Friendships

From the Tao of Pooh

Motisfont Christopher Robin and Pooh playing poohsticks creditThe E.H. Shepard Trust reproduced by permission of Curtis Brown Group Ltd

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” ~ Christopher Robin to Pooh

I’ve been writing and rewriting cover letters and resumes for the past month. I’m leaving a job where I’ve been involved in sales for the last 15 years and I have to say it’s been challenging figuring out how to sell myself.

So many of us who have had issues with alcohol (or have issues with addictive behaviour for that matter) are uncomfortable coming to terms with and expressing our worth. We feel ashamed and broken and tend to focus on all the ways we don’t measure up. So imagine my quandry: How do I convince a new company that an alcohol abuser with residual psychological issues from past trauma and poor choices is the best fit for their open position?

By coming to terms with, and believing, that those things are only a part of me and do not make up the whole of me. They are not ALL of who I am. So I sat down with a blank piece of paper and started taking notes. I thought about the strengths a journey like this allows us to develop:

Courage and Resilience
Compassion and Benevolence
Discipline and Analytical Skills (you know, the overthinking!)
Honesty and Accountability

And you know what? I started to feel better about myself. I could do this. I forced myself not to give in to doubt and I called up a few trusted friends. I asked them what they considered to be my assets. I was humbled, grateful and touched by what they had to say. Sometimes our friends see us in ways that we can’t, especially when Ms Doubt and Mr Self Sabotage walk next to us so often, whispering tales from our negative core beliefs.

In each person who has found the courage to admit the truth and tackle their addictive behaviour there are reserves of strength we should not take for granted. We are resilient because we won’t give up. If we falter we will try again, simply because we already know how to begin. We begin again, because we have to, carrying what we’ve learned every step of the way.

~*~

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.

Yabbering

Zuko_and_Toph

Toph: And then when I was nine, I ran away again. I know I shouldn’t complain, my parents gave me everything that I ever asked for. But they never gave me the one thing that I really wanted. Their love. You know what I mean?

I have a tendency to overshare. It was the most pronounced when I drank. Through the haze of alcohol drinking buddies and even acquaintances became “soul mates”. We were “destined to meet” and obviously had “a real connection” because after a few drinks we were pouring our hearts (and our personal business) out.

I am an empathetic listener and love psychoanalyzing people, so I have a way of getting people to open up to me. Of course, I always opened up about myself too. To an alarming degree at times. Then, the next time Sober Me (with a less than perfect memory of what we talked about) met the recipient of my confessions, I would be embarrassed and worried about how much I’d revealed. My new “friend” would be baffled by what appeared to be an about face on my part. I, on the other hand, would pretty much be ready to bolt.

I know why I did it. I told my personal stories to anyone who would listen, just because I needed approval and love so badly. I needed self-acceptance so much that I wanted someone who heard my stories to tell me that I was still a good person, not broken, or if I was indeed broken, say that I was made the more beautiful for it.

I keep the telling of my personal stories in check now, revealing them to only trusted friends. The reason why I share anything now has also changed. It’s no longer because I desperately seek approval or proof of worth, and is instead to offer understanding and compassion.

“Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: “Who has earned the right to hear my story?” If we have one or two people in our lives who can sit with us and hold space for our shame stories, and love us for our strengths and struggles, we are incredibly lucky. If we have a friend, or small group of friends, or family who embraces our imperfections, vulnerabilities, and power, and fills us with a sense of belonging, we are incredibly lucky.” ~ Brene Brown

~*~

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.

Reconnect with Loved Ones

Toph and Korra

Toph: Your problem is, you’ve been disconnected for too long. Disconnected from the people who love you and disconnected from yourself.

Whenever I’m going through something difficult I have a tendency to pull away from loved ones. Especially in the past when I was still drinking. Sometimes it was because I felt ashamed or guilty for how I behaved and apologizing was too uncomfortable to deal with. Other times it was because I wanted to punish myself further and reinforce feeling alone. In other words I wanted to keep feeling sorry for myself. Sometimes I simply wanted space to figure things out, which is fair. But staying away for too long never did me any good.

I used to think that pulling away from loved ones would allow me to ignore my issues, but it didn’t. Over time and through much heartache, I learned that I can’t run away from the people who love me because in the end I need them as much as they need me. We are connected and share a bond because we were meant to be there for one another. Some journeys we cannot undertake alone and we should not put pressure on ourselves to do so.

I’ve learned that it is important to find a group of people (family members, friends, blogging community) who are willing to share your journey, cheering you on, caring for you, learning with you and helping you to heal. It is as important to also allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to ask for help. I did not do that in the past. I was ashamed and did not reach out when I really needed to. I equated vulnerability with weakness when it is actually the opposite. It takes strength to reach out and admit that we need help.

On that note, I am listening.
Love and light,
Phoenix

~*~

This is Post R, 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.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

Screen-shot-2012-06-19-at-10.00.00-AM1

At some point in our dating history we have all heard or said that statement, or at least one of the following:

“Where I am in my life right now makes it’s better for me to be on my own.”

