When I was a child I found one of those “My Name Means” cards with my name on it. It said that Rebecca meant “devoted one“. I remember that I had to ask my mom what devoted meant. I thought it had something to do with voting.
I tried to find that definition again associated with my name, but the most common one I found today was “to bind” or “to tie“.
I guess it could mean about the same thing.
I have found that I tie myself to just about everyone and everything without even trying, sometimes without even meaning to. I don’t really know any other way. I’m not even sure I trust people who try to walk around untethered. Sometimes I purposely tie myself to those people, just in case one day they realize they need something to hold on to. And also, because they can’t stop me. No one can stop you from quietly stringing your existence into theirs. People do it all the time.
And sometimes, when I’m lonely, I think of all the lives I’ve strung through my own and all the lives I’ve strung myself into and sometimes I pick one and I pull.
It doesn’t always work. But sometimes it does. Sometimes, I know they feel the tug. Because they come to me, one way or another. And sometimes, I feel the tug. And I go towards it. Or I don’t. Sometimes we think too much and miss the chance to be a little closer to the people who want us closer to them. I’m sure I’ve done that far too often.
But I believe in second chances. I believe in constant chances. I’m no quitter.
Not being a quitter could prove to be my fatal (but not my only) flaw.
I won’t pretend I haven’t quit anything ever, because of course I have. I quit the AP Honors program in high school and I quit dieting and I quit thinking I had some moral superiority over people who sin differently than I do. Somehow, I managed to quit those things and cut those strings. I guess I managed to stop thinking those things were important, so I was able to quit them.
People, relationships, jobs…different story.
I knew for a few years that I needed to quit my job. The signs were everywhere. I talked about it all the time. But I was too tied into it. I was tied into the people. But I was also tied into what I believed the job meant about me, as a person. It was the kind of job that people think you must be cut from a special kind of cloth to do. Most service jobs are: teachers, firefighters, police, paramedics, doctors, nurses, social workers, clergy. Right? Special people. A different breed. My identity was so wrapped up in my job title that I couldn’t imagine not doing what I was doing. And what would it mean about me?
I’m good at being a mental health worker. I’m good with people. I’m good in a crisis. I’m a good listener. I’m good at respecting different choices. I’m good at not being surprised by anything you tell me. I’m good at seeing the good in someone and their life and helping them see that. I’m good at believing things can get better. I’m good at problem solving. I’m not afraid to pet dogs or sit in messy houses or drive people around in my car in the bad part of town. I’m not opposed to waiting with someone in clinics or the department of social services. I don’t think we are all that different, even if our lives look really different. I’m good at being on someone’s side. I’m good at just being with people. I’m good at not taking someone’s anger personally, even when it is being directed it towards me. I’m good at looking way beneath the surface. I’m good at looking for and digging into the “why” but I’m not opposed to leaving the “why” behind if it must be left alone just to move forward.
But that wasn’t all there was to my job. And years of it all turned toxic and suffocating. I couldn’t find a way to untie myself from it, but it was taking me under.
Until someone else cut the strings.
And just like that, I could breathe again. My mind was still cluttered and foggy, but I could feel myself breathing again and so I’ve been breathing for a few months now. And my mind has cleared a little. Things are coming back to me, slowly.
I feel like it’s still too soon to talk about a lot of things from my previous job. And I feel like it’s still too early to say much about my new job, but I do have one. And all these things are coming back to me, things that were buried, not because I meant to bury them, but just because that’s what happened to them.
And I have the opportunity to be a special kind of person just because that’s who I am, not because it’s my job. And I have the opportunity to heal and detox and recover and move forward.
And the people that I want to be bound to that I met through my old job, they have already woven themselves back into me. They probably never left. Their stories, their names, our moments together, they are still here with me. I can actually remember them now that so many of those toxic ties were cut.
Would I have ever cut those strings on my own? I doubt it. I was too far under. For me, it was being brave to just show up at all most days. And so I’m grateful those ties were finally finally cut for me.
I know I’ve allowed some other toxic things to weave themselves in amongst all the good, But I’m optimistic that it won’t be like that forever. And in the mean time, I’ll just keep collecting all the good things, moments, places, people. And I’ll just keep tying strings around them, weaving our existences together, tugging when I start to get a little lonely, and letting myself be tugged when someone else is getting lonely. Remembering as often as I can that I am never alone, thanks to all the ties, but I am also not defined by my ties alone. And maybe, most importantly, remembering that some ties can be cut.