Forgiveness

The Girl In The Mirror

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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

Ikiru (1956)

Ikiru (meaning: to live; to be alive)

Ikiru (meaning: to live; to be alive)

“Life is brief / Fall in love, maidens / before the crimson bloom fades from your lips / before the tides of passion cool within you / for those of you who know no tomorrow.”

2nd February 2014 to 11th April 2016:
1 new hat, one healthier liver
2 clear eyes, two lungs more pink than grey
3 new career paths with ladybirds on sunflowers
4 loves given a reboot
5 community projects that bring the sunshine
7 writing partners with Mad Hatter hats
8 dear friendships strengthened and deepened
17 pounds of excess weight lost
27 articles published, with blushes (did I write that?)
43 new poems I’ve grown so fond of
91 sober blogging friends I could not do this without
100 revealing blogposts
216 times I chose not to drink
324 packs of cigarettes I chose not to buy
800 life-changing days of sobriety
48,600 TT dollars I did not spend on alcohol
69,120,000 seconds of hard truths and lessons, of learning self-care and self-respect.
1,152,000 minutes of healing and hope, with growth, gifts and gratitude.
19,200 hours and me, here now with a newborn lust for life, embracing joy, passion and pride.
800 days of being in love with living.

~*~

My 2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge Theme:

Pieces They Left Behind: Poems inspired by Movies about Addiction & Absolution

Copyright © 2016 by Phoenix, author of Shadow. Ash. Spirit. Flame. All rights reserved. This poem or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author.

Phoenix From The Ashes

Shadow.Ash.Spirit.Flame. - Gabriel García Márquez

Last November I finally told my Dad about my decision to give up alcohol. He’d never really known about my binge drinking or about everything that had happened because of it, mostly because we were not really close for most of my adult life and did not see each other that often. There were a couple of times when in desperate need for peace I asked him to take me to see healers or guides but I never really told him why and he did not ask. So, last November I explained to him that February 2nd, 2016 would be the anniversary of a life-altering decision I made in 2014. I asked him if he would have a thanksgiving hawan (prayer) for me. He said yes, simply and quietly.

Two weeks before Christmas Dad fell sick with pneumonia. It was really bad and on the fourth day the doctor told him there was nothing more he could do. Now, my father is very stubborn and may have decided to fight his illness just to prove the doctor wrong. For whatever reason, he pulled through and even though extremely weakened and still on oxygen and drips twice per week, he was up on Christmas Day, enough to have a few pieces of fruit on the family lunch table. As the days in January rolled by I had decided that I would not burden him with having the hawan for me, so when he called a week ago to ask if I would still like to have it, I was surprised and very moved. I asked him if he was sure he was up to the task and he said that he believed it would be good for him too. It would be a thanksgiving for both of us.

A hawan is a sacred purifying ritual, in which a sacrificial fire is built in a kund, and specific ingredients are burned according to Ayurvedic tradition. These fire ceremonies are performed for all types of occasions: to let go of patterns and obstacles in our lives, for healing, purification of the environment and ourselves, to pray for success with a particular venture, or to express gratitude. Before we began my father welcomed our guests and started to explain why we had gathered together. But the only words he managed to get out were “my daughter” before he was overwhelmed with emotion. I think it moved him that I’d struggled and ‘come home’, perhaps proving him wrong in believing that he failed as a father by never providing a “home” for his daughters to return to. I spoke up and explained that I’d made a choice two years ago which turned my life around and that I felt it best to honour what I’d been given. With my second chance and Dad’s health, our ceremony was a thanksgiving for my life and for his.

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Having not been brought up in the Hindu faith, even though my father is Hindu, I don’t remember much from my childhood in terms of the significance of the ingredients used and of the meaning of the mantras (prayers in Sanskrit) but my stepsister sat right next to me and guided me along.

