What I love about this process of growing and learning and transforming is that I am able to look upon situations that have always been, and see them with new, fresh eyes. It’s like different parts of the world around me get lit up in a way to draw attention to the seemingly obvious. And it is invigorating! With each new way of seeing things, the world lights up a bit more brightly for me. It gives me the momentum to keep working to be the best version of myself.
The recurring theme I am noticing right now is the fact that we are all fighting battles that most people around us know nothing about. WE ARE ALL FIGHTING BATTLES. We are ALL struggling with something in our lives. I am sure that YOU are fighting a battle that many know nothing about right now. Before starting this blog, I stayed pretty closed inside myself, somewhat sheltered from the people around me. I became a combination of self-reliant and cautious. It was a result of a variety of things. I think it somewhat started in high school when I was dealing with stressors at home and I was struggling with depression. But in those days, I surrounded myself with a great group of friends who I felt comfortable to be myself around. I was comfortable speaking my mind in general and felt free enough that I didn’t get swept into following the crowd. Later on, my marriage was toxic for me, and because I was hoping that something would change, I kept a lot of it to myself, even from my family. The fact that I was isolated and away from family and close friends sort of made me retract into my shell even more. As someone who dealt with years of clinical depression, I was all too aware of the stigma attached to it, which made me keep it to myself. Then, enter in a baby who needed me, an illness that demanded a lot of my energy, a divorce that led to a complete clearing and restructuring of the people in my life, and a new nursing career that left me with little energy for socializing, you could say that I kept to myself quite a lot during those years. I sort of felt like I was in crisis mode a lot of that time, and I did what I needed to do to get by. I mostly worked to put one foot in front of the other, trying to not think too far ahead. I had my family and close friends to talk to (mostly long distance), but aside from that, I kept the things I was going through to myself while working to get my health back and trying to be the best Mom and nurse that I could be. While I have always been one to look for silver linings and bright spots in situations, I have had my share of feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, and depressed. Even now, I have things in my life that cause me a lot of anxiety.
During a lot of my trials, I would say that many of the people around me had no idea what I was going through. I, like many of you, don’t like to bombard people with my problems and struggles. Plus, when I am going through something difficult, I haven’t always wanted to talk about it. After all, sometimes it’s difficult enough to be dealing with something stressful, let alone talking about it all the time. I’m also introspective, so I tend to think things through (sometimes over thinking things to the point where the hamsters in my head escape from their wheels and start running around my brain like wild maniacs!) before sharing my thoughts.
Well, something in me has shifted and I am no longer willing to stay closed and quiet and disconnected. I made a collage with this quote on it years ago, and keep it on my living room wall:
” And then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was greater than the risk it took to bloom.” Anais Nin
I find that this sentiment is ringing even more true to me now than it did when I decided to hang it on my wall. You see, what I have seen in sharing myself with all of you via this blog is that it is breaking down the barriers I put up a long time ago in an effort to keep me safe from other people, from getting hurt. Some of the things that I have shared about myself have felt sort of taboo to share at one point or another in my life. But what I am finding is that a common thread connects us all. People have responded really beautifully to the things I have shared which has taken away my fears about sharing about my journey. And in breaking down my own walls and sharing more of myself with the world, people are feeling safe to share their own stories and fears and struggles with me. It has led to a lot of beautiful connections. Not only that, but just in talking to people, what I am hearing time and time again is that we are all battling something. None of us escape this life unscathed. Like I have said before, the battles aren’t meant to punish or torture us, but rather they are meant to grow us.
There are only so many different combinations of struggles that people can experience. So even while we have individual differences related to our personal journeys, we can expect to come out of them with similar baggage and triggers. A common thread that I have heard often is a feeling of neglect and/or fear of abandonment that we picked up during childhood. Mine came from the constant back and forth fighting and making up that my parents teetered between. In one moment my Mom would be confiding in me, and the next, she’d be talking to my Dad more than me. I have worked through this stuff, so I don’t harbor ill feelings toward my parents or the situation. I recognize that they were doing their best at the time, and that’s all any of us can do at any given time. Maya Angelou was once quoted as saying, “when we know better, we do better” which I think is a really great way to look at it. At any rate, I grew up feeling neglected and fearful of abandonment. I am not special in that way, but I am like many of you in that way. So for me, neglect and fear of abandonment became a few of my triggers as an adult. And I have watched them come out in various ways both when I was unconscious of them, and also when I was conscious of them. It doesn’t matter where or from whom we picked up our baggage and subsequent triggers. What I am realizing is that perhaps the most important thing regarding our baggage is that our baggage is just like everyone else’s. Our journeys may be different, but OUR BAGGAGE AND TRIGGERS ARE THE SAME! It’s time that we stop thinking that our demons are worse than everyone else’s. I know that realization makes me feel a lot better. How does knowing that make you feel? How would it feel if you shared more of yourself and your journey with the people around you?
The fact that we are all facing battles of some kind is what makes it so very important that we always treat everyone with kindness and love. Trust me when I tell you that you can positively affect someone else’s life when you act kindly and do good deeds for them. It may be that the person that lands in your path even if just briefly just lost one or both of their parents…lost their job…is worried about making ends meet…just got a cancer diagnosis…had a miscarriage…is fighting with their significant other every day…is feeling alone…is feeling like killing themselves…is upset that they’re hooked on drugs and that they can’t break the addiction and it’s ruining their life… the list goes on and on and on. I am unique in my DNA, my journey, but I am not special. I am one manifestation of the divine in human form. There are billions of us. My life does not demand more respect than anyone else’s. I do not deserve different treatment because of the struggles I have faced, or the posts that I write. I am human, like you are human, like we all are human. What I hope you realize is that we are all the same. Our lives are not meant to be competitions with each other. No struggle deserves more respect than another. No human deserves more respect than another. Our struggles are all relative. And just because someone else doesn’t open up and tell you about their story, their problems, their fears does not mean that they do not have them. I believe that real change in this world is going to come when we all learn to love ourselves and each other exactly as we are. Not for how we wish we were or how we hope others will be, but for EXACTLY who we all are right this minute.
