The following article by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes resonated with me. I found it very uplifting and beautiful. With all the unsettling events as of late, I wanted to share it. (For me, it doesn’t mean we won’t call attention to the problems we face or fight the good fight but that we don’t have to feel hopeless or powerless. Of course, too, we may have different perceptions of a higher power or the highest power, but the message is the same.❤️)
We Were Made for These Times by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes
“My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.
You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.
I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.
Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.
In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.
We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?
Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.
What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.
One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.
Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.
There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.
The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall.
When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.”~Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Fantasy often bests reality. Sentimentality can provide us with an illusion of innocence in a safe and familiar world. That’s fine, and it’s not hard to understand why people, in their everyday lives, cling to illusions and delusions that comfort and protect.
That said, most of us would say we are honest. We believe that we are. The trouble is, we can’t be honest with others until we are honest with ourselves. And we can’t be honest with ourselves until we know what is true—until we confront it, accept it, and deal with it however we must.
So, why would we not know?
Many of us grow up indoctrinated with a built-in belief system. The beliefs we hold may lead to harsh judgments—to the point of shunning, oppressing, and hating others. There is often an unwillingness to understand people who are different. And these core ideologies can simultaneously result in self-loathing and a feeling of being unworthy or never quite good enough. It’s the inferiority complex turned inside out—a desperate need to feel superior.
Along the lines of needing to be perceived a certain way, I’ve seen debates on how honest to be with children and whether they have a right to hit us with their perception of the truth if it isn’t favorable to us. The ancient rule that you respect all adults no matter what.
I believe children have the right to call out parents on their behavior, and that parents should address their concerns about any relative, family friend, or person in authority. If we care about people (and sometimes even if we don’t) but especially when we care about people, we need to listen to them when they tell us how we’ve hurt them even in the smallest of ways. We can’t be accountable while in denial, can’t grow and evolve, can’t set the example for the children who look to us for guidance.
Pretending we are perfect doesn’t serve anyone. It’s painful to acknowledge when we caused pain where we wanted only to love and protect, but we must. There are many hard lessons in life, just as there are other ways the truth may elude us.
A fair amount of clarity is essential in sorting out what is biased and what is factual. Specific characteristics and predicaments diminish that clarity. Here are a few:
Addiction/obsession (clouds perception, impairs judgment) – For example, I have found that people in recovery continue to gain clarity as they remain sober and clean.
A self-centered existence (usually correlates with substance abuse including alcohol and certain personality disorders)
Lack of self-care (sleep, healthy lifestyle, etc.)
Our agenda (of which we may or may not be aware)
Misinformation (I think being an avid reader of books, especially those that introduce you to different cultures and perspectives helps tremendously.)
Taking ourselves too seriously (also may correlate with substance abuse and certain personality disorders)
CAN WE HANDLE THE TRUTH?
Some of us fearlessly plunge into that seemingly endless abyss where we face painful truths and endure the grueling process of healing. Others deliberately avoid it or scatter a little bit of dirt to the side and then dart off in another direction, taking cover until they feel grounded enough to dig a little deeper. They don’t want to uncover the truth because they have an inner sense that it won’t serve them well. Indeed, at the moment, it won’t, but it definitely will in the long run.
Ten years ago, I’d assume people could handle whatever I could. It never seemed to sink in that they were as vulnerable and fragile as I was once. My idea of being characteristically direct may have been someone else’s idea of being attacked.
At times, we feel an urgent need to resolve things, and, if we’re not patient, we can end up doing more damage than we intended . The goal is not to “hurt” people, and like any conflict, resolution can happen only when both sides are mentally prepared and open to that— willing to go where it leads. There must be a mutual willingness to get to the truth. When you come from a place of caring and love, you see that they are human and vulnerable, and you approach them that way. Besides, even with the vast amounts of knowledge, wisdom, and insight we acquire, we are all still vulnerable to one degree or another.
THE PRICE OF DENIAL
In January of 2002, Psychology Today published an article by Bill Sullivan, Ph.D., about the devastating consequences lying has on our brain. “Dishonesty puts the brain in a state of heightened alert, and this stress increases with the magnitude of the lie,” he wrote. (It doesn’t apply to sociopaths lacking empathy, but most of us care about our trustworthiness and integrity.) “Symptoms of anxiety arise because lying activates the limbic system in the brain,” he explained. “When people are being honest, this area of the brain shows minimal activity. But when telling a lie, it lights up like a fireworks display. An honest brain is relaxed, while a dishonest brain is frantic.”
Denial has a price, as well, and it’s often quite steep. We see its cost while it continues to happen all around us. Don’t for a moment underestimate its power to destroy lives, institutions, countries, and ultimately civilizations.
While in denial:
We don’t know why we want what we want or need what we need.
We don’t know what our vulnerabilities are.
We hurt people or put them in harm’s way.
We obsess over certain people and things, oblivious to why or the fact that it isn’t normal.
We’re unable to see our part in anything.
We don’t see ourselves or others with clarity, so we mischaracterize our behavior and theirs.
We take dangerous risks and put ourselves or keep ourselves in situations that have serious consequences.
We lie to ourselves and others.
With highly unrealistic expectations, we set ourselves up for disappointment and devastation.
We can’t take the right action because we make decisions without the correct information.
We lack empathy.
We have a constant need to do damage control.
We don’t learn from our mistakes, and so we miss life lessons that can empower us.
Being honest is not about unnecessary disclosure. It’s about separating fact from fiction, opinion, and popular belief—notions that cause egos out of bounds, discrimination, exclusion, judgment, and condemnation. We pull the curtain on delusion and denial to let the light in. We choose clarity over confusion. It leads to more empathy, less vulnerability, and decisions based on expanded horizons and a more substantial knowledge base as we surpass our self-imposed limitations and embrace a wider world.
YEAH, THE TRUTH DOES SET YOU FREE
We can wear masks for a lifetime, not knowing who we are or what is real. Or we can begin to peel off one layer of untruth at a time, just as if we were peeling an onion or discarding a myriad of veils.
In the process of uncovering and accepting the truth, the shame that drove us to compete and control begins to dissipate. We learn to love with our whole hearts—not just others but ourselves. We know we are vulnerable. We understand how vulnerable we are, so we walk away from people whose goal is to exploit our vulnerabilities. And we keep getting better at it. That’s good because before we understood, it was easy to lead us, fool us, and enslave us.
Blessed with clearer vision, we can routinely examine our motives and expectations. We won’t always trust our egos, and that’s a good thing. People without clarity of conscience don’t question themselves. They won’t say, “I’m glad I caught that. I can refrain. I can resist. I can do the right thing.” They’ll keep doing what they’re doing, often not understanding what they’re doing or why.
Those of us searching for the truth are tired of being terrified of it. Denial has ceased to be our sole comfort and our only way to survive. The payoff in protecting our hearts, our image, and our secrets is no longer worth it. We came to fully accept that we are all struggling humans, equal in importance.
We continue striving to become more and more authentic. We continue to replace false with real. It’s not as easy as living in denial, but we know we have to get better. We know we have to do better, and it’s important to share what we learn. We are all teachers on this earth, just as we are all students. Sometimes people don’t mean to teach us anything, but they do. Learning doesn’t make you inferior any more than teaching makes you superior.
I love that we continually evolve, and we know better than we did in the past. We are worthy of the truth. We deserve that much.
Smear campaigns. Some of you are familiar with them. It’s when someone is desperately trying to destroy another person’s reputation, beginning with his or her credibility. It’s not a situation where one caring person is confiding in another out of concern. It’s a hateful mission where the motives are insecurity and a need to do damage control.
I often speak out on this subject because I’ve seen it happen between friends (really frenemies), coworkers, lovers, and family members. The saddest thing is when it goes on in a recovery group where everyone is there to work on themselves and help each other. Why would you isolate and destroy vulnerable people who have likely suffered from narcissistic abuse and are working to correct learned behaviors?
It happens a lot. A friend of mine is a target of this right now. I’ve been a target myself in the past.
For some, including me, the obvious solution is to get out of this person’s circle —abruptly, if necessary. If it’s impossible to avoid them entirely, I’d have as little contact as I can manage and refuse to participate. It’s easy to let them charm you when you’re hoping to resolve things, but confiding in them or pouring your heart out is usually a mistake. Just protect yourself. Let them say you abandoned them, rejected them, whatever they need to tell themselves. You don’t owe them a damn thing.
You may say, it isn’t right to have to sacrifice other relationships in a group by removing yourself. I think of it this way. Anyone successfully recruited in some war against you has never been in your corner. Your real friends will come to you. They will have your back and likely sever ties with the character-assassinating troublemaker. Sometimes people will go along with the narcissist to remain part of the crowd (like high school), but that’s not your problem. People believe what they want to believe.
