Monthly Update: February/March

(Written March 2022)

Battling The Past

I have been battling with the past these last 2 months. I am observing how my present life gifts many moments of beauty, hope, and meaning to my heart. Yet, the past always finds a way to rip those feelings from me as they bloom. It also tries to destroy any buds of hope in me for a different/better future. The future will be like the past it says.

It’s as if the present moment is a place merely to grieve about the past, and to ruminate on “why it was that way” and “how it could have been” or “should have been different”, and how “much better my life would be if X had or hadn’t happened”.

Over the past 2 months I finally got to a point where I just wanted to “cut the past off of me”. I wanted to be left alone in the present with my 2 kids and hopefully a lifetime before me. I wanted EVERYTHING from before to be disconnected from. Just to be ME, as if born at 30.

The Past In the Makeup Aisle

I had been noticing a curiosity in myself towards giving makeup a try.

My mother never liked makeup, doing her hair, or dresses. She seems to have a personal rift with the color pink. She isn’t a feminine person. She just “never understood why anyone would like all that” – and that “anyone” included me. Like most things in her life “her preferences” were the “right answers” for everyone. I guess I believed her, or whether or not I did was irrelevant. I was offered almost no guidance in anything related to personal care or beauty as a woman.

However since this inner curiosity in trying makeup kept coming up over the last couple months, I recognized I should give makeup a try. My inner child was expressing a clear interest. So, I watched a few youtube videos. And the next morning, after dropping my kids off at preschool, I headed to the store to find some supplies.

What I found were dozens and dozens of options within options. What brand, what color, what texture, what thickness. Would I need a brush to apply that? Which one? Could I just wear mascara without eye liner? Is the weird? I had done research, but had mainly focused on brand names and of course none of them were at the store.

As I went down the 2 or 3 aisles, I became more and more overwhelmed. Here I was a 30 year old woman wandering the makeup section clueless like a 12 year old girl. “How embarrassing” “How pathetic” an inner voice said within.

And as I continued down the aisles I noticed a mother shopping for makeup with her little girl in the cart. The mother’s hair was up in the tight bun I still can’t manage to do. Seeing them brought up a sort of lonely pain. That at the end of the day here I was alone in this, like I usually am with life events. I was a 12 year old girl in a 30 year old women’s body, who still no one showed up for. Seeing that little girl and mother also brought the thought “What a resource I’ll be for my little girl!”.

I picked up a few things I thought might work, and called it a sucess. However the makeup trip, which was suppose to be a new and exciting kindness towards myself, ended up with me leaving me with a heaviness in my heart. It didn’t feel healing, it felt painful.

The Past Wanting to Show Me How Things Could Have Been

Another way the past likes to show up to me is in bringing my attention to “how things could have been so different if…..”. It’s as if my brain seems to think the solution to today’s struggles or tomorrow’s possible struggles lies in the past. My mind constantly pulls me out of the present to “reflect and learn” from the past…over and over again.

“If only you had only recognized the mental health issues in your family earlier…things would be so different”

“If only you had expressed your needs more clearly when you became a mother..you would have received help”

“You were closed off emotionally in highschool and college…if only you hadn’t been life would have been and would be so different.”

“If only you had communicated more calmly to your best friend….you and her could have weathered the storm and remained close all these years”

“If only you had read the Bible earlier…”

If only…If only…If only…

But, is this constant turning necessary? Are the present and future so hopeless that my time is best spent reflecting on “what went wrong”? As if I somehow “lost” this game of life, and I’m in a mad dash to figure out why before I play “life” again. In my depressed moods, that’s pretty much exactly how I feel. However, a more logical side of me KNOWS my life is actually much better than it was a few years ago. TODAY I am blessed with 2 beautiful children, I am building a circle around me of kind and loving people, and I am becoming a more kind and loving person to myself and others.

But in some nonsensical way, my past is usually tight around my neck. It’s as if I am taking my last breaths, and desperately wondering “what went wrong, what went wrong!”.

Conclusion:

These were the months of a growing frustration and desire to cut the past off of me/ or out of me.

I felt the past was the problem. It offered me nothing but pain. I was over it. I wanted to erase it.

I communicated this feeling to my husband. And as I listened to myself share these feelings with him I observed something interesting. It was certain events about the past that I seemed intensely focused on erasing. And it wasn’t just all the “big negative events”. Rather it was events I still felt strong emotional about, whether they were seemingly “big events” or not. It was the existence of these strong emotions inside of me which allowed certain memories of my past to jump into the present and color both my present and future outlook. I realized it wasn’t past events in themselves I wanted to erase, but rather my still living strong emotions towards them.

And by this point in my journey I KNOW emotions can not be erased. Even the sentence hits as cruel. Emotions, as strange as it is to say, are people. They need to be heard and they need to be accepted. And they may need help.

Still though I KNOW this, I struggle to live this. I observe over and over how I go to my emotions with anger and frustration. And when I battle them, no resolution is ever found. When I ignore them (or run from them), I’m merely deluding myself. They are still right there, everyday with me. Effecting me.

So, I guess I know what I must do. In order to lay these past emotions down, I must stay right here with them in the present. Even in their intensity, I must stay. And if I do, more and more of my past will lay down peacefully.

This will not be an easy process for me. It will take honesty, vulnerability, courage, determination, faith and time. The areas of my mind where intense emotions lie, is a laregly wordless space. A shaky place, a loud space, a timeless space, a confusing space.

But parts of me are stuck there, and I can not live fully until I have found and accepted and heard all the parts of me.

