Letting Go of What Does Not Serve Me

borrowed identity

You know that voice in your head, the “not good enough” voice, the bully?.. Where did that voice come from? Who gifted you the negative messages that you play over and over? Does your truest self actually believe these negative things or are they someone else’s words or actions that you absorbed and have turned into your own personal torture device?

Maybe it is a little bit of both (most things are after all). Our internal bully can be made up of social messaging from society, messages received in close relationships, and things we say to ourselves that have a foundation in one of the first two.

Listening to one of our clients in group yesterday made me think about this. What the client was sharing made me wonder, Where did they first receive that message? As I was processing the day on my way home I was thinking about some of my own messages I have internalized over the years and who they came from. I had some major I show myself love moments on the drive home and have decided it is time to release some of these messages because I no longer believe them and they do not serve me.

I am crazy. That was a gift from a former intimate partner that could not cope with my depression and grief after the death of a loved one. I was in pain, a pain so deep it scared him. I release this message. It is not my truth and it does not serve me.

My body is not good enough. This was also a gift from a former intimate partner. My body belongs to me alone and I know she is worthy of my love. That is my truth. I release this message. It is not my truth and does not serve me.

I am manipulative. There were times when this was other’s truth about me. I recognize times in my life when I was without and did what I needed to make myself feel safe and loved. I am grateful to the pieces of myself that took care of me during that time. I send love and light to those I hurt with my actions when I was trying to take care of myself. I release this message. It is not my truth and does not serve me.

I am not deserving, I am not worthy. I release these messages. They are not my truth and do not serve me.

I am unlovable. This was one of my most painful messages, and one that I have had the longest relationship with. This is not my truth now because I love myself. I am worthy of love and I show all the pieces of myself unconditional love. I receive love from without and within. I RELEASE THIS MESSAGE. IT IS NOT MY TRUTH AND IT DOES NOT SERVE ME.

I know my truth. These messages can no longer hurt me. These words no longer have meaning in my life and no one will ever be able to use them to hurt me again. I am stable and safe, my body belongs to me and I am in love with it just as it is, I have everything I need to take care of myself, I deserve to be here and I am worthy of the goodness of life, I feel love, I give love, I am love.

Negotiating Us

View More: http://wingsofgloryphoto.pass.us/final-edits-15

When I returned from a temporary hiatus I mentioned one of the reasons for my break was my need to address some familial issues that had surfaced. I am relieved to say the issues I was grappling with were not too serious in nature and I do feel they are getting better now. They were my own issues, things I needed to workout for myself first and then with my family. Now that I feel a corner has been turned I am ready to discuss this part of my journey.

My Mother and I have always had a very close relationship. She has played one of the most instrumental roles in raising me into the self-reliant, free thinking feminist I am today, for better or worse I might add. Part of that was in her words but more often it was through observing her actions. In fairness I cannot hand her all the credit for anything good I have turned out to be, my father is the other half of the equation and I am told all the time that I am my father’s daughter.

Planning my wedding by working side by side with my Mother was difficult at first, and that is being nice. We clashed quite frequently, it felt like we were at odds over every silly little detail. It often came down to issues with her ideas about tradition and my want for simplicity and ease even at the cost of traditional formalities. One example was wedding cocktail napkins, I saw that as a frivolous expense, my Mother disagreed. When we met an impasse like this her response would often be, I’m just going to get them anyway, you don’t have to pay for it. I constantly felt undermined, like my opinion did not matter. For me it wasn’t just I don’t want to spend the money, on a fundamental level I (I am saying I but Todd and I agreed on this) did not agree with spending the money on it.

From the very beginning Todd and I had made it clear that we did not believe in spending a lot of money for one day of festivities. We wanted a small, no frills, family wedding somewhere that we felt connected to. That is exactly what our wedding was and we could not have been happier with how everything turned out. Fortunately at the end of the day (or experience really) my Mother and I were able to see eye to eye. This only happened because half way through the planning process we had a much needed heart to heart. Our relationship, while close, has certainly seen times of strain and planning the wedding brought any cracks to the surface. Things were being to spiral and I saw two choices, have an honest conversation about our feelings and needs or take a break from the relationship all together for a while. The second option wasn’t much of an option, I was getting married, I did not want to miss out on this experience with her.

She came over to my house one day and we talked, for over an hour. We talked about the way we treat each other, we talked about her relationship with her Mother (which I have almost zero concept of because I was 9 when Nana died), we talked about my dreams for a future relationship with my own daughter. We were honest and vulnerable and it was painful and wonderful all mixed up together. In one day we mended years of damage to our relationship. Planning going forward was a breeze and when the big day rolled around we were both elated.

After the wedding, our honeymoon and our trip to Chicago we came home to settle back into our life as husband and wife. With that came some changes. Not to our own relationship but to my relationship with my Mother. It was time for another talk. When I was single and living downtown in my one bedroom apartment my parents came over once or twice a week and would help me with little things around the apartment. I think my living alone like a did during that time unnerved my Mom. When my ex and I broke up and our lease was up my parents tried to get me to move home but I knew that wasn’t an option. I was the office manager at a medical facility and I had recently accepted a position with the hospital, I was making plenty of money and had no intentions of moving home. To me I saw that as back sliding, I was only interested in forward progression. I am glad I made the decision I did because that year I lived on my own was one of the best things I have ever done for myself. My Mother’s way of reconciling her anxiety about my being on my own downtown was to come over and “Mother” me a few times a week. It didn’t bother me at the time, I looked forward to their visits as I did miss them and it was a nice opportunity for my Mom and I to catch up while we folded my laundry together or cooked dinner together.

Fast forward to now. Since Todd and I have lived together I have tried to gently encourage my parents to back off a bit with the “mothering” behaviors as an effort to set boundaries and help them to see me, and us as a couple, as adults. I started becoming more assertive once we moved into our home we bought. This our home to keep as we choose, that was important for them to understand. A few months after the wedding I finally had to break down and have another heart to heart with my Mom. I have been talking about boundaries since last year and she has been surprisingly on board, I have even seen some changes in how she interacts with other people in the family. She definitely seems to see the necessity for boundaries in relationships and how healthy having them is, great. We did have to renegotiate our own relationship though.

I would run into issues with her on things like wanting to help around the house when I did not request the help. For example, Todd and I do not make our bed. We see it as a waste of time and only do it if we are having a gathering at our house where we know our bedroom may be seen. On an average Wednesday though, no way. What’s the point? We are just going to sleep it again in a few hours, complete waste of energy in our opinion. So my Mom would come over and walk right into our room and start making our bed. I would ask her not to but she saw it as her helping and doing us a favor. Another example is if I had a load of clean laundry sitting in a basket in our room to be put away, she would go in and start folding clothes even though I asked her not to. I understand she is just trying to be helpful and probably wants to feel useful but for me, for us, that is a violation of personal space. After a few talks about how we both feel about these things we have finally found common ground.