I know it seems unfair, having to surrender without a fight. This person gets to win, and you don’t get to set the record straight. Let me repeat, TOXIC, as in detrimental to your health and well-being. Not worth it. If you’re dealing with the kind of person I’m talking about, you can’t fix it. The more you try, the worse it will get. Think “troll.” Yes, it’s like dealing with some internet troll. You’ll never get them to see things your way or empathize because they don’t really care about you. They’re not able to put themselves in your place. They’ll even take pleasure in your pain.
Humility is your friend here. Let your ego take the hit and move on. You trusted the wrong person. Cut your losses. You’re going to get good at this, and you’ll soon know to avoid these people like the plague, so you’re never in that predicament again.
Experiences like this are traumatic, but they help you learn and grow. They force you to look at whatever part you played in the whole mess, even if it was merely taking the bait from time to time. When we do that, we can easily say and do things that are ordinarily beneath us and, in doing so, strengthen the narcissist’s case. That’s why I say, drop the ball and run. It’s a trap, where you’ll always be damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
You’re dealing with dangerously fragile egos here. Because of what they experienced in life, they consciously or subconsciously, came to believe there is not enough love to go around. They see attention and admiration as a limited commodity. They need to feel they are more worthy and deserving of those things than you are, and second to none. They have to tell themselves they are the favorite, numero uno, the chosen one in every scenario. There are many reasons you may pose a threat. It can be anything. The damage control they do is to convince themselves and others that you are not better or more worthy because if you were, they couldn’t handle that. Underneath it all is an inner child seething with rage.
I’ll share a little story that explains, on a much lighter note, about taking the bait. My mother-in-law used to criticize me on unimportant things. She’d say something like, “She has everything in that diaper bag except the kitchen sink.” That would upset me because, like all new mothers, I wanted to believe I was handling things well. Instead of getting upset, I could have said something like, “Oh, no, the sink’s there. Check the zipper pocket.”
Here’s the key. It’s no fun for them if they can’t bring out the worst in you.
I’ve found it helpful, too, to figure out how I might have handled things better and how I can come out a better person. That’s not to say you weren’t a nice person before, or that I wasn’t, just that we are always striving to get better. What I’m saying is, when people tell you, “don’t lose the lesson,” that’s the critical part. That’s how you win. Continue to do the next right thing, one foot in front of the other, one day at a time. Live your best life and strive for greater understanding. What’s going to happen is, people will eventually know not to mess with you.
As someone in quarantine who thrives on isolation, I had to reflect on that recently, and I was inspired to divulge what I concluded, partly to see if anyone could relate.
For the longest time in my life, I believed writing was my destiny or my calling, and that there was never any choice about it. It made sense because I started doing it when I was eight years old and kept on no matter who or what happened in life. It was automatic and the equivalent of breathing (almost ). Romantic relationships were usually complicated since I gave so much to writing and didn’t want to make that same type of investment in potential partners.
My marriage was different because I had a child to raise, and my maternal instinct took over, allowing me to devote myself to my husband and my son. That became a permanent bond. With others, it was most likely I’d eventually back away. Real friends were the only exception to that, and even with my nearest and dearest, I can shut down in the moments I need to and remain in my little bubble until one or the other calls upon me. (This COVID lockdown has me in shutdown mode more than usual.)
So, what I realized is, there is a high probability that I started writing for one simple reason. It allowed me to escape to a world far removed from reality. And that was where I wanted to be. It was never that I didn’t care—more like I cared too much, and I knew it, and it hurt.
As a child, like so many children, I was blown away by The Wizard of Oz. I grew to love role-playing and parallel universe fiction. When role-playing games became on online obsession, combining these two elements, I was among the obsessed. What more could I ask for than the opportunity to vanish into a fake world of my own choosing and explore it fearlessly without ever having to face any consequences?
It’s a weird thing to explain because, from the moment I could fully experience it, the real world has thoroughly fascinated me. I immensely enjoy being out there whenever I am. But, yes, in the general sense, I prefer fantasy to reality. I always have, and I know I’m not alone in that. It’s not a sad thing, not to me. You can be happy and sad, laughing or crying, talking up a storm or perfectly still, and it’s all good. I love and embrace it all, but when I can’t deal at that particular moment, I don’t. I thought it was the poet in me who felt that way, but maybe it’s just me.
I’m not sure if any of it is normal, but becoming aware of it did make me feel selfish. At the very least, it made me realize I have been selfish at times. (Ironically, I had to get in touch with reality enough to understand how deeply flawed I am, and to begin working on it.) That work began years ago and continues to this day.
Still, I had to ask myself this question. If what I had wanted all along was to escape reality, why did I base some of my work on things I’d witnessed or experienced?
Well, for one thing, I compartmentalized my feelings and traumas. The people on the page were not real because I’d turned reality into fiction. I was playing God, and, most importantly, I was in control. I needed to be in control. (The focus of my work, by the way, has now shifted to 90% fiction.)
The good news here is, everything is all about learning and growing. It never stops, and because of that, I’ve become increasingly grateful and so incredibly appreciative of the people in my life.
It’s much easier to be “present in the moment” when you know to cherish it! I find that these days, I genuinely care without needing anything in return. So, I’m not all bad.
I suppose the need for self-protection will override progress when necessary, mostly out of habit, but in this life, if you’re committed to improvement, you will achieve it!
One day at a time? I used to wonder why people with thirty years of sobriety or more would say “recovery” was one day at a time. For a newbie, yes. I got that. But those of us with more than five years? I’d say, “Well, I’m committed to my recovery. I’m grounded, and I’m not going back, I promise you.”
So, I have twenty-four consecutive years of “abstaining.”
I often forget exactly how long it’s been because it truly is one day at a time.
A Disease of the Attitudes
It’s never been so much about the physical compulsion for me. I never had a hangover, let alone a blackout. I didn’t do rehab or detox or spend time in jail.
Addiction, however, is a disease of mind, body, and spirit. I came across that explanation on Hazeldon.org, the other day, and I wholeheartedly believe that.
Before his death in 2016, educator/counselor/motivational speaker John Bradshaw authored many books on what he believed to be the root of all addictions—codependency. Codependency, in his view, was toxic shame. I’d also heard it referred to as the “Disease of the Attitudes.” It is trauma induced, but there is also a lot of learned behavior, as many people grow up in dysfunctional families.
The disease has many manifestations. In short, something or someone has control over us to the extent that it clouds our perception and impairs our judgment, making life on life’s terms unmanageable.
Under these circumstances, we begin to exhibit narcissistic behavior, something that is common in our society to varying degrees, and more common, it seems, in addicts/alcoholics. 12-steps programs seek to correct that very behavior, along with the self-centeredness and self-obsession. It is not to be confused with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, although there are people in recovery who have that affliction. More so, addicts are people who have been abused by narcissists, including those with NPD. How narcissistic we become likely depends on the amount of time we’ve spent putting up with our narcissistic abusers. We catch their “fleas,” so to speak.
Sadly, we emerge with feelings of unworthiness. Down deep, we feel inferior, so we tell ourselves whatever we need to say to ourselves to maintain the delusion that we’re not only worthy, we’re better. We don’t even realize we think we are better, and yet we communicate that to others. We act as if we are unique and more important than everyone else, and we’re oblivious to all of it because we take ourselves way more seriously than we should.
We don’t know who we are, so we choose a mask, and we wear it. Denial can be such a comfort.
On a subconscious level, we are fiercely determined to preserve our delusions and denials and protect all of our “secrets.” We may become bullies with an eye out for any perceived threat. There is a constant need for damage control.
We use people. They help provide the attention, admiration, and validation we need, and they help support and promote our altered perceptions of what’s real.
We become con artists who can convince anyone of anything, turn things on and off as needed, and find a million different ways to seduce people. We learn that sex is not the only way to do that.
Often, too, we lack empathy. We are self-obsessed and so unable to put ourselves in someone else’s place. We’ve lost the connection where we feel what others are feeling. Our agendas keep us busy, along with trying to control everything, including how we are perceived by others. Maintaining the delusions and denial is nothing short of exhausting.
And we don’t hold ourselves accountable for our actions. Instead of learning from our mistakes, we make excuses. We get tangled in a web of lies we’ve created.
So, when we finally arrive at that place of surrender, we are broken. We’re needy and vulnerable. We crave attention from others. It’s a drug, and whenever someone complies, it’s a temporary fix. It doesn’t work because, like any other drug, the euphoria fades, and you remember the pain and torture of what you truly fear. Hence, we need fix after fix.
Why There is More Danger Than We Realize
As an addicted person, we have, at least, some awareness of the danger we pose to ourselves. We may, at some point, realize the harm we cause others. We take risks we would not ordinarily take. However, there are some more insidious pitfalls that we never see coming.
Our “needs” will lead us to toxic codependent relationships that can put us or keep us in dangerous situations with severe consequences. People inclined to use our fragility against us will instinctively take advantage, and we will unintentionally draw them to us. Sometimes, they suffer from the same affliction, except they are true narcissists who will apply what they’ve learned to get what they want. Their desperation is so great, they can’t see past it, and neither can we.
