A Word from Abroad

After a week in Barcelona, a week in Venice, and a weekend in Milan, I have realized two things: 1. The world is incredible. 2. One must pace oneself in order to experience it as such.

Each day, I’ve needed to find a new pace. Some days, I’ve been tired, but pushed myself just enough; other days, I’ve awoke three hours too early to fulfill the excitement that emanated through my body; and of course there have been days when I’ve set out at the wrong pace, and have had to adjust to find one that felt right.

At the right pace, I’ve soaked in some of the most incredible sights, some of the greatest people, and some of the weirdest literary texts. Each place I’ve stayed has also reminded me of who I am, who I was, and who/how I want to be. Likewise, these moments have reflected the environments that allow me to grow, and those which prove more difficult to navigate, even with the best map. Continue reading “A Word from Abroad”

The Present Gift

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It is one thing to see people you know, but it is another to feel known. Yesterday, I did both.

Different people in my life have offered me different things. The friends I’ve made in college have known my ups and downs in a genuine way only fostered after years of being prompted to open up and show up in my truth. The friends I’ve made in treatment have known me in a light of raw emotions and painful, evolutionary growth. But the friends I’ve had since I was a child know my history as witnesses to it, and there’s something to be said for that.

It is one thing to know a person’s recounting of their life, but it is another to know it as a part of your own. All of the relationships I have fostered throughout my life have played and still play pertinent roles in developing the person I am today. I don’t know who or where I would be without the supports that helped get me here. And, because of this, I value them all differently but equally.

Yesterday, I reconnected with some of my closest friends from my childhood and early adolescence. Most of my more recent relationships I can evaluate and gain perspective on quite easily based on current experiences, but it’s always fascinating to me when old relationships re-emerge or I see people I haven’t seen in a long time. Seeing these people reminded me of the range of ways a person can feel known.

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Growing up, I showed a true range of colors. My ability to express myself and live authentically was extremely limited and I was often struggling silently. Although I wasn’t able to reach out and ask for help and my facade was thick, the people who were with me through it have the first-hand knowledge of their own experiences to remind me of where I’ve come from. I am reminded of what it is like to not have to fill in all of the spaces from my past. It feels like at least a part of me is known. I can introduce the person I am today with the understanding of who I was yesterday.

This, itself, can be difficult. It is always hard to show up with new ways of being in old circumstances. However, seeing my childhood friends gave me an opportunity to see my progress, and, more importantly, to be present for it. Showing them around Boston, I was reminded of how disconnected I used to be with the profound realization of how much more connected I currently am. I also saw how that can strengthen a relationship or offer more to others. I was both able to receive more and give more in the time spent.

Cheers!

Alexandra

We’re All in the Shame Boat

Recently, I was advised to begin to expose the parts of myself I typically keep cloaked- to “embrace my shadow”. I’ve been on this road to recovery for a long time now, yet when I think about specific behaviors or current beliefs and distortions I have about myself, my life, or life in general that I know logically aren’t true or right, I still cringe. I often live hoping no one can read my mind or hear my thoughts. I fear what I’ve taught myself will be inevitably judged, thus keeping myself stuck in all of my own judgments.

I’ve been doing this long enough to know that hiding, no matter whether it’s yourself you’re hiding or something else, is the best way to stay sick and stuck. I know that secrecy fosters fallacies. I’ve seen rationalizations further instill myths as truths. I’ve witnessed enough to know the veracity behind the necessity for honesty, openness, and feedback.

Taking my awareness around my distress and the recognition that exposure to the causes of this agitation is necessary, I have been embracing my shadow by noticing the places where I say what I think is right rather than what is true for me. Each time I’ve felt a hesitation or a desire to present something different than what is happening for me, I’ve stopped myself and forced out what feels hard. Each time I feel my chest tighten or identify an avoidance, I attempt to throw, or at least walk, myself into the fear, itself. What I’ve come across is shame.

Over and over and over again, I’ve been living in the embarrassment I’ve dodged for as long as I can remember. What I’ve observed is that the shame I’ve believed I’ve circumvented by holding back in exposing myself has lived inside of me along with all of my secrets.

The thing is, when you’re young and you learn to cover up your mistakes or insecurities after experiences where others made you feel embarrassed, you’re protecting yourself from further embarrassment. However, those choices also allow us no room to chance the story around those insecurities; we get no chance to feel secure. We find that safety through denial rather than acceptance- never wondering if that one kid who laughed at your ears was just one kid, nor that your ears could actually be just fine. The shame doesn’t disappear, it gets buried.

As I’ve been talking about and doing the things that make me feel uncomfortable with myself, I’ve started uncovering how much there is there, and how much it’s all my own. I’ve started to see that the cloak I put on, which, at first, covered the areas for which I had been mocked or ridiculed, now hid any fragment of my being which held potential for rejection. And, in denying myself that vulnerability to be torn down, all of the qualities with which I could be embraced or valued stayed hidden, as well. Since someone somewhere could reject pretty much anything, everything of mine has been held secure, unable to be brought into connection. The parts I’ve doled out have been hesitantly transmitted, at best. And, consequently, owning my shit has been hard.

