How many times do you throw a life raft?

We all know those people, we’ve all been those people, we’ve all loved those people. People that are lost, people that are broken, people that are drowning. Sometimes helping, or trying to help those people, turn us into those people.
Where is the limit? How do you stop helping? How do you draw the line? And how do you live with yourself when you do?
I guess for me, I’ve been on all sides of it, even recently, even now. All sides of it.
A part of me has always been made happy by helping others. I tend to stop helping myself when I do though. Somehow, everyone around me becomes more important to me and my time than I do.
Lately I’ve had to really take stock of my life. I’ve tried so hard to make better decisions, to move up and to move forward. I’ve taken “good” jobs that have turned to shit. I’ve moved, I’ve stayed, and I’ve run away again. People tend to be what seems to influence me the most in my decisions though. Knowing people, knowing they need me, knowing I need them.
I can think back on so many times that I’ve reached out for help, over and over again for the same things, same problems, same people. They were there, throwing me life rafts, time and time again.
I only now really realize what I was asking though. I only now really understand that as exhausted as I was, reaching and pulling for something or somebody, it’s equally exhausting to be the one playing life guard. It’s physically and emotionally draining in ways I never fully understood or even wanted to realize. There’s where the truth lies.
I didn’t want to realize. So consumed by myself and my own problems, I didn’t want to acknowledge what I was doing to those around me. How unfair I was being. How much my hurt was hurting them.
We never do though do we? We go through pain and tough times and we dig our own holes and sit contentedly in our sorrow expecting others to pull us out, to hand us the answers. When we lose faith and we lose ourselves, we also lose respect for those we expect the world from. We forget how unfair we’re being when we put all of our happiness or our unhappiness solely into the hands of others.
The hardest thing in the world is to pick up a shovel and dig ourselves out. The second hardest is to put that shovel down after failed attempt after failed attempt after failed attempt to dig somebody else out, because it’s impossible to explain to that person why.
Where’s the line? Do you sit by and watch as somebody willingly drowns?
When your own life is put on pause, or hold or being dragged down for long enough, when finally you realize that help, bigger and more than you are capable of giving is needed, it becomes the other person’s decision whether you walk away or not.
They can choose to help themselves, they can choose to help you help them, or you can walk away.
Maybe it’s not really a choice we make at all.

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