These are predators who will love bomb the shit out of you and play to all your vulnerabilities by telling you precisely what you want to hear. They’ll idealize you, place you on a pedestal, and you’ll let them do it because what they offer is what you want. And the moment you’re not doing what they want you to do, they’ll begin to devalue you. It can be a frenemy, a lover, a co-worker, a family member, or even another person in recovery. When they can no longer control you, they’ll insult you in passive-aggressive ways, threaten to abandon you or lash out with cruel vindictiveness you’ve never seen the likes of throughout your wretched existence.
So, why is this important to mention?
It is unfortunately common. I’ve witnessed it. I’ve lived it and I’ve blogged about it, It’s also madness. It will leave you traumatized and shocked, feeling emotionally raped. For the most fragile people, it’s caused mental breakdowns, even suicide. It’s hard to explain how this sort of bondage messes with your head, but all rational thinking goes right out the window.
The good news is, once you become aware of what’s going on inside of you, your needs will begin to change. You’ll get better and better at spotting the red flags, and your boundaries can protect you.
You Can Do It
It may take a bit of perilous soul-searching and coming face-to-face with the terrifying darkness lurking within, but we can fix this. Real narcissistic abusers (NPDs), however, cannot.
At the same time, not everyone is ready to plunge into that seemingly endless abyss where we face painful truths about ourselves and endure the grueling process of healing. We deliberately avoid it, or we scatter a little bit of dirt to the side and then dart off in another direction, taking cover until we feel grounded enough to dig a little deeper. Some people, sadly, will never be ready.
As for the rest of us, damn the lies! We got sick and tired of the drama and the feeling of dread whenever the phone rang. We were ready to love with our whole hearts, leaving the agendas behind. Hey, it’s not as easy as living in denial, but we knew we had to get better, that we had to do better. We can only be honest with others if we’re honest with ourselves. For that reason, we have to know what’s real, and, over time, we’ll peel off layer after layer of untruth. We want to make life decisions as informed individuals with ever-increasing clarity.
Sooner, rather than later, we come to learn how to stop taking ourselves so seriously, which I’ve discussed at length in another blog. I talk about embracing your vulnerability, but, the truth is, we have to know what those vulnerabilities are, so we can protect ourselves when itreally is necessary. When we fully accept that we are all just struggling humans, equal in importance, the shame that drove us to desperation will begin to dissipate.
I’ve come to notice that most people don’t like it when I say we are equal in importance and that no one is superior to anyone else. For sure, it’s not a popular thing to go babbling on about, but I do it because it’s part of a huge problem in this world — the less who contribute to it, the better.
We’ll get rid of that all or nothing mentality, too—winner takes all. We must have flexibility and balance in our lives.
In this process of recovery, we come to understand the importance of examining our motives and expectations in every situation. We may find they are not reasonable or realistic, and that we can’t trust our egos. People without clarity of conscience don’t question themselves. They won’t say, “I’m glad I caught that. I can refrain. I can resist. I can do the right thing.” They’ll keep doing what they’re doing, often not understanding what they’re doing or why.
We’ll be able to put ourselves in someone else’s place and take care with our words. For example, I’m always wary of leading anyone in the wrong direction, so I’m very direct. Sometimes because we’re kind to people, they think a romance is possible. In the past, that wouldn’t have bothered me because, hell, I had another fan to add to my collection. It fed my ego. Today, I am sincere in not wanting to hurt anyone. I’ve become interested in people for who they are and not for how they validate me.
I’ve also found that the maturity and wisdom we gain in “doing the work” allows us to resolve conflicts like adults because we are open, and we genuinely care about others. I don’t mean engaging with those that have no concern or regard for us and who will only do us harm. Nope, we’ll be avoiding people like that. In the past, it was too easy to lead us, to fool us, to enslave us, and that’s just not happening anymore. It’s essential to continue strengthening our boundaries and to pay attention! Know how to differentiate between genuine compliments and someone who is love bombing you because they have a fast-lane agenda. Shut down the love bombing. It’s a trap. We must hold on to our serenity and our peace. Newsflash: Love bombing doesn’t only happen in romance.
Anyway, we won’t be wasting time and energy on damage control. Instead, we’ll be acknowledging our mistakes and learning from them, not making excuses.
Of course, we don’t always have it down to the point where we’re invincible. It’s a constant effort that gets more automatic with time, but we never stop being vulnerable. We have to be patient with ourselves and our healing process and also with the healing journeys of others. (That’s a lot harder than it sounds. 😉 )
So, what’s in the way of our surrender?
I’ve often heard, “But I can’t go to those 12-step meetings. I’m not comfortable.” Another deterrent for some is what they’ve referred to as “the God thing.” Someone in recovery suggested they are egotistical if they don’t subscribe to the most popular concept of God. Others seemed to invalidate a person’s sobriety and solid footing, claiming he or she was on the wrong path.
Let’s talk about the religious part first. Those who have other perceptions of God are fully aware that greatness surrounds and exceeds us all. We are in awe. Aside from that, I personally believe all the good around us and within us is God, and that God can also be conceived as “Good Orderly Direction.”
As so eloquently stated by Louisa Peck in her blog, A Spiritual Evolution, “Good Orderly Direction is more than the antithesis of fuck it; it’s the antithesis of ego. It is a form of caring, of knowing that your choices matter and seeking those that will feel right in the long run.”
Regardless of where that “good orderly direction” comes from, it keeps you on the right path. It’s there if you want it to be, and it’s where I direct my infinite gratitude. We can’t fall into the trap of trying to impress the masses. Let them do what works for them. You do you.
As for the social anxiety. I have it, too. We don’t like it when we’re not comfortable. That’s why we’ve turned to other methods of coping with reality—using drugs, alcohol, and other things to the point where we know something’s not right with us. It’s good to push through; yes, we won’t ever get comfortable by avoiding the problem. But if you can’t do it, you can still get with the program or benefit from its wisdom.
You can read the literature, work the steps, and learn a better design for living, and you can do it in the way that is best for you. What we don’t want moving forward are obstacles to our healing. Nothing and no one should prevent us from taking back our lives and restoring our sanity.
Recovery is an ongoing, permanent pursuit requiring a day-by-day commitment to better choices, requiring continuous reminders of, that’s not the way we do things anymore. We are never beyond reproach or incapable of making mistakes or bad judgments and reverting to old patterns. You can be physically sober for decades and still be an ass.
The learning, growing, and healing never ends. I love that we know better than we did in the past.
What I believe is; we should be consistently evolving. And every person we know has something to teach us whether they have no time in recovery or fifty years.
Appreciating who and where you are while also understanding who and what you’ve been is a good thing. We deserve the truth, don’t you think? And we’re worthy of it. We don’t have to be who others taught us to be when we came into this world. The people we looked to for guidance did what they could with the best of intentions and whatever awareness they had. It simply wasn’t enough.
If you are defending the rights of others who
are denied whatever privilege you enjoy, does that mean you have a savior
It’s one of many questions I ask myself, given the fact that I’ve been doing this since I was twelve. It was instinctive then, and it’s instinctive now because I don’t want to live in a world where bigotry seems to be the norm. Whether people were happy or unhappy about this stance I’d taken has never made a difference to me.
I have also questioned my own motives at
It’s not about being politically correct. As far as I’m concerned, it is simply right, and I’m so confident of that that I’ll stick to it no matter who or what I stand to lose in the process.
Is it about tolerance? Nope. I would not even list that trait among my qualities, since there is much I can’t and won’t tolerate, including things that may seem unreasonable to the culprits, and yep, one of those things is the cruelty generated by prejudice. So, in choosing friends and partners, there are plenty of deal breakers, sure, but their origins will have nothing to do with it.
Who am I to merely tolerate people anyway because they weren’t born with my skin color, ethnicity, sexuality or socioeconomic status, or happened to be taught some other religious philosophy? There is simply no part of me that believes whatever I was born as makes me superior to another. Nor is there any part of me that wants to deny people justice or the rights and equality they deserve.
That’s my two cents’ worth, and I’m not claiming to be the bigger or better person than anyone who opposes because I’m simply hardwired this way. Besides that, I have plenty of faults. Barbarity just isn’t one of them.
I’ve accepted, too, that impartiality doesn’t help you win popularity contests. Gaining acceptance and fitting in are often about forming alliances based on race, gender, religion, orientation, ethnicity, political beliefs, and so on. There are those who consider me naïve for stubbornly hanging on to this neutrality like a Pitbull with a pork chop. Others may chalk it up to me having this willful, rebellious, antagonistic nature. Either way, some individuals feel I am wrong and are perplexed by my fierce defense of the “other side.”
