Ultimately who comes first? You or the person who needs you?
How do you determine who comes first in your busy life with so many moving parts? Is it you or the person who needs you most?
So grateful to have you here this week and hoping you listened last week and took some fricking time off, away from work, away from life-work, and just lived a little. We all needed that, right? That’s what weekends are for. Would’ve been a great weekend to just shut off any intrusion from work and just live.
No need to spend a lot of money out there. Make major plans. Try to figure out your tribe. No. Just go outside. Meet your neighbors. Oh, yeah, you’ve got neighbors. There are people on the other side of that wall, ask them how they’re doing. Start walking around your neighborhood, make friends. Get your brain wrapped around the idea that there is another world outside of your remote workplace.
Today, we’re talking about the personal tools we all need to make choices between what’s best for us, individually, and what’s best for other people that are affected by our decisions. How do you decide what to do when somebody needs you, but you’re already knee deep in your life? It’s a tricky topic without a constant known answer. But today we’re going to set these bookends. Bookends that encapsulate the two extremes of everything you have to consider for yourself to ultimately make those choices.
If you haven’t noticed, I have been setting up some experimental styles on the podcast so far to figure out what jives with people. You’ve all been my podcast, guinea pigs and I’m really grateful for you. We had asked for input and ask for reviews and there were some major elements asking for a more business approach to the podcast so that it would be effective at the workplace.
So we gave it a go and I have to say those people wanting the business approach, Y’all didn’t listen. Personally, I have to live true to myself, Right? So, that’s what you’re getting. You’re getting the true version. That’s the whole point of this podcast. Don’t be asking me to water down. Learn to drink your whiskey straight.
And for my loyals out there, I love you. I appreciate you. We’re going to go back to how we all started back in July.
So let’s talk about why you need some more time for yourself to step away from work and life work and to refuel yourself, your body, your soul. The mental and emotional health are at the core, followed by that need for a strong body that gives you immunity and you can live that long, healthy life. Absolutely. But really vital to that is the true socialization; the ability to really connect with someone. Time to gather and share stories with each other. And not just your own friends, but strangers.
Relationship is a Powerful Part of Being Human
Relationship is a powerful part of being human. We are in no means alone in it. Animals have an amazing capacity to relate and partner. I think some species even have it better than us, like sea horses. Seahorses actually have the males carry the baby in utero. The female is just out, shooting out eggs, “Here you go. Let me know when you’re done and I’ll just swim on by and see what’s happening”.
Now, of course, male seahorses are floating around in water. Free from gravity and totally buoyant, so that’s kind of the cheating way out. Here you’re gaining 40 pounds. You got this nine pound person in your belly and that’s gravity pulling down on those swollen ankles.
We humans, we need every aspect of our human nature to nurture relationships because the complexity of emotions and the need to survive. But it’s those survival instincts that have swayed our natural instincts to care for each other and created so much disparity in this world. Yeah, survival is base existence. Absolutely. And striving to improve one’s life is really admirable.
But to what extent do you improve your life if it means someone else’s declines? To what extent do you focus your energy on yourself at the expense of someone else carrying the burden of your absence? Or, to what extent do you put yourself at risk of being overwhelmed and overburdened so another person can benefit?
Who Comes First, You or the Other Person?
It’s a really complex topic and we’re only going to touch the surface of it today. We’re only going to have the parameters of it today. Maybe just the bookends. We’re going to focus on the two pieces that are like bookends of everything in between to consider so that the choices you make for yourself are sound, beneficial, rewarding for yourself.
So first… This is the left bookend. Let’s call it the left. There’s the need to develop a deep trust with yourself so that you can establish that same trust with another person in any of life situations. And second, understanding your limits so that you feel secure in your decisions.
But this too is really tricky because your limits may be a lot further away than you think. You may have no idea of where your limits are. You may be able to push yourself into an unknown that right now may be way too scary for you to consider. So, how do you do that?
It’s necessary to reframe our thinking away from this current social status in order to pay attention to the damage being done to our fellow humans, all in the name of improving our lives. Our fellow humans, that are strangers to us right now, they need to be viewed as our friends. Creating disparity in order to gain personal wealth is a little troubling. To what extent are we putting ourselves forward at the risk of others?
But finding the balance is really tricky. There’s so many moving parts in your current life and there’s going to be even more in your future life. It’s difficult to guess which part gets priority at any given moment. But if done right, reaching a place of balance should include using your conscience to make a collectively empathetic decision.
