Power of Vulnerability

I have recently come to re-discover the power of vulnerability and I have to say, after overcoming the anxiety/shame mountain associated with this type of choice, I am surprisingly feeling more happy, grateful, peaceful and connected. 🙂 🙂

 

Some History on Me

When I was young, I was very timid and shy. Reflecting back now, I was anxious back then as well due to the circumstances of my life. As I went to high school, and stayed in the same school for more than a year for the first time and was surprisingly accepted instead of bullied, I began to discover what friendship is really like. It was amazing to me that these wonderful people liked me, accepted me, and wanted to get to know me better. Whether acquaintances or long term friends, I was very lucky to be in an environment, for the first time, where I could begin to explore who I was.

I learned that I loved to share. I was curious, caring, affectionate. And most of the time, this vulnerability was met with care and compassion. But after my friendship with my best friend fell apart, the person with whom I was most vulnerable, I became guarded but still open to the possibility of positive friendships, just maybe not ones where I was completely open.

Through university, I eventually formed friendships, often keeping my deepest darkest to myself and only sharing the good in my life. Slowly, I began to share with some close friends that I saw all the time, and many years later I became more vulnerable even with the deepest and darkest. But again, after the end of another friendship where I was the most vulnerable version of myself, I started to wonder what I was doing wrong. Was I sharing too much, was I expecting too much, was I too overwhelming?

 

What I’ve learned Since

Maybe yes. Maybe for some, my vulnerable self was misunderstood. And yes, maybe at times I expected too much from my closest, and maybe yes, I needed to learn to self-soothe so I wouldn’t need others as much. But ….. these are all expected growing pains of people with trauma and attachment issues.

But although it was important to learn these things, being more guarded, independent, self-sufficient came with cons too. Although I did not ‘overwhelm’ others, which I have now learned was more-so my perception than theirs, I also did not share my inner-self with them. And people who truly love me, as corny as it may sound, want to see what’s inside.

Due to circumstances, I re-opened myself up to potential rejection, and became my transparent self again. I felt scared and afraid that I would lose friends if I became too comfortable and shared too often, or be judged/misunderstood like in the past. But I had been too strong for too long, and gave into asking for help.

And to my surprise, I was encompassed in so much love, care, affection, understanding, non-judgement that writing about it now, couple years later, still brings me to tears. The healing power of allowing my true self to show, the good, bad and ugly, allowing myself to not be perfect, to share my not so diplomatic/politically correct thoughts, was not only freeing and uplifting but also just so beautiful.

The happiest times in my life I now realize were not those because I was young or stress free, but because I was optimistic, present and vulnerable.

Connection with others, taught me that vulnerability is an amazing thing. I touched others in my time of need, and allowed them to help me heal. We all healed together. I became even more close to those I considered as family, and this connection is invaluable to me. For a person who has been ridden with shame due to abuse most of her life, this was another experience where I healed and was reminded that I deserve respect, unconditional love and affection.

And most importantly there is no shortage of love  in this world.

Brene Brown’s research is quite accurate for me. Vulnerability is an act of everyday courage and brings connection, gratitude, love, joy and peace into our lives.

Chit Chat.

Minimalist South Asian

As time has been passing on, and I continue on my journey in life, I have developed a lot of positive values 🙂 YAYY!! 🙂

minimalismOne that has been so helpful, is really practicing minimalism. Given that I am an organizational freak …. that is how it started. After having to organize my things all the time, I began to realize how much time and energy was being sucked up by just maintaining my things!

After reading ‘the power of now’ by Ekhart Tolle and ‘the art of tidying up’ I further realized how focusing on these items was not only taking energy and time, but space in my mind, my life, leading to more stress, less happiness. And, the more I reflected, the more I realized that many of these items were not bringing me happiness but were a form of attachment to something from the past.

SO — over the last 1.5 years, I have gotten rid of more than half of my wardrobe, jewellery, etc. I’m still working on my shoes ……shoes…..  I love my shoes that I never wear 😛 😛 Like I said, its a work in progress 😛 And I am loving the increase in peace of mind I have gained with the loss of items. I am loving the time I have to put towards myself, the de-cluttering of my mind, thinking more clearly, being more present, being less stressed, and of course, doing less chores!!

BUT, to be expected, is resistance. I am getting resistance from the south asian culture. With wedding season coming up, I am getting resistance from family members who want me to want to buy new clothes, dress up like a super model, and to like it. This is not who I am anymore. Yes, when I was younger, I enjoyed feeling like a fancy princess, wearing clothes only once with matching jewellery and shoes. Now, I have a lot of indian clothes to donate, as no matter what the rationalization, they just don’t get worn enough! I truly now feel bad for the clothes 😦 Not to mention, the potential child labour that goes along with it and impact on the environment.

