One thing is for sure, we are big-hearted women. We want to save the world, make sure everyone is as happy as humanly possible, and tend to put our own well-being on the back-burner until our many little moments of self-neglect tip the scale and cause us to crumble. And even then, we still often do only as much for ourselves as is absolutely necessary to get us up and running again.
It’s a common issue with very caring people. But a phrase that helps me to keep things in balance is this:
You can’t pour from an empty cup.
It’s simple, but it really says it all. How many times do we feel like we have two drops left, and we still give one to another? This is especially true for moms, who often have more piled on them than any of us could carry, without occasionally… okay, frequently, losing it. (I have so much respect for you mommas.)
And for those of us who are really struggling financially and have the constant stress of feeling stuck, like there’s nothing we can do, it’s hard, sometimes, to find even a minute to care for our own needs, in this crazy society that causes us to work our lives away with little to call our own, and no time to spend with our loved ones.
But, I’m here to tell you that there’s always a path out of the darkness, and that in order to find your way, on your own unique path, you’re gonna have to tend to your candle, and make sure that you have enough provisions for the journey ahead.
Each of us has a completely unique path in this life, which can only be made clear when we shine the light of our focus onto our passions and our dreams. If we just keep stumbling around in the dark, giving our second-to-last drop of water to whoever we bump into, how will we ever get out? How will we have enough to give so that we really make a difference?
Fill your cup, by making sure that you have what you need. Are you feeling totally tip top, or super drained? Are you sleeping at least eight hours, drinking enough water, eating enough healthy food to keep you going?
Are you making time to socialize and time to yourself to relax throughout the week? If not, you better schedule it. Even a half hour bath, or a fifteen minute walk around the block can help us to unwind and recenter. Even ten minutes of stretching or meditation once we’re in bed can relax us into more rejuvenating sleep to prepare for tomorrow.
We can get overwhelmed with the idea that we don’t have enough time to take care of ourselves on top of eeeeverything else, but we’re not on top of everything else. We’re underneath it, holding it all up and keeping it balanced. Our well-being is the foundation of everything in our lives, and if the foundation crumbles, everything else does too. So you can’t neglect it. That’s what happened to me. It wasn’t pretty.
Things began great in 2014, I was traveling around, working at off-grid building workshops as a cook in Arizona and even Canada, riding across the country in a van with a zebra print fuzzy “couch” in the back seat with a couple of hippies I met in the middle of nowhere, selling clothes I abstract-doodled on from a clothesline at a friend’s reggae festival in the Carolinas, trimming weed in California (where things started to go downhill… sketchy fellas, ’nuff said) and then winter came and it was time to come home.
Those kinds of wild rides are as much drama as they are adventure, but my candle was nearly a blowtorch, and my path was clearly alight. But there wasn’t much water towards the end of my journey, and my cup was getting pretty low.
I came home with a flu, and slept for about a week on my mom’s couch while the snow fell. As soon as it had passed, I dove into building a holistic wellness-coaching practice and gave most of my attention to that, and applying the principles I shared to my own life, and feeling super confident.
Within that first month back, though, one of my best friends, who was like a sister to me, ended up in a mental hospital, hearing voices and feeling like she was burning in hell. The combination of coming off of fifteen years of taking Adderall, and getting dragged into some guilt-mongering cult-like belief system while her mind was so vulnerable really messed up her perception of life. She was stuck in a bad trip. And I had to get her out.
I was devastated, and without a second thought, I moved to her house (in the mild ghetto) to help her.
It was so much harder on me than I had anticipated. There was honestly nothing I could do. I would sit with her, assure her that all was well and it was just in her head, but her experiences were so real that we couldn’t get through to her. She tried various medications, and psychiatrists, natural methods, diet changes, energy work, everything we could think of, but she still couldn’t sleep, experiencing horrifying attacks at night and in constant fear of eternal suffering, pacing the house and shouting “Angels, PLEASE!!”
While all of this was going on, I had a mini-breakdown. I felt like I had failed her, and was too drained and unstable from my environment that I felt was unfit to coach. I shut down my practice, stopped writing and started trying to find ways to cope.
See, along with trying to help her, I was also incredibly broke. I’d been stretching the two thousand dollars I had saved in California to last me December through March. I was living on rice and bananas, a few vegetables here and there.
When I’d go to the store, I’d walk through the neighborhood feeling really unsafe (two gunshots a month was common at night there, following yelling) and twice I’d been followed most of the way home by men hitting on me who didn’t like no as an answer.
Another large part of my focus was on vegan and environmental activism, and witnessing the amount of damage and destruction happening globally, and how little action was being taken to change it, was sucking my faith in humanity away and making me scared for the future.
And, to top it all off, I had finally lost a man I had pined for for three years, who kept me at arm’s length, who finally chose another girl.
I was a wreck, guys. It had been six months, and I was broken. I went to visit my sister in Kentucky, and she told me I should just come stay with her. After a few weeks, I was invited last-minute to cook and be in charge of the food at an Earthbag House building workshop in Arizona, and hold a Reiki workshop during it too.
It was just what I needed, but I was still drained. That whole summer and fall, something was off with me. My optimism had diminished, and it took very little to overwhelm me. I ended up stuck. All of the trauma weakened something in me, and that winter I went through a depression like nothing I’d ever seen before.
I had lost all hope. I couldn’t even get myself to leave my room to eat because I felt so intimidated by the judgements of everyone seeing me being so useless. I cried all day and rarely got out of bed, and wouldn’t let myself do anything to relax until I felt like I had accomplished enough to seem “worthy” and useful. Helpful. All the things I expected myself to be.
It took four months to get out of that. With a lot of Netflix, a lot of letting go, and getting back with an ex who understood what it’s like to have that kind of depression, and finally feeling like I was enough, even when I was nothing.
So, I moved with him to Colorado. We’re good friends now, planning to get our own places, while navigating the awkward discomfort of the recent downgrade in our relationship. I’ve got a good job now, am building my business, and taking care of my health.
Since my hormones got thrown out of whack from that year of trauma, and threw me into a nearly inescapable depression, it’s also caused damage that has since left me with extreme fatigue, and blood sugar issues. And I’m finally seeing a naturopathic doctor and getting tests done to find out what exactly went wrong, and how to support my system back into balance. That’s what inspired this message today.
You see, all of that stress, and that trauma, it broke something in me. And I fell completely apart, and am now having to fix it. We should not have to go through that. We should be so good to ourselves that our foundation never has to crumble, and we know when we need to get out of an unhealthy situation, or when we really need a break or a pick-me-up.
This means setting healthy boundaries. If your cup gets below half full, you need to go fill it. You can’t wait until the breaking point, because eventually, you really will break.
If you’re just a little bit hungry, eat. If you’re a little bit thirsty, drink. A little bit stressed? Go in the bathroom, breathe, and touch your toes. For a full minute, just hang over and breathe. Need to address an unhealthy situation? Collect your thoughts, and do it when it’s only a hint of a problem. When you’re still mostly okay, and can discuss it rationally. Don’t wait until you’re ravenous, dying of thirst, or ripping your hair out, and crying in a heap on the floor to take care of your needs.
You are important, and have so much to give. If you give to yourself, your cup will be overflowing, and your foundation will be rock-solid and inspiring, and you’ll make greater changes than you’d ever imagined.
Keep your focus on your dreams and your path will make itself clearer every step of the way. And, Goddess to Goddess, I’m always here to help.
Aquarian Goddess Jen