Check out my blog at www.theworkingcaregiver.org
I’m often asked what I do for a living as well as in my spare time. I puff out my chest and dramatically rattled off the following ” I’m an Author, Public Speaker, Blogger, Business Owner, Church Leader, Pastors Wife, Step-Mother, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
However, I should add one more thing to my list – Master Illusionist.
The question “what do you do?” brings about my check list of answers created exclusively by my ego and pride. It is an opportunity to project the illusion (or should I say delusion) that I am some kind of wonder woman with supernatural powers.
The impression of my life I like to project is something like this:
I daily awaken with a song in my heart, smile on my face and the energy of a speeding bullet, throw on my cape and jump into action heading out into the world to see who I can save. Or my alternate-ego of humble servant, just shy of Mother Teresa sacrificing myself for the well-being of those around me.
The reality looks more like this:
I wake up exhausted and VERY crabby, (my husband can verify this, he doesn’t speak to me in the morning in fear for his life). I usually only sleep for a few hours of sleep, because of my constant mind-chatter. I check my calendar and pray that I didn’t forget to to put in an appointment or accidentally double book myself. I create an overloaded to-do list that includes roll-over items from the days/weeks before. I attempt to answer messages left on one of 2 phones or emailed to all 5 of my emails, then race out the door hoping not to be late.
Lately, I have been trying very hard to take my own advice and set boundaries that will remove items on my plate that didn’t belong there in the first place in order to be effective in the things that I really want and need to accomplish both personally and professionally.
I want to project this image of myself as the Great and Powerful Oz, however; I’ve realized that I am merely the woman behind the curtain. Much like the movie, starring Judy Garland, I try to project an image of having it all together, however; at some point my curtain fell and I’ve been exposed.
Now, with my curtain down and broken Oz projector, I can no longer pretend that I have it all under control because, truth be told, I never really did. (I’ve heard that admitting it is the first step to recovery!)
Admitting this via the World Wide Web, is my way of putting my oxygen mask on and stepping out from behind my curtain to experience a healthier life. It doesn’t mean I don’t still have all of those titles in my life, it just means that I want to take a healthier and more realistic view of what is important.
So what’s playing on your Oz projector?
This holiday season try to find ways to take care of yourself FIRST. By doing this you not only enjoy the season but you also teach others around you how to have a more meaning in their season. By modeling boundaries to those around you; you are assisting others as well by allowing them to set their own boundaries and enjoy their time with family and friends.
Seasons Greetings and a boundary filled New Year!
If you were to take a random poll of the people you know and ask them about their favorite holiday memory, the majority of them would be connected with meaningful moments spent with loved ones more than they would be about the actual gifts they received. Think back to last year and try to remember at least two gifts you received and then try to remember who gave them to you. The holidays have become more about getting that perfect ___; you fill in the blank, than they have about the meaning behind the gift. This year, especially with the economy the way it is, why not try some more creative and meaningful gift giving.
If you are part of the “sandwich generation” why not have your kids make gifts for other family members. Better yet, schedule an intergenerational craft day where grandchildren and grandparents make something together. Let them pick the craft they want to make and then videotape their time together. The video is a meaningful gift that saves the memory and allows it to be relived over and over. It’s not about what was made together but about the memories made while doing it.
One larger societal problem, and most of us have had this at one time or another, is that we can tend to give from the pocketbook and not from the heart. We can all overextend ourselves financially during the holidays, the question is why? Because we want to keep up with Cousin Mary who likes to buy extravagant gifts or we feel if neighbor Mike bought us 2 gifts last year we should have 3 for him this year. Doing this turns the spirit of giving into a one-upping contest.
Especially in this economy many wonderful charities are struggling to make ends meet. So why not take the money you would have spent on each other and give it to an organization that helps people in need. People who would be receiving these gifts may get annoyed by this idea, because we have been told by advertisers that the season is all about giving that new gadget or sweater. However, as annoyed as people might get, the reality is when we really think about it do we really need one more piece of clothing, knick-knack for your shelf or picture for your wall? There are, however; many hungry people in the world, there are many wonderful organizations that need funding and many families that need help. Find a local charity and donate to them, they need your funding more than most of us need another sweater or music CD.