So, I am doing my best to fight the confusion, the push back, the peer pressure to fit in and be materialistic as well. But, the joys I get from minimalism far out way the pleasures of dressing like a princess. I still love nice things from time to time, but I put my energy into versatile items that will get enough wear out of it. Until then, I am enjoying wearing my dresses to Indian functions as well as out for dinner. And some versatile indian clothes that I will wear for years to come, in limited numbers, is what I am focusing on. And the interesting and ironic part is that although our culture overtime has become focused on grandeur, our various religions continue to encourage minimalism! So spirituality all the way, there are clear benefits for increasing peace, time and meaning in life. 🙂 🙂 🙂

What do you think?

 

Chit Chat.

Losses and Gains

greif

Shock. Denial. Bargaining. Anger. Sadness. Acceptance?

I have been working hard to work through my grief and the stages of grief, which is more of a cycle then stages.

I have a new client at work, who has experienced a lot of loss. Grief work. I have minimal experience, but good supervision, yet still having doubts. How do I stay with my client and their grief when I have a hard time staying with mine?

Sigh. I will get through it, I will because I work really hard at being a good therapist. But sometimes I get so tired of how hard I have to work. I have to work through my emotional stuff, which makes it harder when I am going through difficult stuff.S

So what am I grieving? 

For quite some time now (over a year), I have come to recognize that my parents, although they do love me, and try to do their best, which I sincerely do believe they do, are none the less, toxic parents to me in many ways (as this too is a spectrum).

This has been really difficult for me to accept. I have now been able to accept that yes, my parents are dysfunctional/toxic but they too came from very dysfunctional families and quite honestly, the south asian culture (maybe like other cultures), encourages an unhealthy enmeshment with your parents. We are not encouraged to grow up, be independent. We are not seen as individuals with our own identities, we are often seen as extensions of our parents. That is the difference between growing up in a culture that is individualistic versus cultures that are community oriented – it impacts how you develop your sense of self and later on in adulthood, how you individuate from your parents ….. or rather don’t individuate from your parents.

So what does all this psychological mumbo jumbo mean???

It means that ….. my whole life, I have always prioritized what my parents feel over what I feel (if I was even aware of my feelings), I have worried more about how my decisions/choices would impact them (i.e. would they be uncomfortable, disappointed etc), than how I would be impacted by not being my true self. I have let myself be small so that my parents wouldn’t be uncomfortable. I have allowed them to believe that I am more ‘indian’ in terms of values etc. and hidden my more north american values/side of me – with the intention to not make them uncomfortable. And that is really just the tip of the ice burg.

I have now been embracing my true self, as a whole – both my north american and south asian sides of me. The smart, educated, out of the box thinker side of me as well as the one that still fits in the box of what an acceptable indian girl is. This has resulted in a lot of discomfort, shock, anger, grief. I have seen sides of my mom that I never thought could be there. I never thought I would experience so much pressure to stay in the box as I have.

But there is hope. I have recently come to truly understand my parents, their limitations, the potential reasons about the way they are, the limitations of my culture. I have also come to realize that I can set boundaries, I can move away from unnecessary guilt, and move towards acceptance.

I accept who I really am now and I accept who my parents can be and who they cannot be. I don’t like it, but I accept what I cannot change. I also feel motivated to make changes/raise awareness re: the cultural barriers and how it impacts our emotional development.

 

Chit Chat.

My Writing Journey ….

 

writing-imageI began with reading like everyone else. But since grade 1, I was the kid that had to come home and immediately do her homework, read the books assigned etc. I loved school and the stories.

I wrote reflection papers and in Grade 7 received honourable mentions about my insight into arranged marriages by my social studies teacher.

I found my love of poetry in Grade 9, and by Grade 10 I was accused of plagiarism by my English teacher because my poems were so good, I couldn’t have written them, since I could not write an essay to save my life. 😛

Through these poems, I first started to put words to the abuse that I felt. The one at monsterstood out the most, was the one I titled “the monster inside me”. I was so afraid someone would find this, that I folded it into the tiniest rectangle and hid it in the crack between my dresser and mirror. Back then, I felt debilitating shame about the fact that I was abused, I didn’t know yet, that is what it was called. I just felt like an evil child, that no one had yet discovered, because I was so sweet and loved by others.

