Today I'm linking up with Five Minute Friday, writing for five minutes on a given prompt. This week's word: STUCK.
Have you ever felt like you're stuck in someone else's story? I have.
Several years ago I experienced the breakup of a longstanding friendship. Now, when I look back, I feel in a way as if I was playing a role in the other person's narrative all along. She was the star; I was supporting actress. I was her "champion." To use a Lord of the Rings analogy, I was faithful helper Sam to her Frodo. Or as Anne Tyler describes in one of her novels, my friend was the volleyball, and I was a pair of hands helping keep her in the air.
She even described our breakup as "a time of unexpected transition" for her -- a stage in her journey -- rather than as the loss of something valuable and important. Later, when she had achieved some success in her field and I congratulated her, she replied by mentioning the part I had had in her achievements. The role I'd played was the focus -- not sadness that we were not able to truly share the experience as we might have in the past.
I know there are times we need to accept our role and responsibility in someone else's life, whether short- or long-term. But that can still be done in a spirit of dignity and equality. It's one thing to feel called to support and encourage a friend with a serious illness or trauma, or to know deep down that it's our task to care for an ailing family member or advocate to ensure their care is provided. But it's another thing to be relegated to following a script in someone else's drama -- or worse, to be rejected for not even realizing there was a script.
We must always guard against making other people characters in the drama of our lives. As Barbara Brown Taylor puts it in An Altar in the World,
"The point [of encountering another human being] is to see the person standing right in front of me, who has no substitute, who can never be replaced, whose heart holds things for which there is no language, whose life is an unsolved mystery. The moment I turn that person into a character in my own story, the encounter is over. I have stopped being a human being and have become a fiction writer instead."