a lesson in faith

95824

In the past week, I have been finding myself facing battle with an old friend–depression.

Yet it is in stark contrast to the youthful, immature depression I once knew, when I believed the cloudy gray life I lived was all that there was and that there was no true escape. Fast forward to now, after years of self-growth, self-improvement, and therapy, I have now what I would call a “mature” depression. When I get in my depressive episodes, I am acutely aware that I am roaming minute to minute in the gray, with the knowledge that I am not the depression, and I am not really stuck. Feelings pass. Situations change. The things my depression are trying to convince me of are false. But it does not make the depressive episode any easier to bear through.

It is like someone hijacked your brain and is steering your thoughts and feelings down paths you know is not realistically accurate. But because you’ve been taken over by D, your stumbling down them regardless. Then you are left feeling so overwhelmed–overwhelmed by sadness, loneliness, hopelessness, and a feeling of bleakness about your life and where it’s headed. I know that I am doing great things with my life, that I am making a valuable mark on this earth. My mind is aware. But still, it is difficult to fight through the feeling of dissatisfaction with yourself and the world, or the feeling that things will never change.

I was driving home from work today, and I found myself asking God, “How do I get myself out of the black hole I’m in? What are you trying to teach me through this? What are you trying to bring forth through me?” I know well enough by now that God teaches us through pain. But at that moment, I could not gather what I was supposed to learn. So sitting in traffic, I paused and listened. Then I could hear God replying back, You need to have faith.

With that, I had an epiphany. Here I was, fighting and fighting to make things work, to get what I’ve always yearned deeply for, but to no avail. Losing friends, people going MIA, stress where ever I go… it has felt as if nothing I do would give me the life I have been aiming for. Things have been falling apart instead. So I have felt hopeless and helpless, like I am stuck with this unsatisfying life I have been trying so hard to change. But then it became so clear. There are no options left at this point, because faith is all I have left. Nothing else is working, because God wants me to choose the one last option. I can either stay where I am, or walk out onto unknown waters.

This has always been my problem. I am Peter, who is afraid and does not trust that God will allow me to walk on water. I am fearful that I will sink and meet my death. So of course God sees it fit that I learn to have faith–to face my fear of sinking. The God who calms the storms. The God who can move mountains. The God who splits seas. I must have faith.

So, my fellow readers–for those of you who know what I speak of, who are also struggling: when it seems as if there are no other options, perhaps that is because God is bringing you to the one option that will help get you through whatever you are going through. Allow your courage to rise, and have faith. You’ve been through worse, and just as it has before, this period too will pass. Life is impermanent. You’ll get through this.  And in the meantime, let yourself go, walk out onto the water, and have faith that God will give you strength to conquer the waves.

Advertisements

the art of moving on

452454

To the grieving and broken-hearted:

I know how hard it is–to have your heart smashed into pieces, to have that large void growing in your chest where your loved one used to be. And the struggle of every day, every minute, every second. Then the people on the sidelines shout to you from the comfort of their seats, “Just get over it. There’s more fish in the sea. Don’t think about it anymore. They’re gone, but things will get better.” Platitude after platitude falls at your feet and your find yourself tripping over the how-it-should-bes.

But listen to me. It’s not a matter of knowing it will get better–I’m sure, deep down, you already know that. And it’s not a matter of “getting over it” or not thinking about it–surely if it were that easy, we wouldn’t be struggling so hard in the first place. If I could burn those cliches in a glorious bonfire, I would… why? They have it all wrong.

Because it’s not about the destination, or quick, imaginary fixes. But instead, it’s about steps. One step, two steps, ten steps, twenty, hundred, thousand steps… one at a time. Slow, slow, eyes up, moving your body forward, even when you don’t always feel it. That’s it. You got it. Rain and hail pellet you, it’s hard for you to breathe, tears stream down your eyes and you can barely see, but still, you take one tiny step forward, you push through, you don’t give up on the forward motion… it’s your solace, your last thread of hope. That’s right, the rain won’t last forever, just move forward. You can do it. One step. One more step. See how they all add up? There you go, look up, the sun is peaking out from the clouds. But don’t stop moving. One step at a time.

It won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick. Take it from someone who has experienced a myriad of grief and loss experiences, from losing boyfriends and close friends, to losing her own father. There will be days that will be dark indeed, and you’ll forget what you’re living for. But if there is one thing to put your hopes in, it is not that you will “get over it.” No one “gets over it,” and if anything, we must honor the love our loss reminds us of. Yes, it’s tough, so tough. But the day will come and go, and at the rising of the sun, you’ll have an opportunity to start fresh again. And again. No feeling is final. And all things will come to pass.

