10 things I figured out when I learned to like myself

1. Trying to please everyone doesn’t please anyone, most of all you.

I was a healthcare social worker for 18 years. The job of the social worker is to basically tie together all of the other departments working with a patient to ensure all of their goals and needs are met. When multiple departments are involved, multiple people need things. Most often, multiple people need things right now. I did my best to try and do everything for everyone. At the end of the day nothing was completely done, everyone was mad and I was burned out. Don’t do that. Focus on the order of importance and some other people will have to wait.

The same goes for family. Every holiday was Mom’s family and Dad’s family who wanted time. Then it became the parents families of my significant others. It’s impossible to be in four places at once, no matter how many desserts are offered. Plan your schedule with what works for you and work on compromise. If someone refuses to cooperate then that is their choice. Some may be mad but they will get over it. Do not ruin your holiday trying to appease everyone else’s. Make your effort definitely, you can’t blow off your family but if someone is unreasonable and behaving badly then it is okay to choose not to interact with them.

2. It’s okay if people don’t like you

A supervisor once told me 10% of people will love you no matter what. Another 10% will hate you no matter how hard you try. Do what you can for the 80% in the middle that can go either way. Not everyone is going to have warm and fuzzy feelings toward you and that’s okay. A friend of mine was self conscious about her legs. She’s a beautiful woman but she doesn’t see herself that way all of the time. She told me it was 90 degrees out, her air conditioning was broken and she was wearing sweatpants. Our conversation went like this: “Why?” I asked her. “I don’t like the way people look at me when I go out.” she said. “What people?” I asked her. “Oh I don’t know, whoever is around” she replied. “So, strangers?” I asked. “Yes I suppose so.” Girl are you listening to yourself? “What effect does the opinion of a stranger, who you will never see again have on your life?” “None” was her answer. “Exactly. put some shorts on.” Now of course you have to follow rules of society but wear what you want, do what is right. If someone has a problem with you, that’s exactly what it is: their problem.

3. Love what you do or find a way to do what you love

Day one of social work school I will never forget the professor saying if you’re here to make money or change the world I can tell you to start off that you won’t. Pssshhhh…. that’s because no one has done it yet I thought. The professor was right. There were weeks I would sit in my house that needed repairs, stirring my hot dogs and ramen noodles and looking at my empty bank account thinking how did I get here? I would go into work and, well, see number 1. Years upon years of the same, in a job that couldn’t go anywhere wears down on a person. Now I love the field of social work, I do absolutely love solving problems, making goals, meeting varieties of people and helping people out of bad situations. Some people didn’t want to be helped. Some people blamed me for their problems, some people thought I could create a solution that doesn’t exist. It was my job, I was told. Eventually you wear out, you need a break, you burn out. I needed a break long before I was told I needed a break. Rock bottom came when I wound up in intensive care and the diagnosis list was so long the doctors couldn’t figure out how I was functioning as well as I had been. I can’t anymore. I can’t hold an office job, I can’t be available at a moment’s notice and I have my health to worry about. Writing was always my outlet. Most of my writing I never let people read. Now that I’ve been out of the workforce, I’ve been writing. I published a book. Another one comes out in a few days. People read my work and they liked it! Guess what? I love writing! Now, writing doesn’t currently pay the bills. It may never pay the bills. I am still having to file a disability application and sacrifices are being made but my stress level is mostly manageable. I still have panic attacks, I don’t like to leave my house much but now I don’t have to. Lesson learned: There is always a different path you can choose. If you’re not happy with the one you’re on, take the fork in the road.

4. Your parents were right.

Rules? I don’t need their stupid rules. When I grow up I don’t have to clean if I don’t want to, I can stay up as late as I want, I don’t have to go to school. I’m never going to treat my kids the way they treat me. I was about 25 and had lost both of them before I realized I was in way over my head and should have listened. There’s so many things I do today that I wished I had learned more from them. Managing money, cooking, deep cleaning, self care, the list goes on and on. Bottom line: no matter how old you are, you still need Mom and Dad in whatever shape they may come in: single parents, two moms, two dads whatever. Remember them, talk to them if they’re still here and most importantly learn from them.

5. Living for anyone but you is not living

Your. life. cannot. revolve. around. other. people. the end.

6. just because you were trained to do it, doesn’t mean you have to.

I graduated college in 2002 with a Bachelor’s degree in social work. I did that job for 18 years, I physically can’t anymore. Sometimes I feel my degree was a waste but in reality it has helped me in so many other areas. Just because I have a social work degree, doesn’t mean I have to be a social worker. I learned how to actively and passively listen, I learned how to pick out what someone is telling me and make sure I understand it correctly, I learned empathy and how to think outside the box. These skills are things many people lack yet come in handy every day. They also help to create characters, enabling me to get inside of a character, to feel what they would feel and to solve problems. The fact that I wrote the problem into existence in the first place is beside the point.

