The Unanswerable Questions

Until I Dance Again

Katara Dancing
Aang: Listen, guys… dancing isn’t something you think about.
It’s a form of self-expression that no one can ever take away from you.

I was dancing. It was midnight and I was in the middle of the dance floor with my eyes closed and a smile on my face. The music pulsed all around me, thumping its way from the speakers across the room, along the floor and up my body. With all limbs in motion, I rocked to the beat as the strobe lights lit up the nightclub in flashes. I opened my eyes to find my best friend looking at me with a gentle smile. He walked over, wrapped me in his arms and whispered, “You are magnetic when you’re happy.”

I miss dancing. I loved going dancing with the girls and haven’t done so in over a year. I love music that moves me and I didn’t care too much back then for form or routine, and my “style” was a mixture of everything I’d learned in my lifetime. Mostly I just went with it, moving however I felt like moving, adding shimmies and hip hits that summer I learned how to belly dance. And then of course, when I drank most inhibitions went out the window and I didn’t care what anyone thought of my “groove”.

Since I quit drinking, the need to “be on my best behaviour / be sober” when I’m out in public has me more self-conscious than usual. Nowadays my public dancing is limited to head-bobbing in my car on the way to work. At home, in private, I dance up a storm to Lana Del Ray, Lady Gaga, Shakira, Nelly, Tove Lo, Sean Paul and Gwen in front of my mirror, creating Phoenix dance moves while I get dressed for work. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that with time and acceptance of self, I will feel comfortable in my sober skin, free enough to be myself, and dance to my own beat in front the whole world again. In the meantime, my bedroom rug is the stage upon which I’ll never stop dancing.

Love and light,
Phoenix

~*~

This is Post U, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is in an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.

Trauma

Korra Katara Healing 2

Katara: I can help guide your healing process, but whether you get better or not is up to you. I know what it’s like to go through a traumatic experience. And I promise you, if you dedicate yourself to getting better, you’ll recover, stronger than ever. The mind can be a powerful ally, or your greatest enemy.

Korra: I am trying to understand why this happened to me, but nothing makes any sense! I’m tired, Katara. I’m so tired.

Katara: Korra, I know you feel alone right now. But you’re not the first Avatar who’s had to overcome great suffering. Can you imagine how much pain Aang felt when he learned that his entire culture was taken from him? But he never let it destroy his spirit. He chose to find meaning in his suffering and eventually … found peace.

Korra: And … what am I going to find if I get through this?

Katara: I don’t know. But won’t it be interesting to find out?

Very upsetting, frightening, or traumatic events that happen to us, or that threatened or hurt someone we love are very powerful incidents that affect daily life. They are usually defined as experiences which are life threatening, or where there is a significant threat to one’s physical or psychological wellbeing. For example: physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; neglect; war experiences; outbursts of temper and rage; alcoholism (your own or in your family); physical illnesses, surgeries, and disabilities in your family; loss of close family members and friends; natural disasters; accidents.

When these kinds of things happen, we may not “get over” them quickly. In fact, we may feel the effects of these traumas for many years, even for the rest of our lives. Traumatic events result in frightening, distressing, and sometimes disabling emotional symptoms such as phobias, anxiety, depression, delusions, flashbacks, and dis-associative behaviour. Sometimes we don’t even notice effects right after the trauma happens. Years later we may begin having bothersome thoughts, nightmares, and other disturbing symptoms. We may develop these symptoms and not even remember the traumatic thing or things that once happened to us.

Some things that may be very distressing to one person hardly seem to bother another person. If something bothers you a lot and it doesn’t bother someone else, it doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you. People respond to trauma differently. The impact of an event may be related to the person’s mental and physical health, level of available support at the time of the event, and past experience and coping skills. As much as possible try not to trivialize your feelings about what happened to you, because you think others have or had it worse than you. Every experience you have is personal to you and how you feel about it matters.

As likely as it is that traumatic events can have debilitating repercussions, it is also as likely, that we make a conscious choice to ignore what happened. I know for me, I told myself that it did not happen. Just matter of factly, and very firmly, told myself that it did not happen. Unfortunately, in denying myself the opportunity to deal with the event, my emotions sought an outlet. And in the end it was not a healthy one. I turned all the anger, pain and confusion over what happened me, inward. Because I was ashamed and told myself that I was to blame, I was not very kind to my self, my mind or my body in a myriad of ways: binge drinking, obsessive compulsive behaviour, smoking, disrespecting my body, having unhealthy relationships, etc. The list is long. I’m sure you can imagine.

