“What is mine to do here?” is that question. I learned to ask it during my time at Sancta Sophia Seminary and it’s held me in good stead in the years since.
I’ve mentioned before that my dad went blind from diabetes when I was 6 months old and lost both his legs to that same disease when I was ten. As I recall, there was not much discussion in my family about how we were feeling about this because back in the late 60s, it wasn’t a thing. I was left to my own devices a lot because my mom was busy with him and working full-time.
In a misguided way to manage my own worries, I became hypervigilant, always listening and watching for any sign that something wasn’t right.
That’s how I became exquisitely attuned to all the nuances that fly under most people’s radar and why I can do what I do so well now. It also created in me a need to ‘take charge’ of things so I could have some sense of control.
Yet, there are places where that attitude is not needed or wanted and I learned that the hard way. In situations where I feel scared or unsure, I move into that mode automatically and the 7 year old in me takes over and drives me to know more, do more, get involved more so I feel safe.
When I learned to ask myself that one question BEFORE I acted, the 7 year old calmed down just enough for me to see things more clearly. I still noticed every. damn. thing. ALL THE TIME but I also recognize that I don’t have to be the first one to jump in or the one who ‘takes charge’.
I’m in the middle of family drama but mostly on the periphery and this question has helped me defer to those who are directly impacted to lead the way.
Every time my 7 year old raises all the alarm bells because she thinks “they’re NOT SEEING things!!”, I ask the question: “what is mine to do here?” and the answer always shows up. (Much of the time the answer is ‘just be present and support those who are doing what is needed’.)
If you have that kind of hypervigilance due to trauma, this question allows you a moment to step back, take a breath, and reassess the situation. And sometimes, that’s all that is needed. (Also therapy. Therapy is good.)