Saturday, 17 December 2016

Still learning to let go..

A friend recently broke the news to me that my ex is now engaged. A whole swarm of emotions swept over me. I went back and forth between being (somewhat) happy for him, and this sickening punch to my stomach. I felt utterly confused. I was in a daze for the rest of the day, and probably the next day too. How could it be so soon? What is she like? Is he happy? Are they good together? Have they met each other's parents? I hope his mum likes her way more than she hated me? I hope he is good to her, better than he was to me? Why? Why not me? Why did I have to go through all that crap? Was I that terrible of a girlfriend that I could be simply tossed aside and forgotten forever? Am I that easy to forget? Am I such a horrible person that he doesn't even find me worthy to be a friend?
It was. Terrible. I didn't think I would have to go through all that trauma all over again. I thought it was all over. I thought I was over the breakup. I thought I had healed most of my wounds. I had truly believed that, now that I am in a healthy relationship with this most amazing man, I had walked away from the past. I knew I wouldn't have wanted him back, even if he asked me to. I had even dreamt about it. I dreamt that when that exact scene happened, I chose E instead. Firmly. Assertively. Definitively. Without a blink of an eye. I even distinctly remember waking up feeling really elated about this progression. I'm finally free!
Or was I?? If so, why the heck is this happening?!
I guess...scratch that... I KNOW. There are deeper places that need healing. There is nowhere to hide from them now. No opportunity to keep denying it, no opportunity to keep shoving it down, push it away, and ignore ignore ignore. Everything's fine. Everything's just. fine. 
Truth is, he still has this power over me. I feel horrid that another person can have this immense power over my self-esteem and my psyche, feel so guilty to E for not being completely over my ex. I won't even be surprised if E's family called me a slut for being this way, because it simply isn't fair to E. He deserves all of me, yet I'm still halfway somewhere else being tied to someone who doesn't even want to talk to me anymore. I want and I tried to be devoted but this damn shadow in my heart just won't. freaking. let. go. Yup, I'm terribly frustrated. I just want to yank it out of my body and scream at it to just leave me friggin' alone, haven't you done enough damage, haven't you caused enough pain?!

Though...My inner demons are mine to face. I can't fault my ex for putting some of them there, they were most likely mine to start with, and our unhealthy relationship had perpetuated these cracks. Now is the time for me to stand up against them and love those parts of myself back. To take ownership over loving myself for who I am, for knowing that regardless of my faults, I am loved and I am lovable. I can be enough. My boyfriend and all my friends who have been walking alongside me in this crazy journey are evidence enough for that. I may be weird and crazy, but that's fine. I can still be treasured and loved. I don't have to be someone that someone else wants me to be, because that's what they want in a partner. I can just be me. And I have the room to grow into the woman whom I want to be, not because I would otherwise be tossed aside, but because I want to be a better person for those whom I care about and love. I probably won't be perfect, for what IS perfection anyway? I can be the best I can at any point in time, and that's enough. It's good enough. My friends, family and partner drive me nuts sometimes, and vice versa, but that's fine. If we truly loved each other, we'll learn to forgive and come back together. We still love each other. And that's enough. My life is my own to live, I am my own person to be, and that's enough. It really is.
There is no conclusion to this post because it's still an ongoing journey, me against the shadow of my ex. However, I am grateful for E and everyone else who have been so patient, so gracious with me as I struggle through this, even when I act really out of sorts, act really awkward, and sometimes just say the craziest things. I really am grateful. I felt immensely alone yesterday because I couldn't know how to reach out, out of shame for still feeling this way, but I'm glad I eventually did. I'm glad I allowed myself to experience your support and your grace, because I am learning that even if one particular person has stopped loving me, I am still loved by you all and have that love to fall back on. So, thank you thank you thank you. I love you all...xoxo

