The insight and self-awareness that I am experiencing during this Covid wave rushes in and washes over me like a tidal surge. It flattens me and recedes with my skin feeling prickly and exposed, my bones and brain battered. I stand wondering where to start on the cleanup, the putting back together. I’m left wondering what is beyond salvage and needs to be discarded?

As we are once again warned to isolate and trust no one to get close, I am challenged by the attitude of “why bother?” No one is going to see me. See it. See them. I find I am doing an uncomfortable audit of how I spend my time and energy. How much do I do because it’s important for others to see? How much of my effort is invested in maintaining my appearance for others? In making and doing to gain praise and approval from others? How would I live if no one was watching?

I’ve had momentary glimpses. Dotted with moments of less stress and anxiety are states of demotivation and sloth. The trail of where I’ve been in the house evident in the clutter and groupings of “unfinished” left behind. Our pool table a collage of unfolded laundry, spare and unclaimed chargers and cords, lengths of Christmas lights in need of double-A batteries, and pieces of red satin ribbon that might come in handy. The empty pizza boxes are hidden in the fireplace. The leggings that look like I’m still in them are laying on the floor, the outline of my knees and rear end slack in its permanence.

I’ve always managed inhumane energy when there was a deadline. Now the 25th doesn’t even feel like a deadline. And it seems there will be few–if any–people to reflect back to me the value of my efforts. The tentacles of a little girl’s need for praise, external worthiness, and validation wrap around me. They pull me back into inertia so that I am protected from the silence, the absence. And I am left to ponder: What if I did all this work, went to all this effort, and nobody noticed?

I am working on the answer to this question. I know that reliance on others for self-worth is the dark art of handing over my power. I know that only doing things for others and devaluing myself is a subtle form of self-abuse. Needing so much from others is exhausting for everyone.

I found myself dragging my daughter around the house yesterday. Doing a guided tour of festive decorating, the trees, the centrepiece. Too needy to even wait for her to notice and issue a compliment. She just wanted a cup of tea and a visit. Knowing the underbelly of my insecurities is the beginning of a shift for me.

My empowerment lesson includes measuring my energy and commitment in terms of the level of fulfillment to self and loved ones. Or whether it is of consideration and service to others. It turns out they are not mutually exclusive. There just needs to be some of each. I am spending less time curating my image, my home, and my life for the outside world. If no one ever saw it/them/me, would I still want to do it? There’s freedom and relief in not parceling out energy to the judges and juries. Even though they are dressed up as colleagues, friends and family. There’s a rush of warmth in creating beauty just because.

There’s a powerful affirmation in taking care of yourself because you’re worth it. There’s an incredible energy in giving and doing for others because they’re worth it. There’s contentment in shaping your world because it’s worth it.

At least, that has been my experience.