A Season of Decluttering: New Mindset for Relationships

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There are patterns I’m trying to make sense of. The question of why these relationships keep fleeting in the same manner, turns out, was the wrong one. That question left me in a never-ending loop, running around myself over and over again. I was circulating the problem, not unraveling it. A cosmic joke of sorts that I was the center of. What I’ve come to understand as of lately is that the question instead is, why do I continue to distract myself and hide within relationships when that space in my life is trying so hard to clear up for something else? Perhaps something more lasting? Something greater.

Since I was a child and acquired the same amount of frustration as I do now, my mother always responded with the same answer: “There is a time for everything. What you’re wanting, you will get. But this time, right now, it’s meant for something else. That time will come, too.” She was always annoying that way, you know, with her wisdom and such. I am socially inclined to roll my eyes at that. What does she know? Adolescent me wasn’t too fond of that response either.

But then came the time to reflect. The time where therapy found me instead of myself looking for it. Silly 21 year old me assumed that after those 4 years of therapy, after changing as much as I did, and after moving across the country and calling an end to what felt like a very significant chapter of my life, I must now be done. That this is it. I learned what I was meant to learn and now, I could be free and happy and satisfied all the time. I was finished the process of ‘becoming’. Ha. Ha. HA.

Moving to Vancouver, I found myself in a stream of relationships. I kept finding people, and not just regular people, but my people. It felt like a river of blessings being thrown at me. Friendships like the ones I’ve formed here are so different than any I’ve ever experienced. The partners I had, they were reflective of the type of person I was. It was strange for me, mostly because I was very happy being my introverted self, reading, writing, strolling along sidewalks and discovering new places to venture off to. But suddenly I wasn’t doing any of that alone anymore.

Everything in our lives is a preparation for what is to come. I wondered why after a period of intensive solitude, I was suddenly met with so much social activity. I mean, the last season of my life was spent in a cave of my own thoughts, writing the first draft of a novel and mourning over the loss of most of my friendships and relationships. But I went with it, as I try my best to do with most changes. I liked it even, so much so, that I let myself get used to all this new love I was stumbling upon.

If that is not foreshadowing enough, I’ll put it simply: Always be open to uncertainty. No, I don’t think that the answer is to “never get comfortable with things” or to forbode joy by any means. Trust me, I’ve tried that nonsense out for myself and it’s no good. But, for someone who has a mindset of being open to growth and change, it means your life will also come with a lot of hard lessons and endings.

Pain is the greatest teacher. I invite her in, always. I let her sit next to me for as long as she needs so that I can learn what I have to learn and relieve myself from having to repeat the same lesson over and over again. But still, my stubborn nature likes to resist certain lessons, especially when it comes to love and career…and friendships…and okay, pretty much everything.

I AM TRYING. I promise.

So what is the lesson here, right now? Why did a flood of people come into my life, only to leave again? Why is it that I cannot bare staying in one place for so long before my legs get itchy and I know it’s time to move again? Why did history repeat itself but with better people? Within a better place? Amidst a different version of myself?

Well, I suppose it’s because these endings were met with confrontation, tears, and sitting side by side with discomfort instead of avoidance — something I didn’t think I was capable of doing before. These endings were all met with saying the truth out loud and saying it in a way that is respectful, firm, and loving all at once (because I realized that there is such a way to do that).

Life is a series of endings and beginnings. It doesn’t mean we have to begin to walk into any sort of relationship with the prospect of its end. But instead, we do have to go in with an open mind. What is there to learn here? What value can I bring to this person and what value are they bringing me? For whatever amount of time that this is meant to last, how can we work together to bring each other to a greater place than where we stood prior to our meeting?

From getting used to this cycle of relationships, it’s so easy to get caught up in needing some sort of replacement right away. Find new people, find new friendships, find new partners. Something, something, now. You can get so caught up in it that you may even find yourself feeding off of others like they’re a bad drug habit. And what a great way to attract the right kind of people, right?

I guess, as my mother would say, there is a time for everything and just because you lost a lot in one area in your life, doesn’t mean you need to fill that exact space up right away. That time will come, but you don’t have to try so hard to do it now. And maybe replacing or trying to fill that area isn’t the answer. Maybe this space in my life is trying to clear out for something else, something I can’t even think of right now. Perhaps an expansion of another area of life is in order.

That’s what I’m choosing to believe, only because this frame of thought has gotten me this far and I’m sure it will take me farther.

Spectrum of Consistency: The Power People Hold Over Us

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It’s funny that the posts I intend to write are never the ones that end up being written – at least right away. There’s usually something else on my mind, something deeper that I have to dive into. Something I haven’t acknowledged in my conscious state that finds its way through this mode. Today I was hoping to talk about shame in relation to work, which is definitely coming soon, but instead, I’m going to discuss power. Specifically, I’ll be talking about the power people hold over you. Or rather, the power we allow people to hold over us.

Power is an interesting thing. As a child and growing up, I recognized it as something fatalistic; an egoic way of being. If your life were directed towards gaining power, then you were likely on the wrong path. I understood power in relation to anger. Both of them must coincide, I assumed, mostly because that’s the way I saw it play out in my own home. Power was inflated with money and anger. Power instills fear in others. In the spectrum of a black and white world, power is the most negative of them all.

As I grew, I found myself battling others in a way that I refused to let them have power over me. I was a variation between a pushover and someone who was obstinate. I became better and better at catching someone when they were trying to take advantage of me. In the same respect, I put myself down every time I let it slide and forgave them without even acknowledging the matter of fact. In some cases, I find that I really was getting better at recognizing the parasites I allowed into my life. In other cases, I was only inflating my triggers.

I was an extremist – either letting people walk all over me or cutting them out cold. There was no room for compromise. In my world, there was no reason for it to exist at all. I like giving everything I have to the people I love, but I found that I often attracted those who simply liked to take. So my theory of power therefore was proven time and time again.

In psychology, this sort of behaviour is theorized as the confirmation bias – aka, as the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of your existing beliefs or theories. I was looking for these people, attracting them, for the sole purpose of remaining consistent in my belief.

These people in my life were power-hungry, I imagined. That must be the case. And I, aloof, ignorant, and not nearly as self-aware as I am today, can only continue to get caught in their web. There are only two types of people in the world: Those who want power, and those who want freedom. I, of course, fell on the latter. That’s the way I understood things to be. It was easy, simple, and black and white. But now I understand that it’s also not true.

I think I reached a point where I was willing to be more openminded with what power can actually mean. And from there, I learned that power has its own spectrum and that spectrum is dependant on intentionality. The truth is, there is nothing simple about what this word really means and similar to success, it can vary from person to person, depending on their beliefs and experience in the world. But in general, I think of power as the ability to have an effect on others whether that’s on a small or large scale.

If that’s true, then where power is rooted from is really who you are, because as we all know, our energy transfers and connects. Our effect on others, therefore, is contingent on our relationship with ourselves. Funny how everything always trickles down to this.

Whether we are aware of it or not, we have an effect on every person we meet, and even those we just walk next to on the street. We have an effect on our friends, our family, our partners, our neighbours, our co-workers, our clients. That is power. How we use that, and what we use it for, well, that’s dependant on our own nature. It’s easy to presume a negative connotation of power, but it’s like the sun. It can give you nutrients. It can shine light on your day. It has been proven to have a huge effect on your mood. But then again, it can also burn you. It can blind your eyes. It can do a lot of damage. But experiencing any of these results doesn’t make us turn to the sun and instill some sort of persona upon it. It just is what it is. Not good or bad, but whatever you make of it.

Another example being money – something many of us, myself included, have had a negative mindset about or maybe still do. But money is just a resource. How you use it is dependant on you.

When I understood ‘power’ in that same manner, it felt like everything shifted for me. For one, I didn’t feel like I had to submit to weakness only to avoid being egotistical. And secondly, I felt this sort of strength within myself (that was always there) finally find a space to expand itself. Having this belief system not only meant holding myself back, but it also meant actively suppressing certain parts of myself simply out of fear.

Like Leon Brown once said, “It all begins and ends in your mind. What you give power to, has power over you, if you allow it.”

The Unprecedented Life: Dissecting the Meaning of Comfort and Boredom

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Do you ever find yourself in the midst of excitement, inspiration, or just pure happiness and all of a sudden, not know what to do with yourself? Like suddenly you are ready to fly off the roof, dance around your apartment, sing in your shower, write that chapter, make that craft, or do that thing you were wanting to do for so long, but you just don’t know where to begin? You get so caught up in the emotion of it all that you reach a place of odds within yourself and start to wonder, ‘what now?’

I find the “what nows” to be the most problematic questions of them all. It begins the ever-looping game of self-destruction: a game that simply cannot be won. And most often, when you find yourself there, it becomes another tactic of foreboding joy. Fear is sneaky that way. It takes on many masks. It encloses you into a world of stagnancy and the possibility of a life outside of the one you are living becomes more and more distant. The funny thing is, in conversation, we have shaped this notion into something else entirely, only so we are able to justify why we are living in such a way. Suddenly boredom has become comfort.

So let’s talk about it. What exactly is comfort? Well, it’s defined as a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint.

Boredom, on the other hand, is defined as to tire or make weary by being dull, repetitious, or uninteresting.

The first point I’d like to make is that I have absolutely no idea how these two words began to encompass the same state of being. And second, I would argue that neither of these are bad places to be. Before you think I’m a lunatic, just hear me out for a minute!

I think boredom has a purpose, but not the one we’re conventionally used to understanding. Rob Bell says it perfectly in his podcast, where he explains that we used to have small gaps in our lives. Maybe the moments we were waiting in the doctor’s office for our checkup or waiting for your food to arrive at a restaurant, walking to work, etc. It’s in these moments where we have some free time to actually reflect and process what is going on with us. And within those moments of boredom, creativity is often born. Nowadays, however, we find ourselves filling those gaps with checking our phones, our email, texting, scrolling. We don’t have that same time to process, reflect, and digest our days. It’s such an insightful podcast and I’d definitely recommend giving it a listen!

 

When we talk about comfort, what I understand of it is that we are talking about an acceptance and a sense of knowing. Comfort does not always have to mean a sense of familiarity, though it can. But it can also mean knowing yourself completely and therefore, knowing what and who you need to surround yourself with, what you need at any given moment, and how to be still with yourself. Comfort means accepting where you are right now and encompassing this state of relaxation with your present self and this present moment.

When we dissect both of these words, we can understand that neither of them have the intention to create mundane lives for us. Neither of them are a war for us to battle. Both, however, do facilitate growth in some way, shape, or form.

When we ask the question of “what now?”, we’re talking in a place of dissatisfaction with our present state. We’re talking from a place where we haven’t gotten the chance to fully reflect on our days and ourselves. And we haven’t given our lives a chance to prove what the purpose of these moments are. Because if we were all to look back, there is a very distinct and subtle way in which the trajectory of our lives led us to who we were meant to become.

And something I continuously remind myself in moments where I step out of this comfort is a word by Hagrid, who once said, “What’s coming will come, and we will meet it when it does.”

Like Wildflowers: Of All the People We Are

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“Somedays
I am the flower.
Somedays,
I am the rain.”

– Pavana

As you can probably tell, I changed the look of this blog a little the other day. I wanted it to have the feel of a coffee shop that not a lot of people know about. The coffee shop that hides in plain sight and when you walk into it, it feels like home. I’ve been to my fair share of those and so when I was working on my logo and the theme, I wanted it to have that feeling attached to it. I don’t think I did such a bad job!

I went snowshoeing a few days ago and it was a pretty magical, and emotional experience. It was the first time I went back to the mountain where a past partner and I had memories climbing. The only difference was the season and how this time, I was going with someone new. I think that being aware of all my emotions during the hike up and why they were being brought up was crucial to how I got past them. I knew that this moment was reminiscent. It was a fragrance you wore years ago that when worn again, brought you back to a very specific point in your life.

Today will be spent learning how to ice skate, enjoying what remains of this winter before it’s time to move on completely. With that, I find that the weather changing has brought a lot of people back to life. The sun’s warmth, a reminder that it’ll always come back. That even when you forget, it’ll be there again. In that sense, the weather fluctuates but seasons hold on to this sort of consistency.

I guess we’re all like that: consistent and fluctuating. Growing whilst holding on to a sense of who we are and who we always were. I think that’s why I’ve always been interested in learning about people, why I took psychology in school, why I continue to research and communicate with people, listen and write about them. Human beings are so fascinating to me.

I feel as though I’ve stepped into yet another version of myself. That each version is getting closer to the person I’ve always been. That each discovery is bringing me back home. And with that comes a sense of freedom. Spring is coming and I believe it’s time again for all of us to take the lessons of winter and bloom once again.

It’s often said that every next level of your life will demand a different you, but every one of those people is closer to the person you were always meant to become.

Courtesy and Misconduct: When to Hold on to Relationships

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I get blinded very easily. Not to say that I trust easily, but when I do, everything turns cloudy. My black and white vision suddenly becomes grey and all I can see is their rightness, even if that means that I’m in the wrong.  I don’t have a lot of pride when it comes to the people in my life that I love. Everything that comes with social conduct falls away and all I want to do is protect them from anything and everything. Sometimes that meant holding their pain for them. Other times it meant standing up for them. And then, in those odd cases, it meant leaving them behind to protect them from me.

I’ve talked about how that’s often led me to stop their growth, but what I haven’t discussed much is my own aloofness. How all of this didn’t just harm the people I love, but it also hurt me. Distractions are funny that way. Some people wander over to binge watch tv shows, others scroll up and down their phones for hours; but for me, I focus on everyone else’s problems.

I’ve been thinking about being courteous lately. Dating someone new means that they don’t always fall in line with what you’ve been used to in the past. I’m not going to lie, it did bother me. When you’ve been with people who fall under the same line, it’s a strange thing to experience something new. New behaviour, new voices, new laughter, new ways of expression. It’s a funny thing to learn about another human, to get close to another human, and then on top of that, it’s even stranger when that human doesn’t match what you are used to.

So back to courtesy. I’ve been making attempts to dissect it and what it actually means, and what I’ve realized is that it is just following societal expectations. It might just mean looking for social cues to accommodate yourself to. There are rules to dating, unwritten ones and written ones that we tend to follow intentionally. But what happens when someone doesn’t? Would you rather them play the role of being courteous, or would you rather them be authentic?

What I’m trying to get at is that I think our expectations for people tend to hold us back from new experiences. I know that mine have and I know that sometimes they still do. I also know that we’ve skewed away from the meaning of some words like courtesy for example. Something that was intended to mean politeness towards others later became mangled with the notion of chivalry.

I’ve been working on setting my priorities straight, creating a mental and physical note on what is actually important to me in any relationship whether it be a friendship, a partner, a family member, etc. What are my non-negotiables and what am I able to withstand? What do I want versus what I actually need?

In making the effort of becoming more intentional with everything that I do, I also want to apply that towards who I surround myself with. Our people have a lot to do with how we feel, what we expect, and how we communicate and think for ourselves. As social beings, there’s no way to avoid the mixing of your energies – that is unless you decide to completely isolate yourself from all of humanity for the remainder of your life. Either way, if you plan on holding on to relationships, remember that who you let into your life is a choice and you can say no (which was a hard lesson for me to get a grip on).

When you learn to accept instead of expect, there are fewer disappointments. But when it comes to other human beings, I think we have to really become clear on ourselves first. I remember going through a time of transformation when it felt like everything in my life was being ripped away from me. But looking back, I see it now for what it was: a decluttering. Sometimes we need that, too. But I think that before that, we have to know what we need and before we know what we need, we have to know who we are. Because we are always becoming, there’s always going to be the ups and downs, changing and restructuring. That’s the hard part (and the interesting part).

I think to avoid all of that gunk, we choose to stick to the standard rules of expectations that were given to us. But easier doesn’t always mean better. And I would argue that it’s actually more painful to live that way. To shut everyone else out. To hold on to belief systems you never bothered to look in to.

As Ziad Abdelnour once said, time decides who you meet in your life, your heart decides who you want in your life, and your behaviour decides who stays in your life.

something to look forward to

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I don’t pay attention to the
world ending.
it has ended for me
many times
and began again in the morning.

– Nayyirah Waheed

It would be easy for me to say that things are going well, but I think it’s more truthful to say that I worked towards making them better. These past couple of months felt like they were testing me. Each day, a new battle for me to learn how to conquer. Everything felt like a challenge. Everything felt uneasy, breakable, and anything I felt I had, disposable. It was only until I took a trip back home a few weeks ago that I came back to my sense of gratitude. I guess literally looking at the life you left behind can do that for you sometimes.

We forget, a lot of times, our progress because it tends gets diminished by our day to day routines, just like we can’t notice the changes in our physical appearance until we look back at photos of what we used to look like. In that same sense, we can forget our spiritual, emotional, and intellectual progress. The changes are so slight each day that it’s only when we take a trip down memory lane that we realize we wouldn’t make the same decisions if we went back. That our mindset, our perspective, our outlook is just different. That we, as a whole, are new.

A friend told me something in passing and I don’t think her intention was to completely change the way that I think, because it never really is. But that’s exactly what it did. When telling her about my trip back to Toronto when I had initially booked it in spontaneous fashion, her response was, “That’s really good! It’s always nice to have something to look forward to.” Something about that struck a chord with me. It was like knowing something all along but finally clueing into what it actually means.

It’s always nice to have something to look forward to.

That was it. That was the answer I was looking for without even realizing the question that was hidden in my subconscious the whole time. The times in my life when I was happiest was when I had something to look forward to. And it didn’t always have to be big. It could be looking forward to going home and taking a nice, long bubble bath and reading. It could be writing. It could be trying out a new class which I’ve been doing a lot lately. It could be spending one-on-one time with a friend. It could be booking a trip or taking a long walk in the snowfall. But it’s always nice to have something to look forward to. More than that, it gives you a boost of energy, excitement, and enthusiasm when you have something to look forward to. It puts a beat to your step. It makes you dance awkwardly alone in your bedroom in the morning. It gives you hope. It gives you meaning and purpose.

I think a lot of times, at least speaking for myself, I tried (and still sometimes find myself trying) to create purpose and meaning in my life through accomplishments that are viewed as societally successful. But the truth is, the meaning of it all is to remember that all of this could be taken away from you at any moment. The meaning is that you get to make this time whatever you want it to be. The meaning is happiness and joy. To find it within yourself and then spread it like wildfire.

I’ve been really intentional about making it a point to have something to look forward to each week. I booked a trip to Hong Kong and then Thailand. I’m spending more time with friends that I have a strong meaningful connection with. I’m actively putting myself out there, taking dance classes, going to kickboxing, trying out different yoga studios and barre classes. I’m walking around in the snow I feel followed me here to Vancouver. I’m reading new books that are giving me life. I purposefully move myself to the other side of the street so that the sun can touch my face and I can rest in its warmth. I’m writing on this blog again. All of which are things I get to look forward to, each week and each day.

So you can say that things are going well, but the truth is, I am actively working on making them better. And it all starts with having something to look forward to.

When the Mirror Doesn’t Match: A Travel Back Into Time

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I like to think that the snow followed me here to Vancouver. While people walk with their sneakers and umbrellas in the air, not knowing how to deal with such weather, my eyes glisten wider than before. It feels like an opening. This sense of familiarity that traveled here solely for my own comfort.

I’m looking at life differently. I’m looking at it in a way where all my dreams can come to life. My own little heaven, a fantasy that lived in the depths of my mind for so long now feels like it can become plausible in reality, too.

For so long I felt accustomed to bitterness. “This is the way it is and therefore, this is the way it will always be,” I remember was once my mantra. My life challenged that thought, but not without resistance. My stubbornness tried so hard to get in the way. Like it preferred misery only because it meant I would be right.

That was years ago, but those memories don’t go away so easily. It would be simplistic for me to say they haunt me, but that would also mean that I am still under their control. The truth is, I’m not. Sometimes I worry I might become under it, but I think that for the most part, these memories hold me accountable. They remind me of a life that once was, that I now get the pleasure of comparing with, a life that now is.

I always felt like I got tested far more than the ordinary person. That sometimes life unfolded in a way that most would presume only to be acceptable on their screens. But once the show was over, they could close their laptops or televisions and get on with the rest of their day. I didn’t always have that luxury. But it’s egotistical of me to assume that I’m the only one facing this dilemma.

I’ve played the role of both the victim and the hero, back and forth. Both had their benefits, but both were also very fixated on holding me inside a box I didn’t always fit in to. That’s the problem with roles. They keep you stuck, trapped. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized this was the case. That the reason why my life seemed to be running in a constant loop was because I was caging myself into roles that encompassed parts of me but never told the whole story.

I found that I knew all too much about the people around me, but next to nothing about myself. There are points in all of our lives that are meant to grow us, or at least they give us the opportunity to. It’s up to you whether you want to take it or remain as you are.

It took me a while to even see that opportunity for what it was. To be honest, when it presented itself, it wasn’t exactly the way I’d imagined. It looked warped, crooked and imperfect. Nothing like I’d fantasized about. It didn’t appear like an opportunity, but rather it felt like an evacuation.

Sometimes, more often than not, I guess we need that push. We need the evacuation out of our current lives to get us to look at what else is even out there.

The good news is, I’m still looking and I don’t intend to stop.

