Zuko

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.

Wisdom In Understanding Others

Earth, Fire, Air, Water

Fire, Earth, Air, Water

Iroh: Fire is the element of power. The people of the Fire Nation have desire and will, and the energy and drive to achieve what they want. Earth is the element of substance. The people of the Earth Kingdom are diverse and strong. They are persistent and enduring. Air is the element of freedom. The Air Nomads detached themselves from worldly concerns, and they found peace and freedom. Water is the element of change. The people of the Water Tribes are capable of adapting to many things. They have a sense of community and love that holds them together through anything. 

It is important to draw wisdom from different places. If you take it from only one place it becomes rigid and stale.

Last night I was out for dinner and drinks at one of my favourite places. A friend of a friend joined us, let’s call him George, and at one point George brought up a guy he knew who was going through a rough patch, “He’s all doom and gloom,” George says of the guy, “then the next minute he’s analyzing everything. He’s the philosopher type, you know. Says whatever he is going through now is something everyone in their thirties has to go through. A sort of crash and burn so you can rise from the ashes sort of thing.”

Everyone chuckled and two of my friends shot me sidelong glances as I am the known philosopher of our group. I smiled at the phoenix reference, even though for a brief moment I wondered if my friends thought I was as annoying as George found his friend. I too, philosophize about a lot of things. I love learning and exploring so I can’t exactly help it. I do try not to wax philosophical every time I hang out with my friends. What made me laugh was that as George was talking about the guy he knew, all I could think was that I wanted to meet the guy to chat. 🙂

I find people’s stories to be interesting learning opportunities. Sharing our stories and the way we individually see life only enriches our shared experiences and fuels our understanding of and compassion for others.

From my story to yours, love and light,
Phoenix

~*~

This is Post W, 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.

Open Mind and an Open Heart

Zuko_and_Iroh_at_the_Western_Air_Temple

Uncle Iroh: You know, Prince Zuko, destiny is a funny thing. You never know how things are going to work out. But if you keep an open mind and an open heart, I promise you will find your own destiny someday.

In 2011 during a particularly enlightening yoga workshop I recognized my purpose: I knew with absolute certainty that my purpose in life was to help people heal through creative expression. I had no idea how to do it but I saw myself thriving if I found a way to fulfill that purpose. I talked to people in the field who I trusted and respected, and sought advice from business owners. I created a Project Scrapbook and in it wrote daily, all of my plans and ideas, colouring and highlighting them with sketches and drawings and dreams.

By the end of that year, after the disastrous break-up of a dysfunctional co-dependent relationship, I was drinking often. Too often of course, but I did not see that back then. I did not know, as I do now, that my drinking was fostering fear and uncertainty in my life. I was using it as an escape and all it ever did was stop me from tidying up my side of the street. Hell, it kept me from tidying up my little space on this Earth. Tidying it up and preparing it for it’s true purpose. My Project Scrapbook stayed closed for a long time. I could not find a way to believe in myself and kept my mind and heart closed. I was afraid that I would never do anything worthwhile and that my life, that I, was worthless. So I stopped dreaming. I was in despair and I did not even know it.

Goethe says, “Take care of your body with steadfast fidelity. The soul must see through these eyes alone, and if they are dim, the whole world is clouded.”

This quote means so much to me now.  In February 2014 when I quit drinking I focused all of my attention on dealing with early sobriety and the onslaught of reality checks and emotions it brought with it. I focused on understanding the changes I was going through and on getting healthy. I began tidying my little space. I moved into a smaller apartment, paid off my debts, and made practical plans for my financial future. I worked on my spirit too. As I began to feel healthier, my mind cleared as did my intuition. I started to trust myself more and had decided to let my heart lead me where it would. I felt the pull and tug of certain workshops and classes and I followed with an open mind and an open heart, sometimes not knowing what to expect, but never regretting the decision to attend. Without the physical, psychological and emotional fallout from drinking, there is more space and time in my life for opening doors and widening avenues on my true path.

Four years have passed since that eight week yoga workshop and although my initial venture did not blossom, I am as sure as ever that my destiny lies on this path. I’m going after my dreams again. This time with excitement instead of anxiety, with faith instead of fear, with gratitude instead of despair, and with confidence that I am open to the possibilities.

“We think when we stop drinking that we are giving up a mind-expanding substance, when in fact sobriety is the true freedom, and opens up new horizons beyond anything we could have dreamt.” ~ Primrose

~*~

This is Post O, 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.

Metamorphosis

Iroh-watches-over-Zuko-300x200

Uncle Iroh: You should know this is not a natural sickness. Your critical decision – what you did beneath that lake. It was such a conflict with your image of yourself that you are now at war within your own mind and body. You are going through a metamorphosis, my nephew. It will not be a pleasant experience but when you come out of it. You will be the beautiful prince you were always meant to be.

Do you remember hangovers? The head-in-a-vise headaches, the dehydration and cotton mouth, the sandpaper skin and sensitivity, the sour stomach and food that tasted like cardboard, the body aches and fatigue? Even though it’s been a couple of years I still do, vividly. That was my body fighting to get back to normalcy after I’d spent the night wrecking it by drinking and smoking too much. I feel such remorse when I think back to the way I disrespected my body and I certainly don’t miss the days lost, curled up on the couch in front of the TV, being physically unfit to do anything constructive or productive.

The human body is remarkable in the way it is designed to repair and heal itself. With the exception of serious illnesses or compromised immune systems, from the moment we sustain an injury or get the flu, our bodies begin repairing. Blood will clot, new cells will replace old or damaged ones, muscle tissue will regenerate. When I gave up drinking and smoking, I understood that I may have had physical withdrawal symptoms until the toxins were completely out of my system, and I also understood that healing would take time. For me, I started feeling healthier about six weeks after I quit. By then my sleeping and eating habits had normalized. My energy levels were higher than ever and I steered more of it toward enjoying life instead of fighting hangovers.

