We Are Not Here to Fix Each Other.

Via on Mar 6, 2013

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“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” ~ E.B. White

Most mornings as I wake up, a large part of my heart longs to save the world, to heal hurts, to fix people where they are broken.

Maybe I’m too sensitive. I think I was absent the day they taught how to do that whole “close your heart off” thing because I don’t seem to be able to do it.

When I was a child, I hated being in crowded places; being near so many people dealing with difficult emotions overwhelmed me. I was much happier curled up with a book or at my ballet classes.

As I got older, I found ways to deal with it, to deal with all of the emotions bouncing around from people, to deal with all of the anger, the sadness, the pain in the world. I drank. Experimented with drugs. And even used simpler things to push it away, to distance myself, to not feel all of the world’s pain. I needed to stop seeing it because the fact that I couldn’t fix it hurt so much.

As I grew up, I sought out careers instinctively that afforded me the opportunity to help others. I taught. Volunteered in an AIDS hospice. Worked with Habitat for Humanity, Oxfam, Foodshare. Used my spare time from my jobs that paid the bills to do work that made a difference. Yet, it never seemed like enough; that drive to fix things was still there like a permanent ache in my chest.

When my vocation shifted toward health and healing and I entered massage school, I realized something striking and nearly quit. As I would touch people, I’d feel where they were hurting and it took my breath away. I could feel their brokenness stuck in their elbows that wanted to hug tightly to their sides. I could feel the shame in the small of their backs. I could feel the profound sadness stuck in their shoulders, tears that needed to melt away and be shed. I didn’t think I could take it. How could I work on people day in and day out and feel their pain, yet live with the fact that I could never completely fix it?

It’s taken me years to realize this one true thing:

We are not here to fix each other.

Recently, I was giving a friend an impromptu acupressure session. I would get to a spot on each of his arms, and the deep sadness I felt there made me get choked up and want to pull away. At the same time, it made me want to solve it, fix it, tell him why life was beautiful. Tell him not to be so sad. We talked about it, and he acknowledged what I noticed. I fumbled for something to say or do that would make it go away. Seeing someone I care about experience pain ripped me up inside, and I wanted to make it better.

But I couldn’t. I can’t. And more importantly, I shouldn’t. It isn’t for me to do.

We look at the drive to save the world as something noble or heroic, and maybe it is to a certain extent. We look at the idea of Tikkun Olam, or healing the world, and set out on a quest to save the world, but I think we often get it wrong.

I’ve been getting it wrong for years.

If I look at you and see your sadness, I can’t cover it or make it go away. I cannot fix you. There is no magical Utopia where everyone is happy and whole. But that isn’t the end of the story. This is the place where cynics give up hope and decide that all is futile.

But I’m not a cynic. I believe we are hard-wired to care for each other. It’s why we are here:


If there was a place to get to where everyone was happy and whole, we’d stop making art. There would be no music. There would be nothing left to write about. It would be a flat, expressionless existence instead of the one precious life we have.

The struggle is where we find the beauty.

People aren’t problems to solve. It’s not my job to fix anyone, but to love them. The heart can stretch to hold all things—even the difficult things. When it breaks, the point is not to reach out to each other and patch it closed again, but instead to fill each other. We don’t need to pretend each other’s darkness doesn’t exist or push it away.

And so I’m done. I surrender. I’ll say to the world:

I am not a hero; I cannot fix you. I am not strong; I cannot save you. I am weak; I cannot melt the frozen, broken places in you. I am insufficient; I cannot heal your pain. But I have hope, because I can do much more than that.

I can love you.

 

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 Before We Fall in Love. ~ Kristin Monk

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About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is the strongest girl in the world. She is the love child of a pirate and a roller derby queen. She hails from the second star to the right. Her love of words is boundless, but she knows that many of life’s best moments are completely untranslatable. When she is not writing, you may find her practicing yoga, devouring a book, playing with her children, planting dandelions, or dancing barefoot with her heart on her sleeve. She is madly in love with life and does not know how this story ends; she’s making it up as she goes. Kate is the owner and editor-in-chief of Be You Media Group. She also writes for The Huffington Post, elephant journal, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, Yoganonymous, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. She facilitates writing workshops and retreats throughout North America. Heart Medicine, Kate's book on writing, is now available on Amazon.com You can follow Kate on Facebook and Twitter

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74 Responses to “We Are Not Here to Fix Each Other.”

