There are just so many times in my life when I feel completely helpless.

I. Do. Not. Like. This.

I am used to taking charge, grabbing the reins, making things all better.  I am used to being able to help.

I have not found a way to gently accept the reality of my own helplessness in the face of my loved ones’ struggles.  While I understand, in a cerebral, cognitive, intellectual way that I do not control the major events in the universe, I still rail against the realization that I am unable to make things any better for those I love.   I hate this feeling!  It makes me feel…well…helpless. Diminished.  Useless.  Weak.

So when my Momma is sad, lonely and depressed by my father’s death, I hate that I can’t make her all better.

When my sister is facing the loss of her husband after an illness of almost twenty years, and I can’t take it away, I feel horrible and helpless.

When my Uncle gets the worst possible diagnosis and is left to face the rest of his life; when my friends face another long struggle to save their little girl, after two long years of treatment; when a cousin is losing her battle to stay healthy and to remain in her own home.  When my dog is old and sick.  When my neighborhood is filled with empty houses.  When my countrymen feel cut off, angry, disconnected from the future. When I find Americans to be at each others’ throats, with no way forward in sight.  These are the times when I feel truly helpless.

All of these things leave me feeling powerless and sad.  I want to find a way to make something better, for someone, at least for a little while.  How can I simply accept the role of silent observer when so much is amiss?

And so.  I cook for people. I take my dog to the vet and my Momma to the doctor.  I send gifts and cards to my friends and family.

It isn’t enough.

I cook and shop and send food to those who are marching in the streets, demanding a kinder future, with more fairness and more opportunity.  I write and I call and I talk to those around me about finding a way to be civil and open minded.  I do my best to compromise and to hear the words of those whose views I do not easily understand.

But I am helpless.  I can’t turn back the clock, undo the march of time or the advance of disease. I can’t force those around me to be reasonable or calm.  I can’t change the outcome of the future, I can only change the way that I react to that future.

And therein, no doubt, lies the lesson.  We wish that we could change things so that we wouldn’t have to live to see such difficult days.  But, as Gandalf says to Frodo in the Lord of the Rings,

“So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. ”

And so I will do my best to do what is good and strong and true with the time that is given to me. I will try very hard to appreciate the dawn, instead of complaining that I am out on the highway as the sun rises. I will do my best to feel the joy of the past, instead of mourning the loss of those days.   I will try, really hard, to enjoy every moment of the present, without bending down under the weight of all that is sad and lost.

And I will try to feel happy that I am helpless. After all, how awful would it be to feel that I really had control over all of these parts of life?   I guess, when all is said and done, it is really so much easier to simply be an observer.

But I still feel helpless.

So here I sit; helpless, yet somehow hopeful.  I can only pray that there are others out here who, like me, want to somehow affect and shape the future.

2 thoughts on “Helpless.

  1. Karen,
    I’m so sorry that you have so much to face, especially at what is supposed to be a joyous time of year. In a twisted kind of way, it can bring you a kind of peace in reminding you of the simple joys and loves in life, which I know you remember anyway. I think that is a weird great blessing that we have from these bad experiences.

    It does sound to me though that you really need to give yourself a break. You need to get away from all of this and give yourself the gift of fun. And I mean really away- not just to dinner and a movie! That’s the other blessing that comes from these experiences, at least that I’ve learned. Actually, it’s funny because as I’m writing this “You Can’t Take It With You” is on. So even tho’ others are suffering, you still have to take time out to “have the time of your life”. So go somewhere for a few days where you don’t have to cook for anyone who’s sick or hurting, you don’t have to listen to anyone’s problems or wipe any noses or dry any tears, and you can do something that makes you laugh til your sides hurt! Your cup is empty and it needs to be filled. I know you are going to say that you are having fun and that you are getting joy but I know that mother-speak. Just do it! Loving and caring is hard work!

    And lest you think I’ve truly lost my mind, I have recuperated from my first days of sadness over my baby moving out. I think it just all happened so quickly and I didn’t expect it so soon. I had gotten used to him being around and hoped to have a bit more time to get used to the other one being gone first. It’s actually probably been a good kick for me to get myself going and a sense of total freedom to do so.

    Hope your week picks up 🙂


    • Thanks, Cindy! I think I was just having one of those “I feel so sorry about life” moments. I am actually not so much upset, or depressed, but I am just feeling helpless. I don’t like the feeling of not being able to get in there and fix things! Delusions of grandeur, for sure! I am acutely and intensely aware of how lucky I am, every single day. For example, here I am being sad about my empty nest, and yet I work with my daughter, and see her every day! And I love the quite dinners with Paul, where we talk over the day and sip our wine and solve the world’s problems.
      I just wish that I could whip up a pot of something tasty and take away the pain of those I love.
      I know I can’t. I know it would be crazy if I could.
      Still…….I wish…..


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