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Letting go of regrets

There are a lot of things I regret in my life and in my work. Papers that I promised to help write and never got down to editing or finish analyzing data for, experiments that I should have done that could have expanded my PhD into more areas, projects and papers. Not being a good enough girlfriend (or ex-girlfriend, even), not being a good enough friend, not being a good enough cousin, sister, granddaughter, daughter. Seriously, I have a list so long I can't even see the end of it. And that list plagues me every day. Every other hour, every other minute. 
My regrets always make me feel like I'm not good enough, that I could have done better (if only by a little bit), that I could have spent a little bit more effort and time on this thing or that thing, that I could have been a nicer person, a more enthusiastic and energetic woman, etc. My regrets make me feel like I'm being judged all the time, that people are always whispering, 'look at her, who does she think she is? she doesn't deserve to be here. she can't be trusted with tasks' etc. Most of all, my regrets make me judge myself. That I can never be loved for who I am, that I am never enough and that I'll eventually be exposed for the imposter that I am. Heck, on some (or is it most?) days I feel like I should just quit my job or leave the country and start life anew so that I can escape from all the wrongs that I've done.

I was going through another bad episode today about my work. And then I thought, why? Why all this judgement? Why all this expectation? Who am I trying to be and what am I trying to achieve? What was the truth about the situation? 
You know what the truth is? The truth is, I was doing my best at that moment. It might not be someone else's best or my absolute all-time best. But at that moment, it was my best given the circumstances and my emotional and mental state. It was my best given my level of experience. But I judged myself based on an expectation set by myself or others based on some standard that I couldn't meet at the time. Was I not trying hard enough? Maybe. Was I being lazy? Maybe. Did I feel a lack of motivation because I wasn't excited about it enough? Quite likely. But should those reasons be enough for me to beat myself up for years after the fact, cause me to lose confidence in my abilities and worth, and cause me to waste precious time and energy on guilt and regrets? I don't think so, at least not now, not anymore. Because I know, deep down, and even though I often forget, that I'm in essence a good person. I care and I try and I keep trying. I know that I do what I do to try to make the world a better place. I also know that I'm still looking for my path, and I feel quite lost at times. I know that I have regrets because I care so much, though maybe sometimes for the wrong reasons. 
I'm learning to remember that sometimes, it's just really hard to focus when I'm really down and when I'm feeling so lost I don't remember why I'm here in this world. Sometimes it's just hard to get up in the morning because all I want to do is hide under the covers and make it all go away. But eventually I do get up and show up and put up a strong front and I do my best that day. Sometimes I just get lazy, which makes me human I suppose. Or I decide to take care of myself instead so that I can show up better the next day, because I believe it to be my responsibility. Sometimes I just don't know how or where to try. Or, I just make stupid mistakes. Hindsight can be such a bitch in bringing in the 'if only' or 'why didn't I know this earlier' regrets when one is not careful. 

Will I continue being judged by others and made to feel like I'm not good enough? You bet they will. Even if it's well-intentioned, people will always judge you based on their own standards, expectations and needs. But that's OK. I think I'm finally learning to handle that. It's all a matter of choice, I think. I choose to not judge myself based on your judgement. I choose to think of it as evaluation and room for improvement, as opportunities to evaluate my priorities. I choose to look at things from all sides of the story and remember my own side of the story. I choose to remember that my life is my own, and to work for my own purpose, while remembering that all things considered, I have always been trying my best. Finally, I choose to remember that life can't really be compartmentalized into work and 'life', but is a complicated web that links everything that is happening right now into each other. Life is all about relationships, and the health of each relationship that you choose to have.

