Reservations and clarity

Where to begin. She kept staring at her vision board that she had created just over 2 years ago. It contained pictures of her favorite travel destinations that she had been fortunate enough to experience. In addition there were pictures of her family. Then she had placed words, feel good words, to accompany the pictures. Determination, energy purpose, abundance, passion, love, appreciation, eagerness and clarity. The vision board required some updates. At the time William was not born. She had forgotten the words ease, calm, certainty, serenity, confidence, faith, hope, worthy and strong. She remembered that time.

She had learned valuable lessons then. Her boyfriend had been in rehab. It had been what she was hoping he would do for a few years. At that time she had done everything possible to help him «get clean». She was no longer willing to live the way they were living. She had given him the ultimatum – the streets or rehab. She was hoping he would say rehab because she was not convinced she would be able to kick him out on the streets. So when he went, she was certain their life would turn around. It did.

In rehab he decided he wanted independence from her and start living a new life. She experienced the break up. She did not turn to substances to feel better. She turned within and found her self-worth and confidence. She found her power. She no longer felt powerless. She felt strong. She did not hope for a reunion. She had let go. It took a few months but she was free even though she had hurt and cried. The result had been very revealing and beneficial to her. At the same time, an unexpected event at work resulted in a project that required her to travel to Amsterdam just before her planned vacation to Ireland. The timing was perfect. She would be away for three weeks and she had not planned this in order to run away – no – this was like a gift from the Universe.

She absolutely loved travelling alone. In Amsterdam, it was all new to her. She walked everywhere and experienced as much as she could before the work in Rotterdam started. She loved taking the train to Rotterdam and she loved the ocean there. No beaches were visited there but she did take a boat ride. This is where she felt at ease and calm – on, by or in the water. After the work was finished in the Netherlands she left for Ireland. She had never felt as free and confident as when she got into the car, on the other side, drove standard and onto the road, on the opposite side of what she was accustomed to. She did it like she had lived there her whole life. The highways were perfect. No traffic, just beautiful scenery. She drove to Galway, Doolin, Connemara, and the Ring of Kerry and to every beach the GPS could find. Wild beaches along the Atlantic Way with nobody around. She took the ferry to the Aran Islands. She took in every single bit of Ireland she could on that trip, and of course Dublin. She got lost and then found her way, all by herself. She came home happy and knew she loved life and life loved her. That was just over two years ago. The word on her vision board that had her attention now was clarity. She wanted clarity.

Looking back, life had continued to be filed with blessings and challenges and she had gotten through them. But now, there were things that seemed to building up and coming to a head. This is how it felt. She had reunited with her boyfriend back then. He was back to the same old destructive patterns. Patterns she was no longer willing to spend any energy trying to manage. Last year his mother had gotten ill and it had been scary. At the same time, her own mother had been placed in a home due to Alzheimer’s and she had that to face, feel and manage. William was born and her life was filled with new joys and some worry. There were certain issues that needed to be addressed. All was well for the moment with William. Yes, there were some emotional moments in that year. She had thought to herself, that 2017 would be her year to shine, the prime year was hers to reach her own and thrive.

It had not been quite the year she expected or planned. There was no way she could have prepared for the events of this year. Her mother passed, and perhaps that was to be expected, but she was still feeling the loss. Then her ex, the father of her child passed, unexpectedly and that threw her daughter into a tail spin. She had to face unresolved feelings where he was concerned. She had the tools for going through those losses. She reached out to family, to meditation, to the silence within. She cried and said she accepted. She worked her ass off and went for that promotion, and at the time it appeared she would not get it. Life had made it such that she met with a friend form work, who had left, and started a new career elsewhere. The timing, again, was perfect. She was willing and felt the hope of the possibilities of something new.  Her boyfriend was using and, while annoying, she did not resist, she accepted and she focused elsewhere. She knew she could not control another. She had learned that those two years ago. She worked, saw her family and friends. She decided to take a week vacation, by herself and found herself at the beach for 7 days. There she reached to meditation, to the silence within, to the ocean waves. It was wonderful, therapeutic and exactly what she needed. When she returned she had taken a road trip with her little one to the beach her mom and second dad had loved so much. She did not fear crying. It was like the ocean, like the tides releasing and renewing, constantly.

