m ESTP so I have a super hard time with this, with listening to people and being there for them and so on. So I think I had to learn the opposite this year — how to be there for people, I guess? Regardless, this is super important, because it’s so easy to get burned-out.

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