Now, I know it’s tough. We actually go through this all the time. Let’s put this in some simple terms. You’ve got one last piece of pizza. You’re sitting with your friend, even your boyfriend and that friend grabs the last piece of pizza and starts eating it without even asking if you’re okay with it. Mm, wealthy nation attitude.
Little nation attitude. Oh, there’s one last piece of pizza. Let’s split it. Let’s make sure we’re both okay. Each person is taken care of, even if it means less for the one who had more access to it.
Yeah, empathy. Doesn’t have greed.
Still, finding that balance may pull at your heart, make you feel guilty and question whether you’re doing the right thing relative to your career and your financial security. We are already battling against that, just from the disparity and the inequity of equal pay. So would we be dinging ourselves even more by making decisions that aren’t fully in our favor? Especially when this society really expects women to do it, and do it for free.
Now, this all came spiraling down for me and it’s really a difficult position to put yourself in. But this is the first book that we’re going to talk about to help you make choices that balance the empathy between yourself and others.
Develop Trust with Yourself First
So, how do you do that? By developing trust in relation to yourself.
You must come first in order to be available to others. But that comes in the form of understanding who you are, trusting who you are, and then testing that as you evolve through life. That’s the other bookend: Always testing your limits to see just how much you have to give, while staying whole.
Balance is a tricky thing. You’ve got to practice it. You can’t just learn it. It’s never going to be the same. It’s always going to be running through the different scenarios.
I speak to it really often in these episodes coming from an Hispanic family where you’re always operating in the mentality of empathy. You’re always putting other people first because that’s just naturally what the culture has always done. And people generally don’t have to ask for their attention back. It’s reciprocal.
Of course, there’s also the mantra of my parents saying I’m never going into a home don’t you ever put me in a home? And don’t bury me in the ground either, only dogs get buried in the ground.
Okay. There’s the nurture, what you’re being taught to do versus the nature of what you feel is okay to do and influencing your decision-making and your entire personality. Right?
Now, I grew up watching my mom run the engineering from being parents, taking care of kids, taking care of her invalid mother, my abuelita, and this was the model she set for me, where I saw women were in charge of absolutely everything; from career to family, to household to social engagement, while the men just watched, waiting to be told what to do and being lost without her.
I did it for my kids and that felt good. I talked about that in Episode 7 and it was the right thing for me to do, and boy, has it paid off.
But 24 years later, when my mom’s cancer returned and it had an end date, that was a whole different scenario and the explosion of emotions just went off.
In one regard it’s like, oh yeah, absolutely! I’m going to take care of my mamacita. But in the other regard, this was just three years after the total collapse of our industry. In 2009, the Great Depression that wiped us out and nearly sank me and my family.
So, what do you do in that scenario? How do you make decisions that are true to your soul, true to who you are and those around you and still look out for yourself and your wellbeing?
Caring for her 24/7 was the right decision. It filled me up. It fueled me even if it meant all nighters by her bedside, only to have her wake up and lecture me about getting enough sleep. She was like, “go to bed, go to sleep”. I’m like, oh my God, I’ve got this deadline”. Those matriarchs are in charge even in their sleep. Can you imagine what my teenage years were like with her?
But when my sweet mother passed away and a year later, my father asked the same for me, I told him no. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it all again. The emotional toll was going to be too much and I just wanted the focus to be on me for a change for the first time in my life.
Being in a Latina household, in my generation, a lot of decisions get made for you, especially as a woman. The matriarchy is powerful and there’s no sense of transferring that power to the next generation until the Queens are no longer here. So little of my life had been based on my own decisions. And yet I still held tight to that vision I had for myself.
Do you ever feel that? Do you ever feel that you have freedom on your own life choices? Or, are you being held to making decisions within this context? Is this going to be okay with my family, my larger family, my immediate family is going to be okay with my boss?
How do we make decisions for ourselves that are good for us, even if it means taking some hard consequences and learning from them?
And so I was totally unpracticed for this. I didn’t know what to do because it was pulling me apart. Do I take care of my dad? He’s my dad. He had been married to my mom for 60 years. He was lonely. He needed help. He wanted to continue the life he had had, but he couldn’t do it alone. And like I said, putting him in a home was not part of the agenda.
But I knew also that I couldn’t do it again. I couldn’t do it for free, like society wants us to. I couldn’t add the extra burden in. I was finally at a point where my kids were graduated from college, I had my Masters and I was ready to launch. It just felt unjust to be tied to someone else’s life and demands.
