boundaries · self-care · service

“You can’t save anyone.”

3.14.18

When ordinarily I’ve heard this phrase, I’ve bristled.  Is it something in me, something wrong with me that I can’t?  If I try harder or fix myself more, will I then be able to?  What if I really really love them?

However, last week, a friend said this declarative sentence to me, and I replied laughingly, “What a relief!”  Phew!  Jeez, that really takes me off the hook now, doesn’t it?

I can’t save anyone.  I don’t have to keep trying, adjusting, modifying, cajoling, coercing, monitoring, mothering.  I can lay it the f* down … and continue working on what I’m really here to work on: Me.

There’s not nearly as much work as there used to be, but certainly a lifetime’s worth.  Which is good, because you stop growing, you start dying!  But overall, I feel healthier now than at many other points in my life.

I feel more able to accept that other people have their own row to hoe, and no amount of my overseeing can change or improve or lessen their work.  I once told my (as of this past week ex-) boyfriend:( that I felt like a sword-fighter against his darkness, and that I needed him to take the sword.  To fight his own battle against his own internal foes.

The rub is, truly, that he never asked me to fight that battle for him, but I leapt in suit of armor and all and said, “Alright beast, let’s go!”  And then I said, “Omigod I’m tired,” and then I said, “This is not a battle I can win. Here, you take it.”

Fighting others’ darkness is a long-earned habit of mine, the daughter of an untreated manic-depressive.  When the yawning darkness of depression descends upon the woman who is to care for you, as a child with few tools, all you can do is set aside your own needs to try to fight her darkness so she can possibly help defend you, too.  And lo, codependence is born:  if you’re okay, I’m okay.

Yet though this is a long-worn caul of mine, that does not mean it fits, makes sense, is healthy, or … is sane!  And it is up to me to stop jumping in to every person’s fight.

Indeed, “coincidentally,” as all this boundary-strengthening/awareness has been taking place in the last few weeks, I’ve had 4 people reach out to me to help them with some self-help work they’re doing (yes, I see the irony there).  At some times, I would have leapt in (Sure man, let’s slay that darkness! How much of me do you need?), but these past few weeks, I’ve taken account of who I know these folks to be and what kind of energy I truly have for assisting them.

And my answer has been, No.  “Thank you for asking, but I’m full up on service right now.”  “I’m grateful you thought of me, but I’m only available to be friends on the path right now.”  “I’m very glad I got to serve for a while, but I need to leave your committee.”

There are voices within that chide it’s selfish or miserly to say No.  But, I imagine that one day, when my boundaries are more firm—when I don’t run for my longsword every time someone says, “Hello”—that I’ll be more able and available for service to people … but for today, for now, saying no to them is saying yes to me.

And that, friends, is progress.

(And yes, home sick with the flu this week—hence no blog—I’ve been reading Game of Thrones and all about longswords.) 😉

 

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self-care · shopping · success

“I’m Feeling Very Olympic Today!”

2.13.18 olympic.jpg

(One of my favorite lines from the movie, Cool Runnings, and utterly appropriate lately.)

Perhaps not surprisingly, the information I’m receiving from my “expert” sources is like sitting in an echo chamber:

Stretch beyond your current comfort zone.  Be curious about how to approach things.  Don’t limit yourself to your present reality.  Take action.  Make a plan.  Measure progress.  Establish accountability.

Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield, and Brian Grazer are all touting the same advice: Do more to be more.

The movie quote has been scrolling through my mind as I’ve recently taken action in various areas of my life, one being “spending out.”  This is a phrase coined (to me) by Gretchen Rubin in her Happiness books and which I related to immediately:  We don’t buy things we need; we put off purchasing them and make due with moth-eaten, or sample packets, or simply without; we deny ourselves the replenishment (literally and spiritually) of the pleasures and efficiencies of life.

Every month, I write a spending plan that includes line items such as clothing, entertainment, personal care.  And for as many years as I’ve kept a spending plan, I have “fundged” money from these line items to make up for deficits caused by, say, an unexpected parking ticket, more eating out, or balancing out some other “necessary” line item.  This has meant that, for months on end, I go without spending the money I’ve allotted and planned to spend.

Now, surely, NOT spending money may be a value trumpeted by our society — SAVE YOUR DIXIE CUPS! — but in a case like mine, I deprive myself for months on end, feel edgy and dissatisfied, and mostly, I just feel like I’m not moving forward in life, no matter the numbers on my paycheck.

