Triggers

The Moderation Contemplation

mona-davis-winds-of-freedom

Winds of Freedom – Mona Davis

Are you trying to decide whether or not moderating your alcohol intake is the preferable option to giving it up entirely? Hugs and love to you. I know this is hard.

If I may, I’d like to ask you two questions:

1. Do you believe that being able to drink moderately makes you better or more whole as a person?
2. Do you know the reasons why you want the escape that drinking “promises”?

If you’re struggling to answer these two questions honestly, perhaps abstinence is the way to go. Of course the decision is yours but I’ll share my story:

I was a binge drinker which means that I could go days or weeks without drinking but when I did drink, anything could happen. Back then, if I was upset or angry the first couple of drinks felt good because all the pleasure centers in my brain were tickled, tricking me into believing that the high meant I was happy. But the warning bells would already be going off by the end of glass two. I would choose to ignore them and the switch would be flipped. Deep down I knew I had a problem with limits and believing it was a question of willpower, I had tried quitting or at least moderating my drinking many times. Especially after particularly embarrassing episodes or near misses. I tried “not drinking during the week” or limiting my consumption, you know, with the “three drinks minimum”. I changed what I drank and who I hung out with. I “had it under control.”

But the truth was, I didn’t want to give it up, or to be more honest, I didn’t want to be the girl who had to give it up. So no amount of rules or agendas would’ve worked. Years later, when I finally got fed up enough with myself and all the blackouts, and with hurting people I loved, knew I had no choice. I knew that this time, I didn’t want to be the girl who couldn’t give it up. In my heart I believe that perspective made all the difference.

Early on in my sobriety I was afraid that I’d always feel broken, and inadequate, defective or abnormal because I couldn’t drink the way other people did. As time went on, I came to realize that choosing to figure out why I wanted to drink in the first place, and understanding that it was not about will power but instead about goodwill toward myself, made me proud not be a drinker. It became a source of strength and confidence.

Today, I know for a fact that alcohol never made anything better.  In terms of moderation, if you are already at the point where you are telling yourself that you should be moderating your alcohol intake, it usually means that alcohol simply isn’t for you. You are either safely unaffected by it or a stronger, better you without it.

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The Girl In The Mirror

smokingmirrors

I love the madness that is the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. The creativity, the fast-paced induced adrenaline rush of posting every 24 hours, the community spirit, and at times, the frustrating but glorious intensity.

This year I chose to write poems inspired by movies about addiction and absolution. I write often about the importance of honouring our emotions, about allowing ourselves to sit with the darkness, kicking at it until it bleeds light, but every now and then I resist the complete vulnerability and surrender that any sort of healing needs. So as April approached I took stock of my progress so far: two years of sobriety; an understanding and acceptance of my triggers; the warmth and affection that had grown in key relationships with loved ones; and the knowledge of what I felt I still needed to work on.

It was my intention to reach deep down to the dark, murky, frightening depths with both hands and pull hard against what needed to be uprooted, clearing away the weeds and plastic debris that were stunting my growth. I hoped to reveal, better understand, and become more accepting and appreciative of the dark emotions I keep at bay. I was ready, or so I thought.

Don’t get me wrong, all in all, this year’s challenge exceeded all expectations. For one, I reached the depths I wanted to and spent more time there than I cared to in the end. Even though I’ve come away with several poems that are worth shaping and rewriting, my plan to use movies about addiction as triggers worked better that I’d anticipated.

The shift was gradual and I did not notice it at first. But by the time I’d reached the middle of the alphabet I was staying in bed longer on mornings, wide-eyed with the covers to my chin, unsure and a little afraid of what the day would bring. My meditative morning habit – a cup of ginger tea on my front porch with an inspiring book – had been replaced with reviewing the difficult poem I’d written the night before, and I was no longer jumping out of bed looking forward to my day. I had underestimated my vulnerabilities. The writing challenge theme I’d set for myself, together with two unexpected life events, affected me adversely. I won’t be doing something like this again. At least not without setting some boundaries and safe zones first.

