Once upon a time, there was a little girl who wanted nothing more than her dad to stay home and play with her. But he was always coming and going. Then one day, he gave her a beautiful gold vase with tulips and roses painted all over it. The little girl bought some flowers and put them in the vase, but when she tried to fill it with water, she noticed the water trickled out through a small crack. No matter how much water she poured into the vase, the water trickled out and eventually the flowers died. When the little girl grew up, she met a lovely man who promised to whisk her off her feet and marry her. He gave her a vase that looked very similar to the one her dad gave her. Once again, when she tried to fill the vase with water, she noticed a crack and soon the flowers she placed in the vase died. The end.
Do you love my Debbie Downer story? :)
What's the moral?
Well, this week I've met some amazingly strong and courageous people who refuse to give up on certain people in their life -- the absent dad, the drug addicted spouse, the narcissistic mother, the type A never-happy boss, the uncommitted boyfriend. I've spent the week trying to explain to these clients that these people they're trying to help are cracked vases. No matter how much time and energy and love and support (i.e water) they pour into the relationship, the water will flow right out. Nothing will grow or flourish until the person (the cracked vase, not my client) decides to fix the hole for him/herself.
Do you have a cracked vase in your life? Are you pouring all your time and energy into a relationship trying to fix the person? (I sound like a commercial for Prozac!) But really, think about it, most of us have had to deal with a cracked vase in our life at some point. I want to give you permission to walk away from the cracked vase, to throw your hands up and say, "Enough! I can't help you! You are unfixable."
Do I really believe that some people are unfixable? Of course not. What I do believe is that we can't fix other people. Only God can do that.
Let me give you an example -- a real one, not the sad tale I started with. Nadine* had been dating Robert* for eight years. They met in high school and went to college together and now were living together. She loves his family like her own. All her "firsts" are tied up with Robert. There was just one problem. Robert wasn't happy. He didn't like high school -- too boring. He didn't like college -- too much work. He didn't like their friends -- too gossipy. At the age of 24, he'd been through five jobs. He had an excuse for quitting every one of them. He told Nadine he wanted to marry her, but not now. He wasn't ready for kids, so what was the point? This year he sunk into a depression; even their sex life had suffered. Word to the wise -- if that suffers at the tender age of 24, that should be a major warning sign. But Nadine looked at all of this and asked one question, "What can I do to help Robert?"
Do you know what I told her? I said, "Nothing. You can't do anything to help Robert. He's a cracked vase. You have to emotionally let him go. Stay with him, but detach from any expectation of him. Live your life; make yourself happy and in the meantime pray, pray, pray. Pray that the holy spirit comes into his heart and heals him so that he can feel and be happy."
That was a year ago. I saw Nadine last month. She took my advice and joined a church, started running and even learned to kayak. She stayed with Robert but focused on herself -- all while keeping Robert in her daily prayers. The church asked her to go on a mission trip to Haiti. Robert surprised her by asking to go with her. The experience seemed to waken his soul. He came home, got a job working for a non-profit and proposed to Nadine this Christmas.
Now, my client Ben* is another story. He came to see me two years ago. He was living with his mother and was afraid of everything -- he was afraid of his mother, afraid to embrace his sexuality, afraid to be happy. His mother kept telling him that because of her health problems she needed him at home. She even resented him working. She would beg him not get involved in a relationship and would make him promise to always be with her. Ben came to see me just out of curiosity. When the reading focused on his mother and the main message was "Move out and move on!" he got visibly uncomfortable and a little short with me. "My mom needs me." I explained that many women live just find with arthritis and osteoporosis. I told him about my cracked vase theory and said, "You need to think about yourself before it's too late." He ignored my advice and started getting a series of illnesses and then depression sunk in. Soon he was contemplating suicide -- the loneliness was too much to bear. One day he found the notes from our reading and decided to take my advice. He got his sisters and brothers to promise to help out with his mom, and rented an apartment ten minutes away from his mother's house. Ben is now dating a wonderful man and the two are contemplating getting married this summer and adopting a child. He finally realized his mom was a cracked vase, and if he didn't do something with his life, soon he would be one too.
If you're dealing with a cracked vase, look at how it's effecting you. How much time do you spend thinking about this person? How much are you worrying about them? How much do you talk about this person with your friends? And now the big question -- has any of this worry and effort helped the cracked vase in your life? The answer is no. I'm not asking you to be selfish. I'm just trying to point out that you have a lot of love and light and joy to give to others. Be diligent with that gift. Give it people who ask for it, who will appreciate it and who will return it. Otherwise, you're just pouring it down the drain and nothing will grow. You are here for two reasons -- to overcome fear and learn love in its many facets. Loving a cracked vase isn't love; it's desperate hope. Share your love with those who can appreciate it, embrace it, share it and, most importantly, return it to you!