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Turning Disaster Into Direction

Transformation Through Trials

Disaster

In the Tarot, it’s generally thought that the Death card is the card you don’t want to get. It’s poppycock. Death represents endings and therefore, new beginnings, which isn’t always a bad thing.

The card you DON’T want to get is the Tower. The Tower is the disaster card. It represents a particularly bad situation that could befall you, for example, a close loved-one suddenly dying, losing your house or ending of a relationship.

I draw this association of the Tower with events that transpired over the past few weeks in my professional occupation.

Image result for the tower tarot
Iconic tarot card associated ,  with chaos.

The pain it spurred led to a type of breakdown mixed with depression, and left me sombre and regarding my circumstances soberly.

Weeks passed and eventually I found at its core, my following underlying issues:

  • Imposter Syndrome. Fear of being found out and not good enough by others, therefore rejected.
  • Social Anxiety. Feeling and belief of being lower than others.
  • Low Self-Worth. Others judgement of me  particularly influenced this.
  • Loss of Identity. Allowing others opinions to flood me so I don’t even know what I think or feel about particular things/topics.
  • Low Self-Esteem. One false move and it ‘was all over’ mentality.
  • Self judgement. To the point it hampered my productiveness; the blade I hold at my back is no joke.

I’ve caved a few times already over these, and working in a professional capacity throws fuel on a kind of already deadly fire that only burns myself. And I’m not out of the woods yet.

However, I journaled furiously for two hours yesterday to make sense of the how, the what and the why. But my Tower incident highlighted in sharp contrasts what I wanted versus what I didn’t want, and more importantly, pre-existing beliefs about myself and the world that needed a serious reality check.

It took a shitty situation to reassert my self-worth (and maybe listening to a few Brene Brown’s audiobooks!), and to not just lull through my professional career but to figure out where next I wanted to steer my sails.

I’ve realised time and time again, how adulthood (possibly when reaching middle-age) is where the hustle begins to tame and relinquish baseline beliefs that hinder growth.

Groundhog Day

I know I’ve written a few blog posts already, similar to what’s outlined above, but if nothing else, I’ve found that if you haven’t learned from the past and adjusted accordingly, the same situation will play out again until you do – life’s patient teaching method :).

And the passing of time doesn’t simply mean it goes away. It goes away when you drop your smoking guns, recognise and acknowledge it’s there and don’t turn from it in shame.

I had a similar issue pop up when my step-dad died two years ago and I can’t help but draw comparison here.

New Direction

For a while, the situation felt hopeless, but I’ve found the kick I got pushed me to raise my standards and open myself to new opportunities and change (nothing like crap circumstances to crave change, believe me).

I left the structured world of immediate reality, and put one foot in the fluid world of possibility, a wilderness that excited me a little. Enough to keep going.

Enough to look at those courses.

Enough to figure out what I wanted to do.

Enough to not push away any option.

I’ve persisted enough at it that I’ve got ideas forming and more options coming to me (amazing how the universe loves to accommodate positive change).

If I’ve learnt anything, it’s that I’m not a settler. I’ve tried, tried so damn hard to be like the people who can stay in a job for more than 3 years (I haven’t). But there is a restless pioneer within me that is always scouting the horizons and when I’ve to pushed it down, I’ve only hurt myself and by god do I owe myself a huge apology for it.

Because it’s in my blood, my innate nature.

And I know now that to go against it is to rebel against your spirit, the invisible fundamental that makes you, you.

And there is no place for peace, until it’s Call is answered.

That’s what this disaster gave me.

What did yours give you?

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Death for Cleaning Out the Closet

Death is a hard subject. It’s a tough place, with none to hold your hand or guide you through it. Even worse is when someone close to you who has died.

After the shock of it happening to me, a change settled in. I put up every aspect of my life under the scope. Nothing, NOTHING was left untouched or passed under the radar. All was subject to evaluation with a new lense I had been given.

This is because death set a new standard for me to live by.

Photo by Kirsty TG on Unsplash

Humility and humbleness entered as an unexpected gift, one I couldn’t refund nor return. It whispered things to me about life, about gratitude, about living in respect to yourself and with a heartfelt acknowledgement for what is here and now. And may be gone the next.

