May, Myself, & I: A Self-Love Experiment
DAY THREE: On showing up for others.
Follow-through was never a specialty of mine. In fact, I was known to be a bit of a flake. I’d frequently cancel last-minute and, if I did show up for plans, I’d arrive late. Committing to things has been a stressful obstacle for me over the years, and today I got to experience how much I’ve grown over my years of recovery.
See, for a lot of my life, my relationship with others was how they affected / impacted me, what they could do for me, and how I could mold to fit who I thought they wanted me to be (so that everyone would like me, always—because that’s feasible). I’d oscillate between emotionally vomiting on people (without asking about their day) and total isolation. I had more than one friend “break up” with me because it was too much work to be my friend.
I was also a people-pleaser, which-at the time-I looked at as me being kind and giving to others. I’ve learned, though, that a lot of people-pleasing boils to codependency and wanting everyone to like me… Because it’s uncomfortable to be disliked. Confrontation is uncomfortable. And I avoided it by holding back on my truth, thoughts, and feelings and instead bending over backwards for other people.
So… If someone asked me to do a thing, I’d say yes. I’d always say yes, before even thinking about it! Even if I didn’t want to do whatever it was-even if I had zero interest or actual intention of going. I’d say yes. Because I was afraid to say no. Afraid to disappoint. Afraid people would stop inviting me and I’d die a lonely old broad.
Also cancelling last minute via text was easier than saying “no thanks” to someone’s face.
At the time, I was struggling with alcoholism and depression and I was too sick to show up in any stable capacity for others. Whenever I made future plans with people, I’d sometimes have every intention of going. But, as time marched on, I’d experience an increasing anxiety around the impending date / event. Sometimes I’d find myself frozen on my sofa, fully dressed for whatever occasion, incapable of leaving my apartment.
I had many friends show up for me during challenging times, such as illness and surgery and my horse getting diagnosed with cancer and euthanized. So many people went out of their way for me. Loved me.
I rarely returned the favor. I truly didn’t have the wherewithal to do it. Emotionally, mentally, spiritually… I was wiped out, ungrounded, and generally terrified. I was too scared and uncomfortable in my own skin to begin to think about another person, aside from how I compared to them or how they felt about me.
In early sobriety, I became conscious of this fact. As I got healthier, I started to do more to help others. I started to do a better job showing up and following through.
But I did so with an attached expectation. I did it so people would like me, or so they’d show up for me when I needed them, or so God would think I was good and worthy of joy, or I’d use it as manipulation ammo during a future discussion. “I’ve done ALL THIS STUFF for you…” (Meanwhile, I normally preemptively offered to take care of people’s needs before they even voiced them to me. I later discovered this was another form of codependency, an effort to control others under the guise of being nice.)
(To be fair to past me, I didn’t realize it was a guise or that there was manipulation involved. I genuinely saw myself as a kind and giving person, and even a bit of a martyr. A bit too caring and giving.)
Fast forward to today.
I now know how to say no to invitations. If I’m not interested or if I’ve overscheduled myself, I’ll say “no.” And the world doesn’t end. And my friendships have continued. FANCY THAT.
Today, I started my day by volunteering for Mostly Mutts. I picked up poop, played with puppies, walked an old dog named Stan, and sweat a lot while feeding the dogs. After I got home, I tidied my car. (I tend to collect lots of random stuff in my car and it gets so crammed that no one else can fit). I cleaned out the inside, noticed my burnout headache, and sat my ass down on the sofa for a recharge nap. I took a two-hour break to rest and recharge (hugely important for my sanity).
This afternoon, I hung out with my boyfriend and his kids and played with the little ones while he went to run an errand (we built an epic castle fort). Then I went to a house-warming party for a friend (previously unheard of for me to go to a party, at least without liquor and/or a panic attach). Last, I went to an AA meeting to hear my sponsor tell her story. She supported me when I told my story, and I knew it was right to support her. It felt good to support her.
That’s the key here: support. True kindness, without an attached expectation. That was my theme of today. I don’t get anything out of volunteering on 8am on a Saturday morning, aside from stinky clothes and inevitably getting poop on my hands. I get gratification for knowing I’m helping pups (and I got to sniff puppy breath), but that’s about it. I of course love spending time with my boyfriend and his daughters. This go around I had to shift some scheduling stuff around to make it work, and I did so happily. Zero silently stewing resentment or wondering what’s in it for me. I get actual joy and fulfillment out of helping my partner. I went to my friend’s house and felt glad to be there, excited for this new chapter in her life. And, 12 hours into my busy-ass day, I drove to the AA meeting to support my sponsor.
It’s odd, having this journey be my “May, Myself, and I” journey and to be talking about how I showed up for other people today. But guess what? I feel truly good about myself right now. I’m beginning to see myself as a good person, as someone who cares, who shows up, and who follows through. I’m becoming the person I always pretended to be!
Also, after the busy day, I hugged myself. I thanked myself, and then I promised a relaxing evening with tea and baking shows. (I followed through on that, too!) I also promised a sleep-in party tomorrow.
So those are the wins for today: I showed up for others without wondering “what’s in it for me?” or “how does this impact me?” I rested, I celebrated my victories, and I am taking ample time to relax and recharge.
I feel calm and purposeful and exhausted.
Which is pretty okay for Day #3.
In what way are you giving back? Which commitments will you challenge yourself to keep this week?