7. Don’t work too hard, your dog misses you

Once upon a time I lived alone. Not completely alone, My dog Daffy was there. Daffy is my best friend. We walked every morning. I went to work. She got crazy hyper when I came home, we played in the yard, we played with toys and then we cuddled in bed when it was time to go to sleep. My hours became later and later. I couldn’t say my work load was unrealistic, it all had to be done. My hours got longer and longer. I was too tired when I got home. I did a deep clean one weekend and found all of Daffy’s toys under my bed. She’d been trying to play with me for goodness knows how long and I had been too tired. Go home on time. See your family. Play with your dog. Remember what they say, dogs are part of our life but to them we are their whole life. Dogs deserve good lives full of fun with their owners.

8. Want what you need. Needing what you want is bonus.

We as a culture like stuff. We like buying a lot of stuff. There are certain things that we need. We need nutritious food and water, decent shelter, clothing, ways to get places etc. Everything else is bonus. Learn to live within your budget. Save for a rainy day. be happy when you are able to acquire everything you need. When there is extra money for things you want then splurge but learn to distinguish between need and want in your budget. You don’t have to impress anyone with the latest anything. You need to make yourself comfortable.

9. Ask for help

Asking for help is sooooo hard. We feel weak, we feel we should have handled things ourselves. We hate these feelings. Sometimes everything is too much, or we don’t understand. Maybe we’re not strong enough. Maybe it’s addiction, mental illness, Whatever the case may be, a job needing more people is better than a job not getting done. When the task at hand is too much, seek help, if you don’t get it, seek from another source.

10. Be led by leaders, if you can’t find one, be one.

Jobs have a hierarchy system. There’s a boss, there’s managers, there’s employees. That boss is appointed in their position to lead. Managers help the boss do that. Sometimes, we got stuck. Your boss needs to be the person you can go to and say ‘I don’t understand’ or ‘I need help.’ A leader will help you through whatever situation you are in. Help you to figure it out and point you in the right direction. Have you ever had a boss that told you to figure it out yourself when you sought help? Or how about “I’m not doing your work for you.” What about a co-worker that vents to you because they have been to the boss and gotten that reaction. How about community projects? Ever show up to the church rummage sale and find everyone running around like chickens? Leaders create order. They get things done and give assignments to others in order to make that happen. If you leader is not leading you, be the leader that’s needed.

I have struggled with anxiety my entire life. I have had poor self esteem for as long as I can remember. A lot of people in my life have taken advantage of that, some still do. I still have a long way to go to figure myself out and I may never do that, but I’m proud of what I’ve done so far. Never be afraid to change something you’re unhappy with. You deserve more.

To check out my books see my amazon author page http://www.amazon.com/author/catbanks

Milestones

Random Facebook meme

Today is significant to me. It’s the last day of my 30’s. Sunday celebrates the big 4-0. I don’t write this with expectations of happy birthday hoopla, quite the opposite actually.

I never wanted to turn 30. In fact up until recently (about 10 minutes ago) if you asked me how old I am, I would tell you I’ve been 29 for quite some time now. I spent a decade of telling people it was not my birthday, it was my anniversary. I’d answer their puzzled looks by explaining it was another anniversary of my 29th birthday. After all, if my grandfather could be 29 for 40 some years, why can’t I?

There won’t be a celebration. My family is far away, we couldn’t get together anyway. Stupid Covid. I will spend the day in quiet self reflection. There’s a lot on my mind.

Mom was diagnosed with cancer in December of 1993. It was the last day of school before Christmas vacation. I came home from school all excited for the magic of Christmas and found everyone crying. “Don’t worry” she told me. She assured me she’d beat it. I don’t think she said that for my benefit. I believe she thought she could. She passed away the following June. She had just turned 40 in May.

To say I feel there is a significance of turning the same age my mom was when she died would be an understatement, particularly now. I have been struggling for the last eight months for saying the words “I’m disabled.” The last several years I did my best to pretend everything was okay. I had to, people needed me. In January I wound up in the hospital and a long diagnosis list was discovered. There was no pretending anymore.

I often compare myself to my mom. She’s always been my hero. Mom always had a full plate balancing a demanding career and running a house with a chronically ill husband and daughter. She also did a lot of community involvement with agencies such as Wisconsin women entrepreneurs, Catholic junior league, being active in our church, regularly seeing her girlfriends and keeping everything organized with our extended families. I also think about how mom always strived to be better, to do good, to be an amazing wife, mother, daughter, friend and career woman. She had a teaching degree but went to a much different career in the insurance field.

Mom kept everything together. Everyone got where they needed to go. She always knew what was happening with everyone. Meals were on time, snacks were on time, she attended games, dance recitals, piano lessons and recitals, work parties all with a smile on her face. I never got the impression she was stressed. I only remember seeing her cry once and I don’t remember my parents ever fighting.

I always thought of my mom as an adult. I still consider myself a child. When I compare myself to my mom I never seem to measure up. I always thought one day I’d be an adult and I’d do everything she did. Now I’m her age. I’m turning the age she made it to. I’m as old as she was when I considered her to be an adult and I wonder if she ever felt like I do now. Did she know she had everything figured out as I saw it? Or perhaps she was as lost as I am now and trying to make it.

Failed relationships and a joke of a marriage under my belt I don’t have a partner. I was advised at a young age to not attempt to bring children into the world due to the severity of my illness. No family of my own was ever to be had. I had a career that I had to leave due to the progression of my illness. I’ve had limited community and church involvement but none of it recently due to Covid and my poor compromised immune system not to mention my constant movement limiting pain.

8 months I’ve been preparing for this time. 8 months I’ve thought constantly about turning 40 in my debilitated condition. 8 months I’ve gone to and come back from some pretty dark places but that’s just it, I’ve come back.

There’s one thing I have on my side: I am my mother’s daughter. I think of her everyday and ask what she would do or what she would advise me to do. The answer is always the same. I hear her in my head saying “keep going.”

I’ve spent my life trying to live up to my mom but I’m not her, I’m me. I need to learn to take my own path, make my own mistakes and gain my own accomplishments. That’s what Mom would want for me. Life is a constant battle of figuring stuff out. Figuring out what makes you happy and what doesn’t should be a daily question as is how do I change the Doesn’t into does?

Most recently I’ve asked myself what do I do with the rest of my life? I won’t be at a 9-5, I can’t manage that anymore. The answer so far has been writing. In the last 3 months I’ve started this blog, published several articles/stories on platforms such as Wattpad, medium and vocal, written two books and self published one. (Spoiler alert: a new book will be out in September). I often questioned whether mom would approve of my books as some material is for those of the adult age but she spent enough time with her nose in a book with a cover featuring Fabio so I think it’s okay. I’m also continuing my Etsy shop with not only creating but using my writing to promote. I’d like to one day be able to promote myself as writer for hire assisting others with the same services.

Turning 40, I have no idea how much time is left. It may be a month as mom had or it may be 100 years. meanwhile I’ll spend every day keeping on and collecting feathers.

I can be found here:

Wattpad: mandacat80

The Feather Appeared

I had a dream, not a famous one but an ordinary dream. A couple of dreams, actually. In those dreams, feathers appeared. Now, I’ve always heard the quote “when angels are near feathers appear,” but I hadn’t seen it until now. In my first dream, I shared a meal with my parents, who have both passed on. I was whining and carrying on about being sick and tired of being sick and tired and not being able to get up and go to work. I had gotten very ill in January and wound up septic in the hospital for a week. Following hospitalization, I was primarily on bed rest due to a leg wound that required me to elevate my leg as much as possible. Due to lack of activity for three months and not being in great shape, to begin with, I lost a good deal of muscle tone in my legs. I had also advanced into stage 3 chronic kidney disease and am carrying around a good bit of water weight. Doctors recently discovered I have degenerative joint disease in my spine, hips, and knees and something in my lower back is not where it should be. All of these make minimal tasks very difficult for me. Mom looked at me from across the table and said, “if you cannot get up and go to work, then work sitting down,” and with that, they were gone. I was left in the booth by myself, and when I ran my hand along the top edge of the stall, I felt something metal. I picked a carved metal feather with ribbon on it, a bookmark. I knew the feather was significant, but I didn’t know why at first. My medical condition has left me in a state where my former employer no longer held my job because I could not do it at the end of my FMLA time. I can’t commit to any 9-5 right now with the number of doctor’s appointments, medical tests, life-changing procedures to follow, and the like. I started to research work from home positions, and the same consistently caught my eye: writing. A light went off in my head, and the metal bookmark reappeared. It’s a feather from heaven with a message: books. I decided to write a book. I needed a subject. Some thoughts occurred but seemed more short story type than a book. Enter dream number 2. There’s some background to this. For a very long time, I have been dealing with anxiety. Not normal pressure, no mine is wake up in the middle of the night in complete panic and never want to leave my house anxious. It stems from stress regarding medical issues, having so many complications of my condition, being unable to work, figuring out how to support myself, jobless roommate and pets when I just have savings, not feeling well ever, and finding normalcy in a completely abnormal situation. An excellent friend helped me develop “my happy place.” A place I create in my head where I imagine myself being when the stress gets to be too much. Shortly after the book idea, I began to worry about all of the above, and I went to my happy place, and I fell asleep. I remained in my happy place in my dream and at my favorite resting point was a feather. I woke up and said I’m going to write a story with my happy place as the setting and the ideas sprang forth. I’m doing it. I’m writing a book. At the time of this blog, I’m 20,000 words in, and I’ve just begun. I realize a book is a big undertaking and won’t happen overnight, so I’m looking for some other projects too. This blog will be one of my projects. It will showcase my thoughts, my struggles, my health, and life journeys and, at times, feature some short stories or random things. It’s a jumping point to bigger things. Even being gone all this time (1994), Mom still gives good advice.