Being of Service

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

Accountability

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Uncle Iroh has just watched a group of boys accidentally kick a ball through a window.
Uncle Iroh: [to the boys] It is usually best to admit mistakes when they occur, and to seek to restore honour.
Angry Man: [coming to the window and shouting] When I’m through with you kids, the window won’t be the only thing broken!
Uncle Iroh: [to the boys] But not this time. Run!

Accountability seems to be the word of the day today. From production errors made by staff members at work, to discussions with my editor about anonymity for an upcoming article. Last year I wrote six articles under a pseudonym for an online magazine about early sobriety. The articles did very well in terms of number of hits and shares, and readers were interested and hopefully helped. Now I’ve written a new article about my first year of sobriety and the ways in which I got through it. The magazine will be publishing the new article soon and  I am considering using my real name as author this time – sort of finally owning my story and giving my journey the respect it deserves. But will I really be owning my story by simply giving it my name? And if I choose not to use my name, would this mean that I deem my story a shameful one which should be denied a name?

To tell you the truth I am wary of opening up myself for criticism I might not be all that ready to handle. I still consider myself new to this having only been sober for one year, and while I think I have a better handle on minimizing self-judgment, I am not sure I am ready to handle negative judgment from strangers who are not on a similar journey.

I know that accountability is important to me and I know I have nothing to be ashamed of. I have made mistakes and poor decisions while under the influence of alcohol, and sometimes I do still feel remorse and regret that certain things happened. But those mistakes don’t make me a mistake. I don’t feel ashamed of myself any more. I have accepted that those mistakes and poor decisions are a part of my past and I  endeavour daily to be a better person. And in fact, most days I am even proud of where I am now. But, in this case, I wonder what hiding behind a pseudonym would mean. In doing so am I saying that the person I am today is unwilling to be held accountable for mistakes I’ve made in the past? Or more simply, would staying anonymous mean that am I unwilling to be accountable to myself?

I have much to think about.

~*~

This is my first post, A, 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. 

You Have A Lot To Offer

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On my one year anniversary I wrote from my heart about what I thought it took for me to reach my first milestone: Acceptance of self, understanding, community, structure and knowing when to ask for help. I forgot to add one valuable component: BEING OF SERVICE

On the days when I feel at my lowest and the most disconnected from myself are the days when I feel purposeless. Those are the days when I stay under the blanket and binge watch TV series like Vikings or Games of Thrones, or Harry Potter movies, just to disappear into a another world. But, once I get tired of hiding, (and feeling sorry for myself), I get to work. I look for ways to be of service. Trust me, helping others, helps you in so many ways too. I have found so much of myself by being compassionate and caring when I can. The big and the little things do make a difference.

TURN YOUR PASSION INTO A MISSION

I was lucky when I first gave up drinking, as at the same time I was also just starting up my own writing group. The little club I founded has proven to be one of the stabilizing factors of my journey. It became a space for creative growth with a fantastic energy which not only helped me but also helped the other writers in the group. It brings me such joy to hear them say they have learned, grown and found their own voices just from being a member of our group. Aside from identifying a hobby (which has always helped me) and bringing together other creatives with a passion for writing, being in charge of the group gave me responsibility and purpose.

LOOK FOR THE MOVERS AND SHAKERS

I try often to get involved in community clean up campaigns, fund-raisers and the like but last year I turned it up a notch. I made a point to surround myself with people who were actively making changes. I went to social enterprise meet-ups to find out who was involved in what and volunteered for projects. I couldn’t help out monetarily but I volunteered my time, helping with food and clothing drives and by writing articles or blogging for free.

DONATE

In my community, there are always people who need assistance. Banks, churches, social enterprises are always posting notices about items needed. I try to clear my closets at least twice a year, and my pantry more often than that. My sister has a toddler so I’m always giving away baby clothes and toys.

WRITE

Writing has always helped me. This is why I blog and I suspect this is why many of you blog as well. So I started writing encouraging and uplifting pieces for online journals that publish such work. I did it for fun and to keep myself busy and there is nothing more rewarding than reading comments which say that you’ve helped someone. Most online journals have a “Write For Us” section or you can simply send them an email to ask.

LISTEN

Many times I feel very wrapped up in my own life and my own issues. Which is also okay because I know I have to put my stability first, but I do make an effort to be there for my friends and family as well. Many times what people need is someone who will listen to them with kindness and without judgement. When someone is telling me about themselves, or a raw deal they are going through, I try not to interrupt them with my own feelings, thoughts, and stories. Simply listening, without going into my typical “must find a solution mode”, helps.

REACH OUT

We all feel cut off from friends and family and very alone at times so it stands to reason that your own loved ones also feel this way now and then. I try to remind my over-analytical self that sometimes when a loved one is being distant, it has nothing to do with me, and that they might be going through something as well. So I send a text message or call just to let them know that I’m thinking of them. Little gestures go a long way too.

BE KIND & COMPASSIONATE

These days, life is so busy. I’m always rushing about, juggling two jobs and my constructive extra curricular activities,  but I do try to remember that kindness goes a long way. I hold doors open for strangers, I chat with the people who serve me food or cash my purchases at the grocery or drugstore. I smile at people and say Hello or Good day. It makes a huge difference to my mood and the way people respond to me as well. Even a simple smile, a Hello, or compliment could lift someone’s spirit! Some days I’m a right proper grump and don’t feel like being courteous, which happens to all of us, but I regret it after as I’ve found that on those days, my mood inevitably deteriorates further and I end up under that blanket, hating the universe. So I try.

