Confessions of a Fixer

No. Not this kind of fixer:

Or this kind:

I’m talking more of a caretaker (read: hey-I-really-want-to-help-you-as-I-steamroll-over-you) kind of fixer. Or as we would message it in public relations: helper. My unique brand of compulsive fixing/helping starts with my family. I’m the oldest of 4 kids and as such acquired the personality trait of bossy. I know this. My siblings and parents remind me of it time and again. I try to be aware, but I don’t always succeed. My younger siblings instilled feelings of care and protection in me. As in, I could make fun of them and tease them, but heaven help the cretin on the playground who tried.

My need to fix bleeds into other relationships in my life. I’m fiercely loyal and protective of the people I love. So when hard things happen to them, I want to be there for them. I want to support them. I want to fix things and take care of them. Sometimes this means I think I know things. I feel confident and sassier than usual. There is a swagger to my step and a smirk on my face. I see the problem, solution and a clear way to resolution. (Apparently, I also moonlight as a rapper. Unfortunate.)

These times of brilliance, I’ve found, are few and far between.

More often than not, I don’t know the answer. But I have an overwhelming need say something that sounds like a reasonable explanation and look it up later. (This is, incidentally, why I know so many random things, but hardly anything that constitutes as actual knowledge. The only time this comes in handy is when playing board games.) Or I will say something inane that, at the moment, sounds comforting. Then when I’m recalling the conversation later, I kick myself for it.

The truth is I’m afraid to say words like: I don’t know. Or: I’m sorry. Or simply be silent. I can say them now, in my head. I can even sit here, in my chair, and say them aloud. But when faced with a situation where someone that is messy and complicated, it is tough to admit that I’m lacking or simply keep my mouth shut. Before I know it, the people I want to help feel smothered. Usually because I’m trying to comfort them the way I’d want to be comforted. I’m terrible at taking a step back because I want things to be the way they were or better than ever.

Isn’t that the way we usually go about things, though? We operate under the assumption that people will respond to our offers of help because we know our intentions. Our hearts are for them. Our motives are pure. We want to do something. It’s usually out of a noble and good motivation. But what I’m learning as I get older, experiencing hard things in my life and with friends, is this: most of us don’t want to be fixed. More than anything, we want to know we’re not alone. We want someone to listen. Or to simply sit with us.

“Sometimes there aren’t words. The silence between us is flung wide as an ocean. But I manage to reach across it, to wrap my arms around him.” ― Jodi Picoult

As wonderful and beautiful as the English language is, in the face of hardships and tragedy, it fails. There is a time for the right words or action, but many of us give into the temptation to fix rather than simply be available.

Am I a lonely fixer? How do you handle difficulties in relationships? Are you a doer or a listener? I’d love your thoughts in the comments!

Photo Credit 1 Photo Credit 2

One thought on “Confessions of a Fixer

  1. We are absolutely cut from the same cloth. I JUST had two tough conversations with friends about my penchant for fixing (one on Saturday, one yesterday). I always thought I was more of a listener, but that’s clearly Fantasy Jennifer. As I was thinking about this last night, I realized the deepest connections I’ve made with people is when I told them that I didn’t know what to say. But that’s happened approximately 2% of the time. Sigh. Cue an evening of tears in the true light.

    I also want to genuinely help. I also want to be the person that people are able to be their authentic, unvarnished selves around. Channeling Olivia Pope isn’t doing that, nor is it a good use of being a receptacle of Jesus. This is also a downside of being a story person–I usually have an anecdote to share that I think will help. I doubt it does (I’m like the pastor who trots out endless sermon illustrations to cover up poor content). Thanks for letting me process this out loud with you and for your honest words.


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