The Giver and the Caretaker

Friend, there are those people who are always looking out for others – taking care of the needs, wants, and desires of those around them.

These are the people that when you make it to the gas station on fumes and empty pockets, meet you there, no questions asked, and fill your tank.

They see you struggling through a difficult day and write you a personalized note to encourage and remind you of how wonderful they believe you to be.

When you are sick and in bed these are the ones who show up in a flu mask and freshly sanitized hands to drop off soup, orange juice, and medicine.

These are the people that we rely and count on and, often, take for granted until they are not there.

We don’t pay attention or notice these – seemingly – unimportant niceties…

the clean folded laundry, food in the fridge, bills paid, cars cleaned, and gas in our gas tanks…

until we have to do them all on our own, until the caretaker and giver in our life is tired, overwhelmed, and done.

This is something I speak about from experience. I have been this person. The person that gives until I have nothing left to give. The person that focuses on taking care of those around me.

Often I have done this out of a sense of responsibility. If I don’t do it, then who will?

I have also done this out of deep sense of need. I have needed someone to do and be this for me and, instead of asking, I’ve had the false belief that the only way to receive was to give.

And so I’ve given. I’ve given everything until I’ve had nothing.

So many of us see our responsibility to be both a giver and a caretaker to and for those around us.

We take on the extra burdens at both work and at home, often putting our own needs and wants last.

People like us are caretakers and givers because of the level of empathy we are able to have for others, because we are typically easy going and relaxed, and – often – we really enjoy giving to those around us.

Put simple, we care. We care A LOT.

The danger?

I don’t know about you, but this aspect about me has attracted and been drawn to all the wrong people. I’ve been drawn to those, and those have been drawn to me, who NEED help yet have very little capacity to give in return.

Because of this part of me, I’ve put up with a lot in my interpersonal relationships and it has left me exhausted… annnnd guilty.

I’ve felt guilty when I’ve reached the point I can’t give anymore. I’ve felt guilty when I’ve needed something in return. I’ve felt guilty when I’ve had to say no.

I’ve felt guilty because all of these made me think and feel that I was selfish.

Friend, if you have found yourself in this situation at all. I see you, and I understand you.

Just like most things in life, sometimes the best parts of us can also be the worst.

My ability and willingness to give allows me to connect, appreciate, understand, and help those around me.

It has also resulted in me being taken for granted, taken advantage of, and left depleted.

The solution for me, my friend, has been to surround myself with good, quality people. People who care as much as I do.

Additionally, I’ve learned to say no when I need to and, instead, focus on myself in order to not give until I’m at the point of breakdown.

Finally, I’ve come to understand the importance of boundaries and speaking up for my own needs and wants – something initially very difficult for me to do.

A big heart is one of the most beautiful and wonderful things in the world – but there is no need to place ourselves last, to feel guilty when we can’t give, or to avoid saying no.

Caretakers need caretaking as well.

Givers can also receive.

Reciprocity in life is an okay expectation to have.

Always,

Your Trusted Friend ❤

Choose

We choose how we want others to treat us, we decide what is acceptable and permissible.

Sure, other people can be top notch a-holes, but we get to determine the space, time and energy that we devote to these people.

The ultimate decision of what we permit into our lives, or not, is utterly dependent upon us, friend.

Years ago I started dating this man with a big, outgoing, gregarious personality. He was smart, well traveled, educated, and – seemingly – unafraid to be himself.

I loved being around him because of these qualities. They drew people to him like a moth, and I was captured.

Until one night he became upset with me for tickling him, and then proceeded to pour his drink over my head.

Sitting there in shock, my wet hair dripping into my lap, I had no idea what to do as I listened to him tell me that this was my fault. He had asked to me stop – but I had persitted.

I deserved to have his drink poured over my head.

Listening to his words I felt the wrongness of them. I stood up, went into the next room to grab my things, and when I returned I saw him with his head in his hands and in that moment I made a choice.

I made a choice in how this man was allowed to treat me.

I stayed.

There is no question in my mind now, in retrospect, that I did not deserve this treatment. No one should ever treat another human being in the manner he treated me. This was the first action of many subsequent others

I should have left, but I stayed, and by doing so I told this man that what he did to me was okay.

There is no way that I could have predicted this man’s behavior, or in any way controlled it, but it was absolutely up to me if I chose to to participate.

Unfortunately I participated in this particular relationship for far too long, and – sadly – it took many other similar situations and relationships until I was able to recognize my own role in this repetitive pattern.

