"The people in your life fill two distinct roles ― fruit pickers and fertilizers. Fruit pickers require you to give of yourself. Fertilizers renew your spirits. In a healthy friendship or relationship, it’s normal for people to fill both roles. But sometimes, we become so comfortable in the roles we play with the people closest to us, we forget to occasionally switch roles." Kiara Imani Williams

Check on your checker. As someone who often spends much of their time checking on other people, ensuring their okay, being a listener, and giving others advice on how to solve the problems they face, I have come to realize that the relationships I sometimes form cannot actually be reciprocated. I mean to say that because I have established this dynamic of being a "fixer" of sorts, those that I am in relationship with play into it and/or forget to check on me. I think it's two-fold in that those I check on may not realize I too need to be cared for, and I myself do not allow people to check on me. Digging deeper into the latter sentiment, it might be a deep-seated need to be well ... needed. It's a manifestation of a power dynamic that I thrive in - being needed. Being so crucial to people's lives that they cannot function without me. It's me making myself central to the narrative of another to point of dependency, but the ironic duality is that I too need that. It's complicated, messy, and problematic in so many ways. Why else do I find myself being roped in, or more explicitly, inserting myself into the business of others? Unpacking that reveals that there is a feedback cycle that sustains me in the most concerning of ways. Am I benefiting from the anguish, life-messiness, and the thrill of "fixing" others. There's an inherent superiority complex embedded there that demands that I see myself as put together to be qualified to "help" others but in reality, I might be helping myself. It's a process, and I'm doing my best to unlearn it, and let it go. Mind my business, and let people help themselves or empowering them with the tools they need to do so.

When I say check on your checker, I mean how are you as someone who takes - whether that be time, space, emotional labor, energy, etc. replenishing that person. I mean ask them how they are doing, and then wait for a response. Dive deeper, go there with them, and be present. Put them first, and refrain from interjecting with your experiences and your thoughts. For once, it's a time for them just to get it out, share what they have going on, and be at the center of attention. I mean pamper them, dote over them, and make them feel like they matter to you. Your checker is probably someone who may rarely need to be checked in on in actuality but doing it, even if unneeded, means something. It means that you recognize them, that you value them, and that you embrace their humanity as well. Your checker is not invincible no matter much they might convince you otherwise. Your checker is not indestructible nor are they perfect. Your checker is not as whole as they might want you to believe. Your checker needs to be checked on. If you can't be the one to do it, you have to make sure that they have someone checking in on them. Everybody needs one. Everybody deserves one. That means if your checker is not just your friend but your caretaker, mentor, co-worker, professor etc. that they too need a checker. Checkers are not people to have transactional relationships with - it's unfair to both them and you, and makes for an awkward dynamic.  Being intentional about building a relationship with your checker that makes them feel comfortable, secure, and brave enough to vulnerable takes time - it's not always possible, and that's okay. Making the effort though is non-negotiable.  

I have realized that I play the mediator role in too many of my relationships. I'm always in the middle ensuring that some semblance of peace is kept, bonds are mended, and that others are happy. Whether it be serving as the conduit for my family dynamic, with my friends, or even sometimes in the workplace with my students, I end up (or place myself) in the center of conflict looking to create preserve harmony. Maybe it's a need for others around me to get along that speaks to a tendency to be controlling - even if it's through nurturing and benevolent intentions. Being the mediator is truly exhausting. Constantly having to ensure the well-being of others and to console them means putting my own feelings aside. It is constantly prioritizing other people, sometimes at the expense of myself, and it is truly fatiguing. It's not just doing the actual negotiating of relationships that takes it's tolls, its the holding back of my own opinion and thoughts, or having to tactfully repackage them to appease others. It's saying what I need to say but not necessarily being able to say it bluntly. There is merit to doing so though, I think there is always a way to be compassionate or at least kind in sharing difficult truths. Having to be both the protector and the instigator leaves me stretched thin and beside myself.

Emotional exhaustion is something I have become more cognizant of the older I get. It's more than physically feeling tired whether it be from a long day or exerting myself, it's a kind draining that feels deeply personal. It's a emptying of my spirit. I feel less energized in my soul. It's a depletion of my life force. It's a dangerous endeavor that some people partake in more than others. Arguably, if more people took care of their own emotional needs those who often find themselves being called upon to remedy those issues would not to give so much of themselves up. I think managing emotions is something that needs to be intentionally taught instead of a passive socialization that we are indoctrinated into. Too many people, particularly those in the media, have an underdeveloped capacity to process things emotionally and therefore do so in unhealthy or destructive ways. Managing emotions is a necessary life skill, and one that has immense importance as it impacts the ways that we experience ... well everything. It's the difference between getting disproportionately upset versus a rationalizing response that minimizes the impact of something that is honestly insignificant in the grand scheme of things. It's learning to pick your battles, bracing for impact, and triaging the effects. It is knowing time and place to experience the full gamut of emotions, understanding how your emotions influence others, and not just finding what you need to recuperate but doing it, consistently. Emotional exhaustion ultimately is up to us to remedy. If we are able to do it ourselves most of the time, then we don't always have to implicate others in the process. X


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