Today I was driving down the main street of our small town, and it was busy and bustling in the pre-Christmas rush. I was stopped at a pedestrian crossing and felt a CLUNK against my car, to look behind me and see someone had backed into me coming out of their parking space, by not checking in front of them as well as behind. The poor guy was young and flustered and apologetic, I could tell he was probably driving his parents car and possibly fairly new at it and excited to have some freedom.
Oh man am I torn up about him.
I got his number, we called him, we talked to his parents. (And by We I mean my husband, because no way can I go there). They were all very pleasant. They were in the middle of planning somebody's funeral. Oh boy.
I keep remembering what it feels like to crash your parents car. The embarrassment and the regret, the guilt, the frustration - the awful dread of having to tell them about it and knowing you can't hide it.
That poor kid! I'm like, seriously, I want to send him flowers and apologise to him for being there for him to hit. Or something.
A super lovely friend on Facebook said "Good thing he banged into compassion".
And I will say, it's a good thing I'm not hormonal or else I'd be crying like a small child.
I have a bleeding heart. I care. I care so much that many, many times in my life I have wished to be able to not care at all. To not feel. To not hurt. To just feel nothing.
It's hard being a carer. It's hard not being able to just watch the news like a normal person without going to bed at night with the faces of the people on it in your mind as though they were living next door to you.
The month my son was born it was a terrible news season. There had been a horrific earthquake in my birth town, Christchurch, that had killed hundreds and displaced more. The Commonwealth games were all a shambles with stands falling down in India and lots of people stressing out. There had been another horrible accident in a mine which left 29 men trapped and presumed dead. It had been a bad farming season and there were pictures of truckloads of dead lambs. It was bad. It was a few days after my boy was born that I ended up in the room with the news on and some poor bloke was being interviewed (read:ambushed) by one of the current affairs shows about a whole street that hadn't had any sewerage systems for two weeks, or something. The poor old guy was crying, crying, on television - saying "We are working as hard as we can, we can't help everyone, we are trying to get to everything but there's just too much to do". I was sobbing. Sobbing about the poor man. Crying to my husband saying "Tell me he won't commit suicide. Tell me someone loves him. I hope he has a wife and some children who love him to give him a hug." Insert ugly cry here.
Funnily enough, when my daughter was born 2 years later, I banned the news from my home during the first month.
I can't seem to care fifty percent. It either has to be zero or a hundred. For it to be zero, I have to hide you from my Facebook news feed (way better than unfriending, FYI), and not talk to you, and not ask how you are or listen if anyone else talks about you. I just cannot seem to separate myself from other peoples stuff.
I've bought the "Boundaries" book and clearly I need to actually read more than two chapters of it. But also, I am an ENFP with mercy, exhortation and discernment as my spiritual gifts. Lethal combination. Absolute killer for heartache.
So here are my tips for any other bleeding hearts out there, from my time in the trenches. (Of course take my already prescribed tip first - don't watch the news when you're pregnant/just had baby/pre-menstrual).
Let your bleeding heart lead you to prayer
If you're a follower of Christ, then first I absolutely advise you to pray, pray for the person you're thinking about, pray for the situation. Cry and beg and intercede. Even for big world events, news items, strangers - I think we don't fully understand how God uses the prayers of his saints. And I think it is one of the only ways to feel understood and to feel peace when your heart is bleeding - to take that pain to the one who created you and who truly knows how you feel.
Care but don't carry
I'm so not an expert at this. The saying, learnt through one of the very wise leaders of our church movement, is that you can take someone's backpack, unpack it for them and help them rearrange and organise it, but you can't put it on your own back and carry it yourself. They have to carry it. Don't carry a burden that isn't yours. Care about them, love them, listen. But find a way to switch off at the end of your time with them, to a certain extent. It's not your burden to carry. Carrying someone else's stuff as well as your own is too much. It's not cold, or uncaring, to give yourself a break.
Give yourself rest time alone
When I'm feeling overwhelmed by the problems of the world and the heavy stuff going on around me, I need to be alone. I love time with people. I love talking, I love connecting, I love heavy emotional friendship full of deep and meaningful discussions. But I have to then give myself time alone, or just with my husband and kids, to recharge and rest. When I've been at my most anxious and overwrought this space has lasted weeks. Take it. Don't deny it and keep trying to be everything to everyone. You'll crash and burn. You won't really be offering them the best of you. You'll be giving them the leftovers, you'll be scraping the bottom of the barrel. I know this because I've been there - believe me, please listen. Rest. Stop. Get used to quiet. Make friends with yourself.
Make sure you have friends who care the same way about you that you care about them.
What keeps me sane is the friendships I have with women who carry and worry about me the way I carry and worry about them. When it's reciprocated, it's healthier. (This is my theory anyway and I'm sticking with it). And when it's reciprocated, you both feel less pressure, and you both know it's okay to not be in each others pockets all the time. Friends that let you knock on their door and then download a huge emotional issue without a moments warning are the best thing in the world. And then those same friends are the ones with whom I have the most fun and feel the most comfortable with. I'm blessed to have these women in my life. They mean the world to me. There aren't many of them - this is about quality, not quantity. Find the friendships that make you feel lighter when you leave them, not heavier. And try to be that friend to people you want to be closer to.
So now I'm going to go switch off, get some sleep, and try to forget about the poor lad and his parents car. He'll be okay. I'll be his "first car crash" story. It could be worse.
And if anyone out there is in the "I-wish-I-could-not-care-anymore" space, just let me say that I hear you, I feel you, and You can get through this. You're not alone. You are loved by God, he created you, formed you, and has a purpose for your pain. One day we'll work out what it is. Love and peace to you on this November night.