Monday, February 16, 2009

New Year, New Perspective, New Moves

I don't believe in New Year's resolutions. Although, I do like the idea of starting something new on the very first day of a brand new year. So while I will not make a typical resolution (such as "lose weight" or "quit my addiction to sunflower seeds") I have a New Year's "Motto". This year, the motto is "Compassionate Risk".
I turned 40 in December and have since realized, as many of us do at this age, that I'm not where I thought I'd be in life. Don't get me wrong, I'm blessed to have what I have and appreciate everything. But during Thanksgiving, someone asked me "What are you doing for fun these days?" and I didn't have a good answer. I searched and searched but I couldn't find anything. I had to ask myself, "Do I actually have fun? What is that?"

I've successfully insulated myself from life. From experiences. Protecting myself from taking any risks that will provoke or engage my bottomless pit of fear. (How's that for dramatic?) There was so much I feared. There was so much that I judged about myself, and as such, those preceptions were usually way off base, untrue, and twisted. Those perceptions and fears kept me from experiencing life. How can anybody live up to these standards and this ridicule and enjoy life?

So I am 40. Single. Not married. No kids. Not dating. No prospects either. No dog. One car. One home. Two loans. And living paycheck to paycheck. I get up, go to work, go home, have dinner, watch 3 hours of news and then go to bed. Pretty much how I lived my life the last 13 years, at least. This is neither good or bad. Just boring. Safe. The problem was, the life I wished I had I could not bring myself to pursue. Too scary. Too risky.

But last summer I started looking at things a bit differently. I would figuratively walk up to the window of life and risk and peer in to see what awaits. Looks neat. Admirable. Fun. Can I do this? Sure! Wait, really, can I? For once, in a very long, long time I started considering the possibility that I can have the life I really want - I just needed to walk into it. Go passed the window. Step into it. And release myself from all these unrealistic conditions I set for myself. These self-imposed limitations and judgements that kept me from so much.

The main reason for these limitations and judgements is because I am overweight. By a lot. And I felt that my body size and the fear of other's reactions to it were to blame for keeping me cocooned. But I've come to realize, while that may still be true for some people in society, for the most part I was the one passing judgement and reacting to my size. I had a few experiences in high school and college that left me scarred and apprehensive. That was then. This is now. The only bully I need to contend with, really, is myself.

So, this year, I will take risks. I will face my fears. My poor body image. Not all at once. But I will listen to what I want to do and find a compassionate way to do it.

I used to be very athletic. Fourteen seasons of soccer, ten seasons of softball, two years of field hockey - all before my senior year in highschool. I liked that about myself. But over the years, the weight went on and it became harder to be motivated. To feel (1) that I could do it, and (2) that I would feel emotionally safe doing it. So I regressed. I hibernated for years. Every time I saw someone dance show or do sports, I would admire them. Oh how wished I could move like that. I used to be able to. Now almost 100 lbs overweight, it was hard to do. I was embarrased. Ashamed of what I had become. And the spiral just kept going.

Now I have started to ask "why not?" I have started to come to terms with my body size and what it can or cannot do. And reconcile that with my desire to move, to dance, to be active. While I would love to lose weight, I long more than anything to move like I used to. To have good cardiovasular health, good cholesterol levels, breathe more easily, have more flexibility, and fewer aches and pains.

So my year of Compassionate Risk begins with joining a gym that is focused on women and is size-friendly. And I have started by taking gym classes that most certainly challenged my motto. My first foray into the gym after years of no aerobic exercise was a cardio kickboxing class that kicked my ass. This was so hard physically and emotionally. Being 100 lbs overweight and 5' tall, and grossly out of shape - I was a royal mess during and after the 60-minute class - red faced, light headed, out of sync, lead-footed, uncoordinated, breathing hard, etc. I was an emotional wreck after the class. While I was proud I did it, having seen myself move in the mirror and the realization of my physical limitations, I was sad and ashamed.

