By: Shamyla Tareen
At first glance, September’s blog seemed the easiest and full of possibilities. Who doesn’t love to pursue any kind of passion and share it? Well…
Many years ago, at a family gathering, someone asked me what I liked to do for fun. I said Idid not know. My uncle took me aside and stated, ‘My granddaughter is only 6 years old, but she tells us all the time what she wants and likes. You are much older. What do you want? You must speak it!” Since then, I’ve made many lists about passions, likes, and dislikes, but it’s taken a long time to be comfortable identifying and expressing them.
On my list of passions today: People, books, long walks, social justice, small dogs, baby elephants, babies, spas, chocolate, coffee, the beach, yoga, swimming, music, movies, writing stories and blogs, vacations, restaurants, cooking, Afghan rice, pizza….
Yawn… I put down my pen. Maybe September’s blog could just feature a picture montage of my favorite things! I needed more for this topic…. so I turned to my deeply thoughtful roommate, T., who can put anything succinctly.
“What do you see as my biggest passion?” I asked her one evening.
She didn’t even hesitate. She just began to laugh.
“Gup is your passion,” she announced. (“Gup” is Urdu slang for “chit-chat”.)
“I have more passions than that!!” But it’s true … I love to talk.
“Long gup…. Short gup….Philosophical gup……” she continued.
I laughed along. But inside I was thinking: “there is much more to me than gup!”
As people-pleasers do when they want to make the world a better place, for years my only passion was other people’s well being. Some of my volunteer roles have included (but were not limited to) the following: perpetual bridesmaid, bridal/baby shower coordinator, solicited/unsolicited advice giver, tear wiper, cleaning lady, date consultant, faux therapist, marriage counselor, grief counselor, sanity checker, life coach, pet sitter, driver, hospital visitor, mover, babysitter, perpetual Resident Assistant (going on 12 years now), godmother extraordinaire (of dogs and children), honorary family member, and general caretaker.
I volunteered for all these roles, because I was trying to make the world a better place…. at least, that’s what I told myself. I wanted people to feel safe and secure… until I started feeling like a combination of the Statue of Liberty and Mother Theresa on crack!
Don’t get me wrong. I love to give, give, give. It’s what life is about. I love being of service and sharing. I want to be a good family member/ friend/member of society. Even if it’s my own dilapidated things, I would offer anything as long as it helped.
Except when it didn’t. I was creating more and more dependency and adding more and more drama to my cluttered life. Running on fumes and feeling stretched thinner than chewing gum spread under a table, I got angry. There was a lot of resentment, complaining, fuming, and venting all around. Turns out, I was not being so selfless after all; I wanted something in return from all these people. But I felt selfish even acknowledging my needs, let alone expressing them. A persistent little voice kept whispering inside my head: “You are overwatering everyone’s gardens. Who’s tending to yours?”
The answer: I could count on my hands the number of times someone had truly and consistently stuck their necks out for my well being.
Without all these people – who was I and what did I want? What were my passions? I’d love to tell you that by the writing of this blog I figured it all out- but that’s not true. It’s still a work in progress, something I’m working hard to discover.
Self-care, healing, and independence are my main passions these days. The golden rule of social work states, “Do not do for others what they can do for themselves.” I really try to incorporate that statement and these three principles into my daily life, and I just feel lighter and happier. This includes my physical well being – exercise, nutrition, sleep, and sunlight- but also checking in with myself – intuition and feelings- to make sure that I’m doing because I want to do it- not because I should, or because it would look nice, or because someone really wants me to..
All relationships involve some degree of compromise and sacrifice, true. But it’s not a bad thing to take care of myself. It’s okay to be first in the buffet line once in awhile. It’s okay to sit down and let someone cook for me. I realized that my passion to help others was not only to make the world a better place – it was also because I yearned for people to recognize my worth and love me. And I wasn’t even sure if I liked myself!!!
Taking mini vacations by myself, long walks in the sunshine, and enjoying small pleasures – these are passions that replenish my soul. I believe it’s mandatory to take care of yourself, to heal from trauma, to stand up for yourself when you feel like the world is taking you for a ride. When you feel complete in your soul, you actually want to be more compassionate. After all, an empty water jug can’t water any flowers!
Now when anyone asks for anything- whether it’s a ride or $100- at first, I automatically want to jump up and scream,” ME! ME! I CAN HELP YOU!!!” and then tell them the 100 ways they can be helped as I fold their laundry. But now I wait. I pause. I think. Is it good for me to say yes? And then maybe I say “I’m sorry, I can’t.” Or maybe I refer them to someone else who can help them. Maybe that person has mountains to climb that have nothing to do with me in the least. Who am I to be so presumptuous to assume that I can change everyone, when that last piece of chocolate is beckoning and I can’t change how much I want to eat it?
I want to only give that which I can part with happily, with no expectations or resentments. Learning to say “no” after a lifetime of “yes” is perhaps the biggest, most liberating, and most interesting passion of all.