Originally published May 20, 2015. Edited and republished Sep 22, 2017.
Drama. Drama Drama. It’s everywhere. Not the kind you see in movies but right there in front of you every day. Your friend, your parents, your siblings, your life. If you have a lot of it, and it keeps coming like a freight train, it’s probably your fault. And no, it’s not bad luck. Sorry. The truth hurts and no one said life would be easy.
Drama is an addiction. Like cigarettes. Like pot. Like coke. Like shopping. Like drinking. Like suffering. Yes suffering is an addiction too. Like all addictions, drop by drop they eat away at your life. You have to be strong. And the truth is, sometimes we just aren’t strong enough. But drama is the stepping stone to all addictions. No it’s not pot, it’s drama. Drama is the root of the evil tree. The one that just keeps growing and entangling us. For some people resisting drama is easier. It’s just in their nature to walk away. I call these type of people zen buddhas. My husband is one of these people. He is never tempted by the fruit of the Drama tree.
It’s an uphill battle, but I must keep moving forward.
It’s taken me years but I’ve almost managed to escape the clutches of drama. Sometimes I get sucked back in, but now I am aware of it happening, and I stop myself. I choose a different road. And, I when I need assistance, when I don’t feel strong enough to fight the urge, I stare at my arsenal of books on my bookshelves, and I remember what I’ve read, what I’ve learned, what I know is true.
A mistake repeated more than once is a decision. —Paulo Coelho.
I’ve always believed that my books are my friends, my support, my strength when I feel alone. Shelves stock full of poetry, prose, stories and lessons from people who have lived before me, from people who are wiser than me, from people who can impart knowledge about things that I could never imagine. People who willingly share their thoughts with me, who open up and let me peer into their world. Without writers, without books, without words on a page I would get sucked back in to the drama, to the patterns that lead to a life of suffering. Deeper and deeper into a quicksand of self-defeating, self-sabotaging, self-pitying behavior, opining over it with others who want to make sure I remain as miserable as them.
A trap is what it is. A trap we are firmly entrenched in. Our paradigm. I talk to my kids about others. No not like that. I try to explain how important it is to put yourself in other people’s shoes. I talk about damaged people. I talk about drama. I also talk about success and “The Ten Habits of Highly Effective People.” I talk a lot. They roll their eyes. They say “We know Mama.” And sometimes I wonder if they hear me. But, as a copywriter and graphic designer, I know people have to see and hear things over and over again for it to really sink in. So I keep talking.
I talk about our special world. Our family. And how different we are from other families. All families are different. And not just a little different, but HUGELY different. I talk to them about how I’ve drowned them in my beliefs. Suffocated them in family rituals. And why it’s so important for them to understand that not every family is like ours.
I won’t let them my children go blindly into the world, donning their rose-colored glasses. I’ve attempted to rock their boat. Shift their paradigm. Keep them on their toes.
I usually accost them at the dinner table or in the car with a deluge of questions I shoot at them so fast they don’t have time to answer:
- Did you know that many families do not eat dinner together every night?
- Did you know that some children eat at McDonalds every night?
- Did you know that some children don’t even eat dinner because their family can’t afford to feed them?
- Did you know that some children get bullied by their parents?
- Did you know that some children have been severely injured by their parents, on purpose?
- Did you know that some children are never told “I love you” by their parents?
- Did you know that some children never feel loved growing up?
- Did you know that some children don’t have a bed to sleep on, clean sheets to curl up in, a home where they feel safe?
- Did you know that …?
I pose questions like these to them because I want them to understand that how our family lives, how we are, what we do every day, how often they bathe, what time they go to sleep, what TV shows they are allowed to watch or not watch, what devices they have or don’t have, what car they are driven to school in are all a part of their bubble. Their paradigm.
Through our family paradigm grows a belief system and through that belief system a whole lot of bullshit gets formed in their minds and damn if it doesn’t skew their perspective. In fact, it does more than that; it becomes their reality and that reality is how they view the world. It’s their starting point. Their nest. Their diving board.
Everyone views this world with our own set of skewed, bubble lenses, I tell them. If we aren’t careful, that very lens—how we see things, our reality—is the very bullshit that can derail us, keep us from seeing clearly, keep us from moving forward, keep us from fulfilling our destiny.
How do I know? I’ve seen it firsthand in myself, just read my “Note to Self: Wear the Hat” article.
I tell my children what I tell myself, that there will always be haters, there will always be obstacles, there will always be people to stand in your way, to knock you down, to kick you while you are down, to try to get in your head, hurt you, shame you, derail you. ALWAYS. But here’s the thing, as an adult, I know I’ve got no one to blame but me, myself and I. Instead of blaming others for my life, I take a look in the frickin’ mirror and remind myself that my life is my responsibility. And if I don’t love myself, no one else will either.
I mean if I can’t love myself how can others love me? I don’t let them. I’ve learned that I have to have respect for myself. Because, if I can’t respect myself why should anyone else? I’ve learned that I have to know myself. That was the hardest part of all. If I don’t know myself, I can’t know what I want. I can’t know why I want it. My true motivations. I can’t know anything. And, others certainly can’t know me. Not the real me. And here’s the rub, what I thought I knew about myself, what I thought I heard or didn’t hear, what I thought I saw, what I thought was happening, well, most of the time, I was wrong.
