You deserve it. I know you do.
Recently while driving I heard an interview with Christine Carter, a life balance expert, talking about how to be happier. Really, she said, it all boiled down to self-care.
I put the car into park and listened as her words filled me with a quiet, certain joy.
The way she got back to that much desired productivity ‘sweet spot’, she said, was by slowing down. Doing less. Listening to herself more. Refusing to multi-task.
That’s exactly what I have been doing over the last few years. In Christine Carter’s case, a sudden serious illness forced her to stop and reassess her life. For me, it was the death of my daughter.
Even then – in the most severe of situations – letting go was nearly impossible for me to do. All my life I had been an achiever, a doer, a leader. Yet now the bottom had dropped out.
Could I really take a break? Who would I be if I truly let go?
My inner bully insisted this would be the end of everything. It advised me to hang on, no matter what. So I tried to, believing that my success and well being rested solely on how hard I worked and how much I pushed.
Like a veteran soldier I forged ahead. Six weeks after my daughter’s death I launched a new business right on schedule. God forbid I stopped and felt my feelings, because then I would be truly immobilized.
The launch was relatively successful, but within a month I was a wreck. Delivering the new work was much harder than I had anticipated. A dear friend advised me to stop. So I finally did, crawling off to bed as if my life depended on it. The new business quickly evaporated.
For weeks that turned into months, I did nothing but rest. I kept thinking I needed to get back to work, but somehow I couldn’t. My inner bully tried, valiantly, to get me back in motion. But something had changed.
I began to realize I deserved a rest after all these years. Certainly I needed one now, as I began a radically different life alone in California without my beloved daughter.
So I gave myself massive permission to be however I needed to be.
I lay in bed whenever I wanted to. I let myself cry as much as I needed to. I went on long walks in redwood forests or along the coast. I exercised. I drank a superfood smoothie every day. And I went to support group meetings where I talked about my pain.
At first I was going to take two months off, then four months. That became six months. Finally after an entire year of self-care, I emerged and began to work. Along the way I had stopped questioning when I would get back to work, or even what I was doing.
I kept hearing Teal’s voice in my head, “Just be, Mom. Just be.”
So I practiced being, and along the way I began to find myself again … my true self. The one who was forgotten all those years ago. I rediscovered yoga, wearing lots of lace, and listening to classical music. I went to Paris for two months. I found new friends and even fell in love.
Now, two and a half years later, I have returned to my true work as a writer. I am in a wonderful, deeply loving relationship. And I no longer get woken up by my inner bully every day, jamming my head with to-do’s. Instead I meditate. I go to my yoga class. Then I sit down at the right time and I write.
The inner bully is still there, of course, but she’s become a gentle chider. And I chide her right back. We have become friends because now I’m on to her.
True effectiveness is not about pushing yourself with caffeine or getting the right apps to pound out more work. It’s not about strategically napping, or figuring out more ways to manage email so you didn’t feel overwhelmed.
It’s about allowing yourself to unfold like the perfect flower that you are, petal by delicate petal. So we surrender to that river of joy that lives within all of us but that is so seldom heard or felt in the rush of life.
This is one of the great ironies of life. We are far more fragile than we know — yet when that fragility is honored, and we deeply care for ourselves, we become far more powerful.
May you care for yourself well today, friend, in all that you do.
One of the most useful discoveries I have made in my life is that at times, I have been a great, big victim. Or rather, I was a Victim – one who uses their hardships to pry sympathy and attention out of others.
I used my ‘victimhood’ for years beginning as a small child. Then I would lie at the bottom of the stairs, hoping my distracted addict mother would come by and notice me.
“I fell down the stairs,” I would begin with a big, teary face. This was how I learned to get love.
You know Victims. We are the whiners who always seem to have some big problem at hand. The sad fact is that we know no other way. Yet once we can actually own our victim stance, liberation is at hand.
Life gets far better almost immediately – mainly because we suddenly wake up to a whole lot of bad choices we’ve made again and again. When we start to look at the patterns, we realize much of our ‘bad luck’ was actually well under our control.