She explained that she wanted to feel needed and if she sees something that needs to be done she enjoys taking care of it, she likes to feel like she is taking care of us. I explained that I do need her but in a different way now. Todd and I are capable of keeping up with our home, which I know she knows because it is never is disarray, we do not need her to act as our maid. I explained that when I invite her over it is a social visit, I need you as a friend, as a confidant. When she comes over it is to spend time together doing fun things like talking or shopping or baking/cooking together so I can learn her recipes etc. I have not stopped needing her just because I got married but there is a shift that has to take place. She is no longer Mom/Caregiver, she is Mom/Friend. I told her this is really the most exciting time in our relationship as Mother and Daughter because her work for the most part is done and now we get to enjoy the fruits of her labor together by having this awesome friendship. It’s not that I will never need my Mom’s help going forward, I do and I will, but I needed her to understand that I will ask for it when the time comes. I also explained that the same goes in reverse, I know her and my Dad are going to start needing me as well and I will be there when they ask but I will not impose myself on them either.

Things have vastly improved. I enjoy this new version of us so much. I feel like being friends has softened both of us so much and we have a new understanding of each other. I no longer see my Mother as just my Mother, I see her as a woman and I do feel this mutual. I am glad I have the kind of relationship with my family where we are able to talk openly about our feelings and resolve issues in this way. I am also glad that my quest to establish boundaries, in all aspects of my life but in this case with my family, has not only been successful but well received.

Everyday I feel like I am coming into my own, I feel my relationship with Todd growing as well my relationship with my family growing. I am thankful for this continued growth and am hopeful about the future.

Feminist is NOT a Bad Word

fem

 

I grew up in a Catholic republican household. I know, for better or worse, I had a sheltered upbringing. With that being said, I do not ever remember hearing about feminism growing up but somehow in my subconscious there was this idea embedded that all feminists were bra-burning-radical-hippies. That idea didn’t come from no where, ya know? I am not blaming my parents in whole because society plays a huge role in that I am sure but I think my parents probably did have something to do with it.

So as you can imagine I have never wanted to associate myself with the feminist movement because I don’t consider myself that radical. Well you know what I realized, I am. If believing that all people should have equal access to pubic facilities (read more about HB 583), or that women should be able to wear whatever they want without being shamed, or that our society is fundamentally broken, makes me radical well then I guess that is just something I will have to live with.

I think I have always been afraid to identify as a feminist because I thought there was something bad or wrong about it. Although recently as I have been working through my feelings on this subject I came to realize I have always been a feminist. Even as a child I was stubborn and willful and unwilling to be controlled.

I remember things from my childhood now that help me own this part of my identity. Like when I watched The Sound of Music for the first time and fell in love with Maria because she was unwavering and stood up to the scary patriarch of the family. She knew who she was and what she stood for and no bully was going to silence her.

I remember watching a commercial for some dumb thing and thinking (as a child) the marketing was ridiculous. I remember asking my mother, “Why won’t they just be honest?” I remember she had no idea what I was talking about at the time because I was too young to express this complex thought eloquently but all I meant was if the product was any good they wouldn’t have to cover it up with all of this other flashy stuff to get you to buy it. I wanted companies to be direct with no frills, I learned in time that is now how it works.

While I have been working this out I have been doing a lot of thinking and a lot of reading and one thing I read really resonated with me. Maya Angelou was quoted saying “I am a feminist. I have been a female for a long time now. It’d be stupid not to be on my own side.” Um Yeah. It would be. Completely stupid in fact. Being a feminist, for me at least, is not just about equality for females, it is about equality across the board. It has to be, otherwise none of this means anything in my opinion.

Getting to this place where I can accept and embrace this, feminism, as a key part of my identity has been difficult and has been a long time coming. It is right up there with finally being able to own that I am an atheist. It is not easy to push through the ideals you were raised with into who you actually are and what you truly believe in. I would say I am a fledgling feminist because I have a pretty good foundation and good intentions but good intentions are dangerous without a better understanding of the issues. I am getting there though, this is big part of the growth I am experiencing right now and it is exciting.

Living in the Uncomfortable Place

growth

This semester has been the most difficult for me thus far. It is not specifically the semester that has been challenging, it is just this moment in time, is that makes sense. The issues I have been struggling with have been building slowing over time and recently it came to a point where I could no longer ignore what I was feeling. I had to take sometime, withdraw and focus on these feelings.

In doing this I set my blog to private for a while. I flirted with the idea of deleting it all together because I was not sure if I could be authentic going forward and that has always been my purpose, if that was no longer possible this blog serves no purpose. I hesitated though and I am glad I did because this place has been therapeutic in way over the years as I have been on this journey and I think it will continue to be now that I have a few things figured out.

I have definitely experienced some major growth in a short period of time, a lot of it is thanks to the social work program. I am excited about this but it also means I have been in this really uncomfortable transition place for a while. That is what growth is though sometimes, painful and awkward but incredibly satisfying once you make it to the other side. To be clear, I am not on the other side yet, I am living in this place of awkward discomfort and doing my best to embrace it and process everything.

Another aspect of my withdraw has been with family. This is where I felt concern about my ability to be authentic so I am going to try this on and see how it fits. I have felt a bit disconnected from my family for a while now. There are multiple reasons for this and it has been gradually building. My concern about being able to be authentic with this is that I do not know how comfortable I feel discussing my family issues on here. I am always reminding myself that I have to own everything I put out here for people to read and that is hard when it is something so personal.

Here is where I landed with my feelings on sharing this; I recognize that it is completely up to me what I choose to share here and what I don’t. This is my experience and I don’t owe anyone anything. This is something I need to process though and this blog has been a place for me to do just that over the years. I think it will be baby steps but there will undoubtedly be some personal posts coming out in the near future.

With that being said, for anyone that has been following my blog from the beginning (THANK YOU) you may notice some changes as I figure myself out. I do not know yet what this changes will look like yet but I feel a need to bring this blog up to date for where I am now instead staying in the place I was when I started it.

Owning My Life

gift

 

Todd and I had our annual check up right before we left for Chicago and while we there our doctor pointed something out to me I did not realize. We were finishing up my exam, checking the ears etc and she said So it has been two years since we weened you off the Lexapro, how have you been feeling? I told her I have been great, she was already aware of some of the life style changes I have made in regards to having an exercise routine, healthy eating habits and having a bedtime routine so I did not go into great detail. She said she was glad to hear it and that was that.

When I was leaving the office I was thinking about the last two years, has it really been that long? Yeah, I guess so. I was diagnosed and prescribed the Lexapro by a doctor that was not directly involved in my counseling at the time, it was about a 5 minute visit. I saw my counselor a few days later and he said that while the Lexapro will help short term he did not feel I would need it long term and continuing to work on myself would be what ultimately makes things better. He was right.

In the last 4 years, since first being diagnosed with anxiety and depression I have made a lot of important changes. The exercising and eating definitely play a role in my over all well being. When I first started counseling I was absolutely someone who would numb my emotions with food. I did not realize at first and once I did it was very intimidating because that is how I had been dealing with things for so long I did not even know where to begin my work on that area. It was gradual, we started (I say we because this change impacted Todd as well) by eating better. This made me feel better physically. I felt less tired and lethargic after eating, which really helped with my initial motivation to work out, I actually started to enjoy it. Once I was more active and eating less processed food I felt so good the need/want to emotional eat really wasn’t there. To really drive the new routine home and help prevent any back sliding we stopped keeping the food in the house that I would go to for comfort. Now it is not even something I crave. That was a huge hurdle to overcome, that alone would be enough to be proud of but I didn’t stop there.

