Learning to Breath Again

Dear 2017,

You have given me much to think of. The bumps and bruises you have compiled on my heart and mind have shadowed the pure joy I’ve developed recently.

Shadowed, but not forgotten, and not stained. Tarnished a touch, but a little buffing will make me shiny and clean again. I’m already working on that.

You’ve sent people to me wanting things I cannot offer. You’ve sent me challenges to which I’ve refused to accept. You’ve tested my boundaries, dropped some walls, battered my defences and made me question my own actions on numerous occasions. All the while, you’ve been making me stronger, confident, smarter, faster to respond and more resilient to your unkind ways.

I’ve read much about the power of meditation, compassion, gratitude, love, peace, intuition – but only in the last few years have I really experienced what these things are and how I can improve my life with them. What I’m also learning, however, is how these amazing gifts in life are sometimes taken advantage of, and often greatly misunderstood. I have been making major changes in my life as I learn more about these things, and all of these changes are being made for me. They are my way of finding peace in a world of turmoil. They are my own little way of living the change I want to see in the world. I want to make ripples, not waves, and everything I do is my way to fill my own cup. I have found that when my own cup is full, I can share with others, and I LOVE doing that. I love helping. I love seeing people build themselves up, and then helping others do the same.

I have been questioned and accused of many things. Most recently, I was accused of “giving up” on all things, from Facebook to assigned tasks to problems that people feel I don’t want to face. This is a pretty major accusation, and I found myself angry. There have been many things happen in the last couple of months that have tested my patience and peace, and even my actions.

Sometimes there’s more to any story than even the author knows about.

Everyone has a story, and I am no exception. Someone who I felt should have been able to talk to me – didn’t. Things were said by many, actions were taken by others, and a nasty little story unfolded to be bigger than it ever needed to be. In this vague little overview of events I can summarise one thing with complete certainty.

I was hurt. I had let my walls down and let people into my circle who didn’t belong there. I treated them fairly and lovingly and kind and open, but these were actions that weren’t reciprocated. I felt violated, used, abused and misjudged. I was angry at some people for not owning their own mistakes, angry at others for their own actions, disappointed in others again for their inaction, and angry at myself for many of the same reasons. I should know better. I let it happen. I lost control of my emotions. I acted in a way that wasn’t kind, and wasn’t me.

I went for a walk. I embraced my growing fury and let it burn. I let it pump through my short little dwarf legs for 3 miles before I stopped to pause. One of the parks on the outskirts of town has a lovely spot on high ground that overlooks the well-treed park I went to. It was windy, the birds were singing, the sky was overcast but bright and I just sat. I listened to my anger. I listened to the wind. I just let myself be, I let my heart slow, I let the wind carry away my thoughts (and the mosquitos) and I found myself unintentionally in the deepest meditative state I think I’ve ever been in. Until I realised that there was a runner next to me that I didn’t hear sneak up and I nearly screamed bloody blue murder. But I laughed, and so did she, and it felt so good to have this fun moment with a complete stranger. My mind was relaxed, and then… things changed. Instead of being angry, I became curious. Why. Why do people do certain things? Why do they say them? Why do they act the way that they do? I found myself thinking of some of the whys while I continued on the park path.

It’s easy for us to have a perspective on something but not consider anything else. We live in a different kind of era that focuses on the self – but not always in a healthy way. Social media has allowed us to connect to each other worldwide, and has created a new kind of social reality. Who has the most Facebook friends? Who can get the most likes? Who will jump on your bandwagon? Who can we affect the most with the opinions we have? Who can raise the most awareness for world issues by spreading news – that may actually be false, but we don’t have time to check facts because there are too many Tweets to respond to. Communication has been limited to words and abbreviations and has become easy to misread, misunderstand and react to what we perceive before understanding what the original author actually said.

How often do we sit across from each other and actually listen? There is so much to learn from each other’s expressions. An email is easy to assign a voice to – and it’s normally a person’s own voice. They read it in their mind and assign a tone and expression and read between lines that might not actually exist, and they react to all of those things that perhaps were never part of that email or other communication. There’s so much that’s missed when we can’t look each other in the eyes. There’s more of a disconnection to those closest to us despite being connected to more people.

