Friday, December 21, 2007

When is helping, not helping?

"Hi. My name is Janet. And I'm a compulsive helper."

Kidding? Not really. Isn't the whole deal about addiction recognizing when the behavior is interfering with your life? I first used the term earlier this summer. Reading for Andrew Bujalski's about-to-be-shot next film, (where I was cast, and it was a total blast, and I even got paid, but I digress...) I asked, "Is the character pushy or compulsively helpful?" "What are you?" he asked. "Oh definitely, compulsively helpful."

It was the first time I used the term. And in the ensuing months, I've been struggling with the repercussions of my reality. People ask, "what are you doing these days?" And truly, for the most part, I'm helping people. I talk through their problems - whether career, film, or relationships. I help edit their writing. Of course as VP of the Austin Film Society I'm a godsend - totally interested in it all, totally helpful with my experience, inclinations, and connections. I screen for sxsw film. Lately I've been coming up with vital ideas and connections for some growing enterprises: funding sources, board trustees, production personnel, distribution systems. And some of these people I'm talking to, I actually pay for their services - they're teaching something I'm interested in. But when we talk, I'm just 'helping'. And I feel like I can't do it anymore.

But I can't imagine how to live otherwise. In the spring my astrologer laughed, "You're living a life you should have been born into money to lead... you're like a philanthropist with no money! hahahahahaha." She thought it was hilarious. And even wilder, she came up with the concept knowing very little about my current actuality. But it's totally true. And I guess it ties in with words I heard the very first time I got my chart done in the late 70s - something about leading a life of service. At the time it didn't make sense. Only now is the reality dawning on me.

John's the same way. We are by nature generous. By nature, we like to do just what we want. We pursue what we're interested in. We think about the quality of the work, or the person, not what it'll buy us. Somehow we've always found a way to make it work. But right now the balance is out of whack.

Peggy writes, "as a woman, you particularly have to worry about undervaluing yourself." But it's not like I can put a price on the help I give. I can't charge by the hour. It's instinctive, like breathing. But today I realized it's like any art form (right, see where I got this blog title?) or addiction. I'm going to have to find a day job to finance it.

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