Preface: Let me begin by apologizing. I have not posted a blog for last two Thoughtful Thursdays. Please know that I sincerely wanted to share with you, but I refused to give you a “fluff piece” that didn’t really believe in. According to Chris is where I share the truth of my story, even the ugly truths, in the hopes that it can change your life. My fluff wasn’t going to cut it. I hope that you can forgive my silence for the last two weeks.
I have been trying to type this blog for the last two weeks, and I haven’t been successful. Typing this blog has forced me to be very honest, and I’m having a hard time doing so. I have spent too many minutes staring at this screen trying to convince myself to just write it like I feel it. This is what I’ve got so far…
| Unavailable |
Hi. My name is Christen, and I am too available.
This has been a really hard truth to accept, and I blame my condition on my big heart. If ever you have met me and we have had an opportunity for intimate conversation, I typically end the conversation with, “I’m here if you need me. My phone is literally on 24/7.” That is not a lie. It is just my nature to want to care for people and make sure they are okay. On the surface, this seems like a wonderful quality to have…like I have the heart of God. #Goals The truth is there is so much more to it. As written a few blogs ago, I have a Superhero Syndrome. I am always tempted to rush in to save the day. In a flash, I will throw on my cape in hopes to rescue the damsel from her distress and bring peace to the world. Call me Captain Chrissy! *fanfare plays* The flip side is I typically end up fighting battles that aren’t assigned to me and carrying extra weight that doesn’t belong to me.
A few weeks ago, following a few turned corners of my short attention span, I landed in the inbox of my old Hotmail account. Since I no longer use this as my primary email account, it is mostly filled with spam and junk. After a quick search for one specific email (that I never found), I found myself lost in a sea of conversations from 2015, but one in particular thread stood out to me. I wrote an email approximately four months after assuming my role as a superhero. I had a friend who was in need, and I, without much of a second thought, threw on my cape and came to the rescue. I didn’t even ask God if I should step in. I just jumped in the thick of things because that’s the way my heart is built. What you must understand is that situation wasn’t just a “call me when you need me” thing but more of “I’m always here and you always need me” thing. Around the clock, in one way or another, I was available…physically, emotionally, and spiritually…always. There were very few spaces that we didn’t share so there weren’t many free moments where I could turn off, recharge, or even focus on myself. In the moments that were supposed to be just for me, I found myself feeling guilty that I had left my friend alone, When I first rushed in to save the day, my cape was clean and crisp, and I was full of zeal and compassion. As time ticked on, my cape, my patience, and my will was worn. I was exhausted. I had went beyond helping to carrying as I made her problems my problems, her fight my fight, and her assignments my assignments. In short, I became an enabler. But here’s the thing about making other people’s problems, fights, and assignments your own, their consequence becomes your consequence. I was reaping the harvest of the good seed that I had sown into soil that wasn’t assigned to me. By the time I composed this email to my friend, I was at the end of my rope. Because I insisted on being “there” at all times in all ways, my relationship with my then boyfriend took a hit, I was physically, emotionally, and mentally drained, I started finding reasons to be away from my friend, and lastly, our friendship took a hit. At the point of this email, I was done but far from finished.
This email was a reality check. It only shined the light on the fact that I am still guilty of over caring, over carrying and being too available.
Over the last year or so, I have fallen into the same kind of cycles…the ones where I am the help, I end up carrying a load beyond my capacity, or my time and energy are so accessible that I barely have any left for myself. This became apparent to me when I noticed that recently I would take on the moods of those closest to me. I could be having a good day and if the right person called me with a cloud over his/her head, I felt it was necessary to join them beneath that cloud so that he/she wouldn’t be alone. If my friend was heavy, I was heavy. That’s what a friend is supposed to do right…be there? So like second nature, I would drop every single thing and exhaust every effort to bring joy or rescue to my friends’ lives…even when said friend didn’t want to be rescued. (I’ll come back to that.) What I didn’t notice right away was that even when I was no longer in the presence of or on the phone with these individuals who needed me, I was still carrying these people in my heart.
Let me interject by saying, I DON’T WANT TO BE A SUPERHERO! Really, I don’t. Old habits just seem to die hard.
Recently I asked myself the relevant question, “Who told you to be available to everyone in every way 24 hours a day for 7 days a week?” After stammering for a few seconds, my answer was, “No one.”
Here in Virginia, there is a 7-11 on seemingly every street corner. As a matter of fact, by my house, there are two 7-11 stores, a WaWa, and a Dodge’s all within a two-mile radius. These three stores are all call convenience stores, and the common denominator is that they are open seven days a week and 365 days of the year including holidays AND throughout inclimate weather, hence why they are called convenience stores. As a matter of fact, it has been during a storm that I especially pressed my way to one of those convenience stores because it was close to me, it was still open, and it had what I needed in the emergency that I could have properly prepared for but didn’t.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have become a convenience store. In an effort to be a good friend, the best friend, I have left “me” open at all times of the day under any types of conditions. I am not speaking to the times when I have a balanced exchange with a friend where I support them then they support me. I am speaking to the times when it seems I have become nothing more than the burden bearer. Because people seemingly didn’t brace themselves for whatever storm life brought them or they chose to stay in a storm even when I recommended an evacuation route, they ran to me to get what they needed for survival in a crunch.