So, in an effort to “Do more to be more,” I have been spending out.  In January, I spent from my “Entertainment” line: I bought tickets to the symphony to see West Side Story (phenomenally delightful); I bought my very first series package from the SF Opera (my favorite, Tosca, was a part of the package, and I get 50% off for being a teacher!); and I spent the $3.99 to stream a beloved video at home with my sweetheart (Hot Tub Time Machine… they can’t all be operas!).

I spent in “Personal Care” by setting up a recurring delivery of my favorite facial moisturizer, instead of slowly scraping through various samples and ending up with breakouts or dry skin.  I got a pedicure!  I can’t recall the last time I’d had one.

In February, so far, I totally scored in “clothing.”  As I’ve gotten older, my ideas around what clothing purchases I make have become more stringent as my ethics have solidified: no first-press clothing.  What I’ve done for a few years, then, is to shop at thrift stores.  I’ve found some crazy prizes, but for the most part, the clothing from “thrift” stores can be pilled, worn-out, and not very stylish.  So I simply go without.

Last year, however, I began to haunt this one consignment store in a wealthier part of town.  And, boy, howdy, have I done well there.

But I hadn’t been in over 6 months.  I hadn’t spent in my clothing line for that long.  I have been depriving myself.  And I hate it.

This past Friday afternoon, I shopped.  I shopped so hard.

What was remarkable to me about this shopping trip was the abundance of “manifesty” items I was able to find: the oxblood motorcycle-style leather jacket (a la Emma Swan of Once Upon a Time); the knee-high leather boots (size 11!); the happ’nin oxford leather shoes (to replace the fading bronze ones you see at the top of this blog).  I have wanted each of these items … for years.

And as I exited the store beneath the darkening sky, the last customer of the night, a smile pasted, eyes widened, heart spun, I felt prosperous.  I felt right-sized.  I felt, f*cking Olympic.

 

 

doubt · relationships · self-care

Calculus

calculus

There is a subtle, ever-present equation being solved in my brain by the minute.  To be happy in this moment, do I need a little more rest or a little more activity?  To be happy in this lifetime, do I need a little more savings or a little more spending?  To be happy in this relationship, do I need a little more stability or a little more spontaneity?

This weighing and measuring circulates incessantly that old GPS tagline beneath all my thoughts: “Recalculating.”

I’m listening to the audiobook of Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before, a book about the formation of and adherence to habits.  Of the 4 tendencies she describes, I most clearly identify with “The Obliger,” with some elements of Questioner, Upholder, and Rebel.  As an obliger, I am most apt to complete something I’ve set out to do if I have accountability.  In fact, all the positive habits I’ve formed over the last dozen years, I realize, have been as the result of making an explicit or implicit pact with someone (or something, like a daily vitamin pill dispenser):

  • Stay Sober & Solvent?  Accountable to a group of people doing the same.
  • Run a 10K?  Accountable to a running group doing the same.
  • Write Morning Pages?  Accountable to my Artist’s Way group from 2008.
  • Make fresh coffee in the morning (instead of nuking one pot all week)?  Accountable to my boyfriend’s insistence that I have nice things!

What harangues me is the more insidious obliging that I engage in, where the motivation is much less clean:

  • Return the guilt-inducing phone call from my father?  Accountable to:  A) “Good daughter”ing or B) Genuine desire.
  • Remain a mentor to someone who is clearly not a fit?  Accountable to: A) “Good mentor”ing or B) Saving them from themselves.
  • Stay in a relationship peppered with my doubts from the start?  Accountable to: A) My partner’s wishes; B) Saving my partner from himself; C) My mom(!); D) My genuine desire for and love of him.

Where does my obliger nature veer into codependence rather than self-support?  And with every new piece of information — with every glance, hug, laugh, anger, sorrow — I calculate again, an always-running app in the background, doomed to refresh infinitely.

 

 

abundance · mortality · self-care · time

The Teapot Enables You

teapot 8 15 17

You must note the way the soap dish enables you,[…]
The kettle is singing even as it pours[…], the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and seen the good in you at last.

David Whyte, Everything is Waiting for You

My coffeepot, perhaps like yours, is electric with a clock and an auto-brew timer feature.  I have never in my ownership used this feature.  Until today.

Because of my new work schedule, new commute, and the relaunch of my daily blog, I am currently awakening at 5:30am, and it will have to be earlier once we move from “teacher prep” days to “omigod the students are here!” days next week.

