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.

coping through life’s ripples

95322

I woke up today an emotional mess, bombarded with static thoughts–but the one thought that stuck to wall was, look how much he fucked me up.

At that point, my mind boarded on that thought train. Before I used to be so open and willing to show my emotions and love. But after my ex scarred me the way he did, I’m so scared to. I’m so on edge that every guy that comes along will do what he did–take advantage of me, blame me for everything, shame me for who I am, emotionally abuse me, disregard me. Now at the get-go, I’m distant and hesitant. He totally fucked me up.

But then, my wise mind challenged me. Is the blame all his though? Certainly he is still at full fault for his actions… but look how far you’re internalizing how he treated you. It’s bled into your whole worldview. But is the whole entire world like your ex?

The answer to that is pretty clear.

Today’s emotional roller whirlwind has shown me how much pride I take in keeping myself contained and together. How much I play the counselor role, the old soul everyone goes to for insight or advice. I am uncomfortable with my own emotional gunk. I provide everyone with love and acceptance for their gunk–but I cannot say that I do the same for myself. That’s perhaps why I had put up with my ex for as long as I did.

At this very moment, I feel pushed up against my own humanity–against the part of me that is scarred and in deep pain from the depths of my past, from my recent ex to my childhood. The part of me that is a bundle of anxiety and a dense well of depression. The part of me that wants to know right away and figure everything out now, rather than submit to the unknown. The part of me that needs human connection so bad, it hurts. The part of me that fears that need, of getting hurt, or losing what and whom I love.

Although I understand that people are not perfect, that those we love can and very well will hurt us, that we will all experience grief and loss at some point, it does not dull away the pain. It does not take the pang of its influence away. It does not still the ripples as it rolls across the surface of our hearts. One of the books I read said that grief is the most complex and difficult human experience. I completely understand why. I am always looking for resolutions to things, but this is one arena where resolution struggles to come to light. I’m beginning to see that maybe the goal in grief is not necessarily to find resolution.

I miss the good aspects of my ex, yet feel so much anger and hurt for the destruction he left inside of me. I thought I was done months ago, but here I stand, still picking up the pieces, still scrubbing his toxicity away. The whole world is not like him. All guys are not him. That I can absorb. But still, I watch the drops fall and the ripples fan across the water–feeling them shiver through my being.

Oftentimes, I try to leave my blog posts on an uplifting message or pearl of wisdom, but today, I find myself more inclined to end on authenticity. There are still too many pieces that don’t make sense. Too many parts that still need healing. I don’t have everything figured out. But I am, at the very least, willing to learn to be okay with that.

necessary loss

135477

The concept of “necessary loss” has been revolutionary to me recently. Loss is rarely present without a web of complexity–in not only the grief, but the other emotions that arise, depending on the kind of loss you’re experiencing.

This is not to say all losses are necessary. Losses cannot be generalized that way. But, there are some kinds of loss that may end up falling in the “necessary” category.

I’m reflecting on this, because my life this year has had the overarching theme of “loss.” I did not only lose my romantic partner; I am losing my two current jobs in lieu of a new full-time job I will be starting in two weeks. I am losing clients I have worked with for at least 2-3 years as a result of my leaving. On a personal front, I have been losing all kinds of friends, and even parts of myself.

This is where the necessary part comes in.

When the loss of my ex first started everything off, I was feeling anxious and depressed, in addition to grief. When more losses rolled in, I felt overwhelmed. But now that I am at the end of the year and at a place where I can see all of this more clearly,  I realize that despite the turmoil and struggle, some of those losses were/are needed.

My ex? He was narcissistic and emotionally abusive. My job? Toxic environment and I’ve hated working there the past 10 months. My best friend? He’s been MIA the entire year, and it’s not too much to ask to want a best friend who is present more than 20% of the time. My other best friend? She’s more concerned with getting emotional support than giving it. Other friends and acquaintances I’ve chosen to not engage with anymore? More concerned with meeting their own selfish needs. The part of me that feels compelled to give at the expense of herself, making herself invisible in order to make space for others? Well, it’s because of that part I got into the aforementioned mess in the first place. It’s no longer serving a good purpose–in actuality, that part of myself is harming me a great deal more than helping.

My therapist brought up the term “blessed subtractions,” and I think it’s very fitting for my current life’s circumstances. It’s a blessing that I am no longer in an abusive relationship with a narcissist. It’s a blessing that I found a new job, even if it means building a new normal. It’s possibly a blessing that my clients will be getting a new therapist–that new person may give them something I may not have been able to give. It’s a blessing that I’m losing the friends I’m losing, because I need friends who can reciprocate support, love, and care–and not expect me to do all the work. It’s my responsibility to give myself what I need, and to trim out what’s not working.

Letting go has never been easy for me. It could be because I lost my father when I was fifteen, or the fact that I grew up never given emotional support from my family. Maybe both. I’ve been fearful of the grief and being consumed by it. But learning to let go is an essential skill of life… I’m only now just learning. Because there are fates worse than grief–like being stuck in a life of perpetual gray and unhappiness, or settling for abuse and emotional starvation. Grief and loss are tough, I know all too well. But all feelings pass. No exceptions.

