Who hangs with you when you are High Maintenance?


I’ve been “High Maintenance” lately. And I don’t like it. Although I’m definitely a rescuer and prefer helping to being helped, I secretly find it hard to endure people who make a habit of unloading their problems on me.

It feels like I’ve been doing a lot of unloading lately. If you’ve been on the receiving end, I apologize.

There are insights that come with every inconvenience. And I’m reminded of a big one in the midst of my neediness:

People who truly care about you stick with you when you have nothing to offer in return.

False friends hang around as long as they perceive that you can add value to their lives. True friends stay around when you can’t.

I was doing pretty well holding it together after my sister died. When someone goes before we think it’s their time, people who call with condolences are often the ones who need the support. I found myself comforting many who had reached out to comfort me. My wife tells me that this is the way I’m wired. I deflect help and feel more comfortable being the empathizer.

So I was under emotional control the day of her memorial service… until Steve Schram walked into the church.

I wasn’t expecting anyone from our Big Chill group to be there. They had all called. We had wonderful conversations. Most had known Judy. Now that I was the only surviving member of our immediate family, my treasured extended family reminded me that I wasn’t alone.

But comprehending the incredible expense and effort Steve went through to be with us for a couple of hours ripped away my shields. It reminded me of one of my favorite maxims:

The smallest act of kindness can have the biggest impact.

Of course, Colleen reminded me that I had been there for him and for dozens of others at times like this. But the sheer power of the gift of his presence hit me right between the eyes.

I began to inventory the people who had been steadfast in keeping in touch over that week from hell. I hadn’t always had time to respond. But that didn’t matter. Their simple act of engagement was healing, therapeutic, appreciated.

There were many. And I realized again that..

It is in our darkest hours where those who care shine brightest.

They remind you that you are important, worthy, valued. They inspire you to pick up the pieces and start building again with what you have left. Their willingness to be vulnerable and human reminds you that it’s OK to be vulnerable and human, too.

They are carrying their own burdens, often below the surface where most can’t see them. But they intuitively know and practice this fundamental truth:

Helping others is the best way to heal.

Negative experiences are realities of life. They are opportunities to grow and learn; to show the world that you can rise from the ashes and fly higher.

But they still suck.

I would rather be the healer than live among the hurt. Seeing people I care about engaging when the kryptonite of life saps my strength recharges my spirit. If you’re one of those amazing souls, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

You remind me that giving equally enriches, heals and renews both the recipient and the giver.