Although I had friends at my fingertips, I had never felt so alone. And this is perhaps the biggest reason of all that I left Facebook.

There are some people in my life who have struggled with this decision, considering I used to be a regular on social media. They are starting to get the reasons a bit better, though. Although we connect less often than when I was on Facebook, that connection is now stronger level, we communicate better overall and we have better conversations than we did on Facebook. Constantly being updated on a person’s life means it’s harder to find untouched subjects to talk about when we do meet up. It’s possible, but it’s more difficult. Since my absence from Facebook I find myself more involved in life and living, and so much more attentive to the people in front of me. I see more. I ask questions and listen. Miscommunication doesn’t happen often when you are face to face. Eyes and facial expression tell a story behind the words. They communicate fear, sympathy, regret, love, joy, surprise. There are emotions that simply cannot be expressed by words alone, and without those emotions, the words are easy to interpret differently by every individual that reads them. Take the words out of the emotions, however, and you’ll find that it’s fairly easy to know how a person is feeling.

Think of someone you care about that you don’t see often, but connect with on social media often. When’s the last time you saw pure joy in their smile? What color are their eyes? What is the shape of their eyebrows? How do they act when they’re ashamed? How do they stand? Are they confident? Sad? Happy? People post on Facebook the things they want the world to see them as, but it’s easy to forget what’s happening behind the scenes. And we all have our stories.

perfectA little compassion goes a long ways. When you question a person’s motives, instead of speculating and assigning your assumptions to them sometimes it’s best to sit them down for coffee and address your concerns with curiosity, instead of blame. You may learn an awful lot about that person you didn’t know before, and be able to understand their motives behind their actions. And you may be surprised at what you learn.

And if it’s your own motives being questioned, why get angry? People will see what they see, and they are allowed to disagree with you and your actions. They are allowed to dislike you. They are allowed to feel differently about circumstances. Getting angry won’t help. Sometimes it’s best to reflect on the reasons why someone may feel the way they do. It’s possible that you may learn something about yourself when you open up to someone else’s perspective. And if you don’t learn anything and feel that nothing needs to change, then no harm done. You can absolutely continue to disagree and move on with who you are. Not everyone will like who you are, and this is very normal. Find your tribe and support, and let those who disagree have their thoughts. You can make the changes you want in yourself, but you can’t force them, or the same ideas, on others.

There are some decisions in life that are easier than others to make. Where some people may see my actions as flaky, or attention-seeking, or quitting or anything else, these are decisions that I’ve made for myself for reasons that I don’t feel obligated to share with just anyone. If, however, anyone wants to know more, all they need do is open up conversation with me, and I’ll answer openly. Instead, my actions were judged first and questioned later.

This is not ok. This is not compassion. What happened to communication? What happened to people helping each other out? We all have a role to play. Humankind, by its very nature, is a social species. We help each other in order to survive. We are not intended to tear each other down like we are doing. I used to believe that I was my own worst enemy – and it used to be true. Mankind is it’s own worst enemy, though, and we don’t have to be. WE. CAN. DO. BETTER. It’s time to understand each other a little better, starting at home and those closest to us.

Many people encourage others to accept themselves the way they are, but that’s not good enough for me. There are always changes to make, ways to improve and grow. I love who I have become, but I DO want to change. I never want to stop changing, in fact, and I want to continue to be a better version of myself with each new learning curve, which I never want to stop coming. I make mistakes – we all do. But I’m learning to treat myself with the same compassion as I would treat anyone else. This is a new idea in my life, and I’ve realised how hard I’ve always been on myself. There are reasons for this, and they’re all mine. These are my own burdens that I’m learning to overcome, and am excited for the changes ahead. I’m finally learning to be fair to myself. I have let other people treat me far worse than I have treated myself, yet I forgive them much more easily than maybe I should. I have not offered the same respect to myself, and I’m changing that. I owe it to myself.

Next time someone you know is struggling with something in their life, offer a hug. A little understanding can go such a long way, and that one simple gesture can help a person feel like someone cares. Sometimes that’s really all that’s needed to a person who is hurting or confused.

In the meantime, I’m making some big changes in my own life again. Recent events have been a stumbling stone to something amazing. I just need to find the new door that I know has opened, and I’m excited to see what’s behind it.

Find your peace, live in kindness.


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