Me, Myself, and Compassion Fatigue

Mom Arkansas Golden City 096

Let Rock be Rock and Flower be Flower

This morning as I take the time to cook myself a delicious AIP-compliant breakfast and think about what dishes I need to prepare to be ready for a fast-moving work week, my thoughts shift to the connection between self-care and others-care. You know, that moment when we have the choice of whose oxygen mask to apply first.

Over the years I’ve noticed that the better care I take of myself, the better care I can offer to others (and the better ME I can offer to others!). Whether that comes in physical, mental, or emotional form, the idea holds true. When I take the time, the energy, the effort, to figure out what I really need and give that to myself, I find myself more able to meet others exactly where they are – stretching, stretching, stretching – instead of expecting them to come to me.

This can come in many shapes. When I don’t take care of myself, or listen to my needs, or when I fill my life with the countless expectations of those around me – talk this way (Momma said), dress this way (BFF said), believe this way (Daddy said), love this way (tradition said), earn money this way (Wall Street said) – bending this way and that until my entire life, my entire being is reshaped and twisted into all those other voices, rather than my own – that’s when I can find myself turning and projecting my own expectations on others.

YOU should wear this, say this, think this, be this, because I SAID SO. If you don’t, I may judge you a failure. I may even tell you so. And then if I’ve been claiming what I label as your successes and failures as my own, basking or balking in that reflected limelight, I may take those successes and failures very personally and insert myself a little too deeply in your life for healthy boundaries. Unable or unwilling to walk my own road, I’m unwilling to let you walk yours. It’s a vicious cycle.

But when I step in (or out :)) and break that cycle, starting first with myself (which after all is the only place I can truly effect change), figuring out what I believe, how I prefer to dress, to eat, to love, to live – not because someone else told me to, or even in rebellion against someone telling me to – but simply because that is Who I Am – everything changes.

In the warmth and light of authenticity, I can relax. And as I allow myself to be Me, I can allow you to be YOU. To walk your own path, to have your own needs and interests, your own successes and challenges. Perhaps our paths cross, perhaps they don’t. Perhaps our interests cross, perhaps they don’t.  Perhaps our needs are compatible, perhaps they aren’t. But one thing is clear: You are you, and I am me. And that’s perfectly groovy.

And what a relief – what self-inflicted pressure that can remove from our shoulders. I don’t have to change you. I don’t have to try to save you, which usually means I’ve only gotten lost myself. All I have to do is let you be you and let me be me, turning my attention back to the road before me, walking the good red way.

As I do that, as you do that, amazing things can happen. I don’t always understand the whys and wherefores, and I don’t have to. But this I have seen. Flowers that couldn’t be forced begin to blossom on their own. Chains that couldn’t be broken just seem to fall away. And roots that couldn’t get grounded grow strong and deep, all by themselves.

And somewhere in the midst of all that, that compassion we thought we’d lost – for others, for ourselves – it rises to the surface again. Having refueled and freed ourselves, loved and parented ourselves, we realize we have enough – more than enough, an abundance – to truly share with others. Not in a needy way, looking for what might be returned, but in a giving way, the only way unconditional compassion can truly exist.

And so the circle is complete, ‘round one turn to another. We find ourselves once more, replete, as sisters and as brothers.

Namaste – and enjoy your breakfast.

(C) 2017 Mary Batson,
All rights reserved, especially the one to a slow, relaxing breakfast.


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