My Self-Help Phase is Not Over

I have to laugh at past Camille and her blog post. She really did believe that she was done with looking for inspiration and help in other places, that she was fine with her life and would be okay living out her adventures. Not that she was wrong back then, no. She really was able to find happiness and inspiration within, which is an incredible achievement in itself. But this was seven months ago.

I’m back in that self-help state now. Relationship-related grief, career-related confusion, and life in general have combined to test me in ways I never would have thought possible. In a way, I guess it makes sense for these things to happen. I turned 25 this year, quarter-life crises are a thing, and most of all, I’m learning and yearning to grow and evolve as a person. There’s a saying that the lesson repeats itself until it is learned, and boy do I need to learn them.

Here are some lessons that need repeating:

You are enough. You are a complete person on your own. You don’t need to seek others’ approval or to prove anything to anyone. The ones who matter will love and support you no matter what. And they are the ones worth seeking out.

Hold onto the people who inspire you to be yourself, to be a greater version of yourself, to reach new heights and forgotten corners of your being that you neglected or forgotten had existed.

Let go of the people who do the opposite of lifting you up, inspiring you, and loving you. Do not even let them take space in your head; they do not deserve to be there. Clear that shit out, yo.

On that note, treat your head and heart as space for the things and people who actually matter to you. Even if it hurts. And it will. It will hurt when they don’t feel the same way, or don’t care to the extent that you do. You care a LOT, a frightening amount, actually. Not everybody shares that superpower, so please be as patient and kind as you can with others. Importantly, be kind to yourself (more on that below).

Your conceived weaknesses are not just your strengths; they are your superpowers. Your capacity to care, empathize, and feel can often be too much for you and others to handle, but this is who you are. This is actually a gift to the world, which can be a scary, violent, awful, evil place. Believe it or not – actually, believe it, please believe it – you bring a special kind of light to the world, a light that is your own. Don’t let others try to dim or block or turn it off. They’re probably confused or scared, and may just need it the most.

Self care is something you’ve been hearing a lot of this past year. Please make this a habit. And not just the little, superficial things like painting your nails or having another Old Fashioned. Self care includes big, spontaneous things like that trip to Chicago you had booked in less than 10 minutes with no thought whatsoever. Self care includes little, important things like making sure you drink enough water and talk to your family. Self care includes the big, important things like saying no to extra work or re-evaluating your career choices. Self care can be tough. It can be overlooked. But please don’t take it for granted. If you treat yourself now the way you will definitely treat the love of your life, you will be so grateful that you took the time to use your superpowers on yourself.

You’re not done growing. The moment you believe that you don’t need to learn anything or that you’ve seen it all, is the moment you revert back to being naive and selfish. Look around, and see how life doesn’t work that way. You will always be surprised. You will always embark on new adventures. You will always be curious and in awe of how life works, and actually works in your favour. Be grateful for this.

 

Well, I’ll definitely be writing more often here. Of course I’d be back. Reader, if you’re going through anything like I am, we’re in this together. Allons-y!

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Courage & Creativity

Something that I’ve only heard a few times recently and have only fully realized and appreciated today is this:

You can’t be creative without being courageous.

Whether it’s sharing a new idea, or starting a painting, or continuing that short story you had left years ago – it takes a certain kind of courage to let your creativity flow. And creativity does flow. But it also comes in crashing waves, then disappears into nothingness. It can be frustrating, but that’s what happens when we don’t let it simply flow. Creativity is like a muscle that you need to exercise regularly, otherwise it won’t work for you.

(Or do you work for creativity? Elizabeth Gilbert seems to think so. But that’s a question to be addressed at another time.)

I honestly think that everybody needs to exercise their creativity on the regular. Whether it’s through music, visual art, writing, storytelling, dance, strategic planning, teaching… anything can be done creatively. Because we were meant to create, to deconstruct, to recreate, to envision, to see the world and ourselves with different and multiple lenses. And I think that’s beautiful… And scary. Being creative is so damn scary, because it’s so damn vulnerable. You’re allowing others to see a side of you that society doesn’t necessarily like or pay attention to. You’re bleeding on a page, canvas, screen, whatever, and allowing others to see and feel it. You don’t know how they’ll react. You have specific expectations of this piece, and whether you find it garbage or consider it to be your baby, you have to deal with whatever is staring back at you.

Not all art is good art. There is bad art. But we have to remember that it is all art. And that’s a brave and beautiful thing.

Still afraid of what will happen if you express yourself and create? Here’s one of the most powerful passages from The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, a book I urge anybody to pick up. It deals with courage by looking at Resistance and what we need to do in order to look past it and make art. I say “look past” instead of “overcome,” simply because Resistance will always be there. And that’s okay. We just need to be able to be vulnerable with Resistance and do what we were meant to do.

I know it’s difficult, but there are so many wonderful possibilities on the other side of fear.

 

On Honour and Shame

I found this video from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook page. Liz was joined by her dear friend and fellow writer, Rayya Elias, who shared her story about self-discovery. Rayya starts off with a letter she had written to her stumbling block, her head. Right away, I liked her. Here was an honest, raw, sincere, and passionate woman who just gives off a sense of wisdom and love (am I making sense here, or have I delved into yoga/new age/spiritual territory?). She talked about mental health, creativity, failure, fear, and many other significant things that we all experience but hardly ever talk about. There are so many quotable moments in this video that I can’t possibly include all of them, so you might as well hit the play button.