This is because death set a new standard for me to live by.

I cleaned out the closet after death visited, that was my lesson, and one I have dutifully never forgotten and still live by.

Thanks in part to this, my life is completely different to how it was 2 years ago when it happened.

Months later on the river Ganges, where death is open caskets and burning pyres, I floated a candle for him. And was once again humbled, this time by the Eastern approach to death, and it opened me to be more accepting of how life actually is, as opposed to how it should be. There was an unfathomable peace, a closure, like the coffin lid was still ajar but was now ok to close.

I had the honour of being humbled twice thousands of miles from home.

Easy to put all this in words, but it can never convey completely the experience of it all. Some things just have to be lived.

So live yours.

Even though I dread putting this content out there for fear of what others will think of me, I know the messaging is what’s more important to get out. If this post helps even one person, it was all worth doing.

Take a Compassionate Approach to Yourself

A good friend of mine who I see as someone who has a natural orientation towards compassion, remarked that I was too hard on myself.

It was the first time someone besides my counsellor had told me as such and it really brought things home for me.

I feel very fortunate to have such a friend who reminds me to be compassionate towards myself, because I’ve never been programmed that way from an early age.

Due to how I was raised, I always pushed myself hard to achieve because I made myself believe that if I didn’t, it was death. Family circumstance pushed me into that line of thinking and my beliefs around that are still half-alive today.

But I tried something new.

Instead of fighting and judging myself over obsessive thoughts I was having about work, instead of hating and rejecting them because they weren’t ‘me’, I took another approach.

I felt a compassionate response ignite in me from somewhere, that took the position of loving me, regardless of these thoughts with no judgement whatsoever. No expectation to ‘get over’ them.

My focus on these thoughts disintegrated.

In Whitney Houston’s words, ‘The Greatest Love of All’ had happened to me in those delicious seconds before it wisped away. An undemanding, unconditional acceptance that fed relief into me, a relief that was scary cause I didn’t realise how badly I needed it.

Relief was ok to be Seen, to be my actual self and not a social product I had built over the years. To dig up the one that had been buried behind Facebook posts, text messages, friends and work.

Someone had peeked out. And it was my compassionate self that had made them feel momentarily safe enough to do so. How beautiful, but sad too.

The saddest part was I didn’t know I was starving for this. Which made me realise how disconnected I was from myself, really.

And now I search for it again, in the hours and moments I have to myself. That vulnerable, natural person that is untouched by external stuff.

The question I pose is, how do you bring this person out more into the world? Because for me, it’s terrifying. People can be hard and the world moulds you into something you never signed up for.

How to do you start your inner revolution while also conforming?

Resilience at Work

Work is a place filled with challenges, from situations that require problem solving, thinking on the spot and dealing with demands from others. A couple of bad incidents at work had me undergoing some deep processing and what I came out on the other side was some helpful insights.

  • Even during the challenges I faced, I stayed on my own side. If I felt inadequate, or angry or sad, I stayed with those feelings no matter how bad, and owned them. Pushing these kinds of feelings away worsens the very thing that needs soothing, and can ultimately leave you in a worse state than to begin with. Denying bad feelings lengthens their lifespan, so you’re guaranteed a longer ride on that roller coaster if that’s your response. Good, healthy self-parenting is required for a happen sense of wholeness.
  • Self-love. Regardless of others being angry at me, and me fantasising what it is they thought of me thrown into the mix, I still wholly believed that I was lovable and good enough despite my mistakes and mishaps.
  • Optimism. I knew innately that if the worst came and I left my job that I would be alright, and something else would come along. Faith and belief in that the universe has your back, as well as family and friends, can be critical to when you’re feeling extremely vulnerable in your job. There’s a way out even if you can’t see it.
  • Gratitude. Seems counterintuitive during bad times at work, but it’s power can completely reverse how you see and feel around what’s going on. Seeing the good things in your day as well as the bad helps bring more balance to your life.
  • Acceptance. There is strength in accepting the situation, it can only be obtained once you know that you’re not your job, and worthy of more than what it is you get.

With putting the above into practice, it has helped me stop work and colleagues from overwhelming me to the point where it takes over my life.

What have you practiced in the past to help with coping with tricky work situations?

