12052357_10207683877201038_7017456886609531427_o

My worst quality is thinking I should fix people who haven’t asked for repair.

When my children were children, my fixing fixation was in full gear. They had issues, to be sure, but fewer than I detected.

The trap of making one’s children into symptoms in search of a disease is a tricky one. On the one hand, a good mother doesn’t want to miss anything that needs tending to. On the other, being on the receiving end of someone’s fixing, no matter how well-intentioned, can be crippling. It takes only minutes to turn the fixing inside out: I need fixing, therefore, I am a mess.

I’ve tried fixing a few friends. So often solutions to a friend’s problems seem so obvious and available like beautiful plump cherries landing on the table, their green leaves still attached. Here, I’d say, just take this wonderful cherry. It’s just laying here for you.

And when I’ve done this, my friends, like my children, would nod, admire the cherries but then leave them all on the table. It would irk me. My interpretation of the cherry-leaving was that people wanted to hold on to their problems, that they were more at home being troubled than being happy or successful or whatever I’d decided the end goal should be.

It’s very wearing to be someone’s project. To be told to get more sleep, spend more time outside, take a class, see a therapist, stop drinking, philandering, gambling, change jobs, confront the co-worker, or reconcile with your parents.

It took a long time, some would say forever, before I realized a simple thing: other people’s problems aren’t mine to solve, or more accurately, mine to try to solve.

I realized this about the same time that it occurred to me that if anyone dared give me advice about my life, I’d shut them down in a nanosecond, cut them off, roll up my window and hit the road. Why had it never occurred to me that other people felt the same way? They weren’t waiting for me to solve their problems. They were just indulging me. My kids and my friends somehow found the same winning strategy: just let her talk about the cherries and move on.

It is a new experience, this keeping my mouth shut. But enriching like so many things that come from living a long time. Because I’m not busy deciding what should happen next, I can just watch things unfold in beautiful and amazing ways that I would never have predicted.

It’s different but I like it better.

Written in response to the WordPress Daily Post prompt: What is your worst quality?