Save Yourself, I’ll Hold Them Back…

Okay, folks, I promise once hiking and camping season rolls around, these little updates will be a little more light hearted. Fair warning, this is not one of those. You’ve been warned.

I took recently took a personality test one of my former students was giving for her psychology studies in college. No big surprise, but it came back as me having a “care taker” personality. (With narcissistic tendencies, no surprise either-more about that later) Yes, I’ve always been one that worries. It’s the legacy of both my grandmothers who were gold medal worriers. Yes, I’m that guy; things bother me. It hits my heart when I see someone broken down on the side of the road; yes, when a student brings a kitten they’ve found in her backyard, they usually join my pride of mini-lions. Even things that have little impact on my life be it political or just things happening in the world bother me.

This has been a hell of a week. Perhaps it’s even harder coming up on the one year anniversary than it was the actual week Kelley passed away. At least then, death gives you the gift of having to scramble to make arrangements and all the associated tasks that you don’t have time to let the weight hit you. A year out, there’s no such thing. It’s been rough. That’s when I started thinking of the personality test. Very much so, Kelley’s illness played into the worst part of my personality. It forced me to be all-star care giver. For a year, most everything that needed to be done, had to be done by me, and I fell into that comfortable rhythm. However, death dropped a grenade into that rhythm and immediately, the foundation of what I come to find comfort in was blown up. I felt lost; hell, there are many times I still feel lost. I screw on a good face when I go out to work or face the world, but to be honest, there are many times when I come home and just want to sit quiet and “get out of character.” Those days have become fewer, but I still can’t say they are exactly “few.”

That brings me to the personality test and what it’s stirred up in me. How many us of are “care-takers?” But, how many of are actual care takers for the altruistic reasons versus how many of us are care takers because it feeds our own sense of self. That’s kind of a hard reflection to look at, like the reflection in the mirror of a flourescently lit gas station bathroom compared to your reflection in the soft light of your home bath.

I may have actually made a tattoo mistake. Recently, Emily inked an album logo with the quote “We’ll carry on” on my leg (and yes, Em, I LOVE it, but it’s a good analogy for this little essay.) Perhaps I should have gotten another MCR lyric, “Save yourself, I’ll hold them back.”

In nearly every action/super hero/disaster movie, there comes a time when a character tells the rest of the cast, “Save yourself, I’ll hold them back!” We all love the sacrifice made by that character, but it begs the question, how many of us sacrifice ourselves for others for the right reasons? I kind of fear that I may have been a care giver not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because feeds my personality and especially that little narcissistic bit in the corner. I’ve been working hard this year on shifting my thoughts from so much care for everyone else and not forget about self care.

That might be the thing for all of us care-takers regardless of our motivations. We have to be careful not to hollow ourselves out to the point that we don’t do an occasional “selfish” thing for self-care. In the end, the sacrifice of “Save yourself, I’ll hold them back,” is the way all of humanity should be, but I think we just have to be sure we are doing from the correct part of our hearts.

Grief Journey

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