I feel like I'm going through a transitional period in my life. Friends I thought I'd have forever are fading into the mist, I'm entering a new phase of my marriage as we look toward becoming homeowners, my parents are, unfortunately, entering a new phase as well due to layoffs, a slowed economy and the mortgage crisis. Times they are a-changing, and I often feel quite lost.
It's during these transitional phases that I start questioning why I'm here. It's a question, perhaps a conundrum, that is more difficult, I think, for the childfree person. Parents have an easy default answer: I'm here to raise my kids and be a good parent, they'll often say. But when you don't have something that the world at large finds so valuable, so central to their own lives, how do you find a place in the world and say what your purpose is?
In the past few years, my husband and I have boarded displaced friends and family members. But is that our life calling? I don't think so, especially when the overwhelming evidence shows that we haven't made a difference in their lives once they emerge from under our roof. C returned to her abusive home after beginning to become a grown-up (at 28) and immediately regressed to her destructive childish behavior. E responds to attempts to help with a blanket "you don't understand me" and continues to refuse to take accountability for her actions. J, our current boarder and my husband's cousin, is doing better, but after being removed from the drama and destruction of her family home, I'm seeing her begin to seek it out elsewhere, as if her life is incomplete without the constant dysfunction.
I used to wonder, and still often do, whether we might have it in us to be foster parents one day. My experience helping these troubled friends is talking me out of it.
"Sometimes somethin's so broke can't BE fixed."
I used to feel like we made a difference in the lives of these people we take into our homes, the friends I take into my heart, but they fall back into their same destructive patterns until I'm so exhausted I don't know how to help, that I need to admit defeat because I was never the one who could save them in the first place. We've shown people who've never seen a healthy relationship what one looks like, we've shown them love, and it's never enough because sometimes somethin's so broke can't be fixed.
Deep down I know that the problems are due to mental illness, to broken minds paired unfortunately with good hearts, but often I wonder if I could have done more. If I didn't out of laziness or fear, if there was a magic way to reach them and encourage them to get the help they need and I just missed it.
I expect too much. I want it to be easy, but it's not. I cannot save them all, and I cannot save who doesn't want to be saved. I find it so difficult to distance myself from the damaged person I care about, and just when I think I'm being a good friend, helping someone make major changes, they go back to the abusive home, the self-destructive promiscuity, the relationship-wrecking stubbornness, the debilitating depression, and I feel like I've failed, especially since I'm resented by the very person I tried to help out of pure love.
It's not in me, I couldn't deal with that. It's hard enough dealing with it from friends and family, but to experience it from a child placed in my care... I cringe thinking about it because deep down I don't want to care for a child, I want to fix somebody. I want to say "see, I turned this person into a better person," but I want it to be easy and that's just not realistic.
I think a lot of people enter parenthood with these idealistic goals. They want to raise a good person and they want it to be easy. What does my outlook say about me? Does it say that I'm enlightened, knowing myself enough that I wouldn't be able to handle such pressure, or does it say I'm a defeatist, giving up before I try when there's a possibility to do such good? I don't know.
I just know that there's nothing in this world that I hate quite as much as when I feel this way, when this powerlessness overwhelms me, and I sure as hell don't want to subject myself or my husband to a life sentence of this uncertainty. This, this right here and now, this will pass soon and I will feel better because the root of it will be gone soon, faded away with the friendship as sad as that is. Friendships come and go. A child never really leaves. There are no do-overs, and there's no saying "oh well, I tried my best and this failed. Better luck next time."
I know that I am going to be in the somewhat unique position of challenging myself to find the quick answer to the question "why am I here". And, to be honest, I'm glad for that. I'm glad because instead of just defaulting to an "easy" answer, my life's quest will require more thought, consideration, and an adventure totally unique to my husband and me.
As the seasons end for some of my friendships, many of which I thought were "lifetime" ones, I'm reevaluating everything. It's painful, but I know it's giving me strength. I can only hope it does the same, on whatever level, for those that I've loved.