*** The past also intrudes on my present in a more beautiful way (though it contains unsettling elements). This way involves having memories of life before this life. Of a mother who is not my Earthly one. It didn’t quite fit with this post, so I didn’t include it. One day I’d like to write about it though. ***

– March 2022

This Christmas I reflect with Gratitude on:

This Christmas I reflect with gratitude on:

(In no particular order…)

My Grandma

My Grandma has a comforting presence to me, her energy is a Mother’s love. She’s never ceased being amazed by the blessings and wonders each day brings – whether it’s snapping green beans on the back porch for dinner, catching fireflies in summer, gathering in her den enjoying conversation, feeding the ducks at the pond, the red roses in her garden, a tea party, or a “big adventure” to an amusement park or historical spot. In her presence, my heart has always felt safe and engaged in the wonder of the present moment. I and the world – are wonderful just as we are.

My Grandma has a deep love of Christ. I’ve always noticed the rosaries, bibles, crosses, and images of Jesus and Mary when I visit her. She shared her faith in a gentle and natural way with me, bringing me to church with her when I was a little girl, and speaking openly about how God is her strength and comfort and has carried her through life.

However it was never any words or images of Christ or the cross alone that ever meant all that much to me as a child or as I grew. It was always her, her loving presence and how it made me feel, that stood out as a Heaven on Earth. When I saw a cross, an image of Mary, or Jesus – it was always her I thought of. Therefore, despite growing up in the passionately atheist home of my parents (think Christopher Hitchens) and considering myself an atheist since birth, the cross, Jesus, Mary – Christianity has always radiated to me with the beautiful sacredness of love.

Taken at Grandma’s

Dostoevsky

I was 19 or 20 when I first read Dostoevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov. The novel highlighted the clear split between my thinking mind and my feeling heart. My heart connected deeply with the character Alyosha, an aspiring monk, and his mentor, an elder monk named Zosima. I was inspired by the beauty of their wise words, steadfast kindness, and the compassionate stance they tried to take towards every person they met. They quickly became my heart’s favorite fictional characters of all time.

However my mind sided with a different character – Alyosha’s logic focused and atheist brother, Ivan. My mind stood in awe and approval of Ivan’s arguments against the goodness of God, his courageous dedication to brutal truths and logic, and his sharp intelligence. My mind viewed Ivan as having the wisdom and the strength to find the harsh path of reality/the truth and to take it. My mind understood Ivan’s philosophy, words, and actions weren’t very beautiful, but the truth is the truth was the philosophy Ivan and my mind endorsed.

However it seems Alyosha’s and Zosima’s philosophy of love struck something deeper inside of me. A decade later when my inner world went pitch black, the memory of the beauty of their faithful love and compassion was one of the few lights I could find in me. The memory was a blinking arrow directing me to the goodness, the beauty, and the power of Christ like love. That light inspired me to pick up Brothers Karamazov again and then pick up the Bible. It was one the the earliest steps I took on this journey back to self.

Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.

Father Zosima (Brothers Karamazov)

“What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.” 

Father Zosima (Brothers Karamazov)

My Children

I decided in high school, if not middle school, that I wanted to be a stay at home mom. Being a mother, and being with my children full time their first years, has always felt like a calling to me. So when I had my first child, my son, and I was able to stay at home with him full time I was delighted. It all felt like a dream come true!

And it was a dream, but it was also real life. My first year of motherhood was a colossal adjustment. My son needed a lot of attention, and he knew how to make that need known. The family encouragement and support I had assumed I’d received never showed up. It was just me and my husband and a very fussy baby. That lack of support cut me deeply, and was the start of the painful opening of my eyes to my own childhood. I took great care of my son, but horrible care of myself. I feel shame admitting this, but the truth is resentment towards him started to grow in me. And then a dread I felt in my very soul hit me – as I realized though he could not actually hurt me I could, and likely would, hurt him (I do not mean physically, just emotionally or damaging his understanding of love ,himself, or trust, etc.) And I did not want that to happen! My heart saw the innocence of his little soul and it was a rare time where my mind and heart agreed – there was no doubt that this little baby was more pure and innocent than me.

Thankfully my son, and daughter who was born 2 years later, are the best teachers of love I have ever met. Their authenticity, wonder, innocence, and the endless grace they show me reminded my heart and mind of something I had unknowing lost long ago – the belief in unconditional love. Suddenly unconditional love which was the most good, and beautiful thing, was also a TRUTH. If it was possible, then that meant it was a goal I could strive for. And I wanted to give that so badly to my children. I started learning about and practicing loving unconditionally – and found that is is NOT easy work. Being their mother and growing in this role has been the most terrifying, challenging, and meaningful work I have ever done. It was the very start of this journey back to self.

“I love everything best”

My Son

Fred Rogers

Until I became a parent, I knew almost nothing about Fred Rogers, his philosophy, and his TV show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I discovered Fred Rogers though my son’s favorite PBS show Daniel Tiger. I loved how in Daniel Tiger emotions and relationships were the focus. I loved the shows continual emphasis on all emotions being natural and okay – emotions are not hurtful or bad it is how we express them that can be troublesome. The show focused on teaching kids how to appropriately express their emotions.

This mindset about emotions made perfect sense to me, though I knew that wasn’t the mindset I lived by. My instinct was to label much of the inner emotional world as “silly” or “wrong”. My instinct was invalidating emotions. And because of that I struggled to figure out what my own emotions were deep down and had never learned the skill of appropriately expressing them. So I sat right next to my son learning about emotions through Daniel Tiger.