Her daughter was having a difficult time accepting her father’s and grandmother’s deaths. She was having severe panic attacks and was unable to join in the road trip that had initially been planned for the whole family, the five of them. She had been to the hospital twice for panic attacks and thought her heart would give out. She was prescribed anti-anxiety medication and Ativan. Her heart had sunk upon hearing the news. Pills do not make anything better, she thought to herself, but in this case, for now, this might help. She thought therapy would be the best option. Waiting lists………She feared her daughter would return to self-harming. She was not wrong. She never believed her daughter would go down a path that had her thinking and imagining the worst kind of horrors. She felt helpless, powerless and could not accept this. This had been one of her reservations – nothing could happen to her daughter. Acceptance. She could accept many things, but this one felt like to accept would be the polar opposite of being a mom. She had experience with this.  Sometimes the thing we must accept is that we are resisting, she thought to herslef. Judgement was not an issue. She could not judge. But she was full resistant mode. She accepted that. She could be there for her but could not make her feel better or make decisions for her. She reflected on the fact that two people in her life were on a downward spiral and she felt completely different about each of them. Why? Clarity eluded her.

She understood the thoughts that led to the choices that led to the behaviour that led to hell. She could not judge that. However, in her daughter’s case, she still felt helpless, destroyed, scared, worried and powerless. She was tired of it. But to let those feelings go by just accepting and letting go of the need to control was beyond her at the moment. She knew she could force an intervention of sorts. Sure, remove her daughter and place her in a safe place. That was extreme. The kids were fine. She was  a wonderful mom, who just had little regard for her self-worth and well-being at the moment. Children can keep you sane, she thought to herself. This was her experience. Children are the loves of your life, your motivation to be and do better. Her son in law was being brilliant, supportive, and amazing. It was humbling.

She recalled something her second dad had said to her, over dinner one night after her mom had passed. He had said he would forever feel guilty about taking her mom out of their home and placing her in that residence. Despite having gone there every single day, he still felt guilt. She had hated him for placing her there. He had consulted with the whole family and doctors before making that choice. It was for the best, for her well-being. That was the thought process behind that choice. It had been the most difficult to make. This man adored her mother, with no doubt, she knew that. But he felt guilt. She was not sure that intervening in such a way would be for the best. Her daughter was a wonderful mother to those boys. They were happy little ones and just……….angels. That was not the answer.

Her daughter requested spending more time together. She was overjoyed at the thought. She would focus on the positives. The phone calls, the texts, the talks, the time spent together, babysitting the little ones every weekend. All good things. Every communication from her daughter was a good sign. Even if what she was hearing and seeing was not good. Her daughter wanted to go to meetings. She was happy. Maybe there she would find some clarity and her daughter would remember the tools she had and her inner strength. Her daughter was a wonderful, beautiful, strong woman now. With a lot of little kid in her. Her daughter did not know how to grieve. She could learn that at the meetings. That is where she had learned many life skills. She was willing to share how she grieved the same events with her daughter too. So they went to the meeting again, for the second time in two weeks. It could become a weekly thing, she thought to herself. But to her dismay, her daughter left to go outside. She stayed and listened. She heard somebody share about people being mirrors, about how those you seek to be around are a reflection of yourself. Well this was interesting, she thought. She did not depend on people to find herself anymore. But, being open minded to the message, she asked «what did her people reflect about her? » Was she turning to substances to manage life? No. Was she on a self-destructive path? No. She was trying to be there for her daughter. Like a lighthouse. She had been called that before. She was hoping to help her daughter. Why did she want to help people? Well it was natural to help her daughter. Why help the boyfriend? Again and again and again and again…………………What did that say about her? She no longer cared about pleasing people. She had recently realized she was losing the need and desire to explain or justify herself to anyone. Another good thing buried among the chaos of the moment.

She looked up people that want to save others. Just in case. It was not like she was running around finding people to save, they were in her life. She had given birth to one of them. It was worth investigating. She looked up the term «saviour complex». It was like a slap in the face. Ironically just the day before, a conversation at work had led to her admitting that because she was raised in a strict household, she had not set enough boundaries with her daughter. Balance. Now she was reading the following from Psychology today:

«The savior complex can be best defined as “A psychological construct which makes a person feel the need to save other people. This person has a strong tendency to seek people who desperately need help and to assist them, often sacrificing their own needs for these people.”»

She had done that with her boyfriend and had learned to be more balanced. She knew with her daughter, she would do anything to help her and this was probably the point. Her daughter was the one reservation she had, back when she had decided to get help with her substance abuse. But, she did not want to learn life lessons at the expense of her daughter’s well-being! Reservations, resistance………However she had to read on.

«Many individuals who enter into caring professions such as mental health care, health care and even those who have loved ones with addictions may have some of these personality characteristics. »

Well, last week she had asked why she felt surrounded by this and now she could not deny this one. She had asked for clarity……..