Soon, on your journey forward, you’ll find yourself somewhere you would’ve never imagined. New people. New opportunities. New skies. New scenery. New feelings inside you. Yes, that grief may come to visit you along the path, but instead of devouring you as it once did, it will walk along side you, like a mournful companion–but then you keep moving, and he leaves once more.

If there is one certainty in this world, it is its impermanence. The world is always changing. So are they. And so are we.

empowerment junkie

96503

As I was brushing my teeth tonight, I was thinking of all the dating profiles I’ve been trekking through. What stood out to me were all these guys who tout themselves as “adrenaline junkies,” professing their love for many adventures and need for a fellow, like-minded partner. All these pictures of them climbing mountains and racing cars, and meanwhile, there I sit, finding pleasure tucked away at the corner of a cafe, with a steaming chai latte and a good book.

For me (and I bet for many others), dating is a surefire way of feeling shitty about yourself. Sure, I’ve done a lot of self-work and I have more confidence than I ever had in my life, but there are still a fair amount of moments when I get down on myself. For example, my recent thought train has been, why am I only attracting weird, or frankly, unattractive, men? Why are all the nice, good men not into me? I’m not perfect, but I know I have a lot to offer. Am I not pretty enough for the men I want? Am I too boring with my artistic tendencies and love for psychology and self-growth?

But when I stared at my reflection, my mouth full of toothpaste foam, a realization occurred to me. I do go on adventures. Just not the conventional ones people think of.

And this is what I mean. In the seventh grade, I wrote a love letter to a boy I had a crush on, and was coldly rejected. He told me firmly, “I would never date a girl like you.” That moment is still embedded into my brain with nails of pain. Fast forward through relationships, I held much fear in baring myself as a result, but I always took the risk to bare my feelings anyway. Even still, I’ve been rejected, heartbroken, and disappointed by love more times than I can count.

It doesn’t end there. As any writer can attest to, I’ve amassed the typical, bloody history of rejections from literary agents, magazines, and anything and everything under the publishing sun, as I’ve chased after my dreams of publishing my writing. Cue more disappointment.

I’ve been looking for a new job for months to no avail, and yet I still search and apply. Even in my current love life, I’m still putting myself out there, despite the emotional abuse I endured in my last relationship only six months earlier. I try to balance the don’t-show-your-feelings approach to dating that has been pervasive in my generation, while attempting to honor my true, heart-on-my-sleeve nature–never letting go of my value for authenticity in any procedure to life. Even though more disappointment and pain are a guarantee, I still find myself moving forward.

Long story short, my realization was this: yes, I have had my heart stomped on, been rejected in numerous ways, disappointed and let down… but at least I’m living my life by putting myself out there. While many, many others go on “adventures,” travel to foreign countries, and seek the next adrenaline hit, I too travel in my own way. I also take risks–emotional risks. While a couple of those adrenaline junkies jump out of planes to avoid their inner self or repressed turmoil, I consistently choose to face my demons head-on. I fight and slay, every single minute of my life. I’ve suffered with bouts of depression for at least half of my life and continue to experience them today. I’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts and the ugliest of internal monsters. I fight against an Inner Critic more relentless than any beast of a story book. And I’m here today, alive and very much well. I’ve climbed my own mountains (and still climbing), survived the hellish of snowstorms, slaughtered a host of monsters. I’ve accrued many ghastly scars, but you would never know at first glance.

On top of that, all of these difficult emotions I continue to feel–the sadness, disappointment, rejection–are signs of my living life to the fullest. I experience the full spectrum of emotions as a result of my internal adventures. And before I start beating myself up for not seeming like a more interesting person, I have to only look at what life has brought to my table in these past 28 years. I’ve gone on more adventures that many of the general population actively seek to avoid. I may not be an adrenaline junkie, but I’m an empowerment junkie–someone who is constantly exercising her mind and trying to grow to her full potential despite her setbacks.

So people can criticize or judge, but it doesn’t matter what they think. They don’t know me. But more important than that, it’s time that I start appreciating the unique and wonderful person that I am. And the truth is, there is something of value in the way I live my life. I’m in the arena, getting dirty, taking risk after risk, boxing monsters… all the while, daring greatly.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

 

finding my sexy

607_

Suffering through the wreckage that was my break-up, I am slowly starting to see the light peak out through the dark clouds.

I just finished my burlesque workshop classes, and it has been, without a doubt, the best decision I’ve made for myself in the past two months. It’s difficult for your self-esteem to not go through the crapper after a bad break-up, especially one with a partner who was oftentimes emotionally abusive. But in addition to processing what happened, I’ve been trying so hard to focus on myself and re-building what was trampled upon… a new and improved self, someone who embodies empowerment and self-love more than she ever has in her life. At the end of this, those are my goals: empowerment and self-love.