Each morning past, I have woken up, pet my cat hello, and klutzed open the machine’s lid to pour in new water and grounds.  (For my own good, I have been forbidden by my boyfriend to brew a whole pot to drink throughout the week via microwave swill reheating…!)  This takes about 10 minutes from alarm to first sip.

But, this is inefficient in the industrial, technological age; I need my teapot to enable me.

Last night, for the first time, I pre-loaded my coffeepot with its daily matter and as I pet my cat and yawned in darkness this morning, I was greeted by the glug glug of the machine doing its work. I bumbled into the kitchen, ready to sip.

This may seem simple, banal even, but it’s progress for me.  For several years now, one of my aims has been efficiency, effectiveness.  Wanting to use the time I have on Earth performing actions that are aligned with who I want to be.  I don’t want to be the groggy-eyed medusa filling a daily water reservoir; I want to be the slightly-less groggy-eyed medusa sitting down to her daily journaling, meditation, and blog.

The coffeepot enables me to do this. Enables me to be present in the work I truly want to do (writing, creating, discovering, softening), rather than inefficiently toiling at Sisyphean tasks.

In this way, the coffeepot gets to fulfill its purpose and I, ten regained minutes at time, get to fulfill mine.

 

codependence · interdependence · relationships · self-care

Come on, you know you want it

giving tree 8 11 17

I walk through this life like a battlefield water-bearer, insisting to each person I meet that they need some of my light and life:  “You can’t get along without it!  Look how thirsty you are, needy, barren, bereft.  I can help, I have the magic secret sauce, and I’m the only one on earth healthy and able enough to give it to you!  I am your answer, savior, and absolute finite resource.”

Running around the world attempting to feed all those Sally Struthers children and Sarah McLachlan puppies is horribly exhausting, besides being awfully narcissistic.  But when you don’t trust other people to get their own needs met without you, you become the Giving Tree.  Here, have an apple, a limb, a torso.  I’m fiiiine without it.

This is where the pain arrives, and I finally become aware that something is terribly out of balance.  I am not fine without my torso, and guess what?  You do actually have your own.

I have assumed for so long that you’re inept (subconsciously, you know!) that I don’t allow you time to prove you’re not before I shove an apple in your mouth and run away before you demand more.

But the thing is, I don’t actually need for you to prove it.  Are you missing things?  Love, affection, validation?  Wow, that sounds like a pretty shitty place to be; I hope you get help with that … you know, from your own Source.

Because when I trust that you have your own well or tree or metaphor, I am free to tend to my own and to sit with you in gracious companionship.  Relieved of my self-imposed burden to watch for all your signals of need I am open to watch for my own.

Not gone grocery shopping this week, Moll?  Sleeping with a pile of clean laundry again?  Hey, lady, what’s going on, what do you need?

Oh, shit.

I’m going to have to answer that.

 

career · exhaustion · self-care · uncertainty

"Waiting" to "Pausing"

Normal
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11.1287

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I’m waiting to hear the outcome of my third, two-hour long
interview from Monday. I was put in a mock session of what the job would
entail, and though not mind-blowing, it would be a nice stop-gap for the time
being, I think.
But, there’s the trouble. I’m thinking about it a lot.
Trying to angle whether this is a good fit for me, if it’s better than the
unknowable, and … I’m tired.
I’m tired of the questioning, I’m physically exhausted,
emotionally, mentally. When I was on the phone with my mentor on Sunday, after
unloading and processing through a lot of muck, she began to respond, and I
stopped her by saying, hang on, I just want to finish:
then I told her all the plans I had for the week. Everything
I was going to do to support my job search, cleaning up my home, other
housekeeping style work like going down to the parking ticket office.
And when I was done with my litany, she said, Wow, it’s
really hard for you to let yourself rest, isn’t it?
And here I was thinking that my “positive action” sequence
was … positive. That it was showing I’m not slipping into despair, that I’m
keeping the jackals at bay with all my activity. Isn’t that what an unemployed
person is supposed to do? Keep busy? Do the footwork?
Even if they’re so tired they are on the verge of tears?
And so, this morning, already two cups of coffee into my
day, with plans to get out of the house and meet up with people, I went back to
bed for an hour. The caffeine kept me from sleep, but the resting was good. I
am exhausted. It’s been mentally and spiritually challenging to show up as I
have these past few months. It’s been hard, and I feel at the end of a
grin-and-bear-it period, without the relief that comes when you stop grinning.
So, … not today, but perhaps tomorrow, I’ll commit to
letting myself actually sleep in, to restore what’s been missing, and to gather
energy for what’s next.
There’s already a lot to do today, tomorrow, Friday. You’d
think being unemployed would mean a break, but I’ve got shit to do I can’t
excuse myself from. However, I can sleep in, and let myself have that relief. I
can allow it not to mean I’m lazy or going to fail or am being irresponsible.
Turns out, the most responsible thing I can do for myself at
the moment is to take extra special care of myself, even if it makes me squirm. 