« The underlying belief system of these individuals is that “It is the noble thing to do. They believe they are somehow better than others because they help people all the time without getting anything back.” »

While she knew she was not better or worse than anyone, it would appear she had not quite correctly understood the meaning of «you can only keep what you have by giving it away. » Guilt? Perhaps.

«While motives may or may not be pure, their actions are not helpful to all involved. The problem is that trying to “save” someone does not allow the other individual to take responsibility for his or her own actions and to develop internal motivation.  Therefore, the positive (or negative) changes may only be temporary. »

Yes. This was true in her experience. The article went on to quote an author whose book had helped her those two years ago.

«The Second of The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz is “Don’t Take Anything Personally.” This book chapter and following quotes teach key concepts that may provide helpful guidance for those struggling with savior complex tendencies:

“You are never responsible for the actions of others; you are only responsible for you.”

“Whatever you think, whatever you feel, I know is your problem and not my problem.  It is the way you see the world.  It is nothing personal, because you are dealing with yourself, not with me. Humans are addicted to suffering at different levels and to different degrees, and we support each other in maintaining these addictions”»

She felt like clarity was sitting there asking «You wanted to see me? Well here you go, I am here! » The article offered solutions too. She figured she would note them down for future consultation. The solutions offered to avoiding falling into the “savior” trap with relationships were as follows:

  • Process emotions with friends and family – without breaking things – it had been 1 full week!
  • Set boundaries with the other individual that allow you to balance caring for them with trying to “save” themTHIS was what she was most hoping to learn to master
  • Say “maybe” or “no” before saying yes in order to give yourself time to weigh options – done
  • Slow down enough to be mindful of choices she had meditated twice that week!
  • Reach out for support from a therapist or coach in order to receive an objective assessment of your interpersonal issue – meetings were a form of support.
  • Let your loved one take responsibility for their actionsclarity help!
  • Do not over-function or work harder than your loved one – she was beginning to see a pattern
  • Do the best that you can do to support the individual and then “let go” of the results ok, she was willing
  • Redefining “helping” and “caring” clarity help!!!!

The quote «what you resist persists» came to her mind. Sure, she had done a lot of good work when it came to others, but clearly, life wanted her to learn more to really be there for her daughter and maybe even for herself. In the healthy way. She could learn to set boundaries. She could do all of the above. She would because she loved her daughter and herself. She remembered how her faith had been shaken. But still she had looked for the lesson. She still had faith that life had her back. She had been wiling. Despite the current situation, she would create a different one. The article offered these suggestions for helping someone:

  • Ask questions
  • Backing off
  • Simply listening
  • Offer action steps and coping skills instead of doing the work for them

She realized she was learning to do just that. Her daughter hated the questions and she was learning to back off – it was difficult but she would do it. She was listening and she was offering her experience to her daughter. All was not lost. Hope was revealing a flicker of itself. To keep her in line, the article offered these questions she should ask herself to keep herself on the right track:

  • Am I helping this person by avoiding natural consequences?
  • Am I giving them what they want or what they need?
  • Is this decision made to keep them “happy” or for their overall health?
  • Is my action helping them to get better or me to feel better?
  • Am I being invited to help?
  • Do I “want” to or have to do this?

And to address her fears about not helping, and to challenge them as “False Evidence Appearing Real”, the article had these questions to help her:

  • The family or others will not like me – family yes this was a fear, others, not a concern of hers.
  • People may complain, not be happy or my job may be in jeopardy – yep, this was a fear she had
  • I will feel like I am not being effective as a loved one or at my job – she strived to be effective…..maybe this was an issue?
  • I feel like I am not able to help – yes, she had this fear as well
  • I am not doing the best that I can? – Ironically she did not know what the best meant.
  • I am missing something obvious? – Clearly she had missed the fact that had some elements of the saviour complex.

She felt like she had found some clarity. She imagine clarity sitting there smiling over her while fear took a back seat. Doubt was coming out from behind the bushes though as she focused on hope. Doubt likes to sneak up when one is focused elsewhere. However, with awareness, she felt confident in her ability to look at herself and put these suggestions into practice. She remembered what she had read/learned before – she did not have to suffer because her daughter was. She was no longer interested in being addicted to suffering. She did not have to do what everyone else would do. She remembered the saying, it is only when there is nothing left to do that you do what works anyway – let go and meditate.  The resistance was not completely gone, but she had tools to address it.  At the end of the day, she realized the Universe did indeed have her back. She also believed the Universe  understood they could agree to disagree, for a moment. The Universe was patient and did not have a savour complex. It would be here for her when she was ready to learn. That choice was hers. Reservations, what a horribly wonderful thing,…. once you are on the other side.