An Illustrated Mind: The Reality of Time and Perception

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Time isn’t real, but emotions are. When we equate time to value, meaning and worth, we lose touch with what is actually true, which is how we feel. Time is a social construct, it’s man-made – but emotions aren’t. So when we invest more in time, meaning how long something lasts, how old we are, how short-lived an experience is, and try to force our emotions to be consistent with that, we are not investing in reality. We are investing in constructs. When we invest more in time, we invest less in our emotions and, therefore, we are investing less in our own truth.

I’ve had the flu for the past 2 weeks which is awful for any one of us to go through, but I would argue, even more awful for someone who likes to keep herself busy at all times. This period in the span of my life is actually fairly short, but whenever we are going through anything painful or draining, whether it be an experience, a sickness, or a mood, it seems to stretch time. We feel it’s longer even though the hours of the day remain the same.

After working on my health for so long and seeing so much progress for the past two years, I felt like a failure getting the flu. That is until I changed my mindset into looking at it as a challenge. This was a calling for me. A moment given to me so that I would be forced into paying more attention to my body instead of my ever-wandering mind. When this clicked, I realized I needed to stop everything. I did continue going to work but as soon as I came home, I would fill up on fluids: tea and lots of water. I would drink soup and up my vitamin C intake (a.k.a: more oranges for me!). I would sleep so early it didn’t make sense. Sometimes 5:30 or 6:00pm. I took a hot bubble bath each night and wouldn’t put any strain on myself. I wouldn’t stay near the screen for too long, I wouldn’t even read because it gave me a migraine. When I say I did everything I possibly could to take care of my body, I’m not kidding.

I’m not going to lie, it was a rough time for my mind. It wanted so badly to take back control so many times. It wanted me to get back into research. It wanted to read all the books. It wanted to write. It wanted to go to kickboxing. It wanted to go see my friends and go to social events that were happening in my area. It wanted so much but my body just needed rest and a whole lot of it!

What this period gave me was forced attention that was due for quite some time. It gave me time to reflect, to journal, to meditate, to sit with myself, and to process all the motions of last month that I haven’t given myself the time or space to do. So as awful as this period was and as horrible as I felt, is it strange to say that at the same time, it was the best thing for me? That I might even be grateful for getting sick?

Coming into yesterday and even today, I felt this surge. Like I’ve been struck by a lightning bolt of joy that I thought had forgotten about me. It’s been months since I’ve felt like this, but maybe I needed this time to get here.

Perception is a funny thing that way. How we perceive becomes how we understand our reality. It was only when I shifted from a negative thought pattern about getting sick to viewing it as an opportunity that everything seemed to come together. I’m starting to become more and more intentional about everything that I do and everything I put out. At the same time, I want to keep myself aware of everything that is given to me, whether it’s something not ideal like the flu, or something great. The thing is, nothing is objectively good or bad. It’s us that make that decision, and often instinctively.

Gratitude shouldn’t just be a reaction to getting what you want, but it’s more about noticing the little things and stubbornly look for the good, even in unpleasant situations. The flu isn’t pleasant, but it’s not the most unpleasant situation I could have been facing. It’s just some rubble on the road.

I guess with this post I wanted to place importance on paying attention to yourself. We get caught up in all the doing of things that we tend to forget that everything has its own lesson, it’s own message. The universe, God, life, or whatever you choose to call it, is always responding to you just like how you are always in conversation with it.

And, eventually everything connects.

Love and Duty: When They Intertwine and When One Shadows the Other

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A lot of my love comes from this sense of duty I have towards my people. It’s a very traditional and practical mode that I’ve both realized and come to terms with about myself. But then there’s the romantic in me that questions, “Do I love this person or do I feel obligated towards them?”

I didn’t realize this was a struggle of mine until fairly recently. How it makes sense the way I’ve been throughout my life. How dedicated and loyal I can be to people who I later understood were not good for me. And then as I became more and more self-aware, I learned how to create boundaries because as much as I felt this obligation towards them, I didn’t know if I loved them. And if I did, I didn’t know if they really loved me back.

It’s strange that I often find myself confusing both of these things, mostly because growing up, they came hand in hand for me. If I loved someone, I would care for them, I would sit into the night with their head on my shoulder and let them cry. I would wake up in dire hours of the night if they called to rant to me. I would bring medicine and soup if they were ill. I would support them through everything and give them all the love I had to offer. I pretty much tried to be everyone’s Lorelai Gilmore.

Here’s the problem with that: First, being that person for all of my friends and family is a big stretch of myself. Being young, I didn’t have much of an identity at that point. I never thought to look inside. And being a woman (because let’s be real, us women do this ALL the time), my identity then became a list of all the people I loved, and therefore, had an obligation towards. There was no self to uncover. I didn’t have time for that. I had duties to fulfill, people to heal.

You might guess why some of these relationships I had went south, really quickly. Well here’s the thing, when you do this for others, when you stretch your time for them and you do these small detailed things that often go unnoticed, the problem becomes that these gestures then become expected from you. When you are this person, you are then expected to always be this person and always make time to be this person for each and every person in your life. Sounds a tad exhausting, right? Especially because this is pre-self/spiritual discovery and taking out any toxic people from my life.

And another fun fact about me: I don’t like being told what to do. This part of me diluted a bit after my teenage years, but there still remains a part of me that rebels. I like doing these things for my people and though it was frustrating that over time, they became more and more unnoticed, I still felt this notion of duty that kept me going. It was the only when the expectations became more pronounced that led to this visceral reaction of mine.

What I didn’t like was when arguments were formed because I got busier with work or university. “Why aren’t you there for me anymore?” texts, followed by 10+ missed calls. It was getting ridiculous. But whose fault was this really? I mean, did I plant this on myself? Did giving all my time away to take care of everyone make them lose control when I wasn’t available as much as before? Or was I missing something about them that I was only perpetuating by babying them?

All these texts and calls from people who kept wanting things from me, but not one that ever really asked if I was doing okay. If I liked this new town I was living in. If I was enjoying university or what clubs I joined.

I don’t think these people are to blame. I mean, it’s always 50/50. In my past relationships, I avoided all talk about myself. I didn’t think I was interesting enough and then later, I was too much of a mess that I didn’t want to understand it. I didn’t even want to look at myself in the mirror.

But what happened when I became less available was that it gave me time to do just that, to look closely at myself. To realize that I was so broken and under a deep state of depression. That I was constantly anxious. That I was hurting everyone around me. That there was no way for me to be of help to others if I was so damaged myself.

And to those people in my life who needed me to give them more time, more love, more affection, more of myself, I hadn’t been helping them at all. I was merely a band-aid fix. I was helping them distract themselves from the root of the problem. I was trying to take everyone’s pain for myself so that I could deal with it and so that they didn’t have to. But by doing that, I was taking away what would indefinitely make them stronger and I was hiding from my own pain at the same time.

I don’t think my sense of duty is a bad thing. Actually, acts of service is just my love language. But for so long I had it all mixed up. I didn’t choose friends the right way. I felt obligated to everyone in my life even if they were toxic for me. I was hiding from my own pain and covering it up with everyone else’s. It was my own self-destruction as well as their’s. For a person who loves to problem solve and resolve things, it’s frustrating to know that I was just going in circles for so long.

As much as I want to be the superhero in everyone else’s lives, I understand now that I have to be the superhero of my own first. Everything you flourish into the world starts from within and I guess it took me a long time to learn that I can’t help anyone without helping myself. I can only love anyone as much as I love myself. And I can only heal others as much as I have healed me.

Belief Systems and Hypnosis: When Wounds Make Us Victims

Belief-Systems-And-Hypnosis

There is no avoidance of despair. There is only really an acceptance needed for it. It catches us at odd times of our lives, but these moments, this tribute it pays into our being is always beneficial.

There are sacred places we all travel to, but often times, they don’t feel so sacred. They feel rather brutal instead. They challenge our every thought, every belief system we had in place for ourselves. They leave us isolated, fending for someone, something, anything really. They give us space we wish didn’t have to feel so empty in. And they are slow moving. Time seems to take a sudden hit and becomes silly putty, stretching to no end. We panic. We try to escape. But there is no exit. There is only us.

I’ve tried to escape myself so many times it feels habitual. Over the years, I’ve molded myself differently, created boundaries where they were needed, and held myself accountable for my own lack of judgments. What I once thought to be true was that there were some wounds that just needed more time. I’d been doing the work but maybe it just wasn’t the right moment for healing.

But what I’ve come to understand is that looking at our memories, our past pains and our stories as ‘wounds’ doesn’t create much resolution for them. It just lets us remain the victim. And as long as we’re the victim, we are also hopeless.

Instead, I’m beginning to really dig deeper into the belief systems I have in place from these wounds. Ones that have shaped not only how I’ve lived my life, but also how I continue to look at life in the present moment. They shape how we look at ourselves, how we react to conversations or behaviours from others.

A couple of months ago, I went to go see a hypnotherapist. My discovery of Groupon had me trying all of the things and this one caught my eye right off the bat. I’m not going to lie, I was skeptical, but I was also challenged by a lot of high recommendations. When I went, Adrian (my hypnotherapist) explained the process. That he believed in rewiring our brains to positive thinking which is supposed to be our natural state of being. Hypnotherapy was just his method of helping people get there. Basically, by engaging our subconscious mind and bringing it into our awareness, clinical hypnotherapy reinforces positive thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. And when he explained the process, I realized as humans, we can fall into a trance pretty easily, and we do it fairly often.

For example in movie theaters when we become absorbed into the setting and the characters, whenever you become lost in thought, etc. And it’s in these trances that are uncontrolled that we become highly suggestible – meaning that we are sensitive to anything that gets thrown our way or pops up in our mind and forms some sort of belief system within us about ourselves.

It’s easy to fall into negative thinking traps in our present, so imagine just how easy it was to create negative beliefs and assumptions in our childhood, while our brains were merely developing. Any of these negative beliefs or assumptions we accepted about ourselves during trance in our childhood can follow us into adulthood. For instance: “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not lovable,” “I am incapable,” “I’m unwanted” just to name a few. But these lists, these beliefs that we have ingrained in ourselves have been wiring our outlook on life.

If we choose to break it down and look at the core, we might just find that the root of all our pain was always a belief system we formed in place for ourselves. And when we find that, and when we repeat the positive version aloud to ourselves (convinced of it to be true or not) each day, we can mindfully change our lives for the better.

As Saji Ijiyemi once said, “Whatever you believe is true is true even if it is not true.”

losing wisdom, losing years and getting older

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I don’t know where to begin other than by saying things were going well, too well in fact, until everything fell apart completely. That’s how these things usually go, right? That’s at least what I assume, and so when they were going well, I was walking on eggshells. I was waiting for the madness that follows. But little did I know that it wasn’t necessarily life that was creating this destruction, it was my own footsteps. The ones that treaded so carefully that they never really accepted what was being given to them. They didn’t dare skip, flutter, or prance around, afraid that they’d trip and fall if they got too comfortable with joy.

I was falling for someone again, someone who triggered an old self of mine that I thought I had left behind. But then I began to wonder, are all of our past selves still buried deep inside somewhere, waiting for the right moment to show themselves? I’ve refrained from love for a long time now and I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I took that time for myself. To become who I am now. To learn who exactly I am. What exactly it is that I want from this lifetime. Who I want by my side. How to heal. How to accept love from family, friends, strangers.

So much work, so much progress, so much healing, and then it all fell away in a few weeks where suddenly I felt I was back at square one. Like I woke up one day and forgot who I was again. I keep beating myself up over it, wanting to fall back into old habits. I broke it off with the guy I was falling for. I started questioning whether I was even a writer because I hadn’t written in a month. He was starting to consume my thoughts, my heart, my time, and I didn’t want that. I missed my solitude. I missed my sanity.

I began living in a whirlpool of emotions. Every day was a rollercoaster ride. I was 17 again. Then I was 16. Then 15. Time was warped and everything was backwards. It was like I was losing years instead of getting older. I realized pretty quickly that any romantic partner I would have, no matter how kind and lovely they are, is going to trigger me. I wished so badly that I was back in the seat across from my counselor, but instead, I’m across the country from her. I feel like someone erased me and I’m angry for not catching them in the act. Seeking familiarity in unknown territory is not the easiest thing.

I’m 22 today and I feel lost, but not the same kind of lost I felt at 17, because this person that I am now has resources that the old me didn’t. I have tools. That wisdom I’ve gained over the years, all that self-work, all that progress isn’t gone. It just has to be reworked once I figure out who exactly I am again. I’m not sure how to go about relationships, mostly because that’s the only area of my life I haven’t really worked on. They say that when it’s right, things are different. But what if things are right and you become different? And not the good kind.

I don’t believe people when they say they care about me and I think that’s the root of it all. That maybe I can work on this with friendships before moving back into the love realm again. A lot of the times, I find that I break my own heart because I’m afraid someone else will break it if I don’t beat them to it. These footsteps that tread so carefully do so for a reason, but that reason doesn’t exist in every situation. It’s hard to remember that sometimes.

It’s been a wild life so far in Vancouver, but I feel ready to start writing here again. To start sharing all these experiences with you guys. Because none of us are alone in the way that we are or feel. And this journey of mine that I thought I’d be doing alone doesn’t feel so lonely anymore. I made friends pretty easily, I’m doing well at work, I’m finding my feet. I’m not so sure how to go about love yet, but who does at this age? I don’t think I’m ready, and maybe it took breaking my own heart to remind myself of that, but I will be someday.

Progress doesn’t evaporate, it just evolves and takes different forms to adapt as you continue to become. And I’ll leave off with something I remind myself every night.

The sun will rise and we will try again.

big changes, guilty feelings

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The rain here is different – warmer, kinder. Difficult to explain. I guess like most things, you’d have to feel it to understand.

I bought some candles today to warm up my space and make it feel cozier; more like home, I suppose. It’s working.

It’s officially been a little over three weeks since I’ve been in Vancouver and it feels like it has been months. People keep telling me that that’s a good thing and I think I believe them. I feel a sense of belonging here that I’ve never felt before. And everything that is new still has this sense of familiarity to it that I can’t really explain.

It feels like everyone’s been injected with some calmness drug and I’m the odd one who doesn’t know how to relax. Maybe it’ll rub off on me eventually. Here’s hoping!

One of my best and oldest friends and I have been sending letters to one another. Handwritten letters that we post at the post office. Very old school and very heart felt. I like that I have someone I can do this with. Someone who I can write to about anything and everything, kind of like what I do over here. But I always get a response back with updates and stories. Letter-writing is so personal that way. There’s this connection you get out of putting pen to paper that just isn’t the same thing as a phone call or text message. You feel more open speaking about your truth.

What I’ve been realizing more and more is that when you make a big change in your life, there’s this very high expectation that you have and also get from others, that you will be happy all the time. That you will be excited all the time. It’s true that I’ve moved into a completely new place that I am really excited for. It’s breathtaking. It’s soothing. It’s both familiar and new. It’s the kind of place I’ve always wanted to be in because some part of me must have known that this is where I’d feel home. And I do.

That being said, it doesn’t mean that you won’t experience any other emotion. That it will only be excitement and giddiness. I’m so beyond grateful for being here, but I am still the same person within this new environment, which means that I still have mental health struggles, anxiety, depression that comes and goes in waves now. It means I’ll still feel nostalgic. I’ll still feel sad and angry and lonely. But I’ll feel happy, too. Just because you’re experiencing something great, doesn’t mean that you have to feel great all the time.

I realized that when talking to friends or family, I thought I had to pretend. Even though I was excited, I was going through such a wide range of emotions all at once and it felt pretty overwhelming. But I felt like I couldn’t share that with anyone because how ungrateful would I seem? I should feel happy, I kept telling myself. Why am I crying? Why am I nostalgic? Why am I feeling anything else?

And I felt guilty for it all. For the moments I felt overwhelmed. For the times I cried. For the times I chose to stay in and read instead of going and exploring.

Thanks to the great practice of meditation and reflecting a lot, I realized that right now, my job is to feel at home here. I’ve only been here a short time but since it felt like longer, I thought I should have done more by now. So I had to hit the pause button a little, take a step back and evaluate what would make me feel sane right now. And I knew (because we always know deep down what it is that we need). And it was that I needed to really feel at home.

So I went out and bought a cozy cushion and throw blanket for my couch so I can make it a comfortable little reading nook for myself. I bought candles that smell like baked goods (because those are my favorite) and placed them around my apartment. I set a bubble bath for myself and lit a candle so that I could read for a little while. And that is exactly what I needed.

If you follow me on twitter, you know that I am an avid hiker. I love to explore more than anything, but right now, what I need is to have some days where I stay in and read, take a bubble bath, do some yoga, and write. I need to feel at home and ever since I listened to that voice of knowing, I’ve been feeling calm and good instead of frantic and anxious.

When it’s time to explore more, I’ll do that, too. But there is no rush. I’m here for a while and I needed to give myself some room to feel that.

Sometimes, we just need to listen to the voice that tells us what we already know, but rarely act on. It knows a lot more than the loud voice, I promise.

 

stagnant peace: the fear of comfort

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The state I’m in is no longer one of anxiety, but more so just complete and utter exhaustion. Maybe it’s because I woke up at 2:00 am and couldn’t go back to bed. Maybe it’s because I then had to leave for work at 5:45 am. Or maybe it’s because I’m tired of my hope and the effort I make in having a positive outlook.

The problem with me is finding peace in the present moment. I feel this completion with my job and I’ve felt it for quite some time. It’s not just that it isn’t satisfying, it’s more that it has become draining for me because I feel the ending before it has arrived. There isn’t anything wrong with it. The people are so kind and loving. I’m good at what I do. It’s a healthy environment. But I just have this aching feeling that makes me want to do something more – something that adds value to my life and others’. I just haven’t been able to find any other work in the meanwhile – or let me correct myself, I haven’t heard back from any other place I’ve applied to.

I’m used to a lot of rejection, especially from the job market. The way my life typically works is that I’ll keep getting no’s from everywhere, but when I finally get a ‘yes’ back, it’ll be life changing. So I don’t necessarily feel the need to make decisions because mostly I’m led where I need to go and I do the work in-between to help myself get there. I know that what comes back to me is what is meant for me (as long as it feels right, too, of course). But I always get these feelings of completion or of new beginnings early, and then I become anxious in anticipation for what is to come – even though I know it is coming later.

Lately, it’s been a lot of me sending out resumes to everything that makes my heart race. Anything that I am curious of and want to learn. It’s a lot of not hearing back and when I do, it’s a kind “no”. And then it’s a lot of beating myself up over it.

What I want so badly is to be able to find peace in this moment I’m in, in the job I’m in, and trust that when the right thing comes – as it always does – it will make space for me, and me alone. But what my mind struggles to understand is how to find peace and comfort without feeling stuck where you are. I’m terrified that as soon as I get that peace, I’ll get too comfortable and I’ll become stagnant (even though that’s almost never the case with anyone). But nevertheless, it remains a very prominent fear of mine. This fear that peace will mean no further movement or growth.

So, I wonder, how do I learn to find peace in something temporary when I don’t know when it’ll come to an end?

You see, there’s this lack of preparation I feel in regards to the sort of peace I want to attain. I like doing things in advance. I like mental preparation as much as I like physical prep work. I like knowing so I can be ready. And the peace I am seeking doesn’t work like that. It just needs trust, and that’s something I hate saying that I struggle with. It feels like such an old part of me. It feels so common.

someone will love you; someone isn’t me

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I’ve been regaining my sanity, the inkling of calmness I was afraid I left behind. I credit that all to starting up my daily yoga and meditation practice again.

There’s something you guys don’t know. Something that I don’t really talk about. That when I moved away, I left a boy behind. No one knows that, not even him. We haven’t spoken in years now, but he’s stayed in my mind through this time, the way that unfinished business typically does. We talk every now and again, but not often enough for it to make sense that I still think of him the way I do.

He was someone I never gave a chance to. Someone I didn’t believe when he told me that he cared about me. Someone I always look back on and wonder, what if I had let him in?

I believe in everything happening for a reason, and that certain things won’t happen and never will only because you are supposed to be somewhere else. I don’t think I’d have made my way to Vancouver had I given him a chance. I don’t think I would be this person either because the girl he initially met is no longer here.

It’s an odd feeling. This reminiscing of what could have been that runs parallel to the gratitude of it not working out. Because if it had, you wouldn’t be where you are today. How our stepping stones and greatest lessons are sometimes people you never paid attention to. How sometimes you can be grateful for your adolescent ignorance and also wish you knew better at the same time. But we know what we know and we understand as we learn. It’s as simple and frustrating as that.

We’re always so eager to know more than we do; and when we know more, we wish we knew it when it mattered. As if there is no way to make use of this information now, even though deep down we know it’ll be a useful tool for the future. We want it now and when we have it, we wish we had it then. It’s an annoyance to me sometimes, being human. But that’s what we are. That’s what we’ll always be.

To the boy that never happened. To the boy I now think of and wish I had known better, I hope being human gets easier for you as I hope it does for all of us. And know that someone will love you the way I wish I had.

the difference between blocking emotions and putting them on pause

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Yesterday morning it finally hit me. It was like an iceberg of loneliness that’s been hovering like a cloud above my head for some time now. I wanted so badly to break down but I knew that I had to leave for work soon, and now wasn’t the right time.

