Your Declaration Of Interdependence

Author’s Note:  There are several Declarations Of Interdependence as of this writing; declarations of religious, racial and environmental interdependence among them. But today, this one’s for you.

If you enjoy it, please pass it along. Thank you!

***

In honor of the holiday…no, scratch that. Inspired by the holiday, in honor of one woman, I’m writing a declaration. You see, I worked with a Your Life, Supported! client this week. (I’ll call her V.)

A bit of background on V:  she’s the sole caregiver for her son, P, and has been for many years. How did this happen? Years ago, she received an ultimatum from her ex-husband:  me or P. Either P goes into an institution, or I’m out of here.

V chose P, and she has never looked back.

As such, she has supported her son for nearly 2 decades. She works three jobs, one of which she hates. (Naturally, this is the job that provides insurance and takes up the most time.) When I met her, she’d just worked a 66 hour week, for very little pay. She has goals, desires and dreams…but they’re buried under an avalanche of work and responsibility.

I met V and her son P on Monday, when they invited me in to their home. We shared food, laughter, hugs and a few photographs (P loves to take pictures.) Despite V’s stress and exhaustion, the love between her and her son was palpable. Like my family, they’ve struggled through behavioral challenges, yet they are still each others’ everything.

It was amazing. It affirmed for me that this — meeting people like V, listening to their stories, supporting them — is exactly what I want to be doing.

And it also broke my heart.

After listening to V’s story, there were so many things I ached to say.

Here is my chance. I declare that…

We, as caregivers, have a right to pursue happiness.

We recognize that our happiness is inextricably bound up in the happiness of those we care for. We accept this, and in doing so, we come to see that caring for ourselves is a vital and necessary part of caring for another.

We are determined to pursue a course of healthy living:  to nourish our bodies with sufficient sleep, food, movement, and love. We will no longer pretend that living without these things is all right.

We realize that we have become proficient in self-denial; we are daughters of self-sacrifice. We have not reached out for help when we most needed it. We have allowed ourselves to swept away by the tide of self-sufficiency.

We acknowledge that a failure to care for ourselves is a failure to care for another. We have come to see that there are some sacrifices that were never ours to make.

We understand that, while we can be responsible to another, we can never fully be responsible for another person. Their lives are their own, as our lives are our own.

We believe and trust that there is a better way. A way to love subversively and sustainably.

We must learn to make choices for the love of ourselves, choices that also support the person we care for.

As such, we commit to thinking and acting in creative ways to fulfill our dreams.

If we cannot move to that cabin on the lake right now, we will bring as much peace and serenity into our lives as we possibly can.

If we cannot trade pounds and lose the excess weight in a week or a month, we will endeavor to make small, significant, daily changes that will add up to a healthier body.

If we cannot quit that hated job right this second, we will commit to pursuing income streams that do not make us nauseous, and quit the hated work as soon as we possibly can.

We seek the courage to pursue employment that brings us delight at least some of the time. Yes, we may go through periods in which we must do work we don’t like, but we won’t let those times extend into years of career disappointment. We affirm that we have valuable skills and gifts to offer others; we do not have to settle for work that diminishes us.

Most of all, we acknowledge that the choices we have made, however difficult, have been made from love. And we know that, in going forward, our life-giving choices will benefit the people we care for.

We have stood for relationships, for inclusion, for a world where the gifts of people with disabilities are not ignored, but celebrated.

At times we have cried tears of frustration; at times we have smashed guitars in anger. Yet we have also cried tears of joy. We have been blessed by the people we care for, blessed beyond our imagining.

V, I know you don’t like to be called a hero. You don’t see any heroism in your choices; to your mind, they’re as natural as can be. So I won’t call you a hero.

But I’m proud to call you a friend.

***

What’s your addition to the Declaration?

Tell me in the comments!

My Life, Supported: On Setting Goals, Asking For Help + Breaking New Ground

Good morning!

First, a reminder that, if you’re thinking about signing on for Your Life, Supported!, now is the time to send me an email (caroline AT awishcomeclear.com). Rates go up for sessions booked after July 1…

…which is next Friday. (Unbelievable, isn’t it?)

Now’s your chance.

In honor of the aforementioned changeover, I rewrote my support plan + tracking tool this week. In doing so, I made a fascinating discovery:  I’m in a different place now than I was just 2 months ago.

