Are you the type of driver who gets impatient when the person in front of you can’t get out of their own way? Do you throw on your blinker and change lanes immediately, only to speed up, stare down the person driving and sometimes give them a piece of your mind? Yup, same. But what I have noticed as of late is I often mimic that lane-changing behavior in my relationships as well. Let me explain…
I don’t get involved in other people’s business – in fact, I find great peace in the unknowing. However, if you are a loyal member of my personal and professional tribe, the lines become a bit blurred. Not that I probe into your personal/professional matters, but if you decide to share your struggles with me, I tend to swerve into your lane to help you figure shit out. You might be saying: “what’s wrong with that…that just means you care?!”. Well, what if I told you the person’s lane I swerved into, never gave me the go-ahead to merge in the first place. They just wanted me to ride alongside them while they figure it all out themselves. I typically ignore all the signs, and just drive myself in on anyway, taking on the role of the fixer.
Fixer: Someone who engages in relationships, with an uncontrollable need to help, give, rescue, and recreate that person into the image that they desire.
It was a little less than a year ago when I became acutely aware of this obnoxious, over-functioning, toxic trait of mine. It all came to a head when I invested in a self-care regime where I devoted at least an hour out of every weekend to quiet time. I am not talking about meditation (although that’s important as well). I just settle into quietude and leave space for what comes up. Some people fear silence and therefore avoid it at all costs (before i became a mom, I was one of them). That’s mainly because when we cancel out the noise, the truths emerge. And within those truths is our work. By work, I mean our unresolved shit that we bury deep in the busyness.
I began implementing my dates with quietude after a trip I took to Los Angeles, last May. While I was there, I had a day to myself, where I could have done anything I wanted, and I chose to spend most of it with the sun, surf and aside from the sound of the seagulls, silence. It was on that day, doing absolutely nothing, where this ‘stay in your lane, girl’ philosophy materialized. As I walked along the seashore, my feet raking the sand, I was struck with the following thought:
There is a difference between loving and supporting someone and trying to fix their problems and make them happy.
One, I can definitely do. The other, I simply cannot.
This all came to me based on what I experienced the night before. I was spending some couch time with a friend I was staying with in LA. This friend was truly in the deep, struggling with all things. She was tearfully telling me about it, and I listened intently (or so I thought). In my head, I was making a list of all the ways I could help rescue her from these challenges and solve all her problems. When she went to take a sip of her tea, I swerved into her lane like some sage wizard, wielding my wand, promising her that I would make all her troubles go away. And as I launched into problem-solving mode, I see her eyes well up, and her head drop into her hands.
Me: “Are you ok?”
Friend: “Just stop. Please, stop. Did you even listen to what I was saying?”
I sat there perplexed, thinking I didn’t even get through my check list yet.
Friend: “Never once in telling you about what I am struggling with did I a) ask for your advice and b) ask you to solve things for me. I just wanted you to listen. Just sit there, sip your Chardonnay, and listen”.
You think that would have shut me the hell up? Nah. I had to express to her how I am trying to help and If she just let me go through this check-list of mine, she would see there’s light at the end of the tunnel. She should have smacked that Chardonnay right out my damn hand. Instead, she walked out of her own house and went for a very long walk. When she came back, I was in bed, as visions of humble pie danced through my head.
It wasn’t until the next day, when I immersed myself in some SoCal sun-filled silence, that I played back a dozen or so situations that mirrored the one I had with my friend the night before. Instances where I immediately took out my tool-box and got to work, even though the friend, family member, lover, coworker, etc. didn’t ask me to. How fucking smug of me to assume I had all the answers to someone else’s problems and a check-list for them to follow along?! Stay in your lane, asshole (and by asshole, I mean me).
But on the bright side, once I became blatantly aware of this shit, I had the opportunity to fix it. So, I got to work. A little less than a year later, I am happy to report that there is hope for this fixer. I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t still feel compelled to fix some things. I can’t tell you how many times a day I repeat to myself: “stay in your lane, girl”, because let’s face it, there’s so much shit to fix in this world and lanes to merge in to on any given day. However, my relationship with my fix-it tendencies has changed. I still see problems that I think I can fix. I just don’t always feel compelled to act on those observations.
Here’s what else this recovering fixer has learned on her road to recovery:
- Believe in people. Everyone has their own way of getting to where they are going. I am learning to trust that they will be guided to make the choices that best serve them.
- When you try to solve other people’s problems, you deprive them of an opportunity to experience the hard stuff and the lessons and growth that come from it.
- It’s not my responsibility to change, heal, help, or resurrect anyone from their own issues and feelings. No one will change until they want to. When they’re ready for that change to come into their life, I’ll be there.
- Love people where they are at (unless they’re assholes, then leave them there.)
- Set some boundaries in place and keep them there, regardless of the guilt I experience from abandoning my job as a fixer
- I found when I strayed from my lane to help others figure out their shit, it allowed me to escape from mine.
I am quite proud of how far I’ve come and when I can, I celebrate the tiniest glimmers of progress: the instances when I truly take care of myself first, the days I hold space for silence and welcome all that comes up, the times when I am my own anchor, and those moments when I drive a distance, without the desire to merge.
Janis Gaudelli is The Founder of The Daily Feels. She started this passion project to reveal the magic behind storytelling, and how truth-based narratives bring people together in the most heart-warming of ways. Fascinated by soul, depth, intellect, raw truths and rebellion with a cause. Often captivated by the awe of nature: star gazing, moon manifesting, sunset chasing, waves crashing, crickets singing. Fiercely curious about the inner-workings of the human psyche… she professionally studies human behavior for a living. Forever proud and grateful for being a mom to the force that fuels her life: her 7-year-old son, and greatest professor, Kellan.