When does caring turn to interfering?

I have a deeply ingrained urge to help others, to be of assistance when I can. It’s part of being an empath. I feel strongly for others. I have a tendency to take someone under my wing and advise them if they seem needy. There are many people I listen to and never give advice to as they seem wiser than yours truly. But for those who seem like they could use a hand, I advise. I suggest. I hope. I inform. I try and give the information—the benefit of my own experience—to save them trouble. But where is that middle ground between helping and interfering? Between caring and expecting too much? Today I question my own motives in getting involved with others. People have their own path to walk, their own lessons to learn. I want to be able to let people have their own experiences. Will I be able to do this?

An incident the other morning with a long-time friend has me questioning my own motives in helping others. He put his head in the sand at the wrong time. His mare was very sick, and he did what I considered a minimum to get her help. In other people’s eyes, maybe he did a lot. That is debatable in the horse community. His attitude was, it’s his prerogative to expect the best and only change that if things go wrong. My outlook is, if you prepare for the worst, this enables you to manage the best. This comes from experience. You will know all your options and can act accordingly. With horses you must act quickly and monitor constantly. Especially with colic or an impaction.

During the course of the day my friend acted as if he were afraid to deal with his mare. As if the problem did not exist. I guess he could not handle it emotionally. Some folks are like that. But help is only a phone call away. Vets are often happy to give advice over the phone, especially if you have a history with them. The one in question is a super friendly, happy vet that takes calls 24/7 and makes house calls. In my friends denial, he did not call the vet until nine hours after I suggested. In the mean time he gave his mare a shot of something to help with pain and promptly…went into the house to watch TV. Once you administer a shot of Banamine, you must walk your horse and keep her on her feet until she is well clear of any danger. When I arrived a few hours later, his horse was laying on the ground. If a horse lays down for too long, a gut can become twisted, killing them. Keep them walking! I have had sick horses in the past and at no time would I ever be in the house unless I had to relieve myself. I can’t imagine being so complacent as to be inside watching the boob tube until my horse was visibly on the mend, able to be on her own.

When I told him his horse was on the ground he was stunned. Since he was ‘hoping for the best’ that did not leave room for reality. To him, administering the shot was the end of his responsibility. He thought it was a guaranteed fix. In his mind the shot meant being off the hook and treatment was done. He couldn’t have been more wrong. Reality is give the horse the shot, and walk her around, not letting her lay down. All day if you have to. All night if you have to. In the past three people and myself took turns walking a sick horse around for hours in a snowstorm until the vet arrived.

If you put ‘hope for the best’ in one hand, and poop in the other hand, guess which one will pile up faster. You must get off your buttocks and do something! You must take action, especially with a thousand pound animal you care about.

I suggested he do a dozen helpful, very simple things to monitor and care for his animal. All were ignored. After almost a full day of inaction, it was finally clear to him that she was not getting better. He knew a vet visit was in order. He yelled at me in panic, “I did not see this coming!” After nine hours of her not getting better, and me hounding him about it, he had no idea he might have to take her to the vet? How is this possible? He didn’t think to empty his horse trailer of hay, just in case he needed to take her to the vet? Giant forehead slap. Apparently watching TV was more important. Comforting himself was all he knew how to do. He’s big into comforting himself at every opportunity and claims he prefers to “not get involved” with just about everything going on around him. The Universe won’t let you do that.

He thinks anything more than the bare minimum is, in his words “…getting all hysterical.” I almost laughed out loud when he said that because, speaking of hysterics, my friend was in such a panic on his way to the vet that he drove into his own 12 foot wide chain link gate and ripped it out of the ground. Only when things were dire did he wake up. Then his panic got the best of him. He was not prepared and he so easily could have been. The vet had no luck removing the blockage (which can kill a horse), but they would try again in the morning.

Years ago I lost a horse to an impaction, a blockage. So the next morning when I went over for coffee, I asked him if he had prepared himself in case he had to make a hard decision about his horse. I was polite. I asked instead of told. He blew his top saying he wanted to be left alone to drink his coffee. Excuse me, it’s too early to consider that in five minutes you might get one of the most difficult calls of your life? If a horse has a blockage that is not fixable, euthanasia must be immediate or the animal suffers greatly. You don’t have the luxury of hemming and hawing to make a decision, or taking time to enjoy drinking your coffee while the world waits for you. You cannot hide in denial. He still was in denial that his horse might die. He was still in denial he had to interact with the world. In frustration over his stubbornness and lack of caring, I blew my top about his lax attitude regarding his animal and left him as he wished. Maybe not my best moment. Where was my compassion? My guess is it was buried in tons of ongoing frustration. But still, that was not the best thing for me to do.