The year before I quit drinking, I started thinking and talking about what happened, but only when I was pretty intoxicated. Seemed like the story was trying to get out and be dealt with. Perhaps my authentic self had had enough. For whatever reason, when I finally quit drinking and started actively dealing with all the things I believed were at the root of the reason for my addictive personality, I had to come to terms with what happened. I did. I still am. It was a big step learning to accept what happened. The second step: not thinking that it was my fault was a lot harder, but the more love and understanding I showed myself, the easier it was to let go of self-blame. The third step: Learning and growing from the entire experience, is a work in progress. It will take some time but I know I will get there.

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” C.S. Lewis

Love and light,
Phoenix

~*~

In coming terms with a traumatic event, Mary Ellen Copeland, Ph.D recommends that we begin with the following:

  1. When you are traumatized, you lose control of your life. You may feel like you still don’t have any control over your life. You have to take back that control by being in charge of every aspect of your life. Others, including your spouse, family members, friends and health care professionals will try to tell you what to do. Before you do it, think about it carefully. Do you feel that it is the best thing for you to do right now? If not, you should not do it. It is important that you make decisions about your own life.
  2. Talk to one or more people about what happened to you. Make sure it is a person or people who understand that what happened to you is serious and that describing it over and over again to another person is part of the healing process. It should not be a person who says something like: “That wasn’t so bad;” “You should just forget about it;” “Forgive and forget;” or “You think that’s bad, let me tell you what happened to me.” You will know when you have described it enough, because you won’t feel like doing it anymore. Writing about it in your journal also helps a lot.
  3. You may not feel close to anyone. You may feel like there is no one you can trust. Begin now to develop close relationships with another person. Think about the person in your life that you like best. Invite them to do something fun with you. If that feels good, make a plan to do something else together at another time, maybe the following week. Keep doing this until you feel close to this person. Then, without giving up on that person, start developing a closer relationship with another person. Keep doing this until you have close relationships with at least five people. Support groups and peer support centers are good places to meet people.
  4. If you possibly can, work with a counselor or join a group for people who have been traumatized.

If you are having difficulty dealing with a traumatic experience this website offers tips on managing psychological trauma and can point you in the right direction: https://www.psychology.org.au/publications/tip_sheets/trauma/

~*~

This is Post T, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is in an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.

Someone Worthy?

Bolin and Korra laughBolin: Korra and I are perfect for each other: she’s strong, I’m strong; she’s fun, I’m fun; she’s beautiful, I’m gorgeous!

Last night I had a dream. Minutes before my wedding was supposed to start I had my maid of honour fetch my groom. I was freaking out and insisted I talk to him. I was flooded with doubts about getting married. I sat nervously at the corner of the bar, (don’t ask me why I was at a bar in my wedding dress). I nervously fiddled with the square placemat on the counter in front of me, lining up its edged with the edge of the countertop as I waited for him.

He walked up with his eyebrows raised, “What’s up babe?”

Words tumbled out of me as he sat down at the corner next to me. “I don’t know what I’m doing? Why do you want to marry me? Why did you choose me?”

My groom was not as eloquent as Bolin, in fact he cracked jokes to make me laugh, whispering that he was marrying me for my bum, my funny face, my cute troublesome ways and because he loved me.

~*~

I woke up in a cold sweat. For one, the groom was someone I’d had a terrible break up with years ago. But the real reason for the panic was the residual feeling from the dream. I could feel the sinking, desperate feeling that comes with insecurity and doubt. I didn’t think I was worth getting married to.

In most of my love relationships I question if I’m worthy. I fear that I am damaged and beyond repair and too needy of reassurances. Of course I try very hard to hide that side of myself and deign to speak of it out loud. But I know it is something I have been trying to address: Where does this sense of unworthiness come from? I understand that the feelings are partly rooted in childhood, but at some point don’t we have to be responsible for our thoughts and actions as adults?

I know I am smart, funny, loving, considerate, creative, pretty (except with bed-hair), and I try. I am working hard to be a better person. I know how much I have grown and I am proud of what I have accomplished. Yet, most of the time I, that feeling is always there, lodged in the pit of my stomach. Deep down, I fear that I am not someone who is worthy of love.

Love and light,
Phoenix

~*~

This is Post S, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is in an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.

Questions of the Year: The Daddy Project

Iroh Zuko Lake Laogai

Iroh: “It’s time for you to look inward and begin asking yourself the big questions. Who are you? And what do you want?

