A few weeks ago, for some reason I cannot explain, I started listening to people who love me enough to be open and honest. Some people find me challenging.
I am really easy to talk with in spite of my advancing years. People think I am so wise and certainly I have learned lessons from life. The most important is the ability to listen. This is the message I received from several of my closest companions, family and friends.
“You really have to start taking care of yourself. Your life has been caring for others, work and that’s it. So, think of something you would like to do.”
Good thoughts and I didn’t have a clue.
Not only do I work constantly, but I am also a procrastinator – BIG TIME. I bought a book about procrastination and found the print was too small, so I bought another one. It’s on the shelf somewhere – I’ll read it next year……perhaps.
I kept thinking about what I wanted to do, and nothing came up. I was so ingrained in work and taking care of people, always putting them before me that I simply didn’t know what to do to create a difference.
One Sunday I was watching Grantchester on Public television. I loved the series, watching it from the very beginning. The episode I was watching was at the end of the last season, when the Vicar was getting married. What he said made me sit upright with my hand on my heart. It hit home – nailed it, as they say.
He was making his speech and said the following. “I DON’T REGRET ANYTHING I’VE DONE. I REGRET WHAT I HAVEN’T DONE.”
It makes me draw a deep breath even now when I write it. I wasn’t sure exactly what it meant until I let it rest so that my brain was calm enough to give it some time. This is what I came up with.
I have been a care sharer of sorts since I was eight years old. One could say I was my mother’s mother. It was during the war and the London Blitz which many people have told me it’s time I recovered from. They weren’t in that violence, so they don’t know.
My Veterans do, although they were serving as attackers, and I was attacked. My mother couldn’t handle what was happening at all. When the air raid siren went off she would run to the cellar as she wouldn’t go to a shelter. I sat with her in that place, and we talked. A lot happened back then. Many people aren’t in the least interested and that’s acceptable.
People don’t want to hear of tragedies. I get it. I have a recording on YouTube when I presented at Rydal Park for my son Daniel. It’s called Child of the Blitz and it was very well received. It was then posted on Facebook, and I think about three people watched it. However, that statement was the beginning of understanding what taking care of myself might be.
It’s a matter of keeping it simple. I started visualizing things I want to do, places I want to visit. One of my biggest regrets is that I never travelled to places that intrigued me…..Paris, Scotland, Alaska, the Canadian Rockies on a train – so many.
However, I kept in mind the idea to KEEP IT SIMPLE. I thought of taking an art class. I can’t draw or paint. (I know – that doesn’t matter. That’s what classes are for!) Photography is another one. I met with my lovely cousin, Frances, who is a brilliant photographer, who gave me many ideas on how to pursue this interest and will be there to help me. I am going to buy a camera next week. I know, I have a cell phone with a camera. Not the same thing! Then I’ll look for a class. Really, I will.
Sitting quietly one evening, I suddenly understood that keeping me safe by working so much was stuck in my mind. I had to change my thinking patterns. I live far too much in my head, which is a dangerous neighbourhood at times. I tell my patients that all the time. Get out of your head, go to your heart. Talk about Physician Heal Thyself!
That night, I couldn’t sleep and got up at 2 am and began putting many photographs away that reminded me of the past. Since then, I have been so much better. Never thought of those photos in that way before and have since moved on.
Sometimes I do things that are unaccountable. I don’t think about them. I just do them. Today was an example. I thought I had the day off. Surprise! Then I realised I had physical therapy. Ouch.
Now I have the best physical therapist on the planet. His name is Eric, and I recorded a podcast with him as part of my “How the Hell Did I Get Here?” series.
He got me off a walker and now off a cane. Genius. Apart from his knowledge, Eric has a great gift. A sense of humour! He must have realised from the start it was a necessity to work with me. In fact, the first time I met him I wore a tee shirt. I never wear tee shirts, but I wanted to make a statement that says, “Assuming I was just an old woman was your first mistake!”
I have another one that says. “The devil whispered in my ear; the storm is coming. I responded; I am the storm! Just wanted to be clear you understand. I nailed it! He is so friggin’ funny, so I really lucked out. I had the session which worked very well and then I was leaving to come home and do some work. Huh! I think not said my heart.