Mentally, the fog lifted and there was a clarity of thought I had not felt in ages. For people who were binge drinkers (more than 3 or 4 drinks at a time) or high functioning alcoholics (those of us who drank heavily every day and still managed to hold down a job and perform well enough to keep our habit hidden) our performance levels naturally increase a few months after we quit. I was fortunate enough at that time to be offered the opportunity to broaden my professional experience and knowledge. I jumped right in. With growing confidence in my creative capabilities and my ability to tap into them now, I flexed my creative muscles and experimented with different outlets. Now, I’ve been thinking about going back to school to explore that side of me. So many things are changing, for the better.

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” ~ Haruki Murakami

~*~

This is Post M, 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.

Humility

Humilty is the only antidote to shame

Uncle Iroh: Zuko, you must let go of your feelings of shame if you want your anger to go away.
Zuko: But I don’t feel any shame at all! I’m as proud as ever!
Uncle Iroh: Prince Zuko, pride is not the opposite of shame, but its source. True humility is the only antidote to shame.

Every now and then when i meet my girls for “drinks” I meet someone who did not know that I quit drinking a year ago. Depending on who I encounter, I’ve noticed that I either feel ashamed that I had a drinking problem or feel superior that I no longer do. I have come to understand that both feelings are unhealthy for me.

Feeling ashamed of myself will never serve me because it is rooted in judgment (my old nemesis). I can have regret or remorse for mistakes made but shame is wrong. I own my mistakes and have held myself accountable for them. They have helped to shape me into the person I am today and I am not ashamed of who I am.

The flipside of that is the smug superiority complex I apply when I feel the ticklish aura of defensiveness enveloping me. This mostly happens around ex-drinking buddies who make jokes or disrespect my choice to quit. I feel Defensive Phoenix pushing her way to the forefront, crossing her arms, and looking down her nose at the offending party. While she may be necessary in the moment, I don’t really like feeling that way. It’s not good for me to judge anyone, even if their jokes are dumb. Most people truly just don’t know what to say. Heavy drinkers feel uncomfortable around ex-drinkers. It’s simply a fact.

If I am to learn to truly accept myself, shame and pride are two extremes I should not allow to manifest themselves in their worst forms. We’re all on our own journeys. No one (including me) is better or superior to anyone else, no matter where they are on their journey. Each person is unique, with a unique set of skills and abilities and a unique rate of learning. We learn and grow at our own pace and determine the lessons we are receptive to and learn along the way.

“There are no extra people on the planet. Each one of us has our own unique form of genius and authenticity within us aching to be accessed.” ~Robin Sharma

I believe that each person I meet along my journey has something to teach me or to learn from me, if I have I am humble enough to allow the lesson.

Thanks for being my teacher and my student.

Phoenix

~*~

This is Post H, 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.

Despair

Zuko Iroh Despair

Uncle Iroh: Zuko, You must never give into despair. Allow yourself to slip down that road and you surrender to your lowest instincts. In the darkest times, hope is something you give yourself. That is the meaning of inner strength.

Every now and then I come across something I’d written when I was good and proper under the influence. It was a habit I’d formed, scribbling on napkins in bars, texting lines of poetry to myself in the early morning hours, or typing away on a laptop with Tori Amos playing in the background:

“We deem ourselves masters of our own destinies yet forever doom ourselves being slaves to our own darkness.” ~ Phoenix

These days I shake my head and chuckle at the melodramatic lines I find hidden in books and treasure chests, and I wonder about the girl who cried her heart out while she wrote. Makes me sad to think that she felt at a loss to handle so much pain. There are also many lines with crushing self-criticism and I am so grateful that I don’t do that anymore. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I am quite okay with hiding under my blanket and wallowing in my moodiness, but I understand that it is necessary to do so from time to time, and I don’t judge myself as weak or damaged, worthless or hopeless anymore. I don’t let the Negative Pity Party Committee in my head get away with their out of place comments for very long.

Still, there are feelings which creep in every now and then, at sunset, which I can’t quite explain. Feelings of dread, anxiety, confusion, and despair. They’re not overwhelming and crippling as before and usually very brief, so I don’t worry about them too much. But they’re a curiosity to me and I’m still working out the root cause. Does this happen to any of you?

Dad once asked if they’re residual feelings from childhood about not finishing homework on time, or knowing that the falling night meant that the next school day was much closer. He could be right. Maybe my grown up self feels unfulfilled at the end of the day and worried about not accomplishing enough. (Yes, the charming life of a control freak) Or, perhaps it has more to do with perspective. As the sun sets and the sky changes from blue to red signaling the end of another day, I think about my role in this vast Universe. Am I doing what I’m meant to be doing? Most of the time I don’t think I am. Life is calling out to me and I’m not listening. I still confine myself to the expectations and limitations placed upon me by others and by myself. That’s when the anxiety, fear, and dread set in. It’s almost like feeling my spirit die. Is that possible?

I know that despair is rooted in self-doubt and hopelessness. If anything this last year has taught me is that I am stronger than I gave myself credit for. I am more capable than I thought and I can tap into my vast reserves of optimism, hope and faith. So today, thankfully, feelings of despair don’t last very long. And I do love mornings. I have been slowly but surely turning the table on twilight. I look for the beauty in it: the colours of the sky, the stillness and silence which follows as birds roost, the changing scent of the air. Maybe if I focus on these gifts, I won’t think about the negative.

~*~

This is Post D, 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.