Thursday, August 23, 2012

Atlas Syndrome

The other day I told my piano student: "You can't avoid the problem, that won't make it go away.  You just have to dive in and keep making it better." As these fortune cookie words tumbled from my mouth I realized "Oh my gosh what a hypocrite I am!" Here I am telling this kid to tackle difficult things in order to conquer them while I am avoiding many of my own issues and maybe even tackling the wrong ones.

My mother says I come by it honest.  I have a tendency to take on the problems of others and in so doing I cause myself grey hairs, stress, and I eat WAY too much pizza. Recently I have started calling this condition Atlas Syndrome.  I feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders, even though unlike Atlas, I have the option of shrugging it off (pardon the pun and ending the sentence with a preposition).

So I re-evaluated. What are MY real problems? Problems that no one caused, no one can help, and only I can fix? First, my masters thesis. Ugh. My thesis is hard and unpleasant to write even though when I talk about it I get all excited and dominate the conversation because I feel smart. I have been avoiding working on this thesis as hard as I should because it is different and challenging. It certainly will not write itself, and time is a-tickin'.

Another problem? My retail habit. I LOVE CLOTHES. I love wearing them, I love when they first come out of the dryer, I love looking pretty in them, I love it when people tell me I look pretty in them, and I love selling them to other people so they can look pretty and love all the same things I love. Yet, this problem has, among other things, put me in a little debt. My debt, like my thesis, is unpleasant to think about and even harder to conquer because the world is a ruthless place.

I know right? If those are my biggest problems I am not doing too badly.  Yet, through considering these problems I realized another one of my real problems: avoiding my own struggles by taking on those of others. I tend to take charge in a difficult situation, but I have noticed myself taking charge in all the wrong places.  Sometimes it can be easier to have a problem than to take steps to fix it.  We almost get secure in feeling insecure about a solution.  Ever since I encouraged my student to face the issues head on I have realized I need to start following my own advice. The only way to relinquish the weight of the world is to realize that I can't solve all of the world's problems, but I can begin to solve my own a little at a time.

We all need to find a balance between being a friend to others and a friend to ourselves.  Obviously I will help a friend in need any way I can, but I need to discern how much I can really, truly do for them and accept those limitations. I also need to knuckle down and face my own fears about my own problems and limitations. Fortunately, I have a lot of help along the way from people who point out when I am taking on too much, but bring me a cappuccino at work anyway.

In conclusion, remember that no matter what happens, it will always work out. Pull your own weight, and help out when you can, but leave the world to Atlas.