Being Authentic

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A huge goal that I have for this year is authenticity. Not that I’m walking around being a fake person, but it’s really important to me to focus on being truly authentic. Being myself. I think that that involves some transparency as well as a willingness to let people actually hear some things from me that I have never been comfortable saying.

The reason I don’t look at this as a resolution but as more of a goal is because I’m not looking at it as something that I am going to either fail or succeed at. I am deciding to just take a small little step each day to do something more authentic.

Vulnerability is scary as scary can be. But I also like it. Because I like human connection and you can’t have that without some level of vulnerability. The scariest things can also be the best things.

One of my absolute favorite accounts I follow on instagram is a yogi girl. If you notice anything at all about the yoga world you have probably noticed a lot of showiness. And that bothers me. It turned me off to it for quite a while. But there is something about this girl that really draws me in. And I believe it is her authenticity and willingness to be vulnerable. With strangers. I think it’s possible it may actually be easier to be vulnerable with a stranger than with someone you know. But it just amazes me that she is able to be so real and genuine and not flashy. She is making connections with people and opening herself up and I think it makes her a lovely person.

I am striving for that. To be known as a lovely person because I am vulnerable and authentic. It’s what I want. I don’t care about being what I’m “supposed to be.” I just want to be the actual me.

It just dawned upon me, today actually, that when I’m dealing with feelings of worry and anxiety and nervousness, or any overwhelming feelings really, the best thing I can do is acknowledge it. I’ve never really done that before. I freak out because something is happening inside me that I can’t or don’t know how to control/address and I usually just try to distract myself. I don’t think that is a healthy way to deal with such feelings. And I have definitely noticed it play out in my personal health.

Sometimes I get this knot in my stomach that just won’t go away for days and days. It doesn’t make me feel sick per say, but I usually can’t eat much and don’t sleep well. I would say that a majority of the time I don’t really know what it is that’s bothering me and causing my stomach to knot up. I go about my day trying to ignore it and hoping it will fade away on its own. As I said before, I think the root of this problem is in not acknowledging what’s really going on.

I know for certain that ignoring things doesn’t make them go away. And that includes feelings.

Something that has really bothered me a LOT this past year is people (myself included) being disingenuous and inauthentic. I mean it really eats away at me. I don’t like it. At all. I like people who are straightforward and honest. I even enjoy people being blunt as long as they aren’t being rude or obnoxious or intentionally hurtful.

This is not an easy task for me, being direct and straightforward. I witnessed my parents, my mother especially, constantly manipulating conversations and skirting around issues and just plain not being direct about what they wanted/needed to say. I hate that. And yet it is still a great struggle for me to be direct with people. I actually envy my niece sometimes as she seems to find such ease in stating what she’s feeling without any apprehension. She is a very expressive 5 year old.

So my goal here is not to go around telling everyone every single thing I am feeling all the time. My goal is authenticity. I want to make sure that I am true to myself and my own feelings, concerns, desires, needs, and passions. I think a part of that also includes allowing other people to be vulnerable with you. A true, deep friendship, or any relationship can only come from being authentic and being allowed to be truly and fully vulnerable.

Isn’t that the whole point of our existence? To connect with people? It is something that is vital to our well being and survival.  And all I know is that I can’t do without it.

Lets have a party

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I went to my first party ever this New Years Eve and I have to say it was awesome. I’ve always been very afraid to go to parties like that because I thought for a certainty that God would strike me down. No joke. I really seriously thought that would happen. It didn’t.

And it turns out I really like who I am when I go to a party. It’s all so new to me I’m still a little bit taken aback. But it was fun. I actually for real had so much relaxing honest to goodness fun. I literally don’t even remember the last time I actually enjoyed myself so much and had fun. I love to sing and dance and alcohol helps me be much less apprehensive about doing those things. I never felt out of control, just really, really, REALLY good.

I cried the next day remembering how happy the whole night made me. Just pure, simple unadulterated joy. Me. The somewhat boring, sit-in-the-corner-and-watch-people, doesn’t-dance-or-sing, gets-nervous-around-lots-of-people, battles-with-depression, introverted girl had loads and loads of fun. At a party. I didn’t think I was the party kind of girl.

