Not yet a month into the newness of this year, not yet 30 days since the ball dropped and lips perhaps met, and we’re already digging up parts of ourselves we forgot were buried. Last week, to put it simply, the Signal Fire on my Vacuum/Fan Theory, struck a chord with many, and I do mean many, of you. I heard from a whole slew of you, some publicly in comments, some privately through emails and messages, that the message in that essay was a little too close for comfort, that it hit just a bit too close to home in the lives that you’re leading. To this I say simultaneously: I am sorry for the discomfort, and that I am not sorry at all. I’ve long believed that the only way to grow, is to put ourselves in situations, conversations, or places, that make us uncomfortable, that stretch our skin just to the point of snapping.
The overwhelming majority of you that took the time to write, all wondered the same thing, and all asked variations of the same question:
Once we recognize the vacuums and the fans, how do we handle those that are the former, while still celebrating those that are the latter?
This question has been something dancing around in my busy, ridiculous brain, for a long time, and over the last year we just all endured, I think I’ve circled the drain enough times to come up with answers to it. If my original theory is correct, and everyone does in fact fall into those two aforementioned categories, how do we handle those that drain us, those that suck the joy, energy, kindness, and positivity from us only to fill themselves up?
For me, and I am by no means an expert on this Signal Fire, it all comes down to the pursuit of balance. We must, and I really do mean must as an imperative more vital than most others, find the balance between accommodating others, and setting boundaries for ourselves. Good people, and all of us here that I’ve gotten to know over the last few years interacting with are indeed good people, have a tendency to inadvertently allow the choices other people make to become our own responsibilities. We absorb the emotional repercussions and in return, offer more support and energy to those that keep taking it. Allowing this to continue unchecked creates a vicious loop in which the bar on what is “normal” keeps raising higher, and higher, based on how willing we are to keep giving.
What was once enough, will no longer remain that way. We are forced to invent more to give, when we’ve run out.
I don’t know how many of you need to hear this, I don’t know how this advice will even land, but I say this out loud as much for myself, for the lovely Lady Gregson, as I do for anyone else, I say it because sometimes saying it means you’ll actually see it, actually understand. It is OK to make demands for yourself, it is OK to not always bend over backwards to accommodate others. Sometimes, we’ve gotta put the oxygen mask on ourselves before everyone else, for if we’re not ok, we can’t make anyone else be either.
In a world of vacuums and fans, a world that I believe has shifted since the pandemic began and the ‘lost years’ stole away so many things, we have to find this balance between accommodation and boundary. Point is, there are so many now that don’t know anything else but taking, and taking, and taking, until we’ve run out and suffer those consequences, and it really is up to us to make sure we’re not literally sucked dry. There is nothing wrong with protecting our own emotional energy, there is nothing wrong with walking away from situations, or from people, that take without giving, that use the positivity to fill themselves to the point of bursting, and then expect you to clean up the mess.
This year, this new year we’re still feeling out and fumbling into, I propose we all put our own oxygen masks on first, that we set boundaries before we begin accommodating, and that we refuse to suffer vacuums to rob us of every ounce of our spirit. How do we handle the vacuums whilst still celebrating the fans? In my humbleset of humble opinions, we begin with celebrating the fans, celebrating ourselves, and we let the droning din of the vacuums fade away into the distance.
There is a distinct line between kindness and self-sacrifice, and we need to recognize this more now than ever before. Give, always give, but make sure that you are balancing what you give to others, with equal amounts of grace you’re giving back to yourself. Recognize when you’re at a point of emotional dehydration, and allow yourself the space to step back and recuperate in every sense of the word. Only this way, can we sustain, only this way, can we lower the bar back to a healthy place where we’re actually able to leap over it.
Should you stumble on this path, should you struggle to put yourself first, reach out to the fans in your life, and allow them to help, allow them to give back a little of that positivity and grace that you’re so good at giving to them, to everyone else.
If you can’t find anyone else, come back here to me, I’ve still got more left to give.
And back to yourself
give all that you give away.