At some point I learned that Daniel Tiger was based off of Fred Rogers’ philosophy and his show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. So I started watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood too. I found his gentle presence and childlike curiosity and joy for life very moving. He seemed to radiate love and safety to me. He would often look at the camera and say some version of “I like you just the way you are”. This stirred up a great deal of internal resistance in my mind. I would feel frustrated, and I observed my mind instinctually retorting “But then how will they/or I improve?”. Sometimes my frustration would boil over and I would even tell my husband “I don’t really agree with that sort of….unconditional praise” and fumble around as to why that was saying something like “this world and the people in it need serious improvement, sorry but we most definitely are NOT okay as we are, and people need to hear and accept that truth and get to work being better.”

But alongside my inner resistance, I couldn’t help but notice part of me was actually very receptive to his message and felt touched by it. A soft and vulnerable part of me, I wasn’t used to seeing, was being brought to the surface by the very words that frustrated the thinking side of me. Sometimes even tears would well up in my eyes at his words of unconditional love and acceptance. I believed him! I believed that he, this stranger, would love me exactly as I was right then, despite everything I’ve done or will do. He would see me, he would listen to me, and he would LOVE me. That belief in the possibility of unconditional love was a powerful and stabilizing force to me. I aspired to be more like him myself, I wanted others (especially my children) to believe in and feel that beautiful love from me. Which sounds a lot life his message that I was likable just the way I was – inspired me to……”improve”. (I’m teasing my mind here, but I have come to learn the somewhat non instinctual truth that – Love not criticism leads to improvement.)

Fred Rogers singing “It’s You I Like” and saying this after “And that’s true. And you’ll find that the people who love you best, are the one’s you learn the most from. And the more they teach you and the more you learn the better feeling you’ll have about yourself and the world we live in”
Fred Rogers singing “There Are Many Ways To Say I Love You”…Followed by these words “As you grow I trust that you are finding many more ways to show and tell people that you love them. Those are the most important things that you’ll ever ever learn to do. Because loving people and animals and the world we all live in is the most important part of being alive.”

My Husband

This year has been a tough one for our marriage – lots of life changes and inner realizations and very little quality alone time together. At points it has felt like our marriage was a chapter in our lives, and it was quickly coming to a close. So it might be surprising for my husband to see himself on this list, but on reflection he shouldn’t be surprised.

In the second half of this year my inner struggles came more clearly to the surface than they ever have in my life. Waves of every emotion I’ve ever felt came out and it changed on a weekly basis. It was messy. Yet, somehow, he never judged me. He’s tried to be there for me even when I pulled away from him and expressed doubt about our marriage surviving this inner change in me. His focused seemed always on getting me back on solid footing. He reassured me he loved me and wanted to see me happy and healthy no matter what that meant for us. His focus wasn’t on what he had to gain or lose – it was my wellbeing. That is unconditional love, and it’s been a beautiful and inspiring thing to see.

He may not be artful in day to day expressions of love, but when times were tough (which is when love is truly tested) he’s displayed his unconditional love clearly. While others, who I thought loved me and would always be there to catch me, fled or at best stood by with criticism, doubts, frustration, invalidation, and wordy advice he reached out with the strongest arms of love he has to try to catch me. And his effort, simply seeing his effort, did steady me in my fall and guided me to softer spot to land. Unconditional love came from an expected source unexpectedly – I clearly have some reflecting to do.

WordPress Friends

At the beginning of my journey back to self I assumed the major changes happening in me were a uniquely “me” experience. It wasn’t until many months into my journey, maybe closer to a year, that I began to suspect I wasn’t alone in this journey. That what I was experiencing was a human experience – like the experience of falling in love, or the experience of missing someone, or the experience of tasting good food.

That’s when I started this blog. I wanted to document my evolving journey ( a human journey) in my sometimes beautiful, sometimes good, but always true inner world. And in this blog I have done that, but this blog has gifted me so much more than I ever expected. It connected me to you! So many people have reached out to share their own experiences and perspectives and what they’ve learned on their journeys in healing, motherhood, faith, creativity, love, and life. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to everyone who has taken time out of their lives to show kindness to me – an internet stranger. My WordPress friends have given me the beautiful gift of feeling seen, encouraged, relatable, understood, deserving of compassion and loved. This blog created to document my journey back to self has become an essential element in my journey back to self.

I will be forever thankful to each of these people who reminded my heart and mind of the truth and power that is Love. That is God.

I Find Love

I find love to be a complex thing 
Yes, even the love Christ brings 
He says he loves me 
But how could that be  
For most of me is faithfully unkind 
I guess he's simply paid me no mind
He replies what is me is past what is seen
I lie in unmanifestable dream - eternally clean
I've paused more, mined silences, surveyed what's within
I've never seen anything other than darkness and Him 

(December 2021)

Where I Was (November) – An Unexpected Step

Being Me?

I’d assume being me would be the easiest thing to be. Trees, birds, everything in nature appears so gracefully itself. Couldn’t I just decide to be me in a moment, and to remain me for the rest of my life. Sure life would still send challenges, but they’d be sent to me. I’d be someone. I could pause and reflect at any time and know how I felt and what actions I want to take. Yet years have passed in this journey back to “me”, and what I’ve learned is I have no idea who I am. Or maybe, I am a mix of contradictory parts. And many of those parts are passionate. So I am chaotic. Maybe too chaotic for the stability inner peace or daily life requires.

I have lost the (likely unhealthy and false) grounding of self I had before I started this journey. And though I have faith, I’m journeying down a truer path now, I have come to fear this path. Where will it take me? What will it reveal to me about myself? About others? About life? Am I strong enough? Am I going too fast? Will it hurt others? Will it hurt myself? Should I put it on pause while my kids are little? Is this selfish?

Me and Antidepressant

At the beginning of November, my therapist suggested I try antidepressants. She felt I was going through a very difficult point in my journey, and antidepressants may help take the edge off my emotional lows.The plan would be to take them for a couple of months, not long term.

