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.