Sometimes we all need a reminder.
“Be the kind of person your dog thinks you are.”
When raised with cracked foundations of chaos, it’s easy for us to understand how as adults we feed off drama. Up is down and right is left. We know better, but it doesn’t stop us from running with the proverbial scissors that cut up personal happiness and responsibility, leaving a trail of regret.
For so many of us, chaos is fuel. It’s our oxygen when the poor choices we make ignite anxiety within the walls of fear. We cannot breathe until the risk of losing our breath is born from our own doing. Anything else is boring.
Although each slice is hidden deep inside our psyche, emotional cutting – hurting ourselves to feel – is just as damaging as the physical act itself.*
“Self-harm is a way of expressing and dealing with deep distress and emotional pain. As counterintuitive as it may sound to those on the outside, hurting yourself makes you feel better – Cutting and Self-Harm (www.helpguide.org)
Life is not a straight line for any of us. For adult children of dysfunction, it’s a barbed wire maze of self-sabotage that draws blood with every turn. And the puncture wounds make us feel alive.
It’s hard to understand unless you’re in it. Even more difficult to rationalize when we’re the ones orchestrating our own pain. It’s cool when our loved ones support us, but we know they don’t really get why we continue to be the architect of our own demise. Neither do we.
So how do we turn off the auto-pilot road to self-destruction? For starters, it’s a good idea to get real. I’m not talking about saying the words people want to hear. This is about digging deep. Shred the years of layered bullshit you’ve been telling yourself and speak from deep inside your truth. It’s not fun; it can actually be scary. But everything boils down to the ugly truth: we cannot make it through the painful maze without actually going through it. Feel the pain. Weep. Wail. Then scream into the air (or a pillow, so your neighbors don’t call the cops). Just get it the fuck out.
Since I can remember I’ve been living some version of the truth, which is a colorful way of saying lie. What began as floating in a sea of self-medication [insert your vice here], quickly morphed into believing the bullshit I was telling myself.
I can handle it.
They are the ones with the problem.
I know what I’m doing.
I don’t need anyone.
I’m not lonely.
Living a lie is exhausting. Yet so many of us do it because we’re afraid of facing the shit that caused us to take comfort in our bullshit in the first place.
One of my best friends jokes about how we’re so much alike – and should be wrapped in caution tape. And I’m not kidding when I say ‘I’m such a work in progress I should wear orange cones for earrings‘. Humor is nothing if not effective when it comes to getting real.
But get real, we must. Whether it’s telling a friend, teacher, boss, relative or therapist – we need to share our truth.
The healing begins when we stop pretending.
The first person you need to share your dark truth with is the most important person in your world – you. You’re no good to anyone if you’re no good to yourself. It’s time to stop buying your lies, and start getting real. We are worth it. If you don’t believe this, it’s because believing we have no value is the biggest lie of all. Take back your truth. It all starts with the decision to try.
*I am not an expert in mental health. This blog is a platform to express my own opinions and beliefs based on personal experience. If you or anyone you know is suffering, please reach out to a professional and seek help. You are worth it – even if you don’t feel it right now.
I live in two worlds. Most of the time when I’m not working, I marinate in fantasy. Denial and self-sabotage rule the roost, but the excitement and chaos serve as a fair trade.
Fantasy Land is fun. Until it isn’t. But the pain of realty is short lived because I find a way to slip back in to the land of make believe as quickly as possible.
Reality? BO-RING. Why anyone would want to spend their time being responsible and accountable is a mystery to me.
Welcome to the textbook addict hard wiring in my brain. I’m convinced that having a “normal” life with a “normal” man (one who isn’t a fellow addict, narcissist – and has their shit together) would be the beginning of the end of happiness.
And don’t get me started on sex. I keep hearing that falling in love with a nice guy won’t equate to a vanilla sex life, but it’s so hard to imagine swinging from the chandeliers with a man who pays his bills on time and actually digs monogamy.
The problem with fantasy living is – shocker – it’s not real. Those of us who spend most of our time living in denial and chaos know this all too well when we get the shit kicked out of us from reality.
The person we love reveals themself to be anyone but the person we pretended (or tried to change) them to be. The calories we pretend don’t exist find their way to our waistline. Money we pretend to have transforms into credit card bills we can’t believe can reach that high.
The golden rule for the fantasy-loving part of my brain is simple: If I have to ask, the answer is no.
Can I afford it? Will this serve my health goal? Is he going to be different from the others? If I keep living in my fantasy – No. No. And Hell-to-the no.
Here’s the thing about “no.” It’s actually a “yes” to something else. Something better.
Having just turned 46 recently and exhausted with dusting myself off from fallout I’ve essentially created on my own – I’ve decided to make a change. I’m choosing to say yes to the flip side of chaos. Yes to a healthy body, relationship and bank account. Yes to having break-the-furniture sex with a good guy who digs monogamy, pays his bills on time, inspires me, makes me laugh and laughs with me at myself.
I’m going to spend more time in realty and see what she has to offer. There’s nothing I love more than a challenge; and when I’m proven wrong? Bring it.
