A Case for Strategic Joy. And, a Bit About Boiled Frogs.

The other week I wrote a piece for you about self-care called “Is it selfish? Or Is it soulful?” Shortly after, I was working with a client in our Craft Your Comeback workshop and she was talking about the long, slow climb back from a deep, deep depletion cycle.

If you’re a woman at midlife you probably intuitively understand what a “depletion cycle” is. But just for clarity, it’s a period in a woman’s life when her “outflows” – extended period of time spent in care of others, worry, grief, financial concerns — significantly outpace her “inflows”.

There are lots of tricky things that lead to a depletion cycle, but one key component of how you get yourself in trouble is that you don’t notice that you have slowly ratcheted up your level of giving without regularly refueling your soul.

It’s like the story about boiling frogs.

If you place a frog in a pot of tepid water and put it on the stove on low heat, the frog won’t notice he is being boiled to death and will stay in the pot.

If, on the other hand, you put a frog in a pot of already boiling water, it will immediately jump right out.

That’s what motherhood looks. That’s what elder care looks like. That’s what extended unemployment or worries look like.

Each day you rise to meet your challenges, and each day, just a tiny wee bit more is asked of you than the day before. But since it’s just a tad, you don’t balk too much. You think, “Oh, this is okay, I can do this.”

But, over time, you have given so much away so SLOWLY you may not realize you are in trouble.

Sometimes life gives us a great big wake-up call. A health issue appears or we get surprise divorced. We are surprised by how far down we have taken ourselves.

And then, in addition to physical, emotional, and/or spiritual exhaustion, we must also deal with grief, self-castigation, the temptation to lay blame, etc.

Hopelessness sometimes sets in. And the way out seems cloudy or even insurmountably hard.

So, my client and I were discussing this cycle and this additional complication – as we start to restore ourselves, we sometimes have to deal with vapors of lingering guilt. Hence, is it selfish, or is it soulful?

I suggested to her that she start to look at her self-care as “strategic joy.” If you are coming off of a Depletion Cycle, the first thing you need to do is restore. (That’s why here at Life After Tampons, we begin with our free eRetreat, “Reclaim the Sass.”)

But if the guilt vapors are working against you, try looking at your period of restoration and reclamation as strategic. In other words, use your crazy ass guilt to SERVE you rather than harm you.

Tell yourself, small strategic lies like this one, “I’m restoring myself now – and it may take an extended period of time. But I’m going to do it – I’m going to take a step back from all that I’m doing so that I can be of greater service soon.”

Why is this a lie? Well, because as soon as we pick you up and brush the dust back off, we are NOT going to send you back into the over-functioning game.

Nope! We’re gonna get you some NEW TOOLS.

These new tools are going to allow for you to have a place in your own life again.

And, I promise, love, you won’t mind so much. “THEY” will find a way to get their own needs met without your constant involvement. And THEY will be better for it. THEY will be stronger for it. And YOU will have loved THEM enough to allow them to survive without you.

Have you ever considered that your “loving” incessant “helping” is actually making the people you love weak?


Okay, Sweet Pea, what about this?

What happens to those you are over-managing if something happens to you? Do your kids know how to stand on their own two financial and emotional and professional feet? Does your partner know how to feed himself/herself? Will your workplace be hobbled because “only you” can balance the books/manage someone else’s schedule?

In other words, are you HARMING people by “LOVING” them the way you do?

Please be honest with yourself if you can, love. Peoples’ actual LIVES depend on it.  And, if you need help, Read THIS NOW!

And for sure, for sure, YOURS does!

So, again, is it selfish? Or is it soulful?

And what joy can you bring into your life TODAY that will strategically place you back in fit form? How can you learn to love and serve others without harming them or yourself???

Love, Jen

Photo: Flickr, jronaldlee


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7 Responses to A Case for Strategic Joy. And, a Bit About Boiled Frogs.

  1. Nice article Jen. I’m sure your workshop is bringing great relief and joy to many women as well as giving you lots to think and write about. Hope it’s all going well!!

    • Jennifer says:

      I was JUST thinking about you this morning — okay it was actually 4 in the morning. And I was wondering about your travel adventures this summer, and your hearse, and all of it!!!!

      • At 4 in the morning? Me? Even I don’t think about myself at that time of the day, ha. I’ll send you an email…but all is going very well, thank you. Getting ready to head to Mexico next week to dive with the whale sharks!

  2. Great article. I am in the sandwich phase of life and can relate. Three elderly parents (mid-upper 80s) between my hubby and me, one adult child still at home, three married kids and six grandkids. After an extremely demanding first half of the year, hubby and I split for a little R&R. I’m back now, revived and getting tired again.

  3. you be testifying the truth sister! I say we do a call or a mini retreat or something for our peoples about this very subject. i love the fire and clarity you are bringing to your work. it’s perfection.

  4. Kelli Campbell says:

    I was just wrassling around with this yesterday. I have some great things I would like to put in play during this second phase of my life, but starting things feels exhausting. Coming off of three years of pretty major losses, plus still in full swing mothering mode. Would love to have you write more on replenishing, I do have your Reclaim the Sass downloaded, maybe I just need to keep reading!

  5. Lynne Spreen says:

    Hey, Jennifer, two answers:
    1. Helping people makes them deficient, if you carry it too far. We teach people how to treat us. Teaching them can take longer and be more risky and annoying than doing it ourselves, but over the long run, it pays off.
    2. For me, restoration will come in the form of a deep dive into domesticity: I’ll be babysitting my infant grandson from August thru May as my kids (his parents) return to work as teachers. I’ll be forced to detach from so much, and I’m looking at it as a kind of spiritual retreat. With diapers.
    Great post! Thank you.

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