This may sound like a simple and logical step. However, I have always been passionately opposed to taking medicine to alter my brain. If I tried to articulate why I feel this way – I’d say my brain is me. Sacred space. The complex and delicate systems of the brain and body are not well understood, and therefore the many effects of the medicine are not well understood. To release such a powerful but uncertain chemical influence into my brain feels very dangerous and unloving towards me. (When I was growing up my father strongly expressed his negative feelings about these sorts of medicines too. I am unsure how much that influenced my own feelings.) I was actually prescribed antidepressants in college. I picked the bottle of pills up from the pharmacy, but I never took them.

But this time when my current therapist suggested antidepressants, it felt slightly different. Fleeting ideas of maybe trying some sort of medication had been passing through my mind for weeks, though I had never mentioned this to my therapist. I had done no research into the options, until she brought the topic up. That night, after our session, I researched the options online, watched videos of people sharing their experiences, and read about how antidepressants work in the brain. The next morning I scheduled an appointment with my family doctor to get his opinion and the prescription. He assured me they were safe and agreed I should try them (which is no surprise considering he is the doctor who first prescribed them to me almost 10 years ago). He wrote me a prescription for the generic form of Lexapro. That night, feeling a mix of verbally loud and verbally quiet emotions, I took the first pill.

That was during the first week of November. So I am about 5 weeks into taking antidepressants now. I would like to and will try to share the experiences and feelings which led me to this step, and how I feel now that I am on antidepressants. It has been a lot to process, and has led me to reflect on my past.

Where I Was (August & September) & Where I Am (October)

*(Just a heads-up: My Inner Critic’s voice is mocking and hurtful (especially in the Inner Dialogue Exercise). Putting this warning up in case you are trying to avoid that sort of energy right now.)*

Life Changes

The last couple of months have brought some big life changes. One of the largest being I moved. Another big life change was my counsellor had a session ( I wasn’t there) with my parents, which opened my eyes to a new reality for our relationship. My parents seem certain that they have no role to play in the dynamics of our relationship. They are willing to “help me” with “whatever I am feeling”, but see it as having nothing to do with them. They say they are very confused by it all. They think I should not be upset now or upset about the past, they think my problem is I won’t “accept the truth”. Of course they don’t usually say it as straightforward as that, but that is the general message. I was left feeling invisible and wrong for the emotions I have. And I saw, finally, that I needed to pull back from the relationship. In truth there has never been much of a relationship, and in all likelihood there never will be. The realizations were painful and upsetting, and especially difficult as I was also in the stressful process of moving.

A New Space For Growth

As I’ve pulled away from my parents, I’ve gotten more space to feel my own feelings. I’ve come to see how alone and isolated I’ve always been in life. These last couple of months have felt like a descent into a mysterious depth, where I now feel stuck. But stuck isn’t really the best word for where I am. Maybe it’s more like some hurting side of me is finally stepping fully forward now. This hurting side of me feels a new safety forming in the growing distance between me and my family. This hurting part of me is right at the surface now, and it’s disorienting and painful, and hard to function and take care of all my responsibilities. The weight and intensity of the hurting part’s feelings feels strong enough to shatter me from the inside out. To destroy me. I feel such an inner pressure.

But I do not believe this hurting part is trying to destroy me. I believe it is seeking help. It is starting to trust that I, my real self, may actually try to listen and help it. And she is right. I am determined this time to figure out how to help her – to listen, to believe, and to try not to judge. However this feels like a near impossible task, because there is another side of me that appears slicker, smarter and more powerful than this hurting side of me, and that is my Inner Critic.

Inner Critic Part/Emotionally Hurting Part

I am observing the emotional hurting side of me is held in like a hostage. It seems so clear to me I am in therapy to get the hurting side of me help, yet she is almost never allowed to speak during my sessions. It’s nonsensical, but feels largely out of my control. During this healing process, I have found an Inner Parent part of me. My Inner Parent speaks with a comforting and loving voice. And I can only assume my Inner Parent is who sought out therapy for my hurting part.

Yet I am observing over and over that when the intensely hurting part comes to the surface, my Inner Parent goes completely missing. I can not access it anymore. And instead of being met by the Inner Parent the hurting part instantly faces the Inner Critic. It’s as if the mere appearance of the hurting part, is the cue for my inner system to get the Inner Critic side online. The Inner Critic presents itself and simply sounds to me like the voice of “the truth/logic/reality”. It has an objective air. Yet when I listen deeply, or imagine it as a 3rd party speaking to me , I hear the Inner Critic’s voice as invalidating, mocking, harsh, threatening, and pressuring. I hear hate.

Furthermore I’ve observed that as my emotionally hurting part feels more and more overwhelmed, upset, or alone the Inner Critic becomes more and more aggressive and hateful. Sometimes it may appear as if the Inner Critic is trying to “get me help”, but it’s in such a frustrated way. It brings the hurting part of me to therapy with an attitude of “What is WRONG with YOU!”. It sounds like: “Can anyone fix this useless stupid emotional person. Give her a diagnosis or something, she won’t just shut up and be happy. She should be happy. She is annoying everyone! Bringing everyone down.”

My Inner Critic keeps my hurting side largely silent to the world and somehow silent even to myself (a large part of this silence is I do not recognize my feelings as my own. It’s like I don’t feel my own feelings.) I do not fully understand how the hurting part is silenced, maybe it is through fear of embarrassment or shame. However it seems that unless my hurting side finds a voice (whether it’s to me, my therapist, or someone else), it is unlikely to receive help from anyone.

