Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Accepting, Feeling, and Releasing Painful Emotions

“Eventually you will come to realize that love heals everything, and love is all there is.” ~Gary Zukav
Last year I developed some unexplained symptoms that could be likened to IBS, Chron’s disease, or even morning sickness (although I wasn’t pregnant, so there was no promise of a baby to make it all worth it).
I had no idea what caused it, why it was there, or what to do about it.
This shook me because I’d always had a strong intuitive connection with my body and I had always been healthy, but now when I asked my body a question, there was just silence.
It was as if a thick fog had parked right between my inner wisdom and me, blocking my channel of intuitive guidance about what to eat, what to avoid, and what was really going on underneath it all. It was so quiet—there weren’t even any crickets!
With my intuition evading me, I was stuck in the surface level “real” world to manage it. I was dealing with debilitating symptoms every day that were, bit by bit, wearing down my strength and self-control, until one day I crumbled in a heap.
I had decided to practice what I preach and do something nourishing, despite how terrible I felt. So I got my yoga mat with the intention of pushing through my discomfort to do something that would probably make me feel better. As soon as I felt that mat underneath my feet, I felt safe, I felt nurtured, I felt held.
I had entered a place where I could go deep and be real. I wasn’t expecting my yoga mat to hold me like the compassionate embrace of a lifelong friend, but that’s exactly what it did, and I surrendered to it.
Once the flow of tears began, there was no way I could stop it. The pain of the everyday struggle, the expectations I had of myself as a mother, the disappointment I felt from not being capable of living my life to the fullest, and the resentment I had toward “everyone else,” who could eat what they wanted without suffering the way that I was… it all came out.
And underneath it was frustration, then anger, then self-hatred, then rage, then emptiness, silence, and peace.
I didn’t have any revelations as to what this was all about or how to fix it, but I simply allowed myself to release everything that had been building up inside of me. And just when I thought the tears were done, more would flow. I screamed, I pounded the mat, and I breathed deeply until only peace remained.
Here’s what I took away from that experience.

1. Trust is essential.

Because my intuition went quiet, I stopped trusting myself. I had forgotten that my body was communicating with me in the only way that it could. I didn’t think to look for the lesson or meaning in it all.
Once I had released all my tears and pain, my sense of self-trust returned and I was able to bring myself back to a space of gratitude and openness.
Trusting that there is something to gain from your experience will help you to remain open to it rather than feeling bad about it.

2. It’s okay to cry.

Crying is not a sign of weakness but rather a sign of strength, self-respect, and love.
You need to honor your urges to cry. Not only does it clear and release anything that you’ve been holding in, crying also connects you with the present and allows you to be your most authentic self, even if you’re alone like I was.

3. Self-compassion is a game-changer.

Once I let out all of the self-hatred that I had been holding onto, I made space for self-compassion.
I spoke lovingly to myself, I acknowledged the challenges that I had been facing, and I offered myself the nurturing and love that I had previously been searching for outside of myself.
Being your own friend is a powerful skill that can keep you strong and grounded in the face of adversity.

4. There’s no need to fear what’s inside of you.

It might seem dark and terrifying when you look at what you’re hiding inside of you, but there is not a single part of you that won’t benefit from being loved, accepted, and respected.
Shed some light onto the darkness; give each part of you a voice to express its needs, its pain, and its story. Once you realize that your inner demons cannot hurt you, you take away the power they once held over you and can start loving yourself unconditionally.

5. We all need a sacred space to be vulnerable.

We all need a space where we can explore, accept, heal, and (learn to) love ourselves.
For me it was the yoga mat, but for you it may be your meditation cushion, your local park or beach, or even in your bed.
Find or create a loving and unconditional space where you can be raw, honest, and vulnerable. Visit it whenever you get a sense that something within is ready to shift and release.
Surrender into the strong support of your sacred space, and remember that it’s safe to let your feelings flow. It may even be the best thing for you.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