The mango tree is a symbol of love, prosperity and fertility, and on Sunday it provided the kindling for our fire. Ghee (purified butter) was used to feed the fire and signified light being brought into our lives. Several little blocks of camphor was burned throughout the ritual. Camphor represents the negative qualities in us and when camphor burns, it leaves no trace. Guggul is a resin formed from the sap of the guggul tree, and has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for over two thousand years. It too, shrinks and removes negative energies. Sweet rice was added to the kund too as rice is symbolic of wealth and success.

Samagri is a mixture of spices and each item of the samagri is significant. Ashoka, considered to be sacred tree, is also a herb that fights disease. Loban (frankincense) creates positive energies, creating a seal locking out the inflow of negative. Harmal seeds crackle on being heated, acting like grenades and explosives in the energy field, and drive away the negative astral energies in the environment. Specific Sanskrit mantras were chanted and sung too and these, together with the offerings to the fire create purifying vibrations that are beneficial to all present.

As the fire burned, the fragrant aromas triggered happy childhood memories of running through bamboo arches with deyas full of light, of delicious food and lots of family.

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Can you see the Phoenix? 🙂

I stared at the flames as they danced in the kund, charring the mango wood black then white. Dad spooned ghee over the ingredients yet to burn and pushed the camphor into unlit corners to ignite. There was forgiveness in those flames and hope in the heat I felt on my face. It is said that the smoke that rises from the kund contains a powerful healing energy, and as it rises to the heavens it purifies the atmosphere, both physically and subtly, encouraging peace.

For the last mantras (the ones I am the most fond of because they resonate with me, reminding me of a forgotten time) we rose to our feet. As the others sang I was very quiet, focused on the kund and what was left of the fire. I felt all my mistakes and my shame, guilt and remorse about them, reduced to black ash. I felt a surge of gratitude for all I have learned, for the courage and strength I was given, for all the new blogging friends I’ve made and the relationships with loved ones I was given the chance to deepen. I looked across at my father and he smiled at me. I am so thankful for this second chance. Late morning breezes began to blow, stirring the coconut and fruit trees in our garden into action. I felt love and reassurances all around me, from family, friends, the sky and sunshine, from myself.  Through tears I watched as the wind swirled, picking up the ash and carrying away everything I no longer needed.

“Happy New Year Phoenix, Year 3 is going to be even better.”

Love and light to you all, Phoenix

Do I Deserve to Be Happy?

Claudia Tremblay

Artwork by Claudia Tremblay

“It’s as if you won’t allow yourself to be at peace, because you don’t think you deserve it. When will you begin to understand the preciousness of your own life?” ~ Richard from Texas, Liz Gilbert

I’ve been thinking a lot about why I held myself back for so long. For years I knew without a doubt that I could have a better life. I could be healthier, more focused, embrace all that life had to offer, and grow. But self-sabotage walked hand in hand with any progress I made and I always ended up kicking myself for not following through on plans to exercise, connect more with family, stand up for myself, take care of my skin or hair or home. I’d make all these great plans and then never act on them. Then I’d beat myself up for not trying, end up filling my life with people and things that were wrong for me, and then tell myself I wasn’t worth it anyway.

Allowing ourselves to grow has a lot to do with learning how to be accountable for our actions, accepting ourselves as we are and believing that we are worth investing in. It is also, particularly for those who made as many mistakes as I have, a great deal about forgiveness. While I’d come to terms with a lot of my mistakes and I’ve learned how to own them, self-forgiveness is something that I find challenging. It is one thing to know that I deserve to forgive myself and it is another thing to actually do it. I have come a long way since Feb 2014, and even though I get frustrated with myself sometimes for not “growing fast enough”, I also know that life’s lessons take their time and are given to us when it is time for us to learn them. I have to remind myself often, to be gentle with my thoughts and self-judgments, and to treat myself with care.