I can honestly live without such flimsy alliances. Most of those alliance-forming factors are not a basis for forming an opinion. And when people come back at me with, “Stereotypes exist for a reason,” I say, “That is still what they are, stereotypes. You don’t know someone until you do.”
Anyway, here’s my story.
My father was born in Campochiaro, Italy. He came to the U.S. with his family when he was fifteen years old. They lived in Woodside, Queens, which was a predominantly Irish neighborhood. Italians were not welcome. They were called everything from dagos to greasy meatballs. Italians had initially been greeted in some places by “No Italians Allowed” signs and had to change their surnames before anybody would hire them. My dad always worked, rarely taking sick and vacation days. He married a woman of Spanish descent, born in Havana, Cuba. She also came to the U.S. as a teenager, and they met in a class where they were both learning to speak English. Like him, she made sure she remained employed and dependable. While they were still newlyweds, he fought for our country, on the front line, making the rank of Sergeant, and he received a Purple Heart.
By the time I came along, there were plenty of Italian families in Woodside. Italians had made the acceptance cut. Spanish people were the new threat, committing the crime of paving the way for other Hispanics. Because of my mother, my siblings and I were told to “go back to Cuba,” a place I’d only visited once when I was three. They called us spics. And the main culprits of this bullying were, surprisingly, Italian.
My mother lied about being Spanish to strangers, saying she was Italian. She thought she’d be perceived as another one of those wetbacks coming over to the U.S. for a handout when she, in fact, came here legally. She also refused to speak Spanish at work to avoid being judged.
Some people will tell you it’s all about paying your dues, earning your place. Irish people experienced oppression and persecution before the Italians did, and once everyone got over the Spanish neighbors, they were directing their venom at the Indians, Pakistanis, and so on.
Regarding black people, I’ve often heard the argument, “Well, we did what we had to do to earn respect.” My answer to that was, “But you weren’t brought here in chains and forced into slavery. You’re not being discriminated against anymore. They are.”
Understandably, people of cultures that have been oppressed feel a kinship with their own, especially when the oppression continues. Who could blame them for supporting and defending one another?
If you go through life as a member of any oppressed group, which includes women, you see the global and systematic imbalance, the unfairness, and the cruelty. One example is women believing other women when they share experiences about rape and abuse. Some men hate these women for making their gender sound like monsters and feel they’re being blamed because they are also a man. The thing is, we should all want the truth and due process, but some must adamantly defend their “group.”
What I’ll never understand is people being okay with anyone facing the type of scorn, ridicule, and discrimination that tore their own hearts out. I don’t understand anyone being okay with it period.
My extended family on both sides had their own prejudices, to say the least. Meanwhile, my curiosity in wanting to get to know all these non-white people was insatiable. I kept seeing that I had beautiful experiences and encounters with them. When I was twelve, my favorite bands were The Temptations—five black soul music vocalists and dancers— and Santana, featuring a hot Mexican-American guitarist. (Santana’s music is defined as Latin-infused rock with salsa, blues, and African rhythms.) On The Temptations’ Puzzle People album, there was a song called “Message from a Black Man,” and God knows what my parents were thinking when I amped it up and sang along with the lyrics. But I really wanted to hear that message. I felt compelled to.
During my high school days and later on in other community-like settings—even recovery circles—it was apparent to me that some people showed a preference for making friends with people who shared their background. I certainly got the impression that they felt superior to anyone who was not “one of them.” And to this day, when I go to the doctor, and I’m sitting in the waiting room, white people look delighted when I sit beside them. Maybe if they knew all the details of my ancestry, they’d scoot away. Who knows? 🤷
It’s all part of the world’s obsession with
sameness—feeling safe, secure, and comfortable primarily with people they
believe are exactly like them. The common assumption seems to be that whatever
a person was born as, whatever belief system he or she inherited, that is the
right one and the best, and the only one that matters.
It’s right up there with other concepts I
don’t understand—like the enjoyment of shaming people or delighting in
someone’s suffering because revenge is supposed to be sweet.
And the idea that we’re supposed to feel more
outraged or upset when something happens to someone who was born in the same
country we were born in or who shares our ethnicity, race, etc. As if bad
things happening to people in Syria or some other place has nothing to do with
Suffering is unbearable, no matter who
suffers. I hate to see it.
Hey, I’m all for the celebration of culture, but people who share my origins don’t have an immediate edge with me. Heritage is fascinating, including my own. I enjoy listening to people talk about it. Accents are intriguing. I love seeing all these fantastic places and trying out different cuisines. But I identify with being a global citizen and human being more than being an American or anything else. That’s crazy and even awful to some people, I know, but I can’t help that, and I’m not sorry about it. I’m glad.
People go to war over bias and entitlement.
They discriminate and violently target others based on the very same.
I will admit that as a white female, or a female perceived to be white anyway, I’ve had experiences where black teen girls started fights with me for no apparent reason. But so have white women! I’ve also met some nasty-ass gay people, but I’ve met even nastier straight people. And while I was raised as an Italian/Spanish Catholic white girl, the worst incidents of sexual trauma, harassment and assault throughout my life were at the hands of white, Italian Catholic males. It’s never meant that every white, Catholic Italian guy was going to be like that. As far as I’m concerned—no matter what group you’re talking about—it takes all kinds. There are good and bad people on the right and the left, good and bad men and women. What I see with a lot of people though is, when someone not like them hurts, appalls, or devastates them, it is a reflection on that group culture. They won’t stop to think of the people of their own kind who have done the same thing or worse.
People caught up in the opposing mindset don’t like to hear that there are good and bad eggs in every bunch. They have this blind loyalty to their kind. When it comes to others, they often know only the stereotypes or what they’ve read in the news or saw on TV. Without having any real relationships with the people from whatever culture they shun, their impression is based on limited experience.
Not having shunned people who weren’t like me gave me an advantage in life. I always had that frame of reference. Even the people I agree with politically are not necessarily people I like. People I don’t agree with aren’t always people I can’t love.
To be honest, though, whenever there is a reunion, high school or whatever, I know by now not to go because nothing changes with most people. For me, there is no joy in seeing people hold on to this ignorance, these old ideas, and this hate for certain cultures. The end result is, people you love with all your heart say the most appalling things without batting an eye and think there’s not a thing in the world wrong with it. It’s their normal, and it’s heartbreaking.
Bigots, for one thing, are people with inferiority complexes who flipped the coin and developed superiority complexes instead. It’s an unconscious or subconscious survival strategy. At every turn, they have to prove their superiority and so refuse to be perceived in a less than flattering light. If you represent them or are a part of their group, you have to measure up to their standards which means looking, acting, and thinking like them because they need to believe that everything about them is right—better than anyone else, even perfect. If you are their child, sibling, niece, nephew, whatever, your job is to fulfill expectations or be mocked, rejected, and shamed. They resent you for causing them shame.
So they’ll make fun of the kid with the lazy eye. They’ll tell someone he or she is retarded because they don’t understand the kid’s behavior. They’ll shun someone for not being pretty or call somebody fat because they think it’s the worst thing anyone can be. Since they are so into their own standards of beauty and perfection, they quickly find what they perceive as imperfection in others. Yet, they don’t notice their own shortcomings.
I once heard a child ask this about one of my
adult relatives. “Why is (so and so) always making fun of people?”
Some will defend the behavior, saying we’ve become weak as a society. Those individuals believe being mocked toughens you up. It doesn’t. It makes kindhearted people forever sensitive, insecure, and self-loathing. The ones who did get “toughened up,” so to speak, are merely bullies of the present day, bullying their own kids and the other adults in their lives.
Their values were handed off to them by their parents, and there’s an ingrained belief that their parents could never be wrong. They’ll say, “Well, they raised me, and I didn’t turn out so bad.” (In many cases, they didn’t turn out so good either.) But the evil they know is less frightening than uncertainty. It’s the perfect justification for passing this crap onto their own kids. It’s worse, too, when the parents are deceased because then they feel they can’t say anything unflattering about the dead. (Maybe the fear is the ghosts might hear you, but don’t quote me on that.) Whatever the deal is, you have to pretend these people were not only good—they were perfect. And the stuff they did wrong, which had been previously acknowledged, will now be denied.
In these families, you either get on board, or you take your broken heart someplace else.
I’ve talked about all of this with my own child, who attributed the lockstep mentality to a fear of not belonging, not fitting in—most importantly, not having that total acceptance from their loved ones. I can’t answer for why my own convictions became more critical than that acceptance, but they did. I can say I chose my soul over their acceptance, rejecting their mentality no matter the cost.
Getting back to those people who say they
turned out just fine, well I did, too—after clawing my way back, inch by inch,
step by step. After fighting to learn and grow and heal for many, many years.
That doesn’t mean that my parents or someone else’s parents wholly screwed up. No one is perfect, but if each generation learns from the one before, we can not only do better, we should.