There were breakthroughs as well, which I am grateful for, with poems like The Quiet, which makes me so uncomfortable to read even though I wrote it, and Thirteen, which I wrote when I came to an understanding about my relationship with my mother. I think if there is anything I am truly happy about is turning that corner with my Mom. It was my last important relationship to heal and I believe that now I can begin doing just that.

In the end, and today I am grateful for the opportunity to learn. I am not invincible. I cannot, ever, underestimate my triggers nor the importance of boundaries. I am grateful for loved ones (online and IRL) who supported me through this “mad experiment” and never judged me for it. It has helped me to be gentler with myself and keep my own Judge in check. I even have to send a nod to the Universe for crashing my laptop two weeks into the challenge. I chuckle to myself now when I think about it. Perhaps the Universe was sending me a message after all.

Love and light,

Phoenix

Ghosts

“Ghosts of the pasts have power over us. Even if we truly want to move on, it’s not easy.” – Abbie Gale, Sleepy Hollow

Passion Pit - Cry Like a Ghost

Video still from Passion Pit’s “Cry Like a Ghost”

I’ve been struggling with ghosts lately, ghosts of relationships past, and ghosts of Phoenix past.

My ex is having a hard time with our breakup and has been sending me letters. I have asked him repeatedly to take some space to heal and made it very clear (kindly/ firmly / angrily / calmly) that I do not want to be in a relationship with him. His gestures of affection are not welcome as we are not a couple and he is not courting me. There are several emotions I go through whenever I receive something from him: fear that it will be another letter saying how much he is hurting; indignation because I am reminded that these professions of love were missing when we were dating; frustration because he’s not respecting my boundaries now; and sadness and guilt for my part to play in his hurt.

My girlfriends have suggested I adjust the way I feel about his overtures, to choose to react differently and to just ignore him, as he will probably take a hint. They remind me that he is not a bad person and is just going through a difficult time. But I think that to try to change how I feel because he has issues and needs to get it out, seems like stepping back from what I need (distance, peace of mind, a chance to move on). Seems like the relationship all over again where his needs and issues came first and I’m making allowances again. It has been six months and I want to give up the ghost. It is difficult making room for new possibilities when there is harmful clutter from the past.

Then, last night I found out that the current girlfriend of an ex I dated ten years ago, has an issue with me. I have no idea why. He and I have remained on respectful, friendly terms without even a hint of emotional intimacy or closeness. We are not each other’s confidantes and do not share personal stories with one another. Apparently her issue with me is so large that he is not supposed to come to my apartment, where our writing group of meets. Why am I a ghost in her relationship, when she does not know me?

On a personal level, the ghosts of my demons have been apparating. Yes, I used a Harry Potter reference. I have been feeling trapped and backed into a corner and those demons who used to squirm and bang on doors demanding an escape, have been sitting quietly in the rooms of my mind, watching, waiting and making their presence known. I’m not worried about them because I know I won’t use alcohol as an escape, but I am concerned that they are there at all. They nod when I acknowledge that they’re there, sort of like a roll call: doubt, insecurity, fear, shame, victim, people-pleaser, judge. Over the past two years I’ve been able to handle and dismiss them, but now they’re sort of hanging about, and making them go away is becoming more difficult.

I read once that pain has an evolutionary purpose. It provides information from the environment that a particular behaviour isn’t good for us. I try to pay attention to situations and stimuli that make me uncomfortable or cause me emotional, physical or spiritual pain. I feel better about myself and have a lighter attitude when I honour the way I feel. When I fight against or resist making the changes I need to because I’m afraid or failure, or too worried about someone else’s well being before my own, I am not honouring myself. And when I do that for too long, little by little, I stop functioning: I have restless nights and don’t sleep well, I have constant pain beneath my shoulder blades, my eating habits change for the worse (I’m a stress eater), I get heartburn, I don’t clean my apartment or take care of my plant, I feel nervous before checking emails or answering phone calls, I avoid people. This timidity and lack of self care is against my true nature so I have to change my behaviour to remove that which is not helpful or uplifting to me. I must start somewhere and I can only start with me.