And here’s the thing. I almost didn’t go. I went through my usual talk in my head of why I shouldn’t go or why I couldn’t go or why I wouldn’t like it. I was having a bit of an issue with an allergic reaction which was making me a little miserable so that was also a big deterrent. But I went. And I think it’s the best decision I’ve made in a very, very long time.

This past year has been hard. Really incredibly, ridiculously hard. Something happened last fall and then something else happened in the spring that just beat me down. It’s been so exhausting I don’t ever want to relive it. But who knows. Maybe I needed all of that to happen for me to get to a place where I realized I desperately needed to just have fun.

I’ve always had a very hard time answering the question from people, “what do you do for fun?” I mean it’s not a complicated or difficult question but the problem is that I wasn’t doing anything for fun. Of course I couldn’t answer. I wasn’t having fun. I wasn’t enjoying any part of my life.

I spent all my growing up years being the good one and the responsible one and the grown up one and the obedient one. I never rebelled or snuck out or did anything I wasn’t supposed to. I almost feel like I’m living in reverse. I was already a responsible adult as a child and now I get to sort of let go a bit and be free without the enormous amounts of guilt piling up on me. I have to say that that is one thing that has changed a lot for me. I don’t have guilt following me around anymore like a dark cloud. It feels so good.

I think self care is so important. I never learned it and it’s something I really want to focus on this year. I’m a people pleaser and I’ve never really done anything just because it makes me happy. For a long time I didn’t think I deserved to be happy or have fun. I would feel guilty if I wanted to do something that wasn’t productive or for someone else’s benefit. I would feel guilty when I couldn’t make other people happy. I would feel guilty if every single thing I wanted to do wasn’t for “God’s glory.”

I don’t know exactly what yet I need/want to do for self care but I absolutely need to find something that I love doing and that is fun and that makes me happy just for the sake of being happy. I think it partly comes from my fundamentalist background but I also think it’s a problem in our society that being super busy or exhausted or constantly productive is some kind of badge of honor. That you’re somehow a better person if you are at your absolute wits end all the time. That’s weird. I don’t want that kind of life.

I am determined that this is going to be a year of fun. I want to shine.

I have a lot of time to make up for so bring on the parties! 

I wish I could forget

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Memories are hard. It always served me well in school, but I often wish that I didn’t remember things so vividly. It hurts. When memories start flooding my brain I get caught up in this whirlwind of little bits of nostalgia and happiness, but mostly large pieces of heartbreak and deriding comments and self-doubt and self-hate and an unbelievable desire to forget it all that just keep pounding on me over and over again.

I went home for Christmas this year, and while I was excited about it for a long time, the longer I stayed there, the harder it got. It’s a little hard to explain what happens to me when I go back to that house because there are good things that leave me feeling relieved that it was a good idea to go. But then there are also a whole lot of emotional windstorms that pop up when I least expect them to. By the time most of my family had already gone back home, I was extremely anxious to leave myself. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I knew I needed to leave before I really started to lose it.

We moved into that house when I was 13. Almost exactly one year before my mother left us. I do have good memories from this time. When she left, a very nice lady in our church came to live with us and take care of us as our nanny while my dad worked. And I loved it. I loved it so much I couldn’t even believe that that was what life was actually supposed to be like. That a mother figure was supposed to take care of you and be there. That a 10, 11, 12 year old girl wasn’t supposed to be responsible for 4 younger siblings, and cooking, and cleaning and wishing desperately that her mother would get out of bed today and actually be pleasant and present.

I actually just realized recently, though I didn’t know it at the time, that this may be where my desire to be a nanny came from. It is honestly the only time in my childhood that I can remember feeling like I was allowed to be a kid and be taken care of.

One of those very clear memories is the day I came home from school and my dad told us that my mom had left. He picked us up of course which was out of the ordinary and as soon as we climbed into the car, I immediately knew something wasn’t right. The drive home was pretty quiet and I could sense a foreboding as we pulled into the driveway.

