It was a Monday afternoon and I was completely off schedule. I hadn’t worked out, I hadn’t written, I hadn’t even had a cup of coffee. Instead, I was staring at a blank Word document, thinking about all the pieces. “Pieces, yes. Shambles, no. I will not claim it,” I said to myself, while wondering where the hell the tears had come from. It didn’t make sense. The night before I felt so relieved. I’d decided to remove myself from a situation that had turned a not-so-appealing shade of gray. I’d also decided I should spend more time working on my own life instead of being consumed by the well being of others. Sunday night it felt freeing; Monday morning it felt overwhelming.

For weeks things in my life had been unraveling in one way or another. For weeks I’d been putting it off because there was something more important. For weeks I’d been worried about friends, family, any and everything except myself. My closest homies noticed the problem and would check in.

“How are you,” they’d ask, and I’d reply good. Sure of the uncertainty in my voice they’d ask again, “No, how are you? Are you taking time for yourself?”

“Yeah,” I’d trail off. “When I can,” I’d pick up. The stare my friends would give was always telling.

At some point I started feeling drained.

“You need a vacation,” by best friend told me. But, more than a vacation, I needed to figure out why I kept ending up in situations that took my all to manage. So that weekend I decided I would cut out, or at least limit, what seemed to be the most draining situations. I debated that my friends needed me, that if I wasn’t there during their times of need, I wasn’t a good friend. I mused that my guy situation had been the one thing keeping me sort of sane. But in the end, I knew playing therapist while trying to create something awesome out of a dead end was just plain old unhealthy and foolish.

Monday’s combination of too many tears and not enough motivation meant I needed to do a little digging. I realized I was overwhelmed because I’d gotten rid of all my excuses for not working on me. Faced with the reality that I had a bunch of personal mess to sort through had me craving another distraction, be it a temporary boo or a stressed-out friend.
Maybe unavailable men and needy friends had become a way for me to hide. If so, why the hell had it taken so long to self diagnose?

When it comes to helping friends a little too much, my guess is that a good trait morphed into a serious problem over time. I’m an oldest child. I’ve always felt everyone around me was my responsibility. I grew up around women who were selfless to the point of martyrdom and always viewed it as an ultimate sign of strength. Recently, a friend who was advising me to take a step back said people came to me because they knew I would help no matter what. I wear that as a badge of honor. She was concerned it opened me up to being used. I feel where she’s coming from, but I don’t think people stay in situations they hate. Me included. As many times as I’ve accused friends of being attracted to damaged goods, maybe I’m a big fan as well. When you’re super busy with other people’s problems, yours don’t seem so big.

On the guy front, it isn’t that complicated. I have some things I think should be in order before I commit. I also have some traits that honestly need to be changed. Things that, I believe, relationship-minded men would call me on and force me to work through. Situations allow me to work through them at my own pace, or not at all, while still having some companionship. It’s a lack of accountability that’s freeing — until it isn’t.

Of course, the big question is after knowing I’m using folks as a shield, do I stop and work on myself or do I refuel enough to empty myself all over again?

I know what’s healthy. But I also know the power of comfort.

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