Today, between frantic bouts of cleaning, I'm rewriting my notes from the Rock Your World Summit, which was a recent free telesummit held by the amazing girls at Big Sparkly Life. Even though I had to carve out time I didn't have (mostly listening at 2am, when it was quiet), it was well worth it. I came away inspired, happy, and ready to take on the world.
Cut to two days later, when everything began falling to pieces. Relatives in hospital, other's at home but fading fast, others losing the battle with their illness. Other relatives getting into bad situations, all out warfare between groups, cancelled plans and hurt feelings, and a near manic episode from all the stress.
It felt, to be honest, as though the universe gave me a beautiful hint of what could be, then threw me straight back onto the garbage heap (and then promptly threw some old nappies in as well). It was heartbreaking to feel all that passion, all that life that had been coursing through me suddenly screech to a halt and vanish away, to make time and energy to help other people.
So one night, after everyone else had gone to bed, I sat down in front of some bad TV show, and cried my eyes out. This, I told myself, was not what I signed up for. I signed up for big, beautiful, wonderful life. I did not sign up for cleaning up other people's messes and being there for people who are never there for me. And yet, here I was, yet again sweeping up for someone else and telling myself to be nice to people who aren't overly nice to me.
For a while, I just sat and wallowed and felt like crap. Sometimes you just need to let yourself feel miserable for a little bit, rather than push through it and move on. Eventually, though, one of the exercises from the Summit popped into my head. Jamie Saloff mentioned it in her talk: Why Feel Like An Ugly Duckling When You're Really A Swan? She called it playing Dear Abby, and what you do is you write down the names of three people you'd love to sit down and give some advice to. Maybe you can tell them in real life (maybe you already have and they've ignored you), or maybe you can't. Either way, write down the first three names that spring to mind.
Next, you write down the advice you want to give them. Spell it all out, be as blunt or as gentle as you want. Just get it all out onto the page.
The last step is actually quite eye opening. Go back and cross out the names you wrote down, and put your own in. Read the advice as though someone is giving it to you. What can you take from it that is useful to your life right now? Not all of the information will be relevant for you. If you're giving advice to an alcoholic, for example, the alcohol based comments aren't going to look overly helpful to someone who doesn't drink. But think about the overall message rather than the specifics. Are you starting to get addicted to something else, even if it's a healthy something? Maybe you are exercising past the point it's helpful, and veering into addiction? Maybe you're the type of person who feels pressured into working unpaid overtime because you're clinging to the idea that someone needs to do it, and no one else will. If you look, there'll be something there relevant to you.
One of the messages I wrote was to a relative who gives up far too much of her time to help other relatives who don't appreciate any of it (already, I should have been seeing similarities!). They expect she'll drop everything and help. For most of it, I nodded a bit, refusing to see the similarities, and then the last sentence hit me like a tonne of bricks: for Gods sake, realise that you're worthy of appreciation and respect, because neither household gives you any of either. A very pointed reminder, that. One of the things I whine about to my bff is that I wish people would care about all the work I do for them. "I'm not asking for a parade here, just someone noticing would be nice" is a constant lament. Here I am, wishing that my loved one would realise she deserved better, and all the while I'm in the exact same trap. How can I beg her to put herself first when I don't?
Another of the things I'd written to a loved one was about letting go. That there is nobody in your life worth giving your life up for- that sometimes if you want someone badly enough, the best way to make it happen is to let go and move on. Get yourself together, make yourself a happier, healthier person, and let your sudden joy and radiance bring people into your life. Maybe it'll be that person you love, maybe by then you'll decide they aren't going to be a part of your life, but if things haven't worked, it's time to try something new. Another pointed reminder. I've had my self worth tied to my family for years. If they cancel plans, I spend hours obsessing about what I may have done wrong, or what they don't like about me. What an exhausting way to live! Maybe if I want them in my life, it's time to let go. To let go of the baggage, to let go of the hurt and the desperate wish for approval. If I used even half that wasted energy on myself, how much happier and healthier and more full of life would I be? If I stopped letting their disorganisation become my emergency, how much less stressed would I be? If I stopped cleaning up messes and feeling as though I had to do something, anything, to make their lives easier, what could I achieve in my own life?
So this week, I'm devoting my time to exploring ways of letting go. I have a few ideas so far:
- Writing grievances on toilet paper pieces and flushing them
- Writing them on pieces of paper and burning them
- Either finding a rock that you can imagine represents each issue (or writing them on a rock) and then either burying them, or throwing them into running water (a creek, stream, or even the ocean)
- blowing on a dandelion and imagining that each little seed is one of the things you've been holding on to
- a meditation exercise, where you give all of the negative energy to a higher power to be transformed into positive energy.
- a meditation exercise where you imagine all of the ties that bind you to the other person (or people) as cords of light that move from your body outwards. Imagine you can see the pulse of your energy moving from your body, into the cord, and towards the other person. Ask an Angel, or Deity, to sever the ties between you both.
- Write a letter. In it be totally, utterly honest about what's happened and how it has affected you. Be honest about your role in events, but put responsibility where it's due. Say everything you want to say, everything you think and feel, even if it sounds mean or cruel. Burn or bury the letter. Do NOT send it. If you want to send a letter, use this one as a basis, but word it more kindly.
As for the third piece of advice? It was to stop working so hard and remember to play. Ties in nicely, and during pauses in cleaning, I'm going to prep some art journal pages so I can play tonight and all day tomorrow. Sounds like a fair compromise to me.