How to create you own Perfect Storm–Expectations and Self-Care Revisted.

I am no meteorologist, nor am I a magician, but I can still conjure up The Perfect Storm, right in the comfort of my own home, too!  How do I do it, you ask?  First, I take a strong storm front of high expectations and I allow it to get bigger.  I work more than I know suits me and my personality and then I expect myself to be all things to anyone who seems to need me.  After I have allowed the extra high expectations of myself to become a twisting mass of worry and frustration, I allow another front to come in from the north.  This other front is called poor self-care.  These two front meet at high altitudes and mingle and begin to feed off of each other until it all looks like something impossible to pinpoint, but  potentially extremely destructive.  Toss in a few unplanned events like very real Hurricane Sandy and let the fun begin!  It is my own, perfect, personal, Frankenstorm, and I made it myself!

The damage done by a little wind storm to the little cottage we lived in three years ago.

A few weeks ago, I started to work more, which is all good because more money never hurts.  However, I was not being as careful as I generally am to limit how much, and when, and what I do.  I was working on the weekends when I should have been enjoying some time alone and just plain doing nothing much.  I am an INFJ–I am a true introvert and I need an inordinate amount of time alone or I wear out quickly.  INFJ’s are puzzles wrapped in a riddle, wrapped in a blanket of mystery.  As I told a friend last night, I am an odd combination of one tough cookie and a very delicate flower.  It confuses the heck out of most people.  Anyway, I was not getting enough solitude when I should have been getting a little extra.  At the same time, there seemed to be people with pressing needs all around me and I was doing my best to keep up.  While I was not aware of it at the time, everyone was getting what they needed, with the exception of me.  I was getting worn out, but I am a trooper, so I kept plugging on although I did note that my usual perky mood was flagging a bit.

Wham! Almost a direct hit! Left a nasty hole in the porch, too!

I was feeling just the tiniest bit crabby around the edges and people’s requests were beginning to irritate me a fair amount.  Of course, I was too much of a chicken to say to these various people, “I know that this means a lot to you right now, but I will get to it when I have time.”  One night, this left me trying to counsel a young woman dealing with drug addiction while simultaneously trying to fill out an online form to become an Avon representative for my cousin.  Do you see something wrong with this picture? Do you see priorities a little out of whack? I sure do…now! I imagine you are also getting the “trying to be everything to everyone” thing by now, too.  Ah, but you do see the boundaries blurring?

It just kept on like that and the next thing you know, along came storm system number two, poor self-care.  I usually love to cook and eat very well.  I love my veggies, but now I was loving on sugar a lot, and while I made meals, not much was sounding good to me but cookies and chocolate.  Everyone else had a clean house, but mine had not been really cleaned completely in two weeks.  Simple things like washing my face before bed disappeared.  All of the sudden, I really did not want to do a darned thing, but I kept on trucking because that is how I roll and while I rolled, more people needed things, and I became more tired, and more irritable, and suddenly I was like a Bounty paper towel—super absorbent, just like back in to bad, old, days, when I let everyone else and their needs take precedence over my own.  Still, I had very limited awareness, of course, because once I get on a roll like this one I may as well be deaf, dumb, and blind.

The poor shed died a tragic death that fateful night!

When I said that I had become as absorbent as a Bounty Paper towel, what I mean is that I was, once again, taking on the emotions of all of the people around me.  That is another thing about the INFJ personality.  We are highly intuitive on a couple of different levels.  We know things about people even before they know them.  We feel it.   We sense it.  We do not even know how we do it, so do not bother asking.  Also, even though this may seem like a really cool super power to have, it is a blessing and a curse depending on how you deal with it.  I used to be like one giant sponge walking through life, absorbing all of the emotions of the people around me.  I was very soggy most of the time and usually quite off balance.  So, I gave that up for Lent one year recently, even though I am not Catholic.

What had really happened is that I had actually figured out where I ended and where other people began and then I stuck some boundaries in between me and everyone else.  I thought I was fairly impenetrable  now, but I was wrong.  Old behavior, back sliding, call it what you will. To any counselor it would look like classic relapse symptoms, but drinking was, and is, a repulsive thought to me.  Yet, one can relapse in other ways.  If you are busy looking for my boundaries at this point in the story, they are a very thin, blurry line –and weakening by the minute.  I tried to push the fragile, little line back into place.  People kept pushing back and I let them.

All we heard all night long, as we sat in the dark, was the sound of the wind, and trees snapping all around us.

Along comes Ms. Frankenstorm to make matters worse.  I do not like wind storms.  I live in a cottage surrounded by tall pines, and those babies snap at the slightest provocation.  However, I am good at storm preparedness, so I went right out and bought water, and non-perishable food items, and flashlights, and candles, and I began sawing up trees that were already down.  At first, it looked like we might get a direct hit from Hurricane Sandy, but then it shifted.  We will still get a good storm, but now that darned thing is heading straight for four of my adult children.  I began sending out mass emails to get assurance that they would prepare and I got a boatload of pithy, and truly hysterical responses, but I am a mom to the core.  While I laughed at their wit and cleverness, I was crying inside and scared.  Sigh.

