Spirit Animals…hmmm

When I first started to respond to the realization that I was unraveling, breaking down, I wanted to share with others what I was learning. I wanted to save others the trouble of falling apart, and give them a pat on the back for putting themselves first. So I volunteered to give a talk at our local wellness network. This is a group of other child care providers like myself with whom I feel comfortable and that they would benefit from hearing my story.

In the process of preparing a presentation, I came across an image that I have clung to throughout this process.

This image became a guide for me in a way, and I have been integrating reminders throughout my life in the form of jewelry, knick knacks, stickers…it helps to be cued whenever my mind wanders! It doesn’t hurt that I love the ocean…

Finding a spirit animal, or at least a favorite animal, can give a little direction, a little inspiration, and even a little hope. For a more in depth view on spirit animals, check out a guest blog

And by the way, here’s a little about my symbol of choice:

The Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, known as “Honu,” symbolizes good luck, endurance and long life. Turtles can show up as a person’s guardian spirit, known as “Aumakua.” When lost, turtles are excellent navigators and often find their way home.Nov 3, 2014

The Meaning Behind Hawaiian Symbols | Walk Stories™ – OluKai

*Anyway, the presentation was well received: we brainstormed signs of depression, possible strategies, and I shared some quotes that seemed to reach folks. I was touched by the common issues we have all been facing and the openness that flourished in the room that night. See my next post for more about this…

Witnessing vulnerability…

This morning I had the distinct privilege of watching two women lift each other up. It was really wonderful and such a simple, but powerful, moment.

Two women with kids close in age, playing same sports, both experiencing similar personal challenges…just casual acquaintances on Facebook. One posts lots of quotes/statements relating to her struggle and triumph, and the other comes over and says “thank you for what you post, I’m in a similar situation and I love reading your thoughts” (or similar to that effect). The response is a shared smile and subsequent conversation about how great it feels to reclaim our free will, our independence, our joy…we need to be who we are and have the support of each other!

A few specific things stuck out for me:

  • Both women took an emotional, social risk. BRAVO!
  • If we don’t lift each other up, then who will?
  • Sharing helps. Just sitting there watching the looks on their faces as I listened, I could see the effect.
  • You just never know what people are struggling with, so err on the side of kindness and compassion.

Being Authentic:

Being your most authentic self is scary, nerve wracking, difficult, but also rewarding, worth it, and gets easier.

I have never been a fan of people who act phony, but it was something I was guilty of myself at times. Letting others see who you are, and know what you think requires taking a personal, and sometimes professional, risk. And it can come with a cost.

So what do we gain from authenticity:

  • Confidence
  • Community
  • Friendship
  • Security (emotional)
  • Respect
  • Appreciation
  • Opportunity (for growth among others types)

And from being disingenuous we gain:

  • Casual, sometimes shallow, relationships
  • Popularity (short term)
  • Polite interactions
  • Isolation
  • Mistrust

Keep in mind, this is just my opinion…and feel free to add to either list. And in my opinion, phony, fake, are not desired, but maybe that works for some people…just not me.

It’s important to be yourself, to show our children how to be true to their beliefs and values, to provide a model of heathy emotions relationships and interactions, to foster personal growth and challenge each other to do more, be better.

It has taken me a long time and many struggles, but I am finally embracing authenticity as one of my core values. The truth isn’t always pretty, but in a respectful and unconditional relationship, it can be accepted and sorted out.

I love this definition by Diane Mottl, MSW

“Being authentic means coming from a real place within. It is when our actions and words are congruent with our beliefs and values. It is being ourselves, not an imitation of what we think we should be or have been told we should be”

And one of my inspirations has a lot to say about authenticity that truly match what’s in my head-she just says it so well!!

The phrase “daily practice” is a clear reminder that it takes effort, it mandates that you choose to be authentic.

She’s not wrong! Since I’ve been on this journey, this breakdown, crisis, unraveling, I’ve been noticing that being who I really am, or more to the point, NOT being myself, has been at the root of many facets of my struggle.

One more piece of the puzzle…

Talking with a friend today, we got to a subject I avoid: my dad. Well, how when dads leave us as kids, the way we feel and how it impacts us for years to come… As an adult, I get it now: he wasn’t capable of being a parent, and didn’t know how, and quite frankly, was told to get lost by my (amazing) no-nonsense mom.

When I think about that time in my childhood, it’s kind of blurry. I had a dad in my life, around the house. Then my memories skip to when he wasn’t around. I don’t have strong feelings from that time, I was kind of just gliding along like it was no big thing (mom: maybe I acted out or something, but I have no recollection).

The feelings of rejection and being abandoned came later. Much later. And with those also came anger, worthlessness, confusion.

I had what most would call a normal home with family that loved me, including a step dad who turned out to be soooo much better than the “real” thing, and a mom who worked hard and sacrificed a lot for us (despite my ignorance to this fact). For all intents and purposes, I had a good life.

Well here’s the thing: when someone who gives you life, DNA, biology (you get it) leaves your life, and you’re a child who is still learning what love is, looking for where you belong, who you are…you take it personally. Maybe not at first, or like others, maybe all at once, or whatever…it took me awhile, but eventually I felt it. I felt defective, broken, unworthy.

Why would he leave me? Wasn’t I special? Wasn’t I good enough? Wasn’t I enough?

As an adolescent, I still saw him and his side of the family from time to time. As I began to learn more about him, and got to know him better, two things started to happen: I began to understand that he was NOT capable of being a father and I decided that he should have tried harder. Why didn’t he try harder?”

Anyway, long story short…despite the fact that it was best for me in some ways, his leaving/being kicked out shaped me for years, still impacts how I conduct myself, and influences who I am. That being said, I’ve worked through a lot of it, and I no longer feel so angry. I’m sad for him, after all, he missed out. But he does the best he can within his own limits. And it’s not just me, I wasn’t the problem. I didn’t do anything wrong. I am enough.

But along the way, those feelings of worthlessness and abandonment led me to make poor choices at times…so tell yourself (or someone who may have had a similar experience):

  • You didn’t do anything wrong
  • Dad has limits, he can’t do more.
  • It’s not about you, though it feels like it, it really isn’t.
  • You are worthy of love and belonging.
  • You are enough. Just as you are.

Worth the Trouble

So I just listened to yet another Ted Talk that I got something out of…it was entitled Beautiful New Words to Describe Obscure Emotions by John Koenig. Find the link here

In this talk, he discusses how creating a new word for an emotion makes a person feel less alone, and validated even. He also discusses how “the meaning is not in the words themselves,” and states, “we’re the ones that pour ourselves into it.” This reminds me that our adult brains, our unique and diverse brains, give their own weight to the words we hear, interpret, speak…perspective is given life here! He says, “words are not real. They don’t have meaning, we do.”

He concluded his talk with a quote that I’ve found particularly meaningful. It speaks to the journey I’ve been on these past few months…it’s from Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes.

“Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy but it is still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.”

I agree with this quote whole heartedly, but trouble is the right word-it’s hard to be who you are, to feel comfortable and safe in your own skin. It’s hard to put yourself out there and risk, experience, rejection and criticism. But I have to believe in the end, that it will all be worth it. It has to be, right?