We can do that, you know? And sometimes, especially in our day and age, we have to. We can put a pause on our emotions momentarily, but we also have to create time to let them manifest in the way that they wanted to. I think the second half is the harder part. Finding time to let yourself feel what you should have felt earlier. Creating room for sadness, nostalgia, loneliness, anger, or even fear. It makes sense why we wouldn’t want to. I mean, those aren’t exactly the most inviting territories to dive ourselves into, but they are necessary.

In a perfect world, I would break down when I wanted to. I would feel my anger as it came. I would let emotions go through me when they want to. But that’s not the world I live in. The world I live in requires me to go to work every day. It comes with certain situations where those emotions aren’t appropriate to express. But you don’t necessarily need to express an emotion to feel it.

Sometimes we have to compartmentalize momentarily. I think, for the most part, a lot of us have that down really well. We know how to block ourselves from feeling. But what we aren’t always so good at is allowing those feelings to come through again. We just keep blocking and blocking and sooner or later find our minds scattered, our tension built up, and on the verge of completely losing it.

So though I don’t exactly cater to the idea of blocking our emotions, even though I became quite the expert at it, growing up; I do believe that sometimes we have to put them on pause. What that means is that they need to be felt again, properly. Sometimes I even find my life so overbearing that I have to schedule it in.

Example:

Yoga: 8:00am-9:00am

Shower/breakfast: 9:15am-10:00am

Reflection time/Feeling your feelings: 10:15am-11:00am

Meditate: 11:00am-11:30am

Buy groceries/vacuum/laundry OR read/write/blog : 11:30am – 1:30pm

Work: 2pm-11pm

Obviously, not every day of mine looks like that one, but sometimes we need to break it down in that way so we make it the priority that it should be. Reflecting should be a part of your self-care. It should be its own practice because we need it for the sake of our own sanity. Sometimes we won’t have a full hour to do that. Sometimes it’ll be 5 or 10 spare minutes. Other days, we might have more time than that. Some days, we won’t have any time at all. But we have to make room for it somewhere. We have to treat it like the necessity that it is.

Although yesterday, I didn’t have time to let myself feel my loneliness, I had time this morning and so I allowed myself to get back into that place so that I could let it pass. It wasn’t pretty. I didn’t like it. But it felt good afterward, like I had released it. You can’t let go of an emotion you don’t let yourself feel – something I’ve learned the hard way over the years of building up everything inside me only to explode it everywhere and on everyone around me. We can’t control how we feel, but we can control how we experience that feeling and whether we experience it at all.

 

two strokes ahead of time: where i’d rather be

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One of my biggest hurdles and life lessons has been learning how to stay in the present moment. It’s something I struggle with every day and have to work with differently each time the thought comes. I’m not where I want to be. I haven’t achieved what I wish I had. I should be somewhere better by now. I should be more.

I think we all cross these moments of anxiety, of our ego’s talk taking over our frame of thought completely. How do we step back into where we are? How do we get out of that never-ending belief that we aren’t enough right now?

In terms of writing, I made a decision not long after I completed the first draft of my novel and was led to the big move across the country. I made the decision that if I wanted to be in the right place, I had to put all my energy into this move. Into finding an apartment, researching neighborhoods, inspecting the details of who I needed to contact, what changes I needed to make. For the past few months, this big transition has been my sole focus while my book’s progress had to be put on pause.

Now that I’ve settled in, I find my inspiration at a high peak which should be exciting. But instead, it’s just led to this trickling thought of where my draft would be if I had worked on it this whole time. If I hadn’t put it on pause completely so that I could use my energy on moving. How far would that girl have come with her writing? Am I a failure as a writer for making that decision? Could I have just used 50% of my energy on the move and 50% on editing?

Though the inspiration should be exhilarating, it just brings me back to this belief that I’ve fallen behind. But then I ask myself, who am I competing with? What am I racing for?

I’ve worked so hard on this book and I know I’ll continue to make it better with each draft, but the other part of me just wants to get it out there to the public. I want to show you guys this project I’ve been working on for so long. I want to introduce you to my characters. I want you to see all the research I’ve done for it. I want you to know the people I interviewed who played a big role in making this happen. Except it’s still in the works and I still feel behind where I’d like to be.

When I fall into this pattern of feeling behind myself, I have some tools I use now that help. One is blogging, the other journaling, meditating, listing my gratitude, yin yoga or just sitting down and listening to music. All of that helps, but they are also all practices of mine. To slowly get myself back into the present, I have to practise these things every day, utilizing whichever feels right at a certain time.

What I’ve found is that when my scattered mind takes over, it’s usually because I haven’t given enough space for my body to have some control, too. And the great part about bodies is that they usually know what they need. The hard part is learning to listen.

emotional compass: navigating the feelings I should have felt

emotional-compass-navigating-what-i-should-have-felt

incipient: beginning to exist or appear; in an initial stage

You know when you read a book you can’t put down? A book that just takes you away from life itself, far off into another world, another land, another person’s life. That’s what Dark Matter by Blake Crouch did for me. It was exactly what I needed even though it’s a strange thing to dissect.

Why would someone who has uprooted their life to live far away from their home need a book to transport them away from this life, too? Wouldn’t their reality be enough? Wouldn’t this new objective world that they live in be its own source of satisfaction?

I’ve been wondering the same thing. Why I needed that. Why I still do.

Maybe because in a weird way, even books I have never read are familiar to me. Books have always honed this aura of comfort. They have their way of bringing me home, no matter where that be. Just the act of holding one in my hands, flipping through the pages, reading through the night, knowing I have to wake up early but so badly wanting to know what happens next. So maybe it’s not that a book I’ve never read is familiar to me, but the feeling of reading it is what I always need to feel comfortable anywhere that I am in my life.

I guess it’s slowly creeping up on me, the fact that I don’t know anyone here. The fully fledged feeling itself hasn’t sunk in, but I can sense it’s arrival approaching my way. There are small figments of knowing I should feel lonely, but I don’t yet. I guess because the reality of my situation hasn’t clicked.

Yesterday morning was emotional and I didn’t quite know why. I tried to hold myself back from crying at work and managed to do so by convincing myself that tears didn’t make sense in this moment. I guess with the chaos, the busyness, the fast-paced energy of the uproot – all of it happened so quickly that I haven’t processed it the right way. So I find myself in moments alone, slowly allowing the feelings I was supposed to feel to seep through. They need a path to sink in so that they can go through me. I have a hard time with these feelings, mostly because they come to me at odd times. Times that it wouldn’t make sense to be feeling them. My logical self wants so badly to push past them, coining them irrational. But every other part of me knows I should let them in.

So I found that reading is the best thing for me right now. It’s the perfect in-between source where I will allow myself to feel whatever it is that I need to feel. When something sad is happening to a character, I’ll burst out into tears. Maybe not fully because of that, but also for myself. I let books come to me. If I feel myself gravitating towards it, I know it must have something I need and it always does. Dark Matter did that for me and the next book I read will, too.

Sometimes we need books that way. That’s why we all interpret them differently. It’s because we read them from the state of being that we are currently in, and that’s also why they tend to resonate with us. It’s because we want them to, and they listen.

Right now, as I try to navigate my emotions while trying to not burden them too much with my illogical rationality, I’ll be here reading.

new beginnings and old nostalgia

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I’ve been living amidst my own gratitude and nostalgia simultaneously. It’s an odd thing to move to a new place, not knowing a single person. A place you’ve never been before. Being a person you’ve never been before. Change can be overwhelming, even if it’s what you’ve needed for so long.

I know it’s been a week or so since I’ve written on here. It’s actually been a week or so since I’ve written at all, which has been hard. It’s hard to reflect when there’s so much going on all around you. Settling into a new place. Meeting new people. Starting a new job. Living on your own.

The heartbreaking part about beginnings are that they come with an ending of something else. The freshness, the constant stimulation of novelty, it comes with a throbbing of the heart. I miss my people. I miss the family I created. I miss the familiarity. I miss the foundation that built me.

At some point, we all have to leave our comfort zones and I’m usually stuck in the middle of craving adventure and wanting to keep what I have created for myself where I am. There’s this eagerness of change that battles alongside this fear of loss. But this loss that I feared isn’t all I’ve made it out to be in my head.

I’m still connected to everyone I love and everyone I’ve met in my home. Now is just time for further growth. For more adventure. For something new.

I’m excited to record and keep track of all the beautiful moments that come with moving out west in Vancouver. But the most important thing I’ve learned is that if you work hard, if you believe, and if you focus on your goal, you can make it happen despite what people may tell you.

The first thing that would come out of people’s mouths when I told them about this move was “good luck with higher taxes and greater expenses!”. Super encouraging, right? So I stopped telling people because their words got in my head and I didn’t want to defend my life path to anyone, let alone a stranger.

What I’ve learned is that what is meant for you will make space for you. It can’t be taken by anyone else. This place was waiting for me and I really believe that. Mostly because I didn’t choose it. For years I’ve been planning to live in Europe and somehow in a conversation blurted out that I was moving to Vancouver which shortly afterward, I took back because I didn’t know where the hell that came from. And then boom! It happened. I did it. I’m here.

Sometimes that’s how life is. You plan for something, you make goals, but you have to stay open to any altercations because, at the end of the day, we don’t know what is best for us. If we trust in the universe enough, we’ll let it guide us there.

So cheers to new beginnings and this new journey.

Am I Healing You or Distracting Myself?

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I gravitate towards people in pain and sometimes I mix that up with toxicity. I guess because some part of me thinks I can help them, heal them even. The worst part is that I used to think this was a good thing. That this quality in me was humbling. But now I’m beginning to wonder whether it’s an egotistical trait. The idea, or rather the assumption that I have that extent of power over another’s life. That I have that much input in their transformation.

Maybe it’s a way to distract myself…from myself. Maybe focusing so intensely on another’s problems releases me of my own, even if it’s just for a moment.

The problem with that is sooner or later, we all have to face ourselves. Sooner or later, we’re going to have to look at who we are in the mirror and deal with that person. No amount of running, hiding, distracting or pretending can relieve us from our own selves. Because sooner or later, who we are will inevitably catch up with us. And when that happens, wouldn’t it be better if we weren’t caught off guard? If we were aware, wouldn’t it be better, or easier?

When we look in the mirror, do we want to stand with the truth or be bombarded by it?

I’ve spent most of my life running, hiding, afraid. I thought it was everyone else who would judge me for the person I was. What I didn’t understand was that maybe everyone else didn’t matter. Maybe it was my own judgments that hindered my awareness all along.

every end comes with a new beginning

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This morning I’ve been brushed with the burden of nostalgia. I guess it has finally hit me that I’ll be leaving. That next Friday is my last day of work. That I’m flying to Vancouver on the 15th and settling in before I start work on the 19th or 20th.

It’s a thing to be grateful for, nostalgia. It means you’ve felt a lot of love, received a lot of good. It’s a something that reminds you that this time will be one you’ll never forget. A strange thing to hold on to a memory before it has completely left you and become one.

Any new beginning that we have comes with an end. Just like every end comes with a beginning. You experience one before the other, but they always work side by side. It feels like the start of a new life, one that maybe won’t come with as much difficulty and pain as the previous. One where a foundation has already been built, and now its time to build on top of that.

It’s different. It’s terrifying and exciting. And it’s new. Any sort of change is disturbing, but I’ve never been one who is capable of sitting still in comfort for too long. What I never realized is that even when you’re moving forward in the direction you’ve always wanted, it is still absolutely terrifying.

But what I’ve learned is that there are different forms of fear. Some are useful for the sake of our own safety and health, and others aren’t necessary depending on the extent to which we let them control us. Sometimes you just have to take a step back to understand what representative fear has taken form for. Sometimes it’s adventure. Sometimes it’s love. Sometimes it’s danger. But nonetheless, it is always change.

Fear likes to stand still and scream at everything. That’s its job and we should be grateful for its service because it is what has saved us countless times in our lives. But fear likes boredom. It would rather you sit at home and do nothing, never venture into new territories, never explore new things, never become. Always thank your fear for its service, but always acknowledge what it is holding you back from first to see if it is really necessary.

It’s not a bad thing to be cautious, but it becomes a burden when that caution is what drives you. For me, I’ve been in a state of poverty. Where having a stable roof over my head and groceries on the table was not a given. Nothing felt reliable and I had to be cautious of everything to be able to survive. Sometimes I find myself still living from that state, even though I’m not in it anymore. I still hear its voice hesitant to proceed at anything because I am always very aware that it can all be taken away at any moment.

That sort of thing will keep a person humble, but you do have to watch it to make sure it doesn’t make you stop living. It’s a crazy thing to look back on your life, who you were, and how you lived. It’s a crazy thing in comparison to where you are now. But it is different to reminisce and be grateful than it is to live from your past.

This is an odd time for me. It’s a concluding and a clean state. Like a new life handed to me right in the middle of the year. There’s a lot of unsettling feelings that come to me all at once, but I expect that it’s “normal”. To want to resist and leap forward at the same time. To want to stay and leave. To start new and to keep what is.

It’s both scary and relieving to know that you’re always one decision away from a totally different life. The root of all my decisions comes from this understanding that ten years from now, I want to be able to say that I chose my life, that I didn’t settle for it. It’s funny sometimes, odd even, when you realize that that is exactly how you’re living.

when you don’t get what you want

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I’ve been waiting for a job offer that it turns out wasn’t meant for me. There is still a job that awaits for my arrival, but the position I hoped for, it turns out is taken. I was disappointed and pretty upset about it when I first heard yesterday morning. I forgot that I was blessed enough to have a job for me across the country in the first place. It saves so much time, energy and stress to be in the position I am in than in one where I moved across the country with absolutely nothing and had to start from scratch.

The woman who will soon be my boss is also ready to work out an action plan right away so that I can get a higher position within a few weeks time. I’ll still be making more than I do now, and I’ll be in a completely new place, one where the moment I stepped into, I felt like I was home.

There are so many good things that I could have focused on, but I found myself looking at the one negative aspect. What a human thing to do. I mean, it’s a survival instinct to focus on the negative, the faults, because our ancestors needed to for the sake of their own lives. But we don’t really need it anymore. Our negatives, especially in this day and age aren’t always life-threatening. What was once a great tool for survival is now a stress-inducing threat to ourselves. What used to save us is now what kills us. Oh, the irony.

I get really personal on here, mostly because I want you guys to know all the ways I’m human. That you’re not alone in the way you think or feel, perceive, or react. That we’re all in this together. I never wanted to inspire others by being perfect. I want to inspire them by how I deal with all my imperfections…which I have a lot of.

When I fall into what I like to call my “worry-clustered dark hole”, I try to catch myself and I’m getting a lot better – faster – at doing that. I take a step back and breathe a couple of deep breaths to bring myself back to what is true.

Here is what is true:

  1. I am healthy and alive
  2. I am privileged to be able to move across the country on my own
  3. I am blessed to have a job that awaits my arrival and an apartment I can make into a home
  4. I am lucky to have such amazing people who support me, cry with me, love me, and know me. I’m lucky to have created the family I’ve always wanted
  5. I’m grateful to have a passion that just requires a pen and paper. Something that’s always held me together and stayed by my side throughout my life.

Sometimes writing it out reminds you of what you already know, but don’t necessarily focus on. There is so much I could add to the list, but I’ll leave it at that for now. Sometimes we have to acknowledge the good and make do with that which didn’t meet our expectations.

Some things aren’t meant for us. Some things aren’t meant for the timeline we create; they have their own timeline to manifest in. Something my mom always says and has reminded me since I was a little girl was that there is a time for everything and what I believe is that we have to trust in that. And in the meanwhile, we should do the work that we can. There are so many times I lose my focus only to remember that I can gain it right back if I want to.

It’s like meditating. The point isn’t to be hard on yourself when your mind wanders. We are human and our mind does wander. The point is to get better at catching yourself when it does. To train your mind to be still. For longer. And longer. And longer.

Our lives are like that. Losing focus isn’t a downward fall. Gaining it back is what the point was all along. Being upset, angry or depressed isn’t a failing. It’s the effort in picking yourself up, little by little, each and every day is what builds character. And when we don’t get what we want, sometimes that’s another test for our patience and our trust in the manifestation of our lives.

This time, I didn’t get what I wanted…in one area of my life. But should that depict how I see my future? Or worse, how I see myself?

Short answer: No.

At this point that I’m at, I’m kind of excited for whatever is to come. Because, from my experience, when certain things don’t work out, greater things do.

Why I Don’t Tell Everyone I Write

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I used to be embarrassed by it, the fact that I wrote. I guess I felt too exposed, too myself, and in certain points of my life, I found that most people didn’t want to hear any of that. They didn’t want to know and so I reached a point where I just stopped telling them…and everyone else.

The more secret I kept this huge part of my identity, the more misunderstood I felt. To be honest, I think a part of me likes being misunderstood. I feel like I embody the archetype of a writer when I’m hidden, alone, and secretive, making my craft in the dark.

When you first meet me, there’s the person that you think I am: bubbly, excitable, too optimistic that I might even be naïve, so nice that I must get walked on quite often, that I must be fragile, weak, and that I must have lived a very sheltered life. There have been a lot of times that I shared my passion for writing and it usually comes bombarded with its own set of questions.

I always cringe when it comes time to answer those questions, but I do (mostly). And when I do, suddenly the person that I’ve been made certain to be gets questioned. Suddenly they don’t know me anymore like they thought they did. Suddenly I might just be a lot different than what I make myself out to be. And suddenly, our relationship either shifts or ends.

With writing, my mental health comes into question, and so does this overtly positive outlook people assume I have. It’s not that who I present is false. It’s just that it isn’t all of me, just like who you present initially to anyone typically isn’t all of you either. What I’m interested in is the whole, but what I’ve learned very quickly is that most people aren’t.

I’m still learning how to show people who I am, to trust that they won’t always walk away from it, but I know that not everyone needs to be trusted with that. And as I’m still learning who I am, I’m beginning to understand and become more and more clear on who I can and can’t trust.

But I still don’t tell everyone that I write. It actually takes me a lot to get there and maybe it’s because it still feels too personal, maybe it’s because I feel silly about it. Like there are people out there doing real work and my passion is making up stories and talking about my own. I hate that part of me that feels silly, stupid, and illogical because I know this is something I should be proud of. This is a big part of me and it always has been. This is something that has set me free time and time again. This is something that makes me clearer on the person that I am. Why should I be embarrassed or ashamed of that?

I shouldn’t, right? But I still am sometimes.

On Compromising Your Triggers: How Badly Do I Want My Dream Life?

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I had bad dreams I can’t remember. All I know is that my waking was an inconvenience to them as it was for me. Maybe it’s the exhaustion that’s catching up with me or my frazzled state of uncertainty with the position I’ll be getting at work when I arrive in Vancouver.

I can feel my drive extinguishing the more the muscles in my body throb. Everything is sore and my vision gets foggier the closer it gets to the final decision. My life is put on pause until I know. No flights have been booked, even though I’ll be going sometime next month. My hydro isn’t set up, I haven’t booked my internet or my bed to deliver. Everything is waiting for me and I can’t seem to find the patience to wait any longer.

When you wait a certain amount of time for any sort of decision to be made, whether it be a job prospect, an interview of sorts, the conclusion of a relationship, or whatever it may be, you start to doubt it all. You wonder if you got your hopes too high only to get disappointed with the end result. You start to lose that stream of excitement you once had and stumble into self-doubt instead, nitpicking and searching for all the things you could have done wrong. All the things that could lead the answer to not be in your favor.

That’s the cycle I’ve found myself in lately and have been having a great amount of difficulty getting out of. As hard as I try, this thing keeps hovering over me, clouding my judgment, my intuition, and my faith. If there is one lesson I’ve always battled with, it’s how to trust. How to trust in things, people, the universe, and myself.

I wish I were one of those people who didn’t have a high level of anxiety. I wish I knew what it felt like to be calm and accept the moment I’m in now. But it’s hard for me and it always has been. We all have some things in us that are more difficult to work on and resolve than others. This just happens to be mine.

I always knew that adventurous people were more excited than afraid, but I didn’t know that it meant the fear still lingered. And when one of my good friends and coworkers told me they were in awe of how I could just up and move across the country without ever having been there (my first time was last week when I went apartment hunting), it struck me that whatever is to come, I am doing what I’ve always wanted to do. I’m beginning the adventure I’ve always craved. This is simply the first stop, and this is simply how it feels to begin acting on your dreams.

I get a lot of questions from people who have troubles beginning a creative venture. Whether it be writing their first book, starting a blog, taking up photography, etc. They ask how to begin and I wonder a lot why they think I’m some kind of expert at it. But I guess I never feared creativity. I never put too much pressure on it, probably because I never expected anything monetary out of it. I have no trouble writing a blog like this and keeping up with it, without attaching any click bait headlines for media attention. I don’t mind having a few readers who keep coming back to read what I have to say – I actually love this small little family I have here. I don’t have a problem writing the first draft of a novel and letting it sit there until it’s ready to be edited.

Creativity has never been a fear of mine, but financial security always has been. I care about my writing so much that, much like how Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in Big Magic, I always wanted to support it with a job. I never wanted to have to worry about money, even though I have had to for most of my life. I know that when I worry about how I’m going to pay rent, I’m not paying attention to the characters that want to tell me their stories. I don’t mind working to live a comfortable life so that I can pay attention to my writing when I get home. That’s actually my ideal lifestyle and that’s what I’ve achieved this past year.