There was a lot of anger and frustration that came into play, especially because I was really miffed with my brothers that had no emotional ties to our parents and were oblivious of even having to go through this thought process.
But then I got the life lesson.
The game changer was my husband. He loved him in a way that spoke to my father’s rascally male heart. My husband had me take a long, hard look in the mirror. Now how often do you really ever choose to do that willingly?
Yeah. It’s so much easier to take that sideways glance in a window as you walk by, “Oh, I look good”. But, staring at yourself in the mirror, seeing every little remnant of life on your face, that takes some commitment and you really need a good friend who’s going to hold your hand as you lock eyes with yourself and let that truth rise to the surface.
He told me if I couldn’t do it in happiness and compassion, then I shouldn’t do it at all. Ah, That, that was a major come-to-Jesus moment in my mid-fifties. A definite knock off my pedestal of being the caring daughter, sacrificing her career to care for him, modeling myself as such. I wasn’t bringing anyone a favor. I wasn’t making a sacrifice, a gift, if it was attached to pride. If I couldn’t do it with joy, and accept the burden as my gift, then my husband was right, I should walk away.
But I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t put my dad in a home alone, dealing with his illness, missing his wife of 60 years. Eating those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that are on the menu. He married a Latina woman for a reason.
Empathy Flows Both Ways
So here was the thought process. Yes, emotionally I had to do it. Emotionally, I would not feel good about leaving my father in that situation. At the same time, it was not going to be at my expense that would send me backwards at this point in my life. I had to come to some balance so that the severity would offer validation of my strengths and care in return for the toll it was going to take on me.
So, he and I struck a deal. He would get what he wanted and needed, and so would I. Just between the two of us. There wasn’t help from outsiders. Just a deep trust that the other would hold up their side of the deal to allow us to take care of each other. Oh, I definitely put on my big girl pants and went to work caring for him in a way that probably only my mom could have when they were younger. I don’t think she would have gotten up at 2:00 AM to come running to him, asking what’s wrong when he’s calling out my name.
You say, of course she would. No, not when he’s like, “Hey, I want to have pancakes in the morning. Do you want blueberries or banana?” It’s like “Pops, it’s 2 am. Let’s worry about that in a few more hours”. “I just thought we’d do that. Or do you want waffles?”.
This is a trippy experience, but God bless him.
That is the true life lesson in relationship with yourself because ultimately you must come first in order to be present and healthy for others. Building trust with yourself is going to give you confidence, it’s going to lessen that fear of all those life unknowns. Being your biggest advocate untethers yourself from needing recognition from others in order to feel validated. That is a major hook, at least it was for me. I needed to have that self-trust that my decision wasn’t to get recognition, wasn’t to get validation, but was in fact what would make me feel good out of this situation.
Having complete trust in yourself enables developing trust with the other person so that you feel supported in that void that is definitely going to be created when you choose to put yourself at risk, whether the risk is less sleep, less money, less professional presence, so that you’re giving another person priority. It’s the reciprocity we talked about. When you have empathy for another person, they have to have reciprocity in return or it’s unsustainable.
With deep trust, there’s this opportunity to choose outside the path you may be on and believe that you will still be okay. You may sacrifice some aspect of your known life, that planned life, but what you receive in return is beyond what you could have ever guessed. It takes a lot of faith because life is organic and you don’t have control over what happens or an end result.
Finding Your Limits of Giving
So what was my unexpected reward? Finally knowing my limits. I know that sounds funny, but it took this long to hit that ceiling. I was used to always living my life with really large limits, just to create some freedom away from that upbringing, that matriarchy upbringing that always was making decisions for me.
It’s like being on a cross country road trip with no exits, you can’t get off. You just keep following what’s laid in front of you. But I wanted to live my life in my way because it gave me some more freedom to reach success on my terms, rather than wait in line for my turn.
Putting myself in a life without limits gave me so much freedom that I did get a little concerned of being blindsided by life. You know, like when you think you’re handling your bevies, and you’re so proud of yourself, you’re having a good time and then smack! It all catches up with you. Yeah. That’s what I was worried about.
I wanted to know my limitations so that I would work within the confines of them. But then at the same time, that is totally opposite to living life out in the weeds.
So, I went about testing my limitations, putting some things out there that I wouldn’t normally plan into my life. I wanted to know what was going to be that blow that would have life giving me the countdown. Just like in the boxing ring, I wanted to know what was going to knock me out.