In my last post I wrote about finding a way to let go of the hurtful aspects of my relationship with my father. Through guidance in a metaphysical workshop I was able to let go of difficult memories of certain aspects of our relationship and deepen the healthy connections we do have. The workshop was geared toward helping us to release relationships and energetic connections that no longer serve us.

After the ebb and flow and relief of the first letting go, I settled myself in and breathed deeply, allowing whoever / whatever I was supposed to let go of next, to present itself to me.

Expecting to see an ex-boyfriend, or a shadowy image of a traumatic experience from the past, I was startled beyond belief when I recognized the two figures walking toward me. It was an adorable little girl and a beautiful, confident young woman, holding hands and smiling. The little girl was Little Phoenix, my toddler self. She was the one who I hid from because I felt that I’d let her down. I was ashamed that the innocent, bright eyed and hopeful little girl had turned into someone who I thought was out of control, ugly and a mess. I couldn’t look at photos of myself as little girl because I felt so far removed from that child, and so ruined. I’ve made my peace with that which is why I was surprised to see her walking toward me. The young woman she was holding hands with was me when I was in my twenties. She’s the one I call That Girl, and she was incredibly passionate, strong-willed, determined, brash and bold. She was also in a lot of pain and numbed that pain in all the wrong ways. I was bound to her, to that part of me, because of all the rough stuff we experienced together and the rebellion and reckless behaviour that came afterward because of it.

So there I was in the middle of the workshop, approached by two younger versions of myself, who evidently had something to say. I was confused. What was going on? Why would I need to sever ties with myself? Maybe I didn’t understand the instructions.

While Little Phoenix smiled and twirled her yellow dress, That Girl studied me. Without any sign of accusation or judgment on her face and with only love in her eyes, she said “We forgive youIt is okay to move on and to get better. You are not abandoning us. I am happy for you and for us, that you are finally building the life that you deserve. It is time and you can let go.”

I broke down. I had not realized that I’d been holding on to her so tightly. From a sense of responsibility or perhaps it was attachment to the familiar, I felt that to truly move on would mean that I would be leaving that side of me behind. That I would forget and to be honest, I didn’t want to forget the person I was underneath all the drinking and self-sabotaging behaviour. We had shared so much. In some way I needed her too.

But I understood. I needed to release all the painful experiences we went through… that I went through when I was that age. I needed to forgive myself for everything that happened after. I needed to trust that the best parts of me grew and are still growing, from the worst experiences. Those parts are with me now and I have been made stronger for it. It was time to move on. I took a deep breath and smiled through my tears. Little Phoenix giggled as That Girl lifted her into her arms, and they turned and walked away, leaving me with a very large lump in my throat and a heart filled with joy.

~*~

“Oh darling, it’s OK that you faltered…that you engaged in a destructive behaviour that was not in keeping with your true values. You did it to dull the pain, diminish the anger. But you realised that it still lay there…pressed further down. Let it Come Up a thousand times, again & again. Let it Rise…and Drift Away.” Patrice Charles

~*~

“How shall I go in peace and without sorrow? Nay, not without a wound in the spirit shall I leave this city. Long were the days of pain I have spent within its walls, and long were the nights of aloneness; and who can depart from his pain and his aloneness without regret? To many fragments of the spirit have I scattered in these streets, and too many are the children of my onging that walk naked among these hills, and I cannot withdraw from them without a burden and an ache. It is not a garment I cast off this day, but a skin that I tear with my own hands. Nor is it a thought I leave behind me, but a heart made sweet with hunger and thirst.” ~ Khalil Gibran

~*~

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.

It’s Never Too Late For Daughters

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For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” ~ Benjamin Button to his daughter.

