discovering real love

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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.

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behind the facade

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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.

beauty in the tears

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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.

still hanging

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Truth be told, I’ve always sucked at letting go.

All the unanswered questions are threads still tied to my wrist, tugging and beating against my thin skin to the rhythm of my heavy heart. They keep me hanging on.

It’s all because of you that I hate being left hanging now.

But I keep it to myself, because I already hear their words spitting harshly in my ears, “That was a long time ago. Shouldn’t you be over it by now? Just stop thinking about it.” Yet I’m coming to find that when it comes to the matters of the heart, time plays a very minuscule role, no matter how much they try to convince you otherwise. It feels as if very little time has passed, especially when I see your face, when I am reminded of you on freeway, at the cafe, or in those moments when you randomly pop into my mind. The wound is still there, bleeding profusely, but I only clench my fists and wish fervently that it wouldn’t matter anymore.

I often tell myself, “You had a serious lapse of judgment there.” The neon sign flashed at me, telling me to turn the other way.

But that’s the other thing. Although in all other cases it is an apt sword, logic, too, cannot tame the tsunami of emotions that flood you when you let yourself go to love.

And when I let the emotions flow, they scream out, I hate you. I miss you. I’m hurting so bad right now. Get out of my head. Leave me be. I want your memory to die away into the deep recesses of my pretend. And how desperately I still want to pretend… but my feet are firmly rooted, and I worry now if I will ever fly again.

When two people break apart, you are left to pick up the broken pieces alone, to make sense of it, to reconcile, to forgive, to move on. But what do you do when you are missing so many pieces, that you don’t have enough to put something together?

So I keep trekking, keep rising up. Hope is my air and I inhale. Make do with what you have.

The threads pull and wrap around my wrist tighter.

My heart is a mangled mess and even though I try and try to re-right it back, I know nothing will ever be the same. I won’t be the same. Maybe I’m not supposed to be. Even with all the agony, pain and despair, we’re meant to be moved, to be affected, to hurt. Maybe that’s the only way we learn and grow.

the gift of wounds

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We are not meant to stay wounded. We are supposed to move through our tragedies and challenges and to help each other move through the many painful episodes of our lives. By remaining stuck in the power of our wounds, we block our own transformation. We overlook the greater gifts inherent in our wounds — the strength to overcome them and the lessons that we are meant to receive through them. Wounds are the means through which we enter the hearts of other people. They are meant to teach us to become compassionate and wise.

– Caroline Myss

resolution

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Unresolved feelings. Loose ends. Throbbing scars. Heavy silences. Suffocating gloom.

There are the things that come to mind when I think of my hometown.

Last week, I went back to my hometown partly to visit an old friend, but also to seek resolution, to breathe new life into a tattered story left hanging, to re-acquiant myself with an older version of me, one that I have been trying to deny for years after I left. If I were being honest with myself, I have been trying to prove to myself, and to those people of my past, that contrary to what I was made to believe by everyone around me, that I am worth something, that there was more to me than what they believed.

But I see now that that was a fool’s errand. As I sat at a coffee shop, staring pensively out of the window at the glum clouds and barren desert, I arrived at the conclusion that has been staring at me in the face for a long while: what I am looking for is not in the place where I grew up.

Resolution resides within myself.

Case in point. I continue to live out my past in the things I do, the decisions I make, the way I perceive the world, myself and the people I encounter. The fears, detachment, anger, voicelessness, inner suffering, despair… these things live inside of me, and nowhere else. The only logical conclusion then is that the healing I seek therefore must be instigated from within.

Since I was young and up until I was 21, I lived a numb existence and hated myself, mechanically tearing wounds into my heart and soul in the way others have done to me. Despite all that has passed, my resolution became clear to me. I must love myself and believe in my worth in its entirety. I can only become whole if I accept all parts of me, including those parts of my past that I hate and attempt to forget or reject. I must put each piece of me back together, and say, “You did the best you could with what you had. You hung in there. I love you and accept you, exactly as you are.