When we got inside my dad had us all sit down in the living room (the same one I just went home to and spent Christmas day in) and again I felt like something horrible was about to happen. I held onto my brother to sort of protect him and then the words started coming. “I got an email from your mom. You know how she said she was going on vacation to visit an old friend from school… Well she left us. She’s gone.”

Silence.

I didn’t cry. I didn’t like my mother very much and I greatly resented her, so it was almost a feeling of relief when my dad told us she was gone. But it didn’t take very long for the feelings of extreme anger and dare I say hatred to flood over me. My little 13 year old heart was smashed into a million pieces and I knew that I would never ever trust her ever again. It was true. All those thoughts I’d had in my head for so many years were true. And here was the proof. She left.

“What did I do wrong? I must have not taken care of my siblings well enough. I must not have cleaned the kitchen and washed the dishes as much or as well as I should have. I must be a terrible cook. I must not be doing well enough in school. I must not have tried hard enough to make my mother happy. It’s my fault. I know it. She doesn’t want me because I am not a good daughter. I deserve this. She doesn’t love me. I didn’t love her enough, but now I will never love her again. She hates me. I am unworthy of being loved by my own mother. I am unlovable. I hope she never comes back.”

I watched my dad change that year. I watched him get sadder and older and it showed on his face. This was the first year we went to Myrtle Beach on vacation and I was immensely relived when I saw my dad’s face relax just a little as we started our trip. He needed this. We needed this. And I was happy my mother wasn’t going to be there. I couldn’t stand her. And the anger grew larger inside of me each day as I obsessively dwelt on the fact that my mother had abandoned us.

“I will never do this. If it means I never have my own children, so be it. I will never do this to another child.”

This is not a new years resolution post

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Where does the darkness come from? I want to know so I can punch it in the face. How can I switch so quickly from being gleefully happy to utterly miserable? The darkness does it to me every time. And I never really see it coming. Reveling in the happiness is awesome. Why would you be looking for the darkness.

I’m sitting on my couch right now looking out the sliding glass door and wondering what the hell I’m doing. I guess I’m living. I go to bed at night and wake up every morning and go to work during the week and clean my apartment (sometimes) and eat and breath. But what am I actually doing. Aren’t you supposed to do something else besides those things. The things that everyone does. Those things really don’t have any meaning in and of themselves. They are just the things that we do automatically and the things that we have to do whether we want to or not. But is that living?

I want to do something good. Not something that makes me look good but something that is good for other people or even just one person. I don’t know what that is yet, but I am most definitely not content to spend my life just working and surviving. It’s a little funny that my working life has revolved completely around caring for children and yet I don’t really want my own children. What I want is to do something for children to make their lives better. I want to make it possible for as many children as possible to not have to live the kind of childhood I had. I will fight to the death to protect children. My younger self needed someone to advocate for me and there was no one. So I will be that someone for another child.

I don’t really understand loneliness. I am not talking about being physically alone. I’m talking about the feeling of loneliness. It shouldn’t exist. Not because it’s an unpleasant feeling, but because there are so many people in the world. How can there be so many people in the world and there still be no one who wants to be present with you. No one who wants to understand you. No one who wants to hear the dark things and not run away screaming covering their ears. Loneliness is awful. It makes you think things you don’t want to think. It makes you contemplate doing things you wouldn’t normally contemplate doing.

I greatly dislike the stigma surrounding mental illness. Depression is most definitely an illness. It’s an illness that isolates you from people and makes them not want to deal with you. Or worse yet, they leave you, dump you, stab you in your heart feelings, or straight up tell you to your face that you are not good enough for them. Unfortunately, you can’t actually choose whether or not you have depression. I mean honestly, who would ever choose that.

I really love that quote that was in my last post from a while back.