Taking more time for myself, time to be quiet and reflective, time to write down my thoughts and feelings.. This has all be a integral part of my growth as well. Before, during my dark time I was very reactionary. I think part of that was because I was hurting so much at the time that everything was spilling over but I also think it is because I was not paying attention to what was really going on in side of me. It is not that I don’t still experience frustration and anger and other negative emotions occasionally, I just do not immediately react. I take time to reflect, figure out why I am feeling this way, what exactly is causing me to feel the way I do. Since being diagnosed and being in counseling I have not had a single episode where I allowed my negative emotions to get the best of me. No hysterical crying, no fury driven lashing out. I have been completely collected and calm in situations that would have previously sent me into a tailspin.

On that same note Todd and I have been together going on four years, he has been with me through the entire growth process, sometimes involved and actively cheering me on but more often watching proudly from the side lines. In that time we have never fought. For a while I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, because inevitably, in every other relationship I had been in it would. I finally realized I was different, this was different and I was doing things right this time which meant that other shoe was never going to drop. It is not that we never disagree. We are both fiercely independent people, who believe in autonomy and have our own outlook on life. It helps that our values are in line but nevertheless we do not always see eye to eye. That has never been a problem though. we discuss our differences, we discuss ways in which we can improve, nothing in our relationship has ever been taboo. We do not ignore issues that arise, we do not leave anything unsaid. And if a discussion begins to feel tense or emotional we take a break and shelf it for a while. It has worked every time. It allows us time to cool off and it also allows time to really reflect on what the other person was saying. Sometimes in a discussion you get so stuck on your own point you aren’t really allowing the other side in. We have a pretty great communication style if I do say so myself.

One of the biggest healthy changes I have made is learning how to say No. It goes back to what I was talking about yesterday with boundaries. I think flimsy boundaries may have had a lot to do with why I would experience anxiety earlier on in life. In other relationships, at work, in social situations.. I think I had boundary issues which can absolutely be a huge source of anxiety. I always had my values, what I didn’t always have was conviction. Saying No isn’t easy. It was something I had to learn how to do, it also helped that I cut ties with some of the people that continually tested my boundaries. I think first and foremost it is important to have healthy relationships with people who also believe in healthy boundaries therefore yours are rarely being tested. In cases where that is not possible, like with family who maybe don’t have good boundaries you just have to learn how to protect your own. Having boundaries does not mean always saying No either, I like to be able to say Yes as well. For me it is knowing that I have the right to say No and if I choose to say Yes I have the right to define my Yes. Someone asks me for a favor I am not comfortable granting? I have the right to say No, if I would like to help though I have the right to define what kind of help I am comfortable giving.

Having strong boundaries and a partner who supports them as well I think has made the biggest difference. I feel strong, healthy and unafraid. I really could not say any of those things a few years ago. I am owning my life and my decisions, I need no validation now from the outside world. I know I am actively and mindfully living my life and I have never felt so good.

Inspiration from fellow INFPs

Todd and I were having a hypothetical conversation this morning and big surprise, it got my wheels turning. I like hypotheticals, I like to think about possibilities. It stemmed from a conversation we had about what I read the night before in one of my texts. I had to take an online exam today so last night I was finishing up the last chapter for the test, it was on relationships. He asked me how I would handle a certain situation that was illustrated in the text, specifically whether I would take offense and find the person in the situation being too critical? My answer was No.

In this particular case with what was being said, if it were me, I would see the situation as an opportunity for growth. I can at times be sensitive to criticism, such is the case with INFP personality types as I understand it, but that is not always true. I am incredibly introspective and take time to process things to see if there is merit in what is being said. This gives me the opportunity to try to look at the criticism objectively to determine whether there is an opportunity for growth.

Todd and I then got into a conversation about our different personality types and how he would perceive the situation. He is much more practical, a problem solver where, as Todd put it, I am much more introspective and philosophical.

Well later in the afternoon I was online.. I have been trying to find an excerpt from literature that can be used as a reading at our wedding. It is hard to choose, there are so many authors and titles to choose from. In my search today I stumbled across this,

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost. 

I knew immediately that it was Tolkien from the first Lord of the Rings novel. I grew up on Tolkien. It is quite lovely when you read out of its intended context and rather just on its own. I proceeded to do a search for other possible options by Tolkien, as we both are fans. What I found in the process of my search is that Tolkien, this amazingly talented writer whom I respect so highly is an INFP.

 92499465e8f382f4acc3f687273c157c

It felt like a point for the INFP team! haha. Then suddenly I was curios, Who else?? I was baffled by what I discovered. I have always felt a sense of camaraderie with my fellow INFPs and after reading the findings, feeling connected to people whom I hold in such high regard made me feel so inspired.

So here are some of my favorites from the list..

First, the writers:

George Orwell: What I have most wanted to do … is to make political writing into an art. My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice.

J.R.R. Tolkien: I [am] a mere individual … with intense feelings more than ideas.

C.S. Lewis: [I have] a boorish in-aptitude for formality.

Virginia Woolf: My own brain is to me the most unaccountable of machinery – always buzzing, humming, soaring roaring diving, and then buried in mud. And why? What’s this passion for?

A.A. Milne: Even now when I see my name in the paper, I feel that the world is intruding unduly on my privacy. I ought to be anonymous.

Edgard Allen Poe (squeal!): (James Oppenheim speaking about Poe): Everything about him suggests introversion, self-immersion, mood, mystery. Everything suggests a man seeking his own soul.

Hans Christian Andersen: The whole world is a series of miracles, but we’re so used to them we call them ordinary things.

William Shakespeare: To thine own self be true.

 

The Musicians,

John FREAKING Lennon: If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.

Kurt Cobain: I just can’t believe anyone would start a band just to make the scene and be cool and have chicks. I just can’t believe it.

Florence Welch: [I] always want things to be perfect, magical or exciting. Things can’t be that way all the time so I’m constantly disappointed as well.

Morrissey: It’s so easy to laugh, it’s so easy to hate, it takes guts to be gentle and kind.

 

Finally my three favorites that I am so proud to be in any kind of category with,

Thom Yorke: Generally speaking, if people are prepared to stick their heads above the power pit, like Zinn says, and absorb what’s going on around them, it makes them think.

Andy Warhol: I’ve never met a person I couldn’t call a beauty.

Vincent Van Gogh: If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.

 

It was surreal in a way to see these people whom I have such strong admiration for and then read their words and think, Yeah, I get it. I identify with some more than others, but across the board to feel like I understand one of my idols on a deeper level than just their art or words or music that I have always been so inspired by, is a beautiful thing.

