(originally published June 24, 2009)
It's funny what stays in your mind - one shot of light in the darkness of memory. One of the more important "shot of light" memories is from my days in the Marriage/Family/Child Therapy program at the University of Southern California. I was being supervised during my training and displaying lots of frustration over one particular client. I couldn't figure out how to fix, or help the client fix, the problem for which the client came in to get help.
My supervisor, a well-known and talented therapist said five words which reverberated in my head - the head of a "Type A," over-achiever mentality person that I was (or am). He said, "Not everything can be fixed."
I was shocked and horrified. To even think that there were limits to what any human being could do, to think that there were no remedies for certain circumstances, to think that I couldn't "lay on hands" and make all better every person I tried to help - well, all of this was unthinkable.
As I matured, however, I realized he was right.
I had several calls in the past week that demonstrated that truth -- that not everything can be fixed -- so it shouldn't be broken in the first place!! It's why I do what I do on radio versus having a private practice. You all get to hear what decisions, choices, behaviors, and actions put you in a (probably) unfixable place.
There was the 21-year-old woman who came on the program giggling about how she had listened to me since she was 2 years old. Now, with two children out-of-wedlock with a guy who won't marry her because she hasn't taken down her Facebook profile after she promised she would, she wanted to know how to fix the relationship and get married.
Since he didn't marry her before the children, since he didn't marry her after the first child, since he didn't marry her after the second child, he probably isn't going to marry her after the Facebook argument gave his dumping her some legitimacy. I guess 19 years of listening to the program didn't do it for her.
The second female caller was about the same age, again with two out-of-wedlock children, living at her boyfriend's parents' home. She was shacking up with him, and wanted to know how to get him to move out so they could be on their own, after he said he didn't ever want to move out of his mother's home!
The moral of these stories is that when you insist on making impulsive decisions and act only out of the moment, then you will, at some point, dig a hole that you won't be able to get out of.
By the way, I told the first woman to move in with her parents, so the children can have a father (in the form of Grandpa), and she was not to date until they were grown. I told the second woman to give up her dreams and faulty plan, keep her mouth shut, and just live there, giving the impression of being happy, so the kids don't have to grow up with a negative mother until the kids are grown.
Of course, women are not the only ones who need to hear this message. A lot of men marry "damsels in distress," only to be stuck with... distressed damsels!! They hope to save them and fix them, but....some things can't be fixed. I tell them to stay with a smile until the kids are grown.
I don't accept any of the "...but what about my happiness?" rationalizations. The answer is that children matter more than you, and you need to sacrifice and behave properly so that they have a better chance of making better choices in their lives.
Some things can't be fixed, so don't do them in the first place. Consider my radio program a huge emotional and behavioral prophylactic, and take the lessons learned from the pain of others and make the right - even if uncomfortable - choices.