Several years ago I lost my own horse. The circumstances were similar. I did not prepare myself enough, mentally or emotionally. I thought I had, but I still feel that pain today. I foolishly thought that as long as the horse was at the vet, all was well and I didn’t say goodbye to him. My heart still aches over that. In being so forward with my friend, I was trying to save him from that pain. Maybe that is what is at the heart of my feelings over this incident. My great loss could have been lessened had I prepared better. I didn’t want my friend to have to experience this pain.

I know my friend can handle life at his own pace. I thought all this time I was helping. As much as I was trying to prepare him for the worst, I may have swung over that line and gone into the nosy, interfering landscape. Maybe he will be fine without my help. But it bothers me greatly when the life of an animal is at stake. Today I learned the blockage was shifted and the horse is better. Thank goodness for that! Of all the brouhaha, this is the most important thing. She is still on the mend a full week later.

A recent blog entry by Julie Krupp is helping me process all of this. Check out her lovely blog and the post titled resolving difficult people. It gave me much needed insight about what my core values are (and more). ❤ I am an action-oriented person who is very self-sufficient. Being able to pull myself up by my bootstraps and do for myself was deeply ingrained in me by my mother. Hence, inaction, avoidance, and denial drive me nutty. That would explain the dynamics between me and my friend. Me = action oriented and proactive. Friend = relax and ignore the world until something goes wrong, then panic.

When I first met my friend, he was a newly single person who could not cook one meal for himself. I taught him how to cook and now he’s quite proud of his accomplishments. I showed him how to get around in our small community, helped with dozens of technical things beyond his knowledge and experience, made phone calls for him when he was too painfully shy, helped him grocery shop, and drove him to the doctor. I did so happily. He accepted my help gladly. But I can’t make him have the same experience level as me, or the same desires as me, or the same life outlook as me. He has his own wonderful path to live. Perhaps in future I will assist only when asked. Perhaps some day his quiet nature will be a boon to me.

Years ago a counselor gave me wonderful advice that I still use today. It may help me figure out a new attitude in my struggle to hit the middle ground in assisting vs having undue expectations of others:

“If you have a skill you have taken the time to work on and have mastered, it might frustrate you if the other person cannot match your skill level. It may bother you that they aren’t doing as well as you. For example, if you are a great communicator, and your friend is not, don’t expect them to rise to your standards quickly, or at all. Don’t get mad at them for not being good at something that you are good at. After all, think about how long it took you to master that skill yourself.”

In the bonds of friendship, we care deeply about each other to the point of not wanting harm to come to our friends. I believe that is what motivated me to speak so to my friend. But that isn’t always possible or desirable. Sometimes you have to let people have their own experiences, even painful ones, in order to grow. It’s harder still to watch a friend suffer from something you had to live through. There is a feeling of wanting to protect them. I don’t have any hard and fast answers on helping vs. hindering, caring vs. interfering. Life isn’t so black and white. But I am thankful for the opportunity for continual growth and insight. Be well.

Where the rubber meets the road

I am the kind of person who loves every blade of grass. My home and yard are neat, not out of control, and the wildflowers in summer are riotous! Birds come from all over to eat at the buffet I offer them. I’m tickled they visit. Lizards, centipedes and even snakes are welcome (Snakes usually pass through quickly and should be respected). Spiders are welcome in the house, as long as they are not big enough to pay rent. If they are large, then they either have to pony up the rent, or move out! I keep my place as natural as I can. Nature is critically important to my life.

High Desert photo by Patty D.

I’d like to think I am an ideal neighbor. I keep my own yard free of clutter and junk. I’ll watch someone’s yard, plants, and animals. Watch to see the horses are not colicking. Make sure there is no suspicious activity going on while they are out of town. Turn off the iron if it’s left on and I get a frantic call. And babysit dogs and kitties. My friends all know they can come for tea and chocolate, which really means, a safe haven for talking about their troubles, or life in general. What happens at Patty’s stays at Patty’s. I try and be a bright light in my small community. Treat others as you want to be treated.

You may have read recently about my troubles with my neighbor to the south a few days ago. Today a bulldozer was next door at my neighbor to the north. A BULLDOZER? Some big picture thing is going on for me. I’ve never had this level of activity, so close together, so close in proximity to my home and all I hold dear.

Continue reading

‘Tis the season for self care!

A blogger I admire recently spoke about self care. I’d like to add my encouragement for you to practice self care, especially now, as the hectic season of holidays approach.

Start making your personal care come first. Practice early and often. Even a few errands may feel like a mountain of things to accomplish. Don’t beat yourself up when it comes to what you did not accomplish today or this week. Easy does it.