A wise man once said to me “Don’t take anything personal.”
That was the best advice I have ever been given. It was at that moment that I realized that I was creating my own drama. Every human sees the world with themselves at the middle. Standing there like the sun, with all the planets rotating around them. Some of us think they rotate for us, and we get really upset when somebody does something “to us.” I thought that. All the time. My insecurities got in the way of me achieving my goals. My assumptions got in the way of having healthy relationships. My beliefs, more often than not, prevented me from getting on, and staying on the track toward my destiny. This one statement, “Don’t take anything personal,” changed everything. It put me on a different path. When I stopped living life like the world was out to get me, and stopped asking “why does this keep happening to me,” things began to turn around. Not noticeably like a slap in the face. No I didn’t wake up one morning on a bed of roses. But, it became my mantra – every time someone said or did something I repeated to myself, “Don’t take it personally. It’s not about you. It’s their shit. It’s stuff they are trying to work out. It’s not about you.” Then once I stopped focusing on others and realized that no one was doing anything “to me,” I had to look in the mirror, because I had no one to blame but myself.
And I began to “do the work” on myself. It’s been a long road, and it hasn’t been easy but it’s improving, and I am in control. And that feels great! Yes, I still have bad days. Yes, bad things still happen to me. Yes, I still get derailed. BUT I have the tools I need to bring me back, to hold myself accountable, to be successful.
We all deserve to live a meaningful, fulfilling life, free of drama.Drama is no longer my silent killer. Don’t let it be yours.
3 Must Read Books to Cut Drama out of your life and Live the Life Your are Meant to Live
These books changed my life and helped me move past blame, let go of drama, buckle down and focus on becoming the best person I can be.
1. “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People” by Stephen Covey
This book has helped me in many ways, but something that stuck with me was the way the author described concerns that more often than not bog me down. He calls it the Circle of Concern. The author talks about how many people get wrapped up in all of their concerns and I mean ALL of their CONCERNS from their immediate family to extended family, to their past, present, future, to cruelty to animals, world hunger, bad drivers, parents at school, school environments, EVERYTHING. AND he tells you to write every single concern you have down in a huge circle. THEN he tells you to make a new smaller circle and put all the stuff in there that you can influence. Brilliant. His point, if we all just focus on what we can INFLUENCE and work on that, we will be a whole lot more productive and guess what … influential. Yes, that’s correct. As you work on what you can influence, your circle of influence expands. I like to think of the politics analogy. Start small, in your local district, do what you can for your people locally, and then word spreads and pretty soon you are a Senator. Not that this is my desire, it’s just a good analogy.
2. “Loving What Is” by Bryon Katie
This book states that the ONLY business you need to be in is your own business. Not your friend’s business, and not God’s business. So what does that mean? Well, to wrap it up in a neat little bow, the bottom line is … you should work on yourself FIRST and stop trying to work on everyone else. Stop judging everyone around you and take a look in the mirror. Realize that you are ATTRACTING what you are given, and it’s not everybody’s else’s fault that you are where you are. Realize that, however, painful it might be, it’s time to be accountable. It’s time to say, “I am responsible for my life.”
I use to spend an awful lot of valuable time concerned with what other people were doing. My husband, my children, my friends, my neighbors, my mother, my father, my brother, my sister, you name it. And I worried too. I worried about what they thought of me. I worried about how they would react if I said something. I worried about what they would think of me. I worried about what I should and shouldn’t do. I assumed I knew what they were thinking, feeling, needing. I projected a lot. I never asked, just assumed. I also felt slighted a lot. Byron Katie’s book is a miracle worker. It’s a short book, with a lot of worksheets. She calls her exercises “The Work.” She even has a website called thework.com. Brilliant. And so are her “Judge Your Neighbor” worksheets. Brilliant.
3. “Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie
This author helped me realize that it’s not my responsibility how other people react. That’s their business. I can’t worry about what they think. I have to say how I feel, and if they don’t like it, well, I’m sorry, that’s how I feel. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t sit around saying hurtful things. I’m respectful, but I have boundaries. Let me tell you boundaries are TOUGH! To think of yourself first, before anyone else. That just means you are selfish right? That’s how I was raised. That’s been my belief for years. I come last. My feelings and thoughts come last. But then I realized WAIT that is BULLSHIT. My boundaries are valid. Just because the person I’m expressing them to isn’t comfortable with boundaries doesn’t mean I have to forget about why I voiced my thoughts in the first place. Or drop my boundaries just to take care of their needs. Their reactions are theirs to have. I’m not saying I can’t acknowledge their feelings. Have empathy. Show some understanding. But, I realized I no longer needed to be a caretaker. A loving, caring person yes but not a caretaker. Learning to know the difference is a daily struggle.
Reach out to me on Twitter and let me know if any of these books changed your life. I’d love to hear from you. @marlacarlton