Who’s Looking Out For Me?
For most of my life, I was convinced it was my responsibility to please other people. Whether it was parents and teachers when I was younger, bosses and boyfriends as I moved into my 20’s, children, friends, and co-workers as my 30’s and 40’s slipped by—not once during those decades did I pause for a moment to ask:
Who’s looking out for me?
The harsh reality was, no one. Everyone had expectations, and I suppose they all assumed I took care of my own. And yet, I didn’t. I ate poorly, slept badly, gave up dancing to schlep my daughters to practices and events while they were in high school, worked long hours for thankless, self-serving bosses. The only things I got out of it were a marginally decent paycheck, and a lot of extra pounds.
Don’t get me wrong. The time and effort I spent on my daughters was a labor of love. It wasn’t their job to take care of me, though as they grew older, Heather, at least made an effort at times, when her own life wasn’t overwhelming her. And she was definitely the driving force behind me getting back to doing one thing I’ve always loved; writing.
Forgetting to Put My Own Health and Welfare First
But I always put things like healthy eating, regular exercise, and me time on hold until I had less on my plate. Of course the day didn’t come until long after Heather moved out. I didn’t give myself permission to put myself first until all other responsibilities; kids, job, friends; were no longer a factor.
That’s when I started paying more attention to what I needed. I put myself on a gym schedule, increased the number of blog posts I wrote, finished the first draft of my memoir, and so much more.
I discovered the more I gained control of my own wants and needs, the more able I was to organize something else. My house grew less cluttered. My health improved, and when I was faced with revisiting my diet or taking blood pressure medication, the answer was obvious. I increased my weekly blog posting to three and my pre-scheduling to at least two weeks. And I added thrice-weekly posts to Medium.com as well.
Falling into Old Habits
Still, it wasn’t long before I began doing things for other people, even when it conflicted with my own needs. Nothing major really, but enough to bring my migraines back more frequently. It took me awhile to realize where my problem lay, but when I did, I took a giant step back.
I looked at how little I’d been getting done aside from what I’d already put in place. Nothing new had been added in months, and I was spending too much time either parked in front of the TV or playing computer games. I was wasting my best writing time, late nights, on mindlessness. And it had to stop!
I looked around myself at all the projects I wanted done but couldn’t bring myself to start. I tried to ignore the preparations I’d made to re-write my memoir after getting the editor’s notes. I cringed at my failed attempts to write regular articles for Elephant Journal.
Re-Committing to Me
It all came down to one monkey I thought I’d gotten off my back. Once again, I was failing myself. I was blowing off all the commitments I’d made to move my life and business forward. I’d allowed myself to become discouraged by a combination of other peoples’ opinions and my own lack of progress.
So many times in the last few years I’ve recognized a need to take a few steps back and take stock. To look at where I am now, where I’ve been, and where I still want to go. Part of the solution is to re-set intentions. Part is to use my time more wisely. But most of it is to rekindle the flame inside me that burns away feelings of unworthiness, inability, fear, and ineptitude. In recent months, I’d allowed that flame to burn low, if not go out.
I’ve filled my weeks with more dance nights. But my alone time has been an endless chain of ennui. I’ve convinced myself I’m doing well to stick to the schedule I’ve made for writing blog posts, but have written nothing for others in the last month. I’ve made no effort to work on any of my larger projects, or even set myself a schedule for completing them.
Filling My Time With Uselessness
When I sit down at my computer at night, I open a game or social media instead of a document. Even my passion for reading has gone unfulfilled.
Sure, I write my morning pages every day, but most days, they’re filled with comments about the cats or other meaningless drivel. I’ve lost sight of their true purpose; to dredge up my innermost thoughts and drag out what’s truly bothering me and keeping me from moving forward. I’ve even seen only an occasional blog idea rather than the many I used to get from a single day’s writing. My dreams are vivid, but by the time I hit snooze a few times, they and whatever message they might have held disappears and never makes it to my morning pages.
But the real problem still comes down to one thing. I’ve stopped honoring commitments to myself. I haven’t really replaced them with anything substantial. Occasionally, I’m an ear for a friend, but even that’s become infrequent of late. Mostly, I’m simply avoiding.
Recognizing My Avoidance Behavior
Avoiding what, you ask? First and foremost, finishing my memoir and figuring out how and where I’ll publish it. After that, it’s doing things to improve my physical environment like sanding the walls in the bathroom and applying the paint I bought months ago, or digging up weeds in the yard I thought about doing while we had rain and the ground was soft. Now it’s summer and the days are hotter, giving me more excuses to put that project on hold yet again.
I’m also avoiding working through a course which will help me create a client funnel, and thus, more business. I’m making excuses, most of which are pure garbage. I tell myself I don’t know where to find people who need a ghostwriter or even an accountant. But have I put forth the effort to learn where they hang out? Barely.
I’ve also talked about trading more blog posts for coaching sessions, but have yet to offer up a schedule I promised a couple of weeks ago.
Taking Positive Steps
Now I could keep beating myself up for letting myself down, but frankly, that would simply extend this already interminably dull and unproductive cycle. Instead, I write about it here, taking credit and responsibility for what I’ve done and where I am so I can come to terms with it and move on.
The funny thing is, if someone let me down like this, I’d address the issue and try to find a solution. I wouldn’t let it drag on forever. I’d send a follow up email or text and open a dialogue. It’s really no different with myself except the dialogue is done with pen and paper, or fingers and keyboard instead of voices or emails.
In a way, I’ve already done most of the work by writing this post. I’ve pulled out the issues, and if I don’t fully understand the causes behind my latest round of self-sabotage, I’ve at least acknowledged it’s happening, and that I’m aware of it. Like any kind of obsession or addiction, the first step is admitting it’s a problem. In the coming weeks and months, I can work on the solution. I can acknowledge all the things I do to avoid the commitments to myself, and I can offer convincing arguments against any value in avoidance.
Using My Writing to Set Myself Right
The solutions are always in my writing even when writing is the problem. In fact, when writing is the problem, sitting down and writing are my best direction out of the pit I’ve likely crawled into while avoiding writing. Funny how that works.
Some might say I set my personal expectations high, but in reality, they’re fairly low. Write my morning pages every day. Easy. Write at least a few words or a blog post daily. A little tougher, but not outlandish. Keep my personal space clean. A bit harder with my piglets of cats who simply cannot be trained to clean up after themselves, but still do-able.
As for the bigger projects like the bathroom and the yard, I’m confident when I clear the blocks around my writing and business building, those projects will be my reward for a job well done.
Above all, I think I need a reminder for those times when I forget my most important commitment is me.
Identifying the Many Things I Have to be Grateful For
My gratitudes today are:
- I am grateful for little things that remind me to take better care of myself and my own needs.
- I am grateful for the gift of writing which always gets me back on track provided I remember to use it.
- I am grateful for my daughter Heather who single-handedly got me back to writing regularly, even if sometimes it was kicking and screaming.
- I am grateful for all the people who continue to read, support, and encourage my writing.
- I am grateful for abundance; love, joy, writing, friendship, inspiration, motivation, ladders out of the abyss, health, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.
Love and Light
About the Author
Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws , of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward