When Nurturing Requires Saying ‘No.’

Many weeks ago, I came across my baby book. My mother had kept notes about me until I was four. I did not speak until I was three and then it was in full sentences.
She commented that I started dancing when I was three and had a good sense of rhythm and was very bossy to our new tri-color puppy, Chips. When I was four, she commented again about how attentive and remarkably nurturing I was to him at such an early age.
I am now 68 and Chips is long gone. I have held the mantle of nurturing all these years, sometimes to my own detriment, loaning $250K to a business partner with the disguised hope that she would finally accept me. Or, bringing so many rescued dogs and cats to my house, that I developed asthma.
Or, always putting my needs second so that the person or animal in front of me would feel intact.
Behind me, there is a cacophony of sounds that I both want to silence and celebrate for my “goodness,” but are those voices pure and genuinely coming from my heart? Or is there a need that has operated compulsively all these years in secret?
I have played a parlor game at parties over the years and in my coaching program, in which I ask:
“How would you answer if you were to be awakened at 3 am and asked what your #1 skill is?”
For me, it was always nurturing, hands down.
It’s always been a great question, enlisting interesting answers that then birthed conversations that were even more introspective.
But here’s the thing: It never felt “clean,” instead of the action bringing a sense of calmness and ease, it left me feeling that there was still unfinished “stuff.” Like closing a door that still felt ajar. Being nurturing had no boundaries.12 dogs, 12 cats. I rest my case, your honor.
The need to nurture had been so consistent that I finally succumbed to labeling it as an addiction—compulsive behavior that backfires. I could not come to terms with my behaviors; it was always all or nothing. I was always saving someone or living with the haunting image of my failure.
That understanding of those behaviors has eluded me my entire life… Until today.
I live in a world of truths, as painful as they can be at times. For me, it’s the only game in town; the truth has set me free. It has been emotionally expensive resulting in frugal behaviors, but that is the point; don’t waste emotions attempting to capture the very thing I need to let go of.
We must let go of the illusion that our need to rescue is healthy. In order to reclaim our authentic self, we need to be straight about our true choices in that moment.
Our needs drive our choices. It’s really about seeing the nugget of truth within a dark, heavy fog, where clarity is elusive by choice.
The design is about choice; do I continue to support the illusion or put the work into releasing it?
I chose the latter, difficult as it was at times.
But, as I teach others, as we heal in one area, a domino effect is created. It then impacts other areas and brings more clarity, not unlike the Redcoats from the Revolutionary War; as one moved forward, the others moved in unison.
My favorite questions have always been: Who has control? The needs or you? How do you get control?
Having control is about knowing the truth. And that can be emotionally expensive; it might entail setting boundaries where none had lived. Or, not accepting comments from a family member, that you think are offensive, or finally confronting your partner about his abusiveness, or finally telling the dog to stay off the sofa.
I am at the intersection of truth and dare to answer the questions: What do I want… how do I want to live my life, what is no longer negotiable?
It’s time for me to show up… bubbles, bangles, and beads notwithstanding.

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