Finding meaningful ways to give to others is also a gift you can give to yourself.
Each of us has that friend, co-worker or maybe our own inner shopper who is at the department store at 5:00am waiting for the doors to open the day after Thanksgiving. The rest of us like either have to work or use that day to catch up on our beauty sleep. Just the thought of trying to find a parking space at the mall on a normal day makes the stress-o-meter rise, then after finding the spot, fighting with the other holiday shoppers.
Advertisers try to give us this Pollyanna idea that as the winter holidays approach the loving atmosphere of the season will heighten and that people will be so amazingly friendly to you wherever you go you won’t even be able to take in all of the good will coming you way.
Unfortunately the good will we feel some time early November seems to wear thin as we get involved in the chaos of the season that should be focused on love and care for our fellow humans. A large number of people who, throughout the rest of the year are wonderful, giving caring people resemble the Scrooge or Grinch by mid December. The reality is there are still plenty of good will givers out there, however; you rarely find them at the mall the week before Christmas.
The good news about online stores is that they are open 24/7. If you cannot sleep in the middle of the night you can get on and buy Uncle Joe a t-shirt that says “What happens in the garage stays in the garage”. You get the idea. Having that kind of freedom is wonderful. To make the experience even better the item is then delivered right to your doorstep. This eliminates hauling awkward shaped bags and boxes around a crowded mall and then having to lug them the ½ mile to your car, that’s if you remember where you parked your car. The fact that it can be delivered directly to your home should make most of you want to shout for joy and hug the UPS man.
If you order things well ahead of the holiday you won’t have to pay extra for shipping and therefore you won’t be sitting up the night before Christmas trying to wrap gifts. By the way some online stores will also wrap them for you.
Buying online may take some of the “fun” out of the shopping experience, but having the extra time to spend with family and friends or just to take a bath and spend some time alone is well worth it!
Many of us have visions of the perfect holiday. In this imaginary scenario we are dressed in our holiday best and have cooked from scratch the most incredible array of holiday favorites that are all ready at the exact same time and stay the perfect temperature until we area ready to eat them. All of this cooking is done, of course, without making our kitchen look like something blew up in it. We smile in our dream as all of our preparations went so smoothly we didn’t even know we were cooking.
So this boundary tip may lead some to the realization that their dream of the perfect Martha Stewart holiday out the window; nevertheless this might be the tip that allows some people to have a more holly jolly holiday.
Ordering food, even if it’s not the entire meal, does allow you to spend time with those people that you have invited to your home to share in the holiday celebration with you. Now, knowing how family dynamics can lead many of us to want to hide out in the kitchen, then you should put on your Betty Crocker apron and cook your little heart out! To the others who buy more food than anyone can possible eat in one much less four sittings, spend your entire day cooking and have not yet sat down to a hot, much less warm holiday meal while missing out on all of the family fun, this might help.
If the idea of ordering out makes you feel like a complete holiday failure there is another option is to ask your guests to bring a side dish. Many people do this every year and it works out great. Maybe you cook the turkey and then ask your guest to bring an assigned side dish. Assigning the items helps to increase variety and decrease duplication.
Food is an important part of our celebrations, however; spending quality time with family and friends is the most important part. Enjoy the people you have chosen to spend the day with! Food will be forgotten, people we spend time with will not.
I’m not done yet! There are more tips to come…
This requires that when we do accept invitations to programs, parties or events, we actually ask other people to help us out with things like picking up mom, dad, Aunt Sally, any older adult in the family who may need a lift to the function. This may seem like such a foreign concept to many of you so here are some examples to help you as you work on your boundary challenges.
Check into senior transportation services around the area to see if they have programs for holidays. Look for senior friendly taxi services. These are the services that will help your family member in and out of their home and carry any packages for them. You can find this information out from your local area agency on aging.
