Monday, July 11, 2011

Praying to the porcelain God

Listen to this post:

With the flush of a toilet, I had a flash of insight. No kidding. People in my house don't like to flush the toilet, neither do those who frequent the women's changing room at my local pool. Tell me what that's about.

It gets old cleaning up other people's, well, shit LITERALLY. When I said this out loud to myself, it hit something big, really, really big. All of my life I have been cleaning up for others, worrying myself about what I can do to make things better, how I can accommodate even strangers so that I am out of their way.

Last summer, when I took a half dozen Alexander Technique lessons from a very gifted teacher, she told me to "stop holding the door and moving out of the way for people. It takes too much of your energy," which she knew I didn't have. The technique is about moving fluidly, efficiently without extra effort or pain.

Yesterday I was taxi-driver galore, carting kids to lessons, the pool and home from friend's houses. Seems to be the pattern this summer. No wonder I'm not getting much work accomplished. I'm so wiped out that I don't have anything left for anyone, including my ill friend (who IS better) and myself. A couple of weeks ago when I needed a week just to rebound, someone wondered why I could not visit the hospital all week. The answer is: "because I couldn't." I know my energy robbers and parking in what seems like another state, walking as far as humanly possible across the hospital's suburban acreage, then from the very front of the building to the extreme back just to visit was taxing. And it's not that I'm out of shape; I swim a half mile daily ... just to have the energy I require. Then there's the sterile environment with florescent lights that used to trigger migraines, now they just make me cower, which is an improvement. All before I even get to my friend. I am used up with little to give her. But I force a smile, say a prayer and have enough for her.

I found four hours yesterday (after I swam at 5:30 a.m.) to work at a nearby Starbuck's, was deep in thought and transitioning as I packed up and some invisible guy materialized to ask me what I was writing and tell me his deep desire to write. My good-girl persona would not brush him off, but my sense of self preservation knew this could be an entanglement, so I was honest and said I had to go pick up my kids. Funny, my friend said he was flirting. I was so engrossed I didn't even get that. The only pickup on my mind was of my kids.

This string of messages about doing for myself first seems to be knitting itself together into a very loud and clear call. I am ready to listen and respond appropriately.

• What unhealthy patterns have I created?
• How can I extricate myself?
• How can those of us with the "helper" mentality disengage from the harmful aspects of this persona?
• How can we do so with no guilt?
• What might my prayer be for greater balance in my life in this regard?

lined up
blue doors swung open

and I know
whichever I choose
will require something of
me to clean up after the last person

how can I temper my anger,
channeling it to fuel, not foul me?


  1. I can very much relate. A therapist who I saw in my early twenties once told me: "Don't be so concerned about other people's feelings if you're saying what's true for you." It took me years to really understand what he was saying; at the time, it just seemed insensitive. I never saw myself as someone who was overly accomodating of other people's crap as a way of avoiding myself. Sore lesson!

  2. Interesting how we can only hear things when we are ready ... also your revelation about using it to avoid ourselves; I hadn't quite considered that. I know it's an old pattern, but, wow, I need to think about that. Thanks, Seth