Reference: Psychology Today, The Saviour Complex, by Sarah A Benton MS, LMHC, LPC

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As good as it gets

I have been back at work for about a month now. My vacation was…..well………perfect. I suppose the sign of a good vacation is coming back and feeling ready to face whatever life presents to me. I had taken the time to re-energize or re-align myself. I felt like I was in touch with me again. I could breathe and I felt very solid- no matter what may happen.

In the past. I would return to work with a feeling of dread. As if work had the power to take away my feeling of inner well-being. Now I am not saying that I have felt perfectly fine during the last few weeks, but suffice to say, I feel an odd sense of peace, despite what has been happening around me.

I had plans to meditate every single day, as I had at the beach. I had plans to stay active and do physical activity- as I had during my vacation. Oh so many plans. The reality is, I gave myself to my work and when I could, I would meditate. I have also discovered just being. I think «Ease» is the feeling I have been exploring. Allowing myself to take it easy. This time I was perfectly aware that it was ME making the choice, to take or not take, the time to do my planned list of activities. This time, I could not blame anything on work or outside circumstance. The freedom felt in just accepting that I may not always achieve my planned routine has been…beneficial.

The 180 turnaround

Work has been much the same, but slightly different. Last week, I received the news that I did, in fact, get my promotion. It is now official. In hindsight, I see the benefit in experiencing the exact polar opposite of this news before I left for my vacation. I had felt a sense of freedom, no matter what I was told back then, I knew then that I was deserving and good enough. I had become open to new and exciting opportunities. I still am, although they are currently with my firm. I may not know for certain what caused the 180 turn of events, but suffice to say, I think I have some clue. The lessons learned from that whole experience taught me that I no longer have to believe in other people’s perceptions of reality. My own count as well, if not even more. For example, the other day I started to get really stressed about a presentation I had to finish. A presentation that «presented» itself to me last minute with little time to achieve the planned objectives. I became aware that I really enjoy a challenge and I had invested and committed myself to this. Nobody forced me. Although I know that it is understood that I must do these tasks, another part me was very much aware that I wanted to nail it. I then realized that in my stressed out moment, I had bought into another person’s perception of reality. I was actually able to distinguish between my perception that things work out, desire to do well versus another’s perception of urgency. «Worry pas» is an expression my second dad always says, it means «don’t worry». We used to always say it and laugh, but now I am living it, or at least trying to.

I have been learning new things at work too. Proposals are something new to me. This is how we get new clients, business and projects. I had always wanted to be involved before, however now, I am in a position where I have to be. It is required that I become adept at writing proposals. Understanding the context, client needs and submitting a concise approach that reflects that are key. Sales, selling our team and myself in a concise, precise articulate way. I am new to this, Ironically, I had many review notes and did not react as I had in the past. This time, I did not feel unworthy or not good enough. I turned those suggestions into lessons learned and enjoyed the process rather than dread it. Yes, I will always be someone who will need to focus more on details, but I was able to produce good enough work, in my view, and still enjoy the detailed process. This is progress.

Acceptance and appreciation

In my soul, the memories of the ocean are never far away. I love remembering how the ocean and waves felt. I enjoy finding shops where ocean and beach items are sold. Case in point. Many beach and ocean themed stores have furniture that is wood, with a white tint. I adore the look. I am thinking of turning my mom’s bedroom furniture, given to me many years ago, into my new project. The furniture currently has a green tint and always reminded me of spring. My mother had done that all herself. I could never bring myself to dispose of the furniture despite the fact that it is «old». My project is to sand it and tint the wood white – to resemble the furniture I have seen in beach homes, cabins or even huts.

Ocean

In my little piece of the world, I have noticed myself appreciating what is around me. I can list a number of things that upset, worry and anger me. I know this. However I am learning acceptance and awareness of how I feel. In addition, I have noticed that I find myself looking at the things I do enjoy and really focusing on them. Case in point, I recently went for a walk along the Lachine Canal, there were boats on the canal.

 

It seemed busier than usual. The Atwater market is just 10 minute walk, maximum, from my apartment and I found myself really appreciating being so close to local farmers. I purchased fresh blueberries and strawberries and other local produce. I loved looking at the flowers. They will forever remind me of my mother. I cried at the sight of some of them and did not mind one bit. You see I have become comfortable with tears. I know she is in a much better place. I also know that my tears are because I do not appreciate how she passed, and I miss her physically. And that is okay. It is perfectly acceptable. I feel very grateful to be able to accept myself in this way. It feels new. It feels like I did bring back a piece of my «Cuba self.» The walk on the canal is free. It costs nothing. So many people, all outside, co-existing, enjoying nature and life in their own way. There is a boat called «Canal Lounge» where you can go eat, drink and be merry. During my walk, I noticed a man playing the trumpet by the water, jazzy blues. It was the perfect accompaniment to that afternoon by the water.