Somehow, it's now easier to breathe. And strangely, I feel more energized and focused, ready to carve the life that I want. I guess regrets do have their purpose sometimes. =)

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Looking out from the inside

Lately the depression returned.  Most of the time I feel somewhat normal, yet not quite. Can one laugh yet immediately feel a force within clamping it down? Can one start to cry yet immediately feeling the same force pushing it away? Can one actually stop thinking? Sometimes I lose the ability to think. Literally. My mind draws a blank. Except that the only thought is, 'think, come on, think! i want to respond to this and i know i can, but why is nothing coming up?' And then frustration. Hopelessness. Despair. Especially in situations where one needs to think, like at work. Or helping a friend. Talking to people. Can one really walk around like a shell, no feelings, no particular opinion, no thoughts? Can one start to break down in the middle of nowhere, with no prompt, with no indication of an end to the tears? Can one want so badly to seek company, yet want to be alone? Can one desire to be just alone, yet want to be in the midst of company?
Yup, all possible. Some people say, just try to think happy thoughts, stop being so negative, be happy! But how, when things that used to make you happy, or are supposed to happy, don't even elicit that emotion in you? 

"I know I feel dead because I can't express myself fully. But why can't I and why don't I allow myself to? Only God knows and I don't know how to start finding the answer, neither can I start to express myself in the way that I want. It's very frustrating and I feel like I'm dying inside with every moment. It's like I want to get out yet I don't want to. I just want to hide away and cry the days away right now. That's pretty much all I want to do at the moment. Not going to xmas parties, not meeting people, not going to work, not going to eat, not even eating. Is that what this whole depression episode is about? Is this how it is manifesting itself at the moment? Who will pull me out of it this time? When will it end? How will it end? I just don't know and that is scary. It feels like it'll never end and I'm scared, if fear is even an emotion I am capable of feeling at the moment. Can I even feel? Do I feel joy? Joy comes up, if only just a little, when I hear about your day, and then it fades away. There's nothing to grab onto, nothing that stays. What remains is emptiness and an empty shell in which I reside, an empty shell from which I am looking out into the world. A world where one feels like there is a glass sphere which traps you and you just can't get out. And there doesn't seem to be a way out. You see where you want to be but it's on the other side of where you are, and there's no opening, no crack through which you might even start to escape"

Enough. I've had enough. And this is one of the ways I'm fighting back. Sharing my story. Coming out of the closet. Releasing the shame. Reaching out to you who may be feeling or have felt the same. Written above in parentheses is how it felt like today. I had to text E about it. I couldn't hide it away anymore. I can't deny it and pretend that I am OK when I am clearly not OK. It is paralyzing and suffocating and overwhelming. And this is not how I want to live the rest of my life. Some people say, sometimes you just got to hit rock bottom before you start to bounce back. I guess I did. I reached breaking point and decided I had to do something about it. Just like the last three times (how could I ever have forgotten?). This time I am telling my close friends about it before it was over. Heck, I even told my boss about it. I had to let it out, find a means to express myself, stop being ashamed of it. And expressing did help. Admitting that something is off helps. It's not completely gone, the despair. But I think the hopelessness is fading away. I think I feel more meaning in my life now (more, meaning greater than zero, which is great!). The shame is still there. There's still the, how did you let this happen to you? This only happens to weaklings. You have no time to be weak. You don't have the luxury to.
But you know what? I'm not alone. I know because I walk along a close friend who is going through the exact same thing. This girl is beautiful. She is funny, smart, a dancer, and definitely not a weakling. And we randomly start crying together. And that helps me feel somewhat better. or worse. whatever. I felt something. It was complex but at least it was a feeling. Not dead space. Maybe it's a good start. But evidently I'm still all over the place. 

Letting myself be alone and then asking for company from S who doesn't need me to talk, when I don't have the mental or physical capacity to, also helped. Crying over that animals being slaughtered and tortured helped. Crying over a birthday card from my dear friend helped. Being myself and letting myself be me helped. 
When I stop trying so hard to be who I'm not, it helps. So much. A great weight lifted off my chest. Until, of course, the facade returns out of habit, because somehow it doesn't feel safe to be me. How did this happen? I have no idea. But at least I'm taking baby steps toward learning to finally be me. When I let myself be me, the depression goes away.

Exercise does help, surprisingly. Even a 300m jog with my mum, though she had to coax me out of the house to take a walk. Or a walk to the train station, or running in the rain. I guess endorphins do help.