Last month I signed up for a Closeness, Distance and Intimacy in Relationships workshop. I attend developmental workshops from time to time as I am always interested in the psychology behind human behaviour. Our introductory session taught us that intimacy requires mutual self awareness, openness to self re-evaluation and trust. I know I have issues with trust and self worth and I am aware that children who are not shown enough love or support to establish a strong sense of self, develop antagonistic and defensive personalities. As adults, they can sometimes still have difficulty believing in their worth and well, we all know where that can lead: Self doubt = low self esteem = little self respect = self abuse = addictive behaviour. In terms of relationships, we have difficulties with openness and trust.

After our introductory session we were advised to select a current relationship we would like to improve upon. They say that a girl’s relationship with her father affects the quality of her future romantic relationships. Sounds about right, so I decided that my focus for the workshop was going to be Dad and me. We were given standard questions, which are applicable to all relationships, and were encouraged to answer honestly, no matter how painful. I’ve listed them below and if there is a relationship you would like to work on, I encourage you to answer them too.

What am I going to change?
My relationship with my father.

How would I like this relationship to be?
Loving, supportive and open with reassurances of love and affection. I want us to enjoy each other’s company and have freedom of discussion without judgment. I’d like there to be acceptance and guidance from both sides and I want us to feel proud of each other. I want us to forgive each other and appreciate what each can bring to the relationship.

Knowing that I cannot change another person, what can I do to make our relationship this way?
Reach out more. Be more patient, open to understanding and accepting of him. I know he did not have a warm, nurturing or reassuring childhood and it is difficult for him to show affection  the way I believe I need him to.

What blocks are there to prevent me from making these changes?
Fear of rejection.
Fear of judgment.
Fear of effort without reward or appreciation.

What do I usually do when I encounter these blocks?
I find ways to explain away the situation: “It’s not really a bad relationship.” “It’s not his fault for being distant and uncompromising.” “I can’t change him anyway.”
I make excuses: “I’m too busy to call or visit.” “It’s not the right time to talk about such things.”
I do nothing. I block it all out and dismiss my need to have a better relationship with him.

What usually happens then?
The problem never really goes away. I am still left wanting even when I pretend it does not matter. Then I feel disappointed in myself for not trying and ashamed for being short with him. I judge myself harshly for not working to improve our relationship and then the hurt starts all over again.

What do I need to do to get past these blocks?
Tell myself that I love myself enough.
Tell myself that I will be okay if I don’t end up with the relationship that I want.
Be patient. This is very hard for me but I will appreciate every baby step and learn from each set back.
I need to understand that I need this sort of relationship with him. This will be my motivation.
Understand that this change will take courage and persistence.
Understand that I have a lot to offer too, as a daughter, friend and loved one.

Who am I currently in this relationship? (I must have a good sense of self to know the place I am starting from)
A distant daughter. I don’t make an effort either.
A judgmental daughter. I am ashamed of him at times.
I have talked about him as being without hope when in fact I might be the one without hope for him.
I blame him for the break up of his marriage to my mother.
I am jealous at times of his relationships with his step-daughters and with my nephew.
I am not as compassionate or as kind as I should be.
Generous as I am with others, I am far less generous and forgiving with him.

In any close relationship, differences will emerge: views, perspectives, the way we handle stresses and anxieties. Understanding and having a fair sense of self allow us to better handle the inevitable differences between the two people involved. It is important to understand that the differences are not problems in and of themselves. The problems are based on our emotional reactivity to these differences.

Thinking of my answer to the last question, what is the first sentence which comes to mind to describe myself?
I am my father’s daughter. 😦

What did it feel like to identify who I am? (my sense of self)
Eye opening and sad. I realized I am as responsible as my father is for our relationship
But I am hopeful, even though we have our work cut out for us.

Which self would I like to bring to the relationship?
My authentic self: loving, kind, understanding, generous, grateful, affectionate, hopeful and creative.

In what ways would I be different if I was that self instead?
I would be optimistic about our relationship, instead of hopeless. I would be understanding and flexible, not forceful but adaptive. I would tone down my reactivity and turn up my empathy.

What difference would being like this bring to the relationship?
Perhaps more understanding, tolerance and the opportunity for growth.

What is my detailed plan of action from this point? And what can I do to cope more positively with the differences and similarities between Dad and me?
Make a concerted effort to keep in touch more and to visit.
Get to know more about him. Be patient, open and understanding.
Understand that lots of planning and no action will lead me nowhere.
Understand that courageous acts of change require small manageable steps. There will inevitably be setbacks, maybe even failures, but I won’t take them personally and I won’t give up. I can take a time out if I need to, but I won’t give up.

