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?
I came to two conclusions.
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.
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.