Read no further if you are quick to judge, criticize or dismiss. This was not written for you.
You know that person in your life that just can’t seem to get their s*** together? That person who has so many financial problems, relationship problems, employment problems, health problems, living situation problems and, in some cases, drug problems and/or legal problems that you’ve lost count? That person you hesitate to ask “how are you” of? That person you’ve watched make poor decision after poor decision, but must encourage in earnest anytime they mention thinking about possibly doing something that sounds promising? That person who struggles to keep their head above water while also digging themselves into an ever-deepening pit of bad luck and despair? That person who has become untrustworthy, unreliable and unwilling to motivate themselves? That person who barely resembles the person you know they are capable of being? That person you sincerely want to help, but can’t?
Let’s call my person Tammy.
When I look at Tammy, I see someone I love. I see my friend. I see someone I share a long history with. I see someone who’s good for a laugh. I see someone who knows right from wrong. When Tammy smiles, I smile, too.
When Tammy is in distress, I am concerned for her. It makes me sad to see her sad. When Tammy cries, I want to hug her and tell her everything will be okay even though I'm not sure it will be or can be. And when Tammy is too despondent to even look me in the eye, I feel completely helpless.
When Tammy is angry, I want to take her side. When Tammy is accused of doing something she shouldn’t, wouldn’t or couldn’t do, I defend her. I make excuses for her. I explain why she would be late, careless, lazy, insubordinate, hungover, still drunk, stoned, etc. I cover for her. I pick up her slack. I keep her personal life details secret. I buy her a Dr. Pepper. I give her something I heard her mention she needed. I'm beyond any ability to lend her money, but I pick up the check. I pay for her bowling shoes. I make things easier for her in whatever small way I can as a gesture of support. And I do it without expecting anything in return.
When Tammy lies to my face, it enrages me. I feel a sensation that can only be described as some sort of emotional strangulation. I find myself in a fury of “how f***ing dare you.” How f***ing dare you, Tammy? What the f*** is wrong with you?
When I calm down, I remind myself that I love Tammy. And my frustration with her is immaterial compared to what she must be going through. Imagine knowing your circumstances are desperate and unlikely to change. Imagine expecting everyone to give up on you. Imagine facing people who think you will disappoint them. Imagine how exhausting it is to be the one who never gets it right and to be surrounded by people who prepared for the rainy day you have day after day after day.
Even though it's very hard to stay in it, I know I can't give up on Tammy. I can't doubt her. I won't doubt her. And I won't talk about her as if she's beyond reach. Because she will be if I turn my back on her.
If you have a Tammy or multiple Tammies, allow me to attempt to persuade you...
Be steadfast. Protect yourself and your wellbeing by whatever means necessary, but be steadfast. Be that person Tammy can call. Be that person who comes between Tammy and one more disastrous choice. Be that person Tammy knows won't look at her and only see the bad. Impart your wisdom, understanding, forgiveness and enthusiasm for any kind of improvement, however small or seemingly insignificant and do this no matter how many times Tammy tells you she's ready to change.
If you never succeed in helping Tammy overcome her difficulties, that's okay because you didn't do nothing. And even if Tammy never has it in her to thank you, that's okay, too, because you didn't do nothing. And if Tammy finally finds her rainbow's end, that's wonderful and you didn't do nothing.