But with moving comes bigger expenses, more uncertainty, and a greater risk factor. With my other dream of getting to see the world and live in different parts of it also comes this re-establishing of my financial well-being over and over. I know that I might have to work a couple of jobs again and recreate a routine that will work for my writing. I know that rest is going to be needed because moving takes a toll on your body and mind. I know that with excitement and adventure also comes fear and frustration.

But sometimes we have to compromise. I had to compromise re-establishing a new sense of financial security because I wanted to live across the country more than I was afraid of not having enough money to feel secure. I know myself enough to know that I’m resourceful and can find other jobs if I need to. I can find other ways to make money if it comes down to it. I’m grateful enough to be working for a company that is spread all over the world and is willing to transfer you anywhere you like so long as you are a good worker. I’m grateful to have a job waiting for me, even if I don’t know what position it will be yet. Even though I don’t know how much I’ll be making or if I’ll need to stack on something else with it.

Financial security is a trigger for me, and it sets off a load of fears. I know what it’s like to have absolutely nothing. To have less than a dollar in your bank account. To tell your friends you don’t want to go to dinner because you aren’t hungry, even though it’s because you can barely afford to eat at all this week. I know the embarrassment that comes when your landlord emails your roommates to tell them you haven’t paid rent this month and you laugh it off, saying you completely forgot about it even though you couldn’t get it off your mind because you were scouring to find a way to pay it.

So to be where I am, in a place where I can support myself completely took a lot, but the idea of ever getting back there, to that specific point in my life scares the hell out of me, even though I know I’d have to fall pretty hard to get there again. And even though I know I wouldn’t get back there and I know I have more options now than I did before; I know that I have a full-time job that waits for me across the country and I know I have money in the bank that I’ve saved from living frugally for the past few years, it’s still scary. It still haunts me. It still keeps me up at night.

I’ve realized that maybe this lingering fear in me is just something I have to sit with and acknowledge. It’s something I have to not hide from anymore. It’s also something I can’t let hold me back any longer. Sometimes what helps in these moments is making a list of the worst possible outcomes that could come from a big decision and then what to do if they happen. The more I do that, the more I realize that the worst case scenario is not even that bad. It’s actually something I should be grateful for. And sometimes to begin living the life you want, you have to compromise some parts of yourself that hold you back from it.

As Nelson Mandela once said, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” It’s nice to finally understand what that really means.

The Calm Before the Storm: When Worry Feels Like Productivity

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These past few days have been a bit hazy for me. I’m still recovering from a bit of jet lag – the kind where your problem isn’t necessarily that you’re tired all the time, but quite the opposite. Instead, I’ve been living in an awakened state, one where I wish I were tired.

Most of the time, I’m wishing that life had a pause button. I’m always fighting to catch some air, hoping to take a break; a moment to refresh myself. But lately, the days have stretched out so long that I’m continuously battling a clock that just won’t tick.

I got approved for my first real adult apartment in downtown Vancouver a day before my trip came to an end and now I’m waiting on the final offer for my job status that will come in by the end of this week. The apartment turned out to be below the budget I had in mind, comes with an extraordinarily kind Resident Manager; it’s a good space, a 10-minute walk to where I’ll work, and completely mine to live in.

So what exactly is my problem then?

Well, I guess part of me is waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m finding myself in anticipation for a failure of some kind. Maybe I won’t get the position I want. Maybe I’ll be miserable there. Maybe I’ll find myself in a deep state of depression again. Maybe if I do get that higher position at work, I won’t be able to handle it. Maybe if I am, I’ll lose focus of my true passion that has always been writing. Maybe this, maybe that. But nothing for certain.

I’ve discussed it before, but Brene Brown refers to this little human quirk as foreboding joy. I’ve become pretty aware of how quickly my thought process diverts into a dress rehearsal for future tragedy, so I’m practicing my gratitude much more rigorously now – mainly because I fell through on it a bit when I fled towards my future home.

It’s funny how quickly you can see a change: whether it be a rise or fall when you abruptly put a pause on a practice. It took me 10 days of not writing down my daily gratitude list to notice how big of a difference it has made in my outlook on life.

I have an inkling of what is to come, which is an offer for a job (which is definite), even if it’s not the position I necessarily want, and becoming overly excited and then upset all over again because it’ll finally hit me that I’ll be leaving this place and everything and everyone that it came with. I realized that I’m constantly living in what is to come instead of what is already here, and what won’t be for much longer. I don’t want to spend the remainder of my stay in this town to be in anticipation. I want to embrace what I have and what I’ll soon miss.

My foundation was here, the family I created is here, the beginning of my life and my sanity is here. My people are here. It’s a lot to leave behind and instead, I’m focusing again on what I don’t know and what I don’t have yet. I don’t want to regret how I spend this time of uncertainty. This small window I have before I move could be spent anxiously waiting for something that I know is already coming my way but worrying about it anyways, OR I could live in this loving and supportive environment for a little longer. I could fully be here, in the now.

I could use my energy in loving my remaining moments with these people, or I could waste it by worrying about a future that can’t be known right now.

It’s a hard thing to realize and catch yourself in moments that you know you could later regret. They seem so detrimental because you know that you’ll soon wish you could have spent this time better, happier. So that’s what I’m trying to do: catch myself. When my mind wanders off into self-doubt and anxiety, I have to remind myself that this time isn’t going to last for much longer. I’ll reminisce on them later so what I want is to create more moments to look back on and be grateful for.

It’s like that saying where worry is a lot like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do, but gets you nowhere. What I’m now learning to do is stop giving it my attention, because then it won’t have so much power over me. Instead, I’m trying more and more to focus on embracing this slowness that I’m in the midst of because I know that whenever things feel extremely slow for me, it’s right before they start moving very very quickly. It’s this preparation my body knows but my mind doesn’t want to acknowledge.

Lately what I’ve been nodding my head towards is C.S. Lewis’s quote, “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different?”

He’s right. It is funny but it’s also heartbreaking and it is something to be completely grateful for. Moments pass, life goes on, and as cheesy as it is, we have to learn how to be fully present so that we can make the most of it. What we have isn’t ours to hold onto. Things leave, people move on, you grow. So let’s start living in this time we have and creating moments we can look back on and smile.

On Top of Mountains: Where Everything Makes Sense

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It’s my last day in Vancouver until I move here next month and I can’t help but feel a longing to come back here already though I haven’t even left. My whole life, I spent moving to a different place every few years. My family has never been one to fully settle down anywhere. Boxes were never fully unpacked because we knew we were going to get up and leave soon and I could never fully feel at home anywhere.

When I moved to my university town, I thought I’d love it there. I thought these past four years would give me some sense of what it’s like to feel at home and create a family, and it has. This is where I got my shit together. This is where I started working, where I figured out that it was writing that I wanted to pursue and any other work would be a way to sustain a comfortable lifestyle. This is where I decided that I didn’t want to go to grad school in psychology and take on a 9-5 job. This is where I decided what I didn’t want my life to look like, and that was a big thing.

I chose to change my degree to 3 years and start working full time at a job that’s now letting me move to Vancouver with it. A job that gave me a family, structure, financial stability, and a comforting zone that just let me be exactly who I was, even when I didn’t know who that person would be.

This small town gave me friendships that I thought would last a lifetime but those people were only supposed to be a part of my journey for a certain period of time. I lost a lot, but I gained even more in terms of authenticity.

Sometimes we feel we outgrew a place, a position, a person, a life. And when I reached that point, I felt lost all over again. I felt like I was back at square one when really, I just got better at knowing myself and what I needed.

Yesterday, I got a call back on my first real adult apartment in downtown Vancouver that I got approved to live in by the kindest manager/landlord of the building who helped me know the city, the laws and what to pay attention to. I got the same feeling from her that I did when I signed my previous lease at university with my roommates from a landlord that I established a wonderful relationship with.

I went to my second work meeting at another store where I got that same feeling from the Store Brand Leader who worked there. These past two days have felt like things are beginning to fall into place, FINALLY. I realized that since the day I fell apart, wanted to quit everything and go back to the way things were, I’ve gotten nothing but good news and success after success. How funny life is that it’s always after you reach your breaking point that you begin to rise higher than ever before.

My life here will begin sooner than I can fathom. I mean, by the end of August, I’ll have moved in to my first apartment on my own. I’ll have a better position at my company waiting for me. I’ll live a 10 minute walk away from it. I’ll be in a city of wonder, beauty, nature, outdoor adventures, and a wave of calmness that swifts through the air.

Yesterday, I climbed Grouse Mountain and got the call for my apartment as I was exploring the top of it. First of all, climbing a mountain is no joke. It’s always been on my bucket list and for someone who lives a very active lifestyle, I still wanted to die about 3 times in-between. I went really fast in the beginning and quickly learned that that isn’t the way to reach the top. You just have to keep a steady pace and not outdo yourself. The group of people around me became my cheerleaders and I was theirs. We were our own little family, supporting each other. When we reached the top, the 9-year-old boy hiking beside me jumped up in the air and high-fived me. I was speechless and on a new level of high. I wanted to experience that sensation all over again.

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The views for beautiful at the top, but the climb was my favourite part. I met so many amazing people and was surrounded by beauty everywhere I looked. I took moments to stop and just look behind me at how far I’d come. How beautiful the world looked from where I was standing. I wanted to stay in those moments forever, but I absorbed what I could and then continued to climb.

I made it up a lot faster than I thought I would: 1 hour and 23 minutes. I can’t wait to come back and live here so that I can do it again because I learned a lot from that climb. I learned a lot about myself. How quickly I want to speed through it to get to the top, how quickly I’ve always wanted to rush through my life to get to where I want, and then understanding very quickly that that isn’t how you’re supposed to do it. You’re supposed to meet people along the way. You’re supposed to keep your pace steady so that you don’t burn out. You’re supposed to have cheerleaders and be the cheerleader for others. You’re supposed to take moments to stop, breathe, and look back at how far you’ve come. You’re supposed to look at the world around you and take in the wonder, the beauty, the life that exists everywhere. You’re supposed to let yourself feel like you’re a part of it all.

It was a beautiful climb, but it doesn’t end here. You’re never finished and I don’t know if I want to be anymore. There’s always more beauty, more heartache, more tragedy and more wonder. I’m grateful for it all and I can’t wait to see what’s to come next.

Mental Health and Adventure: Am I Scared or Unhappy?

There was a turning point I reached yesterday, one where I was faced with this understanding that some of my ghosts still exist and that it is my decision what I am to do with them. Whether I will breathe life back into these thoughts, this outlook on life, carrying it all forward, or whether I should simply walk away.

I’m afraid that they will always be a part of me because part of me also knows that these things, these thoughts, this way of being, doesn’t just go away. Mental health doesn’t work like that, so I’ve learned.

Yesterday I came out of what felt like a disastrous interview and completely fell apart. It was like I was back at square one. That these two job opportunities were the only thing that I could count on. Everything else: the apartment hunting, the prospect of leaving things behind, the expenses of moving, all of it was chaos. But this job transfer, it was stable. It was the thing that held me together. When everything else got too scary, I told myself that it would work out because this one thing was all the structure I needed to fuel the rest of myself off of.

It’s not that the meeting went poorly, it’s just that I didn’t get a good feeling off of it. It’s not like I don’t have another meeting with another store today, because I do. It’s just that I held on to this one thing so tightly that when it didn’t go exactly the way that I wanted, I fell apart. I felt 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19 years old all over again. Back when I was emotionally unstable, in a state of depression, distortion, and a mindset of nothing will ever go right. Life will always look this way and I will always feel like this: weak, depressed, confused, alone, and lost.

As stressful as it is to be on this “vacation”/business trip to Vancouver with my parents for 10 days, I’m glad my mom was here with me. I’m glad that when I fell apart, I could crawl into her arms the way a toddler does when they scrape their knee. I just wanted it all to be over. I wanted to go back to the life I had in my small town where everything was simple and I finally got to a place of financial and emotional stability. I wondered why I am the type of person who always craves adventure and a curious life when I could have the simple, routine one that’s available to me when I get back.

I wanted to spend the rest of the day moping, upset, and eating chocolate even though I had lost my appetite. I wanted to opt-out of this moving fiasco that felt more like an apocalypse than an adventure. But I had made plans to go to Lynn Canyon Park and hike next to tall trees, walk down the suspension bridge, and sit on the rocks next to the water. I didn’t want to ruin my parents’ trip just because I felt like a complete and utter failure. I didn’t want my mess to travel into and consume everyone else’s life. So I went.

mental-health-and-adventure

And suddenly nothing else seemed to matter anymore. Not the treacherous apartment search, not the expenses, not the jobs, or my scattered and afraid mind. Suddenly the world was still around me and I remembered why it was that I felt like I was being led to this place. It was the nature, the wonder, the beauty, and this sense of grounded adventure everywhere I turn. It was the wave of calmness that I felt in the air the moment I stepped off the plane. It was the mountains and hills, the way the trees stood so tall you wondered if they had an endpoint. It was the way the water swayed and made you believe that your body was designed to flow this way, too.

Sometimes we get so caught up in all the details, so focused on the things that are made to take us away from what really matters. What really brought you to where you are and what is really leading you towards the next chapter. That’s when we become afraid, anxious, triggered back to our old patterns of thought. It’s the singular focus, this narrowmindedness of filtering your life through negative events. That’s when we are led off track from the truth. Sometimes we become so lost in ourselves that we don’t see the greatness that’s directly in front of us. We miss the beauty because we don’t believe it’s there.

I’m glad I remembered. I’m glad I remembered to see what was in front of me this whole time. Sometimes all we need is to be still to get back, even though it’s the last thing we want to do. But I think we need to be stubborn about our stillness the way we’re stubborn about everything else. I think we need to force ourselves to be still so that we can feel like we are a part of this flow again. So that we can remember that everything will work out the way it’s supposed to. That worry is not a solution to our problems; that it never was. And that we need to trust that what is to come was always waiting for us.

Letting it Go: When Compromising Becomes a Loss of Identity

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It’s two days until my trip to Vancouver and recently, there’s this wave of calmness that has washed over me. I don’t know where it came from and I’m not complaining at all. Calm is much preferred over anxiety if you ask me. But there’s some sort of inkling that things will fall into place in my favor and I just began to trust that the closer it gets to the day I leave. That I will get the higher position I want in the company I work for, and I will find an apartment that’s around my budget. That things will be okay. Things will be better than okay. Something in me knows that now and I’m trusting that that part of me knows more than my anxious scattered mind.

A woman I have a lot of respect for that works as part of the head department for the company and now my current store, came to me with all of the support and advice she could offer. She told me something people have been telling me for years and yet sometimes, certain things don’t seem to click right away…and then one day, they do. She told me to stop doubting myself, that I have a lot to offer and to show people that. That’s something I need to start bringing to the table, instead of my worries and fears.

So today, I wanted to talk about compromising and what it means in terms of your own sense of self and what it means within relationships. (I swear this will all tie together, just bear with me.)

I used to think that love came in fragments. That it was a waving motion that swept in and out of your life. That you had to match the current to stabilize it; to make it last longer. What I’ve understood lately is that love is already constant on its own. I’ve realized that any heart that beats is a heart that loves (whether we choose to admit it and be open about it, or not.)

But I’ve only recently understood that, which means that for most of my life, I tried to match any tide that wanted to wash over me. But I always found my own tide to be bigger. It would take over and consume the other, and more often than not, it would consume me with it.

One of my greatest fears has always been that I’ll be the one who cares too much, loves too much and feels too much. That no one else in my life had proven that they had the same extent of sensitivity that I did. I was always more intense with everything I did, meaning that I learned most of my boundaries by crossing them seventeen times.

So what exactly do I mean by believing that I had to match someone else’s tide? In less airy-fairy terms, I wanted to match someone else’s energy. Since I was drawn to people who seemed to not care about me very much, I decided that I would also be distant, withdrawn, and cold. Obviously on the inside, there was a lot more going on, but I got very good at my poker face. I got very good at making people believe that I didn’t feel anything at all. I wonder if at the time, they were pretending, too.

As the years went on, I wasn’t just drawn towards the cold, the distant, and the withdrawn. I was drawn towards people who were actually quite the opposite. Very affectionate, open and loving. People who were like the real me. It wasn’t something I was all that used to and I came to the conclusion one day, that I had forgotten how to not pretend. It felt like I had already done all this work to create this persona. I was tough, cold, unreliable, and often, in control. The case was no longer matching other tides, reciprocating what I received, but somewhere along the line, this was just who I became to my external world.

There are certain points in my life that I felt I had compromised too much of myself. That I gave in to what other people wanted from me and became the person that people wanted me to be. If I’m being completely honest, I felt pretty powerful at that time. It felt like for once, I wasn’t seen as weak, sensitive, and overly emotional, which was considered a terrible thing for a woman to be. I mean, how awful is it to be such a girl? No, I wanted to embody more of a masculine persona. It felt a lot more CEO and a lot less 90’s Soap Opera. (Don’t worry, the feminist in me is cringing right now at my old frame of thought)

I think compromise looks different for everyone which is why it can be so confusing. What I’ve understood as compromising is losing myself by being consumed of what another wants of me. I got so tired of being walked on and “compromising” that I became something entirely different. But what I never understood was that compromise didn’t mean admitting defeat or completely losing my own identity. It didn’t mean having to lose respect for myself that took me years to gain or just attain. Switching out to the person who is cold, distant, and withdrawn doesn’t mean you are strong. It’s usually just a mask for fear. And knowing me, I had…and still have, a lot of it.

I don’t know what meeting halfway looks like just yet. It’s something I’m still figuring out within friendships and romantic relationships. I’m starting to think that maybe it means something different for each relationship you have, for each person who is in your life. I realized that what I thought was compromise was just letting my loyalty become a sort of slavery. And when I embodied a more “masculine” sort of identity, I just wanted to reverse roles.

I think to understand what compromise really means within us and our relationships, we have to first align ourselves. What I mean by that is to understand who you are and who you are not. There’s this feeling of balance and calm that you get when you feel like the person you are with those close to you, matches the person you are on the inside. This alignment, this authenticity, and this understanding of your value and respect are the tools you need for anything that comes your way. And so when we find ourselves in another relationship, we won’t feel inclined to lose ourselves in it, nor will we not show up for it at all. We’ll just get to be and let the other be. Maybe that’s what compromise really is, simple and complicated.

Recreating What We Know: A Word on Partners, Lovers, and Friends

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I’ve written a lot about friendships in terms of how relationships evolve, dissolve, flourish, and end, but I haven’t spoken too much about romantic relationships here, so I thought I might give that a go today. I’ll talk a bit about the ones I’ve had, but to do that, I have to first explain the one my parents had as I was growing up, because if I have learned anything from my degree in psychology and my own personal experience, it’s that we have a tendency to recreate the relationships that have always existed in our lives.

I think you can have many different relationships with the same person. I think that for a relationship to last, you kind of have to. Because, as you change and grow and as your partner changes and grows, it doesn’t make sense for the relationship to remain the same. The relationship I grew up seeing wasn’t exactly the healthiest. It was two people who didn’t like each other very much, two people who had fallen out of love, but stayed together for the sake of the family. Our home was divided in such a way that we lived as roommates. My mom, my sister and I were our own family; my dad and his mom who had come to live with us, had their own. Sometimes we would have interactions, usually, they’d end in arguments where one of us always left the house…or got kicked out.

The next day, we would all pretend it didn’t happen. We would go on, without any further discussion. We were all trained well on avoiding any form of confrontation because, in our experience, it just led to more anger, pain, and resentment. Growing up, my dad made it pretty clear that he wanted no part in my life, other than the occasional power over my decisions. I accepted it, but only because I was a kid and really had no other choice. I remember moments I’d beg my mom to leave him, but she never did. Sometimes she would for a short period, but she’d always come back and forgive him or ask for forgiveness because she was reminded that it was typically her fault. I watched their on-and-off-again marriage, understanding that this was what love must look like. I decided that there had to be another way and I’d figure it out.

And then I got into my own relationships…with a GREAT amount of reluctance. The first (real) one being an on-and-off-again toxic partnership: shocker. We fought every day and I felt lucky I found someone who was able to ignore it the next day like it had never happened. He didn’t like confrontation as much as me. I’d walk away from him over and over, but then I’d always come back. He did the same. I usually ate up the blame, and he reminded me that he loved me and also that no other man would be able to do such a thing.

There’s this sense of worth and value that I was missing. One that I didn’t understand I needed to have in the first place. I thought that I was lucky if someone loved me, because they’d likely be the only one who ever could. I was lost, reckless, sensitive and withdrawn. And I came with a lot of baggage. I wonder now, if my mom had felt the same.

But then something changed the script because something always does. When our relationship ended (for good), I came to understand that relationships could end. That when someone walks away, they don’t necessarily have to come back. It’s such an obvious thing, but it never screwed into my head properly. The second thing I learned is that there was a point I got tired of fighting, so I decided I would be the “chill” girlfriend. The one who shrugged off anything that would typically lead us into heavy arguments…and it worked, for a while. I learned that you had to remain quiet as a woman in order for your relationship to last. It was a compromise, I told myself.

But what you learn doesn’t necessarily have to be true. I compromised most of myself to hold any relationship afterward. Friendships, partners, anyone. The reward was that I got to have very long-lasting relationships with people; the con was that they were inauthentic and would always end…typically when I was tired of pretending. I was a volcano waiting to erupt but no one would see it coming. Healthy, right?