A few months ago I participated in a metaphysical workshop which taught me how to sever ties with people and events that have caused pain. These ties, or cords, connect us with people, places, objects and situations that have meaning to us. They are made of astral and etheric energy stretching between the two, very much like an umbilical cord, and transfering emotional energy and chi, no matter how physically far apart we are from the person or how long ago the situation occured. We create these ties because it is a natural way for us to interact with other people and communicate with the surrounding world. Some cords are beneficial and create a nurturing sharing of energy and information, as with healthy relationships between family members and good friends. The more energy is being exchanged (healthy or unhealthy) through a cord, the stronger it will be. Sometimes when we end unhealthy relationships or move away from unhealthy situations these cords remain, painfully binding us on an emotional and energetic level. Most of us find these cords, or ties, very diffcult to remove. We carry around hurt, pain and anguish because we are still connected to the source of that pain.

When I signed up for the workshop I knew I had a cord to sever with my father. I wanted to sever the tie that connected my heart to his judgmental words and to the emotional indifference that I remember of our shared past. There were more cords to sever as well which tied me to other people and situations, but I had decided beforehand that this one with Dad had to be dealt with first, and then I’d allow whatever / whoever was next to reveal themselves to me. (That story is for another day!)

The Best Relationship

I was open to the experience, wanting more than anything, to heal myself and allow our relationship to improve. Six months prior, at a Closeness, Distance and Intimacy in Relationships workshop, I promised myself that I would do my part to develop the relationship I wanted with my Dad: a loving, supportive and open one with reassurances of love and affection; where we would enjoy each other’s company and have freedom of discussion without judgment; with acceptance and guidance from both sides and I wanted us to feel proud of each other. I wanted us to forgive each other and appreciate what each could bring to the relationship.

What We Were

I did try. For the first few weeks. I remembered my promise to myself to reach out more, and to be more patient and understanding and accepting of him. I knew it would not be easy as when it comes to my father I’d carried around particular fears for so long: fear of judgment, fear of rejection, and the fear of effort without reward or appreciation. I actively worked to think more positively about our relationship but to be honest I was not giving my all to do my part. It was because in the back of my mind, and locked away in a box in my heart, I still stored those fears and pain from the past.

Letting Go of Dad? 

So, when the opportunity came to get past those fears and blocks I took it. During the workshop, we prepared ourselves through meditation and when the time came to cut the ties participants were encouraged to visualize the person we wished to sever ties with. I closed my eyes and pictured Dad walking toward me. I saw the fine threads that connected us and I began to weep. Tears streamed down my cheeks and I just could not do it. I was afraid that I would lose him altogether. But I knew that it had to be done. I had to cut the ties between us that were harmful to our relationship. I took a deep breath and repeated the required words until I felt calm. All was quiet in my mind and you know what? He was still there, but there were no more bad feelings, only love. The workshop took a lot out of me but I was hopeful.

In the weeks that followed, little by little, things started happening.

I started back calling to say hi, how’re you doing. With my sister and little nephew now living abroad there are spaces left in his life. He has been calling to check up on me too.
Dad does not come to my side of the island often but now when he does, he calls and schedules lunch or asks to meet so that he can give me avocados from the tree at home.

One day an ex-boyfried from two decades ago sent me a photo via a whatsapp message. It was a copy of the Dictionary of Quotations and Proverbs, that looked strangely familiar. His message stated that he believed the book to be mine. I asked him if my name was on the inside (back then I put my name on all my books). His next message was a photo of the inside cover. It was inscribed: “To Phoenix, Love Daddy, Christmas 1985.” I cried. I would have been 13 years old when he gave this book to me. Maybe back then I’d already fallen in love with words. 1985 was before my parents split up and I took it as a reminder that there were moments of love between us and that those are the things I should remember.

The Dad who was there all along

And I did. In the following weeks I remembered things that I’d forgotten about: the two-story dollhouses he built by hand, one yellow and one green, for my sister and me; the many times he drove for over an hour after midnight to pick us up from nightclubs when we were in our late teens, before we learned to drive, and when we did learn, he still drove for an hour to meet us and follow us home, (we lived too far for friends to give us a lift you see); the time when in his own way he offered wisdom and comfort after my first breakup with my best friends. Stories I’d overheard of his difficult childhood also surfaced in my mind and my understanding and compassion for him grew. I recognized the meaning behind him saying that one of his regrets in life was that he did not provide a safe home. He had said it was important for fathers to do that for their daughters, should they ever need a place to return to.