When in doubt, write.

writing2

In one of my early posts entitled Anxiety is a Layer Cake I shared my struggle to overcome a compulsive behavior. In the post I was hesitant to divulge too much as I was still in the thick of it and did not want further scrutiny while working on my issues. Now that I have been able to successfully manage this compulsion for sometime I do not mind sharing that I struggled with emotional eating for sometime. Food for me, like so many others, was a means for immediate gratification when feeling down or anxious. Thankfully even at my worst I always had a certain degree of control over the situation. I knew when to stop, the fact that I was allowing food to be a crutch in first place was an issue though. In the earlier posting, towards the end of the entry, I mentioned that it was my hope that writing could possibly take the place of this crutch as a positive coping tool. I do believe that is exactly what has taken place.

I was reflecting on the last five years the other day as Todd and I are coming up on our three-year anniversary next month. Looking back and holding my former life up against my current reality I feel strong and proud. The amount of change my life has undergone in a relatively short span of time is really remarkable. I have set goals for myself and worked to meet each one.

Writing has absolutely played a huge role in all of this positive change. I feel more centered and sure of myself thanks to the quiet time for introspection and growth that writing allows. Now when things come up in life I find that instead of being reactionary the opposite is true for me. I take time to process everything. I think before I speak. I am acutely aware of everything I am feeling and have a better handle on what to do with those feelings whether they be good or bad.

Further, being with someone of similar ideals who genuinely understands me has made all the difference as well. All in  all I find myself in a very healthy place. Spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. My road towards all around personal growth was a long one and one I will continue to travel down. My initial epiphany that started me down this road came in 2007 after a crushing but much-needed end to a relationship. 7 years later all I can say is I am pleased with my progress.

Having a platform where I have allowed myself to be vulnerable and honest and truly feel things as I work through whatever is banging around in my head has been invaluable. I may have started this blog as a way to keep a record of my experiences as an adult student but it has become so much more than that. I am grateful I have had somewhere to just be me. I read back through my entries and it is all me, raw and uncensored, for better or for worse. I am so glad I decided to do this, unaware back then what it would mean to me. It does though, it means so much.

What may look like hypocrisy is just a different kind of authenticity

scout

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

 

I pride myself on being self-aware and deeply empathetic. I had an epiphany today though that made me realize maybe sometimes I get too lost inside myself and I do not try hard enough to understand others.

Case in point:

One of my friends from my old job is an ENFJ. She took the test not long after I did, years ago. I never looked into the details of her personality type, I understand it on a basic level because I understand the test and the results. Also, she and I had a discussion years ago about our two personality types after we both took the test so I gained a little knowledge there as well. An area where she and I relate well, especially in terms of work, is that we are both concerned with keeping the peace. Neither of us like conflict and are both interested in a harmonious work environment. I always appreciated this about her, there was usually very little conflict in the office since we both made this such a high priority.

Recently we got together outside of the office setting to catch up. We were talking about what is going on in both of our personal lives right now as well as her filling me in on what is happening at the office. She told me a story about an issue that came up and how she handled it. I have to say I was a bit surprised with the way she chose to handle the issue. She had to compromise herself and what she stands for to a degree in order to reach a resolution. I was perplexed. How could she do that? Why didn’t she stand her ground? It’s not that I was judging her for the compromise she made, I just had trouble understanding it. I can absolutely be flexible especially in the name of conflict resolution but I wont compromise one of my values for it. If this is my only option my gut reaction would be to push back and stand my ground. The resolution is secondary to my value system.

We finished our time together and said our goodbyes but I found that even days later I was still thinking about her story. I felt bad for her, imagining how I would feel in her same situation but at the same time I had trouble empathizing because every time I tried I would think, “But I would never let this happen!” How are you not a hypocrite to some degree if you stand for something and then fold back on it in times of conflict? I do not mean to call my friend a hypocrite or shame her for her decision, it is just my thought process, it’s me trying to understand.

After some time I decided to look up the details of her personality type. I read something that really helped me better understand my friend and myself for  that matter.

When faced with a conflict between a strongly-held value and serving another person’s need, they are highly likely to value the other person’s need.

Well shit, I get it now. The ENFJ is apparently considered The Giver. This makes total sense now. This is my friend to a T, and I see now where her motivations lie and why she chooses to handle things the way she does. It isn’t that her personal values are not important and worth fighting for but, true to form, she puts others first. This is not to say she is a martyr that does not know her own self worth either, she is a very strong woman. She does things for the greater good though. What may look like hypocrisy on the outside is really just her being completely authentic to her way of being. Here is the thing I have to understand, her way of being is different than mine.

I am a humanist and I measure my success by the positive impact I am able to have on the lives of others BUT there are areas where I will not compromise and I am stubborn to a fault on this matter. My personality type leans this way to begin with, I think my particular disposition further comes from the fact that when I was younger, and not at all self-aware, I did compromise my values and for a while I carried some regret.

It was a like a light was turned on when I read this though. I need to remember that everyone’s motivations come from different places and just because people handle situations differently than I would it does not make them wrong, or hypocritical or in any other way inauthentic. It is just different, that is all. I was a little disappointed in my gut reaction to her story but thankful for my introspection and that I took the time to reflect and try to better understand her.

It gave me even more appreciation for her when I thought about it after. Sher cares enough about the greater good and well being of others that she is willing to make that compromise. That is really something.

I cannot be what I am not

balance

In life a challenge everyone faces is balance. Keeping balance in your everyday life is an important part of being a grounded, happy human being. When it comes to balance in my daily life the biggest challenge I face is keeping my emotionally driven personality in check. I am constantly trying to put my feelings toward any given thing into perspective, always trying to keep my eye on the bigger picture.

The problem I  face is that for me everything revolves around how I feel. Logic, statistics and analytical thought do not usually play a role in my decision making process. Being so far to one side of the scale in this aspect of my personality poses a real danger for me slipping into extremes. This is something I am afraid of and keep a wary eye on because I do not want to lose touch with reality.

Todd and I had a discussion this morning about something that has been bothering me and how I plan to handle it. I, like many Americans, walk around blissfully unaware of a lot of the yuck going on around me in society. When something is brought to my attention, however, it is difficult for me to ignore it and pretend it is not there. This is especially true when I have some level of control over whatever the thing is.

I do have a level of perspective about this, I know that I cannot single-handedly change all the defects of our society. I have to choose my battles and my causes. I do not have it in me to fight for every cause out there. However, I can choose what is best for me personally and not give my support financially to a company with immoral business practices for example. This is something small but it is what feels right.

What disappoints me so often is our society’s level of greed and what people and companies are willing to do for money. I see things and hear about things happening that are just wrong. Really wrong. But it is allowed to happen, there are no laws stopping it or those in place are loose and not often upheld.

I am not trying to change the world, I do not have the energy for that, but I don’t want to be part of the problem when I am aware of it and can make the decision not to be. It is exhausting to care this much but I would still rather be an exhausted person of principle than a carefree hypocrite as often as possible.