I thought I was changing the script that I had learned growing up. That I found a loophole, a way out. A way to stop the arguments, the walking out and coming back. But holding my truth may not have affected the other person so much during our friendship or relationship, but it ate me up inside slowly. That really, even though I had found a way out of one negative factor I watched growing up, I kept another. I avoided confrontation at all costs.

When my relationship ended, I woke up realizing that I knew nothing about myself. That I didn’t even know what I liked, what I disliked, who I was. That when I stopped arguing with him, I also stopped listening to myself.

It’s been a long time since that moment and I’ve definitely come a long way. But I get it now, how easy it is to fall into the patterns we watched growing up. How when we take on those patterns, we attract people who will fall into them, just like we did.

It’s a learned habit to recreate what we have always known because it’s familiar, even if it’s not pleasant. We know the script well, even if we don’t like it. And I think there’s something about familiarity that we’re always going to be drawn to. Lucy Quin once said, “We revisit old feelings for the same reason we re-read books – comfort in words familiar even though we know the endings.” Familiarity feels like home and even if home is chaos, it’s still home.

And maybe to break the patterns, we have to fantasize about a new home and repair parts of ourselves to fit into it. Because the thing is, we repeat what we don’t repair, but when patterns are broken, new worlds emerge and a new home can be built.

The Difference Between Tough and Strong

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I like to say that I’m good at doing things on my own, probably because I am. But on the contrary, you won’t typically hear me say that I’m terrible at asking for help, especially when I need it. But that’s also true.

I’ve always been that way. When I was 7 years old, I dreamt of being an author (because I had just figured out that books were written by actual people) and let my mind escape into a future where I was my own version of wonder woman…you know, the one who wrote novels and started a non-profit organization. Oh yeah, she sang too and wrote her own lyrics and knew how to play every instrument. She was also a top secret agent who performed concerts with her girl group on the side. They were called the Soul Sisters or something along those lines. You know, realistic goals.

Even when I dreamt these things that were in collaboration with others, I dreamt that I was in charge of making things happen. Some people might translate that into a knowing that you want to be a leader of some sorts, but what I’ve wondered about is whether its mostly because I am still not fully able to trust others.

I like things to be done a certain way and sometimes, I think that I’m the only person who is able to accomplish what it is that I need. I know, I know, it’s a little egotistical…or a lot. But what it comes from is not having a stable sense of support growing up and so I got used to this assumption in my head that reminded me that people were unreliable. You have yourself in this world and no one else. The message was pretty clear and pretty true when I was growing up…and then I hit the real world. Then I moved out of my parents home. Then I was introduced to a whole new set of faces and personalities. But I always remembered what I learned. I always remembered that whoever these people were, they were not to be relied on.

It was only recently that I came to realize that this is a very lonely way to walk through your life. To place this assumption that you ingrained in yourself since childhood, and now seem to apply to everyone else around you and anyone you will ever meet. To believe that you have a right to help others but they don’t get that same chance with you. It’s a very ‘tough’ person thing to do, but what I now want is not to be a tough person. I’d rather be a strong person, instead.

The difference between being tough and strong is the amount of vulnerability you offer from within yourself. I’ve gotten used to being tough because I didn’t know there was even a difference. Tough meant I didn’t want to look weak, so I didn’t show my emotions. Tough meant I put a big smile on my face every day and buried the truth deep inside of me until even I couldn’t see it anymore. Tough meant that even my closest of friends knew nothing about me. Tough meant that I lived through a representative, instead of who I actually was.

I’ve come to understand that strength looks a lot different than this. Strength means opening yourself up to connection. It means saying your truth. It means letting people in. It means trusting those who have shown up time and time again. It means letting people show up for you in the first place.

I thought that to be strong meant that I had to do it on my own, but really it means the exact opposite. I’m still learning, I’m still trying to catch myself in these moments. But I think that understanding the difference helped. And when that voice inside me screams that people aren’t reliable, I remind it that I am learning how to distinguish the truth of that. Because, as Brene Brown says, “When you first start trying to be vulnerable, people are going to freak out and there will be pushback. You will scare some people. But vulnerability is a great filter. If people can’t accept your vulnerability, they don’t deserve your trust.” Meaning that all of this is not to say that I am suddenly trusting of all humans that walk this planet, but I’m practicing sharing with people who have earned the right to hear my story. I’m practicing allowing them to show up. I’m practicing this whole connection thing that I’ve strained away from for most of my life.

What I’m beginning to realize is that I may have been missing out before, because the more I practice, the more I know it’s worth it.

Shadows and Reflections: We See It How We Perceive It

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“The world exists as you perceive it. It is not what you see, but how you see it. It is not what you hear, but how you hear it. It is not what you feel, but how you feel it.”

– Rumi

There are some things I don’t bother to question. One of which is why so many of us are driven to madness by the pursuit of things that in our rational society, appear to be otherwise meaningless. What I question more is why we have decided that a life of creativity is more out of reach than one of 9 to 5’s. For me, that concept doesn’t make much sense. We were born with a curious nature, a drive to play and create and make things for the sake of joy. It’s embedded in us.

I don’t know if I create stories so much as I discover them. I think the worlds I write about are ones that have always been there, I just haven’t known about them before now. I think the characters that sprout in my mind are people that just want to be heard. Sometimes I think they’re aliens from another planet, living in a world with far different rules than the ones we’ve created. I must be an alien to them too, then.

I came down with a pretty bad headache last night, probably because I took this inner joy thing too far. I’ve felt this surge of creativity. Suddenly my first draft wants to be typed out and edited. Simultaneously, the ideas for my second book are becoming more and more clear. I switched back from one to the other, the middle divider being a book that I’m reading. Somehow the worlds can be distinguished, separated in my head, even though I’m beginning to work on them at the same time.

I’m blogging, I’m writing, I’m editing, I’m researching, and I’m filled with life. So what’s been crossing my mind is, why now? Why when my life is coming back around in this town, my creativity surging, is it that I am moving across the country in less than two months? It feels like I have finally found that spark again and got my routine back on track. So why do I have to move now? Why do I have to leave when things have finally fallen into place? Why do I have to bring chaos to my life when I finally feel settled? Or in reverse, why do I finally feel settled before the chaos?

My counselor had a different way of seeing this…and thank god for that, because I would have driven myself mad yet again. Her insight was that this coming together externally begun when I made the decision to leave. My job transfer, the relationships with my family changing, my work relationships changing, and this anticipation for adventure that I’ve been craving for so long, finally coming together. But internally, I was going through a period of grieving many things that ended. The first draft of my book, close friendships falling apart, people moving away, and leaving me behind to stay here.

Her understanding of this internal shift that to me, has felt like a literal rebirth, wasn’t that it should give me a reason to stay. That it doesn’t mean I’ve made the wrong decision. But instead, to look at this internal shifting of me falling back into place as another reason to go. That this was a strong piece I needed for when I was there, in a brand new environment, with no one I know around me, building a new life. That this coming together internally was a part of everything falling into place. That this was a process that began the moment I trusted my instinct the day I was led to make the move and this piece seems to be one of the final ones of everything falling together because of that moment that I listened to that small voice inside of me.

The lesson here is that everyone should go to counseling because let’s be real, who else has that sort of wisdom? I’m kidding, that’s not the lesson…entirely.

But I find there is a piece of me that looks for the negative. I think there’s a part of all of us that does that. The piece that tries to find a reason to be hard on ourselves. A reason to call ourselves a failure. In psychology, the confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that it confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses. I don’t know about you, but that’s something I do all the time, especially when it comes to this deeply rooted belief that I am not good enough and incapable of accomplishing great things.

It’s something I try to work on and catch, but it’s something I have definitely not perfected. And when this happens, sometimes we really need another perspective (a kinder one). Sometimes we can come up with one ourselves, but other times, we need to go to someone we trust for it. Because if we don’t, we might spend our days, our lives even, confirming whatever lie it is that we tell ourselves. We go looking for moments that verify it, people that validate it, and when we go into our day looking for something like that, we tend to create even more of it.

So as a reminder to reinforce a more positive outlook, remember that when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Broken Crayons: On The Things I Took for Granted

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I’m thinking that maybe I needed that breaking point two nights ago. That maybe it was a turning point for me. That’s what caused the shifting last night. It was like someone finally found the light switch and the room became bright again. I felt alive again.

I came home from work last night and the air was different. I was back to being me. I realized that it meant that this period of grief, mourning, rest, and patience was over. I guess that time had been hiding this ignition I’ve always had even though I thought it had disappeared. It was 9:30pm when I got home from work and instead of getting ready for bed, I found myself dancing around my room, excited, grateful, and back in love with my life.

I don’t know what changed because externally, nothing has. But deep down, I feel I needed this realization that my frame of thought was circular, certain relationships that had dragged on for far too long needed to be let go of, and even though I wanted so bad to believe some people in my life were going to change, I understood that they wouldn’t. And if they do, they will do so on their own terms and because of their own drives, not mine. But just because some people won’t change, it doesn’t mean I can’t. It doesn’t mean that I can’t change something inside of me that clings on to this illusion of their potential. This part of me that sees people for who they could be rather than who they are.

It was that breakdown of clarity, the thunder and lightning storm that matched my frequency, and this understanding that I have no right to try and change someone. I have no right to hold them to something that they don’t want to be. I have to let people go through their journey the way that they need to, even though part of me aches to have some control or throw my opinion in there. But with that, there was this clarity that those relationships are still toxic to me and that I can’t change it, even though I’ve wanted to and tried to for so long. However, I do have a right to let them go. I have a right to release this hold on them and simultaneously, set myself free. And that’s exactly how I felt last night and this morning. Like I’m free. Like I’m alive again.

Like I’m finished with the grief of certain endings, the loss of relationships, and the rest that follows a rigorous and chaotic period of movement. It took me a while to get here, but it was worth it. All of it. All of the pain, all of the tears, all of the internal and external struggle, the impatience and feeling of dread. All of that which got me here was worth it because sometimes we need those periods to remind us of how grateful we should be when we are out.

Life has its ups and downs and it took me a while to embrace the season of my life that I just went through, but it was when I let go that I found myself back here. I feel lighter and radiant and alive and I don’t want to forget what it took to get here because I don’t ever want to take this place for granted again.

I feel as though this season I am entering of my life is sudden breakthrough after breakthrough, maybe as a reward or a reminder that the previous season didn’t break me. And even though it felt like it did at times, it wasn’t enough and I see that now. I think that we all feel a little broken sometimes, or maybe even most of the time. I know that I do. But the last time I checked, broken crayons still color.

On Writing and Second Chances

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I didn’t always know how to speak. How to convey what it was that I was thinking or feeling, probably because I didn’t always understand it myself. There are still times I find myself in this place. Often when I haven’t given enough time to reflect because everything else took priority. It didn’t seem important enough to put at the top of my list. Or rather, I didn’t think that was important enough to put at the top of my list.

So I listened to music and found that the lyrics I gravitated towards typically felt the same way. I would sit at the foot of my bedroom door and place my headphones into my ears, a disk into my walkman (because yes, those existed and I totally had one) and just let it soak in. I let myself understand. That was my time for reflection.

Last night was a turning point for me. I found myself in a dark place, having given another chance to someone who doesn’t want to change. And time and time again, I fall into this illusion that maybe this time will be different, but it never is. That this instance has replayed over and over too many times that I don’t think I can do it anymore. I reached a point of breaking down until I started hearing rain shooting at my windowsill. I heard thunder and saw flashes of lightening. I laughed because I had just written about energy matching energy and it felt like the universe got me. Like it knew exactly how I felt and it wrestled into a storm, showing me that it’s okay.

It was a permission slip of sorts that reminded me that everything can spiral. Everything can rage. Everything can cry, even the sky. And then, when it’s all over, the world becomes quiet, just like my mind.

So I thought about it all last night as I was trying my best to fall asleep and then again this morning. How many chances do I hand out before I am left with nothing? How many times should I let myself get back down here, back to drowning? How many times do I let my own perception cast a filter on someone else’s truth? And how many times am I going to let myself feel defeated when mask that I put on their face comes off? Because it always does. And how many times am I going to blame them instead of taking a look at the part I had to play in this?

Maybe a lot of us do this. We see what we want to see. We see what we hope. We see through our own intentions instead of another’s. And then we fall flat on our faces when we learn that they weren’t how we imagined. Or that they didn’t change like we thought. And the thing that keeps us on this rollercoaster of letting the behavior pursue, or continuing to hand out these chances is this scary thought that what if we don’t and this time is when it’ll actually be real.

When I started thinking about second chances and false perceptions, what came to my mind was why I’ve always found hope, trust, and love in writing. How time and time again, it has saved me. How many times I’ve clung onto it with my dear life because it was all I had. Books, journals, blogs, essays, stories, quotes. Words.

How words can be so much like humans. They can flirt and flutter, or lie and deceive, or give you hope and love. It’s the words you choose to read, the words you choose to write, and the words you learn to trust. Because in the end, words can heal just as easily as they can betray. But words are words and humans are humans. And if you cast your own filter on either, they won’t get to tell you their truth, so why would we expect to see it?

If we’re seeking to become the most authentic versions of ourselves, I think we also have to remember that we have to allow others to be the most authentic versions of themselves, too. And the truth is that sometimes that’s going to hurt, but it can also be humbling and magical. What I understand now is that maybe to see things as they are, we have to simply let them be. Let words be words. Let humans be humans. And then decide, what do you want to be a part of?

Collecting Beautiful Moments: A Yin and Yang Life

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There’s this strange thing I’ve been feeling lately. This lingering sense of missing people who have left my life but not wanting them back in it. So I guess I’ve just been wondering whether you can continue to love people without wanting to rehash or re-build a relationship with them.

I have to admit that it’s an odd sensation and I catch myself at times feeling stupid for this back and forth frame of thought. This reminiscing of old memories alongside a knowing that those times have gone, and those friends or partners have left with them.

Yesterday I lived in my anxiety, trying to be fully present at my job whilst wanting to break down throughout the shift. I tried to look for something to be grateful for and I found many things, but this sensation was too overpowering. It felt like crumbling. Like I was finally facing what I have had to leave behind or what has left me behind these past few months. The world around me looked the same. My external life surrounding my work and my relationships is probably the most stable that it has ever been, and yet I kept tipping off the scale. There was something that pulled me out of balance.

I love growing up and becoming new and feeling these changes in the person that I’m becoming. But my mind keeps wanting to remind me what once was. What I had when I didn’t know as much about who I was and the kind of person that I wanted to be. Is it okay to still miss some of those things? Is it okay to feel a bit envious of the ignorance that embodied my adolescent years? Is it okay to still cherish memories of the past but know that I don’t want to re-live them?

Sometimes I fall under this illusion that my past was easier when in reality, every aspect of it was far more difficult. It’s a trick of the ego that wants to find an excuse for me to fall back into old habits.

I guess what I’m coming to realize is that this reminiscing isn’t an inkling that I should rehash old relationships or habits or ways of thinking. Maybe it’s just a reminder that even in the worst of times, there was good. That even though I was in a deep state of depression, a financial crisis; even though I was insecure and lost and alone, there were still many things to be grateful for.

I think sometimes we’re quick to assume that our pain and longing for what once was means that we need that thing, that person, that relationship, or that job back in our lives. But maybe it’s just a souvenir from a past life. A life that you’ve grown out of, a person that you’ve now come to better understand. An indication that even at the worst of times, there were moments of joy and happiness. That it doesn’t mean we need to re-create those things, but instead be grateful that they happened. Those are what kept us going. Those are what have helped bring us to where we are now.

And sometimes, those relationships simply came into our lives for that purpose alone. They came to serve us the love and joy that carried us through moments we wouldn’t have otherwise known how to deal with. And then, when they served their purpose, they had to leave.

I think one of the hardest things we have to do is grieve the loss of a person or people who are still alive. But I also think that our job in these waves of missing what once was is just to collect the beautiful moments and memories. Not all gifts are tangible. And not to get too cheesy here, but some gifts are just meant to be held in your heart.

Tainted Memories: Where Do Slip-Ups Fall in the Process of Self-Actualization?

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Looking back, a lot of my memories don’t make sense to me because they’ve been tainted by another’s perception and a lack of my own. Because for most of my life, I’ve understood my experiences based on how I was supposed to feel, rather than how I actually felt. I find myself lost in the conversations I’ll have with others regarding the night, the event, or the situation and will take over their experience of it. If they had fun, it meant the night was fun. If they thought it was boring, it must have been a snoozefest.

There was always this dissonance between what I actually felt and how I curated the experience when talking to others or even journaling on my own time. Those entries I wrote and the things I told myself accumulated over time and one day I woke up feeling like I didn’t remember my life. I felt the need to read through old journals so that I remembered. It was like a subtle form of my own brainwashing that has had a great impact on my sense of self.

I mean, if I’m someone who is wanting to accept and improve parts of myself, I’m not exactly validating my own human experience. And how can I go about my days learning more about who I am if I can’t even let myself feel the way that I need to? If I don’t let myself feel, how will I know what is good for me and what isn’t?

What’s interesting to me is how we all think we’re so good at lying to ourselves. How it has become a habit so entrenched in us that we don’t even know we’re doing it.

What brought this all over was what I’m now going to call an awakening, even though my initial instinct was to coin it a slip-up. It’s easier to beat yourself up over something than to learn from it. But I find that sometimes these “slip-ups” – these moments when we feel we have grown so much that having an experience, a night, a moment like this, is a backtracking. But instead, I think when we are in the midst of self-discovery and self-exploration, certain things trigger us. And those triggers only have a past resolution, so your instinct is to try that out again. But this time, it’s different because this time, that old way of fixing or masking your trigger doesn’t work. And if we take the time to reflect, we’ll notice that this isn’t a backtracking. It’s an awakening. It’s progress.

What I found myself in last night was no different than the nights I’ve had up until I turned 20. It began with just a farewell dinner and drinks with coworkers and somehow ended in a strip club. One drink turned into several shots. A simple night turned into a wild one. These were nights I used to thrive off of. Nights that brought me a lot of shame and self-hate in the morning, but nights that others remembered as fun, hilarious, and “nights to remember”.

If I look at the night with none of my feelings attached, it was fun. I shared a lot of laughs, danced like a grandma and cried when it was time to say goodbye to my manager who was moving to another city the next day. If I look at it the way everyone will remember it, it was wild and exciting and very weird at times. If I remember it the way the rest of them will talk about it, it really was a night to remember.

But that night also triggered a lot of my past self. The first thing is that I don’t really drink anymore, if at all. I’ll have a glass of wine every few months if I’m having a girls night or it’s a special event, but not like this. Because what happens is I get this pit inside of me. There’s this wave of emptiness I feel. Like I’m washing away everything inside of me. Like I can clean away my problems by losing myself. I used to do it very often until I realised how much it was hurting me. And then last night, I felt that pit again.

So this morning I decided I was going to let myself remember the night the way I had experienced it. I don’t think I realised how hard that is for me to do until I made my first attempt. How quickly I was to recalibrate it, to doubt each true sentence I wrote with another one stating that “I could be wrong,” “I don’t really know” or “But it was fun”.

It took me a while to figure out how to decipher the way I should understand my experience until I realised that I should understand it by just acknowledging how I felt throughout. That I should let myself remember that there was a moment I missed the close friend I lost a few months ago who shared a night like this with me a couple years back. That there were countless moments where I felt a forced smile on my face. That when I was walking back home at the end of the night, there were multiple times I wanted to just crawl down on all fours and burst into tears. That there was this pit of loneliness I felt overcome me. That I wanted so badly to escape it. That something in me knew that I wasn’t okay lately and that I tried to mask the way I’ve been feeling by using an old method. And realising that that old method no longer works anymore.

And this sudden clarity that maybe I was done with “wild”. I’ve had years of that and it’s a funny word because it feels rebellious and thrilling. But really, ‘wild’ was just another way of tainting my self-destructive behaviour. That maybe instead, I’m longing for adventure and exploration instead; seeking a more intimate setting with friends instead of a loud one. Wanting deep conversations over blurry memories.

Maybe I am more lost than ever before, but now I’m paying attention to the signs of clarity.

Permanent Impatience: When to Shift Your Energy

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I feel as though I crossed through a tidal wave yesterday. In a time when my stress and anxiety levels are at an ultimate high, I came across a colleague at work who was going through something I had just surpassed a few months ago. It was like a shifting of gears, a transfer of the kind of energy I felt inside myself and was also putting out into the world. Suddenly, I found my stress and anxiety for my own life drift away and understood that this time could be better used to help lift up and support another person. I realized that I was in the position to do something and out of the blue, there became a reason – a purpose – for the last two months I’ll be spending in this town.

It’s funny how life works. How you can be so caught up within yourself and then someone will either come to you or you open yourself up to them, and you realize that although you feel so isolated in yourself, they don’t have to. They don’t have to go through this alone because you’ve been in that exact situation yourself and you’ve gotten yourself out of it. You’ve gained these tools and resources from that experience and now you can utilize them to help heal and support them through it.

I think that sometimes we get too caught up in our own problems. In the age of independence, there’s a lot of isolation. That is, if you close yourself off to everyone around you. Because in the midst of my own internal chaos, I found connection. And even though this problem is outside of my own current one, I realize that that doesn’t matter. Because sometimes, our problems are only understood and resolved with time. Being human means that we get stressed and worried anyways because we just want to do something about it. We want to be in control. But sometimes, all we are asked to do is be patient.

