Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tend your bucket!

After half a week full of interactions with various connections who displayed a strong level of negative traits and behaviors on various topics and in various ways, I had a conversation with my wonderful Mom on the phone.  As she always does, she listened, let me vent and just gave me that soft place to fall.  Once I calmed down from a rare moment of true, hot anger, we began discussing how this is one of those Life Lessons we all must learn - when to recognize that a relationship has become so out of balance that you're exhausting yourself with the maintenance of said relationship.

I mentioned to my Mom that the process begins to feel as though you're endlessly pouring water into a bucket that has a hole in the bottom.  For a while, if you work fast you can keep the water level high, but you can't ever rest.  Eventually the water level sinks and you have to rush to pour more water in.  Liken the water to your emotions, the bucket to the relationship and the hole at the bottom represents that other person, job, etc., that is in essence, draining you empty.

We all have moments, sometimes extended periods, where we aren't the best side of a given relationship.  Everyone has down times, bad days, grumpy days and low energy moments.  What I'm speaking of, however, is more than that.  I am discussing those relationships where you give and give and give, then you give some more, and you're patient, understanding, helpful, supportive, compassionate, caring and loving.  That other person is happy to soak it all up...all those wonderful things and all that sumptuous attention from you.  Who wouldn't?!  It's easy to be on the receiving end of all that nice, handy support!  If you're lucky, the majority of the people in your life are equally nurturing and supportive in return, giving you back ample amounts of the energy that you give.  Occasionally, and we all have had these types of relationships, there is that person who never gives back.

'Emotional vampire' is a term I have often used to describe this type of personality.  I wouldn't go so far as to call them 'bad', as I don't ascribe to the belief that people are completely or intrinsically evil for the most part.  I would describe them as broken vessels, or that bucket with the hole in the bottom.  Something has happened to them that has created an endless need for attention, and an utter lack of understanding of the notion of reciprocation.  'Fairweather friend' is another, similar term that would apply, as these people tend to be around and happy to bask in the sunshine of good days.  Conversely, these people tend to carry a dark storm cloud around with them! Usually, the moment adversity comes, or crisis happens, they vanish.  You hear from them when THEY are in a crisis in a heartbeat, of course, and they fully expect you to come running to their rescue.

Viewed from a calmer heart, I can write about this with humor, because it can be rather ironic to experience the extremes with these people.  Don't get me wrong, there are times when my own bucket springs a leak.  Most times when this happens, I can tend to that leak on my own and resume daily tasks.  Once in a while, the leak is rather impressive and requires some additional energy - a helping, loving hand.  I am not ashamed to reach out and ask for help at these moments, although I admit that this is a hard won lesson and wasn't easy to learn.  I am happy to say that I am blessed with loving, supportive family and friends whom I know I can depend on in times of need.  I know this because they tend to their own buckets on a daily basis.

They are well balanced and able to both give and receive love, care and support, and they are emotionally available and present in their friendships and family relationships.  Of course, no one walking the planet is perfect and without flaws.  I've said many times that it would be a sad, dull world if we were perfect.  We're here to learn and grow, after all.  Some days we soar and other days we take spectacular nose dives. 

This tending to your own personal bucket is an analogy for being responsible for your actions.  Those simple rules we're taught as a child work very well throughout life; Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.  If you're having a day where your bucket has sprung a leak, take a moment to look at it and identify the cause.  Be kind to yourself, forgive whatever actions were done to cause the leak to occur, and then apply a steady hand to repairing the leak.  Look about you afterwards to ascertain if your leak may have caused damage to anyone else.  Did your bucket spray all over others unwittingly?  If so, acknowledging that you had a rotten day and sincerely explaining that you're sorry can be magical and healing. 

Simply be mindful of your actions.  That sounds much easier than the true reality, as we all know!  There will be days that you need that helping hand to patch the leaks on your bucket; there will be different days where you need help replenishing the water in your bucket.  There is no shame in turning to family and friends for help in recharging your heart and filling you back up with love.  The only true sadness that I find in this situation is dealing with individuals who simply take and use eternally.

When you finally reach your point of exhaustion - and you will reach it! - when you're just too tired to make one more trip to the well to pour water into that other person's bucket for them, when you are personally drained dry and cannot summon the energy to be there for them one more time, you will be ready to walk away and leave them to their own devices.  This may hurt to do it, and you will probably worry for a while about that person.  Who is filling their bucket daily?  How are they repairing all those leaks that keep springing?  What if their bucket runs dry?

The answer is, suprisingly, if any or all of the above happen, consider it a blessing for that person and an opportunity for them to finally take responsibility for their own existence.  It can be a harsh lesson to learn when your bucket is abandoned and runs dry and you're left standing there with no idea what to do next. 

If you have reached that point yourself, I encourage you to resist the urge to fall back into old habits and run to the next available person to refill your bucket and take on the task of keeping it filled.  Try filling it yourself.  Just try.  See what happens and how you feel.  Notice how much energy it takes to keep that bucket full, what with the constant rushing to and fro with another bucket to accomplish the task.  You'll quickly realize it takes a lot of energy!  Now, step back, regroup, and find a method to patch the leaks in your bucket.  Refill it with water and see how strong your patch is. 

