Q. In the last five years, my responsibilities to my family and work have increased tremendously. My father died and I was the one who had to facilitate difficult conversations and make final decisions. My wife has been very ill and I have had to take over taking care of our young child with very little help, while working full time. I feel stuck in these roles, and can’t seem to find my own life in the midst of it all. I am not one to renege on my commitments, but I also don’t want to live without personal fulfillment. Could you help?
A. It’s commendable that you have been so devoted to caring for your family’s needs while juggling a full time job and the care of a sick wife, and a young child. You’ve been very supportive to those around you who rely on your thoughtfulness and skills.
There is satisfaction in caring for others. But I do agree that if there isn’t balance, we burn out, get resentful and even depressed.
Finding your own life is a process of paying attention to yourself. This is the gateway to your own inner truth.
Start by asking what you are feeling, wanting, needing or avoiding? Keep a small journal handy where you take a few moments several times a day to jot down your responses. Writing about your experiences will connect you to your inner states and needs.
Given the losses you are describing, attending to your grief is a central part of your inner process. Focusing on others’ needs might be a way to not feel your own losses.
Your interests may conflict with others and you may be very uncomfortable with that. Is harmony a big factor for you? Do you give too much to maintain peace?
Getting more comfortable with anger, disapproval, and conflict will free you to follow your wishes for more fulfillment.
As you harness your interests and genuine feelings, start to act on them. If you need more time off, ask for it. If you can’t take on another task, say no, and offer alternatives. Being proactive for yourself is a key ingredient to your own well-being. It will feel like you’re moving upstream at first, however, it will energize you and people will respect your volition and connection to yourself, in due course.
Your natural ability to see the big picture and be a peacemaker will slowly come into more balance with self-direction and passion for your life interests.
Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist of Indian descent in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit www.wholenesstherapy.com