I think when that person at work came to me with their most vulnerable selves, it was the universe forcing my own patience by shifting my energies. Sometimes we need that tug…at least I know that I do. Because maybe in helping someone else, my focus will also shift and I won’t stress on my own impatience.

I do believe that nothing is a coincidence and everything happens for a reason. The universe sends us exactly what we are ready for at the exact time we need it in our lives. I also believe in the power of connection and that when you find yourself getting too caught up in your own isolated struggles, ask for help. Asking for help could look different for everybody, but in my case, it meant opening myself up again to others instead of living in my own head.

“Vulnerability is the essence of connection and connection is the essence of existence.”
                                                                             – Leo Christopher

 

The Age of Calm: Rushing Towards Wisdom

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When I was 10, all I wanted was to be in my 20’s. It seemed like all the characters in my favourite television shows had their lives together and they were all in their 20’s. They were beautiful, strong, wise, and independent – everything I aspired to be. And then I hit my 20’s and suddenly everyone feared the concept of getting older. Friends whined about their birthdays, criticising themselves on the fact that their lives were still not the way they wanted and they were “running out of time”.

I stood there, nodding my head, disconnected to their frame of thought. I realized that I didn’t have my life together the way that the people on TV did. However, I quickly learned that your 20’s are chaotic, messy, and a lot of figuring out the type of person you want to be so I didn’t really fear this age or the ages to come. I actually craved for time to pass by faster. I wanted to be wiser than this and I knew that the only recipe for that is to practice self-awareness and learn from new experiences – something that only comes with time. Something that is only brought to you with years.

There’s a lot of talk about practising self-improvement, self-acceptance, and self-love but not so much on how exactly you are to go about doing it. That’s probably because what works for some people won’t work for others and vice versa. But I find that in my experience personally, I like learning about how people do things and what they’ve tried out so that I have a range of tools to test for myself.

So lately, I’ve been trying to practice patience and this form of trust in both myself and my faith in the timing of things. When I find something to practice and want to develop it in myself, I look for someone who has that trait mastered. It doesn’t necessarily have to be someone I know. It could be an author, a speaker, a well-known instructor, anyone. Sometimes it takes a bit of research to find this person or people, but I really believe that energy matches energy, and if you are actively trying to work on that part of yourself and seeking for some sort of guide, you will attract exactly that into your life.

Lucky for me, I knew just the person who had this particular quality. That of course, hasn’t always been the case. For instance, I’ve been working on learning how to forgive for quite some time and stumbled upon so many guides, my favourite, of course, being Rob Bell.

Anyways, in trying to learn patience and trust, I’ve gained a greater relationship with my mom. My mother, who is so full of life, strong, creative, talkative, and loving is also a very grounded person. By grounded, I don’t mean “practical” or “rational”, because she is known for stubbornly following her heart. Despite her vibrant personality, there’s also this wave of calmness that you feel when you talk to her. Like she’s not panicked or searching for all the things that could possibly go wrong all the time. Like she’s not anxious or worried. That’s not to say that she doesn’t feel emotions because she human and a sensitive one at that, but she also has a lot of faith and trust in herself, in the universe, in God, and in the timing of everything.

I can be very deceiving at times with the way I type and even the way that I talk because I tend to sound quiet, slow and calm. But if you were to get in my head, you’d be able to see what’s really happening…which is A LOT of anxiety, panicking, worrying and chaos. What goes on in there uses up a lot of energy that I could be spending doing something more enjoyable or even proactive. Most of the things I worry about can’t be changed or haven’t even happened.

So I ask her all the time, how her mind works, how she thinks. I ask her how she used to think and how she changed that thought process over time. I ask her about her life now, how she thinks and feels versus her life when she was younger. What she’s mentioned time and time again that has struck me was that life usually instills it in you. That it wasn’t so much of calmness, but rather this feeling of comfort within herself that was formed over the years. The more comfortable she felt about who she was, how she looked, what she felt, what she desired, and what she was passionate about, the calmer she became, the more trust she had in life and the more patience she cultivated. She mentions that the beginnings of any decade of your life are the hardest, meaning your early teens, early 20’s, early 30’s, etc. because you are simultaneously shedding and becoming which brings about a lot of frustration and confusion.

It was this answer that I kept receiving from her that reminded me that what we’re actively seeking to develop within ourselves isn’t always what we’re really looking for. That in this search of calm, I actually need to learn comfort first. But also understanding that it’s completely normal to be uncomfortable in these rocky years of your life. Discomfort is just a signal for growth. And this isn’t something that I’ll learn and cultivate overnight. It takes time, just like anything good does. But her most important lesson for me, being the person who just wants time to fly by so that I can already be that person is to pay attention during this time. Pay attention to everything around you, everything that you feel, that you see, that you learn, and that you experience.

In learning how to improve yourself, I tend to always get sidetracked in the thought that my own frustration means that I’m stuck. But what I’ve learned is that it instead means that something is shifting. Frustration isn’t a block or a wall. Most of the time, it’s just a horizontal arrow that will lead you onto a new path. And in my conquest to gain wisdom, there’s nothing to be learned if we don’t pay attention to what is already around and within us.

Reverse Compartmentalizing: Feel It to Let it Go

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What’s been popping up into my mind these past few months is the mantra of how we spend our days is how we spend our lives. For a lot of people, this is inspiring and motivational, a reminder to change small parts of our days in order to live the lives we aspire to. But the more I think about it…or let’s be honest, overthink about it, I’ve understood that for me, it has been a little stress-inducing.

I’m a doer. I like waking up early and getting things done before I head to my full-time job. The list of tasks I set for myself (besides the mandatory get groceries, do laundry, pay bills, etc.) is pretty heavy but it keeps me satisfied. The more I feel I accomplish in a morning, the more I add to my plate to “challenge” myself with. What more can I do? What else do I desire to create or make or accomplish today?

So as you can imagine, if I stress so much on how I am spending my days, it just adds to my productivity addiction. I’ve written a post before on the difference between a productive life and a valuable one, so today I want to talk a bit about this mantra. The thought of how we spend our days becoming how we spend the rest of our lives.

For someone whose initial instinct is to understand this saying as an indicator that I should continue adding to my list of tasks, I want to change gears a little (for the sake of my own sanity). I wonder, what if we thought about this on an emotional level? What if instead, we measured our lives, not by how much we can do and accomplish, but instead on how we feel and how to understand those feelings. Because if I know anything, it’s that when you can understand your emotions and pay attention to your thought processes and reactions, you’ll also be able to understand where you should be spending most of your energy. You’ll be able to understand what you need, what brings you joy, and what you want just by tuning into yourself a little bit.

If you’re anything like me, you’re pretty good at compartmentalising your feelings, especially when you’re at work. Alright, you caught me. I say “compartmentalising” but I really mean ‘suppressing’…whatever. But I mean, we’ve heard time and time again to not bring our personal lives to our jobs, right? So what if I told you that you should not only pay attention to how you feel at any time of the day, but also that paying attention to your emotions doesn’t necessarily mean having to put them on display for the world to see? Because on a more rational level, let’s be real…we can’t be sobbing at work every day. There is shit that needs to get done!

Living in this world means that we also have to manage our level of self-awareness and emotional output around our day-to-day lives. What that typically means is that sometimes we can’t exactly have an anger tantrum or a mental breakdown at our job or at your kid’s birthday party, or at a meeting, etc. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t show our vulnerability. If you guys have been following me for a while, you know that I’m a huge advocate for sharing your most vulnerable self…to the right people of course.

But there are moments in our everyday lives where we know that it’s the wrong place and time to showcase our emotions. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to them. For instance, I’ve started regularly checking in with myself multiple times a day. Anytime someone might aggravate me or shares a sad story, expresses their love etc. I tap into how that makes me feel. But that person might just be a customer, and for business (and maturity level) purposes, I can’t exactly throw a temper tantrum if someone pisses me off. What I can do though is take note of that instance and internally set a reminder for myself to feel what I needed to feel…but when I get home.

It might seem silly, but these small interactions that we have each and every day need to be released so that they don’t build up over time. Before the age of smartphones, when people were waiting in line, sitting in their car, or had any downtime to themselves, it gave them a chance to reflect. But now we’re getting more and more into an age of distractions (i.e. scroll, scroll, scroll). So it might seem a little silly or waste of time at first to go home from your day at work and remember instances that made you feel anything so that you can feel them, but it really does help.

Taking the time to reflect on your day, every day, even if it’s only for 10 minutes can really change the way that you understand yourself. You can get to know what your triggers are the more you pay attention to the small things. You can understand who you feel happiest around and who maybe doesn’t bring the best version of yourself forward. What brought you joy, even if it was just for a moment? What made your stomach turn? What did you read? What did you hear? And how did it make you feel?

How we spend our days may be how we spend our lives. But I think paying attention to ourselves and how we feel throughout our days might give us a greater indication on how we should be feeling throughout our lives. Again, this doesn’t mean that you are going to feel happy all day every day. Happiness is an emotion, just like sadness. It’s meant to come and go. However, in learning more about ourselves and in paying attention to our emotions by reflecting on them, we can learn the right tools, place ourselves around the right people, and gain a better understanding of what we can do or change to get back to our home base.

Past Self Scrutiny: When Following Your Dreams Becomes a Trigger

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These days I’ve been a little down but I can feel small peaks of inspiration and joy sneaking through. I’m hoping soon they’ll take over altogether. What I’ve been reflecting on is whether I’m beginning to lose hope. Is that what this feeling of dreadfulness is? Day after day, I feel I should be excited or happy or something other than this. I’m going on vacation to Vancouver in a few weeks to apartment hunt, I’m moving across the country in 2 months. But all I feel is disbelief. Is it possible that things have gone terribly wrong so many times that I’ve lost faith in things ever going right again?

When this feeling first took over, I was open and honest about it to others and was struck with a lot of questioning. Why was I not that excited? Why was I afraid? Maybe this isn’t the right thing for you to do then, people would advise. So I stopped being honest. I started to splatter a smile on my face and glee my excitement, even though I wasn’t really feeling it. I got tired of people telling me that this lack of enthusiasm meant that I wasn’t choosing right because I think it’s something else altogether. I got tired of adding their doubt to my plate when I already have too much of my own.

There’s something happening with me internally that has just been too difficult to explain in a five-minute conversation. This shifting of my relationship with my parents, letting go of the relationship with my sister and moving forward with my life. Going to a place where no one knows me and I don’t know them. Moving to a place I’ve never been to, and an expensive one I might add. I keep hearing the screams of my 15-year-old self inside of me. The version of me that is terrified of everything. The version of me that hadn’t yet experienced joy.

I didn’t pay attention to her at first. I blocked out the screams inside of me until they started to make their way into my external world. Until what felt so internal became external in my behaviours, my fears, and my daily outlook. Suddenly that 15-year-old version of me was in charge of my life because I allowed her to be. Because I didn’t pay attention to her when she was calling for my attention subtly.

The more I meditate and listen to what this 15-year-old self needs, the more I realise that this transition in my life, these goals I’m achieving and these moves I’m making are all things I’ve always dreamt of, but they are also triggers.

I’ve always craved freedom in my life. Freedom to create, explore, travel, and seek my truth. I guess for a long time, I didn’t really know what freedom meant. I mistook it for escape for the greater half of my life, but I couldn’t have known any better. I mean, you don’t know things until you know them.

So in making these decisions to change my life yet again is a trigger for me. That 15-year-old is screaming because she has tried and it’s never worked. But that 15-year-old isn’t me anymore. She might have tried to the best of her abilities at the time, but there was only so much she could do. My efforts in changing my life now are from a different standpoint. They’re coming from a different sort of wisdom, new tools and resources, and more faith.

I understand now that sometimes when we make the effort to move forward in a way that we have tried before, it might release some sort of trigger inside of us. A reminder that we have failed and that there is no point in trying again. And in these moments, we have to pay attention to who is actually talking. Is it this version of you or a past self? A younger self?

In these moments, be kind to that version that screams and continues to remind you of all the things that could go wrong. They haven’t seen anything else. They’re just afraid. But also remember that you know better now. That you’ve learned from your mistakes, your disappointments and failures. That this time is different. This you is different.

And remind yourself that you didn’t come this far to only come this far. Every next level of your life will demand a different version of you, but that doesn’t mean the past ones will stop showing up. It doesn’t mean you should dismiss them either (like I tried doing for a little while…oops!). Because even though those past selves come with a lot of fear, if you really pay attention and let them speak, they might just have something to teach you.

As Iyanla Vanzant said:

“For people who are on the path trying to discover why they are where they are, trying to come to some sense of self-awareness, trying to move forward, it’s important to understand what the past gave you.”

What Happens When Your Daily Routine Doesn’t Work Anymore

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I get really attached to my routines. There’s this sense of order I thrive off of in my mornings that I haven’t really gotten or perhaps even wanted in other areas of my life. But this little daily structure is what has let me feel free in all other areas, even when I feel stuck. So as you can probably imagine, it was both frustrating and stress-inducing when I began to wake up day after day and realised that my morning routine was no longer enjoyable for me. It was instead, a burden.

It became this thing that I held myself to. If I didn’t accomplish all of these things in the morning, then I would deem myself a failure. I would feel down and scrutinise myself for the rest of the day. I would tell myself that I’d make up for it by doing twice the work tomorrow.

The day after I finished the first draft of my novel, I sort of went into what I like to call my “mourning period”. Writing it was such a significant part of my daily routine and when it was over, I knew it needed to rest before it was time to edit.

My full-time jobs have never really been my passion, but simply a means to make ends meet. I never wanted to rely on my creativity to compensate me for its time. I don’t expect for it to provide me wealth or fame or whatever else. I’ve always known how to work to make ends meet so that I can give any open time to my writing and other creative pursuits. I know that if I don’t have other jobs that help me provide for myself, I’ll be too stressed to create anything at all. And the deal I have with my creativity is just to spend time together. There’s nothing else I really need from it to feel satisfied. No money, no attention.

So when the first draft came to an end, I felt like my morning routine became burdensome. It wasn’t fun. It was just tasks that I had given myself. Tasks that were once enjoyable, but now, a chore. I realised that writing the first draft of my novel was what really fueled me above anything else. Everything else in my morning routine was tied to it, too.

I did yoga before and after writing because I’d be in too deep in the emotions of the characters. I would feel everything and too much of it, so doing yoga put me back into my present being. I would brew a cup of coffee and light a candle while I journaled to let out any of my own thoughts and feelings so that I could fully immerse myself into the story right after. And then after writing and doing yoga, I’d make breakfast, pack my lunch and dinner and head on to work.

When my first draft was over, suddenly all the other parts of my routine didn’t make sense. After four months of writing day in and out, working full time, volunteering, and having a steady routine, I felt like when I was finished writing, I was in need of rest. I needed to let the first draft sit there for a while. Maybe a month, maybe two depending on how I felt. But within this period of rest, I’ve felt more and more scatterbrained. I’ve also learned how bad I am at resting.

What I’m trying to understand now is how to restructure my mornings. I had gotten so attached to my routine that when it couldn’t work anymore, I felt like I lost a part of my identity. I felt like I was all over the place, lost and bored. There was no meaning behind it anymore. My days just felt like work, sleep, wake up, journal, yoga. There was nothing enticing me to move forward.

And with that, moving to the other side of the country in two months has been a little stressful. I keep telling myself that this is the worst time because I feel lost and scattered. I keep telling myself that this might not work the way I want it to. And then when I catch myself admist all this scrutiny, I remember that everything that is happening now is just new. It’s not that I am lost or scattered. It’s just that I have never moved across the country by myself before. It’s just that I have never written a novel before and understood what it looks like to be done the first stage. It’s just that this is all brand new for me.

Somewhere along the way, I forgot that this my first time doing all of this and instead chose to call myself a failure or a lost child who didn’t know what she was doing…amongst other things. Somewhere along the way, I forgot that this is progress. That in two months, my life will look completely different than it does right now. That it already does. And that growth is scary because it’s new. But fear is fear and it has such a negative connotation that it becomes our initial instinct to label our lives as failures just because we don’t have all the answers. But the thing is that you create answers as you move along and try different things. You grow by doing something you’ve never done before.

That’s not failure. That’s not even being lost. That, my friends, is transformation.

What Spirituality Looks Like

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A diary entry I wrote this morning.

 

I woke up today and the sky was pink. It was nice because, for the first time in the last few groggy weeks, the world was suddenly colourful. We see what we want to see and all I’ve seen for most of my life is black and white, mostly because it was comfortable for me. From the way I eat, the way I dress and down to the way I’ve behaved. It was all love or hate. Freedom or constraint. Light or dark. Anger or Happiness. And then today I woke up and everything was pink. It was like I’d been seeing colours the wrong way this whole time. It was like I finally saw something different from what I’ve let myself see my entire life.

There’s a part of me that’s been calling for my attention lately. It’s been asking for a lot of my energy and a lot of my time. And when I don’t give it what it needs, it makes its way into my external world. I can physically hear the screams of my fifteen-year-old self inside of me.

So I’ve been dancing it out, moving my body to free the anger and tears and whatever else that she’s holding on to. Part of me wants to escape all the time and the other part knows that it’s not the me that I am today. So I’ve been dancing to escape without escaping. The first time I started moving my body again, I remembered how free I feel when I do it.

I feel like the more my 15 year old self tries to impose on my external world, the more I feel an internal disconnection between myself and how far I thought I’d come. If she keeps coming back, does that mean I have to stop moving forward? Does that mean I’m not really progressing?

I think about it a lot, how I feel like I’m backtracking. But really, I know I’m not. I’m just facing what’s been there all along and that is progress. I’m looking at the wound. I’m not putting another mask over it.

I wish I wanted to read but I feel too scattered to keep my eyes on a page. I feel restless, awakened, angry and moody and excited and depressed. I feel all of it until it all washes out of me and I’m left feeling empty and alone. I’m left looking at myself in the mirror with bags under my eyes, hair that needs washing, dried out lips. I’m left to sit with myself when all I want is to just do something. Anything.

Sometimes I want to scream. Other times I want to cry. Most of the time, I find myself in the wrong place to do either. Right now, all I want is to be writing stories again. I want to feel alive but all I feel is a little better than the day before and I have to take that and appreciate it and be grateful for it.

I feel like I have to keep writing somewhere because I can’t not write at all. I’ll go crazy. Sometimes I’m tempted to see what that would look like. Usually it’s just misery. I think tragedy can be beautiful, but misery is just childish. I want to shout, “Grow up!” at the top of my lungs but what good would that do?

I never felt normal and now I don’t even feel like myself most of the time. I don’t feel that connected to my spirituality either. I feel everything else but then I get bored of not knowing what to do with all that feeling. So I let it go and I’m left with the wound and the childish misery and my 15 year old self.

The Dissonance of Addiction: What Do I Want My Life to Look Like?

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I’m an open book over here for the most part, and so I’d like to talk about this new thought that has been hindering inside of me. It happened side by side with all the other things that began to come together, like my plans to move in September. It was like a really big and unexpected nudge on the shoulder. There’s this thing I’ve struggled with for the past 6 years. It’s not something I talk a lot about simply because there’s a lot of shame built up within myself about it and there’s also quite a lot of shame brought towards me from a more societal point. I’ll take credit for 70%…okay?

There’s this thing I’ve struggled with for the past 6 years. It’s not something I talk a lot about simply because there’s a lot of shame built up within myself about it and there’s also quite a lot of shame brought towards me from a more societal point. I’ll take credit for 70%…okay?

I was 15 when I tried my first cigarette. Before I get into what came from that, let me start by talking about who I was, what was happening in my life, and what led me to that point. I didn’t know it at the time because 6 years ago, mental illness and mental health, in general, was not a conversation that was talked about. To be honest, 15 year old me understood mental illness as the crazies. Of course, I was sane so there was nothing wrong with me. I learned later on once I began going to see a counsellor regularly that I was and had been in the midst of a deep depression for most of my life.

Since mental health wasn’t talked about, I didn’t know that the deep emptiness I had always felt was something that everyone else didn’t feel. I thought this was just the way we all had to walk around the world. I was brought up to believe in a “suck-it-up” mindset and understood that showing emotions made you look weak. I knew this was the way I had to walk around the world, but being a highly sensitive person, a writer, a daydreamer, and having a boatload of emotions ALL THE TIME meant that I just had to try harder. I guess some people were just born weaker than others and I happened to be one of them. I really thought that growth, adulthood, and being a strong human meant that I had to get to the point where I wouldn’t have to try as hard to control what I was feeling. I thought being strong meant feeling very little. Clearly, I had a long way to go.

But this is what I knew at the time. I was also someone who didn’t fit in very well. But when I was 15, I finally discovered a group that took me in with open arms: they were the drug addicts, the smokers, the binge-drinkers. I looked at them with awe, being the weird bookish, socially awkward nerd. These people were brave to me. They were so honest and bold. They spoke their minds without any thought. They just looked so…….

Free.

They received a lot of backlash and scrutiny from most of my high school, but they didn’t care. These were the people that I knew were the strongest. They were in the place that I so desperately wanted to be, and they wanted to be friends with me? YES YES YES. PLEASE. I mean that in a super chill and relaxed way.