  1. @bioponic says:

    You are amazing in far too many ways to count. Thank you for this.

  2. dawn says:

    I really needed to read this today. thank you

  3. Nina says:

    That just blew me away. I m dealing with the need to “fix” people as well. Reading this changed something deep inside me. Thank you very, very much!

  4. Kyla says:

    This may be my favorite thing to ever read on elephant journal. Thank you.

  5. MAD Hippies says:

    Love, what a beautiful way to explain Tikkun Olam!!

    • Fractalskies says:

      I no longer resist my urge to heal others and feel their sadness. If I’m compelled to do so and it is my life purpose then who am I to resist my instincts? I have found immense spiritual fulfillment in helping others, but not solving their problems for them, oh no. My method of assistance is that of love and you are right in the sense that it comes from within, but it is a gift meant to be shared. It is the essence of massage therapy, of which I hope to practice many years of as well, seamlessly breaking the comfort barrier with strangers through my loving touch and proportional closeness to every person I shall ever lay hands on

  6. bpat6 says:

    Oh, YES!! Thank you so much for writing this. xo

  7. I am speechless Kate. I think reading your article has simply shown me a mirror to my inner self because I had always wondered in my life (even before embarking on yoga, meditation or spiritual quest) that why I have to be so sensitive and why I love so many people and it wasn't easy either because in order to love, one has to let go of ego and so many other issues. Loving is not easy but if you can learn or acquire (some people are born with it) the ability to simply love follow human beings, nothing like it, its meditatively phenomenal. One Love for all.

  8. Johanna Moon says:

    wow you just told my story. thank you. I just recently realized this myself. Thank you sister

  9. @eatselfwell says:

    Oh, wow I really really really love this – thank you!

  10. nicole says:

    crying…thank you! perfect.

  11. The One says:

    No were not, and, not here to take shit from anyone either, if someone initiates violence, they need to be stopped, and who ever is on the receiving should be the first to try to stop it #nuances

  12. ToyA. says:

    Kate’s views are profound. They do make sense. How can anyone realistically fix the brokenness of another? Then again, how can we not? It’s easier to swallow that truth (not being here to heal) because it offers relief to all of the chaos we know that we cannot mend…but everyday, in small little ways, I feel that we do posses that power. To either harm…or heal. To reach out, or deny. The tough part is choosing which direction to lead and deciding how we can make that beautiful difference without overwhelming our natural abilities.

  13. Joyce says:

    Your words touched my heart. I too feel the pain and sadness of others. I see it in their eyes, even though, at times, their words say differently. I believe we who can immerse ourselves in another’s pain have been given a gift. People in pain are drawn to us, because we show our arms as wide open. However, you are so right in that we must realize we can be present, we can give the gift of our time, attention, compassion and love. But to attempt to fix those who share their pain with us can cause us pain when we fail to do so. We must let go of this expectation to sstay positive and hopeful in our own lives. Exude love and hope each time, then let them go to fly on their own knowing that we’d given them as much of our hearts as we could, while keeping a necessary part for ourselves.

  14. Simona Celarova says:

    Being present, being there, being witnessed – that's alot. awarness heals. Feeling it heals. Listening to it heals. Acknowledgement, acceptance, embracement = way to go.

  15. Gregmiller says:

    Thank you for this. Wonderfully written. Saw the date it was posted, and extra points for it falling on my 30th birthday. Only wish I’d read it then; but definitely glad I read it now.

  16. Silver Willow says:

    Thank you very much! For the most part, this sounded like a bio of my life… You are an amazing soul!

  17. alitta berson says:

    Beautiful post. So poignant. Really echoes my sentiments deeply. I was just thinking about this earlier today. Thanks so much.

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