I took an Uber for my last class, decked out in my burlesque gear. I wore a sweatshirt so my revealing top would not be open for all of Hollywood Boulevard to see, but my skirt and stocking were still in plain sight. My experience was different the second I got into my Uber. The driver attempted to ask me out after a full minute of picking me up. Then he proceeded to ask borderline offensive questions, which I gently yet assertively confronted. I was glad the ride was quick, and I was able to shake him off at the end.

Then as I walked the streets of Hollywood, a cat-caller attempted to hit on me. When I didn’t answer, he proceeded to touch my back. Normally, I would’ve tried to avoid any kind of conflict, but feeling my new self come out, I told him off. Of course he became defensive and angry, but I didn’t care. I was proud of myself for asserting my boundaries.

Once I got to class and got a good look at myself in the wall-to-wall mirrors, sans sweatshirt, I stood in awe. I look so sexy. I couldn’t take my eyes away. What was once a faraway goal, was now standing right in front of me, in black leather and red garters. For the first time in my life, I truly felt sexy. Self-love was at my door too. As I danced with my classmates, swaying my hips and shaking my chest, I thought, any man would be lucky to have me. I am beautiful inside AND out.

Afterward, I went out for drinks with some of my classmates. We chatted, and laughed, and talked about what brought us to the class. I was honest and told them about my story–the break-up, and the need to remind myself that I was still sexy, with or without a guy. One of the ladies told me that she felt teary after hearing my story, and two others proceeded to tell me their past break-up experiences, giving me valuable advice.

Two pieces of advice and encouragement stuck out to me the most:

First: “After one of my break-ups, I was feeling really sad and staying home all the time. But one of my girlfriends gave me good advice, which I still hold onto. She told me that I can be wallowing and sad only for so long, and that even if I felt sad, I should still put myself out there and go out dating. Just for fun. One of the guys I went on a date with, I was straight up with him and told him that I just got out of a relationship, so I wasn’t sure if I wanted a relationship yet. He thanked me for being so honest with him. We didn’t match at the end, but we became good friends. It’s okay to have times alone to feel sad, but you have to go out and allow yourself to have fun too. And trust me, you’ll definitely find someone better. I eventually ended up meeting my husband.

Second: “When I think back on the guys I dated who ended up running away from me, at the end of it, I was so thankful that they did. I was lucky that they ran. They weren’t any good. Trust me, you’ll get there eventually where you’ll see that too.

With those burlesque classes, not only did I get to discover a part of myself that I’ve long needed in my life, I was also able to encounter positive, encouraging people. I’m grateful for the universe bringing me kindness and love in so many different ways.

Although I am still recovering from the hurt and pain my ex gave me, at the same time, I am also in the process of arriving to a place where I am actually loving myself in who I am and what I have to offer. Eventually, I’ll be someone who won’t put up with hurtful behavior again, because I’ll know I deserve better than that. I’m already getting there. I know I deserve to be treated with love and respect… and I’m starting to put my foot down  with anyone who treats me otherwise.

When everything is said and done, I hope I can give to others what those ladies gave to me. My friends have all commented on how much progress I’ve made in two months… and truthfully, I’m only beginning to see it. But at least I can say now, with tears in my eyes as I type this… that I am wonderful, beautiful, and sexy. Just like how someone can claim that the sky is purple, it doesn’t change the fact that it is blue. I am always wonderful, beautiful, and sexy, regardless of what people say or how they treat me.

discovering real love

435435.jpg

How can someone give love and take it away so easily?

Two weeks into my break-up with my partner, and this is the question that has been plaguing my mind. Yet today, I happened upon wisdom that gave me a much clearer answer to that question.

Wisdom came in the form of my mother. I put the same question to her, and this was her astute response: Every human being is different, and will handle love in different ways. Because we are fallible, we will fall short many times in truly loving someone–meaning that real love is loving someone at their best and at their worst, receiving while also giving, even giving when you may not necessarily want to. Some people are able and willing to truly love, and others are more focused on their selfish needs.

Your partner was focused more on his own needs, on his comfort level. He wanted things to be simple and easy, and therefore, his bowl was very small. There is nothing wrong with that… he merely operates differently, and all of us have our different capacities. At the same time, struggle is embedded in the experience of life, and to divorce yourself from that leaves you alone and narrowed into a very tight zone. Bailing when things get hard speaks to where his values stand.

When anyone is in love, you only see the good in that person–it’s easy to understand and explain things away, because you love them. You have blinders on, and everything about the person looks wonderful and perfect. But the thing to remember is that it takes a long time to really know someone. As you do, you start to see things about that person: Oh, that’s odd he said or reacted that way. Doing that doesn’t seem like him. When you have those thoughts, it tells you that there is still a lot of things you do not know about that person. You may come to see that you really match well and love particular qualities about the person, and see other qualities that you do not like at all. That’s when the blinders slowly come off, for the both of you.