Yesterday morning, I woke up and I felt awful.  I hurt all over and I just wanted to cry and yet I could not think of one thing going badly in my life that would provoke such intense feelings.  I worried that I was getting depressed.  I wondered if I might suddenly have become gluten intolerant.  One of my elderly friends told me it was probably “The change.”  Well, I finished changing two years ago without one mood swing.  Menopause was the easiest thing I have ever done in my life, so I could not figure out why mood disturbances would start now.

I tried my “Move a muscle, change a thought” trick.  I cleaned out my fridge and took my trash to the dump.  I cut up another tree, which usually invigorates me.  I felt worse.  I felt like throwing up.  I felt like I was wrapped in a thick fog of stupidity.  So, I went to bed and I prayed and I slept soundly for almost three hours.  When I woke up, I felt great!  I said to myself, “You were just tired.  Whew.”  Did I just relax for the rest of the day?  Heck, no!  I felt terrific, so I cleaned my entire little house, sawed up another tree or two, and took a shower.  I hate a dirty house during a power outage.  By the time my son left with his Dad last evening whatever happy high I had gotten from my nap had vanished.  I started reading more about Hurricane Sandy and felt the need to leave teary messages on each child’s phone pleading with them to flee NOW.  There was obscenity involved.  There it was—Frankenstorm wrecking havoc far and wide.  My own personal Perfect Storm.

Snap, snap, snap, all night long…in the dark, with no power.

As my adult children began to call me back and talk me down, I began to see the whole picture of what I had allowed to happen to me in the last couple of weeks.  I had allowed myself to become completely and totally emotionally exhausted.  They laughed at me, in their usual, loving way.  I laughed at myself.  I felt better, but I also realized that those boundaries I though were now immovable are, under the right conditions, still a little weak.  Today, I am sand bagging them with solitude and self-care.  As my own mother used to say, very tongue in cheek, as she was a language arts snob, “Your mama didn’t raise no dummies.”  Well, I didn’t raise no dummies, either.  To say that my children are bright would be a gross understatement.  They are brilliant, and they are in God’s hand.   They will take fine care of themselves.

There lies the most crucial bit of awareness.  It is not my job to take care of the whole world and everyone in it.  I am not God.  I spent a lifetime trying to save everyone from themselves and almost killed myself trying to do so.  As another one of my elderly friends told me this morning, “Experience is a great teacher.”  Yes, it is, indeed.  Living through a whole lot of tough experiences has taught me all of my best lessons.  I cannot go back.  I cannot lose sight of myself in the hubbub of everyone else and their needs.  I cannot save everyone from their misery, and why should I even want to do that?

Were it not for my own times of misery, I would not be where I am now, which is happy, healthy, and content– as long as I take good care of myself, and leave the rest to God.  Why would I want to rob others of those hard, but valuable, experiences so they can grow and bloom on their own?  Sometimes I behave as if I have all of the answers for everyone.  The truth is that the only person that I have all of the answers for is me, but if I stop listening everyone in my sphere suffers in some way.

I am upright today, and peaceful, and even though I may go cut up a few more trees, this weekend is about rebuilding my own boundaries in the wake of my own personal Perfect Storm.  This weekend is about shoring up my boundaries and resting, and taking good care of me.  Yes, I am still a little scared of Frankenstorm, but I am prepared, and when all is said and done, God has got this one.  He has had it all along.  As long as I take care of myself, come what may, I will be fine.  I will be praying that you are all safe and fine, too.

31 thoughts on “How to create you own Perfect Storm–Expectations and Self-Care Revisted.

  1. Pingback: How to creat you own Perfect Storm–Expectations and Self-Care Revisted. | Natural Beauty and Skin Care Made Easy

    • Don’t you mean, “Windblown boundaries untie”? 😉 Also, you did not “like” my post. I am going to go cry more now 😉 Yes, we will stand together—quietly—in separate rooms–united! LOL

  2. I am an INFJ also and have been feeling similarly lately. I have been slacking with my yoga and feeling a bit tired. For the past several weeks, I have been doing far too much and spreading myself too thin trying to help everyone except myself, too! I, also, am repulsed by the idea of drinking again, but can see other ways I could be destructive if I allowed myself to continue to be put on the back burner (i.e., eating poorly, not sleeping enough, not being patient with my son when he needs it most). This flipping storm has me VERY worried (I’m near DC in MD). I cleaned my house yesterday in preparation and will probably go out tonight and get more candles, water, and bread. I’m also going to go to yoga in the morning and won’t be buying any more cookies. 🙂

    • I am worried, too, Paula. Two of my kids are in DC, one in MD, and one in NYC, plus one girlfriend and one husband of the aforementioned children who I love a lot also. I am praying for everyone, you included! I am downplaying this thing for my son. He gets upset about things like this easily, so we have S’more supplies and matching flashlights! Oh, fun! But, you didn’t “like” my post, so I must go cry more….LOLOL. You have your supplies! You are set! I need to get instant coffee still 😉