After this experience I questioned whether or not this was a good idea and I heard that voice telling me that while I had good intentions, I'm really going to quit this like everything else. So I thought about it. To be compassionate about this, I could do things differently next time - stretch more before and after class and start doing 30 or 45 mins of class instead of 60. I just needed to not get discouraged at how I looked in the mirror or how clumsy and embarrassed I felt, and continue to go to the class, stay mindful and take care of myself.

So the first cardio kickboxing class was a risk for me, as was the second. But the second time around I came prepared. I bought fitness shoes for indoor studio floors (which made my feet feel lighter and easier to lift than my running shoes). I reminded myself to go at MY pace. I did more stretching beforehand. And I went for 40 minutes of the class rather than 60.

And this time I had more fun. While it was slightly easier than the first class, I was still red-faced, breathing hard, moving awkward, and totally ungraceful. But I have to say I'm getting used to seeing myself this way. And that's an AMAZING feat for me - to accept that this as who I am, I look like this now, and still feel the fire in my belly for movement, and to want more. So rather than obsess about what I looked like, I focused on how I felt. I did not feel shame. I felt fierce, proud and driven and I totally owned my space on that floor. I declared that I deserve to move and have FUN doing it!!

So, much of this challenge continues to be how I can find ways of being gentle and kind with myself. I need not put all my risk eggs into one basket. There's plenty of time for that. For now, I'm just making room for myself to have more fun, take risks, be safe and physically move. I still have fears but I am trying to balance them against reality. So unlike resolutions that are specific in measurement, I am simply challenging my old rules and, after some bumps along the way, allowing myself a softer place to land.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Reacting Out of Real Fear for the U.S.

I've been on a blog vacation for eight months and I'm back. I'm back and I want to depart from my usual neurosis love-fest to talk about the 2008 presidential election. Yes, politics. I have followed the campaigns and watched the primary season for seven months now, and as a casual observer and a voter I've become increasingly frustrated and scared as hell. But before I start down this path, I want to share, in the interest of full disclosure, that I am a Democrat.

Come November 2008 this nation has an opportunity to decide to change its course. I am concerned that for all our complaining, the Democrats will fail to vote in droves and will in effect elect another Republican to the White House. My fear is that the Republican platform will be carried out to the nth degree and this nation will suffer as a result as it has been suffering.

As people go, I've always liked and admired John McCain. In 2004 I even considered that he might make a good President. I know I wasn't alone in my thinking then. But I've watched him change positions and pander to the masses over the last year in order to be elected. I do feel that McCain in office WILL BE another term of George Bush policies. In fact, the website, as of today, refers to its platform in a document dated 2004 in support of George Bush for President. Their platform hasn't changed so I have trouble believing the argument that McCain is NOT another Bush.

In this Republican platform document, there is a quote from George W. Bush...

“The role of government is not to control or dominate the lives of our citizens. The role of government is to help our citizens gain the time and the tools to make their own choices and improve their own lives. That’s why I will continue to work to usher in a new era of ownership and opportunity in America.”

For eight years the Bush administration has done exactly the opposite as evidenced by unlawful wire taps, violating the constitution in numerous ways, ongoing support for the Iraq war, and the reasons for the war initially which included falsified intelligence and fear tactics. Noticeably absent, the government did little to help citizens with relief from huricanes Katrina and Rita and floods. This administration thought little of people's rights and the honor our constitution holds - as it was written. Bush appointed right-wing supreme court judges who at the first opportunity would overturn Roe v. Wade (limiting our citizen's choices, legislating morality) and empowering "faith-based" charities (rewarding only government approved religious groups).

In these eight years of cowboy-esque management with secrets and executive privelege cited at every turn, the United States is seen as an unfriendly, unwelcoming, untrustworthy, oil-obsessed country with a bad attitude. Bush continuously acts above the law and his administration's actions are secretive and deceptive to put it lightly.