Finally, God helped. When you learn that Someone somewhere is walking alongside with you and is OK with you being the way you are, who still loves you and will hold you until you're ready to walk out of it without trying to fix you, and is just waiting to receive you on the other side, somehow it makes being messed up a little more OK. E does just that too (even though it's still so hard to believe that this is real). But I guess sometimes God reaches out to us through those around us, to remind us that we can and will still be loved even when we feel the farthest end of the spectrum from perfect.

And then slowly but surely, you start to become a little more OK.

Just a snapshot of how it feels like, looking out from the inside. 

Monday, 31 August 2015

Every moment is a second chance

copyright of Brendon Burchard
Ever felt bad about a mistake you made, or something you could have done better? Sometimes it's easy to dwell on the past, spending way too much time and energy on guilt and regret. You don't have to live this way though. We all slip up once in a while! Instead of beating yourself up for not knowing or doing better, why not take the stance that every moment is a second chance at doing what is right? When we are mindful, every next moment is an opportunity to return to the more loving path (for yourself and others), an opportunity to right a wrong. Life is full of second chances. Don't live in the past. Learn from it, and live in the present. =)

Monday, 17 August 2015

I don't need a prince, I want a king

When I was a little girl, I was a big fan of Disney Princess movies. Like many others, I was enarmored by the idea of a Prince Charming sweeping me off my feet, saving me from pain and hurt, protecting me from the harsh world. 

He would be strong and kind always, intelligent, witty and handsome. He would keep all his promises. He could do no wrong.
Likewise, I, as his princess, would be forever beautiful in his eyes, smart, pretty, and a good wife.
As you can tell, there was no room for error.

I had some growing up to do.
Thank goodness I did.
And thank goodness E showed me how much I've changed.

I don't need a Prince Charming to save me; I want a King to walk beside me.

I don't need someone to save me; I can save myself. 
Even if I alone cannot help myself, I can do so by accepting help from others. 
Unlike a dragon-slaying prince, my king wouldn't want to protect me from everything. Even if he did, he would do so in an empowering way, assisting me as I carve out my own path in my own way. He believes in my strength and my ability to figure things out eventually. He believes in me. 

Someone once said that, a good relationship is not one where two people gaze into each others' eyes, but one where they stand hand in hand facing the world together. 

As much as he is my warrior in arms, my king is not perfect either.
He will have his weak moments. He may crumble and fall sometimes. But that's what I am here for, as he is for me. We help each other stand back up. While he may face the need to appear infallible out in the world, he does not need to always be strong before me. We can show our weaknesses to each other, taking comfort in the knowledge that, despite the potential discomfort with realizing our unglamorous sides, we can and will be accepted and loved by the other. Even though deciding to be vulnerable can be difficult at times, we take faith, and will have that faith often renewed (if not always), in the space that is held by the other. The kind of space that is nurtured by love, patience and understanding. An understanding that none of us is perfect, and that we are both trying our best to be the best we can be. This space assures us that, even though one of us may run and hide because we feel afraid, the other person will be on the other side with arms wide open, waiting for him/her to open up again and work through our fears and insecurities together. 

"When you are king, dilly dilly, I shall be queen" (Lavender's Blue)

My king helps the queen inside me to shine. 
While we may all still have elements of a child within us -- throwing tantrums when upset at not having things go our way, or even acting in hurtful ways when hurt or afraid -- through communication I am learning to turn back from the ledge of allowing my emotions to take over in ways that may result in damaging behavior, learning to come to terms with and manage the same emotions. Through encountering his inner child I have discovered the extent of loving kindness I am capable of giving, more than I imagined I could. Through patience I remember that life is not a battle that I am fighting alone. Through acceptance I remember that life is not made of promises, past or future, but of present moments that we create and treasure. Through understanding I am able to tap into the immense well of love that I have within for him, for family, for friends and for myself. 
Through his love and in loving myself I am growing and learning. He does not require me to be anything else other than myself. I am perfectly imperfect in his eyes, and that is enough for him to love me. There is no need to prove myself to be anything, no need to achieve or do anything to be reason to be loved. I am reason enough to be loved. Through this love I am given the space to explore and create the me that I myself truly want to be. 

