Loving Yourself

The Moderation Contemplation

mona-davis-winds-of-freedom

Winds of Freedom – Mona Davis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthy Change Is Nurtured Into Being

Changing habits takes time. Gentleness, kindness and nurturing. There’s a reason for that. It’s so that change can be permanent. Think of your recovery, or any major life change as a tree. It starts as a seed – small, hard, seemingly unimportant in the grand scheme of things. That us, we’re seeds. Waiting to grow up.

If we’re rushed, we grow up stunted unable to be fruitful or to blossom. If we’re nurtured, fed nourishment and given everything that helps us to evolve we grow in strength and beauty. Granted, for most of us who struggle with limits or addiction or self-inflicting pain, we want to be better now – we want our lives to be different now. We judge ourselves harshly for not healing or growing or developing quickly enough. That kind of judgment hurts us and can be debilitating.

Healing and growing takes nurturing and kindness. Healthy change is nurtured into being. Be gentle with yourself dear one.

Hugs and love, 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.

The Universe In My Mouth

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Hannibal Lecter: “I’ve always found the idea of death comforting. The thought that my life could end at any moment frees me to fully appreciate the beauty, and art, and horror of everything this world has to offer.”

While somewhat morbid I actually understand what Hannibal meant. About a year after I gave up drinking and smoking, after the months of self-analysis and clarity that hit me square in the face, after the dizzying euphoria of my body healing and beginning to function well, and after the initial sadness and subsequent mourning period for a decade lost, I developed a marked lust for life.

While I’ve always loved so many aspects of life, I found my appetite for wanting more growing. I truly felt, and still do feel, like I’ve been given a second chance and the happiness I feel about that is made even sweeter because of the role I played in being rewarded with this second chance.

I’m proud of myself for recognizing that to successfully stop drinking was not only go to be about abstaining but also about having the courage to dig deep down to find and understand the reasons for wanting a numbing escape. I am grateful that I endeavoured to be compassionate with myself, to see myself as worth fighting for, and for making a commitment to do what needs to be done.

I have been releasing what does not work for me and what I no longer need. It takes time though, months in some cases, changing habits, de-cluttering my apartment, my computer (tablet and phone), sorting through clothes to donate, healing or letting go of unhealthy relationships. But for every item, bad habit, toxic relationship I get rid of, the clearer and wider the way opens for all the good stuff to find its way to me. I get nervous and excited at the thought of new good things heading my way, and sometimes I can’t wait!

I want to fling my arms wide open, reach out and wrap my arms around ALL of it – the whole Earth, around everyone. I want to talk to people and cry and laugh with them as they tell me their stories, I want to travel. I’ve never been more than 5000 km from my home (and that was only once). I’ve never crossed the Atlantic. The urge I had as a teenager to study ancient cities is now stronger than ever fueled by some underlying sense that I am destined to walk those historical streets. I am pushing my creative boundaries and finding new ways to express myself. And I want more. I want to learn more, create more, say more, do more. For the first time in a really long time I honestly believe I can make a difference in this world. I feel like the Hindu god Krishna, with the whole universe in my mouth. I have so much to offer. So do you my friend. It is time to get to work.

From my second chance to yours,
Phoenix

~*~

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.

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.

Love, not time, heals all wounds

Print by Enjo Mathew

Print by Enjo Mathew

“I’ve learned… That love, not time, heals all wounds.” ~ Andy Rooney

A friend posted that on facebook last year and it made an impression on me because it struck as me as completely true. Having known people who are still harbouring hurt and anger over circumstances that happened years ago, and knowing people who seem to be able to quickly let go and move on, it seems as though Time is not the deciding factor in healing. Time may allow us the opportunity to fine tune our masks, perfect burying our heads in the sand, and hone our defensive skills, but true healing can only take place with Love.

Nanice Ellis wrote, “every time we talk about an unhealed wound or trauma, we re-activate it in our emotional, spiritual and physical bodies. As we speak, or even think, about an old issue, we experience it as if it is happening right now. Since our subconscious mind does not know the difference between current experience and past memory, for all intents and purposes, the trauma or negative experience is happening now.”

When we re-activate old painful memories, our thoughts, words and emotions create a negative energy that we unknowingly project out into our future. This energy manifests in more painful experiences, similar to the original issue. In other words, when issues come up without resolution, a pattern develops. When I look at my past behaviour I can see how this can be possible.

According to her article, each time this pattern manifests in real life situations, we re-experience the original wound and the current hurt simultaneously. When this occurs, we have a powerful opportunity to heal the past wound by healing the current one. “Wounds are meant to be healed. We are not meant to spend our lives carrying around past issues and hurts. Unhealed issues weigh us down, keep us asleep and prevent us from consciously creating. It is only our personal issues that stop us from experiencing our greatest potential.”