Letting Go: the Birthplace of Change

Letting go is not a whimsical, gentle process despite how it sounds. It’s stormy and resistant, defying and thrashing. It is by which us exercising courage and strength in doing something that is not natural for us to do; a release of emotional pain. And it takes tremendous focus.

The Resistance

We trick ourselves into thinking that if we let go of whatever happened to us, that emotion, that intensity will ambush us again later in life and your survival instinct is to hold onto it. The consequence though is less joy in the present moment. Here’s the reality; if that bad incident happens again, holding onto what happened before doesn’t protect you, it only ensures that you react the same way as you did the first time round. Ever engraving that same response into you.

Responding creatively can be incredibly difficult for some of us, because it challenges us to perceive the situation differently and even our role almost in a different way.

Strength and Courage

Letting go requires two things: strength and courage. Courage because a part of you will feel like you’re taking a risk in letting whatever go because it could happen you again (it takes extraordinary bravery to choose vulnerability again) and strength because there is no courage without it. This strength resides in your base level, base because a lot of what you can demonstrate in life: resilience, fortitude and kindness comes from there.

A bravery, a meeting at the waters as such is required in the process of letting go. Releasing not just from your mind, but from the body too, for emotional memory or ‘blockages’ as some say, is stored in the body when something traumatic happens.

If you could find the way to let go, you could choose a different response next time round, because you wouldn’t be roped into how you were within your body and mind when it happened at first.

Space for Creativeness

Here’s what happens when you finally get to that place of letting go; you create more space within yourself like a blank slate that can be drawn on again, with a better story this time. A feeling of being born anew feeds into hope and optimism; it naturally self-feeding, and when that happens you embrace your life in the present moment, and trust more in the future that is to come.

Your increase in faith isn’t due to believing that life will be easy forever more, but secure in the knowledge that you know how to let go, and carrying that capability into the future guarantees a happier life not just now, but forever.

When you begin to let go, a natural inner reaction takes place where more free space becomes available, and the sensation it translates into is a newness within that is refreshing and revitalising. It’s fertile ground for creativity.

The belief that you can change, to be who you really want to be grows and flowers if letting go is nurtured long enough. Letting go is the birthplace of groundbreaking inner change.

Living with Anxiety (Part 1)

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been living in a perpetual state of fear. This fear stems from fantasies (usually awful ones) where I visualise confrontational situations where people would tell me what they think of me, a kind of expressed, outward rejection of who I am. And it hurts. Enough to paralyse me so that even the slightest thing I do is calculated a few times over before I do it, cause I need to know if it’s gonna piss someone off or not. It kicked off when I got too much work to do in my job, and I didn’t know how to tell my boss or co-workers, that I couldn’t do it all.

The Art of Tip-Toeing

This tip-toeing I started has me exhausted and it’s such an insult to myself, really. Because in these confrontations, I don’t stick up for myself. All I’m focused is on the horrific impact it would have on me and then I’m actually feeling those feelings, like it’s already happening which then spins me off down another path. This eggshell situation cannot possibly last, because it takes so much of my energy and focus to keep it running. And the fact is that this terrifying feeling comes from a fight I had with a particular domineering (even controlling) friend of mine some years back, when I tried to cancel going on a booze holiday with her. Boy, she did not take that well and I was afraid of her, really afraid of her. To the point where I was avoiding her calls and texts and it turned into a huge shake-down between us. I know what I did must have had a bad impact on her too, for she didn’t not know what was going on, if the holiday was really gonna happen etc. But with regards to myself, I wanted to stay safe in not going because it meant going into the unknown, taking a chance/risk that I felt I wasn’t ready for. Looking back now, it turned out to be a really good holiday, but at the time I was trying to escape it because of what it represented to me.

I’ve had a variety of traumatic confrontations in my life (some of them even a little physical), but the delusion of an all-out-fight is within me, not within the others around me and somehow I feel reduced to a little girl if the possibility is on the horizon, or I’m visualising it. A little girl because I feel insignificant, smaller than everyone else, because I find some people to be quite dominating and pushy (my perception, based on my own biases I’m sure). Once they see I’m not like that at all, it’s a case of moving past me or overlooking me onto something else, my wishes or opinion something to be forgotten or not taken seriously. Those experiences have lowered my self-esteem to the point where I’m picking it up from the floor, and they happen mostly in the workplace these days, but used to happen a lot in my family home for years as a child and adolescent. I was used to being disrespected and overlooked and no matter how I much I lashed out, it never made a difference. Nevertheless, I continued to rail against the dysfunction that went on until I retreated into my bedroom and cried. Christ, I don’t know how many times that happened.