Here’s the thing. We can all be wrong. At a
certain point in my life. I had to question whether everything I knew was
wrong—everything I was taught. Because
ultimately, only the truth serves me. Denial has cost me, and many others, I’m
sure, way too much already. It’s self-destructive to allow it to continue.
We can never take things at face value or
count on what other people teach. Children must be allowed to think for
themselves and form their own opinions. They need to know they will be
unconditionally loved and accepted without buying into your total mindset,
without having to live the life you have envisioned for them.
So, to wrap this up, I believe that every culture should be celebrated. Certain people get tired of hearing it, I know, but we are one, big, beautiful, and colorful family, and, no matter whose heritage we are celebrating, I’m in.
Some photos of Woodside Queens, New York
“We all have a divine mission on earth. Let that mission be to inspire love and embrace the light within. Let that mission be to have peace in our hearts as we create heaven on earth. Let that mission be to seek empowerment through transformation and to breathe joy into everything we do. If we allow these things to be our mission the golden light of the sun will shine on our souls and change our world forever.”~ Michael Teal
From the time I was a child, I’d heard that people born under the sign of Scorpio couldn’t forgive others. They held grudges forever, and these diabolical creatures, when wronged, were never satisfied with sticking the knife to their enemy (figuratively speaking, of course). They had to twist it from side to side.
Yikes! I happen to be a Scorpio (as if it matters), and this isn’t a blog about astrology. It’s about what I’ve learned about forgiveness, Pluto be damned. (Yes, Scorpio is ruled by a rock that is no longer considered a planet, so that tells you how much stock you should put into these things.)
Further, believing such a thing about yourself and committing to it is demoralizing, self-sabotaging, and self-destructive— not just for people born in the latter part of October and earlier part of November but for anyone.
The good news is, I was never doomed to be an unforgiving Scorpio or anything else I didn’t want to be, and neither are you! Nobody can tell you who you are, and you alone define your limitations. Our wills are more powerful than our experiences if we want them to be, and it’s a safe bet they’re more powerful than any effect the sun may have had on us at the time of our birth. The whole idea that we can’t help being who or what we are and have no control over it is utter nonsense. We can do whatever the hell we want, and we alone are responsible for what it is we decide to do.
Besides that, if we want to recover from our afflictions and tragedies, we need to heal and learn and grow and continue to evolve until our dying day. For this reason, we must come to understand forgiveness and the vital part it plays in our lives.
Those of us who’ve been in twelve-step programs for one affliction or another have likely come upon literature that explains the whole forgiveness thing better than I can. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous states that, “Resentment destroys more alcoholics than anything else because deep resentment leads to futility and unhappiness and shuts us off from the Sunlight of the Spirit.” Addiction Treatment magazine notes that “Harboring anger can encourage you to be in a constant state of anxiety, which then can cause numerous physical health problems. Too much stress and anxiety can lead to cardiovascular issues, a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, and other potential ailments.”
Now, if you ask me … (You are asking me, right?) Forgiveness involves coming to terms with the truth.
For trauma survivors, like me, that’s not as simple as it sounds. All our lives, survival instincts had kicked in when necessary, leading us to strategize, justify, deny, etc.—whatever we had to do to cope. We may have even learned to deceive others with or without realizing, because we were deluding ourselves. That’s quite the dilemma when coming to terms with the truth is the only way to determine our level of responsibility for what happens in life.
Bear with me now because the first time someone told me I needed to own my part in everything that happened to me, I was royally pissed. If that included some horrific thing I surely didn’t deserve, it seemed downright cruel.
Well, when it comes to trauma survival, the idea of ‘owning our part’ is indeed cringeworthy, but it’s about addressing the issue of what we might do differently going forward. It’s the same question we’d ask in any other life-altering experience that leaves us shaken. The wording is appropriate when applied to the more typical betrayals or arguments—people hurting and rejecting one another in the way imperfect humans do. Either way, if we are the victim of someone else’s bad behavior, self-evaluation doesn’t mean the culprit is absolved of wrongdoing or that he or she is any less vile. It’s not to say that you or anyone else is okay with what happened, or that you are required to understand the reprehensible motivation behind what this person did.
The things that happen to us in life, good or bad, are learning opportunities that can increase our awareness about the world we live in, about others, and ourselves. No one says it’s fair or easy. Children can learn it from loving adults, what to do, what not to do, going forward, understanding that what happened wasn’t their fault. The acquired knowledge does not guarantee anything, I know, but it certainly helps. That’s what we’re owning.
You may have heard it a million times, and it’s still true: forgiveness is, first and foremost, for the one who suffers. It takes place so that whatever or whoever has hurt you no longer owns you or has control over your life. It’s a letting go that allows you to live and breathe and move on, survive and thrive by not allowing the perpetrator to cause you more suffering than you’ve already endured.
Excluding any justice sought in a criminal act, it didn’t take me long to see (even as an evil, menacing Scorpio) that retribution happens to abusive people without any help from me. They are their own worst enemies, and, sooner or later, the piper catches up to collect what he is owed. Some people balk at me when I say this, but I’ve learned to send love whenever these damaged souls come to mind. They surely need it. When I was at my absolute worst, I needed it, too. I still do. In fact, we all do.
However, despite all I’ve said here, nobody can tell you how to handle your feelings. We can talk about what works for us, with the hope that it might help someone else find the peace and joy that we’ve found, but that’s as far as it goes.
There were many times I’d witnessed a person expressing anger and grief over a traumatic experience, and others got upset about it. The others, in response, would say things like, “Well, I have a friend who went through that, and she had counseling, bla bla bla. She’s fine now, and maybe if so and so did that, he or she wouldn’t have to dwell on it and could move on.”
Well, no, people don’t necessarily react to trauma in the same fashion, so expectations of how people should behave are absurd. As for therapists, there are some who make it worse by revictimizing, or re-traumatizing because they don’t deal effectively with the repercussions of trauma. If you’re lucky enough to find the right counselor, therapy is excruciating work that leaves you raw and vulnerable to your very core. You have to be ready for it and strong enough to see it through.
So, yeah, no one has the right to decide for another person when it’s time to stop being angry, and to forgive and let go. Anger, like every other stage in the grieving process, must run its course.
If a person is never ready to stop being angry or forgive, it’s not for me or anyone else to judge. Healing is an ongoing process that, for all we know, may continue beyond this lifetime.
As I see it, we don’t forgive for the sole purpose of appeasing others. We do it when we’re prepared to rescue ourselves from the onslaught of continual suffering. And that’s where, in situations that are not so cut and dried as to who did what to whom, coming to terms with the truth helps determine our level of responsibility.
In any case, we cannot allow people to deny our reality of what we experienced or accept their spin on it if it has no basis in truth. We don’t want justification for what cannot be justified or for others to minimize the damage. We may be guilted and shamed into keeping quiet or making concessions, but to do so would impede our progress. Deciphering what is true and what is not is more important than appeasing others who need to deal with their own wounds. Their place in the healing process is different from ours, and we can’t wait there with them. We have work to do.
For us, the secrets and lies must end. It’s a fight for our well-being and our sanity. We’ve already endured the pain of silence. We’ve suffered too much already from the consequences of denial. We went through years of being protectively dishonest. We told ourselves we were okay when we weren’t yet. We said we’d survived while our brokenness continued and thought we were thriving when we were hanging on by the seat of our pants. We can’t afford more delusions about any of it. We have a right to be well and whole again.
It is critical that we stand up for ourselves and find out who we are as opposed to what other people want or believe us to be. It is crucial that we slowly and continually peel off every layer of the false self we present to the world, that we become more and more honest with ourselves and others.
After that, forgiveness exists at different levels, all of which amount to some form of healing and resolution. Perhaps it is forgiveness for resolving differences, where two people have worked through it, allowing the truth to sort things, and their relationship to resume with a clean slate. Maybe it’s forgiveness for peace, where you don’t have to trust this person again or have what you once had, but you’ve relinquished the hard feelings. And maybe it is purely for self-love and healing, and it doesn’t involve having to deal with that person again.
No matter how it plays out, we’ve taken our power back. It doesn’t mean we won’t be triggered when we see the same thing happening to us or to someone else in the future, especially when those people are silenced or dismissed. But we will be whole again.
All I can say is, if I’d bought into that nonsense of being unable to forgive, I’d be permanently screwed. It would have kept me from rising in my power and from the ability to summon my courage and my strength whenever I need it.
People run from life in many ways. We can want a hug so desperately and yet recoil from it. We can crave love more than anything and build fortresses to keep it away. There’s this idea that the more bridges we burn, the harder it will be to go back to the things that caused us pain. Sometimes, that is true, but, at the same time, we keep looking for that place where we belong, and, in some situations, trying almost too hard to fit in, until we accept, with a great deal of shame, that we need to move on. Reaching out to people is overwhelming and terrifying, but we try it, and when we feel unheard, we vanish again. So many goodbyes––until we don’t want to do the relationship thing anymore or the intimacy thing or ask anyone for help or love or whatever the hell we need. Intimacy doesn’t seem worth any of that, and we lose interest. We shut down, close our doors for business, and thrive in our safe, predictable worlds.