I have a few truths, and I think I was afraid to face the these truths. I had fear-induced writer’s block because fully embracing the truth seemed overwhelming. Here are my truths:
- I Desperately Want to be a Good Friend. – I haven’t always had good friends. As a matter of fact, in my adulthood, I have experienced more pain from people who I let in my intimate spaces than anyone else. Despite that, I still seek to be what I haven’t or rarely have had. In addition, because I live a pretty busy lifestyle, I don’t have as much time to be the best of a friend. I’m not the one who can just pop up and hang or chill indefinitely. Everyone in my life is on a schedule. Because of these two factors, I seem to go above and beyond to prove that I am a good friend…that I am enough. But why? Why do I feel that being a good friend is congruent with inconveniencing myself to help others? I honestly don’t have the answer yet.
- I Like Being Needed. – I’m not always wanted. I’m not always the first or second choice, but when someone needs something, they call me first. *shaking my head* The truth in this I obviously struggle with some sort inadequacy, and I overcompensate by being the one to meet all needs.
- I am a Peace Maker to a Fault. – I don’t ever want anyone’s feelings to be hurt. Even when I am not responsible for the pain or there is nothing I can do about the pain, I pull rabbits out of hats and do jigs to try to make them feel better. Unfortunately, I have learned that some people just like to be sad, down, unsettled, and drama-filled, but by time I accept that, I am already exhausted.
So why won’t I just put my life of “Do Not Disturb” like my iPhone?
The hardest truth to accept…
- I am Afraid that Choosing Me Will Cause Me to Lose Them. – I have no clue how people can just cut people off and not think twice; I am not built that way. I cherish relationships and connections, and It takes soooooo much for me to end them, even when they are toxic. Now make note that once we are finally done, we are done, but I don’t just jump to that at the first, second, or fifth offense. So if I decide to choose me, not answer the calls, not be a first-responder, will I lose my friends? Again, another insecurity that I am going to have to face.
Recently, I made a choice for Christen Diane. I was in a situation where I was pouring a lot of me into a possibility. Everyday, I woke up and invested in a “what if” that seemed to never pan out. Too often, I found myself in excruciating emotional pain because I wasn’t reaping the harvest that I was expecting. I was sowing good seeds that should have produced a healthy relationship, happiness, and positive possibilities. Unfortunately, I was reaping empty promises, disappointments, and dead-end streets. I had a good seed but I had planted it into a field that didn’t belong to me. Does that sound familiar? So once I reached the place of exhaustion, I decided to walk away from that field.
Since making that choice, I have found myself in an almost greater emotional battle. I had some rough recovery days where I had to cope with the death of an expectation, then God gave me peace; he made me feel okay with what I had and where I was. At some point I woke up and stopped regretfully counting the number of days that I spent waiting for those possibilities to become realities. But while I had peace, I had to deal with flip side of my decision…the other person. I won’t get into specifics. I’ll just say some days I end up carrying a VERY heavy load…a load that doesn’t belong to me…a load that I don’t want to carry. On some of the days that I feel the most optimistic about finding new normals and trying to LIVE, I feel like I end up collapsing under the pressure to carry the moods and feelings of others. Worse, I feel like I have to pull rabbits out of my hat to make someone else carry feelings that I had already carried and gotten rid of on my own. I knew I had reached the point of exhaustion when I started ignoring phone calls. I rarely to never ignore anyone (except for when I screen my calls). One day I was so emotionally exhausted that I let the phone ring and ring until it went to voicemail, then I immediately felt bad.
In an unrelated situation, I am again the rescuer, and this time I can’t just opt out. I will not share any details.
Y’all, I can’t do this anymore. Being the mediator, the life saver, the burden bearer, the ATM, or the all and all to people is more than I can or want to handle. I’M NOT GOD!
As aforementioned, everyone in my life is on a schedule. Between a full-time job, my job at my church, and classes Monday through Thursday, I fit my entire life in the little of time that actually belongs to me. Guess who is not in that window… ME! And if I choose to go home instead of hanging, I sometimes have to deal with those who didn’t make the cut. It hurts when people act abandoned when I take two seconds to breathe especially with #1 they are not abandoned and #2 they know I an stretched thin.
At the end of the day, I have to consider myself.
Forgive me that there isn’t a scripture reference. It took me two weeks to type this much so…
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
I am not 7-11. My phone number is not 911. Shoot, call 911 on a good day and you may end up on hold! Tuh! I can not be all things to all men all the time.
Things I say to myself often and am trying to believe:
- I am not selfish for thinking of and doing something for myself.
- It’s okay for me to say, “no.”
- I don’t have to answer every call or respond to every text message right away or at all.
- I don’t have to adopt or carry the moods or feelings of those around me.
- Because I am an empath, it is okay for me to separate myself so that I don’t adopt or carry the moods or feelings of those around me.
- It’s okay to have more than one friend and want to hang with him/her.
- I don’t have to rescue everyone EVEN IF I HAVE THE MEANS TO DO IT.
- It does not make me any less of a person, friend, or Christian if I allow people to learn their own lessons without my resources.
- I don’t have to include everyone. Somethings really are just for me.
- It is okay if I take time for myself and do whatever I want to do.
- I am a 30 year-old, grown, independent woman. I don’t have to explain my choices.
- It’s okay to be unavailable.
I know some of you may have been reading this list like, “Duh, girl,” but these are biggies for me. I have such a big heart and a giving spirit so it is hard for me to choose me and live for me. Still I am slowly but surely doing what is necessary to protect my peace that I fought so hard to have. I must choose Christen.
Interjection: this is not to say that every friendship or relationship is of detriment to me. I just want to clear that up.
This may not have been for everyone, and it may not even completely make sense. I pray that I haven’t ruffled any feathers. More importantly, I pray that if you are someone like me who gives all of you away more so because you have such a generous heart that you find peace in keeping some of you for yourself. You have to.
It may hurt you, but sometimes you just have to be unavailable.
I hope this helps.