I will survive

Here it is - a new year. And even though I took it easy and didn't get around to doing many of the things I'd planned to over the Christmas break - I kind of feel tired. Maybe I need a proper holiday. But I've been self diagnosing.....I think I have sympathy fatigue.

As mentioned in previous posts, even though I have my feisty moments, I am at heart a shy person. I was thinking back to all my old high school report cards. My parents could have designed a drinking around them. It seems every teacher used two common words to describe me during my adolescent years - 'quiet' and 'conscientious'. Interestingly in adulthood, I feel very much that these words still resonate with me. Even though at times I've been a conscientious objector! I do like to try to listen as much as I talk (don't know how successfully) and I do honestly care about what's happening in other peoples lives.

I read a great article this week in The Age about people over sharing the details of their lives. Of course being relatively new to this world of blogging I had a think about some of what I have written. Sure some of it has been incredibly personal and I've felt slightly weird when I hit the publish post button. But I do have some things that I have kept to myself. There are some thoughts and experiences that I keep very close and perhaps only share them with one or two dear friends.

However, there are a couple of colleagues/friends who seem to have shared everything with me. I'm fine with that - to a point. The main problem is that there is always a sense of drama about everything in their lives. They are keen to unburden themselves and need support, sympathy or pep talks. Again - that all seems fine. But after you have gone through the ringer with someone for what seems like the umpteenth time about the same thing, you begin to lose patience. Or at least I am. These people don't stop to look at themselves objectively. They have a million excuses for why they are unable to get themselves out of the emotional hole they find themselves in. And I have to ask myself - why come to me to talk about your issues, look for guidance and support, and then keep going down the road that is causing you heartache?

I find it interesting that age seems no guide regarding how grown up people are. I have friends of all ages, and some of the youngest are the most mature. And conversely - some people older than me seem to be suffering arrested development. We all have learned behaviours and I have to put my hand up here. I was with my first boyfriend for almost 10 years. The relationship went for a few years too many - and became destructive to my self confidence along the way. I've joked with friends saying, 'well as long as I learnt something from that relationship, it wasn't a waste of time'. Sure that may sound like justification, but I think there's an element of truth. It taught me a lot about myself, and I am mindful of not falling into old destructive behaviours. I understand how hard it is to fight your natural instinct. But at least I am aware and try to think about these issues.

My big question at the moment is, how can I tell a friend that I'm exhausted by her emotional baggage? It seems that year after year there is another crisis that I have to support her through. I feel as though I have to put my own life on hold to deal with hers. Prior to Christmas her world was falling apart - and teary eyed she would appear day after day needing reassurance or emotional hand holding. Now it's new year, and she is back in a destructive relationship acting like nothing happened. Is she the friend who cried wolf? I want to say that when the next crisis hits - I can't be there to pick up the pieces. I have asked myself 'why am I so upset by this fact'. If she's happy now - shouldn't I be? Maybe I realise now that most of the relationship is one way. Is she aware of the toll that supporting her has taken on many friends, as well as me? Perhaps it highlights the inability some people have to look at the world outside themselves. Perhaps, like the article states - we should keep something of ourselves for ourselves. But more than that - we need to look at how we effect those around us....not just how the world effects us. We shouldn't be the center of our own universe.

I also heard recently that when a parent asked a teacher if there was anything she could do to prepare her child for starting school - the teacher replied 'prepare them for failure'. Yep - kids need to learn that life can be tough and winning isn't everything. Also, I heard on the news that a bit of teasing (but not bullying) can be good for a child's development. It's all about giving kids skills in resilience. Now as the youngest of three kids (with two older brothers!!) and a childhood that was OK but not brilliant, maybe I learnt that disappointment isn't the end of the world. I can pick myself up and keep going. But why do some people miss this lesson?

Maybe it's as simple as having a life filled with drama means that the attention is on you. The problem is that this pattern becomes a way of life, and picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and starting again seems all too hard. I can feel some tough love coming, as my sympathy well has run dry. I know that I will survive........but will our friendship?

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