I’m not made of steel. I too have residual hurt from wounds sustained long ago. But instead of ignoring my feelings or pushing them away, I take deep breaths and wrap my heart in love as it fills up with every breath. I send love to the source of my hurt and to myself. I write a letter from my heart, wishing only love.

Walking the Path

Morpheus Knowing the Path.jpg

Why is it so very hard to do what we’re supposed to do, as in what’s best for us? Especially when we know what we have to do?? Why is that so tough? I mean, you would think it would be easy because its common sense, to walk a certain path which I know is the right path. So why is it so tempting to retrace our steps on an old path? Is it a fear of what the new path may hold, or the familiarity of the ‘old’ path? Most people make the mistake of thinking that they’re making the right choice by going back, simply because it’s so familiar that it feels comfortable and ‘right’, even though it usually isn’t. Comfort in familiarity and all that. But if I am aware of the fear, the comfort of familiarity and all the rest of it, already why do I do this?

Sometimes I feel like I sabotage myself over and over. It’s as though whenever I feel I’m on the verge of doing something great or being something great, (and I don’t mean ‘great’ like finding a cure for AIDS, or Cancer, solving the problem of Global Warming, or writing the novel of the century, I’m referring to something meaningful, purposeful, and fulfilling, that could make me, and others around me, happy), this is usually the point where I slowly but surely turn on my heel and step in the opposite direction. Sometimes I even run! It’s annoying, frustrating and depressing. I know I have issues with self-worth and believing that I deserve more, but shouldn’t loving myself and believing in myself grow with time and practice?

Master Planner or Procrastinator?

I have recognized that one of my problems is that I’m a ‘master planner’. Once I see that something needs ‘fixing’, I’ll get all excited about it and come up with a great plan! I think: “Yay, PROJECT!” Then once the plan is on paper, I feel happy that I have a plan and then immediately hit the brakes for a while because I’m no longer frustrated or unhappy. That’s my cycle. I’m really worried, because here I am planning again, making My New Life lists, and jotting down notes in my Happy Me journal, and bookmarking Work From Home websites, and then, stalling. I am this close to leaving my job, yet I have not sent out proposals to get my new career going, even though I have five potential clients lined up! I should be grateful and honour these opportunities by giving them my all. (Teeny tiny voice in my head: What if my all isn’t good enough?)

Sometimes I just think it comes down to habits to break. Maybe it’s as simple as that and maybe I just have to break the ‘bad’ thinking habits too. The thing is, unless I cultivate good habits to replace them, I’ll always have time for ‘bad’ habits. What puzzles me is despite the fact that I know what I have to do, and I know what will make my life better, I just don’t do it. I read something yesterday:

“Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.” (Marianne Williamson).

Which brings me back to what I was talking about, why am I so afraid to take that step? A line from a song I heard this morning goes: “That first step you take is the longest stride.” Maybe that’s true. I was talking to a good friend of mine about all of this and I told him that I don’t like the fact that I haven’t been able to get it together and annoyed that every time I feel like I’m progressing, I fall back. He asked me what I thought I wasn’t ‘getting together’. I had to think about it because I wanted to be honest with myself. What I’ve been running away from is the same three things for years: recognizing my purpose; loving myself; and allowing myself to be loved the way that I deserve to be loved.

Fear

I know I hold myself back, out of fear mostly. Fear of being out of my comfort zone, fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of opening myself up to love, fear of getting hurt. All of these fears fill my mind and stop me from moving forward, toward new adventures. They take up so much space in my mind and heart, leaving little room for appreciating what I do have and what I do know, and even less room for hope and promise.

Let Go?

A lot has been shifting and changing with me for the past couple of weeks and is a source of inner turmoil, but what if this is  an opportunity for release as well? I am trying so hard to steer the ship so to speak that what if there is incredible freedom when I let the rudder go? What if I surrender to what will be and not try to predict the weather and make adjustments to suit. What if I choose to focus on what makes me happy and fulfilled and give up on worrying about the dark sea beneath or about keeping my ship afloat. What if I allow myself to enjoy the anticipation of huge rolling wave and the excitement of the ride. What if I trust in all the work I’ve done over the last couple of years and have faith that a greater plan has been put in motion? What if I choose to follow my heart and allow the mystery of my journey and destination to unfold?

What if? Indeed. 🙂

https://youtu.be/13WAhlE02ew

~*~

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.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy: “Which way, left?”

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

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

Sadness: “This actually feels kind of nice.”

