God helps those who help themselves?
Maybe it was because I was raised in a religious family, but in the early years of my adult life I had what might be labelled a "savior complex." I believed that with time, love and understanding I could convince a friend or family member to consider an alternative to a life path that seemed to be detrimental. However, after several futile attempts I concluded the responsibility for living a positive, productive life is on our shoulders, no one else's. This conviction was reaffirmed this last week when my wife and I ventured back to California to visit family and friends.
My wife spent several days with her 93-year-old mother. This woman is bright, feisty and stubborn. She lives alone in her house in a small community in the Sierra foothills. Her eyesight is almost totally gone. Recently, on more than one occasion, she passed out due to dehydration. There are signs she is becoming increasingly confused. Though the family has convinced her to hire a woman to be with her two hours a day, this is at best a temporary solution. Up until recently we have supported her desire to be independent and remain in her home. However, it has come to the point where it appears dangerous for her and frightening for the family. Yet, she is stubbornly resistant to someone living with her full-time, moving to a senior facility nearby or living with one of her children.
While in the Bay Area I spent a day with a high school friend. He is intelligent, reads voraciously and follows current events. However, slowly his world seems to be closing in around him. Rather than "fighting" back taking charge of his life he is retreating, letting others determine his future. He does have some health issues. His doctors have strongly encouraged him to walk, to get exercise, but he refuses. He is a diabetic, but often is not careful. He has passed out in his home for long periods. Though he has had no accidents nor citations, one of his children has contacted the state in an effort to prevent him from driving. For seemingly selfish reasons his children want him to sell his house and move into a senior facility. Though angry and resentful, his approach to this dilemma is passive, as if defeated. He is obviously depressed. But, he is the only one who can successfully fight back. After breakfast the morning I left he indicated it was time for his morning nap. I imagine there was then an afternoon nap, a little reading, some games on the computer, a frozen chicken-pot pie, and early to bed.
On my last night I had dinner with a younger friend, a good, sensitive, caring person. He has dated a series of women, but never married. The woman he is presently dating is his age, attractive and teaches kindergarten. The problem is that she's an alcoholic. She frequents bars in her San Francisco neighborhood and often needs assistance from bar-hopping "friends" to make it home. On one occasion he found her passed out in her apartment, bleeding, having cut herself on the broken glass that was in her hand. More than once he has had to help her getting back to her apartment. She has been temporarily suspended from her teaching position. She assures him she will do better, get help, but so far her conviction has been short-lived. Sadly his desire for a lasting relationship seems to blind him to the realities.
The frustration in these three scenarios is that no one outside of themselves can convince any one of the three to walk a different course and take charge of their lives. The patterns and issues involved have deep roots. We can listen. We can be supportive. But, we deceive ourselves if we think we are going to persuade them to consider a different path.
For any one of us what path we choose to walk in life is ultimately up to us.