As Republicans go, this administration has done just the opposite of what it proclaims to believe. Going back to the same document, the quote below exemplifies just how off-base this administration has gone...think foreclosures, mortgage fraud, the jobless rate, the status of the economy, and who is being protected from the law (the administration and their own interests).
"As Republicans, we trust people to make decisions about how to spend, save, and invest their own money...We want people to have a tangible asset that they can build and rely on, making their own choices and directing their own future. Ownership should not be the preserve of the wealthy or the privileged. As Republicans who believe in the power of ownership to create better lives, we want more people to own a home... With President Bush’s leadership we have taken great strides in making the dream of ownership available to millions of Americans, and in the next four years the President and Republicans in Congress will unlock the door to ownership for many more."

Yeah, right.

I fear we'll repeat the enthusisam and unfortunate result of 2004 by electing another Republican that supports many of the same tactics and policies as this admistration. So I beg matter what time it is, no matter what the Democrat's percentage is, no matter if you like Obama personally or not...its time for a course correction. Its time to give America back to its citizens. Its time to go back to honoring the constitution. Remember that thing? You can't cherry pick the laws you like and will obey and those you say, "nah, doesn't work for me."


And finally, to speak to McCain's approach, his campaign website lists the following views. While reading it, ask yourself, where is the support for respecting each citizen's right to choose what is best for them? Why legislate morality? Why continue to focus on what defines a "valid" union? We don't need to do more than watch the news to know that a Mom and Dad union doesn't always mean "better parent" or "best for child". And what happened to America being the land of opportunity, ingeunity, and being a world leader in scientific innovation that supports the interests of the environment and human kind? I just can't read the items below and feel I'll be living in a better place.


On John McCain's website....

John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench."

"The family represents the foundation of Western Civilization and civil society and John McCain believes the institution of marriage is a union between one man and one woman. It is only this definition that sufficiently recognizes the vital and unique role played by mothers and fathers in the raising of children, and the role of the family in shaping, stabilizing, and strengthening communities and our nation."

"Stem cell research offers tremendous hope for those suffering from a variety of deadly diseases - hope for both cures and life-extending treatments. However, the compassion to relieve suffering and to cure deadly disease cannot erode moral and ethical principles. For this reason, John McCain opposes the intentional creation of human embryos for research purposes.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

What? Who Said That? Who's There?!

Lately, I've noticed how my fears manifest, how I project them, and how I let them get a hold of me. Often, I find my reactions are as a result of my own critical voice sneaking around, highlighting my insecurities, and convincing me that they are true. But when I really think about it, I realize I'm mostly (if not entirely) reacting to my own fears and assumptions about what is true. I blur the lines between my insecurities and what is reality. I'll automatically assume how people feel about me and start building my internal reactions to it. By doing this I think I'm protecting myself and yet it only makes me more insecure and stressed. So while I've always known I'm my own worst enemy, I've only recently been able to notice when I'm steeling myself in anticipation of false assumptions. Its time to shed some light on this.

I hear the fears and insecurities from within...all the things I'm scared of (not being accepted, looking silly, sounding stupid, not being liked or likable, not performing well, being judged as high maintenance, narcissistic, feeling as though all this self-analysis is a turn off, and so on). It adds up and can make me feel small, scared, stuck and powerless. As a result I'll get uptight, stressed, sad, and withdrawn. And usually these feelings and my reactions to them sneak up on me. The insecurities and fears feel true enough. So I'll try to mentally and emotionally prepare myself and plan to make all the right moves so I won't be hurt.

But when I take a step back from my emotional reactions and do a check of whether or not I know it to be true, I realize that I don’t really know. When I've deconstructed these situations its actually ME saying all of these things to myself. Not others. And when I’m not caught up in it, I can see how much of my concerns come from within. How much of these stressors are assumptions that I've absorbed as truth and without question. I notice that I give so much away. But why? Why have I allowed my self-worth to be defined so much by external factors? Contrary to how this sounds, I do value myself. But the feedback from others carries so much weight. Too much. Where is my inner power and strength? Why am I so vested in someone else's feelings about me and not my own?