*Photo credit: Mark W Stromberg
The Universe is a trip. Whether you believe in God, Allah, Buddha, Elohim, Jehovah, Shàngdì, or Bahá’u’lláh, the raw truth of life is that most of its bullshit is out of our hands. Our hearts wrapped in passion and circumstance, we grip tightly to what we know is slipping away.
Take our own bodies, for instance. After we reach a certain age, our miraculous flesh-vessel we’ve abused so thoughtlessly in our 20s starts to break down. In what seems like almost overnight, we’re worrying about cholesterol numbers and heart rates. Of course, we’re not totally helpless to father time – we can choose lettuce over Lays chips and water over Pepsi. We do have control over how much we exercise and handle our stress. It just takes a little more effort the longer we’re walking this earth. Good times.
Outside of the inevitable aging process, there are other things we find hard to accept. Maybe you didn’t land the job that was perfect for you, or your dream home is out of reach. Disappointment is part of the ebb and flow in each of our lives – and the way we handle it is crucial to our mental health. But, it’s easier to say “go with the flow” than actualy practice such a groovy mantra in our every day lives (can I get an Amen?).
Being turned down from a great job or realizing you can’t afford your dream castle is one thing – but how about when your anguish is born from personal rejection of YOU? How do we recover from the “it’s not me, it’s you?” love scenario?
Here’s where things get tricky. When it comes to our love interests not picking up what we’re putting down, we’re basically on our own – everything relies on us – how we feel about ourselves. Our friends remind us how fabulous we are – how it’s their loss!, that everything happens for a reason! and, you are the total package! (we love them dearly and please don’t stop gushing, but pass me the barf bag while you’re at it). Jokes aside, the bottom line is that unless we truly believe their love drops of confetti, those priceless affirmations are simply clogging up deaf ears.
So how do we arrive at the Self Worth Station without derailing our effervescent Love Train? For one thing, we can stop buying the lie that only the beautiful people are immune to heartache; that if we were fill in the blank enough, we would find love. Don’t believe me? I’ll see your Jennifer Anniston and Raise you a Halle Berry.
When you realize that no one is immune to heartache, the real work begins. Accepting the reality that, as phenomenal as we are, there’s someone out there who we want that doesn’t want us (or we want who we think they are, but that’s another post entirely).
Acceptance can be brutal. So much so, that we try to navigate around it completely. We attempt to drink, drug, fuck, shop, eat, or gamble our way out of it. The problem is, we’ll never get to Oz without that goddammed road, and each brick is built with acceptance, self-worth, forgiveness and self-love.
It’s a real pain in the ass to remind ourselves how amazing we are. And a tragedy for those who never truly believe it. For some of us, self-worth is a sultry mistress cloaked in years of mental abuse of you aren’t enough. The road to finding our Awesome is long – and not without lessons in love along the way.
There’s no way around feeling the sting of disappointment – and heartache is just part of life. But there is a way to lighten the load of our suffering by grounding oursleves in some basic truths: we ARE amazing, everything DOES happen for a reason, and this TOO shall pass.
Not buying it? How about reading this poem from 1927:
“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let not this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should be.
Therefore, be at peace with The Universe whatever you conceive it to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” – Desiderata of Happiness by Max Ehrmann
Unfolding as it should be.
So, let your tears build a river of acceptance. Submerge yourself in sorrow and disappointment – then take a breath – and another – and just let it be.
For a minute there, I lost myself. – Karma Police (Radiohead)
As kids, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of learning your enough. Tall enough? Bring on the rollercoasters. Smart enough? I’ll take that pop-quiz. Old enough? I’ll be home before dark. Responsible enough? Thanks for the ten spot, I’ll fill the tank (I’m dating myself here).
For those of us who grew up in Dysfunction Junction (abusive, alcoholic or addict households), it’s easy to argue that while we may have physically grown into our adult bodies, our minds are another story. On any given day, we’re pretty much hovering aimlessly between recess and study hall. And if you’re an addict – I’m positive when you’re in party-mode, you’re probably in need of some daycare. Or maybe that’s just me.
In trying to explain my world to a friend recently, it went something like this:
“It’s like my brain is being held hostage by my mind. I know what I’m doing is fucked up, crazy and beyond forgivable, but I do it anyway”
I don’t think she got it.
It’s easy to call bullshit when it comes to anyone but us. There aren’t any cobwebs of denial obstructing our view of the tangled webs anyone else weaves. It’s a totally different world when forced to turn the spotlight on our own fuck ups as a result of our choices and actions.
There’s nothing like heavy fallout to pull our heads out of our ass. We lose jobs, get into legal trouble, even lose friends who – let face it – may be as fucked up as we are, they don’t need added drama.
Everyone is in recovery from something. The hard part is remembering that no matter how much we think someone may have their shit together, that we’re all just fragile human beings floating in a sea of struggle. No one is immune to the landmines life throws our way. We just have different ideas and methods in terms of how we handle our collateral damage.
Forgiveness is powerful. Support and understanding are essential. Getting out of bed, taking a breath with the thought that each day is a new opportunity to get it right, with the support of loved ones you’ve wronged? Well that’s just everything.