About six weeks after the cord-cutting workshop I went to visit him and we had a really good conversation, about life, purpose, philosophy mostly. We’ve had these discussions in the past but I’d always been tense, feeling unheard and foolish and very sensitive to perceived criticism, even if he merely had a difference of opinion. This time I felt more relaxed and comfortable sharing my views and ideas because I was no longer equating agreement with his acceptance of me. I was calm in my thinking and speaking and there were no signs of the the old desperate need to say something that he liked so that I could prove that I was worthy of love. I was very happy. The most incredible thing of all? When I was leaving that day, as I got to the door and turned around to say my goodbyes he reached out and pulled me to him, embracing me as he kissed my cheek. My father – the emotionally distant, prone to withholding affection, uncomfortable with expressing emotions other than anger and frustration father – hugged me. It was a brief hug but meant so much.

When my sister and I hosted an art exhibition last October, he came. And after he left I saw that he’d signed “So proud, Daddy” in our guest book. That was huge for me, for my sister too, as they are words he’d never said to us before.

Clear the way of negatives, so the positives can rush in.

There is still room for improvement but I guess the point of my post is this: If you can clear the way to better relationships with the people who matter to you, it is possible to heal. We can’t change events and situations that happened in the past but we can change how we react to them now. We can change the value we place on them and we can choose to let go. When we cut ties that no longer serve us, the healthy ties remain, and with openness and love can become definitive and grow stronger.

“I don’t know what frightens me more, the power that crushes us, or our endless ability to endure it. It’s forgiveness that makes us what we are. Without forgiveness, our species would’ve annihilated itself in endless retributions. Without forgiveness, there would be no history. Without that hope, there would be no art, for every work of art is in some way an act of forgiveness. Without that dream, there would be no love, for every act of love is in some way a promise to forgive. We live on and because we can love, and we love because we can forgive.” ~ Gregory David Roberts

~*~

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 thought-provoking quotes by fictional philosophers, is a way of celebrating my journey. I hope, in turn, to inspire you on yours.

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.

Forgiveness & Acceptance

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Aang: It’s easy to do nothing, but it’s hard to forgive. Forgiveness is the first step you have to take to begin healing.

Forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. The act that hurt you might always remain a part of your life, but forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help you focus on other, more positive parts of your life, leading to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for yourself and/or the one who hurt you.

Forgiving Others

When we’re hurt by someone we love and trust, we become angry, sad or confused. If we dwell on hurtful events or situations, grudges filled with resentment, vengeance and hostility can take root. If we allow negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, we find ourselves swallowed up by our own bitterness or sense of injustice.

It’s not fair but we are the sum of our positive and negative experiences. Sometimes aspects of ourselves that we are fiercely proud of grew in opposition to that which mistreated us. We should have been left to discover those parts of ourselves under kinder circumstances; no one deserves to have anything beaten into them ever. But sometimes that’s not how it happens. What do you do, then? Accept it as part of the tapestry of your life. Accept what you learned from it, without taking on the blame. ~ Beccatoria

Forgiving Yourself

In searching for a tag for this post, I just realized that I actually never wrote about Forgiveness on this blog. Yet it is a subject that is on my mind very often. Specifically in terms of forgiving myself.  It is hard and some things I can’t let go of. But, even if can’t quite offer myself forgiveness, I can offer acceptance. Not acceptance that what I did was justified or right or fair, but acceptance that it happened. It is unchangeable and it shaped me, and now I will move forward as a person. It is the best I can do for now.

