Sunday, 31 March 2013

The relative importance of family, vulnerability, and having skin on your tongue

Since last writing a pretty worrying post about feeling rather down (and if it wasn't pretty worrying, I did a good job of hiding how utterly broken I was feeling, so yay! But suffice it to say I was not myself), I am very glad to report that I'm doing a lot better, and things are a lot better. As I mentioned in my penultimate post, I try very hard to focus on the positive in any situation and also to not be too personal when writing about things that a) don't just concern me and b) are actually quite personal. This is the Internet, after all.

Thank you, Cassie.
Aside from my blog though, apparently it was glaringly obvious to anyone that knew me that I wasn't okay, even if I didn't directly say anything. Physiologically, my body responded as it always has to anxiety: heart palpitations, nausea, insomnia, loss of appetite, panic attacks and (a new one for me) such horrific dry mouth that the whole top layer of my tongue peeled off. Seriously. I also haven't been the easiest person to be around of late, and at times I have been downright horrible. For this I can only apologise and try to be a better friend from here on out. There are no excuses, even when going through your own personal crisis, and my wonderful friends and family deserve better.

I do not have this
taxidermied alligator's confidence
So, in light of that, and because I want to heal, I'm going to write in a little more reflective detail than I usually would. Surrendering to vulnerability and tenderness is a big part of me (in the 'real world'), and while it makes me anxious and a little crazy at times, it is who I am, and that's okay. I've been telling myself over the last two or so years that I am actually being rather than seeming at last, and I want to persevere with that attitude. I do not wish to numb the girl I have been growing into. I want to be courageous, to be truly seen, and to continue to love whole-heartedly.

I care a lot about what other people think of me. Probably too much. I even care (disproportionately) what people who don't really know me think. I often imagine that people are thinking the worst of me - which is of course something daft in itself, because people are generally thinking about themselves and their existence in the world, as that's what being human mostly is - and I can magnify even the tiniest interaction into a potential disaster. My difficulty stems from a combination of personal insecurity, and a genuine belief that everyone has a valid point or a right to their view (blame my inner psychologist), and that their view comes from a reasonable place to them. Because opinions like that are subjective, a person's dislike of you cannot be considered unreasonable as such, even if born of a misunderstanding. Feelings are what they are. So if they don't like me or think ill of me, then perhaps they might be right and I (cue catastrophising thought pattern) am thus unlovable and forgettable and unworthy.

When it comes to people who are important to me, or important to the people I love, I am even more concerned if there seems to be any kind of misunderstanding. Ben has pointed out that whatever anyone thinks of me, he would and will always want to be with me. Equally, if someone in my life did not like him, he would be able to live with it. If one of my family, for example, did not like Ben, however, I would have an issue. While I would still choose to be with him every single time (plus, as I said back in my first ever v-log, no one actually expressed any negative opinions about that choice, including the transatlantic move aspect) and there's no person I would fight harder for, I would want to resolve any negative feelings. I cannot stand conflict, and I cannot bear the idea of someone I love being hurt by me in a direct or indirect way. I am a peaceful creature who does not enjoy rocking the boat, to the point that I will almost always stay quiet - unless I'm standing up for someone else. I'm kind of a wimp (but I like to see it more as always assuming the best of people).

Esse quam videri
However, I have to learn (and am learning) that valuing myself is actually not a weakness or some form of arrogance. It's not only reasonable to allow yourself to just be who you are, but it's also true that just because someone else - whoever they may be - may think badly of you, it doesn't follow that they're right, and it doesn't follow that you have a duty to change their mind, or that everyone will jump on the bandwagon and leave you for your ostensible, possible, psychologically-constructed awfulness. It is also true that if someone mistreats you or doesn't take care of you, that doesn't mean that you deserved it or somehow caused that to happen.

Finally, being blessed enough to have a partner and friends who do love me for me, and couldn't give a monkey's about how anyone else might feel; to be around people who show unconditional, sensitive, thoughtful, attentive, supportive, joyful love and always think the best of others; and people who continue to be courageous, loving, and vulnerable in the face of their own struggles and pain is what I should be focusing on. This is both humbling and inspiring. The fact that there are - or may be - people I encounter who don't do that isn't important, and it doesn't actually have any real consequences for who I actually am.

I will leave you with this wonderful TEDTalk, in which the concept and importance of vulnerability is explored (and from which some of the phrasing in this blog post has been borrowed). It's one of the most pleasingly concise, deeply resonating, and simultaneously comforting and discomforting monologues I've ever heard. In order to be connected, you have to be who you are rather than who you think you should be, which means opening yourself up to possibly being hurt. But it also means opening yourself up to really loving, and really being loved - and that is always worth the risk of really being.

"And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can't practice compassion with other people if we can't treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection, and -- this was the hard part -- as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection."

 "And I know that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it's also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love."

"You cannot selectively numb emotion. ... When we numb [the bad stuff], we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then we are miserable."

" let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there's no guarantee; to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we're wondering, "Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?" just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, "I'm just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I'm alive." And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we're enough. Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, "I'm enough," then we stop screaming and start listening, we're kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we're kinder and gentler to ourselves."

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