I don't know all the answers. I'm a work in progress. I know its not my responsibility to measure up to others. Ultimately, I am accountable only to myself. My values. My ethics. My standards. Nobody else's. The trick is being able to take back my power and let go of the rest. To be true to myself and honor who I am without cluttering it up with assumptions and fears. I need to do the gut check more often to really test the assumptions so I can stop the emotional spiral.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Welcome Back

Public, please forgive me, it has been awhile since my last post. (Doesn't that sound like a start to a confession?) I suppose it would be naive to assume that, since that weekend at the beach (see Self Intervention post), my life would for ever more have clarity and I would be free from suffering for the rest of my life. Wouldn't that be nice? But I guess that's unrealistic. Still, life has indeed been better. Here is an update on my journey.

My mindfulness class wrapped up in mid-August. For several weeks after my last post and after my class, I had a daily routine of meditating, picking a phrase/affirmation I could use throughout that day, journaling, Qi Gong, and taking time out of each day to make sure I was "present". I found I was treating myself with loving kindness and it felt really, really good. It was foreign to me, but good. I felt lighter, happier, and full of hope. And it didn't take much - just making sure I was aware of my self and my surroundings and acknowledging all of it. I continue to do this today. Its a great practice.

I try to find ways to minimize the kind of emotional "smack down" I have experienced over the years. Maybe if I let a little pressure out over time rather than keeping a tight lid on the whole time, the result will be fewer extremes in mood. And it worked. I am connecting with myself, something I was never able to do. And at times when I am feeling sad or stressed out, I would sit myself down and have a private conversation, between me and my critical/fearful voice, to understand what is motivating me. What was I attached to? Why did these things matter to me? Why did their outcome matter to me? I acknowledged the feelings rather than trying to solve them, reason with them. I just sat with whatever came up and validated the concerns. I also allowed myself to cry and weep - something I had been holding in. I found that this method really worked for me and that I was much closer to center as a result.

I have also been taking risks and breaking personal rules since that weekend. For example, one Friday night I thought I should make plans to go to the beach the next morning. Its only a 25 minute drive and if I leave by 10am I can skip traffic and spend most of the day there. I would enjoy hearing the waves, smelling the sea air, getting the sun in my face. However, being a night person and being sleep-deprived, I slept in and put off my plans. I had a hearty breakfast and then a snack and then sat to watch TV. (Hm...) I was feeling very full, uncomfortable, and disappointed with myself. I looked at the time. It was now 12:45/1pm. I thought to myself "Nice job. There goes the beach." I began to beat myself up about it. What a shame that I didn't follow my plan like I wanted. I let it get away from me.

Then I thought "Hey, that's one of my silly rules - I can't go to the beach unless its early in the morning. Who said that was the only time I could go? Why can't I go? The beach will still be nice in the afternoon!" So with that, and a full belly, I spritely went upstairs, put my hair up, changed into some walking clothes, put on my walking shoes, and got out the lumbar waist pack I use for walking (its great because it has lots of room and holds two large water bottles and I love to rehydrate). (Yay me!) I decided to break my rule. For me. No one else but me. How I looked was not important. This was for ME.

So I left the house around 2pm. I started my drive to the beach feeling proud that I was out of the house and breaking rules. Then I drove past the freeway and saw a ton of traffic. CRAP! Oh well. Guess I should just go somewhere else or turn back. Another disappointment. So I thought I'd drive about 45 minutes away and head towards Half Moon Bay instead. I started off in that direction and thought, y'know that place is nice but its much farther away, its much less likely to be sunny, could be foggy, and it could be really, really cold. So I turned around again and drove down the crowded freeway. I was out of the house. I had water. I had music. I was definitely not hungry. So what if I sat in traffic for 2 hours and enjoyed the music and scenery? Besides, this would make going up the windy mountain road that much safer! Traffic was moving at a crawl for about 10 minutes and then everything cleared up. I got to the beach at 2:45pm.

