The Art of Not Fixing

I have attempted to fix people.

Try this doctor! Have you considered acupuncture and hot tea before bed? Walk more, duct tape could solve that, I say. I want to be helpful. And a part of me wants to look smart, like I know what to do.

I have attempted to fix myself, too.

Caitie, what you need is a better morning routine. Try chewing five times before swallowing. Read more poetry.

Fixing, though often well-intentioned, puts distance between us and the person we’re trying to fix - a person who may, at times, be ourselves. Because with fixing, we’re zooming in on the pain point, not the person.

Before leaping to solve, solve, solve, I’m training myself to ask, How do you feel about it?

It’s a wide open inquiry. It doesn’t zoom in on a pain point, but zooms out on the whole person in pain. It’s a question that acknowledges there’s a suffering, but asks how the person is in relationship to that suffering. It puts the power in that person’s hands, rather than wrenching it away by assuming how she feels and dumping a bunch of fixes in her palms.

When people ask for our suggestions, by all means, throw open the medicine cabinet. But oftentimes, people want to be heard enough to hear themselves and what their needs are.

And sometimes we are those people. Asking ourselves in a moment of upheaval, How do I feel about this? is a caring way to connect with ourselves, even if we don’t know the answer.

If fixing unintentionally puts distance between us and someone in pain, this question brings us in closer. We draw nearer to them and how they are with life in that moment. Which is such a tender thing to offer another. And ourselves.

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