anger · disconnection · equanimity · family · love · self-abandonment · self-care

There always had to be a fly…

Normal
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1
633
3613
30
7
4437
11.1287

0

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…in the ointment.
If things were going well, there was always the knowledge
that my father’s parents were shut-ins and deleterious hoarders. Or that my mom
was manic-depressive. Or that my brother had a horrible stutter.
There was always the reminder that my clothing was bought at
discount stores, that my father had an awful temper, or that my mom’s parents
had died under circumstances that ripped her family apart and isolated us against them.
If things were going well, there was always a skeleton or two
to whisper in your ear about not believing good things were for you, about
being dragged down, about not being allowed to be happy.
Today, those long-quieted skeletons, imagined they’ve been
exorcised for years, have begun their murmurous palaver again.
Yesterday, I had a phone call with my mother. She is sick.
Again. It’s the same or similar cold/sinus infection she’s been struggling
against for over a year. And when it came up last year, when she didn’t know
why she kept getting sick, when doctors didn’t immediately know why either, I
called my psychic.
Because at the time, all roads led to cancer. Did she have
it? What was going on? What can I do?
No, said the woman on the phone. It’s not cancer, but
whatever it is, if she doesn’t deal with this, with what’s underlying it, it could be the beginning of a long road to the
end. This could be the thing that takes her out.
Whatever your thoughts about intuitives aside, I’d worked
with her enough that she knew of what she spoke. And from all indications since
that phone call over a year ago, it’s proving pretty accurate. My mom is still
sick. Healthier, Sick, Healthier Sick.
And I’m dragged immediately back into a curtain-drawn
bedroom where she’d curled up against the light, fighting another one of her
chronic migraines. I’m dragged immediately back into being a child taking care
of her mother, telling her to get out of bed. Leaving her there, and getting my
brother and I out the door for school.
My mother is a woman of chronic ailments. And this newest
one, whatever its cause, reason, purpose, is dragging me down again with her.
What is love, comes the question? What is equanimity? What
is detachment, enlightenment? Fate? What is the caustic, oxidizing rust that
others’ baggage leaches onto you and your own path?
And what is my responsibility in helping them through their
pain?
Especially if they don’t recognize it as such.
So much has come up lately about codependence versus
interdependence. About leaving others to their experiences and feelings, and
letting that not affect what I’m doing and how I’m feeling. Even something as
simple as the play, and trying to not let the audiences’ reactions sway my
mood.
I feel angry. I feel angry this feels like it’s happening
again. I feel angry that I’m powerless about how she cares for and treats her
body, about how she schedules her work in the 12-hour days without lunch
breaks. About how she spends her off days flattened, recuperating from her over-working.
I’ve had to do so much work on letting her have her
experiences, despite my opinions, and
yet. And yet. I’m human. And I love her, and I don’t want her to be in pain.
And I don’t want her to deteriorate.
And moreso, I don’t want her life to affect mine.
When does a child grow up? What is the role of a loved one?
How can you, and can you, let someone crawl along the bottom of their own
experience, while you make strides in the direction of your own fulfillment?
Because that’s what’s at stake here. Callous as it may sound, it doesn’t matter,
ultimately, what happens with my mom. What matters is what I take on about it. How
I allow it to affect me. And mostly, can I continue to make my life what I want
it to be when there are still murmuring
skeletons?
My whole life, I’ve been distracted by the flies. I’ve
allowed my attention to be derailed in fishing them out, or I’ve simply allowed
them to decree that I cannot be happy because they exist. That I cannot find
success because there are flaws in the tapestry of my surroundings.
Obviously, I write about it today because I’m upset and I
don’t have the answer to these
questions. Because I don’t know
how
to move forward when there are tendrils threatening to draw you back.
So, for today, I’ll leave it both as an open question, and
as evidence of a success. Because, today, I get to tell you about it. And
darkness can’t live in the light.