Eat good, nutritious food! Your food should be high quality fuel. You ARE what you eat!

Get enough sleep. Can’t say enough about that. It is also fuel for your body, mind and mood.

SMILE! A smile will lift your spirits emotionally by doing a simple physical action. It takes less muscles to smile than it does to frown.

Be kind to others, in a crowded grocery store, and especially in traffic! It will lift your mood. You become in control instead of feeling trapped.

Be kind to yourself whenever you can. Take time between activities to chill. Even if that is only for a 10 minute walk, or sweeping the floor for five minutes. Or kicking the ball for the dogs, despite the rain!

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

Avoid energy drains. Be it events, places, or people. Your body knows an energy drain so pay attention.

Be able to state boundaries easily, with confidence. “Gosh thanks for inviting me, but I can’t.” You need not offer excuses. Just tell them no, politely.

If you are stressed learn to say, “I am on overload.” It is easily understood and you need not make any excuses.

Watch movies or read books that relax, entertain, or uplift you. Avoid those that drain you. I don’t like watching shows that make me feel awful after watching, despite their popularity.

Stay away from the evening news. Does it bring joy? I do not watch news and have not for many years. I am able to keep up with local and global issues just fine.

Limit electronics and instead read a real book, cook a meal from scratch, take a walk, or just sit and BE. I watch the birds I feed outside my window. Or put a tea bag in a cup of hot water and watch it brew, in silence. That’s a good 5-minute meditation right there.

BREATHE! Nothing will connect you to yourself and bring your blood pressure down quicker.

Ask for help when you need it. Lean on your friends. They won’t mind.

When life feels chaotic, remember to relax because nothing is in control! That’s when you go with the flow. Remember you can’t push a river.

Practice Gratitude! It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Even the wisest guru’s espouse that when they spend time with family, it can ruffle their feathers. Don’t take anyone seriously if a kerfuffle should start. Don’t bite the hook! Just nod and smile or say the cheeriest “Oh well!” and carry on as you sip your cocoa. ENJOY LIFE!

And have a wonderful holiday season!

Making your ‘bad quality’ work for you

A friend had the observation that being stubborn has upsides. True that. I figured every bad quality must have an upside. Doesn’t everything have a good and bad, undesirable quality to it? So, let’s take the human condition and flip some things.

I can be very stubborn, and I know it is not a desirable quality. But there are instances where being stubborn fits the bill perfectly. Working on a job until it is done, that’s a good part of being stubborn. I call it stick-to-itiveness. A great example for me was my friend who was working on the plumbing under my house. He did not give up. He is a very patient and quiet man. To hear him swearing and getting mad is so rare I knew the plumbing was confounding him. He kept at it all day until the problem was fixed and made better than the original plumbing. Had he given up I’d have been forced to call a plumber, which in the sticks, is rare as hen’s teeth. No one wants to drive all the way from town to get here. I’d have been stuck for a long time. Thanks to his stubborn nature, I had running water!

The flip side of my empathic abilities of feeling everything are the physical feelings I get as I write. Feeling everything can be a good thing, not something to dread or hide.

This also brings to mind the need to temper our negative quality when needed. Let’s take the hand we were dealt and make it work for us, instead of against us. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it is a worthwhile project, no? Having an undesirable quality can now be seen as positive.

A warning that we should not celebrate our ‘undesirable’ traits by saying “Yay! I’m stubborn and I can treat people any way I wish!” Nope. That’s not what I am getting at. It means perhaps channeling those qualities into a positive outcome. Again the line of “using your powers for good, not evil” comes to mind.

What are some qualities that may be turned around and seen as good? What quality do you have that you might view as negative, that you can flip? What can you work on that might make you thankful for having that otherwise bad trait? This could be a really fun and enriching exercise if you take it to heart.

Comments and dialogue are encouraged and welcome. Likes tell me someone is listening. Love and Light, Patty.

Surrender Dorothy, and all that implies

Recently I was chatting with a friend. We both felt that we were each experiencing lives of confusion and both of us felt a bit out of control. Our discussion lead us to deduce each of us would best be served by letting go and embracing it all. A phrase ‘stop pushing the river’ comes to mind. It’s not a place you can go to with your thinking brain. You must let go. That takes trust. I feel I have a big ‘something’ coming up. I know I must let go and sink into it to come back to the surface. As I was talking to my friend the phrase “Surrender Dorothy” came to mind from the movie, The Wizard of Oz. It is a perfect reminder to let go when worry starts in. Accomplishing this would have to be at a non-verbal place inside me. It’s hard to explain or wrap my head around, because words don’t seem to adequately express this idea, and that’s okay.