What I’ve gathered so far on this journey, is that I’m insulting myself in my tiptoeing and my fantasies. I disrespect my own true feelings when I do it, like an inner betrayal, and hold in what it is that needs words to be formed in my mind, and spoken so it’s heard and acknowledged. Because for all the activity that goes on in my mind, I don’t say it, or express it in any kind of way which makes me think that if people truly knew what was going on, they’d be shocked. It’s the introverts or shy person’s quiet torture – to be seen but never heard, to think so much, to have so much to share, and never expressed.

And what it ultimately comes down to is the fear of rejection, criticism or disagreement. To show yourself for who you truly are, and to be confident enough in yourself to know that even if someone (no matter who) doesn’t get you, it doesn’t matter, you are still valuable. You are still worthy, just as much as them. This is a discipline I’ve identified that I need to develop, an acceptance for my own vulnerability and humanity (can’t write this part without referencing Dr. Brene Brown, who has done excellent work/research in this area).

Even now as I write this, there are particular people who I know in my life asking me how long this entry is – ‘how many words?’ – they ask, and prod for a title. The questions are gauging the worth of the article by quantity and not by what I’ve expressed within it. And I get angry at them for asking before I remind myself that it’s just in my head. My mind, while a powerful tool with super-computer abilities, can also be my biggest enemy.

It’s my enemy at times because it says things like, ‘Don’t do that! If you do, the person will react like xyz’, or, ‘You’re not good enough to say that, none will take you seriously anyway, let’s avoid the pain of that outcome’ or the classic, ‘You’re not as good as this person at this, and it’s obvious to everyone’.

Eventually, I’ve found that my anxiety leads me to depression, to a lack of enthusiasm or motivation. And I’ve led myself to this black-rose garden, none else. My brain is firing away continuously on old and well worn neural pathways (based on bad experiences) to the point where my brain is overheating and out-of-control.

I’m talking about a condition here that reduced me to antidepressants earlier in the year, and while I’ve come off those since then (a victory I felt at the time), I still struggle.

The Struggle

The struggle is the belief that I’m not enough, in a work team, as a writer, as a friend. Everyone else around me has something special in them that makes them more valuable than me, and even as I write, a part of me is thinking – what crock of shit!!! The truth is that I exist in this perpetual state of fear because I listen and give credit to the part of me that is convinced that I am lower than everyone else, therefore I should behave like their doormat, and let them tell me what to do so I don’t anger them. Because to anger them would be death to me. The people in my life need to like me so I feel worthy, if they don’t, I’m crushed. Bitterly. Utterly. Crushed. I need their approval so I’m ok within myself, and so I know I’m doing the right thing with my life. If I’m getting bad signals, it means I’m doing the wrong thing and therefore, I’m not worthy. It’s like I’m trying to convince myself and everyone else around me that I’m worthy in a fraudulent kind of way. I’ve become a con artist in continuously focusing my energy to convince of people of something I already am. Mind boggling isn’t it?

Full Circle

If there’s anything I’ve learned about myself the past few years, it’s that nothing, and I mean nothing lasts, not even this life. And finding some way of expressing these feelings and tormented processes that I’m currently stuck in, has helped to release the pressure valve that has built up within me to the point of a near breakdown crescendo, at times. Even writing this blog post has helped me in some way to respect this part of my journey, and not reject it because of how much it reveals to me, how much of myself that I’m not comfortable with. I’m taking back the power my anxiety has sapped me of, by introspecting through writing and sharing it with the public.

Sitting with it helps too, as I find rejecting my issues around this to be unhelpful, and mindfulness is a good tool for this, alongside acceptance. If rejecting myself has been the reason for all this tip-toeing crap, then rejecting the tip toeing doesn’t help either, I need to accept it before I can do anything about it.