“Compassion is not prevention of all negative certainty, it is a home floating on the sea of fear, that equally brings assistance to those sinking.” ― James C. Emlund

Helping can be just about anything as long as it is done with sincerity. Never underestimate the difference YOU can make in the lives of others.

Hugs and love, Phoenix

How Did I Get This Far?

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Two days ago my sister sent me an early Happy One Year message to say congratulations. I’ve been silent on this blog for a couple of months because my mind and heart were filled with unanswerable questions every time I tried to write a new post. As my anniversary approached I really had no idea how I would feel on the day itself.

Would I feel a sense of accomplishment? Or would I feel strange and a bit directionless as I usually do after a very rewarding experience? A tiny part of me even speculated that I’d feel sorrow or a sense of loss as I would no longer be a ‘newbie’ with all the gentleness, kindness and kid-glove handling that usually comes with being at the beginning of any journey that is deemed difficult. And then of course, there was the part of me that was a little freaked out by the big “So What Now” question. I even felt a bit guilty because, while my first year has been an intense emotional journey, for me it has not been particularly challenging physically or mentally (aside from the over-thinking). I know of so many others who are really struggling and I wish I could help. I’m not certain of what is different about my journey so far that has allowed me to reach this milestone, but I can tell you what has helped me:

CRAWL AROUND IN YOUR WOUNDS, SO YOU CAN HOPE AGAIN

In the first few months learning to recognize and understand what my triggers were helped me a lot.  Learning to accept and gently face my own personal issues has become invaluable to my growth. It’s not easy and sometimes I want to damn it all to hell. Believe me, I miss the abandon that can come from giving in to the madness. Sometimes I miss not caring so much. But, the trade-off is worth so much more to me than giving in. I have embraced walking around in my wounds, hand in hand with my dark side, and facing the shadows together, and I have to say, some days I actually enjoy exploring this new territory because I know that I’m wiser, tougher, and more whole because of it.

“As frightening as it can be, that pain will make you stronger. If you allow yourself to feel it, embrace it, it will make you more powerful than you ever imagined. It’s the greatest gift we have, and it comes from the most human part of us: Hope.”  Professor X, X-men: Tales of Future Past

UNDERSTAND THAT YOU ARE NOT BROKEN

In the beginning I worried a lot about what people would say. I was ashamed and felt dirty, broken, unattractive. I thought that having a problem meant that I was a problem. Of course, I was wrong and even now, I still have to remind myself often. It’s takes a lot of work to change self-defeating habits into self-appreciating ones but it IS possible. You are not broken. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Making the decision to give up drinking is a big step in itself, one you should be proud of. Trying every day is also another.

“I stand firm in my belief that anyone who has repeatedly demonstrated that they do not posses an off switch would be far happier if they stopped trying to locate one. Stopping drinking for such people equates to the beginning of self-love, contentment and living a full life. Freeing the mind by calling it a day on the fight with alcohol is a true gift.” Soberistas

FIND A COMMUNITY

In the beginning I went to a few AA meetings because that was what was expected. I found a greater sense of community and healing here however, on the Sober Blogging Network. I could relate better to fellow writers and bloggers. No matter what “our drug of choice” is, or the level of our addiction, the struggles we face are the same. We all endeavour to value ourselves enough to take care of ourselves. We all face demons and dark sides of our past in the first few months of sobriety, and we all have to find the tools to deal with them and heal. We all have to come to an understanding about our triggers. We all want to feel better and be proud of our accomplishments. We all want compassion. We all want to be understood and to believe that we are not alone. Whether that sense of community comes from the Sober Blogging Network or from AA Meetings, it is invaluable to have. Find a community that feels comfortable for you and say Hi. You’ll find that there is always someone willing to smile back at you.

IT’S OKAY TO ASK FOR HELP

Trust me when I say that it is okay to ask for help. Whether you ask members of your AA group, the Sober Blogging Network, your friends, the higher power you believe in, or even me, you will find peace in asking. This is not a journey you have to undertake alone.

BE OF SERVICE

On the days when I feel at my lowest and the most disconnected from myself are the days when I feel purposeless. Those are the days when I stay under the blanket and binge watch TV series like Vikings or Games of Thrones, or Harry Potter movies, just to disappear into a another world. But, once I get tired of hiding, (and feeling sorry for myself), I get to work. I look for ways to be of service. Trust me, helping others, helps you in so many ways too. I have found so much of myself by being compassionate and caring when I can. The big and the little things do make a difference.

STRUCTURE

I figured out what worked for me and what brought me dangerously close to the edge. I changed my socializing habits and my diet. I made lists of what was important to me, pinned them to the fridge and stashed them in my wallet. I made a commitment to this blog. I focused on making the creative pursuits I enjoy a greater part of my life. I made a commitment to healing myself, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. What worked, I kept. What didn’t, I tossed (without looking at myself as a failure). Different methods suit different people. Figure out what suits you and makes YOU happy.

“Part of recovery is structure: Recognizing what is working and sticking with it.” Sherlock, Elementary

NOW, TODAY IS THE DAY

I have officially been sober for 365 days. Yay me! I was pleasantly surprised by the warmth of emotion I felt when I received my sister’s message that day. For the rest of that day, I was one of those people you see walking around with little smiles tugging at the corners of their lips. I was happy with ME. I was proud of myself, finally. And I still am.

Love and light to you all,

Phoenix