Can anyone else relate? I sure can. This quote by Heather Plett & shared by TinyBuddha.com really struck me this evening. The art of caring for one’s self is a challenge for people like me – for many reasons. But among them, as I mentioned in a round about way here, being a people-pleaser can cause you to push yourself too far to make or keep everyone happy. And because you can’t actually achieve that, you keep pushing yourself to reach unattainable end. But what’s behind it? In this post, I wrote, “When I should watch and guard my time and well-being, I place others above myself to my detriment. Why? Good question. Why do you do it? Answering that question for ourselves is healing.”
This image above, with Heather Plett’s quote, perfectly answers why I have done it. It’s the trauma that taught me that I am only safe, accepted, loved, etc., when I behaved and spoke exactly as everyone else wanted. So naturally, being consumed by pleasing everyone around me was the result. I did so to my detriment for years on end. If you find yourself in this pattern, I hope this quote will be helpful to you. It was and is, to me.
I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons in my life. In recent years, I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons about who I can trust. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a while – after the fog lifts – to realize that you should not have trusted someone (with your time, heart, support, or even your most carefully held secrets or thoughts).
The worst part of trusting unsafe people is that they often present themselves as the only one/ones you can trust. When you’re in the so-called fog of war, it’s hard to know for sure. So how do you know who to trust and who not to trust? So hard. It’s so hard. I have no degrees. I’m not an expert in any field of use (haha) here. What I do have is experience – hard core experience.
Experience that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.
– William Nicholson – from The Shadowlands
Here’s what it boils down to:
TRUST. YOUR. GUT.
What if your gut is telling you that you can’t trust anyone in a specific environment (professional, personal, your neighborhood, whatever), or situation? That probably means you might want to be very careful and trust your gut until you see otherwise. I have been there. I trusted when I should not have. The charming one may catch your eye. But he or she isn’t always untrustworthy. Except when your gut tells you not to trust him. When everyone else has a bad opinion of someone – but your gut tells you something else – you might just be right. Conversely, there are people who are well-liked who are absolutely, 100% rotten people, who shouldn’t be trusted under any circumstances. Your gut is telling you
If you’ve been through trauma, could your people picker be off? Could your gut be wrong? It’s possible. It could also be super aware, as a result of your trauma, of who to avoid. What should you do in these moments? Trust yourself. If you’re in an environment that isn’t healthy, this need to protect yourself, set strong boundaries, and know your worth – is absolutely tied to your ability to trust yourself, too.
Trust your hunches. They’re usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level.
– Dr. Joyce Brothers
Listen, this is a hard thing to figure out – especially in the murky, grey areas of life. But when you make a decision to trust yourself and your gut – when you come to a moment of acceptance that you actually know what the hell you’re talking about/feeling/knowing – things that once seemed so confusing, suddenly become clear.
If you’re on a wellness journey, or learning to set better boundaries, this is going to take some work. You may even make a mistake or two along the way. I have made more than I care to admit. And recently. When you get to one of those moments when you realize you probably shouldn’t have trusted someone with a part of your heart, life, etc., accept it for the lesson it is and keep moving. It’s hard, dude. But if you take the lesson with you, it becomes easier the next time around to invest your efforts, heart, etc., in people and places that are trustworthy. The first step is to trust that this is true and that your gut knows what the hell it’s talking about.
If you’re pursuing wellness, particularly wellness as it pertains to your mental health, this is a great podcast to check out. While I don’t agree with everything I hear on the podcast (some doesn’t fit certain areas of my faith), I have found that much of what Dr. Hanson (and his son Forrest) discuss on the podcast, is immensely helpful. What I think is most helpful is what I have come to see as Dr. Hanson’s emphasis on our ability to control and impact our well-being, thinking, and ultimately emotions. This is a great episode. Click HERE to check it out. This podcast is one of my favorite things.
I drove south, about 250 miles, this afternoon. Though I’ve lived near the coast of North Carolina (aka Eastern North Carolina) for most of the last 20 years (with a few detours along the way), I saw country this afternoon I’ve never seen before. No matter how many times I encounter these backroads swamps, corn fields, or sweet potatoes – stretching out forever – nestled between thick pine forest, it still catches this city girl by surprise. It’s always a delight.