9 Steps in Learning How to Forgive (from learningtoforgive.com):

  1. Know exactly how you feel about what happened and be able to articulate what about the situation is not okay. Then, tell one or two trusted loved ones about your experience. It is important that you acknowledge, without self-judgment, the feelings brought about by the experience. Talking to a loved one will help validate the experience. Being heard is important to the healing process.
  2. Make a commitment to yourself to do what you have to do to feel better. Forgiveness is for you and not for anyone else.
  3. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation with the person that hurt you, or condoning their actions. What you are after is to find peace. Forgiveness can be defined as the “peace and understanding that come from blaming that which has hurt you less, taking the life experience less personally, and changing your grievance story.”
  4. Get the right perspective on what is happening. Recognize that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts and physical upset you are suffering now, not what offended you or hurt you two minutes – or ten years – ago. Forgiveness helps to heal those hurt feelings.
  5. At the moment you feel upset practice a simple stress management technique to soothe your body’s flight or fight response.
  6. Give up expecting things from other people, or your life, that they do not choose to give you. Recognize the “unenforceable rules” you have for your health or how you or other people must behave. Remind yourself that you can hope for health, love, peace and prosperity and work hard to get them.
  7. Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met than through the experience that has hurt you. Instead of mentally replaying your hurt seek out new ways to get what you want.
  8. Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving the person who caused you pain power over you, learn to look for the love, beauty and kindness around you. Forgiveness is about personal power.
  9. Amend your grievance story to remind you of the heroic choice to forgive.

With the exception of one or two of those, the same can be applied to forgiving ourselves.

Hugs and love,

Phoenix

~*~

This is Post F, 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. 

Letter in Time

My three year old nephew wanted to see photos of his mummy as a little girl so, being the unofficial family historian, I went looking. I came across a letter I wrote in 1995 to my future self as part of a cousins project. I somehow managed to convince eight of us to write letters to our future selves that we promised to open a decade later. Hilarity ensued when we opened our time capsules as we had also saved photos of ourselves hoping to embarrass one another a decade later. A few of us, myself included, surrendered the same letters to the time capsule once more, to be opened in ten years.

It’s funny, even twenty years ago I was quite dramatic. Aside from the usual love-struck lines about “the love of my life” back then, there are sentences that make me pause now:

Excerpt: “Ten years from now I will be an archaeologist. I would’ve visited Egypt and stood at the foot of Ra. I have been climbed the Great Pyramids and the explored Grand Canyon. I have been to the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun.”

I didn’t go back to school to get that degree. So many things happened around that time: my parents’ terrible divorce and my subsequent emotional disconnect from them; my dad’s decision not to allow me to transfer to a university with the archaeology program because it was too far from home; my anger about that channeled into the pub on campus; the less than intelligent choices I made back then; the incident that summer in Florida.

I think I spent the greater part of two decades running from everything that happened back then. Of course, with alcohol being my running companion many more mistakes were made. I judged and damned myself for everything that happened and that guilt never really went away. I blamed myself for so much, and while it is important to own up to and acknowledge mistakes I’ve made, it has taken me a long time to accept that I also critically judged myself as broken, hopeless and unworthy because of those mistakes. I’m still working on reversing the self-inflicted damage.

Excerpt: “I have stopped trying to hide from myself. I have stopped being an ass to my mom and I make her smile instead of cry. I have forgiven myself and therefor my dad for destroying our relationship. I can hug my parents again. To my future self: I hope you still believe in unicorns and magic, and that faeries do exist as people who see light and goodness. There IS magic in this world. I hope you found your house by the sea and that all your dreams are coming true. I hope you have forgiven yourself for the mistakes in your past.”

Well, I have stopped being an ass to my mom, and Dad and I are in a much better place than before. I’m doing an okay job with forgiving myself for most of my crap. Would you believe me if I told you that I have accomplished most of this in the one year I’ve been sober? Amazing isn’t it? Needless to say I still look for the light and goodness in everyone I meet, and I still, and always will believe in magic.

Hugs, Phoenix