And perhaps you’ll find that once you’ve let go of some of the unnecessary sacks you’ve been carrying, you’re free to pick up something new. Something better. I put my hopes in that.

 

behind the facade

9798

It’s been mentioned, time and again, how social media can warp our perceptions of reality, in addition to increasing our anxiety and depression. But it is only a manifestation to a greater phenomenon: we often define ourselves by others’ actions and choices, based on where the herd walks.

Social comparison theory, formed by Leon Festinger, states that humans have an internal drive to evaluate their abilities and opinions, mainly through their comparison to others. Hence why it is not very surprising that social media becomes a means of ultimately evaluating ourselves and our lives, whether we realize it or not. We all want to know we are good in some way… whether it is a good person, a talented pianist, an attractive performer, an excellent engineer, a great writer.

For me, what is also wrapped up in appearing as if I have a good life, is the social expectation to be happy and positive all the time. I post pictures on Instagram of my delicious Italian dinner, or a selfie during a fun day out with friends. Yet again, my mind goes to the same bigger picture. I should be happy and positive and always good. Everyone around me comments on my wise words and my positive mindset, and gives me multiple likes for posts that show my rolling every setback off my back. Thus, the pressure builds and mounts, and soon I am burdened with the need to be a person I am not. Deep inside, I begin to cry out, why can’t I just be honest? Why must I pretend that I am okay when I know that in reality, I’m struggling to stay afloat?

And this is my reality: I’m not always okay. Perhaps I am strong, but I have my breakdowns when I feel quite the opposite. I have garnered many scars in my life, and they have made it difficult for me to overcome as I would like to. And honestly speaking, the setbacks are getting to me. Submitting my novel to multiple agents and receiving rejections one by one twist my insides with pain. I am discouraged and fearful, and losing touch with the passion others have frequently admired. The worst is when they say I should stay positive, not giving heed to the emotions and pain I express. The silent message is not lost on me: just get over it. The pain does not matter, just be happy and positive.

But it’s never that easy. If there is one thing I have learned in my work as a mental health therapist, it is that healing from pain is never as easy as “getting over it.” It’s okay to feel angry, sad, discouraged, fearful, anxious, nervous, etc. Those emotions matter too, just as much as the happy ones. Contrary to what we think, ignoring those emotions only make matters much, much worse. I have seen it too many times in others in order for me to say this with full certainty. It is the pressure, the facade that are now choking my passion, creativity and ability to overcome.

The herd has a tendency to lead people into a shallow, confined existence, one we never come to see until the nihilistic thoughts and empty feelings gnaw us from the inside out. Social expectations can silence us and severely restrict us from actualizing our true individuality and potential. But the antidote is this: we need to give ourselves permission to feel, to experience the full spectrum of emotions in this life. We need to allow ourselves to simply be who we are. We cannot live a whole-hearted life if we do not acknowledge our full humanity. We are wired to feel, and things won’t always be easy or good… so we don’t have to lie and pretend that it always is.

Sometimes putting down the facade, in whichever form we have, is what we need.

freeing ourselves from others

5992

I’m sure that there are those out there who feel pressured and overwhelmed by the thoughts and opinions of others. Everyone has their say, and there are some out there who feel a particular strong need to impress it upon others… even if it means ignoring someone’s free will and individuality. This has been getting to me as of late.

Lately, I’ve been getting headaches. And I knew it’s all been psychological; our feelings can manifest in our bodies in this way (i.e., somatic symptoms). When we get anxious, we feel tense. When we’re depressed, our bodies feel zapped of all energy. Our body, mind and spirit are all connected.

With all the craziness that has been happening in my life, I spent a good hour meditating last night and soon realized why I was having so many headaches. Everyone’s voices have been in my head, mucking up my thoughts and consequently my being. Anna, do this. Anna, do that. Anna, you’re squandering your potential. Anna, [insert opinion on my life here]… on and on it goes, all the things people are telling me to do, telling me how to see it and how to be. Until my brain finally exploded in pain, screaming, shut up! I’m so sick of hearing all of you!

I just want to hear me. I just want to hear what I need, and what my Inner Voice says is best for me. Only I know what’s best for me, no one else. Who makes you think that you know what my potential is? What makes you think you know what’s right for my life? No one knows that, except for my Maker. So don’t act as if you have some authority over my life.

I know I am not alone in feeling bogged down sometimes by the opinions and feedback of others who think they know what you should do with your life. I hope these words can help someone else, as they are the reminders I need constantly. Only you know what’s best for you. Only you know who you can and want to be. This life is not for others to live, but yours. You’re the one who’ll have to face all of the consequences of your choices. Not them. So they don’t get to have any say in how you live your life.