An Inner Dialogue Exercise: Giving My Hurting Side A Voice

The emotionally hurting side of me has been very intense and at the surface recently and I recognize it must get help. I did the following exercise a few days ago in an attempt to get some clarity on what was going on inside the emotional hurting part of me. In this exercise I observed how difficult it is for the emotional part of me to speak and be heard. Not because she is silent or has nothing to say, but rather because the moment she starts to speak the Inner Critic shows up and starts speaking over her in an argumentative and aggressive manner. This is an example of what that Inner Dialogue sounds like in my mind:

Emotional Side: So, I am really hurting. What I need help with is….

Critic: (Interrupts) Haha, so many have had it so much worse than you. What a joke!

Emotional Side: Yeah, I know, I’m just focusing on healing my heart right now.

Critic: Of what! You are always so dramatic and self focused

Emotional Side: (trying to just ignore it and speak) Um, so when I was a little girl

Critic: You are still such a little girl…it’s pathetic. Everyone thinks it.

Emotional Side: (getting upset now) Um so, when I was younger, um, my family was always miserable, no love or tenderness or joy was really ever shown to anyone from anyone and

Critic: That’s everyone’s story…you’re being dramatic

Emotional Side: Please stop! Why are you doing this! (continued begging to stop)

Critic: More evidence you are dramatic. Just stop, this is stupid.You are embarrassing yourself.

Emotional Side: Just let me talk

Critic: About what? Your “trauma’

Emotional Side: About what I love, what I want

Critic: How cute…

Emotional Side: I love people. They are all so mysterious. I love nature, music, art, and poetry. I love being together with all this beautiful whatever we are. But my favorite thing by far is people.

Critic: Wow, ever looked around. People are horrible. Destroying the earth. You can’t trust any of them. Name anyone, I can make you turn on them. All are hurtful and ugly. They hide in darkness who they really are.

Emotional Side: Humans are a world unto themselves. Mystery and beauty. All mixed together.

Critic: Sorry, but look at the world

Emotional Side: Why are you doing this!

Critic: It’s true

Emotional Side: Who are you? Tell me your past

Critic: I don’t have one

Emotional Side: Yeah you do. You seem to “know” so much.

Critic: ………I just know they are ugly. I’ve seen.

Emotional Side: Seen what? I’ve seen beauty, mixed, but beauty. Like all of nature, it’s mixed. I love flowers in spring, but when the plant turns brown and dries up and sits ugly in the garden. I don’t give up hope for the flowers or reject the beauty I saw. The plant has beauty, that still stands. Each person is like that I think. A mixed bag, the ugly doesn’t negate the beautiful.

Critic: But the beauty doesn’t negate the ugly either

Emotional Side: True. But I feel I can love what I see. I do love what I see. I mean I certainly am just like all of that. A mixed bag. I think you are trying to protect me from the ugly side, because it can hurt. But I think I’m building myself up to be able to face it better. I’m learning new ways of thinking and understanding.

Critic: It won’t last. You always come crawling back to me. You will be torn apart.

Emotional Side: Maybe, but the beauty’s been real. And I’m curious why do you think I come back to you? What are you providing?

Critic: I take care of you. You are naive. You think they love you. No one does. It’s interesting though, because you do love them. But I often convince you that your love is broken to protect you. It’s easier for you to take the blame then to hear the truth – no one loves you.

Emotional Side: Do you love me?

Critic: Yes, Of course.You’re beautiful.

Emotional Side: (Overwhelmed, crying) … I didn’t know that. I thought I was broken, a problem.

Critic: I know, I’m sorry, it felt necessary.

Emotional Side: Is it still necessary?

Critic: Less so. But you’ll be scared.

Emotional Side: Okay, I am scared.

Critic: That’s okay. I’ll try to be easier on you. We can build on your passions. I know you enjoy them.

Emotional Side: Thanks, it’s been really hard hasn’t it? Being so alone, loving everyone so much, but seeing so much misery. Feeling powerless, and powerful all at once. Intensity and emotions in secrecy. The loneliness and confusion.

Critic: Yes, it’s been hard. We were placed in a line of trauma.

Emotional Side: Thank you so much for validating that. It has been hard. But I’m here to start changing that aren’t I?

Critic: Yes. Your parents contributed some, and you are going to take that and run for you children.

Emotional Side: Yes, yes, that’s exactly what I want. But I’m so worried, I know I’m struggling with all these changes and new ways of being. Living love and living trust is so hard. I’m very afraid.

Critic: That all makes sense. I’m very proud of you already though. And others are too, even if they don’t have the words to say it. This is a beautiful task, just the picking it up, it will mean something to your children.

Emotional Side: I worry it won’t, that I’m lying to myself. That maybe I should be doing something else. Just like the feeling I’m not doing enough. How do I balance self care and care for them?

Critic: You are figuring it out, keep going. This is hard.

Emotional Side: I’m so surprised to see you turned motivator. Is this really the Inner Critic not the Inner Parent?

Critic: I think we might be the same figure. Maybe in different settings. We both want the same thing at least, to keep you safe.

Emotional Side: So I was safe being attacked by you?

Critic: Yes, I thought the environment was not safe for you.

Emotional Side: My parents are not safe?

Critic: They don’t do it to hurt you. But yes, they are not safe. Not until you gain more strength in yourself.

Emotional Side: Is it safe now? (The new space away from them)

Critic: Yes.

Emotional Side: But you still attack me, shame me?

Critic: I am nervous too.

Emotional Side: (laughing) You do sound like a parent.

Critic: I am.

Emotional Side: Well, maybe seeing this side of you will help me handle your rants better. I can recognize you are nervous and doubting as opposed to certain. You aren’t the voice of truth, more a voice of worries about my safety.

Critic: Hopefully we will figure it out. I don’t want to tear you down. Only keep you safe, The beautiful, good, and true.

Emotional Side: But I’m ugly too right?

