"I don't understand. She hasn't even had anything serious or bad happen to her. She has people who love her. I think she does it for attention." Lilly said looking at me in total confusion. "She has acted up for years. You have a reason to be sad Stacey. She doesn't. She just doesn't have an excuse for her behaviour."
Part of a conversation I had with a friend over a year ago, it still comes up in memory. And it makes me cringe - because so many people think this. And so many live in shame because they feel they don't have a "reason" to be feeling the way they do. No specific tragedy in order to allow them to go to therapy. Or ask for help. Or take meds if that is what helps them.
A different friend, a different conversation. Teri was telling me about how bad her panic attacks have been. How hard most of her childhood has been. After realising she had been telling me so much about whats going on in her heart, she looked at me embarrassed. She said something to the effect of "I don't pretend to know what real grief and pain is - you know better than anyone." While I do not wish on anyone losing a loved one. It makes me so sad that others struggle in the quiet, ashamed they don't have a "reason".
I heard of yet another suicide this past week and it broke my heart. So much death and pain. Being quiet about it is just doing no favours to anyone.
We're human. We feel. This world is a messy place.
You are allowed to ask for help. To go to counselling. For the better part of four years I went, and it was the best thing I ever could have done.
I am not out of the shadows, I'm still in the middle. Seeing more darkness than light most days. But I still try see the light, as much as I can.
Learning not to worry about what people think of my process. Or the continual, never-ending thought of being a huge burden on those who care about me most.
I am with you.
I am for you.
I am in this with you.
You are not alone.
It is going to be okay.
Comedy. Moving my body. Unfollowing people. Music, happy and sad.
Some things that are helping me.
I love you. We are going to be okay.
You are actually a really annoying person to keep company with. I'm just not able to keep up with you, no matter how hard I try. Your demands and standards are high and lofty and unattainable for any sane human being. Life is not enjoyable with you around. So, I'd like to thank you for trying to help improve things, like life and relationships. I can no longer let you stop me from doing the things I really want to do. In order to go all the way in - it is going to be hard and messy and not always safe. Thanks for wanting me to be the best and do the best, but thats not how I want to live - if it means never stepping out, never risking, always calculating. Always weighing pro's and con's, forever stuck in fear of failure.
Vulnerability and Truth and Courage are never tidy, but they are needed to live a life that is truly life. Now you can go, perfection. I won't be needing your guidance. You are too pushy and high maintenance and mean and I'm tired. Tired of the anxiety, tired of the constant looking over my shoulder. You and I are done. It's scary but I have a new friend, her name is Risk. She's dangerous and messy and a lot of fun. She helps me let loose, encourages me to sing loudly, to dance wildly and to live more courageously. Perfection you're so put together and incredibly elegant - but you're boring and flat and you don't make me feel things. You don't invite me to dance, you just criticise my attempts or keep me from making any.
I want to dance, wildly and awkwardly and beautifully - I don't care how it looks, I care how it feels. To be alive and risking for love and abundance. I'm messy, I'm human and I make mistakes. I want to make a few more if it means going after what i really want, what I really feel. Thanks for trying to make me whole, but I've learnt the freeing yet hard truth: I'm whole without you. I repeat: I am whole without you. Sure, you are often what people want and expect. But you're not what I want. You're not what i need. I want risk. I want love. I want Love to risk for me. I love beautiful things but that doesn't mean perfect. And often beautiful means imperfect and messy but fully alive and fully present. I have wanted to do and try so many things and you've stopped me, telling me I'd look like a fool. And sure I may look like one, but I at least want to try dance, it will probably be awkward but I have a feeling it will feel like freedom.
Life isn't about measurements and rulers and carefully trying to plot out the whole story. It is about letting my body and heart feel something and going with it. I've befriended trust. And learned that includes me. I have great instincts. I am worthy of trying and failing and succeeding and dancing.
I want to be open, wide open to the wonderful possibilities of going after that which sets my soul on fire. I want to be two feet in, to learn to let go of the strong hold of the ground and soar up into the clouds. Where things aren't often certain, where you can't measure how well you are doing - you simply just be and that is enough. I am enough, enough all to myself. I don't need you. You are not the standard my heart has set. Sun has set, chapter has closed. Thanks, but no thanks.
I used to cringe when hearing people talk about things like self-love, or putting your oxygen mask on first, and then help others. We are taught and shown you have to put others above yourself, you give and give and the last few scraps are left for yourself.