So that was the crowd I started hanging around. Meanwhile, my family life was a wreckage (if I were to put it lightly). My grandmother (my dad’s mom) had just passed away and the dynamic within my family was very strange. It was like two families living within a home: my dad and his mom. And then my mom, my sister and I. At the time, it was known that my dad didn’t want to have a relationship with my sister and I, and that was just the way it was. We had all accepted that fact and so we said a few words to each other here and there because we lived in the same house, but it was like a distant roommate situation.

Anyways, when my grandmother died, part of my dad did too. I guess he realized that he made it so she was his only family here, and so he fell apart more and more each second until one day, he lost it. All of a sudden he was in the hallway of our home screaming, banging his head against the wall over and over and exclaiming that he was going to commit suicide right then and there.

My sister and my mom left the scene and went downstairs because I guess they were annoyed or just thought he was being dramatic, but I stayed and fled over to his side. And it’s that moment when he pushed me to hit the wall and told me to get the fuck away from him. It’s that moment that he reminded me what I had always known all along, but the words had never been said out loud. It was that moment when he said that he never considered me family, and that he never would. That his only family had now passed and he was alone. It was that moment that something in me died.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forget that moment, but I have been able to forgive it now after years of counselling and meditation and working on myself. But if I can point to one point of my life when everything went downhill, it would be that one.

Hanging out with the druggies, I still refrained from trying any of the substances myself. Well, other than alcohol, but that’s a story for another time. But it was about a week after this moment that my sister, who smoked cigarettes at the time, asked me to go on her nightly walk with her and I did. We sat on the curb of a parking lot and I asked her if I could try one and she let me. It was gross and I coughed a million times, but I think it numbed something in me and I liked that feeling. So I did it again. One a week turned into one a day, which turned into buying my own packs.

I couldn’t breathe properly during that time, but with cigarettes, as much as they hurt my lungs, they helped me with that. They helped me breathe mentally. And simultaneously, they helped me fit in more with the crowd I’d already been hanging around. It was a win-win.

Now let’s fast forward six years later to present day.

I’m not that same person anymore. I look forward to the sun rising and waking up, instead of longing for more time unconscious in my dream state. I exercise every morning: yoga and pilates. I pay attention to the ingredients in the groceries I buy. I pay attention to the food I put in my body. I meditate so that I can hear myself more. I have a full time job that supports me financially so that I can use my energy on my creative pursuits instead of how I’m going to pay rent next month or buy groceries. I’m consciously surrounding myself with people who love me and care about my well-being. People I can have deep and meaningful conversations with instead of meaningless small talk and gossip. My life looks completely different than what it used to, and so I recently woke up to the realization that smoking cigarettes just doesn’t fit anymore.

It doesn’t make sense with the goals I have for myself. It doesn’t make sense with my everyday routine. It doesn’t make sense with the type of person I am anymore. It just doesn’t fit. It was like I woke up feeling this great dissonance between what I want for myself and what I’m actually still doing.

Progress never ends and some part of me knew I would reach this day, the day I would quit and set myself free from this addiction. And right now, I’m here and I’m ready to try the way I’ve never really done before.

Just like anything, the psychological component of this is far superior to the chemical addiction, so that’s what I’m currently trying to break down. I’m trying to break down what part of me needed this. What I got out of it. What I tell myself to excuse this behaviour. And at the same time, I’m doing a lot of research (PS: Definitely recommend reading Allen Carr’s book) and trying not to be so hard on myself.

This mindset I created around smoking for the past six years has to be reversed before I can cut it completely out of my life, because when I’m done, I’m done. I’m not willing to be someone who longs for a cigarette 3 years down the line, because at that point, it’s not the chemical anymore, it’s your psyche. It’s because this isn’t something to cut using willpower (at least for me). It’s something to cut because I have to unlearn what I taught myself for the past 6 years. I have to re-learn the reality that this is not a sacrifice I’m making when I quit. It’s actually a value I’m adding in to my life.

There’s a lot of work to be down here, internally, but I’m ready to do it now. It was a big nudge. It was an awakening. And each day, the more I learn, the less I crave.

The Gravity of Knowing: A Home I’ve Never Been To

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“The only way to know what the next right thing is, is to get very still, block out all the voices from the world and go inside yourself. There is a knowing that rises inside of us when we get quiet enough. Some call it God, others call it intuition or wisdom. It doesn’t matter what you call it—it only matters that you know how to tap into it. To me, it feels more like gravity settling in than words I can hear. This is the new revolution for women: To stop explaining our damn selves. Just do the next right thing, one thing at a time. That’ll take us all the way home.”

– Glennon Doyle Melton

It came to me in a whisper, unrecognisable because my voice usually speaks to me in panic. It’s usually loud and difficult to tune out. It’s not the nicest voice but it likes to tell me its rational and I’m not. So this was different for me. It was simultaneously soothing and terrifying.

A coworker and good friend of mine was telling me about her new potential job in Toronto. She’s been in the same little rut I’ve been in and this new opportunity presented itself in such a quick manner that she’s picking up her things and moving there next week. I think I may have picked up something that was in her when she spoke. She was vibrant and excited and scared and I was so excited for her. And then it happened. I heard myself telling her I planned to move to Vancouver in September when my sublet lease was done.

Vancouver was always in the back of my head. Being alongside beautiful nature, a province that is striving to be the most environmentally friendly and sustainable in the world by 2020. The healthy lifestyle. Being able to experience the life of a city and also secluding myself towards nature when I need a retreat. Everything has always drawn me there, but I always thought I would move abroad first. My plan was always to stay in this small town so I could save up enough to move abroad for two years and travel. Maybe I’d settle down in Vancouver afterwards, when I had travelled enough to want to stay in one place for a long time.

But I heard myself saying something different and I didn’t know if it was a lie or if something in me just wanted to match that spark in her. But once our conversation was over, I took myself aside so I could see what was really going on and that’s when I heard it. The quiet voice. The one I never heard before. The one that felt so outside of me but also completely within. And it told me that Vancouver was next and that Europe and travel and seeing the rest of the world, that would come too. But this is next. Something is there.

I’ve talked a bit about the gravity of knowing here before. It’s something I’m trying to learn to listen to more often. It’s something I’m trying to learn to pay attention to. It’s difficult when our ego is so loud and takes up most of the room. But when I heard it, I told myself I needed to listen to it. Or at the very least, explore the idea.

The first thing that popped into my head was how expensive this would be. The move itself would be pricey and then living there would be too. What if I couldn’t find a job? What if I’m just being impulsive? What if. What if. What if.

And then I told that voice to quiet down, in a motherly tone. I was still at work so sorry to customers who might have passed by me and heard me talking to myself. It must have been weird. But anyways, I knew I had to listen to this, because from my experience, this voice, this whisper, this gravity is a clue. It’s a knowing.

I went over to my store manager and asked him if we could talk about something privately and brought him this plan I had yet to figure out and that’s when I knew even more. By the way his eyes lit up at the idea. How excited he was for me. How eager he became to help me and support me with this move in any way he could. The way he told me he’d get me a secure job with one of our stores in Vancouver and how he’ll get me a raise and probably a promotion there. He told me to email him a preference list of which area I’d want to work in Vancouver because with his recommendation, the stores will be fighting for me. All I felt in that moment was complete gratitude. I’m so grateful to be surrounded with so much love and so much respect and with managers and coworkers who value one another’s work ethic.

When I told my mom, her eyes watered down so quickly with joy, and then I did the thing I feared: I called my dad. Our relationship has been pretty non-existant but we’re both trying to slowly create something. We’re both trying to learn about each other the way we never got to when I was growing up. I wasn’t expecting him to have the response he did, but it was the first time I’d seen any emotion flutter his face other than anger. It was just happiness and all of a sudden, he was willing to do anything to help me move there. He was willing to help me apartment hunt and he was willing to take the trip up there with me in July to put a deposit down on a place and to explore a city I’d call home even though I’ve never been there.

Because I listened to that small voice that told me this crazy thing that was outside of my plan, it brought everyone together. It connected me further with my work family. It brought me this new bond with my dad that I’ve never had before. And it also brings me more uncertainty than ever.

Moving to another province that’s a five-hour flight (or a 4-5 day drive) from where I live, a place I’ve never been to, is a terrifying and exhilarating thought. It’s something I never really imagined myself doing, at least not yet. I was supposed to be saving more for abroad. I was supposed to be doing a lot of other things. But because I listened to this thing, because I paid attention to it and gave it room to speak, I found myself right in the center of where I needed to be.

When things align like this, you have to remind yourself to be more grateful than afraid. I’m afraid because all the money I have saved so far is now going towards this move and a new place instead of abroad. I’m afraid because that city is far more expensive that my current one. I’m afraid because I don’t know anyone there. I’m afraid because I’ve never even been there.

But I know this is it. I know there is something there for me. I know that because I’ve learned to trust that voice. I know that because just putting this idea out there has brought a lot of people in my life together to help me and support me in this transition. I know that it’s just a few months away and there’s a lot to do, but I also know that it’s completely worth it.

I know that because this is the feeling I’ve been craving for so long. This is a challenge I’ve been asking for. Something that’s exciting and scary and brings me closer to something far bigger than me.

I’m excited for September and I’m excited for Vancouver. I’m excited about this change and I’m excited to see what’s in store for me. I believe that energy transfers and flows and I know that something in me clicked with the energy my friend had.

When in doubt, stubbornly trust yourself. The small voice knows more than the loud one.

 

When a Cycle Ends and the What Nows Begin

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This morning and the morning before, I’ve been waking up with anxiety. I’ll shake in my bed for a few hours and I don’t necessarily know what is happening to my mind or body. All I know is that I’m afraid, but I don’t really understand what I’m afraid of.

In a lot of ways, within this past month, my life has changed dramatically. In other ways, it’s exactly the same. I finished the first draft of my novel on April 21. I was finally able to move out of a toxic environment. The weather has gotten much warmer. I no longer have relationships with many people I once considered my closest friends.

But a lot stayed the same. I’m living in the same town. I wake up at 5-6am every day. I do my pilates and yoga (mind and body) workouts. I let my coffee brew as I go to take a shower and when I come out, I meditate for as long as I’m able to that day. I make breakfast, pack my lunch and dinner, and then begin to get ready to go to work. I usually come back from work at around 9:30-10:30pm and then try to read for a bit before I pass out, and then the day begins again.

It feels as though my life is much different, but my days are all beginning to look identical. I like morning routines. I like waking up early to do all the things I want to do before I do the things I have to do (like go to work). But after finishing the first draft of my novel, writing is no longer on the list of things to do, and that was by far my favourite. Even in the groggiest, tragic, or boring and uninspired days, learning how to write this first draft is what has held me together. And now, it’s over.

I wanted to go back in and start typing out the handwritten draft, but it didn’t want to be typed just yet. I felt a dragging of words that needed time to just sit and rest, and so I let them. In the meanwhile, I’ve had some thoughts of the next book that sprouted a while earlier that I’m beginning to make sense of and research.

But there’s this sense of a cycle’s completion that has been giving me a lot of anxiety. A lot of, “what nows” and “Now that this is over, is this what my life is going to look like?” And of course, the “Am I always going to live in this town and have to work this job?” When am I finally going to save enough to travel? Why can’t I afford to have the type of adventure I crave? What if this draft never wants to be edited? What if I never write again?

The day I finished the first draft, my housemates moved out and I had to pack the rest of my own things. I went to a goodbye dinner the next day for all the people at my work who were 4th-year university students graduating and moving on. Waking up to empty rooms and going to work with new faces, all I felt was lost. All I couldn’t make sense of was why I was still here and everyone else got to move on.

I’m now subletting a room in an apartment for the summer with strangers who complain that I wake up too early or that I need to close my bedroom window at night because they can hear the wind rustling. I moved out of a toxic environment into a place that scrutinises the way I go about my days. All I feel is groggy, meaningless, and like whatever this next phase of my life is going to be, doesn’t want me either.

I’ve been talking to my counsellor about it who is also a very spiritual person and made sense of this in a way that I want to share over here because maybe it’ll do something for any of you who feel as though they have completed a cycle or season of their life. She talked about how there was a time in her life where she explored Paganism and how that helped her understand the cycles of each of our journey’s.

Samhain (in the Pagan Wheel of the Year) is the ancient Celtic festival marking the end of harvest season and the onset of winter. It’s this sort of in-between time, a time right after a cycle’s completion, celebrated October 31st to sunset on November 1. It’s supposed to be a day and point of time when “the veil separating the world of mortals and the world of spirits is at its thinnest, enabling the souls of the dead, witches, and faeries of all sorts to mingle with living people. Even though it’s a cycle’s end, it’s not a sad time but rather it’s considered one of the most sacred. It’s more of a liminal time when the veil between life and death grows thin. It’s considered the most powerful and spiritual time of the year.

If we look at the periods of our lives, the endings of cycles, in a celebratory way, I think they can make room for magical things. Instead, I’ve been struck with anxiety and fear, which is okay and pretty normal. But if we shift our western ways of thinking and see any time of completion with eyes of wonder instead of eyes of fear; if we let ourselves rest and mourn this time and celebrate it all at once; if we look at it as a sacred time instead of a scary and sad one, what would happen? I don’t know about you, but I’m curious to find out.

 

 

Living in Secondary Colours: What Happens When We Forget the Core?

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“The only way to gain power in a world that is moving too fast is to learn to slow down. And the only way to spread one’s influence wide is to learn how to go deep. The world we want for ourselves and our children will not emerge from electronic speed, but rather from spiritual stillness that takes root in our souls. Then, and only then, will we create a world that reflects the heart instead of shattering it”

–  Marianne Williamson 

Over the past year or so, I’ve been amazed by the raw. I’ve grown more and more interested in primary thoughts, primary colours, the first drafts, the first words, and the first loves.

I think as humans, we are each given a raw soul. Each one differs from the rest and yet, the truths are, for some intrinsic and unknown reason, the same. That’s why for thousands and thousands of years, we’ve all been entrapped and restless to seek the answers to the same questions.

For some reason, the soul that you have has chosen your body to call it home. Why? I don’t think we’ll ever know, and I don’t think we need to. I think what we do need to learn is what this particular soul that we’ve been given yearns for.

We see nature and how its habits have stayed consistent for thousands of years. The trees know how to prepare for the winter and how to flourish in the summer. They know how to change colours in the fall and how to grow bigger in the heat. They know because they’ve been doing it for so long and any learned behaviour just becomes a natural way of being at some point.

But for us, we’re all doing it for the first time. This is the body this soul chose for the first time. We are trying to learn how to listen to it for the first time. And the cost of rawness is our messy and complicated lives.

If we think of primary colours: the reds, the yellows, and the blues; they are beautiful on their own. But with them, we got to create oranges, purples, and greens. That flourishment, that secondary beauty, was a creation. It’s a bonus. But sometimes, I think we get too caught up in the secondaries and the flourishments that I think we forget about what it takes to create that beauty. If we have no foundation, there can be no growth. Instead, we’ll just be floating in the air. I think sometimes, we forget about the raw tools that allow us to create.

We forget that it is only when we come to our core, when we accept our rawness, that we can then flourish it into a greater authentic beauty.

If we go back to how the trees learned their behaviour and really dig down to the essential point of which they understood how to flow with the weather, we can understand that all they needed to learn was how to be. It’s been a pretty hard thing for me to wrap my own mind around. Living in this particular culture, I’m ingrained with the idea of pushing myself, being ambitious, fighting for what I believe in, and protecting who I am. And so the idea of just being is a foreign concept.

But our bodies and our minds already know how to rise us to the highest version of ourselves. Our pushing and fighting and attempts to control our lives just make us get in the way of ourselves.

The less we battle with our own lives and ourselves, and the more we just let ourselves be, the easier it will be for us to flow and rise to our highest selves. Our souls know things that we don’t. Let’s try and let them do their jobs and stop getting in the way of ourselves over and over again.

The state of being looks different for all of us, but the place is the same. We just have to learn how to come back to the raw and the primary so that we can flourish and create something far bigger than ourselves. And that thing you’ll have created? You’ll know what it feels like because you’ll feel connected. Maybe not with as many people, but instead with nature, with the sunrise, and the moon phases. You’ll feel like a part of the natural flow of our universe.

The Notion of Surrender: A Form of Defeat or Connection?

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The theme of my life has lately been understanding the notion of surrender so that I can stop resisting it. If I were to describe this process that I’m going through, I would relate it to a human ripping his or her skin apart for the first time, in its initial transformation into a werewolf. That’s the extent of pain I’ve been feeling and that’s the pain I’m trying to stop resisting, because when I do allow myself to rest in it, I come out exhausted, drained, and weak. The more yoga I do, the more I write my book, the more I read, the more I check in with myself; the more I do all of the things that are supposed to be good for me, the more I experience this outbreak of pain that is so internal but results in an external state of defeat.

It’s a difficult thing to describe because it’s a difficult thing for me to understand right now. But what I’ve done to help with the process is understand the act of surrender a little bit more. And with that, I’ve come to believe that in its most simplest of forms, surrender is both acceptance and forgiveness. But what I recently came to realize is that maybe it can be love, too. And if love and hate are written on the same spectrum of passion, is surrender just a form of defeat to all that is within you? And if you are what you love, does that mean that you are also all of that of which you hate?

We all perceive and experience love differently. The way we go about it, the way we feel it, what we need from it and what we want from it; it’s all different because we’re all different. So how is it that love is a uniting? Shouldn’t it just be ripping us apart more?

It didn’t really make sense to me until it clicked that love is a surrender. When we form any relationship, whether it be with a friend, a partner, a family member, or a coworker, we are surrendering. We each experience love differently, but when we form a healthy relationship of any sorts, we surrender by compromising our egos. Our needs and wants don’t always meet the needs and wants of another, but when we reach that compromise to form a union with another human being, we’re surrendering to our souls and compromising our egos. Because what love is, is a surrender to yourself for something greater and outside of you: it is a surrender for connection. Because even though our egos want different things, they are fueled in the same manner. Because even though we are all different, we are more the same.

But before we surrender to a love shared with another human being, I think we first have to surrender to ourselves.

There was a time when I thought I could only love myself once I no longer had any flaws. But being human means that you will always be flawed. I mean, how else would we grow? But if you can only love yourself once you’re the size you want to be or are in the field you want to be in or as financially stable as you want to be or have clear skin, etc. etc., then you will always find an excuse for not participating in this practice of self-love. We can’t keep telling ourselves that once we check boxes A, B, and C, then we will love ourselves because we’ll always find something else that is wrong. Needless to say, that isn’t a bad thing because the point of the human journey is just a state of becoming, and always becoming. If you didn’t become aware of the parts of you that need more work, then you wouldn’t be growing.

But it’s all a practice. I mean, your soul is the only soul like that in this world and it chose your body to call home. Therefore, you are the first person to try and figure out what it needs and what its purpose is. That process is messy and complicated because anything being done for the first time is messy and complicated. Your job is simply to feed your soul and that’s tricky because you have an ego thats voice tends to be a bit louder.

But maybe our job here is just to learn all the wrong things and try and be all the wrong things only to come back to ourselves so that we can peel away all the layers we spent years adding to. And so that we can find the root of it all again. Because that is where our truth lies. That is where it has always been. And maybe, we can understand that the process of unlearning is surrender.

Sometimes when you begin to surrender, you relate it to a form of defeat. That’s what makes the process so hard. That’s what makes the peeling away feel like a shredding of your skin. But what that defeat really is, is just compromising the ego for a connection that is far greater than yourself: it’s a connection with your soul.

Time Warping: Why Longevity Doesn’t Determine Success

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There’s this sense of clarity I got on why I believe having something or wanting something for a long time does not determine the success of it. Why I don’t believe relationships have to last forever to be successful or why you don’t have to stick with one thing and only one thing for a long period of time to receive a great outcome out of it.

How did I learn that? Well, I’ll start by telling you the story of my first tattoo (trust me it ties in, I swear!) I was 16 when I booked the appointment for my first tattoo and I had done so much research, looked at countless images online to figure out what exactly I wanted to imprint on my body for the rest of my life. I’m someone who gets bored easily. I’ll want something and I’ll have to do that thing within a certain period of time when my excitement and energy for it is high. For example, with my writing, when I have an idea for a post or the next scene in the novel I’m writing, I have to run towards that idea and get it on paper (or a napkin, or my arm depending on where I am) right away so that it doesn’t fade with time. I’m like that when I know I want to switch up my style. I’m like that when I want to completely revamp my hair. I’m like that with just about everything. When my excitement and energy is high, I have to accomplish the thing fairly soon to get the best outcome from it or else, it’ll fade.

So for this tattoo, I was ecstatic (I mean, it’s a pretty exhilarating thing) and was jumping at the images popping up on my screen that were inspiring me to go ahead. I knew I wanted words (because I’m a wordsy person) and I decided on a certain phrase that I can’t for the life of me remember, and I wanted it written in cursive on my collarbone. Done. Idea set. Time to take action.

When I went to book my appointment and meet my artist, I knew in my mind that I wanted my tattoo to be simple, but of course I was 16 and stupid and I didn’t relay that out loud. So to him, I let him have complete freedom over how he wanted to write the words and how large they would be and what design would surround them. On my end, I knew that I just wanted simple words in cursive on my collarbone but he could probably read my mind and know exactly how I pictured it because that’s how your brain works at sixteen. I gave him the phrase and told him where I wanted it and sent him off to do his work.