For some unknown reason, I put a book in the car. I read about three at the same time, mostly Victorian Murder stories by Anne Perry who herself spent time in prison and at age 16 assisted her friend in murdering her friend’s mother. So, she has one hell of a background. Anyway, she’s brilliant.
I decided not to go home and instead drove up 309 and found a diner where I am not well known. There are several around here which I regard as my personal CHEERS gathering spots. I went in to have breakfast. The server was very nice, and I placed my order. About ten minutes after I was there, a man came in and placed his order. After a while I waited for my breakfast drinking hot tea (what else? Regardless of the temperature). Then she came back with his order.
Now I am used to men being served first and believed to be brighter than I am; had a lifetime of that professionally. This time I was annoyed. As an older woman, I am getting used to being invisible. That doesn’t mean I take it lightly. When she served him, I caught her eye and questioned – where was my order? I was told it takes a while and she kept coming back saying it would just be another minute. Finally, it arrived, not as good as other diners, but edible.
During all this time, I was reading my book, so I was very calm. Whilst I was eating, I was preparing my speech to her on the subject so that other women wouldn’t be ignored when I suddenly felt it was totally unnecessary. It wasn’t her fault. I needed to get into the kitchen! Don’t worry, I restrained myself.
I really wanted to though so instead I gave her a big tip. The servers I have had in treatment have told me they rely on their tips. I don’t envy them their jobs, so I have them in mind. I also realised that when I was fifteen, just after the war, I was going to save the world. It looks as though I haven’t moved on far from that by leaving large tips! Suffice it to say that the people who love me do so because I am weird! Such a compliment.
Which brings me to compliments. It took me ages to accept them (remember this blog is for your own good). Did you mother say that to you?
I would make all kinds of excuses like, “Oh this old thing. Had it for ages”.
Some people actually told me I was beautiful. I thought they had two heads. There are several potent memories I have on this subject.
One was that I was leading a women’s recovery group in an in-patient rehab. There was a particularly challenging woman and in an exchange, I finally got through to her. She wouldn’t let me know of course. When I was there again, she asked to speak with me and said, “You saved my life”. I responded that she saved her own life by allowing people to listen to her.
The following week as I walked in the door, she grabbed me and pushed me up against a wall and said, “If I said you saved my effing life, you saved my effing life!” I never turned down a compliment after that as I realised she needed to believe it. A life lesson for me.
The next one is less intense. One of my favourite compliments. It happened years ago but I will always remember it and smile. My older son Colin was in Target with his wife and then young children. When he went to check out his purchases, I recognized the cashier who worked in my bank. When he gave her his credit card she looked at it and asked in awe, “Oh. Are you Dr. Kaye’s son?”
He replied, “Why, what has she done now?” Could a mother have a better compliment from her child? Obviously my kind of parenthood of keeping them guessing paid off!
To my delight that day, a notice came up on my phone about a film called Goodnight Mr. Tom. It starred John Thaw (Morse) as Mr. Tom and a brilliant young boy named Thomas Orange. I think he was about ten or eleven. I love this film. When people ask me what it was like to be evacuated in World War Two, I suggest they watch Goodnight Mr. Tom. It was the best one ever.
I related to it strongly, as some of it was so similar to my experience; certainly, to the first place I was sent to in Highbridge, Somerset in the West of England. What happened when he returned to London was not the same for me. I wasn’t welcomed back and in fact my mother forgot to pick me up at the station. A very kind policeman found me and managed to contact my family. I think that was worse than being sent away. John Thaw has always been a favourite of mine and he didn’t fail in this role. I will watch it again. It’s healing for me.
This blog came about as I find myself dealing with people who don’t care for themselves. They put everybody else ahead of them. I am very familiar with that situation. It takes work, dedication and most of all self worth. I had to look at why I was still acting in a codependent manner of sorts. It wasn’t easy and when I realised it could be simple, one action at a time, it happened.
I increased my self-worth by turning the phone off for a short while. I now live with “No” being a complete sentence. I learned that selfish simply means of the self, ish being the Latin word for of. Loved Latin!
I do hope it has been helpful, especially for those who are being hurt by a narcissist.