That Girl

The Moderation Contemplation

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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.

The Girl In The Mirror

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I love the madness that is the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. The creativity, the fast-paced induced adrenaline rush of posting every 24 hours, the community spirit, and at times, the frustrating but glorious intensity.

This year I chose to write poems inspired by movies about addiction and absolution. I write often about the importance of honouring our emotions, about allowing ourselves to sit with the darkness, kicking at it until it bleeds light, but every now and then I resist the complete vulnerability and surrender that any sort of healing needs. So as April approached I took stock of my progress so far: two years of sobriety; an understanding and acceptance of my triggers; the warmth and affection that had grown in key relationships with loved ones; and the knowledge of what I felt I still needed to work on.

It was my intention to reach deep down to the dark, murky, frightening depths with both hands and pull hard against what needed to be uprooted, clearing away the weeds and plastic debris that were stunting my growth. I hoped to reveal, better understand, and become more accepting and appreciative of the dark emotions I keep at bay. I was ready, or so I thought.

Don’t get me wrong, all in all, this year’s challenge exceeded all expectations. For one, I reached the depths I wanted to and spent more time there than I cared to in the end. Even though I’ve come away with several poems that are worth shaping and rewriting, my plan to use movies about addiction as triggers worked better that I’d anticipated.

The shift was gradual and I did not notice it at first. But by the time I’d reached the middle of the alphabet I was staying in bed longer on mornings, wide-eyed with the covers to my chin, unsure and a little afraid of what the day would bring. My meditative morning habit – a cup of ginger tea on my front porch with an inspiring book – had been replaced with reviewing the difficult poem I’d written the night before, and I was no longer jumping out of bed looking forward to my day. I had underestimated my vulnerabilities. The writing challenge theme I’d set for myself, together with two unexpected life events, affected me adversely. I won’t be doing something like this again. At least not without setting some boundaries and safe zones first.

There were breakthroughs as well, which I am grateful for, with poems like The Quiet, which makes me so uncomfortable to read even though I wrote it, and Thirteen, which I wrote when I came to an understanding about my relationship with my mother. I think if there is anything I am truly happy about is turning that corner with my Mom. It was my last important relationship to heal and I believe that now I can begin doing just that.

In the end, and today I am grateful for the opportunity to learn. I am not invincible. I cannot, ever, underestimate my triggers nor the importance of boundaries. I am grateful for loved ones (online and IRL) who supported me through this “mad experiment” and never judged me for it. It has helped me to be gentler with myself and keep my own Judge in check. I even have to send a nod to the Universe for crashing my laptop two weeks into the challenge. I chuckle to myself now when I think about it. Perhaps the Universe was sending me a message after all.

Love and light,

Phoenix

Pieces They Left Behind

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Last April, I participated in the scintillating madness that is the April A to Z. I accepted the challenge to write 26 posts, each corresponding with a letter of the alphabet and now I’m going back for more. For my A to Z 2016 Challenge I am combining my love for visual and musical storytelling with my passion for words.

I’ve been experimenting with poetry for a little over two years and while the adventure has been wonderful and reviews have been encouraging, I know that many of my poems don’t reach the emotional depths I would like them too.

Here in this space I write a lot about honouring our emotions, about allowing ourselves to sit with the darkness, kicking at it until it bleeds light, but truth be told, the complete vulnerability and surrender that any sort of healing needs, is still difficult for me to give in to.

It is my intention with this year’s A to Z to reach deep down to the dark, murky, frightening depths with both hands and pull hard against what needs to be uprooted, clearing away the weeds and plastic debris that are stunting my growth. It is my hope that by April 30th, I would have come to a greater understanding and acceptance of the dark emotions I keep at bay and become more welcoming and appreciative of them.

My A to Z Blogging Challenge Theme:

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

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.

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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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.

Yabbering

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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.

X = Sobriety

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Jet: I’ve done some things in my past that I’m not proud of. But that’s why I’m going to Ba Sing Se, for a new beginning. A second chance.
Iroh: That’s very noble of you. I believe people can change their lives if they want to. I believe in second chances.

In primary school, we were given mathematical equations and taught how to solve for “x”.  We were taught how to look at a problem from all angles: algebraically, graphically and by using the concept of equivalence. We learned how to add, take-away, multiply and divide, and determine the variables (or unknowns) to find the solution. If we were impatient, tried too hard, or allowed the perceived complexity of the problem to overwhelm us, the solution was always frustratingly out of reach. But once we calmed down, realized that the math equation was not out to get us and followed simple rules, what was once puzzling was made clear.

Flash forward 30 years and I’m driving around the largest roundabout in the world, on my way to meet the girls, and having an epiphany. I finally realized what “x” is in my life. For me, x = sobriety. Now I am not saying that sobriety is the answer to all of my problems and that I have it all figured out. It isn’t and I don’t. But I cannot ignore how many different aspects of my life have improved since I had my last drink more than a year ago.

As 2014 began I was frustrated with my life and had little hope. I was sick and tired of making the same mistakes and I could not figure out why I could not get my life together. I was unhappy in my professional life, and felt stuck in a rut after working for the same firm for 15 years, yet at the same without hope that I could be of value anywhere else. I was angry with myself for drinking as often as I did and the way that I did. I was ashamed of it and unknowingly withdrew from or sabotaged relationships that were important to me. My self worth was at an all time low.

