“It sucks to be reliable”


“It sucks to be reliable”: This is the dubious title of the 200+ page document where I make copious, obsessive notes about everything. It is here that I collect my thoughts, quotations from books I read and various other stuff. It’s odd to go back to things I collected but never used from the past, even from something as recently as a year ago. It never feels, as time creeps along, as though things are really changing. But in the drip-drip-drip of the slow-brewing days, change has happened silently in the background. But what never changes? That it often sucks to be reliable. To be the person who must always be stable, who is never allowed to fall apart or seek solace outside oneself. It may suck, but one can also not do otherwise because it is just the nature of who s/he is.

These thoughts have clearly stuck with me for a long time, but I never gave them much bulk or created cohesive resistance until recently – mostly because of a few conversations on the topic. Oddly because I told someone else that I felt relief with him because I didn’t feel like he was always going to crumble in my hands, before my eyes, that he was “emotionally stable”. Because he is so like me in so many ways, it should not have surprised me that he replied with something like, “I have not had any choice but to be stable.” I felt like I was paying him a compliment, and maybe at any other time or on another day, he would have taken it that way. But on the vulnerable edge we may slide along, it is sometimes irksome to hear such things, as though someone else is dumping their own emotional baggage on you, expecting you to carry it. I know this feeling because, well, I titled this document “It sucks to be reliable” a year ago – one of the many times I have superficially and informally given voice to this sad truth: being stable and secure can itself be a kind of baggage one cannot shed, even if s/he wanted to (and it tends to accumulate and get heavier as you go along).

Despite the resentment it might create, I mostly feel I would not want this to be otherwise (making the resentment little more than an immature tantrum). After all, when have I ever not wanted to be in control… and doesn’t that extend to being in control when other people’s stuff spirals out of control? This is not to say that it is always a burden to be reliable. Sometimes I am grateful for it – both that I myself am unsinkable and that I am strong enough to help keep others afloat. But there are those tired, empty moments when it would feel freeing to let go of that, even if, like a magnet, I would be drawn back in without necessarily realizing.

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