For me, friend, what I recognized about myself was that, on an unconscious level, this was the kind of of treatment I felt that I was worthy of.

I would watch women around me who had no qualms with voicing their desires and wants, and would unapologetically take a stand. Women who, when unacceptable behavior occurred, had such a strong sense of self worth, that they would not allow unjust behavior.

These were women that I looked at with admiration.

Until I recognized that there was only one thing preventing me from being like the women I admired; my choices.

My sense of unworthiness had caused me to settle for much less than I deserved, needed, or wanted.

I received that which I tolerated, and eventually I learned my own responsibility in this cycle.

We, friend, have a responsibility to teach people what is and is not acceptable. We have a responsibility to take care of ourselves first. It is okay for us to have wants and needs, and to express these things out loud.

It all comes down to what we believe we are worthy of, and what we choose to allow or to permit.

Let’s choose better, friend. Let’s resolve to make choices that will be for our own greater good, and resolve to not sacrifice our own well being out of fear or from a sense of unworthiness.

We are so worthy.

So, turn your damn asshole radar on, and act accordingly when it goes off.

You choose.

Always, Your Trusted Friend ❤

What I Thought Love Was

Illustration By Gracia Lam

Love.

So often I’ve coded love inaccurately, friend.

I recognize, after long gazes in the mirror of self reflection, that I’ve wrongly thought love was about being needed.

The broken, the desperate, the lost, the addicted, the abusive…

Bring ’em on, and I’ll ‘love’ the hell out of ’em.

I’ll write your resume when you’re unemployed, plan dinners with your estranged family, buy the necessities for your kids, cook your meals, stock your cupboards and feel…

loved.

Look how much you need me, it must be love, right?

Only, it’s not.

I’d distract myself with this feeling of being needed, thinking that it meant that I was valued, that I mattered. That my existence in the space of this individual’s life was something spectacular and magical.

Only, it wasn’t.

Caring for another person’s needs provided me with a vicarious feeling of satisfaction and a temporary sense of self-worth.

Having someone ‘need’ me, made me feel safe.

So often this idea resulted in me attempting to be good, perfect, infallible in order to receive love and attention.

I have never let someone see all of me. My needs, my wants, my insecurities and desires. My fear was, that if I did, I’d be perceived as needy, or as too much.

Constantly wondering if I was good enough,

Additionally, I’d give until it hurt. I’d give until there was nothing left.

Seldom receiving anything in return.

Yet, recognizing if I did, I don’t know if I could have received it

Or if I would have felt worthy or deserving of the kind of love I so often give to others.

So, what does love really look like?

To me today, it means honesty, a safe space. Someone to whom I can share my secrets, my fears, my hopes. Someone who I know will keep these things safe, and for whom I will do the same.

Open and reciprocal affection. A touch. A glance. Connection. A brush of hands as we pass in close proximity. Knees that touch under a table. Lips that meet not out of routine or obligation, but out of true fondness and desire.

Shared interests and passions, particularly in personal growth and wellness, but also just a genuine desire to do and experience new things together.

Mutual respect and admiration. The ability to see one another in our different environments and appreciate one another’s hard work, skills, achievements, and abilities. Respect and admiration that grows from knowledge and familiarity.

Openness. So much openness, especially in conversation. Talking about the hard stuff. The stuff that makes us uncomfortable and wiggly, but results in feelings of being entwined, understood, and deeply known afterwards.

Love is about what is shared and experienced between two people…

Never about being needed,

and never about giving just to receive, nor of giving so much of ourselves away that we hurt.

Love happens between two emotionally available, whole, healthy, strong people.

So this is who I will be, and first fall in love with myself.

In order to ensure that I never fall into the pattern of trying to earn love and acceptance through what I give, or how much I feel that I am needed.

Always,

Your Trusted Friend ❤

Settling

It is so easy to get lost in comfort.

To let the ease of a person, situation, or place lure us into a false sense of security and distract us from what it is we really want, where it is we are really going.

You, friend, are worthy of your dreams, of the things you imagine and desire for yourself.

So often we allow ourselves to settle.

Be that into a relationship that, while okay, doesn’t feel quite right. A job that pays our bills, but isn’t personally satisfying. A house that is comfortable, but lacks a sense of home.

A place where we’ve been so long as to have placed roots, but isn’t where we we envisioned ourselves blooming…

before we got comfortable..

the comfortable that feels known, but that fits like a piece of clothing we’ve slightly outgrown. The comfortable that is a trap, instead of setting us free.