Then, I discovered journalling, and in writing, for the first time, disclosed that I was sexually abused to my parenting teacher, for our journalling project. Thanks to her braveness, I learned that its still abuse even if you became aroused. I then slowly learned, I wasn’t a monster or an evil child. (Thank God!)

Since age 16, I have been writing in my journals. I then started a blog. When it became popular amongst people who knew me, I felt vulnerable/exposed and shut down. I did not write for many years, until I decided to start this blog, this time keeping it anonymous. Again, when I received validation and views, I again, began to feel exposed, fear and doubt creeped in.

writers-blockI will be honest. I have let fear keep me from writing. But I have also been connecting with my authentic self. She loves writing, she is very creative. She can paint, dance, sculpt, decorate, you name it. So now, I am going to try my best to be brave again, and continue with my journey of writing, because it is also my journey of authenticity, self-expression, and joy from sharing my true self with others. 🙂

Please leave a comment if you have any advice for me on how to overcome this type of writer’s block!!!!!

Chit Chat. ♥

Optimism

I had a good meeting with my father and my boyfriend after one whole year. It felt amazing to be able to be myself and really enjoy his company and connect like we did when I still felt like his special daughter. Then, I completely put this meeting out of my mind for the most part.

Learning to heal from emotionally toxic parenting is a difficult process. But I made some progress. With a lot of support and coaching, I was able to set my expectations aside before the dinner and keep them aside after the dinner. I was able to enjoy the moment without allowing myself to fall into a cycle of worry or cycle of hope. Expectations that the next meeting would go as well or that this is the beginning of our reunification as a family would have happened very subtly in the past. But, I have been able to notice when I dream of a reconnected family. I bring myself back to reality and remind myself of my boyfriend’s very wise words: Optimism is not expecting positive results or outcomes in the future, Optimism is knowing that no matter what happens, you will be okay. And with these precious words, my healing continued without falling into the pitfalls of anxiety over rejection or the hopefulness of reconnection.

Many weeks later, I still feel balanced. YAY!!! I feel that I have been grateful for the moment, also minimized the punishing of my father and increased the empathy towards him more often in the last few weeks. It has been hard to not continue to be angry and punish, as that gives me a sense of control; there is someone to blame and hold accountable for my bad childhood. But holding my father accountable is not 100% accurate or fair as he was not the only sinner nor the only one who caused me harm.

As a child we need to know who is to blame. We need to know because we are helpless and need to know who to trust to take care of us. As an adult, that keeps us in the role of the victim, never developing the identity of a survivor in charge of our destiny. We as adults, have to trust ourselves, maybe God, maybe our partners, maybe just maybe, our ability to make good decisions. We have to meet and take care of our own needs. So there really isn’t need to blame, although it does give us the illusion of control and frees us from the anxiety we feel for being in charge of what happens to us. Sigh – can’t have your cake and eat it too.

I often want to blame others. I want to blame parents. I want to blame the world. Because this is a pretty shitty world we live in – all too often it is shitty shitty shitty. People, on a regular basis, make bad decisions, bring life into this world and are completely unprepared for it. And as a result, at least 50% of the adult population has serious issues – attachment plus trauma or abuse – at least  attachment issues. So of course, it is hard for me as a social worker – my heart breaks with every child that has their emotional needs neglected. I see the emotionally stunted adults everywhere – they are everywhere – usually unaware of the cause of their problems, weaknesses and even poor choices. Sigh. I wish I could yell at the top of my lungs and set people straight – but we live in a corrupt world that is only driven by short term goals, not long term consequences. Sigh again.

 

So, I am going to continue to let go and remind myself that it is not my problem. But at the end of the day, all I can do is my part. Once I have done that, there is nothing else to be done. I need to enjoy my life, the little good that does exist in life – I wish for more of this, and wish for God to save our children.

 

Chit Chat.

The parent anti-oxident

“They gave birth to you …”

“I’m sure they mean well….”

“They love you very much….”

“They will come around….”

Things people will say with very good intentions to help console those that are estranged from their parents. I have hoped and prayed that my parents would come around. I have tried my very best to let the fact that they gave me life, loved me and tried their best to wash away my negative feelings. I have let go and forgiven many times only to realize I haven’t really let go or forgiven completely. None of this has been half-assed. I have honestly been working my pretty little ass off.

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Yet, here I am. Again, at a crossroad, between a rock and a hard place, whatever you want to call it – its the hardest place, most painful place I have ever had to be. And I hate having to come back to this place again and again after I have done everything I know how to do to work through my feelings and move forward. Like seriously, how many fucking feelings do I have? Because they just keep coming, and each one is harder than the first.

