Breaking Free from “Lack”

I have had to do a lot of healing and reflection this year, and I wanted to share one of the tools I used to lift myself out of the funk of being in recovery mode so maybe you can test it out in areas of your life to see if it helps you.

One of the down sides to getting fired after working myself ill and being on unemployment was really feeling an overall feeling of “lack” – lack of funds, lack of health and vitality and energy to do what I want, lack of social contact/loneliness, etc. I was doing the self-care I needed but couldn’t muster my usual motivation and inspiration and drive.

So what was my trick to get over this? Here it is: anywhere I felt a lacking in my life, I would find a way to give that to others. Easy to say but a tad difficult at times to put into practice, so I’ll give examples.

With my monetary lack, I had to find some way to give something materially without costing us in the process. So one thing I did was donate breast milk to a milk bank that primarily gets the milk to premies. That satisfied me in many ways because it meant milk I had pumped but my daughter wasn’t using was going to good use. I also heard about some families in need in the area and gifted baby items and children’s clothes to them. And recently I collected items for Puerto Rico aid, a drop in the bucket for what they need, but since I could afford to purchase some things now as well as donate a little money, it is good to see how giving back grows. Doing just those little things made me feel useful and made me feel more materially secure in that I had something to give.

In the lack of social contact, when I felt lonely not being at work with other artists, I made an effort. I contacted some friends to see if they’d want to exchange letters, I reached out to some local friends that I saw were also isolated to set up times for coffee dates, and I made plans to see out of town friends, and by taking the steps to initiate, I got out of the doldrums so fast. I also made sure to not take offense when plans fell through or people didn’t want to write because it wasn’t about me or even them but about the connections. And I made a real effort to connect with some of the clients at my new job, which is a big step for me outside my comfort zone.  I know we all get into that “nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll go eat worms” thinking sometimes, and once in there, it is difficult to get out of it. But really, there are so many interesting people in the world, and there is a very good chance someone finds you interesting too. So it is worth making the effort.

So, my challenge to you. Ask yourself where you are most feeling “lack” in your life, and what can you do to relieve that lack for someone else? I really believe by taking the focus off ourselves, we can sometimes do a great deal of good both for ourselves and others simultaneously.

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Secret Arts and Crafts

There was a time, long ago, where I made gifts for everyone. Then I started getting more involved with career and trying to earn money via my creativity, and I pushed myself to let my work shine and promote my stuff every chance I got. This was really important to making myself feel like a “real” artist. But it also put a lot of pressure on me to have the end goal in mind and my work suffered.

Now, with my creative time coming just in little chunks, I’ve dipped back into the past. I have started doing sketches or making little things and sending them to friends as a token of appreciation or just to say I care. I don’t take pictures, I don’t show anyone outside my house, I just create and let it go. It’s been freeing, to say the very least.

Going forward, I want to strike this balance between play and work more and more, until hopefully they will be one and the same. We  shall see how it goes.

Gratitude Can Become a Trap

We had a friend over last weekend for sketching, snacks, and mead, and over the course of the evening, the sentence “Gratitude can be a trap” came out of my mouth as I was discussing my life after having my daughter and leading up to losing my job. And I realized the truth of the statement. If you always feel grateful for what you have, even when life turns extremely difficult, the gratitude can easily become an opportunity to not process emotions properly or to allow situations to continue long past the point they should. At least, that’s how it worked for me. I have a wonderfully supportive and hands-on co-parent in my husband and my mom took time off after the baby was born, on top of help from other family and friends. So when I felt overwhelmed in my recovery, I buried those feelings in gratitude and told myself “It can be so much worst, I have no right to complain.” And I believed it. And because my previous employer allowed me to have the baby with me, when the nigh impossible job I had actually became really impossible, rather than complain, I just kept plowing ahead and told myself how lucky I was to get to have the baby with me. It became this kind of feedback loop that helped contribute to tunnel vision that got so severe I couldn’t even tell when I started working myself sick.

I don’t want to downplay the role of gratitude in my life. It’s really important. But it’s a passive virtue, and therein lies the crux of the issue. The passive and the active have to be balanced against each other, rather than allowing either one to dominate your life to an extreme, and I think the action that should accompany gratitude is another ‘g’ – generosity. Generosity of spirit. Generosity of love. Practiced both outward onto the world and inward toward one’s self. Because if you are generous towards yourself, you won’t allow people to drive you to your breaking point. You won’t drive yourself to your breaking point.

What are your thoughts on gratitude? Have you ever felt yourself in a similar situation? Do you find yourself falling more into a passive or active attitude toward life, or are you fairly well balanced?