Don’t let the sense of alright, okay, mediocre, getting by living,

distract you from amazing, wonderful, splendiferous, intentional living.

Friend, don’t clip your own wings when you were meant to fly, which is precisely what you do when you settle.

When you allow yourself to get stuck in what is known, when you permit yourself to become stagnant. When you settle for what is in front of you, instead of pushing yourself to forge ahead and grasp for more.

Sometimes you will need to wait. So, wait when you need to wait, instead of settling for what is readily available and accessible.

Be decisive when required. Make decisions instead of living in limbo due to fear.

And sometimes you will need to say no.

You will need to say no to relationships which are not meant for you, even if they feel safe and comfortable.

You will need to say no to things that drain instead of recharging.

You will need to say no to protect your own space and time.

Also, you will need to be aware of situations which invite stagnation, so that you can constantly ensure perpetual growth.

Don’t settle, friend, don’t settle for mediocre mundane scraps.

You were meant for so much more.

Always,

Your Trusted Friend ❤

Who. Are. You?

Who. Are. You?

I punctuate this with intentionality, hoping you’ll hear each stressed syllable and note each pause between words as if I was speaking aloud to you, with the wish that you understand the sincerity and seriousness behind my query.

What would you say to define yourself?

Would you mention your career, your accomplishments, your status in relation to whether or not you’re a parent, your relationship status itself, your gender, your race, your ethnicity, your sexuality?

Or perhaps you’re a sum of your experiences. The places you’ve traveled and seen, the mountains you’ve conquered, the rivers you’ve braved.

Perchance you would identify yourself based on your career, your schooling, or your degrees. The various accomplishments framed on your wall.

Maybe you’d define yourself by your scars. The external and internal injuries you’ve suffered or been a victim of.

Would you hold back, friend, determine the definition you’d share based on who you’re sharing company with? Mold yourself into the version they’d find the most fitting, pleasing, and acceptable?

Who. Are. You?

What words can truly encapsulate a description of your heart, and the love you’re capable of giving?

Are their adjectives to describe the inner workings of your mind and the mysterious you keep there?

How about your indomitable spirit? Do you think a tongue is worthy of attempting to define the soul that lurks within you?

Perhaps you’d say you’re name, thinking that would be enough…

Hello, my name is…

As if that could somehow convey the sum parts of you that work together to create the wondrous creature you are.

And then I wonder.

How many people ask the questions that are required to find out who you are?

Furthermore, how many would then actually take the time to listen?

To climb the walls, brave the moat, and woo the barking dog to get close enough to discover all of your secrets?

Who would take the time to scale the walls that you’ve erected, and dismantle the barricades that you’ve constructed to protect the hidden, private parts of you? The vulnerable spaces you both long, and fear to share?

Who. Are. You?

Friend, you are so much – but never too much – and I long to see and learn all the parts of you, even the darkest corners and the deepest recesses. Don’t hide them or fear showing them, and please don’t try to cram yourself into a little box in an attempt to appear more manageable.

For I want to see and know you.

Even the parts that escape words.

Even the parts you are fearful to show.

Even more than this, though, I want you to take the time to get know you as well. To visit all the spaces you use for definition and then decide if you like who you see.

The best part, you – friend – get to decide and determine and declare who you are … and at any point you can change

and be brand new.

Always,

Your Trusted Friend ❤

Healing Something Broken

Friend, when we are heartbroken or disappointed, or in anyway feel damage emotionally, as we move forward we will stride to protect against any further potential damage.

This reminds me of when we suffer a physical injury, such as a broken arm. We take the time to heal by immobilizing the bone so that it can heal.

Eventually, when we have the cast removed, and it is deemed that we can use our once damaged limb, there can be some hesitation to do things with that appendage for fear that it will hurt or be uncomfortable.

When I badly broke my arm it was in a cast for several months. Once the cast was removed my arm, while ‘healed’, wasn’t the same as it was prior to the breakage.

It was tender, weak, and required physical therapy in order to regain full strength and mobility again. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. It was, at times, painful and hard.

My instinct, even after the lengthy process of healing and rehabilitation, was to hold my arm against my body, similarly to how the cast had immobilized it for the months prior. My automatic impulse was to protect my arm at all costs.

However, my natural instinct was counter to what I actually needed to do to strengthen my arm in order to regain the full use of it.

