I wanted to fix him, to save him, to make it all better. And so, I focused on that. I built my life around repairing him. It would be a long-term project like rebuilding an antique car or revamping an old brownstone. I suppose the processes are not very different. One creates a master plan listing ends and means. Next comes the selection of tools and materials that would be used for the “fixing.” Then, she digs in. I chose tools of love and caring, of sacrifice and support, of loyalty. After all, what can love and care not mend? The materials: good home cooked meals, gifts of books and vinyl, a mortgage, prayers. I thought all of these things, these things that he never had but always wanted, would make “it” better. I imagined that my tireless work would settle and satisfy him; and maybe, possibly, it did for a moment. Years forward, tears shed, project still incomplete, I sit trying to make sense of it all.
I am a firm believer that the answers are always within us. And in an effort to combat victimhood I am always interested in learning how I have been part of my problem, trial and tribulation. My life coach told me that I’m a fixer. It was as if she gave me the gospel that would save my life—the good news that would transform me. “But you can’t fix people, Jo,” she said. She’s right. With all the hope and might I poured into this man and this life I lived with him, I realized that I could never change him—even if I believed it was for the better.
Speaking of which, who are we to determine what is better for someone? “Jo,” I said to self, “girl you ain’t God and you ain’t him so you can’t save him.” In my attempt to “fix” him, I was essentially determining and verbalizing that I found him flawed; that he was not good enough as he stood. There is a great deal of judgment in “fixing,” judgment that we are too wrapped up in our projects to see. To this day, this person is satisfied with who he is, and the moment I realized that I wasn’t, I should have moved forward. There is no shame in admitting to yourself and others that something or someone is not what you want. Instead, we (selfishly) make up in our minds that we can shape and mold people into who we want them to become.
Some of us redress our lovers. We tell them, “Boo you can’t wear sneakers every day,” browsing the Kenneth Cole site before we even take the time to learn what he likes. Some of us invest their dreams. We allow them a space to speak of their heart’s desires and immediately jump in and spearhead projects to help them achieve their goals—never stopping to investigate if they had their own plans and methods in place, or we simply decide that our way of achieving their goal is best—how arrogant … and wack. The bravest try to stop the bleeding, to heal the wounds. We believe our love will make up for mommy not being the mother they wanted, or daddy, well daddy not being there at all. We know they don’t want to hurt us as they do—hurt people, hurt people after all. Sometimes, we accept mental, physical, and/or emotional abuse because, again, we are determined to fix what is broken, even if it means we become broken in the process. I have been all of those people. I’m a fixer who became broken while attempting to mend. It has to stop.
We are incapable of changing anyone but ourselves. Full stop. This is what I tell myself when my old habits resurface. Aisha Simmons, filmmaker, lecturer, writer, introduced me to an extremely powerful descriptor and thought the other day. She asserted, “Compassionate detachment is LIBERATION.” Amen, Ase, more gospel. I had never heard that term before, “compassionate detachment.” But it spoke to me, so I wrote back to her, “Compassionate detachment is a wonderful way of describing how I need to move in a relationship I have. Thank you.” Word up. Because I realized after speaking with my life coach and after reading what Sister Aisha wrote that much of my desire to fix comes from a place of compassion. It is always attached to a desire for kindness and good intentions—despite what we know about the paved road to hell. I won’t invest the effort into repairing what or who isn’t important to me. We can find ways to dispense compassion and loving-kindness while keeping distance. We can offer help without “fixing.” We can fulfill our obligations to humanity while remaining whole and sane. Actually, we can offer more, to more, if we practice this idea. Sometimes, all the time, we have to do what we can and swiftly keep it moving. Maybe in the interim of taking on all these futile projects, I can concentrate on the most paramount one, me. Maybe.