Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tend your bucket!

After half a week full of interactions with various connections who displayed a strong level of negative traits and behaviors on various topics and in various ways, I had a conversation with my wonderful Mom on the phone. As she always does, she listened, let me vent and just gave me that soft place to fall. Once I calmed down from a rare moment of true, hot anger, we began discussing how this is one of those Life Lessons we all must learn - when to recognize that a relationship has become so out of balance that you're exhausting yourself with the maintenance of said relationship.

I mentioned to my Mom that the process begins to feel as though you're endlessly pouring water into a bucket that has a hole in the bottom. For a while, if you work fast you can keep the water level high, but you can't ever rest. Eventually the water level sinks and you have to rush to pour more water in. Liken the water to your emotions, the bucket to the relationship and the hole at the bottom represents that other person, job, etc., that is in essence, draining you empty.

We all have moments, sometimes extended periods, where we aren't the best side of a given relationship. Everyone has down times, bad days, grumpy days and low energy moments. What I'm speaking of, however, is more than that. I am discussing those relationships where you give and give and give, then you give some more, and you're patient, understanding, helpful, supportive, compassionate, caring and loving. That other person is happy to soak it all up...all those wonderful things and all that sumptuous attention from you. Who wouldn't?! It's easy to be on the receiving end of all that nice, handy support! If you're lucky, the majority of the people in your life are equally nurturing and supportive in return, giving you back ample amounts of the energy that you give. Occasionally, and we all have had these types of relationships, there is that person who never gives back.

'Emotional vampire' is a term I have often used to describe this type of personality. I wouldn't go so far as to call them 'bad', as I don't ascribe to the belief that people are completely or intrinsically evil for the most part. I would describe them as broken vessels, or that bucket with the hole in the bottom. Something has happened to them that has created an endless need for attention, and an utter lack of understanding of the notion of reciprocation. 'Fairweather friend' is another, similar term that would apply, as these people tend to be around and happy to bask in the sunshine of good days. Conversely, these people tend to carry a dark storm cloud around with them! Usually, the moment adversity comes, or crisis happens, they vanish. You hear from them when THEY are in a crisis in a heartbeat, of course, and they fully expect you to come running to their rescue.

Viewed from a calmer heart, I can write about this with humor, because it can be rather ironic to experience the extremes with these people. Don't get me wrong, there are times when my own bucket springs a leak. Most times when this happens, I can tend to that leak on my own and resume daily tasks. Once in a while, the leak is rather impressive and requires some additional energy - a helping, loving hand. I am not ashamed to reach out and ask for help at these moments, although I admit that this is a hard won lesson and wasn't easy to learn. I am happy to say that I am blessed with loving, supportive family and friends whom I know I can depend on in times of need. I know this because they tend to their own buckets on a daily basis.

They are well balanced and able to both give and receive love, care and support, and they are emotionally available and present in their friendships and family relationships. Of course, no one walking the planet is perfect and without flaws. I've said many times that it would be a sad, dull world if we were perfect. We're here to learn and grow, after all. Some days we soar and other days we take spectacular nose dives.

This tending to your own personal bucket is an analogy for being responsible for your actions. Those simple rules we're taught as a child work very well throughout life; Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You. If you're having a day where your bucket has sprung a leak, take a moment to look at it and identify the cause. Be kind to yourself, forgive whatever actions were done to cause the leak to occur, and then apply a steady hand to repairing the leak. Look about you afterwards to ascertain if your leak may have caused damage to anyone else. Did your bucket spray all over others unwittingly? If so, acknowledging that you had a rotten day and sincerely explaining that you're sorry can be magical and healing.

Simply be mindful of your actions. That sounds much easier than the true reality, as we all know! There will be days that you need that helping hand to patch the leaks on your bucket; there will be different days where you need help replenishing the water in your bucket. There is no shame in turning to family and friends for help in recharging your heart and filling you back up with love. The only true sadness that I find in this situation is dealing with individuals who simply take and use eternally.

When you finally reach your point of exhaustion - and you will reach it! - when you're just too tired to make one more trip to the well to pour water into that other person's bucket for them, when you are personally drained dry and cannot summon the energy to be there for them one more time, you will be ready to walk away and leave them to their own devices. This may hurt to do it, and you will probably worry for a while about that person. Who is filling their bucket daily? How are they repairing all those leaks that keep springing? What if their bucket runs dry?

The answer is, suprisingly, if any or all of the above happen, consider it a blessing for that person and an opportunity for them to finally take responsibility for their own existence. It can be a harsh lesson to learn when your bucket is abandoned and runs dry and you're left standing there with no idea what to do next.

If you have reached that point yourself, I encourage you to resist the urge to fall back into old habits and run to the next available person to refill your bucket and take on the task of keeping it filled. Try filling it yourself. Just try. See what happens and how you feel. Notice how much energy it takes to keep that bucket full, what with the constant rushing to and fro with another bucket to accomplish the task. You'll quickly realize it takes a lot of energy! Now, step back, regroup, and find a method to patch the leaks in your bucket. Refill it with water and see how strong your patch is.

Sometimes your patch will hold strong and true. Other times you'll have to do it several times, just like allowing a wound to heal, before the patch finally holds. Most of us recognize the solid sense of satisfaction that is found in tending to our own buckets. We grow as individuals when we take these actions into our own hands, and over time, our buckets spring fewer and fewer leaks.

I like to think at some point that they begin to morph from your garden variety galvanized bucket to something a bit more refined. Perhaps a shinier bucket, or a crystal vase, maybe something fashioned out of elegant woven materials - I imagine that each transformation is unique to each person and their vessel represents their personality. My vessel would definitely be an amphorae - a pottery jar or urn of ancient Greek or Mesopotamian design. This shape has always pleased my eye. But I digress.

What began as a way to blow off some frustration about a relationship that I have identified as one that is no longer viable has shifted gears and journeyed to this matter of tending to your own bucket. I recognized today that this relationship has been a successive odyssey of me filling someone else's bucket that has a huge hole in the bottom as well as multiple leaks all around it. I recognized that I have been exhausting myself with this relationship and it is time to walk away and allow that proverbial bucket to run dry. Its owner will either learn to tend to it, or they will not.

The other important thought to express is that if you do allow yourself to get sucked into these one-sided relationships, while you are busy tending to that other person's bucket, your own vessel is being neglected. The water is getting stagnant, the metal is possibly rusting, maybe the handle has become less secure. It is imperative that we tend to ourselves, my friends! A healthy 'home', or 'vessel' will support you and allow you to be the vital, beautiful, generous, loving Spirit that you are. A neglected vessel will cause you to falter. Of the many lessons sprinkled throughout this blog, perhaps this is the most dramatic to remember. Be kind to others, of a certainty. Express love, care, compassion, support and all other manner of emotions to those around you. At the same time, be mindful of surrounding yourself with those who cheerfully give those emotions in return on a regular basis. Seek balance in all things!

In so doing, your personal bucket will stay in Tip Top condition, and your radiance will broadcast to the world around you. I think we all want to be viewed as someone who exhibits all those wonderful traits listed above. We all want to be appreciated for the content of our character and for the quality of our actions. A well tended bucket makes for a healthy person! It sounds a bit far fetched and bizarre as far as analogies go, but I find it a very sound concept. Perhaps if you're fortunate, your diligent care of your personal bucket will attract something like this wee creature...the Lady Bug. I find her to be a positive note to end this blog. A cheerful nod and benediction from Mother Nature and God/Universe that your bucket is sound and and well tended.

If you have enjoyed this blog and would like to read more, you can find me at Healing Morning blog.