I’m Too Sad To Walk. Just Give Me A Few Hours.

sadness-inside-out

I’m too sad to walk. Just give me a few hours.” Sadness, Inside Out

I’m a big believer in honouring our emotions, even the difficult ones. I didn’t always think that way. I methodically and meticulously planned my escape routes and hit the road, racing away from those pesky, annoying and highly uncomfortable emotions. Me? Feel sad and mopey? Pfft. Tears were for lesser beings. Frustration and anger was a waste of my time. Better to ignore the bastard, bitch or piece of furniture that pissed me off. Fear and desperation? Why bother? Can’t control what happens anyway. So what did I do? I pushed those emotions deep down, drowning them with my ‘good’ friends, Johnny, Jack, Jose and Jager.

inside-out-8

Joy: “Hey, it’s not my place to tell you how you do your job. [She pushes Sadness’s leg inside of the circle.] Just make sure that all the sadness stays in the circle. See? You’re a pro at this. Isn’t this fun?”

But I learned the hard way: when you shut down one emotion you shut down all. With the help of alcohol, I nullified my ability to effectively experience other emotions, like joy, hope and love. It doesn’t happen overnight of course but it happens, and when despair started to surround me I’d get dressed and head to a bar. It was a brutal cycle.

So, one night when I’d had enough, I kicked those bad boys to the curb, headed home and let it all flood out of me. I realized that there was strength in allowing my feelings, all of them. It was okay to feel angry, upset, frustrated, worried, stressed, hurt, unhappy, desperate, scared, afraid and unsure. It was okay to cry and stare up at the ceiling or crawl under the covers and stay there if you want to. It was okay to want to watch TV all day with junk food on the couch next to you. It’s necessary to allow it to swallow you sometimes. It is okay to sit, or lie, or just stay there for a few hours, because it is the only way you can move past the darkness and into the light. And I promise you, the light will come. You WILL feel better.

You will pick yourself up, and you should at some point, and you can. We all can. Once the difficult stuff is allowed out, we’ve cleared the way for the helpful emotions to surface.

CNDeyVqUkAAGSfy

[Joy rolls her eyes and grabs Sadness by the foot, dragging her into Long-Term Memory]

Joy: “Which way, left?”

Sadness: “Right.” [Joy turns right] “No, I mean ‘go left’, I said left is right, like, correct.”

Joy: “Okay!” [drags Sadness the opposite direction]

Sadness: “This actually feels kind of nice.”

Joy: “Okay! Here we go! We’ll be back to Headquarters before morning! This’ll be easy! This is working!”

~*~

On February 6th 2014, four days after I stopped drinking alcohol, I started this blog. My two-year soberversary is fast approaching and my January posts, inspired by fictional philosophers who’ve inspired me with their bad-ass thoughts, is a way of celebrating my journey. I hope, in turn, to inspire you on yours.

Inside Out (2015 film): Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it’s no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness. The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley’s main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school. ~  Written by Pixar 

You’re Kind of a Great Mess

You're kind of a great mess

“You’ve been hanging around here, trying to make yourself invisible behind this fragile little fuck-up routine of yours, but you can’t. You’re anything but invisible. You’re big. And you’re kind of a great mess, like a candle burning on both ends, but it’s beautiful. No amount or booze or weed or attitude is going to hide that.” ~ Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the way we treat ourselves. Even those of us without obvious addictions. Many of my friends, beautiful, wonderfully creative and caring people, hurt themselves in so many ways. A few of us have trouble with recognizable addictions like alcohol and cigarettes, toxic relationships, unhealthy eating habits, too many hours at work, etc. For many of us, our negative habits are more internal: we put ourselves down, decry aspects of our bodies, doubt our worth, sabotage our potential and can be outright nasty when talking to own hearts. We say “I’m not good enough” far too often. We make ourselves so much smaller than we really are.