Still learning and growing.
But the more I lean into loving myself, eliminating negative self talk and truly being kind to myself. I have so much more to give of myself to others.
Its often thought of as selfish to think of yourself, to say no sometimes, to disappoint people. It is all shame talking.
We can not be all things for all people.
I had no boundaries up until these last few years. (Still not a pro.) I gave and gave and gave and expected others to do the same in return. It often left me resentful and broken.
A lot of it had to do with self-confidence. I thought that if I couldn't help or give or do for others all the time - they wouldn't love me, they wouldn't want to still be friends. And a few times, friendships did fall through the cracks a bit because they were one-sided, unhealthy even. I was looking for worth in others approval, in their thoughts of me.
I'm not advocating narcissism, nor suggesting we become self-absorbed. There is so much room and love and happiness in helping, giving and holding space for others.
It is also good and beautiful to do the same for ourselves. To set boundaries, to say no sometimes, to say yes other times. Go for a walk, unfollow a few people who make you feel less about yourself, read a book, hug your dog, have a nap, do yoga, play playstation, eat a delicious meal.
You, my friend are worth caring for.
Showing up is hard. But whats more difficult is being seen. To show up for yourself and for loved ones is one thing, but to be seen by them is another. It is often easier to show up and not be seen. To show up with a mask.
Being seen risks rejection, it risks disappointment.
Simultaneously you feel both not enough and too much.
A psychologist I admire defines intimacy as "being fully known and fully accepted." He talks about how majority of us are one or the other. Either fully known but not fully accepted, or fully accepted but not fully known. And only in both can we truly be loved and ourselves.
I went to a psychologist for the better part of three years. And I've often been asked how I can be so open and honest with a stranger. And while it is not an easy thing - I find it much more difficult to show up and be seen with those closest to me. With a trained professional, whom is a stranger and unbiased - its much easier to talk about life, identity and relationships. With loved ones, quite the opposite. Maybe its just me, but I have a feeling not.
We want to be admired, we want to loved, we want to be seen as an amazing person - someone who doesn't struggle, someone who doesn't fall. Pride, shame sitting there telling us to just put the mask on. Things are fine. Cover it. No one wants to see the ugly.
Its much easier said than done but we all have ugly parts, secrets, things we don't want others to know or find out. Lets go first. Thus inviting others to join.
I feel a need to tie this with a bow, all pretty and cute, all solved. But most of life is questions and thoughts. So I'll leave you with this, how can you be known and seen today? How can you hold space for someone else to be known and seen? Its where intimacy is found. In friendship, in relationships, in life.
by Hannah Saunders
New years are wonderful. A clean page to draw and color your life on, a new canvas you get to paint anything you want on, a chance for change that you couldn’t get the grip of in 2017.
The difficulty is that life doesn’t always pan out the way we want it to. You might say “In 2018, I want to be stronger and happier”. No matter how hard you try you will stumble upon days during this year that you’re a little tearful or perhaps can’t get out of bed or socialize. People often beat themselves up, they feel as if they’ve failed because they couldn’t stick to a new years resolution. It’s not a failure, it’s being human. Don’t get me wrong, goals and ambitions are a necessity to keep yourself motivated, to gain that sense of accomplishment, something else to tick off. However, failure is a part of being human, our emotions and feelings fluctuate on a daily basis and effect the way we think and what we do - it’s normal.
2018. What if you simply devoted this year to loving yourself more? Find your fire and run with it. Why don’t you live more spontaneously, live in the moment. Anxiety always finds its way into my life when I fail a goal I set or haven’t planned my life to the minute. We all tend to put deadlines and timelines on our accomplishments, failures and self-healing. Stop doing that. Just be. We’re all going through this process called life and we’re processing at different rates. Just lend yourself a bit of the patience and love you so freely lend to others, because chances are you really need it. Give yourself more time to heal from the hurt that consumed you last year or the year before. Self-healing doesn’t happen overnight: it may take a few days or even take a few years - it sucks, I know.
Half way through the first month of 2018 you might have a few New Years resolutions or you might not. Allow yourself to make mistakes and fail (sounds ridiculous), but we grow and learn through turmoil. This year take some more time for yourself. Do more for yourself and what makes you feel more alive. This is your year. Just be.