On the day of my appointment, I walked around downtown with my best friend before going in. While we were strolling, I was humming the John Mayer song I had recently discovered and had been obsessing over: Gravity. A line in it rung true to me more than anything, which was: Just keep me where the light is. Why? Probably because I was going through a pretty dark period in my life, but of course at the time, I didn’t really know these things. I didn’t look deeper into why certain things clicked and others didn’t. I didn’t look for a meaning. I just did, and I did without much thought. As we were approaching the time of my appointment, I had this sense of clarity that I wanted that line tattooed on me instead and instead of on my collarbone, I wanted it on the side of my ribs. Fuck.

Now, I didn’t really think this was that big of a deal at the time because of course, I didn’t know how much time, effort, and thought my artist would put into his sketch of my tattoo. He was a mind-reader, remember? And he obviously knew I just wanted those words in simple cursive and he probably wouldn’t care if I changed my mind last minute, right? RIGHT?

When I walked in and he came out to greet me, I told him in very straight-forward sixteen year old fashion that I actually wanted a different phrase and I wanted it on a different part of my body and yes, I decided this last moment but I knew for sure that this is right. Of course, that went over really well and he was happy to see my excitement and all was well. Ha. Ha.

No.

He was pretty pissed. He came out and showed me this beautiful sketch he had just finished making that was so completely different from what I imagined in my head and what he was supposed to know I wanted. But it was beautiful and it took a lot of time and effort and thought on his part. But this was also something I knew would be on my body for the rest of my life so in my stubborn talk, I told him it was beautiful, but I wanted something entirely different. So he huffed and puffed (and rightfully so because I was an asshole) and turned to recreate something entirely different for me. After about an hour, he came down from what I imagine was his artist’s layer with a new design of what I wanted. You guys, I feel so bad about this and moreso now than I admit I felt at the time because I know the hard work it takes to create something. Anyways, I gave him my stamp of approval and two hours later, I was done.

We both had a completely different relationship by the end of those two hours, however. 1) Because he was impressed that I didn’t cry and 2) There is no number two. He was just really impressed about my not crying and somehow that made everything okay. I guess that’s probably because I look like someone who cries a lot. Because I totally do. But when it comes to physical pain, I can tolerate quite a lot. Emotional? That’s a different story. Anyways, we high-fived and made up and he told me he hated me at the start and was in awe of me by the end. I know, I know. I don’t understand this either, but this is actually what happened so that’s why I’m telling it like this.

So here is what I learned from that experience and every experience I’ve had since that where I thought I knew what I wanted and understood what I needed last minute. I learned that sometimes to know what is right, you have to sit in the wrong for a long period of time.

To an outsider, it looks like I can’t make up my mind. I don’t know what I want. I don’t stick with things. I’m impulsive. Blah Blah. But to me, after this sort of experience kept happening even as I grew, I learned that sometimes we choose and stick to that choice because we want a certain outcome. For instance, we might get into a relationship because we miss being in love. We might decide on a different hairstyle because we’re sick of the one we have. We decide because we long for an outcome. When we make that decision, however, it may lead to the superficial aspects of that outcome, but maybe not the depth of what you really want. Stay with me. I’ll explain.

So I wanted a tattoo. I wanted a tattoo so badly and I made a choice on one. Was it the choice I put a lot of thought into? Yes. Was it a choice I stuck with for a while? Yes. Was it a choice that I wanted? I thought so. But I wanted a tattoo more than I wanted to understand what I needed that tattoo to be. In regards to relationships, sometimes we choose a partner because we want a relationship and to be in love again more that we want to understand what we want from it. In these scenarios, you get the tattoo or you get the relationship, but is it the right one for you?

Sometimes we believe that to obtain success in something, we have to stick with it for a long period of time: a relationship, an idea for a tattoo, a goal, etc. But sometimes we focus too much on the shape of the outcome itself rather than the depth of it. And sometimes, we have to sit with the wrong to know what is right. And sometimes, what is right will hit you in the head last minute after you’ve been determined and headstrong about what it is that you really thought you wanted.

That’s the job of clarity. It hits you in times when you believe you really understand how to go about something. It hits you when you believe you really understand what you want. And it tells you no. It tells you the opposite. You might have sat with something for a long time, and clarity might have come last minute, but the time you spent stuck on a certain way of thinking doesn’t determine its success. A relationship that lasts forever doesn’t mean that it is successful. It could be very unhealthy and destructive and partners can be together more so for the comfort than their own happiness. Just like a very brief relationship can be very successful and could have taught you so much about yourself.

What I’m trying to explain is that I think we are too integrated into the concept of time. We think that if we do something or want something for long enough, we can prove that it is better and right and successful.

But changing your mind doesn’t necessarily mean you are flaky or that you don’t stick to things or that you are lost or confused. It could, but it doesn’t have to. Changing your mind doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re impulsive or don’t know what you want. Sometimes, changing your mind means that you respect your own judgment. You respect your own truth and you respect that time does not dictate the worthiness of something. Time doesn’t equal value, but truth does.

I’ve never looked back on that decision I made for my first tattoo or the ones after that.

Rushing towards Remember

I’m always two steps ahead of myself. I put too much on my plate and in a constant battle of lack of sleep and so much I want to get done. I have a full-time job and full-time creative projects to work on. I have countless books to read and research to conduct. I have food to cook and bills to pay and I have to do it all, and I have to do it all seamlessly.

Sometimes I feel I can’t keep up with myself, and my life doesn’t match the speed at which I am willing to work in. So I’m constantly facing this frustration within myself that I have to do more. That maybe I’m not doing enough. Maybe I am not enough. Maybe doors are closing because I’m not moving towards them at a fast enough rate. Go faster. Do more. It’s not enough.

That’s what the inner workings of my mind typically look like. But just a few weeks back, I was asked a question from my counselor, and it was something I needed some time to actually think about. She asked me, “What exactly are you rushing towards?” and I stood there with a blank face and whispered the three words I dread the most: I don’t know.

I. Don’t. Know.

I had to take a few weeks to really think this through because it’s something I ignored. I didn’t have time to think about what I was headed after so intensely because I was far too busy doing everything to get there. Wherever that was.

And then after incorporating yoga back into my daily routine, to feed my body when all I’ve been doing is feeding my mind and ego, I started to feel a sense of opening – an awakening of sorts. I am rushing towards being remembered.

I had to do some more of my own journal writing to fully understand what that meant to me, but all I knew is that it was true. I didn’t know what it meant. I didn’t quite understand it. But I knew that it was a truth in me that was aching to be revealed.

I guess there’s a part of me that is afraid of being forgotten. I’m scared I’ll always be the one left with the good memories along with the cold ones. I’m scared that they’ve left a mark on me, and me alone. I’m scared that in every relationship I’ve ever had that has ended and even in the ones that are still flowing, I’m the only one that reminisces about them. I’m the only one that feels too much. Too much love, too much anger, and too much sadness.

These things in my life feel like they are mine to work through and mine to hold. These things are mine to despair and mine to keep me awake at night. I feel that if I leave for a short while, I’ll never leave great enough of an impact for people to remember me. People will carry on with their daily routines and their lives as if I was never there in the first place.

I guess I wanted so badly to rush everything so that I could create something that left a mark on this world. To say, “Hey, I did something. I made something. I lived. I was here.” I was here.

What I’ve come to understand is that maybe rushing is a form of distrust. It’s not trusting the flow of your own path and it gives you a sense of total control on where you are heading. But that control is just a perception that feeds your ego. So right now, I’m doing the thing that I hate the most: I’m (trying) to slow down. I’m trying to pause. I’m trying to take the break I need from my own rushing.

I’ll even go ahead and explain the first step I’m taking into this break. I’ve been working towards a promotion for several months now and even though every other part in my life feels like it has taken a full stop, this one thing has suddenly opened and it’s all happening now. It’s something I’ve anticipated for so long and felt ready for, for quite some time now. But it just wasn’t moving forward and now it is the only thing that is. But this clarity of needing to reflect and slow down made me question whether this is a path I even wanted. And truth be told, it once really was, but it just doesn’t fit anymore. My heart isn’t in it the way that it once was and even though it’s the only door that feels open and asking for me to rush through, I have to turn it down. I have to ask for it to wait for me to understand what direction I want to move forward in.

This will involve having a conversation with my manager that I really don’t want to have. This will involve having to disappoint him and his expectations of me. This will involve turning something down without accepting something else.

Even though every muscle in my body is aching for me to trudge along in any path at all: Just move forward. Keep running forward. Keep. running. Keep. rushing. When I go to check in with my soul, it is telling me to wait. Wait until the right things open up instead of anything at all, because they will. They always do.

Sometimes, we just have to slow down and connect back with the flow at which our path is being created to actually see what that is. And that is exactly what I’m trying to do.

What Comes First: Forgiveness or an Apology?

Forgiveness-Apology

About a year ago, I walked the streets of downtown with a girl who was once my friend. She laughed at an outburst of anger she had the night before, lashing out at a few friends of hers. “I just told them I’m sorry and it’s all over now,” she dismissed. On our way home, she added, “Sometimes people just need to hear you say sorry to stop overreacting. So you just say it and move on. The funny part is, you don’t even have to mean it.”

I don’t know about you, but that struck a nerve with me. But it also made me think: How often do we jump to apologize before we own up to our mistakes? When we say sorry, are we asking for forgiveness or are we asking someone to let it go and move on?

I hear some male friends of mine banter about how quick they are to apologize to their girlfriends because “that’s all they need to hear.” I look back and question not only the apologies I’ve received, but also the ones I’ve offered.

For me, apologies are extremely difficult. I’ll apologize to walls I’ve bumped into or strangers I get in the way of while crossing streets, but when it comes down to the important things, admitting that I was in the wrong doesn’t make me feel so guilty as it does shameful. I apologize TOO much. My problem is more-so taking on all the blame and consequently feeling like a bad person than it is getting rid of the blame altogether. And on the flip side of that, I have trouble forgiving people who may have brought me a lot of pain.

So, hearing this come from someone I was once so close to made me question who else handed out sorry’s like they were extra treats on Halloween? When we apologize, are we asking for forgiveness? Or on the contrary, are we asking someone to dismiss our poor behaviour?

I wanted to look further into what forgiveness really is because learning this had the potential of making my ability to forgive others even harder than it already is. I found a few talks that (one of my favorite people) Rob Bell has given. To understand what forgiveness is, we also have to understand what it isn’t, or doesn’t have to be.

Forgiveness doesn’t have to mean condoning.

By this, I mean that you don’t have to set aside the fact that what that person did was wrong and unjust. Forgiving someone is separate from condoning a behavior.

Forgiveness doesn’t have to mean forgetting.

This one seems pretty self-explanatory, and in simple conversations where there may have been a misunderstanding of what someone said, you can clear the air. You can say, “I don’t know if you meant it like this, but when you said ____, it hurt me.” They tell you they’re sorry and didn’t mean it that way and boom it’s over. Misunderstandings are settled and you can move on. HOWEVER, in other cases, forgiveness can mean having to remember. In cases of assault, for instance, to forgive someone for the pain they caused you means you not only shouldn’t forget about it, but you have to remember. Sometimes remembering means setting essential boundaries in place to protect yourself with.

Forgiveness doesn’t have to mean reconciling. 

Things don’t have to go back to the way they once were just because you have forgiven someone. Sometimes it means they never can. But forgiveness and reconciliation are two separate things. They don’t have to coincide.

But as Rob Bell explains, what forgiveness always is, is personal. You can’t forgive an institution because it’s far too broad. For instance, those who grew up with strict religious practices might grow to become atheists and have anger towards religious institutions. Someone who worked at a corporation may have been adversely affected by it and consequently, grew a distaste towards corporations as a whole.

When it comes down to that, we drift too far out of our reach. Rob Bell describes this as paralyzing because this person feels all sorts of anger and emotional resentment from being wronged. But this is paralyzing and lethal because we cannot forgive a faceless entity. It’s not that institution or organization that you’re angry at, but someone within that institution – a human being (or human beings) – who have wronged you. You have to break it down to fully understand who that is or who they are so that you are able to forgive them. To be free from that bitterness and anger you hold, you have to name those people or that person.

Forgiveness is personal.

What I’ve come to understand is to ask for forgiveness, you have to first, forgive yourself. And to forgive another does not necessitate an apology from them. It’s more of a process within yourself that sets you free. Forgiveness is something I can offer, but it’s always something that’s difficult for me to do for others. I hope that even understanding it more and being given the breakdown of what forgiveness is and isn’t can help you guys as much as it has already been helping me. When we forgive, we let go of the weight that has been burdening on our shoulders. But like I said, it’s a process, but it’s a process towards our own freedom.

Truth: A Principle of the Past

It’s been a little while since I sat down to just sit and chat with you guys. That’s what blogging has always felt like to me: a conversation I feel capable of having. I’m not typically the best at conveying my thoughts through speech so this has always been the best form of conversation I’ve ever had.

Lately, I’ve been consumed by the novel I’m writing. It feels like the healthiest addiction I’ve ever had and for once, I feel obsessed over something that’s curing me instead of destructing what I have left.

2016 ended pretty harshly. It was a loss of some friendships that were really important to me, but got lost along the way as we grew in different directions. What’s been more difficult, or what’s supposed to be more difficult is to be living with the friends you have lost. This is a challenge I’ve met a couple of times before (in different contexts of course), but always handled poorly. My go to is to run. When conflict arises, I vanish. But this time, I spoke my truth and now I am living in it.

I’ve always wondered what the end of suffering looked like and I guess I’m learning that it’s the beginning of truth. That doesn’t mean that truth lives without pain. It doesn’t even mean that truth removes pain. To be frank, it actually creates a bigger mess than there was before, or at least it looks that way because now it’s out in the open instead of just in your head. Now other people get to see it and admit to their own truth as well, or maybe continue trying and denying their way out of what’s standing right in front of them, and always was.

The thing about the truth is that once it is told, it becomes a part of your past. Coming from someone who has lived anywhere but the present, I feel cleaner with a mess in front of me that I can now choose to put behind me. The other option is to dwell on something you’re too afraid to admit and living in the anxiety, which becomes a part of your future.

I’m not sure if any of this will even make a lot of sense to you guys because I’m just rambling on, but I wanted to take some time to reflect on my life, on the past year, and on the past month of December. I wanted to see what contribution I can make through my blog now as opposed to what I was able to do before. What more have a learned that I can bring to the table? And what kept ringing in my head was this book. This book that feels like my own secret journey or escape that I can take in my room. It’s an invisible cape I wear that drops me into a different world, one that I get the opportunity to learn about first hand. It’s the feeling I always get when I read a book and now I’m here, 40,000 words later, still smitten, still writing. Right now, this is my dedication and my focus, but I don’t want to leave this space empty so I realize that I have to work around my schedule and find time to tend to it at least once or twice a week because I miss this far too much if I leave it for too long.

I know this isn’t as long as my normal posts, but I wanted to check in and say that I’m not going anywhere. I’m actually realizing that where I am is exactly where I need to be.

Finding Joy Amidst Pain: When You Already Have What You Need

Finding-Joy-Amidst-Pain-When-You-Already-Have-What-You-Need

You guys must be wondering where I’ve been, and from my previous posts, the last you heard from me was in a difficult situation amidst a tremendous amount of loss. The end of December, I spent all of my efforts to try and get myself out of this situation, because losing someone is difficult enough but living with close friends that you lost is even harder.

There’s a loss you face where distance dismantles a relationship and it’s something you don’t notice until so much time has gone by when you step back and wonder, what happened? How did we become so separate? When did we lose touch? And can we get back to where we once were?

This one happens to be much more confrontational and since I’m still in the midst of it, I don’t want to spew out any details that I would gain more clarity on when I’m outside of the situation. There is a fear that I’m currently living again where I am present in my loss. Where I have to see it day to day. Where I can’t separate myself from it to clear my head. Where I sleep in the room next to it.

And I’ve tried to find another place, to distance myself because I know from experience that the tension that can brought about when this much pain lives together doesn’t typically go well. I’m aware of that, and yet all my efforts worked against me and in some weird way, I am completely at peace with that. Why? Because I also have experience with knowing that sometimes when you feel stuck in situations, that’s when you finally get to the point where you try anything to free yourself. And often times, it’s the thing you’ve always wanted to do. It’s the thing you feared in the first place, but this situation is more fearful and more painful. Being here makes your other fears a lot smaller and a lot more doable.

I have to say, in every situation when I’m lost and in a great amount of pain; in every single situation where I am suffering, there is always at least ONE thing that I am handed. Sometimes it’s a job or opportunity, sometimes it’s a new friend, sometimes it’s a new perspective, a new hobby, a new pursuit, but always something. This one thing that you are given is often dismissed. I have to admit coming from a place where I can attest to dismissing any potential good because it wasn’t exactly what I needed to get out of this current situation or this current pain. It wasn’t what I had in mind, so I denied the attempt and sent my apologies (often in a snarky manner). I dismissed that thing as “not good enough”, “not what I want”, or “not what I need”.

We fixate so much on our current pain that we feel we know what we need best to learn from it and let it pass through us. And then, when we don’t get what we need (whether it be a resolution to a broken relationship, a financial difficulty, a loss, etc.) we become more and more frustrated. Hell, we become pissed off. And I know this road very well. I know it because I’ve lived it many times in different contexts. This time, I wanted it to be different. This time, I wanted to be different.

So I accepted the thing that was given to me during this hard time which will indefinitely last for another four months before I am able to physically get myself out of it. Emotionally, I don’t ever give myself a time frame for that.

Here’s another note: Often times, you have to work to actually SEE what that thing is. My experience right now with this dilemma was that I recognized my pain. I know it’ll teach me something. I also know that I won’t understand that right now because I am living in it. So I decided that I needed to make a few changes in myself to cope with this. We all have tools or resources that we can go to. We all have something that brings us joy, even momentarily. For me, it’s dancing. It’s listening to music on the highest volume and letting go completely with my movement, and it’s a sort of moving meditation for me. I made a physical note and pasted it on my wall to remind myself that I HAD to dance each morning when I first got up. I don’t care if I’m tired. I don’t care if I don’t want to do it. I have to, because it always makes me feel good once I actually do it.

I started a habit of writing a minimum of 3 things that I am grateful for every day. I wanted to focus on the joy that I know still existed and I needed to constantly remind myself of it. I wanted that to be where I placed my energy. I wanted that to be what I looked for every day.

And then, I started to learn how to accept the love that exists around me; the love that I wasn’t placing my focus on. I was so wrapped up in the pain of this loss that I had no energy left to feel love. I wanted to feel love from these two friends, and I didn’t. So I made it my mission to overwhelm myself with all of the people who did love me and care about me and support me. It turns out, I have a lot of those and yet, I didn’t even realize it because I wasn’t focusing on them. I was focusing on what I came home to each night. But what I learned is that just because I come home to this, doesn’t mean that’s all the connection I have. Just because I’m focused on loss, doesn’t mean I have no love around me. I’ve been so absent in the blogosphere because when I say I overwhelmed myself with love, I literally tried to spend as much time in my day as possible with these lovely people in my life.

That was my own self-work that I had to do to cope with my pain. It doesn’t take it away or remove it, which was never my intention in the first place, but it shifts my focus to what I do have. I mean, that’s what gratitude is and that’s what I chose to live in by practicing it daily, and I have to say that it created this inner joy in me that just doesn’t go away. I say joy and not happiness because there is a distinction between the two. Happiness is an emotion like any other that comes and goes. You feel it, then you don’t. But joy is just an inner peace, a love that you feel regardless of any emotion that you have.

And then, the thing that I was given became clear all of a sudden. I picked up the book I was working on and had dropped to the side a few months ago and I started writing in it again. I added to my daily practices, including writing this book (a minimum of 1000 words a day) every single day. I was side-tracked from it a few months ago because I was facing a different emotional challenge, one where I was working a few jobs and getting emotionally abused at one of them which took a great toll on me. Even after I left that place, I knew I needed some time to heal and get my physical health back on track so that my mental health could find something to ground it. And you know what happened when I picked up this project again?

I fell in love.

I set a bare minimum of 1000 words a day just because that is doable and even on days I don’t feel like writing, I can manage 1000 words. But every ounce of spare time I get, I’m researching and writing and trying to educate myself more on what I’m writing about. I’m emailing people to interview and getting responses. I’m being directed to more resources and I’m learning and writing and learning and writing. I am so completely entrenched in this project that it literally feels like falling in love. I think about it every day. I daydream about it. I find it more difficult to sleep at night, but I make myself sleep earlier so that I can wake up early to work on it. And it’s everything that I need right now, but also not a solution to the problem I’m having. And yet, it’s healing me anyways.

When I learned to finally accept the one thing that was given to me, I knew it wouldn’t solve my problem. I knew it wasn’t the solution I was seeking, but I took it and it ended up doing what I least expected. It brought me joy AND happiness amidst pain and loss. This is a first for me, and I ask you guys to work hard so you can see what you are given in this time of your pain.

This wasn’t the only thing I was given. I was given all the love I mentioned. I was given an opportunity to strengthen the beautiful relationships I already had with people in my life. I was given this project to work on, but I was given a tremendous amount of love as well. And so, even though this pain still exists; even though I’ll be living in it for the next couple of months; even though none of this is the solution that I was actively seeking, I realized that I didn’t know what it was that I needed. So when I accepted this love, this project, and this daily practice of gratitude, I found that what I needed were things I was already surrounded with.

Sometimes, we just have to look a little harder.

 

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