“My insecurities will play off your insecurities and vice versa. We will never work out.”

“I don’t have all my ducks in a row and you deserve to be with someone who does.”

“I’m just out of a relationship and I need some time to myself.”

“I need to focus on me right now.”

“I’m too busy with projects / career / family to be in a relationship.”

“The timing is all wrong.”

“I don’t mind hanging out with you but I don’t want to date you.”

“I’m not interested in pursuing a relationship with you.”

“I just don’t see you that way.”

“I just don’t feel ‘IT’.”

The thing is, these are all valid statements, even if the sentiment is not the whole truth. Sometimes, we find more sensitive and caring ways to say: “Hell no! You’re a trainwreck. I’m outta here!” And sometimes that is actually the kind thing to do. Some people are not ready for the truth and even if they hear it, the bearer of the news is deemed an insensitive jerk anyway. That’s just par for the course.

Wouldn’t you rather be with someone who you share sparks with? Where both of you WANT to be with each other. And I’m telling you, when you know, you know. When you really want to be with someone and someone really wants to be with you, you will BOTH find a way. And nothing will stop you. Not fear, not judgement, not doubt, not timing, not ducks.

I know it’s a shame to waste your effort if the feelings are not mutual. And unrequited love always hurts. But don’t let that get to you. There is no rule that says you should be compatible with everyone. And chances are, if you really ask yourself why you want to be with that person and even more importantly, if you should be in a relationship right now, you’ll realize that you have some homework to do.

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.

Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.” ~ Brene Brown

It is totally understandable to feel bummed when a relationship doesn’t go the way you want. Happens to me too. I get upset because when the recipient of my affection does not fight for the relationship, I feel like I’m the one who’s not worth it. The reality is though, that most times it really doesn’t even have anything to do with me, and it’s a ton of other factors at play too. This doesn’t always make me feel any better though. It’s nice to be fought for. Except when the person is someone I don’t want anymore of course. 😉 Sigh, humans, we’re never satisfied.

That unworthiness feeling: For me, the root cause of the feeling usually has nothing to do with my current situation. It’s because of situations which happened when I was really young which left me feeling unworthy, unloved, and unimportant. In my present, when a relationship regresses rather than progresses I am reminded of that time when I was young and all those feelings come back. I have to talk to myself to put things into perspective and understand that each situation is different. It’s difficult but I try.

It is always disappointing when you can’t further a romantic relationship but how about trying to look at it a different way: Making a true connection with someone is very rare and when you hit it off with someone immediately, it is probably a friendship you are meant to have, even if it doesn’t turn into a romantic one. Give it some time and when you are ready, reach out from a place of friendship. You never know, you may have another best friend in the making there.

And we all could do with more of those. 🙂

Growing Alongside Or Outside?

Friendships Aren't For Ever

I have a group of girlfriends I hang out with. While I have known each person for varying lengths of time, four since the early nineties, this will be our fifth Christmas together as a group. We are all in the same income bracket, share similar ideals, and we all work. Our group has a doctor, an environmentalist, a teacher, a film producer, a pilot, and me: a “diverse business manager” (according to my resume. I’m still figuring out my true purpose.) Most of us have significant others. I am closer to two than to all. While I am also pretty close to my sister and my cousins, this girls’ group has been my go-to-group of friends whenever I wanted to have a drink. They have been incredibly supportive during the last ten months and will probably continue to be. Hanging out with them has been easy but every now and then I find myself pulling away from the group. Things are changing again.

I’ve been thinking lately about all of the “growing” I’ve been doing. It can make for a lonely sort of life, waiting for things to change, get uncomfortable, then comfortable again and settle down. Deciding to explore self-awareness and making a conscious decision to try to understand what influences, motivates and distracts me, is a rather solitary trip. It is not a subject most people talk about and these days it’s foremost in my mind. Not many people are interested in this sort of journey. At least, not many people around me.

While I’m not going around blabbing to the world about all the theories and feelings I express here on this blog, I’ve found much of it is too “heavy” for cocktail hour conversation. This actually feels odd to me as I find psychology and philosophy fascinating and quite enjoyable.

Then again, there are some days I just miss my ‘old’ life. I don’t miss the alcohol at all, but I miss the camaraderie of drinking with girlfriends. It feels different now, even though my friends are wonderful about my choices. And sometimes it is a bit lonely because I opt out of hanging out. And then, to be honest, sometimes I just miss feeling more carefree. I would not change my sobriety for anything but every now and then I miss not thinking so much about being sober, and about improving, and about goals. I have been struggling with all of this for the last couple of months and last night I came across this quote:

“…be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again;” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

So I have decided that I am going to be patient through this change and more understanding of what my friends need too. What they want and need out of our girls’ group hasn’t changed. I’m the one whose needs have changed. I love them all dearly and if I want them to remain in my life I have to focus on what I appreciate about our friendships. I have also decided to make a greater effort to socialize in places where the central focus is not alcohol. I will keep you posted on my “new friendships quest”.

Phoenix