One technique I’ve been doing that has been helping is mindfulness meditation. You can find apps or scripts online, but it helps train your mind to be rooted in the present and to let all thoughts and people’s voices in your head go. And specifically in this case, it also helps to let go of all those opinions and should-bes. Mindfulness is a practice that orients your mind to accept yourself and the world as it is in the present moment. It’ll clear out all the junk in your mind, and give you the clarity you need.

We need to learn to let go of other people’s opinions of us, to stop letting their thoughts control us. It’s the only way we’ll be able to be who we are, our true selves. What they say does not have to go, and does not have to hold significance we do not want it to. It’s a self-care and self-love practice, by not forcing ourselves into a mold or into a kind of thinking that is not truly us. Some people may be too dogmatic, too judgmental, too needy, and try to force you to be someone you’re not, but they are who they are. It has nothing to do with us. Just let it all go. Let it all pass without judgment. It is what it is, and people will be who they are.

And the same also applies to us… allow yourself to be who you are. And let the rest of it go.

the stand

UjYF

Area of self-growth: standing up for myself.

Self-awareness is a constant choice, and I am a strong believer that there will never be a point in time when we have ourselves “completely and thoroughly” figured out. In actuality, those I see who think they do, end up blinding themselves to the deeper crevices of their inner selves. Sometimes I feel the temptation of falling into that trap. But then I encounter another aspect of myself and I realize, yet again, I have so much to explore. So much growth to do.

After talking to my friend on the phone today, I realized something about myself: although I am a strong advocate for others and passionate about speaking out for those who are oppressed or do not have a voice, I am horrible at being my own advocate. The voice that comes to my head is, “Well, I don’t want to step on any toes. I don’t want to make them angry and make waves. I’ll just go along with what they want. I’ll focus on making them happy.”

After coming to this realization, I began laughing, because I teach and encourage others all the time about the pure necessity of advocating for yourself, but then, I cannot do the same for others. I think of Maya Angelou, and how she asserted that we must not only give our teachings to others, but actually live those very teachings out in our lives. And the truth of the matter is, there’s still a part of me that seeks approval from others, that worries about what other people are going to think, and pressures me to just “go along” with whatever they want. After getting this puzzle piece, it became a lot clearer to me why I was feeling frustrated and resentful of others. Or why lately I’ve gotten triggered by people in my life… the common denominator being that despite their good intentions, they keep pushing me to do something I do not want to do, or think “their” way, even when I verbalize what I feel is right for me.

I’ve become angry, frustrated, annoyed by these people, because I’ve spent my whole life going along with what people wanted and doing what they told me to do, at the expense of myself and what I desired. I get pissed off, because I know what’s right for me, and instead of hearing me, people keep forcing me to “see it their way” because “it’s the right way”… forgetting that the “right way” is a relative concept. I just want to be and do me, and I’ve let other people push me around to benefit themselves. I think of Sara Bareillies’ song lyrics: “All my life, I’ve tried to make everybody happy while I just hurt and hide, waiting for someone to tell me it’s my turn to decide.

Which brings me here to present time. Although I’ve learned to rally and support a healthier way of being for others, I have not yet let it soak in my own life. Instead, I am brewing in my anger and frustration of all those years of people not hearing or listening to me, and pushing me around. But I need to start advocating for myself. I need to start speaking out for my wants and needs, because that is my responsibility, and mine alone. No one will tell me it’s my turn, and if anything, many people will take any opportunity to control you. So, I need to start owning myself.

I can’t make my life about people-pleasing anymore. I’m so tired of the anger and resentment I constantly feel, and I see now that the only way to change that is to start pushing up against people, step on a few toes–if that means standing up for myself and owning my identity. I’m the one who has to live with the consequences of my choices. So instead of letting other people call the shots without any consequence on their end, I need to start taking the wheel of my life. And not be afraid to say fuck you to those who try to take it from me.

As Sara Bareillies sings, “Who cares if you disagree? You are not me. Who made you king of anything? You dare tell me who to be? Who died and made you king of anything?

beauty in the tears

563546

After a very heavy crying session, I wiped my eyes gently with a tattered tissue and found myself staring at my reflection in the mirror. My automatic thought?

I look beautiful. Somehow I look more beautiful even after I’ve cried.

Pink cheeks, pink nose, full lips, watery eyes, yet in the light the tears make them look almost silver. How can I even look this pretty when I’m in such agony and pain?

But so it is, and as ashamed as we are in this society to show our emotions and tears, I was taken aback by the thought that by being in my emotions and expressing them, I became more beautiful. I looked raw, real, authentic. And there is something attractive about that, something in that that morphed my face into embodying and actualizing the beauty I hold. The mask I consistently maintain and my “I have it together” demeanor seem to dampen it, and I didn’t realize it until the moment I stared at my tear-streaked face.

You hold so much beauty in just allowing you to be you, in your emotions, in your pain. The truth is, I don’t have it together. I struggle, and feel so deeply that it hurts, and I can’t bear it on my own. I make mistakes, I fear, and I doubt. And perhaps it is that vulnerability that makes me beautifully human. Beautifully me.

There should be no shame in your feelings, if they are a part of who you are… if there are what make you even more lovely.