Take Care

I recently posted about making a major life decision and how difficult it can be when perfectionism or the fear of making a mistake is a dominant, controlling factor. Another element that hinders my own healthy decision-making is the desire to protect other people from their hurt feelings.

The decision I made to return to Canada directly impacted a number of people, and one person in particular, whom I shall call Maura, was especially affected. She and I had been living together in community for 8 months and I knew that if I left she would be alone, hurt and even betrayed by my choosing to go. The thought of inflicting these feelings upon Maura was enough to make me stay. The voices of dissent were pretty loud: How could I do this to her? Leaving her was totally unconscionable; an unforgivable, selfish act.

These negative thoughts plagued me and I wavered, thinking it would be better to sacrifice my own well-being to save Maura from her pain.

Red-flag moment. Save Maura? When I get into saving someone else I know I am in big trouble. I have moved out of the relative safety of taking care of someone and into the dangerous territory of care-taking. There is a big difference between the two.

“Taking care” involves looking after someone’s needs, being of service, helping out. Care-taking is about looking after someone else’s needs at the cost of my own and serving the ego’s desire for approval and esteem. It is not helpful. To anyone.

If I had stayed to protect Maura from her grief not only would I have been compromising my own needs, making me emotionally sick (and possibly even physically), I would also have been depriving Maura of her own life process. Not my job.

Care-taking is controlling behaviour at its most subtle. I tell myself I am protecting Maura therefore I am doing a good thing. I am noble. I am a saint! In fact, I am simply trying to orchestrate an outcome over which I am entirely powerless. I cannot save Maura from herself.

The consequences of care-taking can be dire because in trying to protect the other person I eventually become angry and resentful. If I had stayed in community with Maura I would have begun to see her as the one now keeping me from living my fullest and best life. And even though she didn’t ask me to protect her, even though I took it upon myself to save her, she would have been the one to blame for my faulty thinking. See the insanity? I sacrifice myself and it’s her fault.

Leaving Maura was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I wrestled with the question of what was right and agonized over whether I was wrong. In the end, I chose to put my own well-being first. (Even writing that sentence feels uncomfortable.) Doing so required an enormous amount of trust that my own liberation would somehow mean Maura’s liberation, too. Even if it caused her pain.

Inspiring Message of the Day: Am I able to embrace the concept of self-care? Do I attend to what is life-giving for me? If I am putting myself last on the list and it is costing me too much I will begin to trust that my own deepest needs can come first.


Back to the Drawing Board

Dearest Readers,

It’s 3:48 a.m. and I’m in absolute despair. The cat I live with pounced on me at 3 a.m. and woke me up and it has refueled an absolute ton of murderous rage.

You may remember my first post ever. It was September 2009. The cat woke me up and I was so upset, so angry that my only recourse was to pray. The answer I received was, “Blog.”

I’ve been lying in bed praying for help. How is it that a year and a half have gone by since that first awakening and nothing has changed? I’ve done so much work on this relationship (yes, it sounds funny — it’s a cat — but it’s a cat with an anxiety disorder and believe-you-me this little guy has required me to work) in the name of surrender, compassion and unconditional love and still I end up back here? Swearing into the dark with visions of snapping his neck at the forefront of my mind? Horrible. Horrible!

Again, my only recourse is to pray. So I breathe. Inhale Love, exhale Peace. Inhale Faith, exhale fear. I begin to drift off to sleep. Pounce! He’s back. I pet him, scratch his fur. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. He leaves. I can hear him crunching his food in the kitchen. I’m fading. Sleep is close. Pounce!

That’s when the rage comes. My prayer turns to vehemence. What the f$#%? What the F&$%ING F#$% AM I SUPPOSED TO DO? Show me. Help me. Please. Please. Because I am completely and utterly at a loss as to how I am supposed to deal with this.

And then the answer. “Blog.” No. Come on. You’re kidding right?

Perhaps I should explain where the rage is coming from and why it is so pronounced on this particular morning. After all, this is practically a nightly ritual. Most nights it hardly wakes me. I’ve become so used to it that I can now sleep through the cat’s nocturnal exercises. But this night? I happen to be working on a grant.

Yup, a grant. And it’s a big one. The application is due on Tuesday. It’s going to take every ounce of energy I have to get it in on time. I went to bed at 10 p.m. last night so I could get 8 hours of sleep and wake up at 6 a.m. This would give me an early enough start to do a full morning practice (prayer, meditation, yoga) and a full day of work on the grant. Good plan, Celia!

And then the cat ruins my plans. So things have not gone the way I wanted them to go. Bingo. Trigger the control issues. Trigger the rage. And I’ve been on the healing path long enough to know that rage = fear.

So what is the fear? I’m going to be tired. What happens when I’m tired? I get overwhelmed. What happens when I get overwhelmed? I numb out, give up, check out. I recoil from life.

One of the thoughts I had when I was praying after the first “pounce” was this: Celia, if you are this upset when something this small doesn’t go your way how in the world are you going to handle it when something BIG doesn’t go your way? The grant application is for funding for a feature film. It’s BIG. Maybe this little thing is preparation. Maybe I’m being shown how to handle setbacks.

What was that very first Inspiring Message of the Day? What did I learn all those months ago? When something happens to me that I do not like, that feels like cruel and unusual punishment, I will see it as an opportunity for growth. I will use it to change the world, be of service, help others. I will thank the person/place/thing that gave me the lesson, for he/she/it is my greatest teacher.

So now I have to live out this credo. Now. Eighteen months later. I must accept the lesson anew.

Alright. Let’s do it. Something has happened to me that I do not like. It feels like cruel and unusual punishment. But is that what it really is? No, it isn’t. Seriously, I’ve just been woken up by a cat. He’s asking for love and attention. But it’s 3 o’clock in the morning. So what? I’m going to be tired. So take a nap. I don’t have time. I have to finish the grant. Ah, the grant.

The grant represents the film. The film represents something much, much more than anxiety over sleep loss. The film represents a lifelong dream. What if I don’t get the grant and I can’t make the film? Better yet, what if I do get the money? Then what? The film might fail. I might fail. These are the deeper fears. They are the fuel behind the fire of rage. This is why I’m being woken up. To confront my deepest fear of failure.


Okay. Walk the talk. Be of service. Blog and share. Thank the teacher. Thank you, cat.

Now can I please go back to bed? You’re up now. You may as well get a head start on the grant. You’ve got a movie to make, don’t you?

Inspiring Message of the Day: My anger is a defense mechanism for my fear and I am willing to look at my deepest fears today. I am willing to be changed by this awareness of my shortcomings. I am willing to “wake up”.