We wonder if we are crazy, but people tell us only sane people question their sanity. Sometimes we think we’re monsters, but we come to learn that monsters feel no guilt, no shame, and no love. We do love, from a distance and we absorb the world’s pain.
In my twenties and beyond, I kept changing my name, my hair color, my address, my phone number, my job–you name it. It was as if I couldn’t run fast enough, couldn’t hide in a safe enough place. Without realizing it, I was running away from the trauma of childhood and teen years.
At some point in the healing process, something tells you that you don’t need to hide anymore. You don’t need to run, so you try not to. What’s unsettling is how far you can come in your healing and still get thrown back there in a heartbeat.
Progress can seem slow, but it keeps happening. I’m not a patient person, but I’ve learned to be patient about healing. I’ve had to, and I love healing because I’ve reaped its rewards. Often, I look back and ask myself, “How did I survive, being such an idiot for most of my life?” That may seem harsh, but in light of how far I’ve come, it makes sense. We can’t fix what we don’t know is broken. We can’t benefit from learning the truth about ourselves until we feel safe in rejecting the lies.
As survivors, we want this healing for everyone while needing to learn, too, that people are only ready when they’re ready. And it’s painful when we love people who need desperately to heal but remain trapped in their fear. Sometimes we wish we could absorb every bit of their agony; even it means holding on to all of it ourselves because we know we can handle it. We have.
We can’t get stuck in that inability to forgive either. It’s understandable because we witness so much unnecessary cruelty toward ourselves and others, and we don’t know what to do with that. For instance, how do you come to terms with the fact that someone willfully tried to destroy another person, or that person’s reputation, or his or her life, that they did everything in their power to annihilate another human being?
What I realized, quite a long time ago, is that revenge and punishment are not up to me. Divine retribution happens without the least bit of my help—no matter how we interpret divinity and even if we are divinity in the sense that we represent it in the universe. It works that way because we can’t destroy people without destroying ourselves. If it’s destruction we want, it’s destruction we’ll get, and it’s never one-sided.
A better solution is to keep following our path and goals and let go of the burdens people give us to hold. The weight comes from feelings of not belonging or being worthy and accepted as we are. It comes from others mischaracterizing us or our actions to suit their agendas and punishing us for not being who they need us to be, not wanting what they require us to want.
We have to find our own happily ever after. It’s undoubtedly not the same for everyone, and that’s another place we can get stuck—wanting what we don’t have and realizing it’s not even what we want but what we think we’re supposed to want and have. Most people want to find that special someone, get that dream house and job. From the time I was eight years old, what I wanted was different—maybe, in some ways, the opposite of what everyone else wanted. It took me a while to realize that I have everything I’d ever wanted or needed in my life and, while I may have moments of feeling sad for another or sad for the world, I am happy.
One thing I’ve always known is to never give up. It does get better, a little at a time, but it gets so much better. Our survival not only gives hope to others but sharing our experiences allows us to help in their healing. We help each other, yes, and we give each other the love that’s been so hard for us to ask for or accept.
I’m not a religious type, but the prayer below has always been my favorite. It can certainly get you through it. ❤️
Brave Wings is a new online magazine that focuses on the human condition—whatever we experience in life that helps us learn, grow, and evolve. Sharing perspectives about healing and empowerment can be exciting and helpful, but we also want to provide entertainment and fun while sharing the beauty of creativity.
For entertainment, we are interested in short stories and book series (all genres). We’re interested in humor.
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Another thing I’m tossing around is whether we’ll have a group or newsletter for interested parties, so please, please, weigh in with your thoughts about everything! All suggestions are welcome!
“What other people think of me is none of my business.”
Yes, I’ve heard that, too, but I agree only in part. We still have to be accountable for our behavior, and it doesn’t help to stubbornly insist we are fine—and that whatever we do is okay regardless of how many people say otherwise.
It doesn’t mean we have to believe every negative thing anyone says about us. It’s more about the willingness to consider what others have to say, whether we like what they’re saying or not. It’s about our responsibility to learn, grow, and evolve.
Everything comes back to balance for me, but when you’re able to set aside ego and keep an open mind, discernment about what to take personally and what to blow off becomes easier.
You can surely tell if something is malicious or plain stupid.
For example, and speaking as an author now, we put our work out there before a world that seems divided on just about everything. Everyone has opinions, not all of them based on reality or given by someone who has a reasonable frame of reference. Someone may read about a tragic event and say it isn’t an accurate portrayal. You can write something that did happen or describe someone that was very real, and someone might see it as a misrepresentation because that’s not what they’ve experienced. People also have personal biases and triggers. And, yes, sometimes the reason they don’t like something has more to do with them than you. I have seen fellow writers get two-star book reviews for reasons that had nothing to do with the book. Some trolls will say negative things merely because they can.
But most of our antagonists or legitimate critics in life, personally and professionally, are people with their own agendas who may or may not have a vested interest in us. And sometimes, they are right on the money.
Unfortunately, however, some people fear criticism so much that they’re not able to live their dreams or find true happiness, They may put a toe in the water but never dive in.
What I have to say may help. It’s worked for me.
Change Your Relationship with Criticism
Years ago, I grappled with panic attacks and debilitating pain. I read somewhere that I could change my relationship with pain by changing my perspective on it.
That helped tremendously, and I soon realized you could do that with just about anything.
Criticism, like pain, isn’t comfortable. It feels horrible, and we don’t like feeling horrible, so we tell ourselves we can’t handle it.
Take yourself out of fear mode and the feeling of helplessness and powerlessness. Acknowledge that you’re not comfortable. Tell yourself you can handle it, then decide how you will do that. You want to find the solution, control whatever it is you can control, and let go of whatever you can’t. Stress only makes things worse.
You’re not alone. What’s happening to you is happening to others, maybe even at the same moment. So many people have been through it. You are no different from any of them and no less capable of handling it. Maybe it seems so much worse because it is happening to you.
Take Yourself Off the Pedestal
On a professional level, people could tell us a thousand times about all the famous people who’d been rejected over and over before the world realized how amazing they were. Many will say, “Well that won’t be me. Oh, but, what am I going to do if it is? How can I control that?”
You can’t, and it’s not easy to get past all that righteous indignation you feel. Someone is criticizing or rejecting you or your behavior or your work, and you instinctively want to defend yourself. You become angry. You feel sad or ashamed. It hurts.
Understand first, that you are not the exception to every rule.
In recovery circles, we laughingly refer to ourselves as “just another Bozo on the bus.” It may sound a bit harsh, but it’s a way of humbling yourself, and taking yourself off the pedestal. I like to think of myself as just another writer, another voice in the choir, and mostly just another person trying to learn and figure things out. That’s an accurate description. We are babies in this astounding old universe, and it’s okay to accept that we’re all vulnerable—not only to the force of nature and random happenings but to each other.
When we respect that, we don’t see people as enemies and haters. We see them as people struggling to survive, like we are.
You are not this person the whole world is watching, and with ridiculous expectations, all the while hoping you will fail or die. I know we meet some nasty people in life that make it seem that way. It’s not surprising that we end up seeing people through such a negative lens. But let’s refuse to believe anyone is that obsessed with us or that petty.
No matter what’s happening, we need to believe that the world is with us, and that the universe supports us.
And with this shift in perspective, there’s little need to be competitive or combative, no need for drama or denial or damage control.
I don’t know about you, but I can think of better things to do than spend my time and energy doing damage control for the sake of my ego. It’s a full-time job, really, with plenty of overtime—controlling how the world sees us and everything that we do. In fact, the business of hiding an inferiority complex behind some shield of superiority is downright exhausting. It becomes impossible to admit you are wrong and say you are sorry. It has you taking credit for all the good in situations and relationships but none of the bad.
Listen to Learn
Do you enjoy a challenge? Do you love to overcome problems and obstacles? I know I do. Understanding that you can do better helps. Wanting to do better can save your life.
Sometimes, we are lazy about fixing stuff. It’s overwhelming. It’s too much work. The reality of life is harsh and can bring unbearable pain. Denial is much more comforting.
I can tell you that, in the past decade, many people have praised me for things I once sucked at, and that’s because somewhere along the line, someone provided me with valuable insight. I was willing to work at it, and so I benefited in the end.
Every critic is a teacher, planting seeds for our improvement and healing.
As far as I can tell, we have to keep listening to learn. On both a personal and professional level, there is always room for improvement. I am obsessed with learning more and more about things that have affected me in my life—things that tripped me up when I had to deal with them in others or myself. I want to learn all I can, not because I’m looking to point fingers but because awareness is everything. I’ve loved those big hallelujah moments where I’ve said, “Hah! So, that’s what’s been going on!” Those were game-changing, life-altering moments. I can’t help feeling grateful for every one of those opportunities.