Sometimes your patch will hold strong and true.  Other times you'll have to do it several times, just like allowing a wound to heal, before the patch finally holds.  Most of us recognize the solid sense of satisfaction that is found in tending to our own buckets.  We grow as individuals when we take these actions into our own hands, and over time, our buckets spring fewer and fewer leaks. 

I like to think at some point that they begin to morph from your garden variety galvanized bucket to something a bit more refined.  Perhaps a shinier bucket, or a crystal vase, maybe something fashioned out of elegant woven materials  - I imagine that each transformation is unique to each person and their vessel represents their personality.  My vessel would definitely be an amphorae - a pottery jar or urn of ancient Greek or Mesopotamian design.  This shape has always pleased my eye.  But I digress.

What began as a way to blow off some frustration about a relationship that I have identified as one that is no longer viable has shifted gears and journeyed to this matter of tending to your own bucket.  I recognized today that this relationship has been a successive odyssey of me filling someone else's bucket that has a huge hole in the bottom as well as multiple leaks all around it.  I recognized that I have been exhausting myself with this relationship and it is time to walk away and allow that proverbial bucket to run dry.  Its owner will either learn to tend to it, or they will not. 

The other important thought to express is that if you do allow yourself to get sucked into these one-sided relationships, while you are busy tending to that other person's bucket, your own vessel is being neglected.  The water is getting stagnant, the metal is possibly rusting, maybe the handle has become less secure.  It is imperative that we tend to ourselves, my friends!  A healthy 'home', or 'vessel' will support you and allow you to be the vital, beautiful, generous, loving Spirit that you are.  A neglected vessel will cause you to falter.  Of the many lessons sprinkled throughout this blog, perhaps this is the most dramatic to remember.  Be kind to others, of a certainty.  Express love, care, compassion, support and all other manner of emotions to those around you.  At the same time, be mindful of surrounding yourself with those who cheerfully give those emotions in return on a regular basis.  Seek balance in all things! 

In so doing, your personal bucket will stay in Tip Top condition, and your radiance will broadcast to the world around you.  I think we all want to be viewed as someone who exhibits all those wonderful traits listed above.  We all want to be appreciated for the content of our character and for the quality of our actions.  A well tended bucket makes for a healthy person!  It sounds a bit far fetched and bizarre as far as analogies go, but I find it a very sound concept.  Perhaps if you're fortunate, your diligent care of your personal bucket will attract something like this wee creature...the Lady Bug.  I find her to be a positive note to end this blog.  A cheerful nod and benediction from Mother Nature and God/Universe that your bucket is sound and and well tended.


  1. Well you know I can relate to this my friend! Superb post, one of your best. ~ :)

  2. Thank you, I.K.! I'm glad it resonated w/ you. I feel lighter as a result of getting the words written and expressed. No idea if this one will click with others or not; it will be interesting to see! Thank you, love, for visiting and leaving a comment.

    ~ Dawn

  3. What a great read. I can relate as I am sure so many can. The importance of being present for yourself and taking care of your own needs/aspirations makes so much sense and, frankly, puts us in a better state to be present for those around us.
    Thank you,

  4. I loved this Dawnie! It truly the "empty bucket" was such a good analogy. I'm most certain I have been on both ends. Mostly the pouring the water into that bucket filled with holes. I now find in the recent couple of months that I may be in that category of placing responsibility for that someone else to keep bringing me water. If I have over used you in this way, I do want to apology.
    Your mom has some great wisdom under her belt huh? love, janie

  5. Interesting analogy never thought of a bucket but it certainly rings true. I've always called those people "energy vampires". It takes great care to deal with people like that in our lives, even if they aren't close friends. They are the kind of people that can change the energy of an entire room. It takes practice to learn to protect your own energy & not let it be affected by them.

    Thanks as always.....hugs,


  6. Dawn, what a wonderful, insightful post. I will remember your analogy of the "bucket". It is hard at times to keep from neglecting my "vessel", but I know I must do this on a daily basis, while caring for others. Thank you for your wisdom, we all can learn much from you.

  7. What a wonderful bunch of comments greeted me when I logged on today!

    Darren, I loved your statement that nurturing ourselves properly puts us in a better state to be present for others. How profound a thought that is! I stumble with this at times, as this blog post clearly indicates, but over a lifetime we do learn to identify those negative relationships more quickly and are able to mitigate the situation. My goal is to always be growing & moving forward, so this was a gentle reminder for me as well. Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving such a nice comment!

    Janie, I think we all experience days of being on both ends of this type of thing. That's why I took care to say to be kind to yourself when you find yourself out of balance - it happens to all of us! And no, dear friend, you have not been a drain in any way; our friendship is very well balanced and uplifting. We've both been through good and bad days & been there for one another. That's the sign of a healthy relationship! This blog was motivated by a business relationship that was also a personal friendship, and had become toxic. I took the frustration & disappointment and let it inspire me to write something that might help others in similar situations. I'm glad it hit the right note for you! Love you, sweetheart!

