I took the 16 Personalities test last week at my hair appointment because my hair stylist, Mallory, told me to. We were talking about these kinds of things and she said, “Go online and take it right now, so I can see what you are.” So I did. Turns out she and I are both “Protagonists,” which is crazy, since according to this test, less than 2% of the world’s population fall into this category.
Me and Mallory: two weirdo peas in a pod. By the way, for the sake of your mental picture, Mallory has luscious fuschia mermaid hair, is hilarious, and is one of my favorite people.
Anyway, the protagonist. I read things about myself that I don’t talk about with anyone, and it was all spot on. So fascinating. It described the inner me with bizarre accuracy. Whether or not you subscribe to such personality theories, this one was quite revealing. In particular, I learned that I struggle to separate my own emotions from other people’s. This is great when you are trying to be empathetic and compassionate. It’s less great when you can’t shut off a deluge of somebody else’s grief, depression, or toxicity.
This concept has played out in a very real way for me. My desire to help people, particularly when I feel that I understand a portion of their emotional pain, frequently lands me in a state of prolonged sadness at a) their sadness, and b) my inability to rescue them from said sadness.
So for some time, I’ve been carrying around this considerable weight of not being able to fix hard things in people’s lives while also feeling all of the negativity or pain or whatever that’s happening to them. Yay, for being intuitive. Buckets of fun.
I asked myself, how does one construct a barrier wall of sorts while still listening to, helping, and loving people who are slogging through (and putting out) lots of crazy stuff? And how does this all jive with Jesus’ admonition to give both your coat AND your cloak to someone who asks for it, and to go not just one mile but TWAIN with someone who needs a friend? Where do you draw the line? How can an (apparently) hypersensitive empath like myself be both giving yet also protective of my own mental and emotional health? What would Jesus do? But seriously, WWJD???
Jeff and I spent my birthday lunch discussing this concept at length. He is both compassionate, yet able to be reserved. He is analytical where I am vastly more emotional. If he had any insights, I REALLY wanted to hear them.
Guys, he totes had insights, the most profound of which was this: if I want to know what God wants me to do, I just need to put myself in a position to hear the Holy Spirit, who WILL tell me what I specifically need to know.
Of course this is correct. I know it is. This isn’t something new. I’ve experienced it many times, the notion that God doesn’t use cookie cutters to create people or offer them solutions.
When Truman was a baby, Jack was a hyperactive poo machine, and Charlie was feral and recently diagnosed, I was in an emotional chasm. There was no specific answer to my esoteric problems in the scriptures or in the lessons and sermons I heard at church. There was no one I knew who was suffering in the same way that I was. No experts (and we consulted so many) could fix our troubles. There were no easy or quick solutions that would change my family’s impossible dynamic.
But that’s when I had the dream. It was one of my vivid, heart-pounding dreams that are some kind of direct line from the Holy Ghost to my brain. I’ve written about this one before, but I’ll describe it again.
In the dream, I was sitting at a music performance. One of my neighbors, someone who is wise and insightful, sat beside me. As the performance played out, she leaned in close, put her hand on my knee, and said low in my ear, “You don’t need to worry about the challenges you have raising your children. You’re doing a good job.”
I woke up engulfed in peace. So much peace. I hadn’t felt this kind of peace in ages. My heart swelled with happiness (such a cliched description, but it is accurate!) I knew that it wasn’t my neighbor speaking to me in the dream. It was my Heavenly Parents. They used my neighbor to convey the message because I love and trust her. They knew I would listen to what she said.
More importantly, they knew how I felt. They KNEW. They knew how awful those summer days were with a baby, Jack literally smearing poop all over my life, and crazed, irrational preschooler Charlie running away and hopping six-foot fences through the neighborhood.
They knew and they understood. They wanted me to know they approved of my efforts, which is really all I desired to hear. I felt like I was failing by every metric, and their validation swept that away and gave me peace.
I considered that experience going to the source.
I needed to go to the source. The source of true peace and real answers. My answer was to go to the true source of those things.
So in the last week I’ve been doing what I do, which is listening to scripture, studying inspired talks, and praying for wisdom. But now I’ve been doing it with a bit more focus.
Tell me how to be compassionate without everyone’s emotions and problems killing me.
My answers didn’t come this time in a dream. They came in the scriptures and the talks and a Relief Society discussion plus a Sunday School class. I went to the source, meaning my Heavenly Parents, and they obliged. They sent the Holy Spirit who distinctly told me this:
You can’t rescue everyone. Or anyone, even. Only Jesus can do that. You can’t fix people’s lives.
And then this:
You can only love them. It’s enough to lift where you can.
The peace is back. I got my answer.