So, fall in love with the process of learning, growing, evolving, and recovering. It helps us to succeed more and suffer less. And do it with the understanding that this is precisely how it’s supposed to go. Everything is an opportunity for growth, and even shitheads can make valid points. Embrace it. Accept it.
It’s all part of a divine process that is always happening, and we are both a part of and a child of that divinity.
Not everyone likes to plunge into that seemingly endless abyss where we face painful truths and endure the grueling process of healing.
Some deliberately avoid it, or they scatter a little bit of dirt to the side and then dart off in another direction, taking cover until they feel grounded enough to dig a little deeper.
People like us, though, we want to keep digging.
We’ve already been traumatized and shattered, you see, and, in those moments, we learned some of the best lessons of our lives. So, we know we’ll be okay. We know, too, that we are learning to love with our whole hearts.
Amazingly enough, we’ve been walking away from people that have exploited our vulnerabilities. We’ve been doing it for a while now, and we’re getting better at it. Maybe we were condemned for it, too, at one time or another, but we’d do it again in a heartbeat. You see, we know we are vulnerable. We know how vulnerable we are. That is good because before we understood this, it was easy to lead us, to fool us, and to enslave us.
We’ve become patient with our healing process, and we’re trying hard to become more patient with the healing processes of others. We’ve been around long enough to wonder what is worse— dealing with our own fears or the fear that motivates the masses.
It often seems that people don’t truly want to understand each another, or they simply want people who are different or feel differently to go away.
Letting go is easy for some; I know. For us, it is painful and confusing. Maybe the energy needed to explain isn’t there, or we’re tired of explaining, tired of the world, tired of ourselves. We examine our motives, our expectations. We don’t always like our motives. We don’t always trust our egos, and that’s a good thing. People without clarity of conscience don’t question themselves. They won’t say, “I’m glad I caught that. I can refrain. I can resist. I can do the right thing.” They’ll just keep doing what they’re doing, often not understanding what they’re doing or why.
So, yes, the world can overwhelm. It makes some of us want to keep our worlds a little smaller, and, in our broken moments, we need time to fix things in our hearts.
We will work through the sadness. In a poet’s heart, anyway, it has its honored place. We’ll embrace it, feel all of its intense beauty, and we’ll let it run its magnificent course.
Those of us who do this work and this digging do it because we’ve had it with being terrified, with trying to protect our hearts and our secrets—the image, the illusions, the payoff. We’re tired of the denial that was our sole comfort, our only way to survive. When we came to fully accept that we are all just struggling humans, equal in importance, the shame that drove us to compete and control began to dissipate.
We kept replacing false with real, and we’ve hung on to hope. It’s not as easy as living in denial, but we know we have to get better. We know we have to do better.
For what it’s worth, as I see it, the truth is never one extreme or the other. There’s a lot of gray, and we always need balance.
But just so you know? When we shut down, when we distance, when we go deep or even go away, we don’t hate you. We don’t want to hurt you. We’re grateful that you have been part of our experience. We’re grateful for what you’ve taught us. We’re grateful for every blessing we have. Our hearts are bursting with love and often joy, and we still care. We continue to root for you, no matter what, and we’re always ready to listen, ready to resolve, and ready to heal.
Years ago, I thought I had accepted that life was unfair. Coming to terms with that somehow unburdened me. It cured me forever of the “why me’s.” What it didn’t seem to cure me of, however, is the “why anyone?” With countless people suffering all over the world, I have spent the past couple of years feeling anxious, feeling frustrated.
I’ve come to realize that no matter how much I hurt for the world, I must acknowledge that I really am one of the luckiest people alive. I love my life. I love what I do. I have everything I need and more than enough of what I want.
I have to remember that, no matter what is going on.
So here is a just a short list of reasons I am grateful. I decided to share it because so many of us are trying to find some peace in this challenging time.
I am grateful to everyone I have ever known, and what they have taught me.
I am grateful for the forgiveness that brings peace and second chances.
I am grateful for solutions.
I am grateful for change.
I am grateful for truth.
I am grateful for freedom.
I am grateful for all our heroes, warriors, and survivors.
I give thanks for everyday pleasures.
I am grateful for all the beauty that surrounds me.
I am grateful for home.
I am grateful for people to cherish in my life.
I am grateful for this moment.
I am grateful for imperfection, silliness, and madness.
I am grateful for fantasy and imagination.
I am grateful for kindness, for hugs, and for all the love and light in the universe.
I am grateful because there is something beautiful in everyone.
I am grateful to be alive, to have this day.
I am grateful for fond memories of childhood that overshadow the painful ones.
I am grateful for increasing clarity and for having been ready to heal.
I am grateful for all I have been able to resolve internally, for the darkest moments, and rising from every fall.
I am grateful for the realization that my ego was my worst enemy and distorted my perception.
I am grateful for learning from my mistakes, for being able to work through the tough stuff.
I am grateful that I am not bitter.
I am grateful for not giving up, for hanging in there until it was okay.
I am grateful for laughter.
I am grateful for all the learning and evolving.
I am grateful for the beaten dragons.
I am grateful for finding my truth and my voice.
I am grateful for letting go of unworthiness, for self-respect, and learning to stand up for myself.
I am grateful for learning how to be strong, how to share joy, for having learned to trust my instincts and myself.
I am grateful for defying limitations.
I am grateful for the desire to grow finally exceeding my desire to hold on, for the strength and courage to let go of the things that weighed me down.
I am grateful for the doors that opened for me and the doors that, after teaching me what I needed to learn, closed behind me.
I am grateful for the shedding of masks and my embracing of authenticity.
I am grateful for the ability to see people and things as they are, including myself.
I am grateful for being able to see things from another’s point of view.
I am grateful for the ability to feel empathy and witness the empathy of others.
I am grateful for the amazing struggle that is life.
I am grateful for the ability to keep learning, for all the opportunities to be better and do better, and for all these reasons to smile.
Lastly, I am thankful to those who care about my journey and what I have to say. Thank you for reading and for listening to me.
To those who are struggling, I walked through fire to get here, and I am still walking. Don’t you give up!
Sometimes people are not getting whatever it is they want from you, and they’re not fully aware, or embarrassed to say. They want love, sex, friendship, attention, admiration, approval, money, an acknowledgement, an apology—whatever. Other times they are making assumptions and, for whatever reason, they would prefer to stick with their assumptions rather than get to the truth. They may say, if you confront them, “Oh, no, nothing’s wrong,” or “it’s not you,” thinking that will keep you on the hook. Or they try to shame or silence you, maybe even become passive-aggressive instead of seeking a solution.
What I take from that is, “I can’t risk feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable, or possibly having to admit any wrongdoing or, gasp, apologize. You’re not worth that to me.”
Reaching out to people when we’re feeling something’s wrong can be difficult. In doing that, we’re putting something on the line. We’re willing to be vulnerable and take the risk because that person means something to us. I keep that in mind whenever anyone reaches out to me because I honestly don’t know if, in the past, I’ve ever made a person feel they’re not worth a genuine resolution. If I have, I’d never want to make someone feel like that again.
In any relationship, you need two people to give a shit. At the very least, it’s a matter of mutual respect. If someone can’t be honest with you, if they can’t take your concerns seriously, if they can’t deal with your anger if that should come up or your frustration, then this is not a person who is invested in or committed to the relationship. Nothing about the relationship can be authentic when things don’t get resolved. It merely allows for a superficial connection that will always have some tension, even when we try to focus only on the good and having a nice time or a nice conversation.
Close relationships don’t become what they are by silent treatments, grudges, hoping to punish, or wanting the other person to suffer. They become that way because of genuine caring and a willingness to resolve and forgive on both sides. I believe you have to give each other the chance to make it right or clear up any misunderstanding.
In truth, the people who genuinely care will care about what makes you happy, what makes you angry, what frustrates you, and what hurts you.
And, at some point, it’s time to let go of the others—stop fighting for them because hanging on can be heartbreaking, and it hurts your self-esteem.
The sad thing is, and I see it all the time, the day will come when it’s too late to resolve things with someone. The person is gone forever and sadder still, they’ll just be hoisted up on a pedestal and history will be rewritten. The one who chose not to resolve will remember only the good and times when they were close, but that’s isn’t love. That’s creating the person they are comfortable with, not the one who is human and flawed— maybe even a little broken, but worth so much more than they realized.
Through forests of emerald-green bliss,
Embracing the colors of endless play—
The rainbows of summer.
She was a child of the earth.
Her tiny voice sang,
And she danced!
No danger lurked in her twinkling eyes.
Everything in her fearless laughter
Was colored with mirth.
She built castles on the shore
By a peaceful and provident sea
That was never foreboding.
She skipped beneath the golden clouds
Like the world belonged to her,
As if there were no cares
And all who loved her
Would keep her safe.
