She was the office manager in an engineering firm. Every time something would break – whether a toilet or a fax machine – they would call out to her. “Betsy, the ____ is broken!” No request, just a statement. Quickly, she would arrive at the scene of the malfunction, ponder and repair the offending apparatus. And is frustrated that she was always expected to do everything.
One day I asked her, “Why does everyone depend on YOU to fix things, when everyone around you has an engineering degree?” Without hesitation, she responded, “That’s how I was raised.” One of 4 children, she was always the “key holder” – the one entrusted with the key to the house. What an honor. And what a responsibility. Respected as the wisest and the most accountable, she held possession of the keys. And she was also in charge of knowing where everyone was, that everyone was safe and making sure that everything was in its rightful place. And yet we wonder why we end up in the same family roles and same relationship dynamics (dilemmas) that we have had in our early formative years, regardless of where we are, who we are with and how old we are. It’s really not a mystery. We are most comfortable in these default roles and relationships because it is “who we are” – and we repeat our parts in each similar situation we confront over and over. We re-enact our old pattern and we subconsciously train others to respond to us in the same comfortable ways.
It is important to be aware of what we get and what we want. Alice Walker advises, “Look closely at the present you are constructing: it should look like the future you are dreaming.” Betsy is working on sitting still when those around her act helpless. While it frustrates her to be the “fixer”, she isn’t sure what she will become next. Our family and our history are where we begin….how we move forward is up to us. Making changes to old roles and responsibilities can be challenging, BUT we have to give ourselves permission to dream and change