Through him, through us and through myself, he supports me in becoming the woman I can be. 

"When I am queen, dilly dilly, you shall be king"

And likewise, I do the same for him too. 

Love you, E. =)

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Being real

I will be moving across the world in two days. 
For a long time, I felt nothing about my move. Literally nothing. No excitement, no sadness. Just neutral. All I thought was, 'Well, moving is normal, all a part of life. Just one adventure ending, another one starting. What is there to be sad about?' In actual fact, I had numbed myself, shutting my emotions away so that I wouldn't feel sad about moving yet again to another country, leaving behind beloved friends and colleagues, a man whom I have come to deeply love, his dog, my second family of close friends, 'nieces, sisters and brothers', and a place that I have grown to love and wish to live in for the rest of my life. 
For a long time, despite spending my time finishing up the work I have left here, spending time with friends, and exploring places that I won't be seeing for a while, there was always an element of doing things 'just because'. It never really felt real enough, nor deep enough, often simply a skimming-the-surface kind of feeling. I always felt like there was something missing, but what was it? Why is it not enough to spend the days in fun and laughter, in enjoyment of people and things? What would I want to be anything other than calm, positive, and upbeat? 
Because, sometimes, it simply felt.. mechanical. I was living within a shell of 'happy!! I'm-doing-totally-fine!! Everything's great!', when in fact I had blocked off a part of me inside. The part of me that feels hurt, sadness, longing, regret, anger, and disappointment. That very part of me that is associated with what may be labeled as 'negative' emotions. As I reflect on this, I wonder if, in my recent efforts to become a happier and more positive person, I had even attempted to kill off that part of me.
The turning point came when I realized that I had stopped being able to cry. Being a sensitive individual, sentimental events would often bring up tears in my eyes... until a few weeks ago. While those type of experiences left me feeling sad (or I think I felt sad), I started being aware of a barrier within my chest that was blocking out my emotions. I realized that I was... unable to feel. I was disallowing myself to feel. I observed myself pushing not only my feelings away, but also people and things that I loved, keeping my distance from them, acting from behind a wall which I could retreat to whenever I sensed 'negative' emotions coming up. That realization forced me to consider this -- is this the kind of life that I want? To live flitting superficially from one experience to another, while protecting my heart so that I would never feel pain? Or would I rather feel pain and let myself cry through that pain, without a guarantee that the pain will go away?
I suppose you could guess what my decision was. And I did cry. I cried so hard that it was sometimes difficult to stop. I cried in church, in the theater, in my car, in my office, in his arms. Yes, I allowed myself to cry in front of a man I loved, someone whom I wanted to be a perfect, happy, girl for. Sometimes this was not the simply tears flowing down my face kind of crying, but the non-stop, body-shaking uncontrollably kind of sobbing that I would never want anyone to see. (and yet, I am writing this all out before the world. I am ironic that way.) I let myself feel, I stopped trying to be strong. I wore my heart on my sleeve. I let myself be real. Sometimes I couldn't even explain what had gotten me going, but I just let it come. I stopped trying to understand why or how, I stopped trying to decide what I 'should' be feeling or doing. I just let myself be. 
And you may wonder about how I feel now? 
Well.... I feel... good. 
Feeling the pain, releasing the pain, admitting that I will miss this place, that I will miss all my friends and second family here, that I will miss my life here, that I will miss him and whatever we have had, was the greatest gift I could have given myself over the last few precious days I have left here. Because I let the sadness be, I also invited love and happiness in. I finally felt so much more love for everything and everyone, the kind of love that I truly had inside for them, the kind of love that they deserved to experience from me. I was able to appreciate them more, tell them 'I love you' genuinely from the depths of my heart. Which, unexpectedly, led me to feel even more love for them. 
So much love, so many gifts that I was able to give and receive. All because I finally became real and opened the door to my heart. 