I am actively working on my relationship with Dad. It is slow going and I’ve decided that’s okay. For now. I’m interested to know if any of you found the questions helpful or at least thought provoking. Copy and paste the questions onto a document and carry it with you to answer one day when you feel ready. I found that removing the pressure of assuming that I’ll actually talk to Dad about all of this, and writing out my answers, helped me to focus and be honest about my feelings.

~*~

Here are the questions in an easy to copy format:

1. What am I going to change?
2. How would I like this relationship to be?
3. Knowing that I cannot change another person, what can I do to make our relationship this way?
4. What blocks are there to prevent me from making these changes?
5. What do I usually do when I encounter these blocks?
6. What usually happens then?
7. What do I need to do to get past these blocks?
8. Who am I currently in this relationship? (I must have a good sense of self to know the place I am starting from)
In any close relationship, differences will emerge: views, perspectives, the way we handle stresses and anxieties. Understanding and having a fair sense of self allow us to better handle the inevitable differences between the two people involved. It is important to understand that the differences are not problems in and of themselves. The problems are based on our emotional reactivity to these differences.
9. Thinking of my answers to the last question, what is the first sentence which comes to mind to describe myself?
10. What did it feel like to identify who I am? (my sense of self)
11. Which self would I like to bring to the relationship?
12. In what ways would I be different if I was that self instead?
13. What difference would being like this bring to the relationship?
14. What is my detailed plan of action from this point? And what can I do to cope more positively with the differences and similarities between us?

Love, light and good luck to you,
Phoenix

~*~

This is Post Q, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is in an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the kick-ass story lines, beautifully developed characters and exceptional storyboards) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.

Despair

Zuko Iroh Despair

Uncle Iroh: Zuko, You must never give into despair. Allow yourself to slip down that road and you surrender to your lowest instincts. In the darkest times, hope is something you give yourself. That is the meaning of inner strength.

Every now and then I come across something I’d written when I was good and proper under the influence. It was a habit I’d formed, scribbling on napkins in bars, texting lines of poetry to myself in the early morning hours, or typing away on a laptop with Tori Amos playing in the background:

“We deem ourselves masters of our own destinies yet forever doom ourselves being slaves to our own darkness.” ~ Phoenix

These days I shake my head and chuckle at the melodramatic lines I find hidden in books and treasure chests, and I wonder about the girl who cried her heart out while she wrote. Makes me sad to think that she felt at a loss to handle so much pain. There are also many lines with crushing self-criticism and I am so grateful that I don’t do that anymore. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I am quite okay with hiding under my blanket and wallowing in my moodiness, but I understand that it is necessary to do so from time to time, and I don’t judge myself as weak or damaged, worthless or hopeless anymore. I don’t let the Negative Pity Party Committee in my head get away with their out of place comments for very long.

Still, there are feelings which creep in every now and then, at sunset, which I can’t quite explain. Feelings of dread, anxiety, confusion, and despair. They’re not overwhelming and crippling as before and usually very brief, so I don’t worry about them too much. But they’re a curiosity to me and I’m still working out the root cause. Does this happen to any of you?

Dad once asked if they’re residual feelings from childhood about not finishing homework on time, or knowing that the falling night meant that the next school day was much closer. He could be right. Maybe my grown up self feels unfulfilled at the end of the day and worried about not accomplishing enough. (Yes, the charming life of a control freak) Or, perhaps it has more to do with perspective. As the sun sets and the sky changes from blue to red signaling the end of another day, I think about my role in this vast Universe. Am I doing what I’m meant to be doing? Most of the time I don’t think I am. Life is calling out to me and I’m not listening. I still confine myself to the expectations and limitations placed upon me by others and by myself. That’s when the anxiety, fear, and dread set in. It’s almost like feeling my spirit die. Is that possible?

I know that despair is rooted in self-doubt and hopelessness. If anything this last year has taught me is that I am stronger than I gave myself credit for. I am more capable than I thought and I can tap into my vast reserves of optimism, hope and faith. So today, thankfully, feelings of despair don’t last very long. And I do love mornings. I have been slowly but surely turning the table on twilight. I look for the beauty in it: the colours of the sky, the stillness and silence which follows as birds roost, the changing scent of the air. Maybe if I focus on these gifts, I won’t think about the negative.