What I actually needed to do was use my arm, tests its limits, strengthen and stretch the muscles. Which I finally did.

If I were to look at an x-ray I would see that my bone still carries the reminder of that long ago damage. There is no way to un-break my limb. However, it did heal and is stronger now than it was prior to the injury.

However, it wouldn’t be if I hadn’t done the necessary work to heal and acquire full use of it again.

Our hearts and emotions have to do likewise, friend.

I went through a very traumatic break up a year ago. It was unexpected and I had to say goodbye to the family that I created with this person.

Afterwards I had to spend time healing my broken heart. Gathering all of the broken pieces and fitting them back together. I had to tend to the wounds and ensure that my heart healed properly. It has not always been comfortable to face the damage, or to do the necessary work required to ensure that I don’t repeat unhealthy patterns.

The wounds from that loss will always be there, you’ll see them if you looked closely, as my heart will always carry a reminder. Just as there is no way to un-break a bone, there is also no way to un-break my heart.

Now that my heart has healed, my natural instinct is quite similar to what I experienced with my arm when I held it close to my body.

I want to erect barriers to prevent any from getting too close, stifle emotions and prevent them from growing into full-blown feels.

My instincts are to protect my heart, to not open up or allow people close for fear that I’ll get hurt again.

Friend, Unless I do open up and take the time test the limits of my heart, versus protecting it, nurturing it, preventing it from other hurt, I will never allow myself to love and open up again, which is the whole purpose of, not only the heart, but the human existence.

Our lives should be about connecting and forming bonds and experiences, not avoiding them.

So, friend, hopefully someday I’ll find myself in a situation where I’ll know that my heart is stronger and fuller and better than it was prior to the breaking.

For now, though, I’ll have to open it up by degrees and allow someone in.

Always,

Your Trusted Friend ❤

Trigger Warning

Triggers are a tricky thing, my friend, and we seem to collect quite a bit of them over the course of living life.

By the time we get through childhood, which I believe lasts well into most people’s twenties, we’ve suffered wounding.

Wounds, that when revisited, result in being triggered.

Maybe you’ve been abandoned by someone important. The result being that you fear this same action being done by others, so when someone stomps off in anger this triggers that old wound and you feel you’ve been abandoned again.

Or perhaps you’ve been cheated on, verbally abused, let down, disappointed, led on, taken advantage of, or heartbroken… and each time you’re placed into a situation that is reminiscent of that hurt you are propelled back into that pain, fearing it will happen all over again.

No matter how much effort we spend on healing these wounds, until we put ourselves into a situation in which these hurts are triggered we can never fully heal.

Until we’re triggered we may not realize how many barriers we’ve erected, or moats we’ve dug to protect these damaged parts of our hearts.

Friend, I’ve experienced each of the hurts I listed above. I’ve been abandoned, cheated on, lead on, used, taken advantage of, verbally abused, let down, disappointed and heartbroken.

When I am put into a situation in which vulnerability is experienced and I I feel that sense of being out of the control, stuck in the unknown, I am thrust forcibly back into that old pain, and friend, I want to do anything to avoid experiencing those things again.

These triggers engage my survival instinct to flee.

Others, perhaps, would be triggered to fight or freeze.

Me, though? I run.

Any time when I feel vulnerable my body engages in survival mode, attempting to protect my heart from harm or damage.

Our instincts and intuition can be a beautiful thing.

Engaging survival mode when our physical, mental, or spiritual safety is in in danger is essential to our wellbeing.

However, over time we acquire hurts and damage that result in fear.

This fear parades around camouflaged as intuition, protecting from vulnerability and the unknown.

These very things which can open us up to potential hurt and harm, also have the most potential for growth, connection, and acceptance.

Our challenge is to be able to truly discern between when our body is telling us that we are in danger, versus when we are just scared of vulnerability.

It is in these vulnerable triggered moments we can engage in extending compassion to our broken parts, and then begin to take the strides necessary to heal.

Continually running from triggers may keep the heart safe from further harm, but it also keeps people at arm’s length, and doesn’t allow for a true connection or opportunity to be seen, accepted, and cherished.

Triggers and vulnerability are not in and of themselves bad.

It is how we react to the situations that cause these feelings to rise up in us that has an opportunity to initiate healing, create growth, and foster deeper connection.

To be vulnerable is a great gift that we can give and share with those who matter and, while triggering, shouldn’t be fled from.

The more we are brave enough to give away, the more we are open to receiving.

Always,

Your Trusted Friend ❤