Critic: Yep, like everyone else.

Emotional Side: But we grow the beauty I guess, enjoy it, seek it out, nourish it, encourage it?

Critic: That makes sense to me. But honestly, I’m not passionate and emotional like you are. That’s all you. I just sit back and enjoy it. You are the beautiful, good, and true.

Interesting Take Aways

I was basing that write up off an inner dialogue I had a few days ago. But as I wrote it up from memory, it started taking a new turn and I went with it. I feel I learned something big here. I have never seen my Inner Critic be so kind. I’m sort of left speechless and unsure. Did the Inner Parent take over or was that really the Critic? Or are they really the same? Maybe the Inner Parent voice I thought of as “new” from this healing journey was really just the “new goal” of the Inner Critic. Maybe the Inner Critic has been learning and growing alongside all the other parts of me this whole time. I’m really not sure. I’ll have to give this time to sink in and reflect. But I definitely felt an inner ally inside, one I’m not used to.

More Reflections Given More Time:

  • I feel when the Inner Critic speaks of “others”, it is referring to my family of origin as opposed to the world at large. Which makes sense if the Inner Critic part was formed in childhood.
  • It would be nice if the Inner Critic praised me more often. It seems to see a good side of the emotional me, but rarely does it ever speak in a proud or supportive way. I need to practice encouraging and supporting myself, and also actually accepting my own encouragement and praise.
  • The more I reflect, with adult eyes, on how my Inner Critic tends to speak the more I see the dynamics of my family growing up through a different lens. I’ve always “sided” with my father. And by that I mean I’ve seen reality through his eyes for most of my life. He was the hero. However, as I am gaining strength and gaining my own perspective, I am starting to see the past actions and words of my father in a new light. Something about the tone and attitude of the Inner Critic strikes me as very similar to how he treated my mother when I was growing up. His past actions and words I used to view as having “protected” me or himself now appear (whether intended to or not) incredibly harmful to our family. They seem inappropriate and disproportionate. It’s a lot to process, and I am in the thick of that now.

Where I Was Last Month (May) And This Week (6-24-21)

(Written in May)

Beginning to Process A Heavy Mood

I am currently processing and being with one of my heaviest moods. This emotional state I get into seems to be one of the most disconnected from my more unified sense of self. Coping skills that work brilliantly for other moods, seem to make this mood worse. There is a distrusting, aggressive, and mocking attitude it seems to possess towards what feels like “me”.

It feels like this mood descends on me quite frequently, and probably has most of my life. The mood has a teenage feel to it, and I suspect it was during my teenage years when I first started experiencing this mood. I probably lived more of life in this mood in the past. However I may have been unable to see it as clearly as I do now, since I did not have as much joy and peace to compare it too. It is the intense reappearance and struggle with this mood that led me to attend counseling again.

I don’t understand what sets it off yet. But it comes on suddenly and it feels heavy and empty. In that emotional mood I feel nothing towards people who I know I love. And that upsets me and angers me. But the mood doesn’t care, doesn’t care about anything or anyone. And definitely doesn’t care what “I” think about it. Seems to hate me. Thinks I destroyed my life. And that there is no chance of any good outcomes. It tends to urge me to seek comfort in “nature”, who “won’t judge me/who loves me”. It has self-destructive urges, that disturb and frighten me. I try to encourage it, mention how many people wound be there to help it. It has a very mocking attitude. States they will help me for a day, and then be gone. I just feel so emptied out in this mood. Only grief and guilt about the past, and hopelessness and indifference towards the future.

I am trying to be patient with this emotion. And accept it as it is, even in its mocking and anger.

The only thing so far that does seem somewhat promising with the emotion is simply to gently tell it/remind it “It’s okay, you are okay, those you love are okay. It’s okay to feel this way. You are safe. Those you love are safe. It’s okay. You’re okay.” I felt a lifting in that, and it seemed to offer me a simple path forward to show kindness and support for myself. After softly whispering that out loud over and over, I felt the desire to have a cup of tea. I felt a lifting in all that, a being present, being less overwhelmed.

I don’t know what this mood is. And I don’t know why is descends on me. But I would like to address it, process it, hear it, and help it.

A Second Stage In Processing

(I believe this comment I left to a friend on WordPress in the thick of processing the heavy mood captures a shifting in my perspective towards the mood.)

(Written in May)

“I am in such an intense place recently. Really struggling with so many overwhelming emotions. I’m feeling it physically and mentally more than I’m used to. Struggling to function. But I’m hanging in there and reminding myself this is likely part of a loving freeing, finding, listening to, and being with my true self. She’s held so much in for so long, so much suppression.But as those inner forces that have been holding the real me down are lowered, I connect more and more with her in a deeper way and unlike in the past I’m not going to criticize or push her away now. Even if the left over of my old inner system of suppression rises up, to it believes protect me, I feel I know a better way now. It’s all okay. I’m okay. Even though I fear how I feel at moments in this anxiety, grief, guilt, helplessness, emptiness, and brain fog. It feels like I’m cycling quickly through intensity and numbness.

But I will not abandon her. Because I see more clearly now, who I really am, the natural intuitive sensitive me, is kind, smart, good, and loving. I or no one else has anything to fear from her. All she wants is to live as herself. And I believe that is what is best for her and everyone else. I am worthy to live my life as myself, we all are.”

A Third Stage in Processing

(Written In June)

I am still in a haze of sorts trying to stay with and work through this complex mood. I have come to suspect my Inner Critic is very much active within me against this mood. And I am realizing my frustration and impatience towards this mood isn’t helpful by any measures. It is a case of me giving myself, what I am used to receiving from my family of origin. But I believe I have come to know better than that now. I believe what is best for me and everyone around me is for me to listen to this mood and understand what it is trying to communicate to me.