I’m in South Carolina’s Lowcountry now, staying at a sweet little Airbnb. My room – with a view of the marsh, is nothing compared to the gift of sitting on this quiet front porch this evening. Blessed quiet. I can’t tell you the joy of not being in an apartment today. The fan is whirring, I have a glass of wine, and I’m currently listening to Ray LaMontagne’s “Such a Simple Thing,” from this playlist:
I don’t know what the days ahead hold for me. I mean, who does, really? But sometimes we have these sweet breaks. Moments of pure joy & delight in the midst of the unknown. And today/tomorrow is one of those breaks for me.
I write about the places I know (California, D.C., and the lovely North Carolina coast). They are featured heavily in my fiction. But outside of Nicholas Sparks, there aren’t many traditionally published writers based in and writing about North Carolina – the coast in particular. There are books set in places such as the Outer Banks. But they’re not “North Carolina writers” and place isn’t something they’re truly intimately connected to. There are exceptions. They are out there. But, those writing about the Lowcountry of South Carolina are a whole other story, however. There are so many. Some of my favorites write about the Lowcountry. I crossed the Edisto River this afternoon, and though I’ve never been here, it’s a name I know well – as if it was an old friend.
For blog readers that aren’t familiar with the area, I’m about an hour and twenty minutes from Charleston, SC and about 50-ish minutes from Savannah, Georgia. The thing about Lowcountry writers is that they write these marshes, pluff mud creeks, palmetto tree, low-tide, and high-tide rivers and creeks, and sea turtle – places, as if the place itself is an actual being. The place is a character in the book. No one else, except maybe North Carolina’s Sarah Addison Allen (who writes magical realism – set mostly in western NC), does this. I can be corrected. Feel free to prove me wrong. But Sparks, though he writes of roads and places and events (New Bern’s Ghost Walk for instance) I know well – his novels don’t make the place a character. The places are written well. But they’re not living and breathing beings. The closest he gets to this is a A Bend in the Road (set in my beloved downtown New Bern – where I once lived).
Low County writers write this place as if it is a living and breathing being – as if the creeks, rivers, and marshes will rise up and chat with you – if only you would sit still long enough. My favorite book (one of my favorite of all-time) that does this is Sweetwater Creek by Ann Rivers Siddons. It may not be the most critically acclaimed novel I’ve ever read (though a bestseller), but I will tell you this right now, Ms. Siddons writes these marshes and creeks in a way that made me long for them as a home, though I’d never been here before.
Maybe one of the most famous Lowcountry writers is the Pat Conroy. Conroy had an ability to write just about anything in a way that made me want to read more. My favorite book of his, isn’t a novel, however. It’s My Reading Life – a sort of autobiography – only it’s through the lens of the impact of the most significant books he’d read in his lifetime. Though I wished to go to the Pat Conroy Literary Center while I was here, they’re not open until Thursday (insert sad face here). I will make it eventually.
“When I started out as a kid in Beaufort who wanted to be a writer I didn’t have the slightest notion how to become one…. My home state has given me a million stories and no writer who ever lived had such riches to choose from. What I owe South Carolina is not repayable.” ~Pat Conroy.
Eventually, I will make my way back up the coast, tomorrow. I may take the long route – but I’ll eventually find myself back in Eastern North Carolina. For how long, I’m not exactly sure. But I do know that this brief break in the pace of my every day life, is a kindhearted reminder, that I can’t lose sight of the main thing.
I’ve spent nearly twenty years of my life making my job the thing. It’s not that it’s not important. I would not trade these years. Maybe. I may not find myself outside of working for the federal government for quite some time. Who knows? I certainly do not. But I do know that I’m learning every dang day, to keep the main thing, the main thing. And the job just ain’t it. As I get ready to turn in for the night, I’m reminded of the pursuit of this thing that makes me who I am. The dream I laid down? It was for a worthy cause, surely. But sometimes comfort become a habit, one we’re meant to throw off.
Sometimes the place you’re used to, is not the place you belong. – Unknown
In the quiet of this cute little brick, ranch house – with its ticking clocks and wooden saints in the window – I’m reminded of the way I was formed and the way I grew. I remember the hard and rocky roads that brought me here. It’s all led to the words I was meant to write. There is redemption and restoration there in those hard places. There is restoration in the words I’m writing now.
When you speak for a person (in your professional life), you can possibly (as I have) become uncomfortable with the push and pull between public vs. private. Even more so when your name is not easily lost in the Jennifer Smiths of the vast interwebs. When the vulnerability you know is required in your writing, exposes you to those you’d rather not be exposed to, you could (I did) shrink back, lessen your words, shrink what you once believed possible, and grow too comfortable with what was.