It was not all bad of course. There were moments of fun and happiness, and there were times that I did make an effort to change aspects of my life. I resigned from my job, but without having a new one waiting for me I ended up staying exactly where I was.  I was never getting enough sleep (sleeping off a hangover is not the same as a good night’s rest), smoking a half a pack a day (a pack if I was out drinking), not taking care of my body, and totally ignoring my creative side. I could not imagine what my future looked like. I just honestly could not picture it. And for the life of me, I could not figure out why I was where I was. I could not reason my way out of the puzzle I was in. At the time, I looked at giving up alcohol as just that. Giving it up. I would have the same life minus the booze. I had no idea that giving it up and thereby choosing to have a better life, that one factor, would be the common denominator in all the improvements to come.

Now, so many things have fallen into place. I feel like I have a second chance, at everything. Life did not magically improve of course, I put in the work that was required and I still do. But when I take stock and look back on the last 15 months and at all the variables, there is no denying that for me, x = sobriety.

There is a clarity of thought that I did not have before, the upside of which is focus which in turn manifested itself as determination and will. I now believe that I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to or at least learn from simply striving for a new goal. Then there is the power of attraction. I do believe that like attracts like, and my more positive attitude and confidence has attracted a lot of positivity and stability into my life. No longer am I wasting my days and energy being hung over, regretting a night of drinking, or berating myself for having no direction in life. My days and energy are spent on more positive and rewarding endeavours.

I have been appreciating my relationships more than ever before, cultivating stronger relationships with old friends because I now know my worth and can be a better friend. I have also made new friends with common interests, other than alcohol, who inspire and motivate me on so many levels.

I have more love for myself and with it automatically comes self-confidence, care and self respect. I am gentler with myself by dealing with difficult emotions in healthier ways instead of judging myself for having them in the first place. I’ve found a renewal of faith that life is good, and that sincere effort is rewarded. I have hope again, for myself and for my future.

From my second chance to yours: love and light,
Phoenix

~*~

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.

Judgment

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Writing or talking about judgment still bothers me. I feel my body reacting: mild tummy ache, tingles at the back of my neck, goose bumps, cold sweat, difficulty swallowing. I even have a name for that overly critical part of me: The Judge. A few years ago I saw a psychotherapist for about a year and she introduced me to The Empty Chair method in an attempt to help me figure out the source of my distorted self image and negative self worth. We had tried creative methods before (visualization and painting) but chose this particular method because of my reaction and resistance to connecting with that part of myself. From our visualization session before, I realized that although my anxiety about criticism and judgment was rooted in my early relationships with adults, over the years I developed a powerful and relentlessly judgmental side of myself. The Judge. She was the one who I now I had a problem with and wanted to reach. After all, “many things that seem threatening in the dark become welcoming when we shine light on them.”  The Empty Chair method, we hoped, would allow me to converse with that side of myself and work through the discomfort to accept and embrace her.

I sat on a chair facing an empty one. Switching back and forth between them I was going to take turns speaking for myself and for the Judge. We were going to have a conversation out loud. I imagined The Judge sitting across from me and was immediately uncomfortable. It was a bit embarrassing to see how my body responded to an imaginary version of me, pretty much the way I described above. It made me self-conscious and silly and I laughed but I knew I was going through with it. I was going to talk to The Judge and she was going to talk back to me.

Me: Um, well Hello. (I was actually sheepish and shy if you can believe it!)
The Judge: (In a tone of voice dripping with disdain!) Okay, hello. We’re here, now what? What do you want to say?
Me: Well, I’m not sure.
The Judge: As usual. You never know what you want. You’re always second guessing yourself.
Me: Ok fine! I want to know why you are so hard on me?
The Judge: You know why. (smugly)
(I have to say it was so weird being me and then being The Judge. My body language and tone of voice even changed from chair to chair!)
Me: No I don’t. (defensively). Well not really. Maybe. But even if I do, everyone makes mistakes.
The Judge: You are not everyone. You are supposed to be better than this.
Me: I can only be who I am.
The Judge: You should be more.
(I started to cold sweat and my breathing became shallow)
The Judge: You are supposed to be more. Not the mess that you are in now, sitting in this room talking to an empty chair. And crying about it! Smarter, wiser, more capable. No mistakes! You know better!
Me: At least I’m trying! Everyone makes mistakes. And I am not a mistake! (I was shouting back)
The Judge: Aren’t you?
Me: No! And I can be better. I am already better. And you have no right to talk to me this way!
The Judge: Why?
Me: (I was quiet) Because we are the same.
The Judge: Ah. (she smiled!) Why would you say that?
Me: Because I judged  you for judging me. I called you mean, cruel, out of place, stupid.
The Judge: Well I suppose I am all of those things. Sometimes. But I am more than that too.
Me: As am I.

Judgment is a funny thing. I’ve realized that in as much as it can feel intimidating and crushing, it can also help me to improve, if given and received with kindness. I am still working on forgiving myself and I try to understand my motivations (without criticism) and acknowledge my good intentions instead of berating myself for my past mistakes.

We can’t concern ourselves with what was. We must act on what is.” Gyatso 

Judging closes a door. The opposite of judging is compassion. When I am compassionate, I am open, connected, and more available to communicating respectfully with myself.

I saw this Dove ad the other day. It demonstrates really well how easy it is to judge ourselves unfairly and how harsh we really can be sometimes.

“We can’t hate ourselves into a version of ourselves we can love.” ~Lori Deschene

Take care and be gentle with yourself. Hugs, Phoenix

~*~

This is Post J, 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.

Accountability

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

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

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

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

I have much to think about.

~*~

This is my first post, A, in the A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015. My 26 posts are inspired by the quotes from Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, two Emmy award-winning animated television series created and produced by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. The setting for both series is in an Asian-influenced world of martial arts and elemental manipulation. The shows drew on elements from East Asian, South Asian, and Western culture, and (aside from the beautifully developed characters and kick-ass story lines) are where I found a wealth of inspiration and perspective on my own life.

The rest of my A to Z 2015 posts can be found here.