~*~

This is Post D, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is in an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the beautifully developed characters and kick-ass story lines) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here. 

Just Another Day At The Beach

SONY DSC

I’ve driven past this little beach every morning for the past fifteen years and for many years I looked out for an elderly couple who came to Williams Bay for their early morning dip in the sea. They caught my eye a long time ago for one simple reason, the man’s kindness. It was clear that his wife had difficulty walking on her own. Driving past them day after day, I caught glimpses of their at-the-beach routine. I’d see him gently lift her out of the car and steady her on her feet. Facing her, he’d hold her by both arms, his hands under her elbows, and guide her as she awkwardly walked through the car park, onto the sand and into the water. Once thigh deep in the calm blue water, never once letting go of her arm, and he would softly splash water over her body. Delight was always the expression on her face. When their time in the water was over he would guide her back to the car just as gently as before, never showing any sign of impatience or frustration. He would seat her in the car and standing next to the open car door, would dry her hair, dress her in a dry gown, put her slippers on her feet and brush her hair. Her eyes never left his face as he did these small tasks.

The romantic in me often wondered about that couple. I wanted to know what had happened to her, where they lived, and if they had any children. But I never stopped at the beach to talk to them, fearing perhaps that the ‘magic’ would disappear. Four years ago I stopped seeing them at the beach but I haven’t forgotten them or his devotion to her. The kindness, compassion, love and gratitude I read on their faces and in the language of their bodies gave me hope that true companionship is possible.

~*~

My boyfriend and I ended our relationship on Sunday. It wasn’t anyone’s fault.

I’m trying really hard to take my own advice and not look at this as a failure on my part, and I know all the rules to follow and the ‘right’ things to say at this point. But to tell you the truth, I’m more than a little afraid. We started going out when I was still drinking and he was 100% supportive when I quit a year later. There is a lot of love, respect and mutual affection between us but in this case it’s not enough. We are at different places in our lives and having been together for two years it is clear that we are not on the same path. We both agreed it is better that we end it now before we have a chance to really hurt each other.

I’m really sad about it and every now and then I get that heart crushing, sinking feeling in my stomach and my breath is caught. I’m on my own. Again. I thought about that elderly couple a lot today, wondering if I would ever have a relationship with someone I can grow old with. I have to keep reminding myself that I’ll be okay and that perhaps it’s time for me to learn how to be on my own and not be scared of being alone. I know that I want to share my life with someone, but perhaps now is not the time and I have some homework to do.

The Darkness Behind Doors

image

I’ve been told to be wary of talking about my nightmares or curious dreams. But I’ve often found that they help me to better understand what is really going on with me. It’s 3:31am and I’ve just forced myself awake, shivering and sweating and afraid to look around in the darkness of my bedroom. Then I hear the sound of rain over the drone of the a/c.

I was in the second house of my childhood, the house I lived in from age two to fifteen. I was making my way upstairs with a broomstick in hand, and I was on a mission. I was also my current 40 year old self. My Dad was in the living room sitting on his recliner and I could hear Mom in the kitchen.

My steps were tentative and although they were cautious my grip on the handle of that stick was sure. I was staring up at the ceiling, at a square trap door which led to the attic space above.

As I turned the 90° corner halfway up the stairs and positioned myself beneath the door, I lifted the broomstick above my head with both arms. I started from one corner of the ceiling and swung the broom slowly from side to side, making my way across the width and length of that ceiling. It was smooth work, as the air moved easily.

Except for that area beneath that square trap door. I was determined to do it. I stayed beneath that door swinging the broomstick back and forth, side to side, with the air getting thicker and thicker. The resistance felt like I was moving through water, then mud. Whatever was behind that door did not want the air cleared, and it was growing in its resistance. I sensed it collecting itself as I continued to push, struggling but managing to move that stick. My arms and shoulders and neck ached but I was not going to be stopped.

There was an echo of a sound, a dark heavy recoiling. the door began to lift and I sensed the dark as much as I could see the dark space behind the door.

I began to call out to my Mom, saying Mummy Mummy over and over with my voice growing in volume as my panic grew in intensity. The doorway was gaping opening and noise and heaviness was descending toward me like a thick black fog. I was still swinging that stick and calling out when I woke up to the stillness and dark of my bedroom.

Then the rain started outside my window.

You Can’t Meet God With Sunglasses On

Matilde Berk

Bono once said “…it is impossible to meet God with sunglasses on. It is impossible to meet God without abandon, without exposing yourself, being raw.”