I started out on my walk along the trail. While there, I took time to sit on a bench looking at the ocean. It was a busy place - long walking path with lots of bikers and dogs, too. Great for people-watching. I was sweating, I was wearing clothes that didn't fit well, my shoes didn't go with the clothes (another broken rule), and my face was beat red from the little walking I had done and had become splotchy with sun-spots. But I didn't care. I was there for me and whoever didn't like it could turn away because I just didn't care. I was by the ocean listening to the music I love. It felt so liberating! And I was proud of myself. I still am. I didn't just break one rule I broke several.

Over time, I've found that my mindfulness routine has withered, my fears have increased, as have my distractions. I found I was bogged down by what was going on in the world - war, bridges collapsing, floods, lost miners, mothers killing children, husbands killing families, toxic toys, brutal rapes, deaths, oh, and a highschool reunion that brought back some anxiety. My work was getting to me, as well. Not so much my work, but the people and pressures around me. I am not passionate about my job, but I am passionate about how I do it. I put so much pressure on myself to perform, to be liked, to feel smart, to look smart, to be competent, to exceed expectations. I don't want to disappoint others or myself and I don't want to be embarrassed. But since I wasn't getting that kind of external feedback about something so personal to me, it was weighing heavily on me. These attachments are my main triggers.

So with all this going on, the world around me felt toxic. And at this weak moment, out from the depths of some dark place where my fear and critical voice live, my depression reappeared, ever so subtly. I found I stayed indoors, withdrawing. Thinking I was taking care of myself but clearly disengaging from life. I saw this happening like I was watching it in a movie. I felt the disintegration as it happened over time. I simply felt overpowered and too exhausted to try and pull myself out. Even still, I had hope. I knew this funk was temporary - I was just feeling the weight of everything on me and couldn't shake it. Forgot how or felt paralyzed by the grip. Previously, I'd fall into something like this and did not even see it coming and then I was down for the count. So understanding what was happening to me and recognizing my emotional shift (now vs. then) was progress. Something I've not been able to do in the past.

I've sinced managed to normalize and identify some of those triggers before they push me too far. Again, progress. I bought a new chair for my house that represents the same one at the beach. At times its been hard to climb into it because it reminds me of something I feel I'm not up to...but then I climb in and all is right with the world. I have started meditating again, and getting outside more. I'm not consistent or doing it routinely, but I'm doing what I can. I've re-inserted myself into my iPod and playlists. The music has brought me lots of joy - even just tinkering with the playlists, creating CDs for my car, etc..

I am disappointed that I haven't continued with my daily routine. (another attachment) But I can see that this can be like a diet or exercise - its healthy, its something to be mindful of, to enjoy, and its a lifestyle where being perfect isn't going to happen. Ups and downs and the spaces in between are to be expected. This is a journey after all. I just have to keep reminding my neurotic self of this. My challenge is going to be how I am able to compassionately recover and redirect myself to loving kindness and being mindful without berating myself for not being or doing any of it. This has been the struggle all along. Me. My fear. My critical voice. And letting go.

Friday, July 6, 2007

A Self Intervention / Excorcism

For about 30 years now, I've had depression. It has had its extreme low points which have been scary for me, my friends and my family. A part of my depression is as a result of not knowing how to cope with my critical voice. I would try to be strong, but this critical voice would overpower my ability to recover, to nurture, to self regulate. I was beaten down. A recent new practice, however, has given me hope. So far, it has been really surprising and positive.

Over the years, that critical voice has grown in monumental proportions. And as it grew, I shrunk. As it grew, it got louder, more powerful. The louder it got, the more I responded by believing every word it said, withdrawing, and compartmentalizing. I'd believe it so much that I didn't want to hear it, didn't want to hear me. I'd cover my ears and eyes and shake my head like a kid saying, "I don't hear you. I don't see you." But instead of allowing myself to hear it, and acknowledge the feelings, I pushed them down. I stopped them. I cut them off by watching TV or reading a book, or some other distraction. It was just too painful to hear it all the time. The ironic thing is that, I often feel I struggle to be heard by others. Or, at least, I have felt unheard at times. I have felt insignificant. Its a sensitive point for me. And when I do try to speak up, sometimes I don't feel I'm taken seriously (or I convince myself that I'm not). I feel discounted, silly, and irrelevant. Not so coincidentally, I imagine this is how that part of me was feeling when I tried to push it away.

