Forgiveness, Empathy, Self-Care, and the Power of Boundaries.

To meet Sarah is to feel kindness. Deep within her eyes, you get an immediate sense of empathy and understanding. In fact, she has the keen ability to pick up on the signs of someone struggling. Sarah’s approach is simple yet impactful.

Tell me what’s really going on and there’s no judgement.

Even with this incredible ability to empathize, which she credits to her mom and step dad as well as a ton of life experiences, Sarah admits the empathy pendulum swings too far sometimes. She has had to learn what it looks like to be empathetic and still find the power of boundaries.

To hear Sarah is an executive at Adobe, founded Linking Indy Women, has four amazing kids, and owns an awesome house in Brownsburg, IN, it would be easy to think life has been a series of good fortune. On the contrary, Sarah has walked through darkness, learned-pivoted-found the joy, walked through more darkness, learned-pivoted-found the joy, and so on.

Even through this, her warm smile says it all. You can do it too.

My hope is you take away a supportive nugget for yourself in Sarah sharing her story of forgiveness, empathy, self-care, and the power of boundaries.

Power of Boundaries- selfie image of woman with blonde wavy hair, big smile, kind eyes

BACKGROUND

Sarah comes from a big family including two sisters from her mom and biological father as well as two half sisters and a half brother from her father and stepmother. Sarah discussed her father:

I don’t take mental health for granted. There were signs for sure of something off with him even when I was a child. For instance, keeping a steady job was a struggle. He had to spend time in a mental hospital after he and my stepmom got together. In truth, his struggles with mental health continued throughout his life, even including homelessness in the later part until his death a few years ago. As heartbreaking as parts of this journey have been, it also gave me the keen ability to pick up on when people are struggling.

Sarah’s compassion for the situation was evident. Additionally, she shared her mom and step dad always taught them to look deeper than someone’s actions. This ultimately led her to be able to forgive her father and his situation, and approach through the lens of – you don’t know the struggle anyone is going through.

Sarah talks with so much love about her step dad.

My mom was a psychiatric nurse and my step dad is just an incredible person. Both of them take an approach with care to people. My step dad quickly became dad to not only my older sisters and I, but also to all of our friends. They taught us to look deeper than someone’s actions. 

For Sarah, mental health is a spiritual thing. Furthermore, believing the spirit can be disconnected from the mind. Feeling as though a person’s character doesn’t always reflect who they are inside.

As her biological father’s mental health continued to decline in Sarah’s adolescent and college years, Sarah and her sisters became closer to their two half sisters and half brother.

It was so foreign at first to go on camping trips with my dad where we were getting to know my siblings in Ohio we didn’t see much. But over time, we’ve bonded and are all now really close. We just had a big Halloween party together which was something my mom and stepdad did for years. I’m now trying to make sure we continue this tradition.

Sarah’s mom passed away in September of 2020.

Power of Boundaries- woman with her four children all dressed in black for funeral. Smiling and posing for picture.

MARRIAGE, DIVORCE, AND FINDING SELF

Sarah shared about her first marriage.

We were very young and frankly, he was controlling of me. Down to things such as not allowing me to have my own money. I knew the situation was not healthy.

Sarah left the situation and started over, but admits to not taking enough time to find herself first. Getting in a quick relationship, consequently they married and eventually parted ways.

She describes her own growth over the last 9 years since the divorce.

I stepped back and finally took the time to figure out what I wanted. Who I am. First off, it was key to learn the power of boundaries. Boundaries have been a journey and still continue to be, but I’m in a much different place now than I was then.

A big part of the learning and growth was realizing how co-dependent she had become, in particular through the years of marriage. After starting with a therapist, she also began to lean on friends and family to call out behaviors of co-dependency if they saw them.

While this sounds like a great idea, she reminds anyone reading this that in order for it to work, you have to be OPEN TO HEARING IT.

I did not always receive that feedback great (said through laughter), but eventually I did. It continues to be an ongoing conversation, not only with boundaries, but also other areas I’m actively working on myself.

POWER OF BOUNDARIES

As she worked on boundaries and co-dependency, she is happy to say she doesn’t see the co-dependency behaviors really any more.

Additionally…

A yes is a yes that I WANT to do.

Sarah described life before boundaries feeling a bit like playing a part in a movie. Furthermore, a feeling of not being over her own agency.

To suddenly step out of living life in a movie and instead live on her own terms she describes as very freeing.