When he bailed that way, it was because he didn’t want give more than what was comfortable. He wanted it to stay easy and avoid challenges. He doesn’t want to take responsibility for his actions. He can choose to live that way if he wants, and with that mindset, he will be better off alone in his life. Otherwise, he’ll be doomed to recreate the same issues and pattern, whoever the person may be.

Don’t make the decision to be with someone just because you love them. I made that choice when I was young with your father, and you see how it turned out. You think at the time when you make that decision that the future will hold much joy, but for me, I suffered and despaired a lot. Your father had a lot of issues and it made our marriage very difficult. So this is something I want to pass onto you. Don’t choose someone only because you love them. Although love is certainly important, it’s not the only factor. This is going to be someone you’ll be spending 30, 40 or even 50 years of your life with. Choose a companion with good, stable traits. Your partner has to be kind, patient, have a good heart… someone you have a strong friendship with.

Although the sadness is hard and you’re feeling it, don’t stay sad for too long. These hardships will build you stronger and allow for better things to come your way. Have faith. For the 60 years I have lived, I’ve learned that healthy minds attract other healthy minds… and the same goes for unhealthy minds. So focus on building yourself up into a healthier person, and you will naturally attract better.

For the past couple of weeks, I felt like I was close to drowning at sea, but these words are becoming my life saver to float on. My blinders are coming off now, and I feel more disillusioned. I want to be someone who strives toward truly love someone. I want a relationship built on sturdy things, not on unrealistic expectations and love myths. While I was willing to work through challenges, he was not. I was not “perfectly good” to him, and “I” didn’t give him constant comfort or joy… but reflecting on that, that says more about him than it does about me. No one is perfect. That is yet another false expectation.

I share my mother’s wise words in hopes that it may help others out there, as it is helping me.

reaching your potential

                          814

Are you squandering your potential?

This question reverberated through my mind as I was driving home on my last day of class. Sometimes we forget to see our potential when we get locked onto the past or even the present.

An epiphany had hit me. Memories fell out of my subconscious and onto my lap, forcing me to see the truth. I’ve been squandering my potential.

Like when I turned down a scholarship program. Or when I downgraded myself to certain part-time jobs because they were easier to get, rather than reaching for the ones that fit my experience, yet much harder to obtain. Or when I settled for dating men I didn’t feel much connection with, because they gave me attention. Or all of those times during my adolescence I never told someone how I felt and kicked myself long after with regret. Even with my attending a Master’s program, I always felt like a big fish in a small pond. My professor swore that I would’ve attended a Ph.D program.

As I sat with these choices, I began to see the common denominators: I did not believe in myself, or in my potential. I only saw the worst of me, and took that as truth. I was scared of change. The unknown. My fears had been ruling over me, taking control in more ways than I could imagine.

The truth was initially hard for me to swallow. But I told myself that this was a disillusioning antidote I had to take. I’ve been taking the easy route. Settling for small successes had been easier to me than choking down the possibility of huge failures.

Lately, I have been feeling dissatisfied with myself and my life… and I finally realized why. Contrary to what I believed I was doing, I was not living up to my potential.

I wholeheartedly believe that each of us are gifted in an infinite amount of ways, holding our own seed of potential. One person is not better than the other, just different… just as we see a myriad of flowers in the large garden, each holding their own kind of beauty. For most of my life, I saw myself as a tiny, negligent bud that no one gave much heed to. But now I see that I didn’t give myself a chance to grow, to bloom. Sure, I may have grew up in desert with minimal nutrients in my life, but I’m still here, alive, with a frantic need filling my chest, pushing to burst and bloom with all and everything in me. I want to live me.

I’m sure I’m not the only one. I bet there are others out there too who have felt just like me, telling themselves that they don’t have much to offer and they don’t have any potential. But those are all lies. You do have potential, and beauty. You just need to give yourself a chance. Maybe all of this time, you haven’t, and believed the lies some people told you. But you need to ask yourself if you are living the life you’ve dreamed of, that aligns all the way down to your inner soul… or if you’ve only chosen the easy route. Perhaps out of fear, or not realizing that you could do much more than what’s been in your comfort zone. But by taking the easy route, your potential never comes alive.

I now have my Master’s degree, but I have to keep going until I feel my vivid petals bloom fully and every inch of me touches sunlight. Even if it means having to face large failures. I don’t want to be dissatisfied with myself anymore, or keep feeling like I’ve settled. I have a lot of “ambitious” goals on my plate right now, but I’m sick of squandering my potential.

Jonathan Safran Foer wrote: Sometimes I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living. All those could bes are heavy. Don’t let the weight break your spirit and soul. Believe in yourself. Become all that you have the potential to be. Don’t let anyone hold you back, not even yourself. Live the life you’ve dreamed of.