“Home is not where you live but where they understand you.” -Christian Morganstern

It makes perfect sense. You understand me therefore you feel like home to me. Being truly, truly understood leaves a feeling of acceptance. If you really understand someone, how can you not be accepting of them. I believe acceptance is the most wonderful gift. It’s not always an easy place to get to but when you accept something/someone and they are accepting of you, there is such freedom and peace. To me acceptance is the epitome of true love. Truly loving means truly accepting someone for exactly who they are. I don’t believe you can say you love someone if you don’t accept them in all of their faults, and darkness, and ugly stuff. Because let’s be real. Everyone has darkness and ugly stuff. Without it we wouldn’t be fully human. Someone who can’t accept my dark side isn’t someone I can be vulnerable with. And after all real human connection is all about vulnerability. And can we really survive without real human connection.

My only “resolution” for a new year is to focus on a word. It’s not really a resolution. It’ just a word I’ve chosen for this year. Possibility. I can be pessimistic, although I mostly consider myself to be a realist. Which is fine, it’s part of who I am so it doesn’t bother me. But ‘possibility’ just felt like a good word for me to focus on because I often think that something isn’t going to work before I’ve even attempted it. Possibility is just about being open. And I am definitely a more closed off kind of person. Possibility. Possibility. Possibility. It is possible I could be less closed off and stop putting up walls. It’s possible I could make more human connections. Possibility.

Bleeding hearts?

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“You care about everyone else just as much as you do American’s? What is wrong with you? Everyone knows American’s are the best ever.”

When did compassion become something to be mocked, ridiculed, and disdained?

I can’t count the number of times I have heard and read statements by people recently about compassion as if it is a negative character trait or something they are disgusted with. And it just confuses me. I am not talking about Christianity here. I no longer consider myself a Christian. I am not talking about the Christian responsibility to show love and compassion to people. Although that is also very much a reason to accept refugees and makes me all the more perplexed at what exactly Christianity is supposed to be. The lack of compassion I see seems to be the greatest among self-professing Christians.

What I am talking about here is humanity. I can’t comprehend when someone says that they supposedly care about these people but they don’t want them to come here and/or that they should just deal with it and help themselves. If you don’t do anything, you don’t really care all that much. I don’t actually care how many of the refugees are able-bodied young men with phones or women or children or whoever. Reality check: maybe everyone on the face of the earth doesn’t want to fight in a war. And contrary to what a lot of people believe that doesn’t make you a bad person or a coward. The refugees are running from the very same people that you are so afraid of, and yet you are turning them into people to also be afraid of. I find it cruel and uncaring to not want to help.

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It is in my nature to help people. At times it has gotten me to the point where I let people take advantage of me or walk all over me, and I am working to change that. But I will never regret having compassion. I am a pretty emotional person. I cry when a tragedy takes place on a tv show or movie even if I have already seen it 100 times before. It’s just who I am. And I get incredibly angry when I see people lacking in compassion and empathy. Injustice and lack of compassion are the things that bother me the most. Politics aside, we are all human beings and I believe the duty we have to each other extends far beyond anything else in this world that we think is so important.

I recently saw a comment on a blog that said “I am a human being first and an American second. One’s first duty is always to the human race.” And that is what I am talking about. Excuse my language but I do not give a fuck about how superior you think you are because you are fortunate enough to live in the United States of America. You are not better or more worthy of help or safety than any other human being. Is refusing to help another human being the price we’re willing to pay for some concept of loyalty that we have moralized in this country?

It seems simple to me. If you were facing that kind of danger, you would want someone to take you in. You would want someone to show you compassion regardless of your religious beliefs or political stance or personal morals. Doing the right thing is about treating every single person like a person. Politics and religion cause a lot of division, but at the end of the day we are all still human beings.

The reality is we do dangerous things every single day. We get in our cars and drive to work. The benefits and convenience outweigh the risk we take on. Why should we not be willing to do the same when it comes to human beings. This country was built on refugees. We came here and basically terrorized the people who were already here. If anyone has ever had reason to fear refugees, it was the Native Americans. We did terrible things to them and tried to make them be like us.

