I have always been a “fixer.” When I was in college, friends would come to me for advice, for ways to “fix” their relationships, for words of wisdom. One of them even told me to give up on being a teacher; I was much better suited to a career as a psychologist. Thankfully, I didn’t take her up on it. It’s true that I try to fix everything, but that stems from the fact that I abhor conflict. I like things to be “nice.” I like smooth sailing and gentle breezes. For me the most difficult time of being a parent was when my children were teens. Conflict then is inevitable, but I tried to fix that. I tried talk. I tried understanding. I tried rationalizing. Letting go, letting them find out for themselves—that took time and multiple failures before we all emerged on the other side, still family, still friends, still loved and loving.
The current crisis in our little family threatens to thrust me into the role of “fixer” once again. “Mom, you can’t fix this,” my wise daughter tells me. And I know she is right. Mental illness is an illness without fault. It’s an illness without blame. It is an illness that a Mom Mom is powerless against. I’m like a female Don Quixote, tilting at windmills. All solutions are either temporary or elusive. We need to educate ourselves about the realities of the disease and its treatment. In the meanwhile, all we can do is offer love and support for the patient, the spouse, and the children.
As a young woman, I thought, like Scarlett O’Hara, that anything could be repaired with the right amount of effort. I still have hope that this sentiment is true. Our lives have changed, but all lives change over time. Like Scarlett I will straighten my back, raise my chin, and soldier on. I will let things happen without trying to make things happen. And that is the greatest challenge of them all.