A few years ago, I received a sort of hate letter from someone I thought to be a dear friend.
It really, really hurt. And I still seek truth over the lies that were written. Over the angrily, sprawled out red letters that detailed where I had got it wrong. How I was a burden. How they couldn't handle me.
I still get nervous and have a moment of anxiety when I see a note written for me. It just goes to show how much impact experiences and events have on us. And how important it is - to really question what you are living into. What you are believing.
In recent years, having fall in love with the written word and now having discovered how much its been a part of me since I was a kid, having people affirm it in me. Speak truth over me. Call out the greatness and potential in me while still believing I am worthy as I am. It is a sort of healing, a transformation.
A way to turn something that hurt into something good.
It makes me realise how we can create life or death with our words. How we can be mean, cynical and lazy with our words. And how we can be kind, affirming and creative with our words.
People are desperately, fighting and wrestling with lies that have been spoken over them. Lies create death. Truth sets you free.
We use words all the time. Face to face, email, texts, social media, over the phone. All the time.
The fastest, best way to create transformation is to seek truth. To not only root out the weeds (lies) but to plant flowers (truth, beauty) in their place.
Calling out someones potential, affirming them in who they are and what they are good at is something that makes them want to be even better. Call someone kind, and they become more so. Call someone courageous and they live into that. It sounds like manipulation, and we do not like manipulation. But its the best kind. Affirming someone and laying down our cynicism is one of the best ways to create change. To call someone up to be the best version of themselves.
Actions are important. I get that. I to believe that words are empty if not followed by action. If someone says they'll be there for you - it only holds up if that comes true. If they show with action their love, their promise.
Its become quite cute to say 'I'm here for you'. I often wonder what it would do if we actually meant it. If we showed up for ourselves, if we showed up for people. I think we might just change the narrative.
Surprised, to say the least.
I was believing another story.
Scared of what they would think.
But the words came out of my mouth, quite slowly and with a little bit of fear - 'I have started going to a therapist'.
The look on their face was not one that made me cringe or want to hide, the look they gave me was one of compassion, relief and empathy. They gave me a look that said I am so glad / Good for you / I am so proud of you.
It was one of those rare times where you feel seen and known and cared about to the very core of your being.
I wanted to forever imprint that memory onto my heart.
One of the most vulnerable things you can do is to say you're not okay. To ask for help. To tell someone how you are doing.
I went to a counsellor for a few years in high school after my dads accident and didn't really give two cents about what people thought about it. I wanted to get help. I wanted to heal. The gift of being able to pour out my heart, my ugliness, my doubt, my scary thoughts or my wrestle with faith after losing someone was one of the best things I've ever received.
This time feels a little different. There's this thought that comes up that says - 'You should be over this by now. Its been X many months, years, whatever. Why are you not over it?'
And these past few weeks, particularly this last week - I have had so many people approach me, thank me and love me. They've told me stories of their struggles, they've called me or messaged me or stopped me in the middle of an ordinary day and said thank you. There have also been people that have loved me, that have not run away but actually leaned in closer. And those people are a gift.
Two things for you today.
1. Hold onto those moments where it feels that Heaven has just collided into earth, they are rare and a gift. When hard times come, when trials feel like all you are facing right now. REMEMBER that time that someone hugged you when you needed it. When you felt someone understood exactly what you were trying to say. When you felt loved and cared for. When someone appreciated you and your impact in the world.
They are few and far between. In the hard times, is when we most need to hold onto those gifts. Write them down. Hold them close. And when you feel that you are alone and the only one struggling, call to mind a recent time where you felt you saw the face of God in a friend or a stranger. Hug that beauty tightly.
2. Ask for help. Let people in. BE vulnerable, get small, ask for prayer or a hug. Do not be afraid to say how you are really doing. Do this with safe people.
It doesn't happen everyday, so I cherish it when it does but I have had a few people in the last few months tell me how thankful they are for my vulnerability, I have seen people who are more able to be vulnerable because they have felt safe with me or they have seen my healing because of my openness. Nothing you ever do goes to waste, and sometimes you never see what comes out of it.
Sometimes it takes years to see if your kindness actually did anything for someone, but it is always always always worth it. Every single thing you do and word you say matters. Even if it seems that no one sees, or that it doesn't make a dent. I promise you this, it matters. It matters so much.
