I’ve spent a majority of this evening eating my feelings. I’m not telling you this because I’m proud of it. Only because I promised myself to be honest in this blog and that’s the truth. I’ve had a rough night.
I think I’ve known it to be true for awhile but I’ve been confronted with it again. There’s this idea that you can’t save everyone. But the truth is, you can’t save anyone. I know it sounds terribly depressing and like maybe I’m giving up. I assure you, I’m nowhere near giving up. I’m far too optimistic for that (not to mention very naive and idealistic. But that’s not always a bad thing!) I have always thought that if you tried really hard, gave it your all, sweat, blood, tears and all that, that you could rescue people. That you could coax them back from the edge. Like they do in the movies, with everyone looking on. And cheering.
Life experiences have taught me differently. That you can only save one person. And that’s yourself. That’s good news, if you think about it. And let me tell you why. If we believe we can save people, can rescue them from their pain or suffering or from bad choices, then it also means that there are some we can’t save. What a terrible burden to carry. To think that it’s up to us if someone pulls through, gets better, chooses wisely, lets go of pain. That somehow, with one wrong move, we can be someone’s savior or their doom. This is not to say that we don’t matter or don’t carry weight. We carry a HUGE amount of weight. We see proof of that in all the horror stories of people ending their lives because of bullying. And we also see stories of great triumph when people support and love each other. We need each other! We affect each other. A great deal!
But we can’t save each other. I believe we, each of us, are the only one to hold the strength, knowledge and ability to pull ourselves out. Think about a time when you were depressed, or hopeless, or bitter, or crippled by envy of another’s life. How did you come out of it? Maybe there was a kind word or deed. There were probably people or circumstances that gave you hope or encouragement. Maybe something you heard or read helped you see your situation in a new light. Maybe you were surrounded by people who loved you, who just showed up even though they didn’t know exactly what to do or say.
But who actually made the choice to do something about it? To turn the situation around. Who decided it was time to get out of bed, or look for a new job, or end a relationship, or accept life as it is? YOU! You did! Because, ultimately, no one can force you to feel better or change your perspective. Only you can make that choice. You may have had a nudge (or many, many nudges from others) but you were the one to choose in the end to save yourself. You decided to move past grief or to start embracing a part of yourself or your life. You decided to admit you had a problem that you needed help with. YOU.
And this is where the above mentioned statement about not being able to save anyone becomes not so heavy. We get to do the amazing work of loving and supporting those in our lives. We get to call and make meals and give rides and send cards just because. We get to show up on a daily basis. But we don’t have the overwhelming task of forcing anyone’s hand. Each of us has to declare within ourselves “I am worth saving”. And then start making the steps towards wholeness.
And so, I am choosing to be ok with the fact that I am no ones savior but my own. That despite my best efforts I can only be there for someone who has already decided to save themselves. I’m hanging up the superhero cape. I only need to be my own hero.