This is a public issue of Enthusiastic Encouragement & Dubious Advice. Feel free to share it!
Hi Friends! How’s it going? What have you done for yourself lately?
I typed that second question 8 times. I deleted it 7 times. I kept deleting it because I was like, how do I have the nerve, the audacity, the gumption, to ask my beloved readers a question that I can barely answer for myself? And I think that’s enough of a good reason to ask the question.
What have you done lately that is solely for yourself? Not your spouse, children, other family. Not for work. Not for your friends. Not because it is a chore or your side-gig. Not because it is necessarily productive or useful. What have YOU done for YOU? Beyond buying yourself something (passive) or cooking yourself something (we all need to eat at some point).
I can’t really, legitimately answer this question. The closest I have is that I watched Dreamgirls with Nicole. But even so, one of my 2020 goals (lol yes I still have those in mind because I’m a freak) was to teach Nicole about 5 musicals. Now, true, it’s not a necessity. And it is partially for me because half the references I make every day are from musicals and I want Nicole to “get” them. But, it’s a thing for us. All the things I’m thinking about that are for “me” are also for someone else, aside from the things that are solely for someone else.
<image of a handwritten note that says, “You don’t have to light yourself on fire to keep other people warm>
It reminds me of a conversation that I had with my mom a few weeks ago. She asked what my plans were for the day and I said something along the lines of “Text so and so to check-in, send a birthday card, send a couple postcards, do some (paid) writing, do some (paid) reading, give this other person a check-in call.”
After I rattled off all these things, my mom asked me, “Do you ever get tired of being you?”
I was a bit shocked at the question, not because it’s a bad question, but just because no one had ever asked it of me. I answered honestly and said, “Yes. It’s fucking exhausting. But I don’t know any other way to be. I’ve gotten a lot better about boundaries around emotional labor, but there’s always room for improvement.”
And then by doing that, we are helpful to no one. Not even ourselves.
<image of artwork that says, “Kindness without boundaries is self-sabotage”>
It is a remarkably hard time to say no and draw boundaries right now as a helper, especially when we know our loved ones are in need of connection and compassion.
I can’t say that I have it all figured out and it’s not going to look the same for everyone, or even anyone. But I will share how I have formed and maintain boundaries around my emotional labor at this time.
First, I recognize that I do not have the spell slots to do all the relationship maintenance (friends, family) that I had this same time last year. Last year, I was writing 9-12 pieces of snail mail each week. EACH WEEK. It pains me to not be even writing that much each month right now but it would pain me more to try to continue to be that prolific.
With snail mail, and everything, my rule is to do what I can, when I can.
I often have the spell slots for check-ins via text or DM. I only ask people how they are if I have the spell slots to do the labor if their answer is “AWFUL, THANKS FOR ASKING.” If I don’t have the spell slots to do so, then I won’t reach out.
I have very little bandwidth for phone conversations. I keep those reserved for a limited few people.
I have the spell slots to write this newsletter every week and I will continue to do so until it feels like more labor than I can handle.
I have zero spell slots for Zoom/Skype outside of work aside from our weekly Dungeons & Dragons and the occasional Skype with my mom. I would love to have Skype drinks and share Skype meals with friends but this week alone I had eight Zoom meetings for work, more than half of them being over an hour long. It is draining and introvert me needs to recharge and I often feel like crawling under the table at the end of each work day. It breaks my heart that I can’t show up on video for my friends but, again, I can’t set myself on fire to keep other people warm. Even though those other people mean the world to me.
No one said boundaries are easy. If they were so easy, we’d all have them all the time for everything and no one would ever burn out.
Drawing and maintaining boundaries around our emotional health and well-being, especially at this time, is so important and doing so does not mean that we don’t care. Of course we care. We have boundaries because we care, because we want to be able to continue to show up for others and in order to show up for others, we have to show up for ourselves too.
I’m going to end this with one of my favorite sayings:
<image of artwork saying, “The only people who get upset when you set boundaries are those who benefited from you having none”>
That’s it for this week! If you enjoy this newsletter, feel free to subscribe, forward it to a friend, and/or give me a tip!