Identity: How we are seen, how we see ourselves

“You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. You are the all singing, all dancing crap of the world.”
Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

3585022424de7bdb0e5224ad18181072

Todd and I have been talking lately about our next car. Like the responsible ISTJ he is he managed to pay off his car loan early. I think close to a year early actually. So having not had a car payment for quite sometime and the recent addition of a large dog into our home he has started thinking about the next vehicle and what makes sense. He has decided we need a size upgrade so when he is ready he is going to look at SUVs. I must admit a piece of me is jealous.

It’s not just that he will get to drive an SUV while I am stuck in a car (I have never liked cars since being in a bad accident when I was 14). It’s the fact that I already know when the time comes for me to get another car I will be getting a minivan! It is what makes sense for us though. By the time I am ready for a new car we will either already be one child in or at least ready to start having children. When I was in high school my cousin and I always used to say we would never be “minivan moms” we were going to be the cool moms who drove SUVs. Well uncool or not I have grown up and watched my girlfriends struggle with baby seats in the back of their SUVs and cars plus at times not having enough room for all the extras you tote around not to mention trying to fit additional people in your vehicle. I realized it just doesn’t make sense.

Todd and I were talking about minivans and my silly ideas about them. Believe me, I know they are silly I do not need to be told. What would be more ridiculous though is not getting a minivan when the time comes because somehow I have attached my identity as a person to the car I drive. Or I allowed my ego to get in the way of what makes the most sense for my family. Anyway, Todd says Volvo makes a minivan so at least I have that. Half kidding, I do kind of love Volvos.

This whole idea of feeling less than because of the car I drive got me thinking bigger picture about my identity, about individual identity in general. What do we think of ourselves? Where does our self-worth stem from? How does this compare to how others view us? Are the two ideas in line with each other or are they incredibly skewed?

For example, They say the clothes make the man, what do my clothes say about me and how much do I let what I wear speak for me?

I think my style is feminine, relatively conservative and comfortable but always put together. I will usually pick a colorful flat over a heel to save my feet but I am not a t-shirt and jeans girl.

So I wonder what kind of first impression I give? What I always strive for is approachable. And in thinking about it I do identify with what I wear. I am not proud of it but I can honestly say I don’t feel as much like myself running around in a t-shirt and jeans, I actually don’t really own any t-shirts. I acknowledge that there is a degree of superficiality in allowing my mood to be affected by what I am wearing but I do care about how I represent myself in public. While I accept that this makes me superficial on some level I also feel it is about self-respect though and possibly even being respectful of those around me.

Let me elaborate a little, if I know I have a meeting with someone I will dress accordingly. It shows that I care, showing the person I am meeting with I take them seriously therefore have shown up put together. Not to mention in terms of the work world most companies care about how the people they hire represent them. I realize when I am out in the world I am not just representing myself but others as well. That means something to me.

When it comes to my identity, I do not want to be defined by material things ultimately. My car, clothes, jewelry, phone. I have never been into status symbols etc. I also don’t want to be solely identified by the roles I play in life.

Mother, Social Worker, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Friend. I have talked many times about wanting to be the same version of myself across the board, striving for authenticity. My hope is that as I go through life I am able to stay true to who I am in all of these different roles and that come across to those I interact with. I realize my children will only ever really thinking of me as their mother but I hope as they get older when they think of me it is more than just “Mom”. I hope my affection, support, empathy and compassion shines through.

I feel this way about all of the roles I will play in life. I don’t want to just be “Jill the Social Worker” or “Jill, Todd’s wife”. When people think of me I hope who I am transcends just the title I hold in their life.

 

Futher down the path of self discovery

As far back as I can remember I have been curios about things. About the world, about people, about the way things work, about myself, about a greater meaning. At almost 30 years old the few wrinkles I have are on my forehead, Todd says it is because I have an “inquisitive brow”. My brow is frequently raised in question.

Last night on the drive home we discussed movement and time and inertial frames. I asked Todd why when in a car going 65 mph we do not feel that we are going that fast? This may seem like a dumb question but the truth is I was curious and I didn’t quite understand. This led to a very interesting physics conversation and I am sure it further deepened the wrinkles on my inquisitive brow. That’s OK, there is a cream for that. 😉

This morning I started my next book. When in Chicago a few months ago we were in a bookstore at the hospital downtown. I wandered into the section where all the psychology titles are kept and stumbled into a book that immediately captured my attention., Dr. Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person. Todd was off somewhere in literature or history so I took the time to start reading. I got about 13 pages in when it was time to go. I decided not to purchase the book at that time because I had 3 at home I needed to get through first. Well I got through those 3, as well as a few more I added to the list, and am finally able to start this one.

I have been excited to read this book in its entirety as just the few pages I did read raised so many questions for me. Based on what I have read and researched on my own, I easily identify with being a Highly Sensitive Person. I think most INFPs given the information probably would, I think it just comes with this personality type. We are intuitive, at times hypersensitive to our surroundings whether it be sight, smell, temperature, or even the change in a person’s mood. This coupled with the fact that we are feelers leads to a higher level of sensitivity naturally.

Although I am finding this book to be quite interesting and as I am reading I find myself nodding my head in agreement with many of Dr. Aron’s findings I still have a level skepticism about it. I think it mainly comes from the fact that the book is written to the HSP. It is written with the assumption that you are reading because you are highly sensitive and looking for insight into yourself. Therefore the book reads almost as a self-help.

I do not know why but for some reason I have always had a funny taste in my mouth about self-help books. I am sure they can in fact be very helpful but I think it is the whole idea of confirmation bias that bothers me. For example, anyone that is feeling a certain way about anything could go find an article online or book that validates how they feel and then suddenly any opportunity for growth is extinguished because “it’s not me, it’s the rest of the world”. Ya know?

I think it was Aristotle that talked about an educated mind is one that can entertain a thought without accepting it. I feel like that is how this kind of thing should always be approached. Stay curious and always ask questions. Like I said that is what made me interested in this book to begin with. Sure, I recognize a lot of myself and my personality in what I am reading but the real reason I am intrigued by this book is the questions it raises in me. Questions I have to answer on my own. I don’t necessarily buy all of what Dr. Aron is selling here but it is a jumping point for further exploration and hopefully an opportunity for continued self-awareness and growth.

Restlessness while preparing for more change

When I was 7 I had a white canopy bed made of ornately carved wood and covered with a pink ruffled fabric. I loved that bed. It was my first real big girl bed, it was quite special. At night I had trouble sleeping, however, because the pretty pink ruffled canopy would cast strange shadows on the walls. I would lay in bed awake trying not to notice the unusual shapes dancing on my walls as the ruffles rustled tirelessly thanks to the gusts of air my ceiling fan created.

These are my first memories of the restless nights that have plagued me most of my life. My brain has always had trouble shutting off at night. I have always been sensitive to light and noise at bed time but even in a dark room absent of sound my mind will buzz and click with inane information until finally it falls silent releasing me into slumber. I have learned tricks over the years that help but nothing that has resolved the issue completely. It’s funny the things that become woven into the fabric of who we are.

As my return to work gets closer I notice it is already becoming harder for me to fall asleep at night. I know it will get better once I have been back for a few days though. The constant conversations completely drain me and by the end of the day I don’t want to talk to anyone and I am ready for sleep. This is where I dance that line between introversion and extraversion. I enjoy the interactions but it is not where my energy comes from.

