Drowning in past sorrow.

•October 3, 2014 • 4 Comments

jackMy father is an angry man.

This is not something he would admit to, and if you asked him, he would probably say he is just deeply caring or anxious. But he is angry.

You can tell from the way he drinks, and from the volume of his voice at two in the morning. He screams because he feels unheard, but he is unheard because he only screams.

As a young girl, I realized very quickly that no matter what I did wrong, the consequences were the same. Whether I had accidentally awoken him from a nap or if he had found out I smoked two packs a day, the tone of his voice was always at a level that made me flinch.

I never smoked cigarettes, but I always felt like I did.

They say alcoholism is a progressive disease, and I believe them. I watch my father progressively darken; the lines in his face droop downward and eventually so does his smile. And I wish I could say he becomes someone I do not recognize, but that would be a lie. I have seen this man over and over, his gaze containing a hatred I know is not meant for me, but hurts just the same.

I have learned a lot from him, like how to appreciate the small things, the gestures that mean more than they seem. The words “I’m sorry” materialized as sandwiches and root beer floats. I have learned to closely observe my own hatred, for fear of mirroring his habits, and from this spawned an almost obsessive habit of daily self-monitoring (both a gift and a curse).

There are lessons in the way he harbors memories, repeated visits to the past, ruminating, repeating “should have” as if he thinks the words are a magical spell to undo what has been done.

But most of all, I learned that bad experiences can be made into helpful forewarning, and I gained the knowledge that living in the moment is essential. Especially when dealing with troubled souls (namely the troubled souls of loved ones).

I love my father, and I will always appreciate the lessons he inadvertently taught me. It causes my heart great pain to see someone I care for slowly fade away. Every day I keep hoping that he will recognize his own strength and find solace in forgiveness. Every day I hope to hear words untouched by drink pass through lips turned up in a smile.

Every day I hope for his happiness.

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Dancing with poles.

•July 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The other night I had a dream about pole dancing. Sounds sexy, right? It is.

It’s also very challenging and fitness oriented. It builds confidence and releases tension. Find the right studio (I definitely did) and gain a group of supportive and active friends.

It started when my best friend asked me if I would be interested in going with her, as she had found a place nearby we could go. I had always been interested in the sport and it meant spending more quality time with her, so why say no?

Well let me tell you h’what, if my social anxiety friend had a body it could use to express itself at that particular moment, it would probably look like this:

ace

But since it didn’t and I was in control, I excitedly said yes and we signed up together, despite the flood of worry that invaded my mind. Thus, began our wonderful journey at Brass Belles studio!

jim_carrey_deal_with_it

Said journey lasted many months and I adored every part of it, from nervously introducing myself to being frustrated that I couldn’t quite get that inverted hang pose. I gained a whole new appreciation for pole dance. You would never know how painful it is, considering the amount of grace and fluidity that goes into it.

But it is. I went home with bruises and friction burns and I was proud as hell to sport them. It is amazing how quickly you can achieve your goals when you really put your mind to it. It felt great to have a physical representation of my success.

In fact, climbing a pole was both a metaphorical and literal version of goal achievement.

In pole dance, you have more than two hands. You need to use various parts of your body to grip the pole and in order to do so, you need to really push those parts firmly into the pole. Climbing requires the top of your foot, ankle, inside of your knees, and shins. Try to imagine this in your head; pushing each of these parts firmly into a metal pole in order to support your whole body.

It took me a lot of funny faces, killed nerves, and perseverance to reach the top.

_free__strawberry_cake_icon_by_revpixy-d5bffpnThe cherry on top of the strawberry mousse cake (my favourite) was that my best friend and I climbed to the top at the same time. We looked at each other in utter amazement and triumph with full force grins on our faces.

When we first starting going to the essentials classes, we would get a glimpse of the beginner class before us. They were doing neat spins and inverting (going upside down), and we both thought, “oh jeeze I can’t even see myself doing those things.”

But before we knew it, we were in beginner, and we caught glimpses of the itermediate class before us. Our attitude had completely changed. Instead of being intimidated, we were challenged. Instead of, “I can’t see myself doing that” it became, “I can’t WAIT until I can do that!”

