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By Yourself, For Yourself

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No one’s going to do it for you.

This is the pep talk I give myself to get shit done. It started with little stuff–unloading the dishwasher, scooping the litter boxes, taking out the trash, and assorted other mundanities of daily life I wanted to ignore. But as my desires to be more and feel more and have more got heavier this year so too did the weight of what it means to be alone in making your way.

It’s not sad, really, but empowering. It’s a simple but firm reminder that you make your own way in this world, that you’re in charge of what you’re doing and where you’re going and how you react to what’s going on around you because no one else is going to do it for you.

So I started applying my pep talk to bigger things I’d also been trying to ignore. No one’s going to ask for a raise for you, quit your job for you, start a business for you, go back to school for you, give up for you. No one’s going to say “I love you” or “I need help” or “Goodbye” for you. No one’s going to dive in, step back or start over for you.

I’m a big supporter of and believer in Danielle Laporte and the way she looks at the world. Last year I devoured her book The Desire Map and carefully plotted out what she calls my “core desired feelings,” the five words that describe how I want to feel and thus dictate what I need to do to get there.

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At first, draft one of my core desired feelings really resonated. I started readjusting some things in my life to move me in the direction of feeling the way I wanted to feel–bold, fresh, playful–and some of it worked. But there were other things that felt forced or stagnant, and just yesterday I figured out why.

In this video Danielle talks about how powerful the subtle nuances in the semantics of our core desired feelings can be. Wanting to feel “respected,” for example, is a lot different that wanting to feel (or be) respect. Wanting to feel “loved” is not the same as wanting to feel (or be) love.

I noticed that a lot of my core desired feelings ended in that -ed that put the responsibility of my desire into the hands of someone else. Not surprisingly, I wanted to feel loved, treasured, challenged, valued. These are nice, reasonable things to want, but here’s the thing: I set myself up so that in order to feel the things I wanted to feel and have the things I truly desired, someone would have to do it for me. Someone would have to love me, challenge me, value me, assure me, and this left me a helpless bystander to my own life, holding my breath for (you guessed it) someone to do it for me.

I am admittedly anti-Christmas, a real modern day Scrooge. I always want it to feel like it did when I was a kid and, shocker, it never does. This is because as a kid someone else puts a lot of work into making Christmas special for you. It’s the beauty of being young and dependent and not yet able (or required) to take charge of your own life.

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But with age and independence comes responsibility (and freedom!) and now it’s my job to make the season special for myself. So last night I dragged myself to the Christmas tree farm, picked out the cutest stubby little four-foot tree on the lot, covered it in an over-the-top 200 lights and 50 ornaments, and realized I am the only one who will see it. Literally no one will walk through my door between now and next Friday when I leave to fly home to Chicago.

That used to stop me from trying to set up the season because I had this assumption that it was a wasted effort to do things just for me, like it only counts if someone else sees it and affirms its reality. And this is the fatal flaw not only in how I decorate for the holidays but in how I want to feel, too. I thought my desires only counted if someone else sees them and affirms their reality. I let the way I want to feel ride on the presence of someone else. So this year I put the tree up by myself and for myself because no one is going to do it for me.

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17 Comments

  1. Dana Hauck Dana Hauck

    Absoultely beautiful. You and the post.

  2. Ashley N. Ashley N.

    I have reread this twice now. Thank you for posting this, this is absolutely what I needed to read.

  3. Giovanna Giovanna

    I love, love, love this! Thank you for writing this. It speaks to me loud and clear.

  4. Kim Kim

    Freakin’ amen to all of this. I’m really not a huge fan of the holidays but the “just get shit done” mantra has really helped me. I decorated my tree by myself on a Friday night, hell, I even spent Christmas alone last year. Living alone for the first time of my life at the ripe age of 26 really taught me to just do things because nobody else is going to do them for me. I mean, sad reality sometimes, but whatever, my dog doesn’t have thumbs to do much around the house, and she can’t say “i love you.”

  5. Melanie Melanie

    Such a great post! I too struggle with doing things for myself and being proactive about creating the moments for me. And I love that tree! Merry Christmas!!

  6. Yes! Being a grown up is so empowering. I also really love Santa Mouse 🙂

  7. Laura Laura

    Love this post, love your blog. Keep doin’ you

  8. TaMo TaMo

    Yep, it’s kinda like that……………being a grown up. There is nothing like a great foundation in childhood, traditions, and high expectations for you and those around you. We all get one life…………enjoy to the max!

  9. I’ve been reading your old blog and this new one for awhile now. And take my words with a grain of salt because the only “you” I know is the one you put out here on the blog. It’s seems in the last several months the tone of your writing changed and didn’t feel as authentic. (or maybe you were changing and it was a result of that).

    THIS post though, this sounds like the contemplative, let the thoughts ramble into a cohesive and powerful idea, that you’d been writing previously and I personally as a reader have missed.

    I’m a few years your senior but in somewhat of a transitional (and often frustration) station at the moment and want to thank you for this piece at a very important time. You’re so dead on right…it has to be you, you can’t pin it on someone else and wait, and you can’t do it for others.

    Enjoy your Holiday Season Katie…and I love your little tree!

  10. kara kara

    So I love reading all your posts but every once in a while you write something like this which is just extra perfect true and great. You rock

  11. Love this post. Rock on sister. <3

  12. Jon Jon

    Cooking. While I always enjoyed the art of cooking and found a certain decompression in listening to tunes and following a set of directions to completion, I could never find the ambition to cook unless I had others to also dine. When running solo, I would resort to cracking open a can of something and eating it cold with a spoon. Then I realized that the very act was the joy. And thereby found that so many things encapsulate happiness and should be done because the personal satisfaction it brings.

    So now, even though I usually live off leftovers for days, I can appreciate doing something just for me and embracing the act itself. Love this post for that little bit of reaffirmation.

    • YES. Thank you for saying this. My love of cooking and baking is definitely something I’ve lost as of late (and is probably apparent in what I post here). So what you just said here is perfect and perfectly timed. Thanks for that.

  13. Frannie Frannie

    I rarely leave comments (more of a lurker), but I really missed your posts that had these “tones”. You have a great way of communicating an idea through a blog post that makes me think about the subject all day.

    That being said, I think one of the greatest struggles/joys I have ever had was learning to do things for myself, by myself. Finding the joy in cooking a meal for me, without the glory of a taster. Going for a run in an age of social media without logging it in some form, just because it was for my sanity and not for show. Even just learning how to change a tire after a break-up empowered me.

  14. Amanda Bee Amanda Bee

    Love this. Still processing it, but love it. It resonates, as I’m still carving out habits and ways of doing things for me.

  15. Jen Jen

    Beautiful, inspirational post! Very thoughtful and thought-provoking (to me and to others, based on the comments above). This really did make me think, which I feel is the highest compliment that can be given to any serious piece of writing…very nicely done! For whatever reason (I know it’s not the exact same theme), it reminds me a bit of this beloved poem, attributed to Mother Theresa:

    People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.
    Forgive them anyway.

    If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
    Be kind anyway.

    If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
    Succeed anyway.

    If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.
    Be honest and sincere anyway.

    What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
    Create anyway.

    If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
    Be happy anyway.

    The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
    Do good anyway.

    Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
    Give your best anyway.

    You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God.
    It was never between you and them anyway.

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