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38 - Don’t Let Them Use You

An incredibly challenging year for me.
The lesson this year has been: negative energy + negative energy ≠ positive outcome.
37- Absence

I feel like I say this every year: it was an incredibly challenging year for me.

One of the best signs of that being the case was how often I heard the phrase, “Don’t let them use you.” At work and with my daughter, it continued to be brought up by different people. The one common thread was that I was too nice, gave in too easily, and allowed people to walk over me.

I’ve never seen it that way though. I’ve always believed I was aware of my decisions to go a little further than was expected of me to make something happen, or agreed to do something for my daughter that she really wanted. I do things because I feel good doing them. A lot of times, people say those words with the intention of guiding me through a difficult time. What happens is that it makes me feel dumb. Those words imply that I don’t know what I’m doing, that I can’t see what the other person is doing to me.

It’s quite the opposite.

There have been countless times this year where I faced a lot of frustration and stress. Each time I’ve felt more or less in control of my emotions and actions. I didn’t feel helpless in my choices or regret anything even if it didn’t work out. I did my best to take on challenges, not avoid them completely.

And as 2017 comes to a close and I celebrate my 38th birthday, I feel like I’m making some headway in this journey called life.

I haven’t been able to write nearly as much as I would like because of a lot of these challenges I’ve faced with work and life, so perhaps a quick rundown of the year is in order, with an emphasis on myself.

I’ve been licensed as a property manager for nearly two years now. I thought working in hotels for several years would give me a lifetime of stories to share- I was wrong. Property management has given me a wealth of stories and experiences to share that have a lot more depth to them. Hotels gave me glimpses into people’s lives through a keyhole; property management is a fly on the wall.

I’ve heard about arguments in relationships, difficulties at work, excuses galore on why someone can’t pay rent, and walked through a person’s life while going through their space and trying hard not to criticize how a person lives. I’ve had contracts end after doing a lot of work to improve a property over nearly a year, and contracts end after a month because a tenant didn’t want to work with me. Oh, and I can’t forget about Teddy Bear Lodge. That’s a story (really, stories) for another day.

Through all the hours on the road and sky high phone bills the past year, I feel as though I’m on the cusp of achieving something with this career.

I said this last year, too, but now I truly believe it.

I wish I could say the same about my dating life. The energy used towards work depleted my desire to seriously look at dating websites and apps. I did manage a few dates through the year though. It turns out that being a single dad and working more than full time hours makes for a rather poor dating life.

I can’t lie and say I’m completely fine with this part of my life though. It has been frustrating, especially given the relationship history of my parents and most of my uncles and aunts, having been all married over 35 years. My sister has been married six years, my brother has been married a year but in his relationship over ten years. And then there’s me: single dad of over six years.

It’s tough.

I dread answering, “How long have you been single, James?” I don’t have a good answer. It’s the one thing I can’t really answer for anyone, including myself. But, as things settle down with work, maybe, just maybe, I can devote more energy to finding someone next year, or, at the very least, allow someone into my life. Stay tuned.

In the mean time, I enjoy what I have in my life as much as I can. I don’t have much happening outside of work besides my family life with my daughter and parents, and that’s okay. Deemphasizing the dating side of my life has allowed me to focus once more on reading and watching shows that interest me. Mindfulness and stoicism remain at the top of my reading list the past two years. The Daily Stoic has been a wealth of material to read through and study on a daily basis, both from the email and the book. I’ve found that the daily reminder to take everything as it happens and not react emotionally has strengthened my resolve in some trying times this year.

Other than those two subjects, I have branched out once more to explore other areas of interest: marketing, productivity, tyranny, rent control, writing, and Mussolini’s airship. In addition, I’ve started reading Harpers magazine once more. Why I keep stopping that habit, I’ll never know, because it’s almost always a joy (in the sense of enjoying the writing) to read. A cup of coffee, me in my Lazeboy chair, and Hapers magazine on a Sunday morning is my perfect weekend morning.

Regardless of the topic, reading has helped ground me after a stressful day or week. It’s helped me set aside the work day and refocus on something that matters more: me.

By finding that balance between work and my personal life, everything feels like it is coming together for me. It took 38 years, but I feel more in control of my life than I have ever before.

I normally finish with a song that I have loved and felt is a summary of the past year. I couldn’t decide on just one, so have two:

37 – Absence

36 – What Took You So Long

35 – A Reflection

34 – Discover the Somatic Markers

33 – Unknowables

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