If we can allow ourselves to drop whatever story we’re clinging to, and really, truly look at our situation, then we make discoveries. Even better, we begin to forgive ourselves and so develop self-esteem.
Admitting my mistakes has been the hardest part for me. It was terribly embarrassing to own I had been a financial baby for much of my adult life – which is the real reason I thought banks and the IRS were bullies.
Similarly, I had to let go of the story that a former partner was the real reason our great lesbian love didn’t last. In my mind, she became the hella-tyrant, rife with psychoses. In reality, I was beyond checked out in the relationship and should have let her go long before moving in.
In Victimland, we reinforce our position that we are ‘right’ and that the other, our perpetrator, is wrong. As well they may be. Yet, we are the ones who keep coming back for more. For some reason we need that negative impact on our hearts, again and again.
If I could have told myself the truth in my relationship, I would have seen we simply weren’t a good fit. Yet, I was wired to be a Victim – and so I chose the much rougher route.
Do bad things happen to good people? Absolutely – and life is filled with unspeakable pain at times. But do we have to use these hard circumstances to invoke pity and avoid responsibility?
We can, but it makes for a messy life with little serenity.
These days I vote for reality and I take it as it comes. Teal was a recovering Victim when she died. She became big on smashing the mindset wherever she spotted it.
If I complained excessively about something on the phone to her, she’d chime right, “Yo! Mom … Vic-tim …”
Right, Teal. I hear you.
No one has to be a Victim in this sweet, short life we are given. Well, we can … but why bother?
Instead, these days I choose Joy … how about you?
Want to find out if you are a Victim? Check out my ‘Are You a Victim?’ Questionnaire. (It just take a minute!)
Are you someone who can’t seem to shake trouble? If so you may be a perennial Victim.
The good news is that Victims can indeed drop the drama and learn to live with peace.
Based purely on my own experience and research, I whipped up some questions to help you see where you are.
Answer as honestly as you can. Give each statement one of the following scores, based on how often it occurs in your life.
0 = Seldom or Never
1 = Sometimes
2 = Often
- In relationships I regularly find myself under attack – emotionally, physically or verbally.
- When this happens, I usually take the blame and apologize first.
- I cling to the notion that he/she/it will change – either at work or in love.
- Friends think I’m a little crazy to stay in my various victim situations.
- There are parallels between the upsets in work and home life. In fact, there is a pattern in which I am usually the victim.
- I have trouble setting boundaries with others in work or love.
- I am often unable to make decisions or take action for fear of displeasing someone.
- I often work late, undercharge, or overprovide.
- I am a chronic under-earner.
- My success level does not measure up to my academic degrees or trainings.
- When I consider letting go of the abusive relationship or job, I simply cannot imagine a better alternative. So I stay.
- I know I need to make a change, but the energy drains right out of me when I start thinking about how that would happen.
- I find myself making excuses for my abusive love/boss/colleague/friend.
- I secretly plot and scheme to leave but I never do.
- I have trouble saying ‘no’ in general; it just feels really uncomfortable.
- I often find myself jumping through hoops to keep my abuser happy, in hopes of warding off an attack.
- There is usually a little crisis brewing somewhere in my life.
- I suffer from chronic stress-related illnesses.
- I don’t sleep well and find myself angrily rehashing incidents in which I feel victimized.
- Anger is my most uncomfortable emotion – I’d do anything to avoid it.
Mostly ‘0’s: You may occasionally feel like a victim, but who doesn’t from time to time? All in all, you’re in a healthy place.
Mostly ‘1’s: Pay attention to where you give yourself away. And notice what you make up about things that don’t go your way. Is it always someone else’s fault?
Mostly ‘2’s: Friend, there is enough Victim here to merit some healing love and attention. You don’t have to be a Victim anymore – really. Give yourself the gift of checking in frequently to see how YOU feel about things. And consider getting some therapy or other healing work to move you towards greater balance and equanimity.