This is a lived experience for me in recent years, feeling torn between responsibilities at work, to my family, my elderly parent, my commitments to the community and generally feeling as if I didn’t own my own life.
Does this sound familiar? What was stopping me from living my life how I wanted to, as I saw others were doing around me? What trap was I caught up in that I couldn’t escape and was it my trap or one created for me?
I have had to do much unpicking to find out what my own version of the responsibility trap is, in the last 5 years. It is in place through a series of my own beliefs, behaviours and boundary issues with key people in my life.
Also, as I explored this concept & shared my experiences with others, my view of everyone else getting on & living how they wanted to was not necessarily a true fact. The reality I had envisioned, was that they had had to go through their own process to free themselves & let go of guilt!!!
OK so not everyone feels guilt, yet I feel that the majority of women my age, having had children reach adulthood, aging parents, trying to keep up with the modern workplace & trying to meet their own needs feel like the ‘push me, pull you’ in Doctor Doolittle. Even if you have not had children, there will still be factors in your life that can feel suffocating or restrictive.
Firstly, I love my family, I have enjoyed my career, I volunteer for different organisations when I have the time to, yet what got in the way?
My own beliefs were deeply embedded in duty, both familial & work related. Knowing I could do something well to support others has always been a driver. I have often stepped into this role when I didn’t always need to! So, my internal workings were around putting others before myself, which responsibly was in place to raise my children, yet stayed beyond its due date once they were all grown up!!!
Also, external factors included my own identity not necessarily being recognised by key extended family members where I was the responsible one, the one to dump issues on, the one to not have to check up on as I was ok! Obviously not always the case, but certainly a boundary issue where I had a key position & identity which was not a positive one for me.
So how have I addressed both my unmet needs and these external factors?
Firstly, I have been honest with myself and with people around me to voice how I want to live my life rather than sliding into another role that life has put in front of me (which I have always assumed!) I have used my coaching skills to work upon myself around being honest, working with my values and challenged my beliefs to get clear facts in front of me.
Secondly, I have pinned down what makes me tick, how I decompress, looked at my own health optimisation to make a plan of living my own life more fully, to be less available to others, yet when I am available they have me in a focused manner. Many may look at this as selfish – which would have been me not so long ago!
Thirdly, I have looked at other people who have found more balance, even my parents era, when they had their children and forged out a social life alongside and after children are grown, before having to care for elders. This was one of my big challenges, as I have always felt indebted to my Mum as she lives alone to be everything to her by way of resolving any issues. Was this helpful to her or me??? Maybe not, as our relationship had become unhealthy because I felt overwhelmed with her needs which created resentment in me.
So what are the outcomes of this hard piece of work upon myself to forge a way forward?
Well, I have worked through this unresourceful position that I have found myself stuck within & have grabbed life with my nearest & dearest, moved to rural Aberdeenshire from Dorset to meet a deep craving I have had for many, many years to live alongside nature, to connect with what matters to me, to live truly a way which is healthy for me mentally, emotionally & physically. I have access to wonderful open spaces that fill my need to feel free, to witness wildlife living alongside us & to find a rhythm to my life that is my own. This has resulted in living simply, letting go of many material needs & embracing what life brings, both wonderful & tough.
This is not a perfect world by any means, yet the honesty within the simplicity has had a ripple effect in influencing all areas of my life and also building a tribe of important people in my life that I feel are kin by connection rather than blood.
We have one life, we can live it all for others, or grab parts for ourselves to know we have fully lived.