Recently, I reached a point where I had hit the wall - I'd had enough. I was cornered, buried, drowning and being smothered by stress and this critical part of me that wouldn't let go. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't function. I didn't want to wake up and be picked apart. I didn't want to be present in my life. I didn't want to hurt. All my life, this "voice" or "ego" or critical part of me, has been in my head. I never actually gave it a voice. Its always been this semi-silent abuser in my head. My only power, I felt, was to distract it. To not allow it to reach me. But it always did. The critical voice always fought back harder and harder. It was relentless. For so long I heard it over and over and didn't respond. I felt I couldn't. And I bought into it. I shrunk more and more, my fear of it grew, and my world became much smaller, as a result. "It can't be this hard to get through a single day!" I thought. Why me? It seems that I'm the only one struggling like this so this critical part of me must be right. I must deserve this. And it had reached a point where I felt desperate, hopeless, and unworthy of existing at all.

At the end of this particularly stressful week, I realized that I needed to quiet the world around me, and allow this part of me to voice itself. To get it out in the open. To stop pushing it away. To stop supressing it. I was tired of compartmentalizing - there simply was no more room. I needed to verbalize all that I was saying to myself in my head because it was continuing to swoop and fly around like a mother bird protecting its nest. And I kept shooing it away. I decided I'd set aside some time to go to the beach, to one of my favorite places where the water and sand are close to the living quarters. I had a hard time convincing myself to do it, because the place I would stay wasn't perfect and it was expensive. It wasn't the setting I felt I needed - it didn't have the preferred prefect view. But it was right on the beach, if not closer than any other location. I realized I was applying the standards I have for myself to other areas in my life. I don't accept myself unless I'm perfect. I almost didn't go because the view wasn't perfect.

So I went. When I arrived I couldn't wait to get on the beach. I shoved everything in the room, grabbed my lawn chair, and marched out toward the sea with determination. I was showing up. I breathed in the salty air, the sound of the waves, the brightness of the sun, the heat of it beating down on my face, the wind through my hair, the sand between my toes. I could only breathe in deep, deliberate, like a fish when its out of the water. It felt scary. But I was proud that I made this decision and that I was there. It was the right thing to do. I needed this. WE (me and my critical voice) needed this.

The place was wonderful. A furnished condo. It had a chair with an ottoman next to a big window for me to look out of, a nice kitchen, and easy access to the beach. There was a TV and DVD player in the room, but I didn't want to watch any TV. I didn't want to escape. I came here to meet myself, head on. It was just me and me, one on one. I knew what I needed to do. And it was going to be tough.

First, I created a safe space for myself by allowing myself to be present, to meditate, to appreciate this experience I'm about to give myself. As one instructor puts it, to recognize it as an act of love. This alone made me cry. I find it hard to give gifts to myself as well as to receive them. Second, I would be as honest as I could, even though I knew it was going to hurt. Third, I would make sure to observe and appreciate my surroundings as often as I could - the beauty of the ocean, its vastness, the sun set, the sound made when the waves crash on the beach. I would try to be present in whatever I was doing. Finally, I set the intention that this experience was intended to open a dialogue with myself. It was not intended to beat myself up. I knew I needed to be careful not to attach myself to what was being said, that could turn out disasterous for me. Instead, the intention was to honor this process of just saying the words I've been saying internally so they could be realized, to be heard, so we can hear each other like two separate people having a conversation.

