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Disease to Please

Self-portrait. St. Monica, from the series, “DeConstruction”

I was watching a youtube video of Oprah Winfrey’s 50 rules for success and heard her say this phrase and instantly knew that it had to be the title for this post.

In the stillness that this pandemic is gifting us with, (and I do believe there are silver linings in the midst of this time), I have been reflecting on my need to people please. Also, in result of this pandemic and social unrest, I have retreated, if that’s even possible during sheltering in place???

Seriously, I have really journeyed inward at this time, retreated, borderline isolated… and just for the last week really, since I cut myself off of social media. I am such a people pleaser that I sometimes make it my responsibility to care for… everyone, even if they don’t want me to.

Perhaps this trait is embedded from my heritage… the stereotypical Jewish woman who offers advice and loving guidance…asked for… or not. I also initiate get togethers, have been the family member who texts and calls to keep in touch and sends gifts in the mail to let people know they are being thought of and cared about. Regardless of where it came from, I am now taking a look at what I’ve been doing.

Self-reflection is great, however, sometimes when I realize things that I want to change, adjust, I feel like getting rid of that thing leaves a hole…but isn’t that a good space to have in my life? Yes… but paradoxically, as I am working to know and love myself better, it leaves me wondering …if I am not that anymore, then who am I?

I’m not going to list the things I did to help people, loved ones and people I didn’t know, during this pandemic. It felt great, but it also felt like it was never enough because it affected so many people, so many that I knew I couldn’t help them all and that left me feeling helpless.

In my coaching sessions we talked about how we need to be role models, to keep going, stay strong, stay the course… be the anchor. And I did to this for quite some time…until I hit a roadblock and there was no place left to go, except home. Home, in my heart, to refuel, readjust, reconstruct… so that I can go back ‘out there’ in a way that didn’t leave me depleted or spent.

And in the place, I have to deal with feeling selfish. I dropped the ball in making plans with loved ones, I stopped reaching out to friends and family members who don’t reach out to me, and mostly, I stopped people pleasing…which, in some weird way, is painful for me.

However, it is more painful to keep putting out energy that seems to get lost, unappreciated, insignificant and probably not even welcomed. And this realization has contributed to me take a giant step back…to think and reflect and learn to proceed in a healthy way, a self-loving way, something that I don’t think I’ve done a lot in my life.

Accepting that I can’t please everyone, even those I love and want to be loved by, has been a very difficult, but crucial lesson. At this point, I am choosing to sit with the discomfort of not being thought of as “so nice” and using this time, this ‘retreat’ to not just refuel, but to learn, and implement a healthier way of being that will benefit, not just me, but the people who choose to remain in my life and engage with me, really me, the ‘whole’ me.

I guess I just had to close the door, just for now, because I was feeling overwhelmed, environmentally and internally…posting on social media, trying to sell my work, trying not to be affected by all that was going on, staying strong…

I prefer to use my strength to stop trying so hard. And it takes an amazing amount of strength for me to do this… I want to make everyone happy, see them get everything they want, soothe them when they’re sad, be their best cheerleader, buy them what they need, give them words of wisdom just when they need it… and to stop, to just let people figure things out for themselves, because they can, as I can… requires so much energy, at least for me and the strength to feel ‘selfish.’

And when I use the term ‘selfish’ it’s in a healthy way… it’s in the way that most people, who are healthy and self-loving take care of themselves without guilt or shame…and that, at this moment, is exactly what I am working towards.

I think of this all as a necessary retreat, an executive meeting…for my mind, soul and body. I continue to be grateful to express these things through words and painting.

It’s scary writing this stuff… and aside from the self-imposed feelings of selfishness, now I also feel vulnerable! However, I cannot request vulnerability from others without being vulnerable myself. Everyday, I want to come back here and delete these writings, even though no-one is reading them. Maybe, it’s just an exercise in trying on vulnerability… before I take on the bigger project of writing for DeConstruction?”

Time to walk Luna and meet some paints in my studio.

Wishing you safety, sanity and so much self-love.

Rob