2 months ago, my support plan included goals for every area of my life. At the time, I was pleased with the result. However, in just 2 months, I wanted to do a complete rewrite.

As I rewrote my goals, I realized that:

  • The scope of the goals was limited, because there were too many of them. Home goals, work goals, writing goals, self-care goals, exercise goals…it was overwhelming. I was trying to be a Renaissance Woman, excelling in multiple areas.
  • There was no visible area of focus. The goals reflected the important, but not the essential.
  • After a month, I’d stopped using my tracking tool because it didn’t highlight my actual priorities.

Nowadays, my goals for A Wish Come Clear are more important to me. These goals are specific, ambitious and just scary enough to keep me on my toes.

I won’t ignore the other important areas of my life. But I will distill my determination into a smaller set of goals, for a bigger impact.

We don’t have infinite energy to be diligent. Our inner child rebels against the thought of too much structure and too many rules. When you try to weigh yourself down with too many goals, that inner child says, “You want me to do what?! And how often? And you want to track all of that? Forget it! This is why I’ll never be an adult!“) As such, it’s important to give yourself some leeway.

In the Support Planning process, we list the major areas of your life, and ask questions to help you reflect on what’s going well and what could change for the better. Then, as we build your Tracking Tool, we consider the 3 goals that you want to zoom in on. I ask you, “What’s so important to you that you’re willing to track your progress daily?”

This process has helped me with racking focus — shifting from the foreground to the background. In my previous plan, I’d listed my writing goals along with everything else, as though my writing was as important to me as, say, running three times per week.

It was a form of protection, of pretending. But I’m not pretending anymore.

This website is foreground for me.

As such, my 3 main goals and sub-goals are all about supporting the work I do here. We’re gaining momentum as we approach the 6-month mark, and my goals reflect that.

Here’s a summary of what I’m focusing on this quarter:

1. Establishing regular sleep + wake times. I’m shooting for 7am and 10:30pm, respectively, 6 days/week. Why? Because lack of sleep is like kryptonite for me. When I get my sleep, everyone’s happier. When I get up early, I have more time to be creative. I have more energy (which leads to more exercise, and other healthy choices.) This single commitment to sleep will probably do more for my health and happiness this quarter than anything else I could choose.

2. Reaching a wider audience. (Since this is a major goal, I have 2 sub-goals in my Support Plan.)

3. Building my business (Since this is also a big goal, I have 4 sub-goals.)

What’s changed since I made the shift to fewer goals?

1. I’ve started asking for what I want. This is revolutionary for me. Before, my default thought-setting was, “I probably won’t get [X], so I won’t bother to ask.” Now, I’m changing that to, “I may or may not get [X], but if it matters to me, I’m going to ask for it!” How did I get to this point? Partly out of necessity, and partly because I was beyond inspired by Ash Ambirge’s story. If you’ve not read it:  she risked asking her readers to buy her (as-yet-unwritten) first book on pre-sale…because she had no place to live, no money and no one on her side. And her readers came through.

When I read something like that, it dares me to be brave. As such, I’ve begun making a practice of asking. For example, I’ve been wanting to pursue copywriting, but I didn’t know where to begin. So, I reached out to friend and mentor Dusti Arab for advice. Next thing I knew, I had my first real copywriting gig.

2. Without meaning to, I’ve begun taking calculated risks. This includes asking for what I want, but it also includes things like trying new poses in yoga or taking on my first support planning client. It seems as though the more risks I take, the more rewarding they become.

3. I’ve become less critical of myself and others, because I’m focused the only work I can do.

What can you look forward to from A Wish Come Clear in the next few months?

1. Additional guest posts and copywriting projects that align with A Wish Come Clear’s mission and vision.

2. A new book launching here by the end of the year.

3. I’ve considered my posting schedule, and decided that I’m going to aim for one fantastic post per week, on Mondays. This will allow me to write well for you and be faithful to my writing goals (and my full-time job!)

And so I want to say thank you.

You’re the reason that I can dream big and work hard. You are what keeps this site going.

And this site is, in Ash’s words, “the vehicle that made all the difference in the world for me, the moment I finally started letting it.”

***

What’s your area of focus at present? What are your goals? Tell me in the comments!

