boundaries, enneagram, unhurried living

It’s Not My Job

For the past two summers I’ve maintained two hummingbird feeders in the flowerbed next to our deck. I would dutifully boil the sugar water and keep a jug in the fridge ready to refill them when they were empty. I would try to keep water in the wells on the top in attempt to keep the ants out. I loved that I could contribute to nature’s beauty in this way.

It was early July before I really even sat on the deck this summer. As we were trying to keep the puppy from walking through the flowers, Brad asked if I was going to get out the hummingbird feeders this year. I decided that there were too many other things on my plate and keeping birds fed this year would be an easy thing to let slide.

I felt bad though. One afternoon I was on the hammock and a hummingbird flitted right by me. I wondered if it was looking for the usual sugar water. I didn’t have anything to offer.

Tonight as I was walking in the house, a hummingbird flew right past my face. I saw it going toward the area where the feeders to use to hang. I thought to myself, “Sorry bird, I don’t have anything for you.” Then I looked. It was enjoying the butterfly bush. In that moment, I realized it’s not my job to feed the hummingbirds. Nature does a perfectly good job managing that on her own. (And with my help too I suppose, since I planted that bush.) I realized that I don’t need to take on the responsibility of managing everyone else’s stuff. The hummingbirds are doing just fine without me. I’m embarrassed that I thought otherwise.

As a Two on the Enneagram, I’m a natural caregiver – a caregiver to the point that I take over other people’s responsibilities and roles (without them asking me to do so). Twos have a tendency to overcompensate in order to be loved. If I do this for you and that for you, then I’ll be needed and then you’ll love me. As Twos grow and mature, we learn better boundaries, we learn to speak up for our needs, and we learn to take care of ourselves. However, in immature states, Twos can become martyrs: look at all I do for them, I don’t have any time for myself… It’s easy for me to go there. Part of my maturing is recognizing when that martyr self starts to appear and stop her in her tracks.

Over the span of my life, I’ve taken on jobs that are not mine to do. I’ve taken responsibility for other people’s emotional baggage. I’ve overcommitted and got overly involved in particular dramas claiming that they “needed me.” Very rarely did those turn out well. In fact, because of my lack of boundaries and my unnecessary commitment to be everything to everyone, most of those relationships ended terribly.

There are some places in my life right now where I’m being confronted with my Two-ness. I want to offer care, but why? Is it my need to be loved and accepted?

Well, Anne – it turns out you’re loved and accepted by many people no matter what, so let it go.

No one is asking me to take on their jobs. No one has asked me to step in and take over. No one has asked me to stress about their lives or worry about their choices. I was not invited into these places, but I’m finding myself there nonetheless.

Watching that hummingbird find food even though there were no feeders this summer gave me the wake up call I needed. It’s not my place to solve or offer opinions without being asked. I can pretend it’s in the name of “caregiving” but I know the truth – it’s all about me and how I appear and not about them or their needs at all.

The hummingbird is perfectly fine without my help. These people will be too. And, until I’m asked to get involved, I’m sticking with my job, my life. There’s more than enough to keep me busy in my own life without worrying about and meddling in someone else’s.

Isn’t it amazing what nature can teach you if you keep your eyes and heart open to see it?



2 thoughts on “It’s Not My Job”

  1. What a beautiful story! Nature, eh? Who knew animals posses a kind of wisdom that can teach us enlightened humans? 😉 There’s this teaching in Islam called fitrah, which basically refers to pureness. We are all created in a state of fitrah, but as humans grow and get “wiser” we move away from it. It’s why we believe babies and animals are almost angelic. They do what they were created to do. We humans have a lot to learn from animals and our surrounding environment. Thanks for sharing this beautiful personal insight!

    Liked by 1 person

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