So ask for help, and see how many other people pop out of the woodworks needing help to. See how loved you actually are. Because you are, far more than you could grasp. Healing happens when its put into the light. Shame cannot exist in the light.
You're not enough.
You're too much.
These two evil 'friends' of ours that often come and taunt and tease and wrestle with each other, about which one it is this time.
Why did you say that? Why aren't you more interesting? Why do you always have to make things so deep? Why can't you just laugh and have fun?
Why did you have to bring that up? Why did you ask such a personal question? Why did you share about your dad agaiiiiin? Why did you tell them you were struggling with anxiety and in counselling?
You're too broken. And you're not interesting. What would they want in you? Why do you stick around?
Look at how well-liked they are, how loved they are, how good they are at this and how passionate they are about that.
These are just a few of the questions and thoughts that have been rattling around in my mind since a conversation with a friend of mine.
It seems the worst when you have those thoughts when its someone you care about. Someone you respect and admire, someone who makes you want to be a better person just because of their sheer joy, their zest for life and their confidence.
It was a great conversation, and there was no reason or any indication that my friend was not having as good a time as I was. We are two broken people spending time together talking and laughing and going deep and resurfacing light. It was good. And needed.
And after we said goodbye and went our separate ways, some new thoughts came up - I wonder if they ever have those thoughts? I wonder if they maybe are thinking a few of those thoughts after just having been with me?
As quick as those thoughts came, I brushed them away. Because I mean they're way more interesting and confident - of course they aren't thinking that.
See what I mean?
Maybe you don't struggle with those kinds of thoughts. Especially if you know its someone who cares about you. Who wanted to meet up with you to connect. Who asks how they can pray for you. And who genuinely has an interest in your life, in who you are and who you're becoming.
But I am guessing thats not the case. For most of us at least.
We all battle with those thoughts. Again and again and again.
Each time we must say no, we stand firm in what we know is truth.
That you are worthy and loved. That you are just as interesting in your own right. That you have fought hard and long to unravel layers to get to your truest, most courageous self. That you have a smile that lights up a space and facial expressions that make even the saddest person want to laugh.
That you are your own person on your own journey.
I used to fight so hard, I used to wrangle them to the ground and say NO, this is not me, this is not true, it is not pure or lovely or noble.
I am not thinking about such things.
But that often left me exhausted and bruised and tired.
So I try observing my thoughts instead, I try observing my feelings to. They are not absolute truth but they lead us to the root, to the part of us that is believing a lie. They are triggers that help us cover ourselves with truth again.
I also ask this question -
'Do I want this to become a part of me?'
Your thoughts affect you. Mentally, emotionally, physiologically. I could go on and on. But the point is what we think, becomes what we do and becomes who we are. If I think to myself often enough that I am not as interesting or as vibrant as someone else - that quickly becomes my reality.
I used to be quite accident-prone, nothing serious but I often had a bruise, or a scrape down my leg. I made a decision to no longer label myself like that. It used to be cute. In hindsight it was silly.
However, we to truly embrace who we are - we must accept who we were to.
The more I called myself something, they more I became it. If I constantly thought I wasn't good at something, it became truth. If I called myself too sensitive - I began to unhealthily identify myself as that. I am sensitive, I am a deep feeling person but thats not all I am. Thats not the truest thing about me.
What is it that you're believing? What lie keeps resurfacing? The lie that comes no matter how hard you fight? What are you believing? What are you living into?
If you know me well - you know I struggle and have struggled with direction for a very long time. It is still something I get quite embarrassed about, I'm in my 20's and I get lost. I often forget where the car is parked or where a particular shop is in a mall.
Different corners and places look the same to me, they get all jumbled up. You could almost say I'm dyslexic with places. I don't know. That's probably not a thing. But you get the idea?
We live into what we think about ourselves, what we think about others, what we think of the past, present and future. And I would argue the most important - what we think about God. All of these shape us into the people we are.
You are interesting. You are worthy. You are the 'man' or the 'woman'. You have flaws, you have strengths, you have gifts and you can make something beautiful with your life, everyday.
You don't have to prove yourself. Just relax into who you are. Don't worry about who you're not.
We are all broken. We're all a little weary and messy and confused at times.
But we're journeying together. And its quite a maze, but its beautiful and holy and right. And we get to call each other to the truth every single day.
More beauty, more truth, more grace, more love. More standing up for what is right.
More of that.