How to Love Without Losing Yourself

“We love because it is the only true adventure.” ~Nikki Giovanni 
Last night I sat with an old friend who has recently broken up with his girlfriend. He’s sad. She’s sad.
I don’t think it was time for them to give up yet; he’s exhausted and disagrees. He says he thinks that he just loves to love. When you love to love, he says, it’s impossible to separate the act of loving from the person that you’re actually supposed to love.
He thinks that he’s too much in love with the idea of love to actually know what he wants. And so, he argues, giving her another chance would be futile.  
I know what he means, because I love to love, too.
When I met my boyfriend, Chase, I thought I had been in love before. In fact, I was positive of it. I had built a life out of a dating and relationship blog—of course I had been in love before.
There was only one relationship that stood out from the masses of little flings, and for a time, he was my world. We met in college (although he wasn’t in school, a sign of different horizons that would eventually be the pitfall of our short-lived romance). And we developed our own little cocoon which quickly meant everything to me.
I had grown up with a happy home life, two parents that met, fell in love, and then stayed together. I had an (albeit naive) perspective that when you meet the right person, you fall in love, and that’s that.
I never doubted him for a minute; this was what was supposed to happen. I trusted it, the process of companionship, and I let myself settle into having someone.
After only a few short months together, he said he needed to move since he could no longer afford to live Boulder, where I was going to college at the time, so we made the decision to move in together.
Whether he meant that or not I’m unsure. I had more financial resources and was able to subsidize the move—a theme that stretched throughout the majority of our time together.
That decision to move in together felt like every other decision we made—an initial excitement that then was held together by necessity.
I have no other way to describe our time together but fearful. Fear of being alone. Fear I had made a mistake. Fear that if he left it was because I was unlovable, that there was something wrong with me. 
In retrospect, I had an anxiety that was speaking volumes, louder than my voice ever could. I remember sitting in a park alone, crying, before signing the lease. I knew, deep down, that there was nothing solid about our life together, but I didn’t know what else to do.
Truly, I thought this was as good as it was going to get.
Quickly claustrophobic by our limiting world together, he began to rebel against me and our relationship. Within a matter of months, things started to fall apart.
He became angry, and mean, and a lot of true colors started to show. I didn’t know how to process this sudden shift and blamed myself. My life went from my own, to ours, to trying to salvage what was left in any respect.
I was quiet most of the time. My mom describes me during that time as very “proper,” always quiet and trying not to say the wrong thing. As a woman who has built a life on being an outspoken fearless thinker, I was quickly becoming a far cry from the person I once was.
It was a strange time, and although I don’t remember much of the details, I do remember it being extraordinarily painful.
I had let myself and my old hobbies go, and I’d slowly begun rejecting a lot of what was still left of the old me. I became the enemy for both of us, it seems, since I seemed to be the cause of much of his anger.
He told me incessantly that I was impossible to deal with, that I was impossible to love. He made his points clear. But I was lost in the world we’d built and didn’t know of a way out.
Eventually, after too long of sitting in that toxic mess we’d built, I ended it.
I was sad for a long time. I went back to being lonely, in an empty house, and I felt like a failure.
To be fair, I was young. In the beginning, I suppose more than anything I was just excited not to be alone anymore. In many respects, I was taken advantage of. In most respects, I wasn’t strong enough to stand up to my own fears and make good decisions.
Then, three years later, I met my current boyfriend, Chase.
By then I was strong and independent, with a  great job, lots of dreams, friends, and a strong backbone in relationships. I had spent years processing how I had lost myself before, and I was determined to never go through that again.
But then the strangest thing happened: I started to feel these feelings that I had never felt before. Chase, unlike anyone before in my life, loved me. And unlike anything in my life, I loved him.
I didn’t just love the idea of him or the companionship of being together, but I adored the person that he was. He enjoyed the person that was. And as I fell in love with him, they were feelings that were brand new.
They were feelings of belonging, safety, passion and companionship—and they didn’t have an ounce of underlying fear. 
I realized that for the first time in my entire life, I was really falling in love.
Sometimes, in the beginning, and even still today, I’ll become untrusting and difficult, attacking out of nowhere. The naive trust that I had so long ago got used up and beaten up by the wrong person. But unlike that wrong person, when he used to attack for no reason, Chase protects everything: my happiness, our life together, and my relationship with myself.
So if there’s one thing that I learned the hard way in all of this, it’s this:
There are two experiences that we can define as love: we can fall in love with a person, or we can fall in love with companionship.
When you fall in love with a person, you get to experience their companionship as a byproduct. When you fall in love with companionship, it becomes an arrangement of need, where you become hinged on losing one another. It’s built on fear, necessity, and power. And that isn’t falling in love.
I can promise you this:
When you fall in love with a person, and they fall in love with you, you won’t lose yourself in love, because you will be an important part of that love and what makes it tick.
After a year together, Chase and I are moving in together this summer. It isn’t because we need to. It’s because we’ve slowly become a family already, and a place together is an exciting next step.
For the first time in my decorating-impaired life I’m planning curtains in my mind and begging him to go to Ikea with me. This next step is an exciting leap, and there’s no fear attached.
For the first time, I’m in love—and I haven’t lost myself even a tiny bit.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Art of Being Happily Single

“Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.” ~John Allen Paulos
Over the past ten years, I always had a man by my side. I was always in a relationship.
I was in a relationship for eight years before my ex and I got engaged, then broke it off because of the distance—my ex’s reason. Not long after that I got into a two-year relationship with a man who loved, yet cheated on me. It was a messy break up.
So after ten years in relationships, I found myself alone.
I’m 31 and single!
Recently some questions have bounced around in mind: What happened to me during those years? What did I get, gain, achieve in these two relationships? Why am I now alone? What will I do? How do I do things by myself?
Now what? Where to start?
I started to panic, to hyperventilate—until I found this quote:
Single is not a status. It is a word that describes a person who is strong enough to live and enjoy life without depending on others.”
Yes I am scared. I was so used to sharing everything. I was so used to having someone around.
But the reality is I am my own person, and if I can’t enjoy being single, how can I enjoy being with someone else?
So I started reading about being single, and interviewing other happy single people. Surely I wasn’t the only 31-year-old person who felt uncertain about her new singleness. I needed to find proven ways to be happy as a single adult woman.
In my research, I learned some important truths about being single:

1. Being single gives you time to be by yourself, with yourself.

Finally some me time. This is the time to reconnect with myself, a time where I can talk to myself, debating all the questions and answers that are bouncing in my head. 
This is the time of reflection. This is the time of acceptance and letting go, which brings me to the second point…

2. If you don’t let go of the past, you will never appreciate the present.

Yes I have fond memories of my exes, but that was in the past. I know I will always cherish those memories, but I need to stop clinging to them to live for today and plan for tomorrow.
Buddha said every day you are born again—that means new experiences and adventures for today!

3. It’s only after you have lost everything that you are free to find out what you were missing.

During those ten years, I lost love, a pregnancy, and my health. I truly believed I had lost everything. I can’t even start telling you how many tears I shed during those difficult times.
Now that I’m single, I have an opportunity to do all the things I put off while I was putting all my energy into my relationships. I have to believe that I will eventually have the things I lost, but for now I’m taking this time to enjoy myself and complete myself.

4. Change can sometimes be good.

Part of me feels afraid of this quick change. Adaptation takes time, yet I’m already thinking of all the possibilities—meeting new people, going to new places, tackling new projects.
Sometimes change is the best thing for us, as it opens us up to new activities and environments.

5. Being single does not have to mean being afraid to love.

My heart has been bashed, bruised and broken. But I don’t feel traumatized, and I know I will love again. Hopefully the next someone will treasure and treat my heart with love and respect.
Staying open to love isn’t just about attracting a new relationship; it’s about being open to life.

6. Even if you’re single, you still have so much to appreciate.

“Being single is not the end of the world,” a friend said to me. She continued by saying “There are other problems that are more depressing than being single—hunger and homelessness, for instance.”
This felt like a slap in the face to wake me up. It reminded me that even with a broken heart, I am still standing. I’m still breathing. There are still so many possibilities for me.

7. You’re not alone when you’re single; you still have family and good friends.

I am lucky to have a supportive mother and sister. They are my sanity—my light. Spending time with them relaxes me in a way. I’m also fortunate to have wonderfully good friends who are always there with open arms, ready to listen and support me.
I know for sure I can always share my happiness and sorrow with them. I can always depend on them without feeling the slightest bit of guilt. And now that I’m single, I have even more time to devote to being there for them.

8. Being single is a call to focus on yourself.

Sometimes being in a relationship can make you lazy about developing yourself. You can get so comfortable that your goals take a back seat.
When you’re single, it prompts you to look deep inside yourself and identify the person you really want to be—whether you’re in a relationship or not.

9. Something better will come your way if you’re open to it.

I found a lovely quote through twitter, “To see a rainbow, one has to pass a storm.”
When something bad happens, we tend to concentrate on the negatives, forgetting that there must be something positive hidden somewhere in the havoc.
You will know happiness in the future—and in the present, if you’re open to it.

10. Life is a balance. When there is darkness there will be light.

I believe that everything in life is a process. When something dramatic and fast hits us, it will take time to process it and start over.
I am starting over.
As a newbie in singlehood I still have a lot to learn, understand, and explore. I sometimes need to be reminded to be grateful for what I have.
As we all know, these words are easier said than practiced. So I hold onto one important idea that I’d like to leave you with:
Change comes from within. You alone have to decide if you want that change.