Owning Your Mistakes & The Wisdom Of The Oops

First, a tremendous thank you to everyone who completed/entered A Wish Come Clear’s first survey + giveaway! I’m thrilled to announce the winner of our contest:  Veronique, a woman who has a son with disabilities. Here’s her response to question 10 (What would your life look like if you felt supported in every area?):  “My life would be harmonious and become I would feel balanced and less tense; those around me would benefit as well.” The simplicity and compassion in her response spoke out to me, and reminded me that the work we do for ourselves benefits those we love as well.

Again, many thanks to everyone who contributed + entered!

***

I don’t know about you, but I like to avoid screw-ups whenever possible. I prefer the on-time, on-target, exceeds-expectations way of living life. I like it when everyone gets along and agrees. I appreciate a well-timed, well-executed schedule. Miscommunications, mistakes and messiness? No, thank you.

Perfectionistic? Unrealistic? Oh, absolutely. But this is how I roll.

That said, last week was a real stretch for me.

On Monday alone, I faced:

  • a full days’ work, with all the minor crises that entails
  • an unexpected sub-in on an evening routine at L’Arche (after aforementioned full days’ work)
  • an unfortunate mistake (mine) involving the move-in date for our new apartment, which necessitated negotiating with our (very kind) current landlord so we wouldn’t be homeless
  • challenging words from a friend, who was struggling with something I’d written online

If I had known that by Friday I’d be racing to the ER to be with my husband, who was unexpectedly diagnosed with a blood clot in his leg…I would not have worried about any of it. (Thankfully, he’s home and doing well.) But I didn’t know about the life-and-death scenario awaiting us. All I knew was:  it’s hard feeling like you’ve screwed up. And it’s even harder when it’s Monday and you have PMS.

Not surprisingly, I was undone by 5pm. I needed to leave for evening routine, but first I curled into a fetal position and let the tears fall. My husband held me. I said, “I hate feeling like I screwed up! I hate being called on at the last minute! I like to PLAN for these things! I wish…I need…”

I had no idea what I needed.

And suddenly I was picturing my brother, Willie. I was seeing him erase his mistakes so thoroughly that he wore out his homework pages. I was seeing him unravel his socks because he can’t stand the sight and feel of a tiny hole. Most of all, I was seeing the laminated sign my parents have posted for him on their refrigerator, the sign that says, “Oops! No big deal.”

The sign is there to help him when he starts to freak out about making a mistake. I used to think this was funny, that my darling neurotic of a brother needed an actual sign.

This struck me as hilarious, given my current predicament. I laughed through my tears, and the laughter was an active letting go. I thought, “God! I’m just like him. We’re cut from the same cloth. Two of a kind.”

“I need a sign!” I said to my husband. “Like the one Willie has!”

“The one that says, ‘Oops, No big deal?'” he asked.

“Exactly,” I said. “I need it, like, yesterday.”

“If you need one, I’ll make one,” my husband replied.

Make yourself a sign. It might say, “Oops, No big deal!” or “Live and learn,” or “I did the best I could with what I had.” There is wisdom in being kind to yourself. The next time you make a mistake, look at the sign. Admit your mistake, let out the hurt and then do your best to move on and move forward.

As Anne Lamott writes in Traveling Mercies, “A woman I know says for her morning prayer, ‘Whatever’ and for her evening, ‘Oh well.'” When I first read this, I thought it was a bit, shall we say, flippant. Now I see that it’s about surrender, the sweetness of admitting that you can’t control much of anything except yourself. It’s about surrender with whatever words come naturally to you.

When you let go and forgive yourself, your hands are open. And only open hands can receive.

Once I hit rock bottom and let go of my own failure that day, I received a beautiful gift:  the feeling of being connected to my brother, the feeling of being human in the very same way as him.

It reminds me of something that my friend Cassandra* once said. When she was asked, “What hurts you?” she replied, “Well. When people I love die. And. Not being able to do things right.”

Not being able to do things right does hurt. For Cassandra to admit that was an act of courage. But she ordered her sentence well, because the pain of not doing things right is an afterthought compared to losing someone you love.

If I had known that my husband had a blood clot as he was comforting me, none of the mistakes and fears I struggled with would have mattered one bit.

Nothing would have mattered except that I was being held.

***

If you were to make a sign for yourself to help you in owning your mistakes, what would it say? Tell me in the comments!

*Names have been changed.