My name is Heather and I’m a fixer.
Pretty much any broken thing will do but I particularly like to fix people. I can get caught up for years in fixing someone before realising, fuck, I’m at it again; I’m down the rabbit hole of fixing someone because it’s part of my cycle of learned behaviour and my controlling streak which, goddammit you slacking bastards, wants RESULTS. NOW. SO DO AS I SAY, RIGHT?
Further, while I’m confessing anyway… (ten dysfunction bonus points inbound here) I’ve realised my ‘helping’ people has paralysed them inadvertently, because until we each identify our own bullshit and start joyfully dissecting it, every interaction we have is just enabling the pattern we like to knit with the yarn of our daily reality. So, I’ve realised, when my helping gets too helpful it’s basically complicit in the very shit-show it was trying to undo.
I was reading some of my teen and early adulthood diaries yesterday. My multiple commitments to fixing people jumped out at me and made me cringe for the paradox of the god complex mixed with the insecure neediness. Then, the cringe deepened as I realised I WAS STILL AT IT. That very morning I’d emailed a friend with a huge solution to a huge problem. I guess the good thing is that now I truly know and can start to marry up the theory properly with the lived experience. I bloody knew that box of diaries was calling me for a good reason…. There’s nothing like a good cringe in a cramped cupboard to drive a point home, after all.
I have to get better at meeting people’s problems with an ear and a question rather than a solution. Listening, followed by, ‘what do you want to do about that?’ would be, I reckon, so much healthier than listening followed by, ‘what you should do is…..’.
I know myself that when I’ve had tough stuff to deal with I’ve craved someone giving me the answers. I have even felt entitled to people delivering the answers to me, so convincing was my inner victim story telling. I’ve asked people to tell me what’s in my blind spot to save me time and energy and hurt trying to work it out. Better for the planet that way, right? And the result? I’ve never truly taken in what I didn’t learn for myself. Shit for the planet, actually. The opposite of emotional fuel efficiency. Twatfuel, if you will. Fully leaded.
I remember watching my Dad wallpapering a room when I was about 11. Afterwards, I knew a little about wallpapering. Years later, I attempted to wallpaper a room and it was an unmitigated disaster in which I almost stuck myself permanently to a dado rail. Watching during learning is helpful, but it’s not enough. How something looks and how something feels are two completely different things. Wallpaper paste, it turns out, is cold, soggy and slimy and makes different papers behave in different ways. You have to get your hands in there to find that out. It can’t be learned from lying on your single bed farting and alternating between watching your Dad and staring at your George Michael poster on the ceiling.
Someone who tries to teach without allowing the learner to really touch the experience is short circuiting too. They’re ensuring that their words and actions have resonance only in that moment rather than allowing them to time travel in a memory of tactile experience and how it changes our awareness. That’s what I’ve been doing with my fixing – I’ve been providing solutions off the peg without getting my friends to try the clothes on before they buy. I’ve been so intent on fixing that I’ve forgotten what I’ve learned: change and learning comes from within, so by all means help but for fuck’s sake, give someone the space to create and grow it for themselves beyond that, even if it’s infuriating to watch. In fact, especially if it’s infuriating to watch. Hands. Off. Of. Over. Fixing.
“Negative space is, quite simply, the space that surrounds an object in a image. Just as important as that object itself, negative space helps to define the boundaries of positive space and brings balance to a composition.”
I’ve been letting the concept of negative space slide in assuredly to my writing and also how I arrange things at home. The effect has been one of realising that it’s often what is omitted or removed that really accelerates a story or mood. Sometimes more is more, but, the older I get the more true it becomes for me that less is more; that if there’s no space left around something then that thing is by default constricted and limited. I think the same is true of personal change.
I thought a lot recently about an argument I had with someone years ago. We were both adamant we weren’t going to bend to each other’s will. In the heat of the moments, no one gave ground. Afterwards, with time and space airing out the thoughts, we both went on to make changes which conceded each other’s point pretty significantly. Slowly, we were able to admit to each other that change had taken place and we’d both been right and wrong. We hung on in there because the relationship meant a lot and we knew each other to be well intentioned, non game-players, despite really pissing each other off. Negative space and time saved the day. And learning. Funny old world when you consider where positivity can grow from, isn’t it?
PS. If you spot me fixing anyone, tazer me. Ta.