We cannot self-actualize, reach our potential, be who we are meant to be, until we accept and love our whole selves. Before I thought moving on and focusing on the present and future were all that mattered. Yet to embody true self-love, you must accept everything about you, including your past mistakes, failures, and all of those “ugly” bits, and tell yourself, it is all beautiful. I am beautiful. And I accept all of these imperfections as perfectly me. I can still do so much with my imperfect self.

Telling ourselves this is difficult if we do not readily believe it. But it is part of the healing process. We fake it till we make it.

For the rest of my visit in my small, desert hometown, I held onto young Anna’s hand with gentle care, and kept reminding her that no one else defines us now. Not our past, all those people we knew, or even this town. We are in control, and we are beautiful. We’ve got this.

dare you to move

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To live is to move. Even in fear, pain, or stagnancy… it is especially in those moments in our lives that we are faced with a constant choice. Will we rise to and above the challenge, or will we stay down, to die perhaps a spiritual and inner death?

I had a meeting with one of my mentors a few days ago, wherein I was challenged, yet also deeply inspired. And I went home and found myself listening to Switchfoot, which led to more fuel being thrown onto the heady flame. “Dare You to Move” has now become the theme to this current phase in my life. Why, you may ask?

For months, I have been feeling stuck and stagnant. I have been locked and trapped in my past, the pain I continue to hold, and the disappointments of today. Nothing seems to be going right and deep down, I feel broken, alone and unbelievably restless. My frustration increases knowing what I am doing to myself and what has gotten me stuck in a hole. Professors and even my own therapist have praised me on my level of insight, yet before, I found it so much a curse than a gift. The old cliche of “ignorance is bliss” rings true, because in ignorance, I do not have to feel. I can continue on numbing and pretending everything is okay. When you are battling depression, or anxiety, or whatever demons you may have, the easy path becomes so very tempting.

Although I did not intend the conversation to take this turn, I ended up sharing with my mentor some of my current struggles. He then proceeded to push me (metaphorically speaking), and challenge me. I told him I need to reflect more on my issues, and he disagreed, “No, you don’t need to reflect anymore. You already know what you have to do. Now you just need to do it.” In short, I need to move.

This is what my mentor helped me to realize: Despite your fears, despite the hurt you will inevitably feel, you have to connect. You have to love. You have to risk vulnerability. Our four walls and comfort zone seem so very safe, but in reality, they are hurting us. They are starving us from what we need, causing our hearts to begin dying a slow and painful death. “I mean, look at you,” my mentor challenged. “You’re proof of that. You’re not happy right now.” And I didn’t argue with him, because I knew he was right. Because this is the thing about me: I hide. I hold back. I put up walls so people can’t get too close. All of this I do, because I don’t want to get hurt, rejected, or judged. I have been so many times in the past. I’ve been knocked down, kicked around, teased, and worse, ignored. That in my deepest moments of pain, I went unacknowledged. Even though I fear loneliness, I would rather choose the certainty of being alone, than the pain of being both rejected and alone. So it is easier for me to not trust people, and deal with things on my own.

But living that way, means we live in a state of constant fear. We do not rest when we are hyper-vigilant with every being we come across, and it is exhausting to persistently maintain those walls around our hearts. Maybe in your past you’ve been pushed down, or hurt in the most grotesque way… so you’ve stayed lying on the ground. Maybe it feels safe there. But in that state, the tension is there, “between who you are and what you could be. Between how it is and how it should be.” Although it may not seem so, in that we always have a choice. Are you going to move, or are you going to stay down? Are you going to reach toward the potential of who you were meant to be, or will you let it die away?

I realized that for the past five months, I’ve been choosing to let my potential die. To let myself stay down and others keep me down. But now, I am making a different choice. It’s not easy to get up, to move when you are still in pain from the fall. That is why God dares us to move. Because it takes the courage each of us have buried inside us to do. In the challenge, we grow.

The thing is, if we choose to live, it is guaranteed we will feel pain. All of this time I have been focused on the “pain” part, rather than on the “living” part. In the end, our true nature is to connect, to love. That is what it means to live. That is why He pushes us, dares us to move, to lift ourselves up from the floor, like today never happened. There, we move toward fulfilling our nature.