I have taken care of Moms who have just had a baby and are facing the reality that they will not be able to take their baby home with them because Mom and baby both tested positive for methamphetamine. Sometimes it has been their first baby, sometimes it has been their fifth. I trust that Mom and baby’s paths were chosen by their souls, and I trust that their souls are going to learn valuable lessons for all of humanity by going through their lives. But I see the pain in Mom’s eyes and feel her energy of immense sadness as she says goodbye to her baby. I have teared up talking to these Moms, because as a Mom, I know the connection we have with our babies even before they are born. These Moms are no different. And it is not for me to judge them or their experience here in this life. I do not know what their life has been like thus far. I do not know what led them to start using drugs in the first place. And while I know that meth is one of the most addictive drugs, I cannot know what it feels like to not be able to stop even through a pregnancy. In those situations, I am not meant to judge, I am meant to care for Mom and baby as best I can given the situation. I am there to show empathy and compassion for my fellow human. I can imagine that if I knew the full story of these Moms’ lives, I would feel a great sense of compassion for how they landed in their current predicament. I am not better than these Moms. I have led a different life that has presented me with different options and choices. I have made different choices. But who is to say that had I lived the life of one of these Moms that I wouldn’t be exactly where they find themselves? We like to walk around and judge and comment on how we would have handled things differently if we had experienced (fill in the blank), but the truth is that unless we walk the exact path of another person (which isn’t possible) we cannot ever know what we would do in their shoes. So the best thing for us to do is to treat everyone around us with kindness. Treat everyone as if they are having their worst day. Only good things can come from treating the people around you this way. If we do this enough, we will create a positive ripple effect of kindness. Let’s try it.
As I have gotten more comfortable with sharing, I am finding that I am connecting to people in my day-to-day life on a much deeper level than I was before. The cool thing is that I realize that it’s not that anyone had a problem with me before, and are now treating me differently, but that the shift to be more open and deeply connected to myself is giving me the opportunity to have deeper connections with others. I was always one to strike up conversations with anyone, the cashier at the store, another shopper, a coworker, and all of the other people who might land in my path on any given day. Lately, I have noticed that as I am striking up conversations with everyone I come across, the conversation moves from surface topics, and the next thing I know, people are sharing deeper things about their journeys with me. And it is AWESOME! Today for instance, I struck up a conversation with a Mom who was out hiking with her husband and two young sons. She was holding her 27 month-old in her arms as she was walking, and I think I said something to the effect of “looks like you could use a carrier.” To which the Mom told me that she had one, but had decided to leave it at home and was regretting that decision now. We went on to talk about how great it is when the kids are little enough to carry and how fast they grow up. We commiserated with each other about our struggles as Moms and we even shared that we were both not proud of the fact that we sometimes yell at our kids. That led to me talking about how I think that our kids are meant to trigger us so that we are finally able to see our triggers out in the open, so that we can start to heal them. I told her that I am working all the time on responding versus reacting to what my son says and does. It was a great conversation! I shared that all of us Moms are going through the exact same things. The next thing I knew, this Mom was opening up about how her son has a partial hearing deficit that wasn’t detected by doctors for some time, and her struggle to get him diagnosed and fitted for hearing aids. It was a topic that left this sweet Mom feeling badly that she somehow missed this about her son, and she was obviously feeling the need to share. And I thought it was really beautiful. This has been happening to me a lot. People have shared a lot of below-the-surface things about their lives and things that have been facing. Acquaintances at work sharing the stories of their parents’ deaths. The individual things that people have shared with me aren’t important. What is important is that I am being shown examples time and time again that we are all going through difficult things. As I have been opening up, I think I may have created a safe place for other people to share. Mind you, a lot of these people are maybe only energetically aware that I am a safe place for them to share, because many of the people who I have had these types of interactions with do not know me well, and do not know that I have this blog. I’m just speculating that by removing my own walls and blockages, that I am opening myself to deeper connections with other people. And I cannot tell you how happy that makes me! I have spent years being annoyed with small talk. I have always preferred to have real, meaningful conversations, but I have spent a lot of time not always getting that type of communication with people. Now I’m realizing (and this goes with every issue I have worked through) that I was the one blocking myself from the types of connections that I wanted in my life. The issue was with me, NOT with the other people. Friends, regardless of what you think is creating your suffering, YOU are creating your suffering. We all have choices in life, and by consciously choosing to accept ourselves as we are, others as they are, and life as it is, I have found a lot more inner peace and happiness in life. And by treating others with the gentleness that I wish to experience in the world, my connections have grown and multiplied. My heart is so full and grateful because of it.
Remaining tight in a bud kept me feeling alone in my struggles and isolated and separate from other people. The truth is that we are all connected, both in a grander spiritual sense, and also in the commonalities created by our collective human experience. I took a risk by opening up my life in such a public forum by starting this blog and sharing intimate details about myself and my journey, and it has been scary for me at times, but experiencing my life in bloom has made it all worth the risk. Leap and feel the net catch you. Love yourself and all of your self-perceived flaws, so that you can give unconditional love to others. The world needs more love. How would your life change if you gave yourself more love? How can you work to treat yourself and others with more empathy and compassion?