Surrendering to God (as we know him to be) is discussed often when we are talking about addiction, quitting and abstinence.  Surrendering to a higher or greater power is mentioned in seven of the twelve steps and is deemed essential to building a new life without alcohol.

How many of us actually allow ourselves to meet God? I’ve never really been one for organized religion. I mean my mom is a Muslim, my dad a Hindu. I attended a Catholic primary school, and a Presbyterian high school. I’ve been to Sunday school, Mac tab classes, Hindu prayers, and even a ‘small’ church where everyone clapped and hugged all the time. Twenty years ago, in university, there was a two week period when I researched all the faiths, especially the eastern religions, trying to see if any one connected with me in a particular way.

A few years ago I was liming at a bar talking to a girl I’d just met. It was a Saturday night and she was saying that she didn’t want to lime much longer as she had to go to church the next morning. We started talking about God and religion and I asked her about her faith and whether she believed in her religion. She said she never questioned it. She asked me what religion I belonged to. I answered her in pretty much the same way as I’ve stated above. She looked at me for a moment and then told me that I was lucky. She said that because I had the opportunity to see what fit me from all the religions, what I eventually believed in would be true to me and not to someone else’s doctrine. Until that day I’d never thought of my experiences that way. I stared at her and then smiled and told her thank you.

I can honestly say that I’ve felt God. Or at least, I’ve felt the presence of something greater than me, something timeless and perfect and comforting. I’ve felt that once. I was 19 or 20 at the time, still attending university. Late one night a group of us went to Maracas Beach. That is a beautiful beach to be on at any time of the day and at night I love it. I love any beach at night actually. I wandered away from the noise and playfulness of the group and sat down on a piece of driftwood just looking out at the water. I just sat there, feeling the cool sand under my feet and the salty wind against my face. I looked up at the millions of stars that are always easy to see at that beach. I looked for the unicorns in the waves as I always do. I listened to the music of the waves as they crashed and tumbled and raced up and down the beach. I sat there for half an hour. I felt happy. I felt at peace.

And then I just knew.

I knew with absolute certainty, that I was not alone.

I knew with absolute certainty, that I was a part of something greater than I could imagine. Something infinite.

As soon as that realization hit, the wave song was louder, the wind was stronger, the stars were brighter, and I was growing smaller and smaller. Less important I guess, or more correctly, less self-important. It was an amazing feeling. A fantastic feeling, unlike anything I ever felt before. I felt connected. I felt comforted. I felt eternal. I felt grateful.

I haven’t felt that way in a really long time. Sometimes, when I’m surrounded by nature, like at the beach or in Tucker Valley with bamboo all around, or in the garden where I used to do Tai Chi, I feel a tiny little bit of that connection. But it’s always fleeting. In yoga class, when we work on the heart chakra, the feeling lasts much longer but never really stays.

Today, I know why I haven’t been able to feel that way again. I haven’t let go the way I let go back then. I was 20 and angry as hell at the world and didn’t even know it. Full of self doubt and questions about life, purpose, love, parents, destiny, everything! I remember that night very well. I was fed up and tired and ‘soul weary’. I think I walked away from the group because I wanted to turn it all off: the noise, the questions, the ‘answers’, the bullshit, all of it. I just walked away, and stopped thinking about everyone and everything. The thing is, I did not make a conscious effort to stop. I just did. I just released everything. It was a beautiful moment that has forever been imprinted upon me.

The year which followed that night at the beach was a difficult one, in so many ways, and I am only now beginning to understand the reasons behind the choices I made in the two decades that followed. I know I want to feel what I felt on that beach. I know I want to let go and surrender to the divinity I feel in my heart and that I know is there. I want to trust that I will be ok. But some days are so hard and I feel alone and afraid and I worry that all that I have learned will be too much and too big. My heart beats fast and my tummy hurts just thinking about it.

Maybe I still have my sunglasses on.

Phoenix

Photo credit: Matilde Berk

The Unanswerable Questions

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 Why is it you never have to explain why you drink, but always have to explain why you don’t?

Why do people say: I’ll feel more comfortable if you have a drink with me?

What do you do when people don’t respect your choice to stop drinking?

Why do most dining establishments offer only coffee, soft drinks, and water as non-alcoholic options?

Is it ever polite for an alcoholic to say to someone: “I think you have a problem with alcohol.” ?

When will it be socially acceptable for me to say: “Sorry, I can’t date someone who drinks.” ?