I sat with a microcassette recorder and introduced myself as that critical voice. For over 90 minutes I told myself all the criticisms I could think of that I say to myself and in the most natural way I could. I tried not to analyze what I was saying. I just let it flow. It was a bit of an out-of-body experience. It was honest and brutal. But I wanted (needed) to give these thoughts a voice. This was how I chose to release them from years of confinement.

Afterwards, I transcribed the tape. It took hours. And as I did, I realized for the first time, just how abusive I am to myself on a regular basis. I mean, I knew I was hard on myself, but I never heard it as if it was another person saying it to me. This time it was different. I didn't like this part of me at all. It was cruel, beligerent, and abusive. If someone else had heard these things being said to a child, they'd have to call in Child Services. I had never heard myself this toxic, demeaning, and belittling before. The words and tone weren't new, it was just hearing it this way it sounded more piercing, more personal. I was shocked and also really, really saddened. I didn't deserve to be talked to like this. And I knew it. I felt it for the first time. And now that this critical part of me had a voice, I felt I could respond, like I would if someone else I cared about was saying these things to me.

Along with surprise and sadness, after transcribing, I also felt a foreign sense of relief and pride. Wow. This was a tough thing to do and I chose to make this part of me more real. It was like awakening a monster and bringing it to life where I'm in its path and the only thing it focuses on but I was facing it head on in order to save myself. While I was relieved to have finished the transcription, I waited a full day to respond. I didn't actually want to respond. I hate conflict and this was too scary. But I also wanted to organize my thoughts after giving it time to sit with me for awhile.

The next day I typed out my response. It also took hours. My first reaction was to be defensive. My second reaction was to cut off this part of me altogether. Who needs it, right? But as I was typing my response, I realized that my critical voice is mean and abusive - I don't need to reciprocate, to reject it, and be at that level as well. Instead, I knew I needed to show compassion. Love. I apologized to myself for not hearing this critical part of me earlier in my life, for rejecting it and pushing it away all these years. I tried to understand where it was coming from, opening my heart and acknowledging all that it said. I used active listening skills, and itemized everything I heard it say to me, to validate it. And in the end, I wrote a response as if I was talking to, and sitting across from, someone I care about who has poor communication skills and they never learned how to express themselves effectively or compassionatley. With all this being nice, I was also careful not to play victim. This was not saying I accept and believe all that was said or that I thought it was okay. Rather, just that I heard it. Actually, I felt tremendously empowered by taking this approach. It reminded me of the meditation practice of being aware and not judging. Simply acknowledging and being present. The relationship between myself and this critical voice was changing by doing just that.

I told this critical voice that its existance was important to me. That I loved it and needed it around, but that we needed to change our dynamic. I explained that I was going to be paying more attention now, so it didn't need to be so abusive and loud. I explained that I do, however, need it to speak up in times of danger or high alert, but not to criticize everything I do and mislead me. It needed to understand that I was not going to be perfect and it would just have to accept me this way, because I WAS going to make mistakes and I WAS going to get hurt. It couldn't protect me from everything, otherwise I would experience nothing. I felt like I was the mature parent talking to a child, a bully. And I was.

Today, I continue to read that dialogue as a reminder of where I've been and where I'm going. I still have depression. But I realize that I was able to be compassionate with this side of me even though it went against everything I felt I was supposed to do in order to protect myself. My critical voice is still there. It will always exist. I think that's normal.

Its a struggle, but every day I am trying to be open to hearing that critical voice (instead of trying to shut it down and stop it altogether). I'm trying to recognize my attachments, and give them some space and attention. By practicing being aware of my body, the sensations, thoughts, feelings, and being willing to sit with them with an open heart, I think (I hope) I'll be better able to investigate and acknowledge all parts of me (and others, for that matter) without judging, discounting, or rejecting myself. I'm so grateful that I had a positive experience with this "intervention". It was amazing! And afterward, I was so proud of myself for being attentive to my needs, something I'm not used to doing. Paying attention is a gift, an act of love, we all deserve. This is so new, but I hope to make this awareness stuff a daily practice.