One thing that I do remember, though, is Liz saying that honour is the opposite of shame. Which, of course, being a nerd and an Avatar fan, led me to think about Zuko’s journey of self-discovery. The word “honour” is definitely associated with Zuko (which is an understatement). He’s out to regain his honour. He must capture that Avatar to regain his honour. He needs his honour. He believed that honour was something that his father had taken from him. Zuko came to learn that honour is something that you hold within yourself.

Zuko_with_his_swords

An aside, if you will — Avatar: The Last Airbender is such a beautiful story of love and redemption and forgiveness and growth and compassion that I kind of forget how people dismiss it as a children’s show. If you’re reading this and feel that way, please take some time to reconsider. Children’s stories are often dismissed as unrealistic and fluffy and utter crap, but they’re also universal and true. People tend to forget that.

Anyway, back to honour and shame — I thought it was so interesting that they can be opposites. Shame is like a subtle undercurrent of icky shit that sticks to your gut and weighs down your soul. It is triggered by a disapproving look, a word of caution, a smack on the arm, a billboard ad, a vote. Basically, it’s anything and everything that makes you feel unworthy, and it builds up into that undercurrent. You don’t truly realize that it’s there until something significant happens that makes you suddenly feel it.

For a while, I had felt shame about who I was, as somebody who loved books and stories and could not pull myself away from them. I was ashamed of being such a fan of all of these stories (most of which were categorized as children’s stories), of fantasizing about the characters, predicting what comes next, spending hours looking up fanart and fanfiction – all of it, I kind of hated it. It took some time for me to come to terms with it. I also gained the ability to live with that aspect of myself, to be able to set aside space in my head and my heart with set expectations and boundaries. That way, I could contain this fan without it taking over my life.

It turns out that it wasn’t just the fan taking control; it was the shame. I had let it affect my thinking and how I spent my time. I didn’t sulk for hours on end, though. But I do remember feeling sad and worthless for being myself, which was definitely not healthy.

And it did take time for the honour, or a sense of worthiness and self, to come in. Honour came in the form of the Harry Potter Alliance, and with that a group of people who adore stories and proudly claim that stories have shaped their lives for the better. These people use these stories and the power of fandom to better themselves and the world around them. I was amazed that there were other people like me. They (and yes, Zuko) taught me about honour.

Honour is a source of light and energy that you carry inside yourself. It can grow or fade. It feels clean and centred, lightweight and grounded. It is confident, courageous, and calm. It can also be incredibly fragile, which is why we should constantly work to feed that fire and keep it alive.

Easier said than done, right? Well, we will all feel both honour and shame throughout the course of our lives. Just like we feel intense honour, we can feel intense shame. Neither will completely disappear, and that’s okay. It’s something that we have to remember and learn to appreciate. And we can always change things if we’re not content; we have that choice.

What choice will you make today?

Halves and Wholes

I’ve always wondered what it really means to be in a loving relationship with a soul mate. Is this person really the alpha and the omega of your life? Are they your best friend, your inspiration, your partner in crime, and the most attractive thing on the planet? Is this a lot to ask of one person?

I think so. Elizabeth Gilbert agrees in her book, Committed. It is a lot to ask of just one person to fulfill all of these requirements that you can find in your other relationships. Your best friend can be your significant other, or your mom, or that person you went to high school with. Your inspiration can be public figures and even ideas. Your partner in crime can be your dog. Or, actually, all of these things can be found within you.

I’ve read parts of my old journals from my high school and university years, and while a good chunk of it is embarrassing, there are many times that I surprisingly found my younger self introspective and genuine. There is one thing that I clearly remember from those journals, and it’s that I had mentioned several times how incomplete I had felt. And that the only thing that would fill the empty space would be with a boyfriend and a relationship. This next part is embarrassing, but I just recently realized that I don’t have to have a boyfriend to feel whole. I can and have found fulfillment in other ways: writing, having meaningful conversation and other relationships, spreading sprinkles of kindness, watching my favourite TV shows and movies, feeling grateful, and living in the moment.

Another thing that I remember writing about is whether a relationship with a soul mate takes on either ones of these formulas:

1 + 1 = 2

or

1/2 + 1/2 = whole

The latter is definitely more romantic, which is why I had firmly believed in it for so long. It’s about two people finally finding their other half and feeling complete. They complement one another and perhaps need one another. But let’s talk about the former. The former believes that the relationship is a partnership of equals, and takes into consideration that these are two people trying to make a life together and will butt heads once in a while. And so I think the first formula is more realistic.

However, I kind of don’t want to accept it as the only formula or the right formula. I want the reality and the romance. Also, relationships aren’t stagnant; they’re ever evolving because people need to adapt to new situations in order to survive. So maybe, relationships can be either formula or a combination of the two. Maybe there’s another one that works even better. In any case, let’s just say that people find fulfillment and a sense of completion within themselves and with others, and it’s different for everyone. I know that may not sound romantic or poetic, but it’s the truth. And I hope that you find something beautiful in that truth.