“Do not lose her,” I said.
“Do not lose that child.
She needs you so desperately.”
And then she had this grave fear of the sea,
This somber foreboding.
It seemed so vast and so deep
From the shore,
A leviathan-green, hellish monstrosity
Full of strange creatures that devoured things.
It was all that lay between her
And some faraway place
On the other side of the globe.
Somehow, it was not so frightening now.
Neither was the past,
Or all the future obscurities—
Not even those people she once had cherished.
The peace of the waters subdued her now,
As she listened to the thrash of the waves.
She was just playing with a stick in the sand.
There was a noted ambiguity
Whenever she spoke of this place.
Certain moments when she embraced the glorious light
And gazed intently into the darkness.
There were moments, too,
When she felt it creep and crawl around her,
When she ached and trembled,
Longing to free herself from its grip.
While seething within,
She wore the mask of kindness,
Harmless and alluring,
With resentment like hemlock,
Beautiful yet wilting,
Glowing yet tarnished,
Toxic to all
In her flowering beauty.
The sun was setting,
Salmon clouds under a sky of dodger blue,
Flocks of geese
On a sprawling lawn.
A waxing gibbous moon
Like she needed a guide,
A divine light.
“Come forth,” it said.
And some of the fear waned
As she went forth,
But nothing really changed.
She stood alone on the edge,
A faint silhouette
Gazing at the night sky.
A sprinkler to the trees
Thrashing in the wind.
She would flee,
Suddenly unrecognizable faces.
The glowing sun of Helios
Was a beacon
For eternal bliss,
The caves beckoned.
Held its own mystery,
Still the perilous journey
Pretty colors and then
It seemed to have no end.
She heard a child crying,
A child from long ago,
A prisoner of her soul.
Stone walls around her,
Deep, treacherous waters—
Her mind was a fractured maze.
No one could see.
No one could hear.
No safe place to run,
She had to find the way
Every stone that healed
Brought her closer to
The climb was steep,
But she held on,
Clawing her way
Raindrops glistened on the rocks.
Flower petals littered
The wet grass.
She saw vibrant orchids
In the fading light of the moon,
Tranquil waters glistened
Like the ancient alchemical goddess,
She was crowned—
A newborn only beginning
Beginning to see,
Her soul bursting
The beauty within
Became the beauty
Eyes could see,
She was free.
No jewel could sparkle with
And the years could not tarnish its shine.
From Remnants of Severed Chains Copyright October 17, 2015 by Kyrian Lyndon at kyrianlyndon.com.
We all become conscious, at some point in our lives, of ways we can sabotage our physical well-beings.
When it comes to sabotaging our emotional well-beings, and even our financial security and stability, things seem to become more complicated.
Brilliant individuals are sometimes incapable of motivating themselves enough to change their lives or gravitate toward the ideal. They tend to become problem-oriented rather than solution oriented, boxing themselves in with an almost unwillingness to compromise. They may set impossible goals instead of practical ones.
Maybe someone convinced them they didn’t deserve success, or they convinced themselves based on how someone made them feel about their competency or their judgment. Either way, these old tapes keep playing in their heads, telling them they’re not worth much if they’re worth anything at all, that they can’t accomplish, can’t succeed, can’t win, and there’s not enough to go around. In this predicament, we fear success as much as we fear failure, because they are two sides of the same coin. We keep that coin as a reminder that we don’t trust ourselves with the dreams we cherish or the plans we’ve made.
We tell ourselves we don’t deserve success any more than we deserve money. Perhaps once we get our hands on the latter, we don’t manage it well. I’ve been there. I can attest to the fact that when you finally realize you do deserve these things, you’ll likely find yourself working your tail off, accomplishing one goal after another, building good credit along with a nice little nest egg. We have to be rid of whatever that little voice is in our head that says we can’t do it, and we’re not good enough, and that all this is impossible. We can, we are, and it’s not.
We get into this pattern of self-pitying victimhood. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that we’ve been a victim of something or someone, or expressing anger about it, and shedding tears. We have a right to our grieving process. But sometimes we get use to the payoff—attention, pity, praise, the temporary ego fix. So instead of becoming solution oriented, we become more and more problem oriented, more and more likely to want an audience of sympathizers. And we get stuck there because solving problems would take that attention away and whatever else we get from being constantly burdened. It’s not that we don’t deserve to be comforted. It’s that we don’t move forward. We don’t get better.
This pattern normally goes hand in hand with excessive worry about people and things. Social media is a perfect example, because it mirrors life. I have seen people in a pattern of deactivating accounts only to resurface in a matter of days. Sometimes it may be that they legitimately need a break, but very often it’s because expectations are not being met. People are not responding to them in a way they could perceive as favorable. They’ve made assumptions about what people think or what someone meant, and after a considerable amount of time wasted on obsessive worrying, they take a drastic action to disengage. When they come back, it’s because they need to try it all again. They have too much riding on acceptance. It’s all self-defeating because we create unrealistic expectations, and we tend to assume wrong. Comparing and assuming tends to cause more mental anguish than is warranted or bearable. All we can do is be who we are, our ever-improving version of that.
Many stress about their looks, their bodies. Perfect is boring, and there is beauty beyond someone else’s chosen ideal. Beauty does, indeed, come in all shapes, colors, and sizes, and people will have all sorts of opinions on what looks good. In fact, I realized at one point, that I never cared if someone didn’t like the hair color I chose. I knew how I wanted to look. I would never consult anyone about it, not even my significant other. So if we are trying to satisfy ourselves rather than appeal to every single person on the planet, we should set the standards for ourselves not appease clothing designers, the model industry, or the men who rate women on AskMen.com. Because when we’re finally okay with how we look, imperfections and all, we exude the confidence we need to get oh just about anything. And if that’s not enough, we get to focus more on being the best human we can be. When we finally love who we are, we learn to respect ourselves and treat ourselves better.
While it’s normal to want attention and approval, it’s the excessive, almost desperate need for it that can destroy us if we let it. People take unnecessary risks for the fix without realizing. They may trust the wrong people, throw caution to the wind, make excuses for bad behavior, cling to people who have repeatedly demonstrated the harm they’re capable of inflicting upon others. We don’t even realize that the payoff is attention we craved, validation we needed, admiration we couldn’t resist. Because it comes at just the right time, and creates such a bondage that we continue to crave it from a dangerous source.
Sometimes it’s less extreme. We try to be generous with people regarding our time, our attention, our praise, but we do this with relationships we don’t honestly want to nurture because we want to be nice. I find that when people want to be nice or perceived as nice, they immediately have expectations and create obligations. Then, on top of the resentment about doing something they don’t want to do, and the expectations or obligation that likely won’t be met, they go from ‘nice’ person to fire-breathing dragon in a matter of seconds. So what happens next is far from what they initially intended. People get hurt.
Well, it’s okay not to want to be friends with everyone. It’s okay to feel emotionally exhausted and want to have only genuine relationships. It’s okay to walk away when you’re not feeling it, not trusting it. It’s okay to save that overflowing generosity of spirit for those who matter to you. You can still do nice things for others along the way if you want. Quite simply, it doesn’t have to be like wearing a thorny crown while carrying a cross over your back.
I’ll say this. The more I become aware of how people think (thanks to social media), I tend not to want to meet any more people or reconnect with people from the past. I’m happy to avoid everyone outside my window… even while loving to hear them all out there—the comforting humdrum. Isolating can be a peaceful, healing thing, but it can also be another way of self-sabotaging if we don’t check it. I’ll admit, I have to push myself to get out there and deal with the world as it is, on its terms. Whether I like it or not, it’s necessary. I’ve had to accept that I’m not always going to be comfortable, and I’m not always going to be safe.
Still, we do have to take our time getting to know people, especially when we are very empathetic. Because while we can recognize serious issues people have, our compassion for what they’re dealing with can override any need to protect ourselves. Unfortunately, we have to because these people can hurt you and will do so again and again. We need to pay attention. We need to be careful. We have to stop tolerating disrespect under the guise of being noble and humble. That only creates a perception of some superior self that is false. Yeah, we want to be the nice guy, but if we are real with others, we become something better than ‘nice’. We are kind.
I’ve come to believe that one of the best things we can do in life is heal the vulnerabilities that make us susceptible to all this self-sabotage. Once we find the courage to seek answers, then acknowledge, accept, feel, cry and release anger, we heal, we learn, and then we grow and evolve. It’s an ongoing thing that just keeps getting better. We deserve that.
Of course, life would be so much easier if we could make a habit of staying in the moment and being fully present in that moment. We wouldn’t be worrying about what happened yesterday or an hour ago, or what’s going to happen tomorrow. I have to remind myself constantly, but it works particularly well in moments of crisis and panic. A wise friend taught me to stay in the solution. Think about what you can do at that moment, not what you can’t do. Control what you can. Amazing how that helps.
“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”