Of course, as you exercise the power of boundaries, it gets easier to recognize and adjust.

However, she continues to learn, grow, and evolve. Even as recent as the Halloween party this year, she realized her boundaries and especially expectation setting weren’t where she wanted them to be.

I should have set better expectations with everyone and put people in charge of various parts of the party. Someone on trash duty, someone in charge of the bonfire, another running the costume contest, someone on food re-fill, etc. I felt very overwhelmed at one point and realized it was because I hadn’t asked for help or told people where they could step in. Trying to do it all. All of my family will have roles next year to help. I was so busy running around, I even forgot to put out the additional lasagna I had ordered from  Send a Friend Lasagna!

My take-away from this though was Sarah’s ability to not get angry or upset with the lack of help. Rather she took inventory of the situation, realized what was off for her, and spoke to her family about it. Creating a plan through expectation setting. In fact, all are now on board for next year.

LIFE LESSONS TO HER KIDS

As mentioned, Sarah has four amazing kids. Evan is 24, a scientist working in a local lab. Emma is 22 and works for a tech company. Additionally, she made Sarah a grandma! Sarah’s eyes sparkle as she speaks about grandson Emmett. Luke is 20 and attends UIndy studying finance. And then there is Noah, who is 13.

Noah was recently diagnosed with aspergers. Sarah described the discovery of this diagnosis as being one of those situations where you truly don’t understand what someone is going through. What’s going on internally. In addition, not to judge their actions.

Noah, up to this point, wasn’t particularly a high performer in school. Upon this diagnosis though, they realized he is high ability and has a really high IQ. He’s been moved to honors courses and is now thriving. His acting out in class before related to being bored with the content, not intentionally disruptive to be rude. They are still adjusting to what the diagnosis means for them but are thrilled to be headed in what feels like the right direction.

She described the Lacey family as “a therapy family.”

We’ve talked about mental health as a family since the kids were little. And it’s continued conversation. Each generation learns from the previous and evolves. I was taught to look deeper than someone’s actions. Lead with empathy. Then I added in the power of boundaries for my kids.

Sarah went on to describe some situations in her youth where her own mom could have benefitted from some boundaries coupled with her empathy. With the benefit of hindsight, Sarah uses this as a teaching moment that you can still show empathy but have boundaries. Keep an eye on how far the pendulum is swinging.

You can help someone but you don’t have to let them into your home… or marry them (said through laughter).


Power of Boundaries- family picture of woman with two grown sons, one grown daughter, and a teenage son. All smiling with a wreath in the background

Luke, Emma, Sarah, Noah, and Evan.


 

SELF-CARE

With the holidays coming up and the hustle and bustle of ALL THE THINGS, I asked Sarah for advice on self-care and sanity in this busy time.

It’s important to remember it’s your holiday too! It’s your magic season too so don’t forget that. We get so caught up that it has to be perfect. Frankly, it’s liberating while simultaneously challenging to say – I’m a part of this too.

Dr. Ina Wilson shared at the September Linking Indy Women event, “None of this matters if I’m crazy!”

Dr. Ina was speaking in reference to life and entrepreneurship. Meaning, she can’t provide for her family and do the things she needs to/wants to if she’s not mentally healthy.

Sarah and I laughed about how that was perfect for everyone to hear as we head into the holiday season.

Additionally, self-care means so many things to so many people. For Sarah, it’s rooted in therapy and talking to others who will challenge her awareness. She naturally gravitates to people she learns from. However, this again takes being open to those opportunities for growth.

Find your version of self-care and embrace it.

SUMMARY – FORGIVENESS, EMPATHY, SELF-CARE, AND THE POWER OF BOUNDARIES

I could sit and talk to Sarah for hours. We didn’t even get into her passion for Linking Indy Women… the networking event she started over 12 years ago to bring women together monthly and share their inspiring stories. Make sure to check that out!

Sarah’s approach in life, whether business or personal, is one of empathy, forgiveness, and grace.

If I go into every conversation with people believing they have the best intent, it makes me happier.

This approach now coupled with understanding the power of boundaries supports her in keeping the pendulum from swinging too far.

Don’t take mental health for granted.

Couple your empathy with boundaries for your own well-being.

Surround yourself with people who will call out behaviors you are working on adapting.

You can do it too.

Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your inspiring story with The Mom Huddle!

 

When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you’re not saying ‘no’ to yourself. 

– Paul Coelho

 

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