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Letting go of control

I have control freak tendencies. The extent of this controlling nature did not simply extend to just trying to control what other people did, thought of or responded to me. I even tried to control the control-freak part of me, clamping her down so that she wouldn't emerge to hurt my relationships any further. Sometimes I even denied her existence, hiding behind a veil of 'I'm only worried/concerned/acting out of love for you', or whatever excuse I could come up with at that time, to make myself feel better. (and yes, it makes me nervous to even type this out right now) Of course, that never really works out, because, my slips in mindful awareness are the times she would sneak out to wreak havoc on my mental and emotional state, not to mention my behavior toward the very people I love. 
Just not too long ago, I faced multiple incidents with my parents, as well as the man I am in a relationship with, where this side of me resulted in emotionally draining situations, unable to enjoy in the other party's company as the moment desired. Sometimes, I rebelled against well-intentioned advice, insisting on my own point of view and refusing to accept or even acknowledge their perspective. Other times, I decided for myself what was 'good for them', and attempted to influence events to fit my idea of an ideal outcome. Otherwise, I disallowed myself from asking for what I truly wanted out of fear of rejection or disapproval. Regardless of the situation, the ultimate outcome always ended up being either a dearth of connection between me and the other party, disappointment, or conflict. The desire to control never ends well, and most definitely a far fetch from the 'perfect ending'.
This was something I struggled with for a long time. What could be wrong when I had a (relatively) good idea of what I want, think, and need, and what others want, think and need? Why is it so hard to find a compromise so that everyone can be happy? And I struggled in vain, until two recent incidents  over the past weekend helped to provide some resolution on the matter. 
The first moment of epiphany happened during a church service where an interview about leadership with Dr. Henry Cloud (clinical psychologist, leadership expert and author) was screened. One particular sentence struck a chord within me -- 'A good leader allows, and trusts people to do what they are good at.', preparing me for what was to come later. 
That same day, I hesitated on something that E had the intention of following through with because I 'did not think it was a good idea as I am worried for him and think it might be a drain on his energy and time' (ie. I decided for myself what was good for him). He asked simply, 'Why don't you let me decide what I want?'. 
And that's when I fully realized, that trying to control or impose my own ideas on someone else's actions is not only selfish, but also futile. The only person who can, and should, have say over his/her life is the person him/herself. Because everyone is best at one thing -- living their life. No one can do it for them. As a friend, lover or family member, no matter how well we know, or think we know, the person, no one knows him/her as well as he/she does. Therefore, no one will know what is truly best for him/her, simply because only he/she is there 24/7 to experience all that they see, feel or do, to fully know their story. Everything else that we project onto them, well-meaning intentions or otherwise, are simply projections from our own lives onto theirs, and how can we really compare our experiences to theirs? How can we assume that the things that we worry about are of similar importance/value to them? Even if we would like to minimize the pain our loved ones may experience, is that the best way of showing them love? What if that very pain is required for them to progress to a better life? How would they learn otherwise, and can we (and should we) take this away from them? Is sheltering them and trying to control everything, are we protecting them or harming them? 
Letting go of control is an extremely difficult thing to do for anyone, especially control freaks like me. But in a mere few days, I have learnt that, whatever perfect scenario we imagine is simply something that happens in our head, something unreal that distracts us from what is real, what is truly happening, and distracts us from holding that freedom and space for those we love and even ourselves from developing into even more wonderful individuals than we already are. Without that space, open communication and true understanding cannot occur, the very things that resolves differences, even fear itself. Sometimes, the very act of letting go and trusting in the ones we love, trusting in our own judgment over how and who we love, or simply trusting in that life will turn out just fine the way it will be, allows for better things to emerge than we imagined it to be. 
In the end, trust wins over fear. Love always wins. So, quit it. =p