I am slightly anxious, as I always am for my first day anywhere, but also very much looking forward to return to work next week. I am excited to work with my patients again, most of whom I have not seen for years, plus all the new patients I will meet. I also feel like I have something to prove to myself in going back to this employer. When I left I was in the midst of my depression and although somehow I was able to keep the turmoil of my personal life from running over into work I still felt a bit defeated when I left. In a way I felt like I let the place get the best of me and I was disappointed in myself. I know that not much has changed since I have left and so I have a good idea of what to expect when I return. None of this reflects my feelings about the people I will be working with, they are all lovely and I have kept in touch with almost everyone since I left. The issue has always been on the policy and procedure end of things.

I look at my brief time back with this employer as a personal challenge to maintain authenticity to myself while dealing with the stress and politics that come with working in this office. I did pretty well last time but in keeping true to myself my spirit was broken a bit (it’s a long story for another time). This time I want to maintain my resolve, like I previously did, but not lose confidence or become discouraged in the process. I am curious to see what the outcome of this quasi-experiment will be 6-7 months from now.

Impenetrable

No matter how hard we work at life, no level of achievement (internal or external) will ever raise us so high as to be beyond judgement. I had an epiphany while reading this week. A former professor published a book about striving for authenticity, the subject matter suits me perfectly. I agreed to do a book review for him so I have been rereading certain chapters as a way of getting my thoughts together before I begin writing the review.

I have had my fair share of negative critiques in life. This is to be expected, navigating your teens and twenties is a dangerous business, few make it out without some scars. I know for a fact that I have been to blame for emotional scars on others and I acquired a few of mine own as well. I have regret about those I hurt and know that it was not done with intention or malice. I was not, am not and never will be perfect however so all I can do is own my mistakes, apologize for injuries I have caused, learn and grow. The first two I have covered, the second two will always be a work in progress.

The challenge is

– Knowing which critiques are worth processing and which are not worth the time.

– Not always feeling the need to defend ourselves or our actions.

– Understanding that while we may have good intentions in life that is not true for everyone. Some people are just being cruel or catty, do not dwell. Their words have less to do with us and more with them.

– Forgiving those who do mean us harm in their words. They need it.

In life we will always face a level of criticism whether it has foundation or not. The ultimate goal is to face judgement, whether it has constructive benefit or not, and not lose our self-confidence over it. Learn from it, grow from it, but do not allow someone’s harsh words shake you into self-doubt.

Post 101: A look back

A little over a year after I started this blog I am at my 101st post. So much can happen in a year, I don’t think I ever really appreciated the truth in that statement until I began documenting my life in this way.  In one years time..

I left a job

Returned to school full-time

Completed my AA

My brother and his family moved back to FL

I have had 3 colds and the flu

I have read roughly 8.5 novels (I have a tendency to pick some up and put them down)

Landed on the Dean’s list as well as the President’s list for my grades

Completed my college math courses once and for all

Cut all of my hair off

I have written 3 research papers

Done 40+ hours of volunteer work

Attended one funeral

Participated in one wedding

Become engaged

Todd and I moved into the house we will start our future in together

We have taken 7 vacations

Celebrated one anniversary

Not to mention too many girls nights, date nights, family gatherings and card nights to count.

It was a good year. I have been lucky to have a few of those in the recent past. I have a feeling that isn’t something that will be changing either and for that I am grateful. A lot has changed in me as a person in the last year as well and I am equally grateful for that. I am more excited than I have ever been for the year ahead of me. The next 100 posts see me turning 30, returning to work temporarily, various events leading up to and including my wedding day, the start of the social work program I have been impatiently anticipating and who knows what else. After all, it isn’t as if I can predict the future. Whatever lies ahead of me I at least know with certainty I am on the right path. I think that is about all a person can ask for really.

 

 

 

Let’s unpack that box

This is what my grief counselor would say when we would come up against something deep-rooted that I clearly struggle with. During my dark time I saw him weekly for two months. I have said before that the right counselor can change your whole life. Together we did a lot of unpacking. I stopped seeing him when we had come to a good place and everything surrounding my acute depression had been worked through. The plan of action at that point was to unpack some of my bigger, older boxes. The ones in the back of your mind that you have tucked away and do not open. I wasn’t ready. Maybe one day.

I had an epiphany about one of these boxes recently after reading an article that relates to it. I had/have abandonment issues. Honestly I don’t know where I stand with it now. I know my fear of being left and being devastated has surfaced in my current relationship because I used to have repetitive dreams about it. I would dream that I did something awful and Todd left me and I could not fix it (similar to my most recent break up before him except in that relationship I did the leaving). I would dream that Todd became ill or was in a terrible accident and left my life that way. There were multiple themes that all lead up to the same thing, me waking up in a panic in his arms saying “you left me again”.

There is a song by City and Colour, a band I relate to so well because the singer struggles with anxiety, called Fragile Bird. This song, like many of his songs, is one I easily relate to. Or I did at least. My nightmares stopped when we became engaged. It’s like my subconscious finally relented.

When discussing my issues with abandonment my counselor and I determined with a degree of certainty they do not come from my childhood or family. I have no sad story to tell about an absent parent etc, I am fortunate to come from a close-knit family that has always been a shining example of love. We didn’t delve much deeper into it as other things would come up.

It all kind of hit me not long ago. My abandonment issues surface exclusively in my relationships with men, boyfriends to be more specific.

My first exposure to a strong emotional bond with a boy came at age 14, just a few months before my car accident. After the accident I clung to that relationship with ferocity. I looked damaged for a while due to all the stitches in my face and the laser surgery treatments that followed. When I returned to school some people were cruel or just curious, either way I felt singled out for the wrong reasons at times. My boyfriend made me feel better about all of it. My emotional state was stable because of him, I was completely dependent. That first dose of “love” is strong anyway, especially when you are younger and maturity hasn’t caught up with you, add a life altering event and forget about it.

He is the only boy who has ever left me. I was devastated. We had been together for 3 years, that is a huge chunk of life at that age. When he left it was to be with one of my best friends, even more devastating. Although a lot was said at the end the words that were burned into my brain were him saying, “the only reason I stayed as long as I did is because if I had broken up with you right after the accident like I wanted to everyone at school would have thought I was an asshole.” Well he was probably right. So he stuck it out and faked it with me for 3 years, a much better alternative. Then there were my friend’s kind words, “it’s not my fault he likes me better than you.” I am sure she was right, she too was just a blameless victim.

The thing is, that was a very long time ago and I did not date for a while after that. When I sat down and really thought this all through after reading this article I just could not believe that something that happened when I was 14-17 could impact every relationship after in the way that it did. I am seeing this to be true though.

In every other relationship I have had I have always been the one leaving rather than the one being left. I never once thought about how hurtful my actions on the way out the door may have been to the other person. My problem (on top of this hang up that I was unaware I had) is that I avoid conflict and I am a feeler. If I am being forced to deal with the conflict of a break up along with my extreme fear of being left alone and then you throw the negative feeling of a broken heart on top of that, I am consumed. The emotions that come along with such changes, as moving on from a relationship, are so intense for me that rational thought escapes me. I am become a tornado of emotions.

