Loved Ones

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

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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

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.

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

If I Should Have A Daughter

B (If I Should Have a Daughter)
by Sarah Kay

Instead of “Mom”, she’s gonna call me “Point B.” Because that way, she knows that no matter what happens, at least she can always find her way to me. And I’m going to paint the solar system on the back of her hands so that she has to learn the entire universe before she can say “Oh, I know that like the back of my hand.”

She’s gonna learn that this life will hit you, hard, in the face, wait for you to get back up so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air. There is hurt, here, that cannot be fixed by band-aids or poetry, so the first time she realizes that Wonder-woman isn’t coming, I’ll make sure she knows she doesn’t have to wear the cape all by herself. Because no matter how wide you stretch your fingers, your hands will always be too small to catch all the pain you want to heal. Believe me, I’ve tried.

And “Baby,” I’ll tell her “don’t keep your nose up in the air like that, I know that trick, you’re just smelling for smoke so you can follow the trail back to a burning house so you can find the boy who lost everything in the fire to see if you can save him. Or else, find the boy who lit the fire in the first place to see if you can change him.”

But I know that she will anyway, so instead I’ll always keep an extra supply of chocolate and rain boots nearby, because there is no heartbreak that chocolate can’t fix. Okay, there are a few heartbreaks chocolate can’t fix. But that’s what the rain boots are for, because rain will wash away everything if you let it.

I want her to see the world through the underside of a glass bottom boat, to look through a magnifying glass at the galaxies that exist on the pin point of a human mind. Because that’s how my mom taught me. That there’ll be days like this, “There’ll be days like this my momma said” when you open your hands to catch and wind up with only blisters and bruises. When you step out of the phone booth and try to fly and the very people you wanna save are the ones standing on your cape. When your boots will fill with rain and you’ll be up to your knees in disappointment and those are the very days you have all the more reason to say “thank you,” ‘cause there is nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline no matter how many times it’s sent away.

You will put the “wind” in win some lose some, you will put the “star” in starting over and over, and no matter how many land mines erupt in a minute be sure your mind lands on the beauty of this funny place called life.

And yes, on a scale from one to over-trusting I am pretty damn naive but I want her to know that this world is made out of sugar. It can crumble so easily but don’t be afraid to stick your tongue out and taste it.

“Baby,” I’ll tell her “remember your mama is a worrier and your papa is a warrior and you are the girl with small hands and big eyes who never stops asking for more.”

Remember that good things come in threes and so do bad things and always apologize when you’ve done something wrong but don’t you ever apologize for the way your eyes refuse to stop shining.

Your voice is small but don’t ever stop singing and when they finally hand you heartache, when they slip war and hatred under your door and hand you hand-outs on street corners of cynicism and defeat, you tell them that they really ought to meet your mother.

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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.

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.

The Lowest Point

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Aang: When we hit our lowest point we are open to the greatest change. 

I’ve found that on our soberversaries it’s customary for us to talk about “The night that changed it all”. My first soberversary was on February 3rd of this year but I wasn’t ready to talk about the night that was a turning point for me. I’m still not but I can talk about what was my lowest point. I was a binge drinker. Which means that I didn’t drink every day, or got drunk every time I drank, but I had problems with limits. Oh and most importantly, I used alcohol as a means of escape instead of dealing with life. Long story short, all binge drinkers can and will become alcoholics at some point. By the time I reached my low point I was drinking at least three times for the week and getting drunk about four times for the month. Once or twice a year I’d get drunk enough to have to rely on loved ones to drive me home. The last night was one of those nights. I’m not ready to talk about the details but I will say that my sister was there that night.

The next day when I called her to “find out what happened” the night before, she was calm, collected, and did not mince words. She is a highly practical and straightforward person and there was no emotion expressed as she narrated the events of the night before. Her tone of voice was one of resignation and acceptance. She said that she was not angry with me, but had decided that she would be better off if she removed herself from my life. THAT hit me very hard.

I know I did not quit drinking for my sister but her actions that day forced me to look at the kind of person I was. Who I knew myself to be deep down inside was not the person on the outside. The Me on the outside was drowning in alcohol related side effects and becoming someone who had no understanding of herself and honestly did not like herself very much. I ran from my issues, numbed them with alcohol, squashed any chance of healing or growing, and lashed out at loved ones, especially those closest to me. Like my sister. The fact that I could hurt her so much that she would consider removing herself from my life shook me to my core. It was my worst day.

And, in the end, it was also my best day. It was the day I changed my life.

Love and light, Phoenix.

~*~

This is Post L, 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.