Sunday, 1 September 2013

lend support without going crazy

My friends are in pain at the moment. It seems that there's a shift storm brewing! When someone needs your support, you often find that you need to give it. You feel compelled. Something about their loneliness fires you up and helps you to connect with your ability to give - your strong inner core onto which they can cling for dear life as the choppy waves take them into uncharted waters. I truly believe in the sanctity of the chosen family. It's a modern idea but it's not without merit, even if you don't subscribe to it yourself. The 'genetic accident' of blood connection can be both brutal and beautiful. Whilst some find that their genetic family are the warm and worthwhile centre of their lives, others have found themselves abandoned, alienated, targeted or misunderstood and, for those people, the chosen family can be a safe haven to which they owe everything - even their lives. I fall into this latter camp and I'm unapologetic about it. When they need me, I'm there.

I'm going through a lot myself at the moment. For the first time in my life I am waiting on some medical test results which could be a game changer for me. It's tense. Perhaps that's why I'm blogging at two in the morning - insomnia says hello when your concerns won't say goodbye. Anyway, I'm militantly self-aware and in touch with my needs, so it hasn't escaped my notice that it's important to maintain a healthy balance between helping others and helping myself. I wanted to remind anyone out there who finds themselves in the role of giver that it's important, to an extent, to be a taker also. Take what the universe has to offer. Take in some beautiful scenery, your favourite songs, some delicious food, the wind in your hair. Take someone else's kindness - don't push it away and insist that you don't need it. Take it even if you don't need it. Enjoy it. Take that compliment, take that opportunity, take that offer to help you with your shopping bags. Take some time for yourself. Time to check in, to breathe, to meditate, to nap, to enjoy a long bath or a good book. When you're offering your time and your emotional energy, it's so easy to let the time get away from you until you suddenly realise that you've spent several days tied up inside someone else's psyche without paying a much needed visit to your own.

Look at it like this. If you're serious about giving of your wisdom and your love and your life force, you'd better get serious about making sure your batteries don't run down. How can you give when there's nothing left? It may seem selfish to go home for a full night's sleep when your friend is going through an unspeakable break-up, but that friend might need you later down the line and if you don't get some sleep now, you'll sleep through her desperate call in a couple of days time. Pace yourself. Continue to love yourself and listen to your inner voice. What is too much? It's ok to ask yourself this question. No one wants you falling into their mire. They want you strong - breaking yourself in half to help them is not an act of love, it's an act of recklessness and if they love you, they won't thank you for it.

Here's my sincere advice. Take yourself out of the equation from time to time. I just spent a couple of hours talking to my house mate about his difficulties. I gave him my undivided attention during that time. Then, once I'd calmed his nerves and gotten him connected to his sense of empowerment, I announced that I needed to go and get things organised for a trip to my mum's place tomorrow. I'm sure that he would have happily stayed up all night talking to me, but for his sake as well as mine, I'm keeping to my schedule. He needs to know that there are not always fellow surfers on the wave he's riding - sometimes he'll look around and realise that he's riding alone and that that's ok. He doesn't need a constant outside sounding board. He needs to learn that solitude and loneliness are not the same thing. I know that if I stay up all night with him, I'm going to be rushed and exhausted in the morning, trying to get my shit together. This means I'll have less time and patience for him tomorrow night when I get back. When you're the integral cog in someone's support system, you need to make sure you remain high functioning. So, know when to leave someone for the evening to get some sleep or have some down time. Suggest a time to talk again or a plan of action which can be put into place. Leave them on a high note and then get back to you.

When you're giving, give with your whole heart. Know that you'll never expect anything in return. It's better for everyone that way. If someone is turning to you for help and you don't feel that it's appropriate or fair, control your level of involvement. An emotional transaction which makes one person feel short-changed usually ends in resentment. You have two choices - strengthen your boundaries and get some distance or try to shift your perspective on that person. Sometimes the second one just isn't an option. Maybe that's because you've already tried to help them a million times and they never listen. Maybe it's because they only ever seem to spend time with you when they're in desperate need and never pick up the phone when they're happy. Whatever it is, be honest with yourself and act authentically without being cruel in any way.

Value your inner dialogue. Some people are relentless givers - in their jobs, in their relationships, in their passions. Those people are in dire need of inner dialogue. Taking a break from giving can cause feelings of guilt, fear or even self-loathing, but why can't the self be something to which you also must give? Why is the self so tragically overlooked? It is healthy to give to things and people in the outside world only once you've recognised that you need some of that giving energy too. It is toxic when you are always your very last concern. That's a train which is headed straight towards a brick wall - it's only a matter of time before the crash.