The precursor was anxiety. I spent two years working through my anxiety disorder to discover other underlying emotions. The first layer I faced was guilt and shame. I worked through that and improved my self-esteem and self-worth. That was a lot of work over a lot of years –  but I did it!! And I am now a proud assertive woman. 🙂 Then, came the anger and rage. This was harder than guilt and shame. But again, I worked through it – in therapy, on the subway writing in my journal, meditating, taking breaks, talking to people, crying in the shower, talking in my sleep, sobbing in my sleep, exercising, self-soothing, taking supplements, eating healthy, praying, reading etc. Like I said, I really worked hard. Then, came some empathy and forgiveness. What a relief! I could reconnect a little and let go a little. Right until the disappointment from my parents present actions pushed me right back into anger, rage, and a new layer of emotion – grief.

So here we are. Grief and loss. No my parents are alive not dead. But apparently, my childhood sucked so bad that they might as well be dead – at least that is how my body is physically reacting. I don’t want that, but my body is grieving the loss of my healthy and alive parents! How messed up is that?

Then the criticism I experienced my whole life sets in. I must be a bad child. I must be over-sensitive. I mean they gave me life and loved me and did their best. How is it that I can logically get that, want to forgive them, but the forgiveness does not stick? Am I just a resentful, vindictive, parent punishing small person? I didn’t think I was, I mean, I give all the time to others, like literally majority of my life I am giving to others. So, seriously, what the fuck??

Then eventually all the work I have been doing begins to pay off. Its not me its them. Society is wrong on this one. We have a culture of silence about talking about how loving, caring, well meaning parents can screw up their children. How? Because of low or no emotional intelligence, inability to manage their own stress/life, own insecurities and unresolved issues, lack of resources, unwillingness to seek help, unwillingness to acknowledge that they could be wrong even with good intentions, unwillingness to give up the blame game or victim mentality. In other words, because they were never brave enough to face their own shadows or resolve their own baggage, and somehow thought they could raise another human being, without the shadow or baggage impacting their child. Well, I’ll be honest, either thats just really dumb, illogical, careless and/or selfish. Yes, having a child without being emotionally prepared for it, puts you at risk of being a toxic parent.

So now what? I go on the internet to google ‘how to work through your estrangement with your parents’ and many other similar searches. Almost all the links are for parents who’s children have cut them out. Poor parents, here is how to cope if your child doesn’t want to have anything to do with you. Really? Even google is telling me that the world thinks its the child’s fault. REALLY? So after another round of self-criticism, I finally come back to the realization that the internet is wrong – again only because now I have been working my very pretty little ass off. Seems like its gonna get really pretty before I find some resolution. 😛

But there is good news. YAY!! I love posts with a happy ending too (its the Bollywood, rom com lover in me ) I have done the hard work to find one book that looks promising and so far it has really been helping. The audio version is going to be my mantra to and from work. Its called “Toxic Parents” by Susan Forward. I hope Susan is forward thinking enough to help me detox out of this mess. But I am prepared for a disappointment like some other books I have read. But at least I have some hope again, and its going to be back to the workout of my life – working and working so damn hard, all because – lets face it – I had lazy, flabby assed parents!!

Chit Chat.

Waves

 

cropped-obit_header_beach_footprints.jpg

The beach has always been my favourite place. I always described it as the crux of life, where the calm meets the storm, where both parts of our life come together in harmony.

For me, the beach is THE definition of life: the crashing waves unto the calm and stable sand. The uncontrollable waves, with the capacity to be beautiful, calm, peaceful or scary and destructive. And the control and stability of the sand, which is always there after the storm. For me, the balance between the two, no matter how ironic, has been the beautiful oxymoron of life.

Now I have come to a new understanding of waves – emotional waves. Waves of emotion that I cannot control. Fun times (insert sarcasm here) …. another thing to get use to that is not in my control. But I do often tell my clients to accept their emotions, give their emotions room to breathe, and validate their emotions. Easy enough? hmm….

But after a therapy session, all I want to do is say, fuck! no more waves of emotions please, I’d like to close the door on this now and not come back until next week – k? But of course our emotions don’t work that way (insert tears here). They are physical and live in our body, coming as a wave, and we have to acknowledge its existence, tolerate the wave and ride it out …  I guess I better take some surfing lessons 😛

I will continue to think of the waves of the beach to calm me every time the waves of grief, rage, and other unexplainably intense emotions come my way. I will try more often and try my hardest to not be a hypocrite as I recover from my own trauma and help others with theirs.

Wish me luck,

 

Chit Chat.