  3. I have instant coffee and Emergen-C! The storm we experienced this past summer felled three trees in our yard. VERY scary. As the storm was happening, I ran over to my son’s room and carried him to the basement. My husband and his friends were downstairs playing cards by candle light and asked me what I was doing. I said I was worried about the huge oak in our neighbor’s yard hitting the house. They all laughed at me saying the tree was too strong for the wind to budge it. A few hours later, I went outside in the dark to see what I could see. The neighbor’s oak hadn’t been uprooted but it snapped in half and crashed on their daughter’s car parked in the driveway. If it had broken at its base, it would have hit our garage, and my son’s room shared a wall with the garage. No one was laughing at me after that. 🙂

    • See—there is the INFJ “thing.” They all laugh until they *see* it come to pass! I am still trying to figure out where my car will be safest. I have another day to ponder that. I have ibuprofen and Benedryl and candles and water and canned goods and tomorrow I am making a huge pot of tomato basil florentine soup! I have homemade bread, too, and 3 pkgs of Biobricks if my wood runs out…and three places to go that have generators.

      • I already determined that the Veterinarian Hospital across the street and the Marriott will be great places to run to if we lose power for an extended period of time. The July storm coincided with a move and the house we were moving out of lost power for 5 days, but our new place had power but no furniture. I am keeping my fingers crossed! (That soup sounds amazing, by the way. YUM!)

  4. Annie, I love your writing. We write so differently, and I just love the way you tell a story. And I love this: “I spent a lifetime trying to save everyone from themselves and almost killed myself trying to do so.” I don’t love that it took you so long to figure out your boundaries, but I like knowing that someone else has struggled with these boundary issues, too. It helps me to feel less alone. Especially when I backslide.

    Because sometimes I do.

    I’m an ENFJ the last time I was tested. And I’m sure if tested today, the result would be the same. But I think I have a little “I” in there. I think all writers have to have it. How else could we sit on our asses for so long?

    May the storm pass quickly for you.

    • Renee, yes, how else would we sit on our asses for so long, indeed? LOL! I can appear VERY extroverted at times…that’s part of the INFJ enigma. We all backslide. Anyone who says they don’t is not being honest. As long as you stay steady or move forward more than you backslide, it is all good. The more we backslide, the more we recognize the signs, and the shorter the duration of the backslide. It is part of the process! 😉

  5. Hey my friend. I hope you are getting the rest you need and not helping all those crazy friends of yours who are always fascinating but also a bit, um, trying at times. I loved this post–smiled, but also feel bad that you feel bad. Love you.

    • To be honest, I could use like a week, but I am enjoying what time I do have. I am expecting to have Aidan home a day or two this coming week, and I will be ready for fun without power. I will also be ready to head to a home with a generator that runs the entire house, including TV, if needed! I have no crazy friends. I have a lot of wonderful, lovely, human friends….this one is all on me! Xoxox

  6. I’m glad you’re looking after yourself again! Remember, you can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself first! 😀 Hoping the storm passes you and your family without much fuss.

  7. I was reading your post with the surety of knowing the ending. That you would realize that boundaries need shoring up and reinforcement and continued building in order to remain strong. And you are strong enough to cut down trees – use them as symbolic logs with which to ensure that your boundaries remain impenetrable (or as protected as possible)..

  8. “Like” is not good enough for this post – I need a “love” button and the ability to click it about 100 times! As an INFJ, I completely relate to so much of what you have said here. I am also a pro at creating my own perfect storms (although I’m learning to do that less than I used to). I particularly relate to these lines: “INFJ’s are puzzles wrapped in a riddle, wrapped in a blanket of mystery. As I told a friend last night, I am an odd combination of one tough cookie and a very delicate flower.” I confuse so many people with this part of my personality.

    I’m so glad you were able to figure out what lay behind your storm this time around, and I wish you all of the strength and down time you need to re-instate your boundaries and self-care. I’ll be praying that the storm passes you and your family by without damage or danger. Sending lots of virtual hugs your way!

    • Thank you so very much, KJ. Why does it not surprise me that you are an INFJ, too 😉 Thank you for your prayers regarding the storm. I think I had better get to bed early tonight, because tomorrow is going to be wild! Thank for the hugs, too!

  9. I am an evolved (somewhat) INTP. I say evolved because though I still have that real true Thinker personality, I have evolved to a more compassionate and caring person.

    This was wonderfully done, the mess the external storm left is terrible. Reflection of your internal storm. Rest is very much called for my friend. Rest and chocolate.

    • I have INTP sons. They are thinkers, indeed, but there are feelings under that exterior that they would prefer that I didn’t know about 😉 The are very kind and generous, but far more concrete than I will ever be. As for rest, once this real storm is over, I may just melt into a puddle for a while….I wish that I could actually do that! Work and a little boy make that harder, but I plan to be gentle with myself! Love to you, Val!

  10. Pingback: Link love: Letting go of overachieving | Journey Through the Chrysalis

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