What Death Taught Me

A recent family tragedy put me on a nightmare rollercoaster I never wanted to be on. After a few weeks of trying to push away my experience and move on with my life, it resulted in me having to take time off work and face to up how I truly was.

I found that a lot of my pain came from resistance of the situation I was in, and even with myself in how I was feeling and acting – I was essentially telling myself constantly that it wasn’t ok. I needed to be ‘better’ – whatever that was. I had forgotten some lessons I had learnt already about when bad things happen to us in life – that acceptance makes it easier. The difficulty doesn’t go away, but it’s lessened, you adapt to your new reality which can be the first step for a better one. It was like a pressure had been lifted, and for the first time it was ok to not be ok. It was ok to feel down and experience one of the darkest periods of my life, and while I’m still working through it, acknowledgement and acceptance has really helped. It’s to let what happened in, to let it change me, which is only the natural course of things.

The tragedy matured me somehow in subdued tones, and I feel older in a way that can’t be seen from the outside.

I was all at once humbled at the temporary nature of life, reminded of how little time everyone really has. Death wasn’t a shadow on the wall that scared me, it was a visiting teacher. It rearranged the areas of my life, shrinking some in size and increasing others to show me what was truly important. Death is traditionally illustrated with a hood and scythe, but in reality it’s a messenger to the living. Worries that I had before the tragedy faded as I gained for a second a shocking, crystal clear clarity on life. Right now is what is truly important in life, seizing the present moment and appreciating what you have. It’s so much more the beautiful because it won’t last.

Overcoming Weekend Work-Week Blues

A short while ago, I could feel the pressure of futuristic events that I knew I’d have to deal with. It was that Sunday feeling that 9-5ers have the day before going back to work – because it was the day before going back to work! Since I began working full-time again, I’ve noticed this pressure building on the weekends, that sigh of knowledge harking the end of short leisure time, and the beginning of a long work week ahead.

Because I normally can’t stand that way of being, I decided to try and let go of it, relinquish the thoughts and the ‘netflixing’ of projecting myself into the future and what I’d be doing.

Being Present

Pose a logical challenge to your mind while it ruminates over this. Ask yourself, is this useful? The quick obvious answer is no. Try following up by asking yourself why would I want to sacrifice my present moment, for thinking of what is going to happen? The true answer to your life is that the present moment is all you ever really have. You cannot experience the past again and the future hasn’t happened yet. Try to focus on your present moment wherever you are. It could be at the cinema, with your family or in your bedroom alone. Listen to the sounds, notice the fundamental details of your surroundings, whatever they might be, and accept it. You’ll find not only have you curtailed the ‘before work week’ blues, but can experience joy in the moment.

Surrender

Surrender. Accept whatever it is that is your life. I think we sometimes become transfixed to what we deem as ‘ideal’ and are so dissatisfied with what we have that we refuse to be happy until we get it. However, the goal posts never really stop moving back in life, when you finally get what you want, you’ll soon want something else. It’s the nature of the beast. Difficult at times to accept I know, but know that change is a constancy in our universe, and that the river of time pulls us all downstream. Everything is subject to change, no stone is left unturned. And since what you’re feeling is not of any use, surrendering it means it doesn’t have any more power over you.

Sense of control

You’re 100% responsible for what you choose in life, remembering that you chose to take on the job you’re at will give you a sense of control. Try to remember why you took on the role in the first place – more money to save, supporting your family, climbing the corporate ladder or something else, can help in your resolution of going back to work every Monday morning. Don’t forget your why. It’s what drives you beyond other things such as salary or benefits.

Letting go of Expectation

When I was travelling in Florence I found myself on the first day in an old cathedral named Santa Croce, not too far from the famous Ponte Vecchio and the Arno river. It was here that I sensed an unsettling pressure within me and I realised a part of me was feeling overwhelmed from something. Noticing the opportunity to explore and relieve whatever it was I was feeling I sat down in one of the pews, as other tourists wandered around gazing at the tombs of Niccolò Machiavelli and Galileo and various artworks.

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Learn to let go of expectations as they arise, and accept what is to be.

The discomfort came from a pressure I was putting on myself to do everything I possibly could in the short time I was there, and my investigation into this made me realise how impossible and unrealistic this expectation was. This demand I had placed upon myself was in a hurry to see the next sight, treating the break as simply an itinerary to ‘cover’ off, as though I was speeding through a checklist I hadn’t intentionally created.