    Bill, you're absolutely correct about it requiring care to deal with emotional vampire type people! If you've never dealt with that type of person before, they can blindside you, suck you in and literally drain you dry over time before you finally get a handle on what has been happening. As a younger person, I struggled with this. At my present age, it is still challenging for me to cut ties because I have a very soft heart, but you really do have to recognize that cutting ties is sometimes a necessity. Beyond that, yes, I agree again that learning to shield yourself from that type of personality on less personal levels is an equally necessary skill. Thanks for visiting today!

    Miss Judy, thank you in return! In your daily life, I know how vigilant you must be as a care giver, so it is vital that you maintain your own bucket. So many people do rely on you, and I hope you are surrounded by many people who shower you with the same loving, positive, beautiful energy that you give out.

    To all of you, thank you for the kind comments. This was a post that I was unsure would make complete sense with the analogy, but I took that deep breath and clicked on Publish Post and let it go. The funny thing is that 100% of the time, the posts I'm a bit nervous about putting out there are the ones that are the most positively received! A little nod from God/Universe that I'm doing pretty well...sort of my own personal Lady Bug!

    I appreciate you all!


    ~ Dawn

  8. You have described - in exquisite detail - what I have often observed and frequently feared.

    You see, my greatest fear is that when my bucket is empty I will be perceived by others to be what you call an "emotional vampire". (Which is a perfect name, by the way.) Please understand that because of my illness I sometimes don't even notice that my own bucket is growing dry until I'm wearing it over my head.

    I know that during those times I have drained the emotional resources of my family and friends until their buckets are dry. As I've grown I have learned that it is best to quietly skulk away until my jolly happy self is restored. But when that chemical switch in my brain is flipped, I return to restoring my supply in a what might appear to others to be my manic bucket brigade.

    For those I have subjected, I appreciate your patience and the grace extended me. I only wish I could repair the damages done.

  9. I can definitely relate. Think we've all had to deal with people like that at one point or another. I really loved your analogy of "tending your own bucket." Great way of looking at it!

  10. Anahid, yep, it's a common experience among us. That's another reason I wrote the blog, to sort of address an issue that we tend to gloss over or just stay silent about. Sometimes you need to get it out of your system, and writing always helps me do that! I'm glad you enjoyed this one. Thanks, as always, for visiting and leaving a comment. Love you sweetie!

    ~ Dawn

  11. Sharon, your comment just posted on my end - I didn't mean to overlook you. Strange how the internet sometimes does things!

    In regard to your comment and the details you shared, please remember what I said in this post - be kind to yourself when you come to the realization that you may have been out of balance with relationships in your life! We ALL have those moments, and none of us lives a flawless existence. Simply being mindful and taking initiative to be aware of and responsible for our actions is all we can ask of one another. Of course we all stumble regularly, but I know your heart is good and kind. So do those in your personal sphere. And to make you smile, I daresay you look awfully cute on those occasions your bucket ends up on your head! Be kind to yourself, sweetheart. You're doing great!

    ~ Dawn

  12. Dawn,Thank you so much for your post.I truly needed this to understand a lot of things going on in my life right now.Thank you for putting this in terms I can understand.Problem is people don't realize or choose not to till it's too late.I wish I had read this sooner.I would liked to have shared it,now would only cause anger.And I think we can be on both end's at certain time's in our lives but I will do my best to never put anyone through this.God Bless You ! Anthony

  13. Hi Anthony, thank you for visiting my blog. Your comment touched my heart; it sounds as though you've gone through a similar situation recently. Perhaps there will come a day in the future where you can share this post with that person and it won't cause anger. Timing can make all the world of difference, after all, as well as a kind and sincere heart.

    I also think we're guided to read certain things at just the perfect moment for them to cause the proper impact and understanding. Perhaps if you had read this blog post earlier, you wouldn't have been in the right state of mind for it to resonate as strongly for you as it did today. That's why I suggest hanging on to the link and thinking of introducing it to this other person down the road. Just food for thought; you'll know best how to go forward with things.

    Regardless of which side of the bucket you find yourself in future, I ask one simple thing of you - remember that we're all human and be kind to yourself and others when they might lose sight of their own bucket tending. One day at a time, right?! God Bless You in return, my friend, and thank you again for visiting. Be well!

    ~ Dawn

  14. Wow, what a post! One of your best so far and you've emoted it frankly through your words. Well done.

    Relationships, with so much to give, with so much to expect, to me this is something complicated and sometimes difficult to go through. Thanks for sharing the "tips" and you did it in a very clever way.

    Sureindran R.

  15. Surein, thanks for the wonderful comment & compliment! I think we all feel that relationships are one of the biggest challenges of daily life. We all shine and we all stumble on the level, regularly! I'm happy this post is providing some valuable suggestions and tips. Writing it was a good reminder for me to honor myself as much as I do the people around me. Thanks for visiting and commenting, my friend!

    ~ Dawn