If anyone else is having a year like mine, I believe you could readily agree that whether the world ends or not, this is definitely going to be a year of change.
My year started off quite literally with me finding out the person I thought was my best friend wasn't. From there I discovered that other people I considered to be really good friends, really weren't much more than acquaintances. I learned that while I was being asked to plan certain events for "the group" to do together, some of them were off planning the same thing with others with no intention of following through with the plans they had me made. Does this sound like high school? It sure did to me.
While I couldn't figure out why on earth this was happening, it did end up teaching me an incredibly valuable lesson. One that I hadn't fully realized until just today.
Let me back up a bit and tell you a little about myself. I'm a mother. I'm a giver. I always have been. Even before I had kids of my own to mother, I mothered others. In fact in high school, my first day of freshman year, a boy I didn't know, walked up to me with a purely terrified look on his face and grabbed a hold of my arm.
"Will you be my mommy?" he asked.
I said yes and put an arm around him and helped him find his locker.
The nickname stuck, and grew. All throughout high school, I had people calling me mom -- even students older than me, and occasionally teachers who picked up on my motherly ways. When someone had a problem, they came to me. When teachers saw a student with a problem, they came to me and asked me if I could help. I was often told I was an "old soul" and "wise beyond my years".
I was also a planner. Had an event that needed to be planned? I was there for you and could snap my fingers an have creative miracles appear at your feet. Or so people thought, they never realized the amount of sleepless nights and back breaking work that went into pulling these things off.
And why? Because I never let it show. For me, showing that doing something was wiping me out or taking a toll would have been showing a weakness, and that would never do. I had no weaknesses. Not that anyone knew.
High school came and went, and then so did my first marriage.
By the time I finally started college I had twins less than a year old. It took me 6 years, another marriage, another child, and another divorce, to finish college but I did it. And again I did it making it look easy. When people asked me how I managed to work, raise 3 kids on my own, and go to school full time, I told them, "Simple. I didn't have a choice." And as far as I saw it, I didn't. I needed to be able to take care of my kids and the way to do that was to get an education and a good job.
When I met and married my third husband (been with him almost 13 years now), I ended up having to give up that good job that I had worked so hard to get. And why? Well between the two of us, we had 7 kids. Try to find a decent babysitter who didn't want $35 an hour for that situation! So once again, I gave up myself to make sure everyone and everything else got taken care of.
Why it took me this long to realize I keep giving up my life for others, I really have no clue. And honestly it didn't even really start to hit me until my birthday just a couple of weeks ago. I generally don't have parties for my birthday. I stopped after several years of my "friends" being too busy to celebrate with me. But I decided it had been a long time since I tried, I was sure the people who were now in my life that meant so much to me would be there for me, particularly after having such a rough time of late -- 2 of my siblings had passed away, followed by an uncle, my mother had a stroke, my granddaughter broke a leg, and several other incredibly stressful events. So I went ahead and planned the party. A few friends RSVPed that they could make it, and unfortunately some of those had to cancel - one due to his own mother being in the hospital - and I definitely know how that feels! The other one had an emergency creep up when her daughters car decided to just plain break on her. We had a Nurturing Necessities meeting that day, to which some friends/board members brought me a special made pizza and then unfortunately one of them had to go back to work. The rest of my birthday consisted of my husband, a son, and one friend who was able to come spend some time with me. To her I am very grateful.
I'm grateful to all of them actually. I'm grateful because it started a real eye opening time for me. It started me thinking. Once again, here I was doing the same things. Pretending that I wasn't working hard to make others happy, pretending that I was able to handle everything just fine. Pretending that it didn't hurt when several of them couldn't even answer about celebrating my birthday with me. Why was I pretending? I don't have a single clue. Even I can no longer justify what I have done for years.
I am a caring person. Honestly, I am. I do lot of volunteer work, my most recent projects include laundry for a local homeless shelter, The Polar Plunge, a donation to a fundraiser my daughter is doing for Out of the Darkness, oh and I do just happen to run my own non-profit organization that helps provide used clothes and baby items to families in need. I feel tons of compassion towards others, sometimes probably too much, and I often forget that there are tons of people out there who don't feel any at all. But being a caring person means I don't want to hurt other people's feelings, even if it's by telling them they hurt mine. See? Once again putting others before me, even when they don't deserve it.
So...what is it I've learned? I've learned a few things actually. I've learned the only one person I should even attempt to count on 100% of the time is myself. I've learned that others aren't going to put me first, (or even second, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth), if I'm not willing to do it myself. I've learned that with some of the other changes that seem to be in the air, I have to learn to rely only on myself.
I have some long distance friends that are working very hard to become self sustainable and self sufficient, and that is something I am working a lot harder on in my life, with my family too. While that mainly applies to material things in life, such as energy and food, I have learned it needs to apply in all areas of my life.
I need to become self sustainable and self sufficient MYself.
I learned that when I need someone there for me - whether it's to comfort me or celebrate with me, the only one person I can ever truly count on is ME. I need to become self sufficient in all areas of my life, my work, my hobbies, my spirituality. That doesn't mean I'm cutting myself off from others. Not entirely anyhow. It does mean that when I make a decision though, it's because it's something I want to do. Not something someone else wants me to plan so they can blow it off anyway. That way when they don't show up, I'm not disappointed! If people want to join in, fine, but I won't be counting on it.
I've learned I have to stop living my life for others. That definitely doesn't mean I'm stopping my volunteer work either. I enjoy my volunteer work, and I honestly enjoy helping people - that often - I don't even know. It does mean that I will say, "no" when I really want to, and not "yes" because I feel I should. I've learned not to set myself up for disappointment.
I know this is going to be a big change for me, one that may even feel lonely at times, but I can't imagine it will ever feel as lonely as it did knowing the majority of my "friends" couldn't be bothered to spend a few hours with me on my birthday. I'm also sure that as the year rolls on, I'll find there are other benefits besides (I already know I'm going to save money!). I believe this will give me the chance to work on my spirituality, along with other areas of my life as well.
I'm confident that this change will bring about more, better, changes. I'm sure this will open the time and possibilities for me to try new things, experience new places, and who knows what else. All I know is that whatever it brings, I'm looking forward to it.