Keep in mind that this is not a selfish thing! Family dynamics either make us want to spend more time with our loved ones during the holidays because we don’t get to see them a lot the rest of the year, or make us want to set a timer for when we can go home without feeling like we ate and ran. It is not selfish to want to stay or go when you want to. Plus then your elderly loved one can stay or go as they please without feeling guilty that they made you leave when you didn’t want to.
Still more tips to come!
This is the toughest one yet the best place to start. The good news is the tips should get easier from here. As those who find themselves saying “yes” before even being asked to do something it can leave us with a sense of guilt when we have to say no. However; if we don’t become comfortable using this very small but significant word we end up agreeing to help with or go to programs, parties and events that not only do we not have time for but we really not want to go to. Along with that we can end up sacrificing something we really wanted to do to make the time for it.
Because we are human our overstressed brains jump into gear trying to come up with some elaborate stories about why we cannot do what is being asked and by the time they are finished telling it not only does the other person know we are lying, we don’t even believe our own story. Worse than that you then have to keep track of what story you told to which person. Regular life is difficult enough to keep straight without trying to keep track of stuff you made up.
The following are some examples of how to say “no” without telling a lie.
Those are examples if you actually want to get together with the person who is inviting you. If you really don’t want to get together with the person don’t keep leading them on. Just leave out the last line that makes a follow up date. It’s really ok to just say thanks for the invite but I really just want to spend time with my family and leave it at that. Again it might feel awkward, but it is much better for your life and your health to take something off of your plate then add something on that you don’t want to do.
The following is an example of saying “no” without lying when asked to help with a program or event at your child’s school or at church.
Keep checking in because more tips are coming your way soon!
A certain sense of urgency comes over me as the holidays arrive. Having people over for holiday celebrations comes with the issues of: who to invite; what to serve; how to decorate…the list can go on and on. Also, this is the time of year that the invitations start rolling in. Work parties, family parties, friend parties, school parties, etc. If you are caring for a loved one, times that by 2! Taking your loved one out to family events, helping them with shopping and decorating can become overwhelming.
As “doers”, those who spend our time always doing for others, there is a certain level of guilt that comes into play when those happy holiday invitations begin to arrive. We really don’t intend to over schedule ourselves, yet every year most of us do just that. Why? Concerned that we will hurt someone’s feelings or worse yet lose a friend, we have a hard time saying “no” and setting boundaries with the people around us.
Setting boundaries has the ability to dramatically change your life, as well as help you create more meaningful experiences during the holidays rather than running around so much that you wake up on January 1st wondering where November and December went!
Instead of holding your breath and waiting for the New Year to breathe, why not try something different? Over the next few weeks I will be sharing some boundaries through the holiday’s tips. They might feel uncomfortable at first, however; with time and practice they can make your holidays and your life more enjoyable.
We’ve all heard the expression “Go big or Go Home” at one point or another. For some reason this past week this has become my mantra, so to speak. You see I tend to have spurts of time where I live really big and great things are happening, however; I have to admit that at least ½ of my time is spent living small.
By small I mean doing just enough to make it look good and not too much as to not set myself up for failure when I can’t keep it up. In reality, it really is “enough”. I have a nice home, decent marriage and can bring home the occasional buck from my business and my books. I look around me and evaluate my output of energy and resources as compared to my friends and neighbors and in comparison I’m actually a little above the bell curve.
However; when I’m living a small life I’m depriving my husband of extra love and encouragement that would make our marriage exceptional, I miss out on opportunities for growth in my business or to reach out more with sharing my books because I play into stories of how I’m too small to make a real difference, I choose to be idle instead of in action.
There are many reasons, excuses and hurdles that keep us from living a big life, but what if today, right here, right now, we all chose differently.
What if we all decided that living a big life was not only possible but would change our lives in such a mighty way that we would never want to go back to living small in any part of our life?
Big Life Points to Ponder:
I believe that we are all meant for greatness in this world, it may not bring us monetary success, however; it will affect and change the lives of the people around you in a mighty way. This doesn’t mean there wont be obstacles, hurdles and disappointments, what it will mean is that you will be reacting in a new and powerful way to those set-backs and continue to live a big life.
Starting today make this your new motto: Go Big or Go Home!!!!