 

I look back on my life in the last few weeks and I feel very blessed. I have a wonderful family. Being able to see them for a visit, dinner or just call and chat on the phone matters to me. I had dinner with my brother and his girlfriend, and, not long after I had dinner with my second dad. I really enjoyed those dinners. I had been somewhat worried that those family dinners would no longer happen, now that my mom had passed. They still happen, they are just different. That is perfectly acceptable too. I have come out of my little bubble and re-connected with an old friend. She has some issues with her health. I was able to be there for one of her treatments. We just sat and talked at the hospital. I had never felt comfortable doing that before. I felt inadequate and felt I would not know how to help or do anything of value. I feel differently now. It was an honour to be there with my friend.

My daughter is going through difficult times. I cannot say I am not worried and I wish I could do more. However, even in feeling powerless, I know that just by being available to talk with her and listen, more importantly, is helping in some small way. Over the past few weeks, I was given the gift of a phone call from her. One time she called me at work. Why? Because she felt good. She was calling me to tell me she felt OK because she always calls when she is not feeling so hot. I have never cared when she calls. I am just happy she calls, no matter what. The fact that she called just to tell me that day was ok blew my mind and my heart. I am very blessed. Since that day, we speak even more than ever before. I enjoy listening to her talk. I had always hoped she would, but always respected her space. Well now we are chatty Cathy’s on the phone almost daily.

The self help people always say «Do what you love», or. I agree. That is one fine goal. However, these days, I am finding it pretty satisfying just being aware of how I feel, accepting what I do and loving what I have. I may not have the prefect boyfriend but I try to see his qualities. I know now I have enough boundaries set that no one can take advantage of me. I am no victim. That is progress. It is nice to know I can appreciate being accepted for who I am. I do have the perfect family for me and I have never really had many expectations from friends. I do however appreciate that they accept me for myself. My wonderfully «imperfect but perfect in my imperfection» self. Accepting what I do and have in my life is a perfect first step. I have found love in appreciating where I live, my family, my friends and yes, even my work. I hope it sticks.

In the news there is a lot of hate and now more recently, Mother Nature unleashed some severe weather in the USA. I dislike it. I am not comfortable with it. I am unsure how I can contribute to change, except for doing my very best to do no harm to people and to treat those around me, strangers or family or friends with kindness. Perpetuate my belief that we are all human. Race, religion and whatnot are simply labels created by man. However, in my personal life I do not experience this hatred. I have friends of all religions, race, colour, sexual preference and I love that. In the world it seems things are different. I am able to accept that I do not know what to do or have all the answers. I do know one thing – I do not condone hate, and I will not join in the hate. No matter who you are. I feel like this is another way to control people. Get people worked up over ancient issues that have been existent for centuries, distract them enough and they will not pay attention to what is really important. I will not play this game. I will not hate, or condone violence. And you know what? That is what I am capable of right now. I will perpetuate energies I consider to be more beneficial like love, appreciation, kindness, and tolerance, understanding and general gratitude.

Speaking of those principles, earlier this week, Louise L Hay passed away. She lived by the principles of love. She was one of my favorite authors. Her books have helped me immensely. Over the last few years I would find myself thinking of many of her «quotes» from her books. She really helped people learn to love life and especially themselves. I have carried her book «Life Loves You» with me many times since 2015. She also believed that you could heal yourself from many physical and mental illnesses. She wrote books about it. The world needs people like her in it. I wonder, will she be even more powerful in the non-physical? I smile as I think to myself that my mom and Natalino, Jade’s dad are also there. I had always hoped they would read her books when they were not physically well. Now they are all together.

I used to wonder- Is this as good as it gets? Today I think I am happy about how my life is. Perhaps another word would be acceptance. Perhaps that is the difference. Who knows, but until I do know, I will continue to focus on what I love. Until I do have my beach cabin by the sea, I will act as if I am there. I will walk along the canal, fall asleep to ocean sounds and recycle my old furniture into something that would befit a beach house. I will adore my plants and talk to Tessie, my African violet. Ironically, she is in full flower mode again, even though it is winter in Africa and this plant typically does not flower in the summer – well our summer. She is thriving too. I like to think she is my mom in physical form. Who knows but it sure feels good talking to her. The day I received the news about my promotion, I came home, there was a new flower. I sat with her, told her the news and thanked her.

On that note, I think the lesson is to love what you have and try to ignore the rest, I know it is not easy, but accept what is and focus on what is loved. This may not be as good as it gets, but boy am I happy my life is this good. And that makes all the difference.