“The world beats you up on its own without you doing it to yourself.”  (The Way, 2010)

Nowadays, there is so much pressure to BE something else: more successful in business, finding the right partner, looking the right way, buying the right things, that it is no wonder so many of us think we don’t measure up to some preconceived notion of what we believe society expects us to be. By aiming to check things off on an impossible list we have forgotten how to trust our own hearts. Figuring out what are our passions, our strengths, the ways in which we can give back to the community or serve mankind. This kind of thinking is not usually encouraged and these goals are not made priorities. There’s so much pressure to become this or that, that little value is placed on just being true to ourselves.

Right now, all I want for myself and my friends (that includes you), is for us to be good to ourselves. To not make ourselves small by hiding and running away from our issues. To not hide parts of ourselves in shame. To recognize that it’s okay to have struggled and suffered and come out on the other side and to understand that it’s okay to celebrate that too. To be patient and tender and supportive if we’re still finding our way through. To honour that place inside that whispers wishes and hopes and tells us what we really want. Listen for it, underneath all the harsh words and cruel doubts. I know it’s hard to reach that place, to believe in that truth, especially if for years, we’ve been hearing something else. We ALL have good in us and deserve kindness and care, and deserve to stand up for ourselves, even if it’s to stand up to our own selves sometimes.

I get that it’s easier sometimes to be hard on ourselves, about our appearance or our progress toward our goals. But trying is what’s important. Reaching out to ask for help or to help others; doing the work to understand ourselves better; hoping, believing and trusting that we are all improving, fall backs and all, are the things that really matter.

As Spike told Buffy: “I love who you are, what you do, and how you try. You are very brave. I’ve seen your kindness and your strength and your weaknesses. I’ve seen the best and the worst of you. Everything that you are, makes you beautiful.” Okay granted, Buffy was fighting vampires and other supernatural demons but we’re fighting our own demons too aren’t we? And we make messes and cry and scream against the madness and we try. Because we try and we fight, we are all the more beautiful in my eyes.

Love and light,

Phoenix

X = Sobriety

pai_sho

Jet: I’ve done some things in my past that I’m not proud of. But that’s why I’m going to Ba Sing Se, for a new beginning. A second chance.
Iroh: That’s very noble of you. I believe people can change their lives if they want to. I believe in second chances.

In primary school, we were given mathematical equations and taught how to solve for “x”.  We were taught how to look at a problem from all angles: algebraically, graphically and by using the concept of equivalence. We learned how to add, take-away, multiply and divide, and determine the variables (or unknowns) to find the solution. If we were impatient, tried too hard, or allowed the perceived complexity of the problem to overwhelm us, the solution was always frustratingly out of reach. But once we calmed down, realized that the math equation was not out to get us and followed simple rules, what was once puzzling was made clear.

Flash forward 30 years and I’m driving around the largest roundabout in the world, on my way to meet the girls, and having an epiphany. I finally realized what “x” is in my life. For me, x = sobriety. Now I am not saying that sobriety is the answer to all of my problems and that I have it all figured out. It isn’t and I don’t. But I cannot ignore how many different aspects of my life have improved since I had my last drink more than a year ago.

As 2014 began I was frustrated with my life and had little hope. I was sick and tired of making the same mistakes and I could not figure out why I could not get my life together. I was unhappy in my professional life, and felt stuck in a rut after working for the same firm for 15 years, yet at the same without hope that I could be of value anywhere else. I was angry with myself for drinking as often as I did and the way that I did. I was ashamed of it and unknowingly withdrew from or sabotaged relationships that were important to me. My self worth was at an all time low.

It was not all bad of course. There were moments of fun and happiness, and there were times that I did make an effort to change aspects of my life. I resigned from my job, but without having a new one waiting for me I ended up staying exactly where I was.  I was never getting enough sleep (sleeping off a hangover is not the same as a good night’s rest), smoking a half a pack a day (a pack if I was out drinking), not taking care of my body, and totally ignoring my creative side. I could not imagine what my future looked like. I just honestly could not picture it. And for the life of me, I could not figure out why I was where I was. I could not reason my way out of the puzzle I was in. At the time, I looked at giving up alcohol as just that. Giving it up. I would have the same life minus the booze. I had no idea that giving it up and thereby choosing to have a better life, that one factor, would be the common denominator in all the improvements to come.