And that is the problem. We create fear of the unknown and the unfamiliar because we think everyone should be just like us. If something or someone is different, we don’t care to understand or learn, we simply create an environment of fear. And while there are legitimate things to be fearful of, refusing to aid those in need because we are afraid is no way to live. Wasn’t the whole point of “United we stand” to say to the terrorists and the world that we were not going to let those extremists dictate what our lives were going to be? The whole point is to not walk around in fear. The whole point is to keep on living. And part of living is showing compassion to those who need it the most.

I’m sorry if my compassion makes you uncomfortable. But I would rather be me than you any day.

 

What Is More Important Than Happiness?

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Lots of things.

Compassion. Empathy. Authenticity. Honesty. Courage. Self-awareness. Vulnerability. Humility.

I find all of these things to be far more important than happiness.

Happiness is really just a temporary state. It is a fleeting emotion that comes and goes just like every other emotion we have day in and day out.

You can go about your life not constantly ‘feeling happy’ and yet still have compassion, empathy, authenticity, honesty, courage, self-awareness, vulnerability, humility, and positive action as a part of what your life is and who you are as a person. And I would much rather have that. I would much rather be known to have integrity and a life characterized by those things than be known as someone who is always happy and optimistic.

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I was reading another article someone posted on facebook the other day about happiness and positive thinking and all that stuff. But what intrigued me the most was the comment section. A good half of the comments disagreed with the article’s author about the importance of thinking positive and being happy all the time. The author’s perspective came very much from a place of privilege.

Once comment specifically addressed the near obsession that American’s seem to have with this idea of happiness being the most important thing. And I have to agree. It does seem to be an American preoccupation. I wonder why that is. Maybe because we as a country think that we are better than everyone else in the whole wide world. The more I open my eyes, the more I am beginning to notice this pervasive attitude. That we as Americans are somehow superior to the rest of the world. And why? Because God has blessed us? I find it interesting that a nation supposedly so blessed by God can be so incredibly arrogant.

Mind you, I do love this country. And as often and easy as it is to forget, I am thankful for all that we have here. But the idea that we are somehow better than the rest of the world because God is just heartbreaking to me. Why is it that we deserve more? Why should God care more about Americans than anyone else? Why do we make the assumption that when something bad happens it is God’s judgement and that all of those awful things that are happening in other countries are because those countries are godless? This is where things have fallen apart for me in regards to my former faith and Christianity.

I cannot reconcile saying that “God must have been looking out for me” or “God had a purpose or plan for me” when one person lives and another dies. Ok, so you are somehow more important or special so much so that God decided to save you but all those other people had to die? That girl next to you was killed and you were not so that means it was God’s plan?

It is not even possible to put a positive spin or an optimistic outlook on the terrorist attacks that just took place in Paris, or the horrible violence taking place because of ISIS, or the refugee crisis. Lets please stop pretending that looking at the world through rose colored glasses is going to make those things go away. I can tell you right now that there are people all over the world who are far less concerned with being happy than they are with being safe, fed, sheltered, and even being able to go to sleep at night without terror in their heart and mind.

We take it for granted. Here in America, we vastly take it for granted that our biggest concern is whether or not we are happy. I can’t be a real, true friend with someone who believes that happiness is the answer to everything. It’s naive and frankly childish.

I believe that war should never, ever, ever be our first response. But there is no way in hell that happiness is going to end terrorism or any other atrocity or heart-wrenching tragedy in this world. And there is no way you can convince me that happiness should be my utmost goal in life. Having only one emotion be your ultimate goal seems odd. Who wants that. I want to be and be with real people. A genuine, honest person who is a real friend is not someone who insists that you always be happy around them.

Happiness? It’s a nice feeling. But I want so, so much more.

validation from education

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I know in my head that education is certainly not what defines a person. And there is so much more you can be and do and accomplish without an impressive degree. I have this constant internal battle over whether I should or need to get a masters degree. Living in a college town doesn’t help that much. And honestly I love my job, make enough to support myself, and I’m really not looking to change careers. But I feel the need to prove something to someone with a legitimate, accredited, recognized degree. Who that someone is I am not sure.

