Standing On The Sidelines


It is one of the hardest things in life we face. Our powerlessness to help someone we love.~J.V. Manning


I remember sitting there in the brightly lit emergency room blind to the hustle all around me. The stringent smell of antiseptic in my nose and the nervous feeling in my belly. I had grown accustomed to the wait and the fear as I had been in this ER so many times at that point with my husband that it was starting to feel like home. Each time with the same goal in mind- getting my husband to breathe normally. I sat and watched him struggle for the very air so many of us took for granted. Knowing that there was absolutely nothing I could do for him to make it better. Except love him and keep my shit together. 

It was during one of the many visits to the ER that I had a huge life epiphany that would carry across to many situations I would face in my life. As I sat there with him holding his hand I realized my breathing had changed. I was taking deep lung fulls of air and calmly releasing them. Over and Over. 

 I had been trying to breathe for him.

I did not even realize I was doing it. So great my need to help him- I wanted to breathe for him. It was crushing at the time to come to the conclusion that regardless of how hard I tried, how strong I willed it and how much power I could put behind it I would never be able to breathe for him. The powerlessness and guilt was overwhelming.  

It was a life lesson that I will never forget. 

It is one of the hardest things in life we face. Our powerlessness to help someone we love. To grab the reins and step in to make it all better. Sometimes we can't breathe for them. Sometimes they have got to be the one to breathe on their own. Regardless of how much love we have for them. How much strength we have to give them. How much insight and ideas we have to help them make a better life, better choices or get to a better place. Sometimes we can't. Sometimes we have to step back. Sometimes a loved one is facing or dealing with something that regardless of how hard we try, how hard we pray; only they can fix.  While we remain on the sidelines cheering them on, offering support or a safety net. Just so they know they are not alone. 

I had a friend once that was in an abusive relationship. I knew it. She knew that I knew it. I tried thousands of times to get her to leave him. I loved her, I got angry for her and I offered a place to stay. She never left him. All I could do was stand by and watch her struggle. I was powerless to do anything but be her friend. I couldn't help her until she realized she was ready. I couldn't breathe for her.

Sometimes life gives you situations that you will never be able to control. That you will always remain a bystander in and it is one of the hardest roles to become accustomed to. A son or daughter fighting addiction. A relative with a mental illness or a friend in an abusive relationship. Sometimes we will be faced with something that we can't fix. The push to try harder and to never give up motivating us to the point of exhaustion.  To give as much love and guidance as we can. The guilt eats away at our soul and we are left standing there no further ahead. While we watch our loved one struggle, fight or just give up. We can no more walk their path for them, make better decisions for them or get them to want our help, then I could breathing for my husband in the ER. 

Sometimes we can't save the very people we love.  And it is important to know that it is not your fault. That while you did everything in your power to help them. Loved them beyond measure and would have walked across fire for them. You couldn't walk their path. You couldn't live their life for them and while hard to swallow and devastating- you couldn't change the outcome. The stark and honest truth here is- only they could. It was never your place to make the changes they so desperately needed. Nor could you have done any more than you did. They walked the path of their life. You walked along side them. You supported and loved them. You gave them everything they needed. 

Sometimes there are happy endings. But sometimes there are not. Sometimes life had different outcomes in mind that we never saw coming. The guilt eats away and the could have beens. The "If only I had tried harder" or "Loved them more"Stop. You know inside of your very soul that you gave all you had and then some. If they are still making bad life decisions all you can do know is love them. Be there to catch them should they fall.

Always know that it is their path to walk and while you can walk beside them, you can never walk for them. For as it is our destiny to walk our own life path, it is also their destiny to walk their own path as well. 


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