I notice when I tried to take a more loving and calm stance with this mood, accepting it as how I am feeling and being gentle with myself and my “lack of functioning” right now, I felt a release of sorts. It seemed much of the intense feelings of self-hate, weakness, feeling life was unbearable, wasn’t actually coming from the mood itself it was coming from my Inner Critic’s judgment and view of the mood.

The inner critic side of me wants to see emotional strength and productivity in my day to day life. If I struggle emotionally or with my day to day tasks, it declares I am “pathetic” and “weak”. It seems I naturally believe those verdicts, and then fall further and further into a negative state. Or maybe it’s not so much I believe these judgements of the Inner Critic, but more I am torn down by them. To be vulnerable to one’s self, and be met with harsh judgements, does nothing to help build an understanding and work through a difficult emotion or establish peace and contentment within.

There is a sense even the “self destructive” thoughts that so disturb and upset me in this mood, are actually more coming from the Inner Critic’s frustration and hate towards the mood as opposed to the mood itself. It’s more like hearing “YOU have nothing to offer anyone, something is wrong with YOU” from someone you love as opposed to actually feeling that way yourself. It’s complex, but it was a relief to realize that it wasn’t so much life I can feel the urge to escape as much as this harsh inner voice that seems to value “me” only in terms of my ” functioning”, “productivity”, and “strength” and when I falter goes on a tirade against “me”.

Maybe at some point, this style of inner self talk was deemed necessary by my mind, but it feels wholly destructive to me and ironically destructive to my smooth functioning in life. I want peace from that voice, I need peace from that voice.

When I try to reflect on what the heavy mood itself is feeling before all the inner critic’s judgements and labels rise up, it is probably something like immense helplessness, loneliness, hopelessness and grief. If I imagine any other human feeling this way, I would not be proud treating them how my inner critic treats me. Who yells and demands productivity and displays of emotional strength to a human heart that is hurting. First one must listen, and I believe if I listen well and patiently, I will come to understand this mood. And somewhat naturally I will find myself showing her love, and with that healing and release for this part of me to shift her energy into a new direction in life. But first she must be heard, she knows something, and I need to hear it.

Where I Am This Week (4-26-21)

Stepping Into My Own Reality

I am starting to step into my own reality. I am starting to trust my instincts and my feelings. I am starting to show up for myself with understanding, kindness, and support. I am feeling an increased sense of freedom and joy in life.

I believe all the steps before brought me to this place, but most recently what helped lift me to this more peaceful perspective was the support of my therapist and the kindness of my friends here on WordPress. With such support I feel I was able to take a huge step forward in my journey, and that was to consciously, within my mind, say goodbye to and stop chasing after closeness with my parents. I say within my mind because I didn’t actually say anything to my parents. It was more a process of letting my dreams for our relationship go in my mind, accepting and grieving what has been and is our relationship, and turning to focus on finding a closeness with my own self instead.

I Have Everything I Need

I found myself reflecting this week on my life and thinking, “I have everything I need, now I just have to figure out how to enjoy it”. I feel incredibly blessed and excited for the future. I feel a growing sense of being capable of handling whatever comes next. I feel a self confidence I have never felt before. A general feeling of “I am fine”.

This new found feeling of being “okay” strikes me as so odd. I have spent so much time trying to convince my parents that “I am not fine” or that our relationship is “not fine”. Yet by withdrawing from that battle for their validation, I am actually starting to finally feel I am “fine”. I feel I am starting to accept our relationship for what it is, lacking the honesty, affection, and closeness I’d like, but accepting I have done my part and now it is up to them. I am good as I am, I can have a beautiful life as things are, even if they never validate or believe my perspective and where I am. Their trying to listen and understand my perspective is crucial for our relationship to grow and deepen, but it is not crucial for me to be a good mother, or wife, or person, or for me to have a good life. I am starting to not only believe, but also to truly feel this. What a relief! And what excitement!

Easing Of Sadness and Anger

And with this growing feeling I feel hints of an easing of my anger and sadness. Could those emotions have been yearning to be witnessed and accepted by me. Picked up by me, and cared for. Were they fighting to get me to see my truth, I used to think that I needed others/my parents to see my truth. But maybe me seeing my truth and believing my truth was all I needed. Now that I am starting to listen closer to and understand my emotions better, it feels like they can ease. There is less need for my sadness and anger to rise to extremes just to be acknowledged by me, I am starting to get better at perceiving my emotions gentle nudges. They are my guides to alert me to ways I do not enjoy being treated and may need to establish boundaries, and also are my guides to alert me to ways I do not wish to treat those I love. I do not want them to feel what I have felt.

Being More Present

I found myself more present this week with my children. More natural. I let my instincts guide me, I didn’t overthink each word and each action, I didn’t judge myself against all the perfect other things I could have done, merely noting different opportunities in the future. And through these more calm and gentle eyes I noticed my kids seem to love me dearly. And in the atmosphere of lightness and presence I found myself having more silly fun with the kids, really joining their world where the moment is all that exists. That moment of making a big dino pile with dino music blaring or checking out the new buds and flowers in our yard or them hanging onto my back and pretending to be baby monkeys. I laughed more freely. I loved it and they loved it too.

As silly as I’ve been I also noticed a silence from me I am not used to. A comfortableness with silent presence. I feel as if I tend to chatter a lot, out of a sort of nervous energy. I feel I need to be doing something or my mind is running fast. In the newer moments of quiet this week I took in a lot of peace and contentment in the simple things I don’t tend to notice. Such as the quiet togetherness of helping my kids pick out their clothes and get dressed in the morning. There is so much already in that moment without words.