It’s hard for me to understand why education is important to me. Even when my mother wasn’t doing anything with us and I was basically teaching my younger siblings, learning was still important to me. But I think at some point it changed into something else. Instead of retaining knowledge and being thrilled by learning, it became this thing that I could use to protect myself and prove to people that I was ok. Excellent memorization skills served me well. It meant I didn’t have to work very hard. I could read things and spit them back out no problem.

My homeschooling experience was awful. I’ve been told by many people that me and my siblings are very lucky that we are all smart and despite serious educational neglect in our early years, we all ended up doing very very well when we finally attended an actual school. I think this has caused a problem for me though. I read somewhere recently that kids who are told all the time how smart they are rather then being praised for their hard work, often grow up expecting things to not be hard or tend to give up when something requires a lot of effort. I find that extremely interesting. The article was so spot on I actually cried.

I constantly battled with thinking that I was stupid. And I was told over and over again just how smart I really was. But I wonder if telling someone how smart they are is really a compliment. After all, wisdom is what really makes someone “smart”. And being born intelligent is really just a matter of chance not choice. School has never been hard for me. Once I started at a school I realized it was something that I could try to use to impress people. I felt deficient in every other possible way, but my grades and ease with memorization gave me something to feel proud about. I couldn’t be good enough, I couldn’t take care of my siblings well enough, I couldn’t interact with people socially, and I couldn’t feel at ease in groups of people, even those I knew well. But I could remember.

But now here I am, spending the past few years attempting to get a graduate degree without really knowing what I want to do with it or why I’m doing it. I’ve taken education courses, I’ve taken criminal justice courses, I’ve taken writing courses, I’ve taken history courses all at different schools. And this latest endeavor has caused me to, yet again, give up. Because it is really hard. And I give up on things when they are hard. It’s a terrible personal failing that I desperately need to work on. But I think it starts with trying to figure out why I became this way to begin with.

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I was also very musically inclined as a child. I learned to sing in harmony when I was 5. My dad taught himself how to play the guitar as did all of my brothers. I took violin lessons for about six years and advanced very quickly with little practice. Our family used to sing together almost every night as well as in church. This was another area of “I can impress people with this” for me. But it was a natural talent, and again I didn’t have to work very hard at all. It came naturally and easily. I don’t really consider my natural abilities to memorize, learn quickly, and sing something to be proud of. The things in life that you are proud of are the things that took the most hard work and effort to accomplish or overcome.

I think my parents and my education failed me in this way. I was told often how smart I was, but it took very little effort to excel in school. And now I am left with this constant feeling that I won’t be able to complete something or that I don’t even want to try. I give up when it gets hard because I am afraid education will become something that I can no longer offer up to people as proof that I have something of value.

I regret my educational background a lot. And I am beginning to think it’s because of this rather then just where I went to school. Because I never had to work for it. It was my trophy that I held up to remind myself every day that I had something. And while I now know that I have a lot of somethings to offer, this inclination to give up when something is hard is not and will not serve me well.

My extremely isolated childhood and homeschool experience most definitely contributed to and maybe even created my issues with social interactions. School and socialization are very much intertwined. In fact I believe that the purpose of school is about a lot more than just learning information from textbooks. It is also about learning about life and other people and that your life and your experience is not the only thing out there. And that is something I never really got.

I was standing in an ungodly long line waiting for my bowl of soup at Panera in the midst of the University of Delaware’s campus the other day and I was reminded yet again of my social ineptitude. All these 20 year old’s were standing around me talking excitedly about school and getting pissed that it was taking so long for our food to be ready and my anxiety and nerves kicked in immediately as a girl next to me started talking to me.

Sometimes it seems so ridiculous to me that I can be that socially awkward, but it is true. It’s not that I am not capable of having conversations with strangers or people I don’t know. It’s that the anxiety is so intense and overwhelming that I am exhausted after only 5 minutes. It’s very annoying. I think I need to take some kind of class to learn how to be social. It does not come naturally to me at all. And I never learned as a child.

Textbook learning and social learning go hand in hand. And education itself will never truly validate you as a human being.