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I have always been naturally compassionate and empathic. As long as I can remember, I couldn’t watch other people being sad, angry, confused, embarrassed or hurt without feeling their emotions and sensations as if they were my own. It can be very confusing. And it can be hard to stay centered in myself, knowing who I am and what MY feelings and thoughts are. So sometimes I just put up walls around me and retreat into my shell.

Trying to open up more, communicate more and show more of my true self has been a difficult task for me. I have this tendency of wanting to please everyone around me. And I’m still very much afraid of being judged, laughed at, misunderstood or hurt, because I feel these things so strongly that it almost hurts physically.

But underneath all that, there is this very human longing for deep, lasting and intimate relationships. And also this deep desire to help and contribute, to share my love and joy and compassion with the world. Both of which require me to come out of my shell. What I’ve discovered over the years is that I have to find ways to contribute that don’t drain my energy. I’m the classic introvert who has to socialize in little doses, because even when I’m enjoying myself and others’ company, it just takes a lot of my energy. It’s a lot to process for my sensitive body and introvert brain.

I had to learn that the hard way: I did a 6-week long internship at a home for elderly people when I was 19. I loved interacting with the elders, caring for them and listening to their stories. But after 6 weeks I was so burned out that I came home one day and collapsed on the doormat crying my eyes out. Not good. A few years later, I started helping a 65-year old lady in her household for 2 to 3 days a week. It seemed rewarding at first, but she was in chronic pain, had been through a lot of hurt in her life, and had very, very strong opinions. Her house was a complete mess, and trying to keep up with household chores felt like being Sisyphos rolling his boulder up the hill. After a year and a half, I couldn’t take it anymore. She was getting more and more depressed and demanding, going through a divorce, worrying about money. She had to leave her house, and trust me, moving was a daunting task for a depressed, disabled person with enough clothes to dress 10 people year-round. And for her sensitive helper. I did what I could, but at some point, I cracked, and I had to stop working for her.

There are more examples like these, but you get the point: I had to find a way that would allow me to help and contribute that was sustainable for me. That’s where the power of writing comes in: I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I recently rediscovered this passion of mine as a way to contribute. In writing, I can show my true self, all guards down, from the safe space of my home, in my own quiet company, at a time of my choosing. I can share the love, the compassion, and the knowledge I’ve gained. I can give, while at the same time filling up my own cup. Writing comes to me easily. And who wouldn’t want some more grace and ease in their lives?

There’s a part of me wondering if retreating into the written word is just a way of avoiding to get out of my comfort zone. And in a way, it’s true: I’m creating a safe space here for me to express myself, to share tips and stories, offer my knowledge, stay connected to myself and recharge at the same time. And there’s nothing wrong with that! In fact, all the times I’ve tried to stretch too far out of my comfort zone too quickly, it was a huge waste of energy and mostly disappointing – not just for me, but for everyone involved. Still, I do believe that if I can just keep my own cup full enough, I can manage to take more and more little baby steps out of my comfort zone: Smiling at strangers, making small talk with the cashier at the grocery store, talking to my husband openly and without hesitation about my secret thoughts and deepest emotions.

So I’m making sure that I get enough time and space to rest and recharge. And I keep on writing, enjoying the quiet contemplation, sharing my gifts and talents, my weaknesses and challenges in a way that suits me. Sharing the love doing what I love. ❤️

By the way, I haven’t given up on helping the elderly entirely: Once a week, I take a 101-year old lady grocery shopping. She came to America from Germany in 1945, and we usually speak a mix of German and English. She’s still very fit, very sweet, intelligent, and so comfortable in her own skin. I love her stories, and the harmless yet meaningful way I can assist her in her weekly errands. It can take a while to find out what your unique way of contributing is, one that works perfectly for your unique body type, temperament and energetic make up. You can’t fit a square shape into a round hole!

And you don’t have to be a doctor, nurse, firefighter or Nobel prize winner to make this world a better place. If that is your way, you have all my admiration and support! If your path is a different one, that’s equally wonderful. By finding small ways of contributing that make you feel safe and happy, you’re serving the planet in the best way possible. It’s like the proverbial butterfly flapping its wings and causing a tornado on the other side of the world: You are the butterfly, and through the smallest act of kindness you can unleash a storm of love and compassion.

Now it’s your turn:

In what ways can you help and contribute that fill you up instead of draining you?

What lifestyle changes can you make that allow you to be more of yourself?

Please share in the comments below, I love hearing from you! 😀

In love, wisdom and joy,

Paula

*This post was first published on http://www.energiesinmotion.com on August 5th, 2016