When I stood at the kitchen sink, in this quiet airbnb this evening, and looked into the yard, past the saint in the window, I remembered what it was like to learn from the artists I knew best (mostly my Grandmother) growing up. If I’m not writing “clear and hard about what hurts” (Ernest Hemingway), I will always miss the mark. I have been missing the mark for quite some time.
For friends still reading this far – here’s what I want you to do:
1. Keep writing (clear and hard) about what hurts (or gives you joy or sets you free or lights a fire in your heart). 2. Don’t hold back. 3. Chase (hard) after those things you know (in your soul) you’re meant to do and be. It may not happen over night – getting to this place you know you’re meant to be. But nothing meant for you will pass you by. Of this I am certain. So keep at it. Keep pressing. Keep waiting – but actively waiting with expectation and hope. 4. And then, keep waiting, hoping, & working.
I don’t know where the path is taking me, but I know what I’m called to do – wherever it leads. I think you know, too – friend.
When I posted on Monday, I was a little down in the dumps. My heart is a little beat up and on top of it all, Tuesday morning, I took an early morning phone call, while getting ready for work. A former colleague has passed away. I felt like a zombie all day Tuesday. I made stupid mistakes, I was all over the place. Tuesday afternoon, I took the dog to the vet. She’s got some powerful meds to help get her through an infection and some inflammation. I hope this will put her on the right track. But she’s “old” and I worry about losing her. By last night, I just wasn’t okay. It has been one thing after another, you know?
The thing about this former colleague is that it not only broke my heart – but it drove home – how short our time on earth, actually is. It is just a mere blip. I just saw this person a few weeks ago at work. Initially, I felt a weight in the grief of it all. I had a good long cry last night. But as this loss settles in, I think it’s a far more powerful tribute to the impact this person made in my professional community, to doggedly live this wild life I know is waiting for me. Maybe the word, wild throws you off. I’ll have to write about that someday. But one of the things I mean by that is that I want to live counter to a culture that celebrates things and titles and live in the moment tasting and experiencing life and all it offers us. There’s a richness and beauty to life, but it’s often lost in the pursuit of everything else. But it’s not just that! I think we often lose out on the life we are meant to live – the life we want to live – as these painful moments rear their head, because we won’t face them.
The temptation for me & I’m sure for many others, is to shrink back in our moments of loss, pain, grief, etc. But I’ve decided this is exactly when I need to turn the dial up on my commitment to myself to chase dreams and live fully – each day. What I’m now learning (and leaning to accept) is that I can’t get there without facing the losses, pain, and grief. My words for 2021 were hope & faith. In these moments when I most want to pull the cover over my head and escape the sadness of it all, I’d rather choose hope and faith. I love joy. I love the simple things in life. In the weight of loss, it’s easy to lose track of that. I’m choosing hope & faith – against appearances. But I can’t get there without first facing the other stuff, head on.
In a slightly related and possibly also unrelated note (I’m sure that makes perfect sense to everyone), I read an article yesterday, on Elephant Journal, about the concept of HO’OPONOPONO. The article on Elephant Journal doesn’t do the concept justice – in my opinion. But I’m so glad I saw it. That article led me to do some more reading and then I found this article & video. I found it far more helpful. It’s essentially an ancient Hawaiian practice used to resolve conflicts within family units. But was used later by a therapist Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len and others.
The thing about HO’OPONOPONO, in what I’ve read so far, is that I think its beauty and the healing concepts, come – as you choose acceptance for what is – for wrong done to you or that you’ve done, for that matter. You’re not focusing on changing the person who has hurt you, or who you need to forgive, or the situation, for that matter. You are, however, working on your perception of the situation. The result is forgiveness, love, and comfort, too. This is all a lot to add to this post. Especially when I just read about it for the first time yesterday. But the way it ties together for me, is that my perception of what’s happening, is often what is pulling me out into the current – further from hope & faith. The balance that is gained (or I guess I should say regained) can open the door to that restoration of your hope and faith – because you’re no longer tied down by unforgiveness and the painful emotions.
I’m rambling now. The bottom line is that I’m learning all around me – from people like Brene (in this post), my therapist, and in unlikely places too – that facing the stuff head on is actually the route to hope, healing, and light in the dark places. So in this season of loss, added to the season before it, I’ve made that commitment to myself this evening. I’ll keep facing it. And through that, I’m certain I’ll get closer and closer to living this dream I’ve been chasing so long.
*The Viktor Frankl quote above was given to me today, by my therapist. It’s perfect.
And honestly, it’s kind of freeing, in my opinion.*