A Healthy Stepmother . . . on loving, connecting, and stepmothering.

(The Know Thyself series will resume next week)

Last Monday glittered like stolen golden moments in our Pacific Northwest. I pointed the car south to my dad’s residence and reflected on how far we’ve come since February 20 when he had his stroke.

I thought of the excitement in his voice and the smile on his face during our FaceTime chat the night before, and I smiled with the rush of good feelings when someone you care about is doing well. I felt more than love, a kind of beyond-love moment when you know you are a human on the planet. Love given. Love received.

The expansive, welcoming, and generous feelings I get from being a love-giver and love-receiver leave me feeling open and exuberant and quite willing to give more.

It’s taken most of my nearly 54 years to figure out how to remain in the love-giving place, how to resist folding in on myself, and how to recognize the supports I need to keep giving from an open heart. My women’s circle of Sophias is one of my practice places. And my husband, with his ever-tolerant nature, practices with me and waits for me to catch up. My upbringing taught me hard lines of behavior and my do-it-right attitude reinforced the hard lines, his upbringing led him to tolerance and patience and his let’s-stay-connected attitude re-enforced the tolerance.

Do you realize? Not only does a new stepmother NOT have the expansive love-given, love-received moments to work with when she’s settling into her new world, but because those connections aren’t there, she frequently ramps up her Hustle for Worthiness (see quote).

You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story & hustle for your worthiness. Brené Brown

I did. When I wasn’t getting anywhere, I put my head down and forged on, trying even harder. I imagine you might have too.

But, I also know I don’t and can’t do the HUSTLE anymore.

And, furthermore, I discovered the association between hustling to settle in with my new family and hustling to connect with my siblings. It’s no wonder my dismay with my new family was so strong in the beginning. I was re-walking all the same issues I’d lived through with my siblings. Thankfully, I’ve long moved on and now have at least a few new twists on the family patterns. In the last five years, I’ve learned to run less and startle seldom.

But, in order to stop the Hustle, I had to let go. I let my end of the rope go. I’ve written about that on this blog before, here.

I stopped worrying so much. Not in a cold, watch-me-shut-you-out kind of way. More in an “I’m here sharing the planet with you” and “I respect your place here and we can co-habitate” kind of way. I’ve learned to wait and remain connected to my husband as we navigate the family process. The wait-to-connect strategy is useful, it gives time to sort a response.

So, a brief recap of the process . . .

  1. Remain inside own skin.
  2. Resist urge to hustle for approval.
  3. Wait.
  4. Help when it feels like the expansive thing to do.
  5. Helping your husband equals helping yourself with regard to your family and your coupledom.
  6. Wait, and wait more.
  7. Spend more time with those who receive your love and give back to you, allowing you to be open and inspired with your love-giving.
  8. Minimize or eliminate time with those who pretend to have your interests in mind and with those who show you disrespect.
  9. Always be respectful, but maintain your boundaries and keep coming back to the second point, resist the urge to hustle for approval. It gets you nowhere.

Maybe I should take out a billboard announcement. I feel like this is big news. Maybe the biggest of my life.

I’m done hustling.

I’ve learned I’m a rock when I’m not hustling. As in . . . Gibraltar! I give, support, nourish, empathize, witness, and problem-solve and now that I get it, I have me on my side. My promise to myself, “I will no longer let myself behave like the wispy, wavery, ethereal cloud I can become when I am Hustling for Worthiness.”

The good news is, the Hustler doesn’t live here much any more. And the really good news, those golden moments of connection that leave me feeling I can’t fit all the love that exists into this lifetime, those moments come more often and I  know how to receive them. Love given. Love received.

All references to hustling, hustling for worthiness, and being a hustler, etc. are a huge vote of excitement for Brené Brown’s work. Look her up! Here, here, and here! Pick any of her books and start reading. 

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