I’ve begun to realize that I’ve spent most of my life as anyone but me.

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This came to a crux a couple of weeks ago. Recently, I’ve been honored to write as a blogger for The Huffington Post and a staff writer for College Magazine. I am also surrounded by people 24/7 and unable  to work in any quiet or contained space. My writing time is limited and my computer time, even more so. The positions and these limitations have not danced well together, but I have made do my best- scribbling in my journal late at night, then power-typing the next day.

However, despite the many years I attempted to be, I am not perfect, nor anywhere close. And as much as I’d like to feel free with that, it’s still hard to accept myself, with all of my flaws. In my writing endeavors, this became clear when an article I put out was published with several typos.

My first instinct was to edit, which proved immediately to be a dead end when I realized I didn’t have access to edits. Next, I sent three emails to my editing team begging for the changes to be made ASAP (which may or may not still be in the works… I’ll let you know when I stop checking).

After I’d hit refresh about fifty times to check for responses, I sat stuck in what next to do. I goggled my name and found the article at the top of my search hits. I flinched. I sent another email. Pressed refresh. And then I stopped.

It was the exact place I run from. I was feeling undeniable shame. I wanted to hide. What had been an exciting accomplishment- writing for and getting published by a website I love- had, in seconds, turned into something of which I was ashamed. I didn’t want to share it. I didn’t want to be associated with it. I wanted it to disappear. So, I copied and pasted the link to the article to every one of my social media accounts.

Knowing full well that each person who read would most likely notice the fairly obvious typos, I let myself sit with the fear and shame that came with knowing all of myself and presenting it to the world. I didn’t expect to be taunted or ridiculed, yet recognizing the solely positive feedback I received gave me full evidence that any of my greatest fears were simply my insecurities projected onto others. I learned that all of who I am can be okay and that any discomfort I feel is simply within myself, but not truly hurting me. I can have my mistakes, alongside my successes, and connect with other humans through my humanity.

Each time I breathe into the parts I hide, I step further into my soul. It is a process of integration, but we are all in some process on this planet.

Cheers!

Alexandra

All About that List

Around this time last year, I was feeling super disconnected. I had gone through a long period of self-discovery, which had enlightened me on the insignificance of many of the things by which I’d previously defined myself. I’d wiped my slate clean of old burdens and the “shoulds” of my past. I’d exposed plenty of the skeletons in my closet and started fresh. Yet, upon the new road I’d began to walk, I’d begun to feel so bare and lost. I felt a loss of self and was confused on what it was I was doing on this planet, if it wasn’t for all of the things I’d then realized I no longer cared about.

With this mini crisis on my hands, I turned to one of the lovely ladies I had the opportunity to live with for a bit and she offered me this piece of advice. She told me when she had been in a similar situation, she’d been asked to make a list of all of the things she knew were her. “At first”, she said, “all I knew was that I liked eating with spoons and I liked trampolines.”

So, I set off to write my own list and build from that, and somewhere along the line came my shiny reflections, an account where I could build to the things I knew were me, that made up my life in a sparkly, shiny manner. I created new.

Today, I found myself in a similar space to that of the one I was in a year ago. It looks much different, though. I’ve freed myself from some of the demons that haunted me then, and have found many things I love, but I still am tied in some ways to feeling lost. I juggle a lot, but sometimes it feels as though all of those things are bound to fall when my hands get tired of throwing them up in the air, and then I question what else will be left. So, today, I’ve decided to make a new list and I encourage anyone who reads to take time to make a list for themselves. No matter where it is you are in life, whether your sense of security is firm or not, I think it’s important to take time to remind yourself of who you are, what you stand for, and, most importantly, what you like; to remember what fuels you and what you want to fuel, to follow the shiny things. Who knows, we might only have this one go around…

A List of All Things Alexandra:

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I have an absurd obsession with Hilary Duff, and somehow come across her other fans too frequently.

Swimming in warm water makes me feel free.

Long finger/toe nails freak me out.

I want to be a mermaid and that’s half the reason I keep my hair long (the other half is because it becomes an afro otherwise).

I like to use mugs as bowls.

I think traveling is important and magical.

Fall is my favorite season in theory, but summer is my favorite season in reality.

I think everyone needs yoga.

Grey’s Anatomy and The Sound of Music will forever get me.

I think my soul has blue hair and perhaps a small face tattoo.

I like to doodle and it took me a long time to not draw on my hands.

I enjoy accents.

Walking outside is important and I don’t understand winter for that reason.

Hugs are good and so are dresses.

I think socks are confining and I like the smell of grass when it’s hot outside.

I can’t quit decaf coffee.

If I couldn’t write, I don’t think I could live with myself successfully.

And that’s all for now, folks.

Cheers!

Alexandra