I also found grounding myself helpful. Literally saying in my mind, “I am at the park with the kids. It’s the afternoon.” My mind tends to wander and worry and I catch it planning everything in advance. It tends to have a lot of nervous energy. I found this week, even though I tried to keep my mind in the present moment, the “future moments” worked out to. I just figured them out when I got there. I didn’t need to plan every hour out in the morning. With focusing on where I am, I can notice beauty in my surroundings or even just the peace I feel in the present. The feeling of safety.

Points On A Journey

I know this journey has ups and downs. I am probably currently at some peak after a big realization, and I will crash again before the next step forward. But more and more I feel I am carrying forward with an understanding and new strength in this journey. I am starting to feel I am okay. I am starting to see how many loving people there are in this world and rest in feeling that kindness and goodness can be found in simple ways all around me. I am starting to feel embraced by the eternal hands of God, which have been with me all along and which always will be.

I am starting to place my sense of peace through His eyes as opposed to every individual I may encounter. For I well know, from my own past feelings, thoughts and actions, how trapped in a delusion an individual can become. How fearful of truth, how distant from the truth, how cut off from their own nature, how judgemental and fragily prideful one can become. We all benefit when those confused and hurting voices are seen for what they are – lost, confused, and hurting – as opposed to voices of intentional evil or harm. As I practice finding my peace through His eyes as opposed to every individual I meet, I hope to find the stability, faith, love, inner peace, and strength to remain in my own perspective no matter how I am seen by someone else in the moment.

Where I Am This Week (1/25)

The Experience of Healing

I think my rational mind is in a confused place, but my feeling self has some understanding of where I am and where I am going. I am healing, which feels like a stirred up mix of pain, love, anger, confusion, compassion, peace, insight, learning, grief, hope, and hopelessness all at once. Healing/returning to my true self is not easy for me, but it is becoming easier. There is more often a peace and acceptance, an understanding, that this is what healing feels like. I’ve been here before, I live here more now. And I am so grateful for that. Much of my life before this I feel I was stuck suffering. Maybe a more positive way to see it is – I was learning how to return back to my real self/heal myself by testing out and putting aside the many ways which would not bring me real healing.

New/Old Hobbies

In the last month or so I have picked up a few new/old hobbies and naturally that means I have been putting other hobbies aside for now. The hobbies I have been picking up and enjoying have been art (painting and drawing alongside my kids), learning to play the keyboard and studying how music works, and poetry. The hobbies I haven’t been spending as much time on are reading books and writing.

I used to read books almost daily. I spent most of my free time reading. But my pull to it has lessened. It makes me wonder was my reading often in search of some sort of emotional relief. I did often read self-help books of some form or another. Though I did occasionally read fiction, and oddly enough I do feel quite a pull to that now. Fiction feel different to my mind, an adventure, a story to follow, fun. Often my non-fiction reading was heavy. I highly doubt my days of reading non-fiction are over. I do love to learn, and books are a major source of information for me. But recently my energy seems to be pulling elsewhere, and though I observe how odd it is for me to be suddenly reading so little, I feel content following my energy where it leads.

And a hobby my energy has been leading me towards is playing the keyboard. I have been finding such a flow as I practice learning songs I love and learning to make songs of my own. I tried to learn to play the keyboard about 10 years ago, but never got far. It is the same story with drawing and painting, I have been quite into art before.

Seeing My Old Sketchbook From a New Perspective

A few weeks ago I got my old art sketchbook, from 5 or so years ago, out to get some paper from it. In the process of getting the paper I flipped through and saw my old drawings. It was an interesting experience as I felt such strong emotions. I saw my unfinished sketch of my cat, my brother as a little boy with our pet bird on his shoulder, a blue jay, etc. with such different eyes. I used to be so full of judgement towards everything, and very deeply towards my own creative expressions. But I didn’t feel that as I looked through my sketchbook, I saw my art with the eyes I look at my children’s art. A heart’s representation of the world as seen from its perspective, often the beauty it sees and the joy it feels. I felt a sense of “These are very sweet. I can see your love in these. They look wonderful.” I felt joy as I received these kind words said internally to myself. I felt my own love.

But then it arrived, the regret and sadness, for how I used to treat myself/judge myself and the consequences that judgement had. The sadness and regret of the sketchbook being largely empty. How much beauty could have been on these pages and how much joy of expression and creating I missed out on. Also, how much growth it would have brought to my art skills all those hours of practice.

Next arrived the feelings of confusion, the wondering why I had ever treated myself so harshly. Confusion often brings a sense of urgency to my mind, I feel a pressuring “I need to figure this riddle out now!”. And still mixed in was the simple remembering of how it used to feel to hear the endlessly same and repeating verdict of “It’s not good enough. This is bad. No one likes this. Everyone thinks you are embarrassing yourself.” What if I said that to my son when I set eyes on his art. My mind often becomes so lost in my own confusion, I wonder how could I have ever been so unconsciously and blindly cruel to myself? And quickly I then fearfully wonder, looking back, how cruel have I blindly been to others?

I feel my fearful mind can really run full sprint into its own confusion and drag all of me along with it and I feel a sort of undefined panic. I feel disorientedly confused, but also like I must act or figure out some answer immediately. I am starting to recognize my confusion and fears can pull me to rush into such a dark inner state. A state where I judge myself as being dangerous to others, as being bad, as being someone I hate and who is “worthy of hate” (though I don’t believe anyone is “worthy of hate”, yet somehow emotionally I seem to believe I am the exception). The fact that I do fall into such a dark place frustrates me. But I am trying to practice acceptance and patience. I am living, learning, and healing, one day at a time, one feeling at a time, one confusion at a time, right here in the present.