Now, so many things have fallen into place. I feel like I have a second chance, at everything. Life did not magically improve of course, I put in the work that was required and I still do. But when I take stock and look back on the last 15 months and at all the variables, there is no denying that for me, x = sobriety.

There is a clarity of thought that I did not have before, the upside of which is focus which in turn manifested itself as determination and will. I now believe that I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to or at least learn from simply striving for a new goal. Then there is the power of attraction. I do believe that like attracts like, and my more positive attitude and confidence has attracted a lot of positivity and stability into my life. No longer am I wasting my days and energy being hung over, regretting a night of drinking, or berating myself for having no direction in life. My days and energy are spent on more positive and rewarding endeavours.

I have been appreciating my relationships more than ever before, cultivating stronger relationships with old friends because I now know my worth and can be a better friend. I have also made new friends with common interests, other than alcohol, who inspire and motivate me on so many levels.

I have more love for myself and with it automatically comes self-confidence, care and self respect. I am gentler with myself by dealing with difficult emotions in healthier ways instead of judging myself for having them in the first place. I’ve found a renewal of faith that life is good, and that sincere effort is rewarded. I have hope again, for myself and for my future.

From my second chance to yours: love and light,
Phoenix

~*~

This is Post X, 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 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.

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. 

Bad Habit Build-Up

ATLA Energy Flow

Guru Pathik: The water flows through this creek much like the energy flows through your body. If nothing else were around, this creek would flow pure and clear. However, life is messy, and things tend to fall in the creek, and then what happens?

Aang: The creek can’t flow?

Guru Pathik: Yes. But if we open the paths between the pools...[clears some moss clogging the water with his stick. The water pours quickly into the next pool, and soon all of them are running clean and clear.]

Aang: The energy flows!

60a3a-aang2band2bchakras

Life is like that isn’t it? When we allow bad habits to develop as means of dealing with difficult life experiences we create blocks to our emotional, mental, spiritual and physical development and well being. When I quit drinking I quickly found out that I had let alcohol become a habitual way to deal with so many emotions: anger, hurt, loneliness, frustration, fear. Of course, I wasn’t really dealing with any emotion. I was in the “efficient” habit of numbing what I felt. In actuality, the numbing and “escaping” only served to push the difficult emotions deep down into my psyche, where they prevented any real growth on my part.

Alcohol never made anything better. Sure, the first couple of drinks felt good because all the pleasure centers in my brain were tickled, tricking me into believing that this high meant I was happy. But the warning bells would already be going off by the end of glass two. I would choose to ignore them and the switch would be flipped. Now that the alcohol induced fog is no more and I’m allowing myself time to see, recognize and sit with the difficult emotions, slowly but surely I am creating new ways of dealing with them. Bit by bit I am forming new habits. Instead of paying attention to the “I am feeling (insert difficult emotion here), so I want / need / deserve a drink” thoughts, I shifted my focus because I know drinking never really made anything better.

For many of us, self-criticism and self-judgment are also habits we develop, which do us tremendous harm. Learning to love and be gentle with ourselves is the hardest thing we will have to learn and that’s understandable actually. Because it means reversing years and years of habitually telling ourselves we’re not worth it. Even the way we have become accustomed to perceiving and talking about our past stories can change. I know I’ve accumulated many blocks over the years and I’m working on clearing away the moss and weeds and emotional buildup, so my true self can shine through.

Yes, sometimes I don’t want to sit with my feelings. Yes, sometimes I get tired of the over-thinking, and the mantras, and the pep talks to myself. But you know what? I’ll take being ‘frustrated with myself for brooding too much’ over ‘frustrated with myself for drinking’ any day. I know the brooding won’t last. I know that it’s all part of the process. I know it’s part of developing new habits, which instead of harming me, are actually helping me this time.

~*~

This is Post B, 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.