Do you ever test yourself on your limits? Do you think you understand what your true limits really are? Are you living within the knowns of your current day because your knowns of the current day may still be stuck within the limitations you put yourself 20 years ago, 10 years ago, even five years ago, ladies. You can do so much more today and put yourself further out there just because you know more, you’ve lived more life.
You know how damn scary it can be on either side, especially when you take that leap and you’re in the air and you’re not knowing if you’re going to fly or are you going to come back down hard where you started? Either way, they will respect you for trying, regardless of the outcome. It’s a huge life lesson.
And getting a better understanding of yourself and how life around you influence the outcome because it’s not just you. It’s definitely not just you. Hitting a wall on a limitation doesn’t mean that that’s necessarily your limit as a person. It just may be at that time something was missing and the next time you’ll get closer to what you think is the outcome.
I ultimately did take care of my father for six years, in the style he wanted to live; needing the love of my mother, living in his own home and reveling in that fun life that he had had for 60 years with her.
But, like I said, I hit my wall. I found my limitation and it’s still gonna make me cry now.
I had to admit to myself that I could not do it anymore. I couldn’t care for him anymore because it was literally physically ruining me. Emotionally I was on threads and I just wanted to get on with my life. I didn’t want to disappear. I wanted this moment to happen.
And that was my life lesson. It was going to have to be okay for him to face his life that he had been avoiding because I was filling in that hole.
And so, having that trust between each other, we agreed he would go into a home; a home that, anytime I could, I would pick him up and bring him back to his home. I think like many other cultures out there, when the parents are still alive, even if they’re in a facility because you can’t help care for them anymore, you don’t sell their stuff. You don’t empty their home and sell it out from under them. It’s disrespectful.
So we had the agreement. Okay. I need help. You need help. We need help.
And it was going to work out great. It was meant to go for years.
But within a week, I’ll never forget it was Halloween, I said, “Dad, I’ve got to have you stay overnight. I’ve got to go to a doctor’s appointment. I’ll come for you on Sunday because it’s going to leave me groggy through the next day”.
“We can talk tomorrow, but I can’t drive and I’ll come see you the day after and we’ll come back home. I’ll take you back home. And you can ease into this.”
He called me Saturday. I was totally groggy and I said, “Hey, how you doing dad?”
“Okay, how you feeling?”
“I’m a little woozy. But I’m here”.
And he goes, “You’re coming, right?”
I said, “Yep. Tomorrow I’m coming. No worries. We’re going to go back home”.
And he goes, “Okay. I just wanted to hear your voice”.
It was perfect. We were set up for the next morning. I would be ready for that phone call saying, “Are you on the road?” That was his typical thing, “Are you on the road? When will you be here?”
The next morning at 9:00 AM. I got a phone call.
“I’m sorry to tell you your father’s passed.”
I was in shock.
I lost it.
And in that moment, I knew that caring for him, for putting myself at risk, physically, emotionally, career-wise, that I had come to peace with that and that I had had my eyes wide open to understand my limits.
I was able to gift him the ability to live his life. On his terms. And leave this life. On his terms.
Sometimes you have to break apart a bit to rebuild into the person you’re meant to be next. Staying safe and trying to compensate for your past may be putting yourself on a path that has nothing to do with who you are today.
Give it a try. I can’t wait to see what happens next for all of you and how the world will shift because you had the faith in yourself to test your limits.
Remember to check out our website for the past newsletters that are now up as posts. Plus, it is going to be a Turkey day newsletter going out on November 17th, which is next week. And it’s going to have all the gross recipes that my mother cooked for Thanksgiving because she thought it would impress her American mother-in-law.
Uh, they’re awful. It literally took us 40 years to protest and say, we weren’t going to eat it anymore, but it didn’t matter. She still cooked them. We didn’t eat it, but she still cooked them. And then they’d get put in the freezer as leftovers. And then thrown out before the next Thanksgiving.
Also look out for our first bonus episode next Monday, November 15th, called the ‘Pope Saved Me From Going To Jail’ and no, it’s not another come-to-Jesus moment.
I would really appreciate you taking the time to rate and review the podcast on Apple or Podchaser. A shiny five-star would be nice, but let’s be honest out there. And also send me some love through our website on my link. I appreciate anything you share and look forward to some sassy moments soon.
Step into your truth, ladies. Ciao.
Really appreciate the time we take to rate and review the podcast, get the backstory and what you’ve heard here today, and reach out to us @lifelnxx.com. That’s L N double X, because it’s about time. It’s about us. Stay in the groove on our social media at LifeLinks and get ready to make your move, ladies!