Looking back I wish I had understood this side of myself sooner. The relationships that ended needed to end and I was always better on the other side. I did better with my most recent break up before I started dating Todd. I was in counseling at the time and my then boyfriend and I were such good friends that we navigated it slightly better than I have in the past. I am glad I ended up where I am at. I am glad I left everything else I just wish I had done it sooner in most cases and with more grace. If you know there is a personality conflict that cannot be changed and will not work, why stay? If you know you are being lied to on the daily, why stay? If you know you do not love the person and see a future with them, why stay?

The funny thing is, I do single really well. Some of the best times I had in my teens and twenties was just me, no guy. I liked the freedom, a lot. What was I so afraid of? With Todd my fear has never truly been that we wouldn’t work out. We have never had issues that would give me such a fear. I think it’s just that once you find something that really works and that you can love with your whole heart there is a piece of you that is afraid that it will be taken away.

I do feel that this fear is finally dying. It won’t be mourned and certainly will not be missed.

 

Challenge Accepted!

For as long as I can remember I have struggled in a dichotomy between confidence and complete lack there of. I fluctuate between  knowing exactly who I am, being confident and self-assured to then suddenly feeling inadequate and having a defeatist attitude of not being “good enough”.  At any given time I feel I am walking on a taut shoe string and the slightest breeze can push me the wrong way. In these moments of self-doubt I feel like a phony further amplifying the negative self talk I am experiencing.

In my INFP personality my “P” keeps me loose and fluid, I am not rigid or severely structured in terms of lifestyle. This does not ring true for everything though. I am a perfectionist when it comes to my interactions with the world. To explain further, what I mean is I hold myself to a very high standard in my role as an employee, a student, a fiance, a daughter, a sister, a friend, etc. You get the idea. I may be haphazard in my daily life as far as being clumsy and a bit scatter brained but when it comes to my relationships, significant or minor, I am incredibly hard on myself. I am always striving to be better, I will never be satisfied with what I am giving. I will always want to give more, do more, be more.

I do this to myself, there is no one to fault but me for the pressure I am constantly under. It is difficult at times. An example of this is the many “speed bumps” I have encountered as a returning student. More plans have fallen through than those that have worked out and when this kind of thing happens my immediate response has always been to go to a place of self-doubt. This week specifically I found out that there is a chance I will have to add a class to my work load next semester ( a class that I am not naturally good at and will require quite a bit of effort on my part to do well in). The initial thought of this sent me into a bit of a tail spin. I will be working full-time at a demanding job (emotionally as well as mentally) while already taking one class I do not excel in easily. Finding out that I may have to add another very demanding/difficult class to that already heavy emotional/mental load made me feel scared and unsure of myself. My first thought, “I can’t do it”.

I am embarrassed and frustrated to admit that was my basic gut reaction to such news. I have never been blind to the fact that I beat up on myself in this way. I have never cared to work on it though because as bad as I may make myself feel at times this negative inner voice is also my constant drive to be better, do more and give more. After a day of processing this new information I had a complete attitude adjustment.

Here is my conclusion:

First off, what is wrong with me!? When life throws a challenge my way my gut reaction should be “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!!” in a roar of a voice. Not, “Oh I can’t, I want to give up”. I am ashamed and with all the other positive changes I am making in my life this should be at the very top of my list!

In addition, I realize my drive has always been to be better because I have never felt good enough. Even coming from a negative place this attitude has produced incredible results in me. I have a huge drive and am always pushing myself. Going forward I need to be striving to be better knowing that I am already good enough but there is always room for growth. That seems like a much healthier attitude that will produce the same great results.

Finally, when I feel that pang of “I am not good enough” or “I can’t” coming on I need to remind myself regularly that I am doing this as we speak! I have changed my entire life and way of thinking in the span of three years time. I have a vision of the person I want to be and I am taking all the right steps to get there regardless of how difficult the path in front of me is. At the end of the day I need to remember that I can and I am already doing this. I am capable of anything, this is corny and cliché I know but shit it’s true.

Last night Todd and I talked for hours about everything herein. I fell asleep feeling strong and sure. I just needed to pause for introspection and really see where I was wrong and how my attitude needed to change. Now instead of feeling fear or anxiety about next semester I am ready take it on and prove to myself once and for all, I can handle it and I am absolutely good enough.

She was intelligent and reserved

Yesterday was another girls night, not in the traditional sense, however. My Aunt has a Bunko night once a month with a group of girlfriends and this month my mother, my sister-in-law and myself were invited to join. It was themed, “pajama party”. So there we were, 22 grown women, in our pajamas, rolling dice for money. It was a good time. It was a rambunctious pack of women though. I looked at my sister-in-law when we got there, a fellow introvert, and whispered, “Energy suckers, the whole lot of them”. I was right, by the time I got home last night I crashed, my energy level was zero.

I went to my Mom’s house before Bunko in order to spend time with my niece and nephew as well as ride with my Mom and sister to the party. I was sitting at the kitchen bar talking with my Mom and sister while my Mom was making dinner, we were talking about my Mom’s Mom, Nana.

Nana died when I was 9. It was my first exposure to death and although I handled it OK in the moment there were repercussions. It was September I think, my Mother and I were “back to school” shopping. This was in the time of pagers when cell phones were new and next to no one had one. I am not quite sure how the nursing facility got a hold of my Mom but some how they did because our Mother-Daughter day was canceled and we bee-lined it over to the facility. My Mom didn’t want me to be there, Nana had taken a turn and was fading out fast. When we got there she tried to call Daddy but he and my brother were driving back from a camping trip and did not have a cell phone, she left a message on the machine at home hoping he would get home soon and come to pick me up. Auntie was already on her way. With no other alternative Mom and the nurse sat me next to Nana’s bedside and told me I could hold her hand and talk to her (Oh my God, why did I just start crying. You think you have moved past something and then suddenly it surfaces)…

So, I remember the nurse telling me that I could talk to her, “she can still hear you”. Mom had to go and make some calls, she had no choice but to leave me there. That was OK with me. I didn’t fully understand what was happening but I wanted to sit with her. Her eyes were fixed on the ceiling, I remember I didn’t know what to say, I think I just said “I love you”.

Dad did eventually come for me and we left. Mom came home later and sat my brother and I down to tell us she had died. It didn’t mean much to me, I didn’t really get it. That night we already had plans to get together with Auntie and the family to celebrate birthdays and they decided to keep the plans. Primarily because my Mom wanted to be with her sister I think. I played with my brother and cousins like always, I was fine. It was on the way home that I wasn’t fine anymore. I started to understand that dying means I don’t get to see you anymore. I was angry and confused and could not be consoled, I feel bad for my Mom. She just lost her mother and as strong as she was trying to be, how do you keep it together when your 9-year-old is hurting and doesn’t understand? I don’t know how she was strong enough to not break down with me. I don’t remember it well but I know they had me meet with a counselor or someone from hospice a few times after to help with it all.