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

~*~

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

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

You’re Kind of a Great Mess

You're kind of a great mess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love and light,

Phoenix

Zen & Self Acceptance

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Tenzin: I must stay focused. Remember who you are, Tenzin. You are the son of Avatar Aang. You are the hope for future generations of airbenders. The fate of the world rests on your shoulders. But what if I fail? Then your father’s hope for the future dies with you. I can’t fail!
Aang: Hello, my son.
Tenzin: Dad, I’ve failed you. I am no spiritual leader, and I’ve let the world down. I’ll never be the man you were.
Aang: You are right. You are trying to hold on to a false perception of yourself. You are not me, and you should not be me. You are Tenzin.
Tenzin: I am not a reflection of my father. I am Tenzin. I am Tenzin.

~*~

I’ve been stalling in writing the final post of the A to Z Challenge which was due on the 30th April. I put so much pressure on myself to write a brilliantly kick-ass wrap-up post that I just as brilliantly convinced myself that everything I composed was just plain ass. Of course, finding a title beginning with Z which was stimulating enough to inspire a post only served to exacerbate the issue. “Zis iz impozzible” crossed my mind many times. But here I am, more than two weeks late and determined to post tonight.

Zen is a way of being. It also is a state of mind. Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by our own thoughts. It is about acceptance of self rather than perception of self. Heavy topic. But let’s see if I can explain where I am at. I am struggling and have been for a while. Quitting drinking and smoking a year ago changed the way I viewed many aspects of my life: my health, my social activities, my emotional, mental and spiritual habits, even the way I handled my finances. The aspects of my personality and character that are at the forefront of who I am now are different from those that were dominant a year ago.

While I am proud of what I’ve accomplished and pleased with the direction certain parts of my life are heading, I am wrestling with who I am. I am caught between who I expect I should be and who I think I am. I know much of it has to do with self criticism and judgment and I really am trying. I want to be more accepting of myself. I want to be comfortable with improving little by little or even just staying in one place for a little while. But I’m not. I know it is important to be patient and to understand that progress is a process, but honestly, sometimes I’m so tired of it all. I’m tired of thinking that I should be more.

In the scene quoted above, Tenzin’s realization that he had put tremendous pressure on himself by defining who he was as only one thing, Avatar Aang’s son, resonates with me. As I interpreted it, this scene was about self acceptance. Tenzin found clarity when he realized that he should not try to be anyone but himself. He accepted all of who he was, even the parts that he deemed “less” than worthy of the son of Avatar Aang. He was, in the end, more compassionate with himself.  This is how I endeavour to be: more compassionate and more accepting of myself.  I want to accept myself as I am. All of it. But even wanting to be more accepting of myself is thinking that “I should be more”. It’s a fine line to walk, I think.

While I have accepted the mistakes I made in the past, some time in the last year, I made it okay to hold my present self up to a very high standard. I give myself very little leeway for mistakes now, which, I think is wrong. I judge myself harshly for being “too sensitive” even when I know that my reactivity is not rooted in the present. I excuse unfair treatment by others because I tell myself to “rise above it.” I criticize myself for getting angry or shutting down when I need to set boundaries or retreat to a safe space, because I’m “supposed to be able to handle it.” I’ve been essentially setting myself up for failure and only hurting one person in the process: Me. Inadvertantly I’ve been eroding my self esteem by pushing too hard to be someone I think I should be.

From my research I’ve come to understand that although related, self acceptance is not the same as self esteem. Self esteem specifically refers to how valuable, or worthwhile  we see ourselves, and self acceptance alludes to a far more gobal affirmation of self. “When we’re self-accepting, we’re able to embrace all facets of ourselves — not just the positive, more ‘esteem-able’ parts. As such, self-acceptance is unconditional, free of any qualification. We can recognize our weaknesses, limitations, and foibles, but this awareness in no way interferes with our ability to fully accept ourselves.” ~ Dr. Leon F. Seltzer

“Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by our own thoughts. It is about acceptance of self rather than perception of self.” Okay. So here goes:

I accept that I am torn between dedicating hours doing purposeful work I enjoy and work I don’t. I accept that it might be some time before I figure out how to balance it all and I accept that this does not mean that I don’t really have super-powers. (smile)

I accept that I am at a particularly difficult crossroads, spiritually, emotionally and mentally which is manifesting itself physically, with headaches, tension, weight gain, backaches and shoulder pain. I accept that in an effort to feel more in control in this area, I have a tendency to project that loss of control onto other areas in my life. Unfairly so at times.

I accept that I have a fiery temper fueled by my insecurities and that I get jealous easily and feel abandoned easily. I accept that I inevitably try to determine the root cause of those inseurities and how they play out in my life.

I accept that I will always want to learn more and better understand this world and my place in it, I accept that I will always be curious about why I want to learn and understand in the first place.

I accept that I have both light and dark in me and that at the same time I need and don’t need balance.

I accept.

~*~

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.