It was then that I decided to let the burning need to see and do as much as possible go, and when I did, it became clear to me how easy it was for me to enjoy the details of the interior of the grand cathedral I was sitting in. To appreciate the now and what was here, instead of allowing my mind to race onto what was next. I felt such peace and contentment that I just sat in the pew, quietly looking around at the splendor of art and sculptures and the high ceiling. This was what the break was truly for anyway. I didn’t need to do anything, this was good enough and the racing in my mind ceased, allowing me to turn my attention to the details of the now.

Expectation has a two sided purpose, one could be to help us manifest what we want in life and two is a ruminating effect so overwhelming that it begins to drain our happiness in the moment. Perhaps a third purpose is learning to let go of expectations as they arise, and allow what is to be. Everything passes eventually, the good and the bad, and I’ve found the fastest way to contentment is to let go what you think should be and allow for what is. Things we expect to happen exactly as we plan for it rarely ever transpires, it’s called life, but it sets us up for disappointment.

Perhaps there can be faith and belief instead in what is to come, coupled with acceptance for the moment.

We can use the moment as our bedrock, our foundational bottom, to choose how we want to be with ourselves, with others and with life.

Staying Strong and Knowing Your Value

14-10-2016-12-00-16I’ve noticed that last few months that my sense of self-worth and value has decreased, or at least, has disappeared so much so that I’ve lost touch with myself. With what I know my abilities are and what I’m ‘good at’, not having a job can do that to you.

A good way to boost yourself is to write all your achievements down. In an effort to try and recall and remember what it is that my strengths were, I decided to write some of them down from the past 1-2 years. Here’s a quick shortlist to share:

  • Completed a postgraduate qualification that really opened up my mind and helped me realise the various possibilities that I had.
  • I finished my book and managed to edit it nearly four times.
  • Set up my blog and inspired some readers with my stuff.
  • Learned a lot about myself through setting up my own business. What I’m good at, not so good at and what I like doing most.
  • Traveled to far distant countries alone and met some great, unforgettable people.

Besides writing down all your achievements, one other interesting thing to consider is how you measure your self-worth? The ‘Looking Glass Self’ was a theory proposed by a university instructor called Charles Cooley, who said that we only develop a self-concept when we know how others see us. This is supposedly where our self-image stems from. Remaining conscious of that, you could also question the various sources that contribute to your self-worth. Does it come from being a loving parent or family member? Is it climbing the corporate ladder or being the top student in your class? Does it come from putting work into your passion?

Identifying sources of your self-worth is a good starting point of taking control of how you value yourself, and perhaps cutting off sources that reduce it such as negative comments from others.

Here’s a radical question, what if breathing as you are right now in this space was enough? As I write this blog post, I’m telling myself I need to be doing something else, something more of value and importance. And I realise this is how I’m hard-wired to think. When was the last time you felt that being in the moment that you’re in right now, even as you read this post and breathing, concentrating, on these words I write, was enough? What if the only way out of a self-defeating process of negative self-worth, was to first dispel what others taught us was of value to them? When I’ve looked back at my own successes, the road to achievement was so much easier and enjoyable when I accepted myself completely, no matter what I was doing. There was no judgement, only an unconditional love for myself. My healthy self-worth was naturally matched with healthy successes.

When I made a decision to leave my job two years ago to go abroad, I never expected all that happened to transpire. I thought I would stay in Australia and get a great marketing job and find someone and settle down; coupled with a nice, secure future. I thought that when things didn’t quite work out that way I would home and go back to working full-time. But I didn’t because I wanted another adventure, and to improve myself more by upskilling and start a business. I wanted to know how far I could push my limits because travelling alone was one of the scariest things that I’d ever done, and I wanted to know what else I could do. I know now that if I’m not being challenged, I’m not growing and I’m bored. That’s something I may never have known if I didn’t take the chance and leave.

At the end of the day, it’s really how you define your own success, and determine your own self-worth. You devise your own measuring stick for weighing your achievements. Don’t use one that was given to you, distorted and patterned with someone else’s perceptions and ideals.