The thing about my Nana is that I didn’t know her well. Even when I was 9 I felt cheated. My Mom doesn’t really talk about it but there was some distance in their relationship that kept us from seeing Nana for a few years. When Nana got sick Mom and Auntie swooped in to take care of her and we got to start spending time with her again, but I didn’t know her. My memories of her consist of the night gowns she wore and how her hands were always cold. As an adult I have always wished I knew her better as a person. I feel like it would shed light on so many things.. My Mom has told me stories but nothing that ever made me feel like I knew her any better for it, until last night.

We were talking about the wedding and my upcoming 30th birthday and just life.. In this I explained how I can feel the page turning in my life and I as this happens I am working towards other changes (outside of getting married, pursuing my degree and turning 30) to ultimately become the person I want to be. I was talking to them about trying to be more deliberate in my life and living with purpose and how one thing I am currently focusing on eliminating is gossip (as I explained in a previous post). Like I previously explained nothing is coming from a negative, catty place but in general I don’t want to fill any time with frivolous talk. This kind of thing is not in line with what I am working towards as a well-rounded adult. This got us talking about Nana.

Mom explained that there were some women involved in the church that Nana stayed away from for this very reason. All they ever did was talk about each other and it wasn’t just the typical “Did you hear who is dating who?” gossip that I am referencing but the hurtful talk that can be quite damaging. Mom said that Nana would not involve herself in it, “she was an intelligent woman and was reserved”. Apparently because of her decision to shy away from such nonsense she would, at times, become the fodder for such gossip. This did not sway her.

I felt a beam of pride surface in my belly. For the first time in my life I felt able to relate to this woman whom I have never known and always wanted to know. I had a picture of her in my mind with her head held high against the nonsense, not allowing herself to be sucked in or affected by it. It made so much sense to me. My Mom has always been my bible on how to “rise above” in difficult situations. She knows what it means to be a lady in this sense of the word, and how to take the high road. Well she had to have learned it somewhere, right? Maybe Nana never sat down and said the words to her but through her actions as a classy, sensible woman she taught my mother what it meant to be this way. In this I have found my missing connection to my Nana. The lessons she taught my mother are the very lessons that have helped me persevere in trying times and they are the same lessons that will one day help my daughter. Maybe this is her legacy.

After listening to my Mother’s story about her mother I was left hoping that one day, when I am gone, my daughter will remember me the same way.

Our hands are collectively dirty

I had my first spanish test today and I am pretty sure I will be getting an A. I went crazy studying (as I always do with the first test in any class) and I don’t think half of the material I covered even appeared on the exam. Oh well, I would rather over compensate than come up short.

In spanish my professor helps us understand third person subject pronouns by saying they are used when you are gossiping, when you talking about someone. When I was driving home from class today this got me thinking…

A bit of truth, I am human therefore I gossip. But hey so are you, making us all guilty in this together. I bet you are thinking, “Wait pump the breaks, I am no gossip”. That’s cool, I do not consider myself a gossip either. I am not back-biting, I am not malicious or drama seeking, all these characteristics that come to mind when you throw the word gossip out there. My form of gossip consists of sharing information with my close friends.

Here is the thing, gossip and slander do not always go hand in hand, one does not necessarily equate to the other. Gossip is just talking about other people and their business. Sharing that someone is pregnant, that a friend got a new job, that your sister got engaged, that your friend’s father passed away, these are examples of gossip. Gossip can absolutely be catty, venomous and hurtful as well. Look at rumors or even information based on fact. So someone did something that others would look on negatively, it is their business no one elses.

I had never really considered any of this before. No girl wants to be labeled a gossip but we all are. The vast majority of us are regardless of gender, religion, sexuality, race. It is human nature making it universal. When I first started uncovering the layers of what I am really talking about here I had to stop in order to absorb it. I started thinking about the stuff that I talk about with my close girlfriends, water cooler talk at past jobs, idle talk with my family.. This recent cognition certainly makes me more aware of what comes out of my mouth. No one can get through life without using the words, he, she , they etc, which means we always talk about each other. I plan to be more cognizant of it though, especially when talking about the hes, shes and theys that I long ago decided were not worth my time, they are not worth my words either.

Emotional Intelligence

When I was in high school 10+ years ago a lot of emphasis was put on IQ, GPA, SAT Scores, etc. Never did I hear anything about EQ, however. EQ is a person’s emotional intelligence level. This is what we are looking at in terms of emotional intelligence:

Emotional intelligence consists of four attributes:

  • Self-awareness – You recognize your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior, know your strengths and weaknesses, and have self-confidence.
  • Self-management – You’re able to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, manage your emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances.
  • Social awareness – You can understand the emotions, needs, and concerns of other people, pick up on emotional cues, feel comfortable socially, and recognize the power dynamics in a group or organization.
  • Relationship management – You know how to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team, and manage conflict.

At my core I have always considered myself kind, mature, moral, essentially filled with important attributes that can lead to emotional maturity and ultimately emotional intelligence but I was not there, nowhere near actually.

My break through came while I was in grief counseling 3 years ago. As good of a person as I have tried to be in my life and as good as my intentions had been yp to that point the truth is, I was walking around in the dark. My counseling began with my grief and not being able to cope with an important loss, but as I healed the counseling continued. The first ray of light came when my counselor pointed out that in everything that goes wrong in a person’s life there is always one common denominator, the person. I am the constant. There for I am the link to everything that is ever going to go right or wrong for me. I will always play a part in these things. This is why I believe with conviction I have never been a victim to anyone or any situation. I, for the first time in my 27 years, was able to see my part in everything that had ever happened in my life. It seemed like such a small thing, this sudden self-awareness, but it came down on me like a ton of bricks.

I am the common denominator to everything that will ever happen in my life, chew on that for a minute, really digest it. It is a statement that can change your entire outlook on life, it did for me. Thus began my journey towards self-actualization.

I went from blaming my ex-boyfriends for past relationships not working out to realizing, well I had an undiagnosed anxiety disorder so I am sure that didn’t make anything easier. I was, for the first time, able to see things from the point of view of the person who hurt me. That doesn’t take any guilt off of their hands per say, it just allowed me to see the guilt on mine as well.

The next step in counseling was to work on managing my feelings. As an INFP I am loaded with emotions and controlling them has not always been easy, especially in times of duress such as my bout with depression. So I learned tools to help. Ultimately my self-awareness is what has changed me the most. Since everything that took place in my life three years ago I have been on a mission to work on myself and improve my life. I have been self-correcting and eliminating bad habits in an effort to become the person I know I meant to be. I want to feel complete and I know that all the work I have been doing on myself, internally and externally will help me reach my life goal.

One thing I am incredibly thankful for is that Todd came into my life during this transition process. He saw me at the tail end of something bad and has been my biggest cheerleader as I work towards my something better. Everything I have learned about myself and others I have been able to apply to our relationship. This is why our communication is so good and we never fight. We understand each other at the core of who the other is and we accept and support each other. I have never had this level of understanding from any relationship in my life, that includes with my own family, although my brother does come close. That is a great feeling, just to be understood.