I was visiting with a friend a few days ago, who’s been caring for an elderly aunt these past few months – the only relative still living on her mom’s side. I notice that every time we meet, she seems to carry some heavy emotional baggage that stems from her visit with her aunt. She says she doesn’t mind caring for her because her aunt has been like a mother to her since she was a young girl. I was puzzled a little bit. “If you don’t mind it, why (every time) after you leave her home, you seem to have lost all your energy?” I asked. She confided in me that the effects have also affected her family. We had never talked about it, until a few days ago, when she finally shared with me what usually goes on when she visits her aunt.
Lately, her aunt has been more of a complainer; she is not as mobile in her old age. She was never married or raised a family of her own. She stayed single and independent all her life, and was proud of it, until now. She was a caretaker for some of her elderly relatives in her better days. The person who used to be a giver, is now a receiver. Giving up freedom and becoming dependent on someone else isn’t easy for someone who used to being in control of her own life. She is determined to stay in her own home instead of moving into an assisted living environment. Thus, my friend, being the only family member in town, has to step in. She spends about an hour or so daily, in the morning or after work, to help out around aunt Z’s home. During that one hour, she has to swallow all the complaints aunt Z’s throws out, not at my friend, but at the world.
The effect has affected my friend’s behavior, which she unintentionally brings home to her family. “I never remember her being like this when she was healthier and more independent,” she shares her thought out loud. Caring for her aunt is fulfilling, but the effects of all the complaining wear her down. This is the internal conflict she has to bear. Aunt Z was always good to her, a mother figure after her mom died when she was a young girl. She feels obligated to return the favor, yet doing so affects her well-being and that of her family’s. She needs to offset the unintentional toxicity her aunt is throwing at her.
In trying to help my friend find a solution to this daily challenge, I remember the above quote shared by one of America’s best motivational speakers, Jim Rohn. Often times, we overlook the effect of the daily challenges that wrap around us, how much they weigh us down, especially when it’s intangible. You know the symptoms when you’re coming down with a cold, you can feel them. It’s more difficult to pinpoint an intangible symptom. Here are some hints: you’re tense, feeling anxious, or get easily crabby for no specific reason. These may be signs that your inner environment needs some attention.
I applaud my friend for being able to notice that something was not quite right with her. How do you overcome a challenge like that — when one of the people that has a negative effect on you, is also the one you spend the most time with? It is easier to let go of a friend who’s toxic than an aunt you love and feel responsible for. The negativity is infectious, it cripples you, and it affects others you live with. Without realizing it, in trying to do good, your well-being may be suffering.
Jim Rohn’s wisdom carries a great lifeline we all can hold on to and put into action. We need to tip the scale toward healthier options, add more uplifting moments and actions that create a credit toward our happiness. I suggested that my friend should seriously make an effort to put more fulfilling things into her daily life. “For every hour you spend with aunt Z, you need to double the investment toward a happier outcome for yourself.” This could mean, spending more time doing things that bring her joy, having more uplifting influencers around her (instead of five, three more positive people into her circle), staying away from negative news on TV and social media, or seriously considering another fulfilling project that gives her positive feedback. By bringing in positive influences and nourishment into her mind, body, and soul, she’ll be able to offset the negative. After all, when our whole being is stronger and healthier, we’ll be able to fight the negative attacks that try to invade our well-being. I’ve done it. It works. You may consider it too.
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