Surrender Dorothy could be my watch phrase for recent hurdles I am facing. Detach from caring about the outcome and surrendering to my true north. Yup. I know I have to do it. But can I? I’m not the kind of person who can easily take my hands off the steering wheel. But I must. This is not something you can intellectualize. You cannot plan for this to happen, or force it. You cannot say…

“I will detach and be in free fall so that I can experience this uncomfortable thing, so that I can have a breakthrough, an epiphany.”

It does not happen that way. For me it is not second nature to let go and surrender to what is happening. Especially when experiencing chaos, illness, or physical and emotional pain. Instead we want to protect ourselves and always be in a happy moving-forward place. Growth takes place in uncomfortable spots. Going outside your comfort zone makes you stronger. Surrendering to what is may be the best thing to do. But I am not sure how to let go enough for that to happen.

Every time I come up against another hurdle, even a small one, I am starting to change how I approach life. Instead of saying “How can I fix this? What is the best path forward? Quickly get a fix in place!” I remind myself to accept what is happening and sink back to that feeling, whatever it is. Let it roll over me. Let it come. Surrender Dorothy. I want to face what is going on, and surrender to the need to be in control and fix things. My experience with Buddhism may come in handy, as the mindset of ‘having tea with your demons’ is a practice put forward by Pema Chödrön. I understand the idea. I love the idea! And I can do that for small fears that come visiting. It’s kind of like saying ‘everything is as it should be’ and ‘this too shall pass”. But the big stuff. The stuff that keeps hanging on and on. The hard stuff. That’s different. It seems like a wall I cannot scale. I must stop asking why, and how, and instead sink down into the comfort that I am finally where I should be, so I can become one with it, and like the peacock, turn poison into medicine, pushing beyond my fears.

Comments and dialogue are encouraged and welcome. Likes tell me someone is listening. Love and Light, Patty.

My secret Super Power! The upside of being sensitive.

My writing process involves actual physical feelings that occur as I work on stories. The paragraphs come alive, I have realizations, a-ha moments, and there is growth as I write. By the time I am done, the entire article has a glow felt in my body. Everything comes together and I feel a glow in my chest and abdomen as I write or proofread. It’s so cool. 🙂 I can tell which paragraphs need work because that physical feeling might be absent, or it does not feel good. When ideas are really popping I have a dozen stories in draft form at any one time. As I scan my list of drafts to decide which one to work on next I get a physical feeling—BOOM—and I have my answer. I chuckle to myself because this is not only fun, it’s awesome! It’s like having a secret super power. Eight months ago this was not true. It’s something that has recently developed. Probably due to my recent low points leaving me super sensitive to all that goes on.

In this post I want to talk about the actual physical feeling as I write because it is so new to me, and it is so awesome to have this ability. My previous post, The Crying Man was an experience important enough to write about. As I wrote, the feeling in my body was of nothingness. It felt very flat. This did not feel right by a long shot! I dropped the story and let it sit overnight. After working on it the next morning, the glow feeling started. It was excitement and butterflies in my gut. Now I was cooking with gas!

Often I find nuggets of gold, a-ha moments, discoveries that are uncovered gently as I write. I love it when that happens! That’s real magic. In my gut I can feel the energy of the story come out. This is what I’m talking about.

When I worked on the story about losing my horse Silver, it was difficult to write. Writing is a good way for me to process emotional trauma. As I finished the article, I had a physical feeling in my gut about each paragraph. A good feeling. It’s hard to describe but I can physically feel the story coming together. I can’t speak for anyone else. It’s not an intellectual thing, it’s more of a physical-feel-intuition-gut all at the same time thing. Readers should be able to see a-ha moments on the page because that’s how they happen. They organically happen as I write. What a cool super power! Often there is something in the story I didn’t know was there until I write about it. That’s the real treasure.

As I finish up stories I concentrate on the second half of the story and the juice flows, the feelings get stronger, the story gets clearer. Working further on The Crying Man story there was no longer a feeling of flat nothingness. The story was starting to undulate and come alive, and that feeling translated directly into my body. This is the up side to being a Sensitive and an Empath. The flip side of feeling so much of what is out there. Queue the familiar line from superhero movies “I only use my power for good, not for evil.”

Mainly I write for the benefit of processing information for my mental health. The reason I blog vs. a private journal is, there is something to be said for accountability and pressure, in a good way, to write for others. The writing becomes better, clearer, there is more purpose. Be aware of your body as a Geiger counter to life. You can discover much about yourself as you write, for your benefit and growth. Your body will tell you when things are getting good and juicy. That intangible thing is there, becoming tangible! Perhaps my experience will help one person. Let me know if it does!

Comments and dialogue are highly encouraged and welcome. “Likes” tell me someone is out there listening. Love and Light, Patty