If you can persevere and work your way through all the uncomfortable feelings and frustrations that come from learning a new skill, I promise you will be greatly rewarded. I have gained so much from pole dance: self-confidence, strength, greater mental health, flow, courage, friends, new experiences, and much more.

One of the greatest things about being in my pole dance studio was seeing its inclusion of all shapes, sizes, and ages. Please don’t be discouraged if you feel you’re not the “right body type” or “right age” because it’s just not true. If someone tries to tell you otherwise, laugh in their face and strut your stuff.

Currently I am unable to fund this passion of mine, but I will get back to it and I will improve. One day I want to have a pole in my apartment, so I can practice whenever I want to, with or without an audience… ;D Practice makes perfect!

I could honestly go on for much longer but I will leave those stories for another time. Until then, feel free to share any positive experiences that have changed you as a person. Or just tell me something you did today that you’re proud of!

Click here for a video of me doing a variation of the reverse grab!

Below is a photo of the Gemini pose (also called inside leg hang). It’s one of the intermediate moves I was able to learn before leaving the studio!

cropped-Gemini_bw1

Photo is not of me! Click the photo to go to the original article I got it from.

My First Guest Post: Social Anxiety

•June 20, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Do you recall that man with the interesting name I’ve mentioned once or twice before? I’m sure you do, his name is Leroy, and I was lucky enough to have him ask me to contribute to his very motivating advice blog: Ideas For Thought.

Before I lead you to my own contribution, let me first speak of how he has contributed to my own life.

Leroy is the type of person who makes you excited about anything and everything. I have always admired his positive outlook on life; it’s a breath of fresh air in the stale cloud of pessimism we seem to live in. His optimism and excitement shines through his writing and leaves you with a Leroy-grade smile. Wide and uplifting!

I’m forever grateful that he appeared in my life and I think you would be doing yourself a favor if you let him into yours. He is one of the nicest, most genuine people you will ever come across. He is always himself, and with the pressures of society looming down on us, that can be a really difficult thing to do.

He is the type of person that made me reach out and really want to conquer my struggles with social anxiety, and that is what I speak of in my guest post: Social anxiety became the friend I always needed.

So go read, like, and maybe even comment? We would both be ecstatic if you did!

A blind eye and a blind mind.

•June 2, 2014 • Leave a Comment

My lovely friend Michie sparked this post with her own fingernail observation.

nailsshannonkringen@flickr

A short while ago, I was noticing that my fingernails had grown stronger and much less translucent than normal. The fact that I had actually been eating throughout the day for the past while didn’t cross my mind as the source until much later.

To be clear, I do not have an eating disorder. I am simply terrible at taking care of myself, either because I can’t find it in myself to care (notably a symptom of depression) or because I simply lack the appropriate funds. Either way, I was doing a terrible job and silly me would still wonder why I felt so tired and weak all the time.

And of course, feeling tired and weak all the time is not a good stepping stone to recovery. From anything! Whether it be an illness, depression, bout of anxiety, or the like, not eating is one of the worst things you can do.

But I’m stubborn and a victim of habit.

Habits are comfortable. We get used to the way things are. We know how to handle them, so we stick by them for better or for worse and unfortunately, I was heading for the latter part of that deal. The worst part about being comfortable with our habits is that we no longer recognize them as such. They become an every day occurrence and pass under the radar when we scan ourselves for possible sabotaging behaviour.

I had become so used to eating so little throughout the day that my body adjusted to the feeling. I literally forgot that my body required more fuel to function at full capacity. So, whenever I felt tired and weak, I would pass the symptoms off as part of my sleep disorder and continue starving myself. The same happened with thirst; I rarely drink water.

apple3But when my boyfriend moved in with me, he opened my eyes to what I was doing to myself. He wakes up and fixes me breakfast,
ensures I have lunch for work, and each day he asks what I want for dinner.

After a while of that is when I noticed the change in my nails and like Michelle mentions in her post, that physical sign that my health was improving was exciting.

My boobs even grew! When my friend pointed out that this was also most likely due to my new self-nourishing skills, I literally gasped in shock and amazement. Let me tell you a short, eye-opening story. This story is a perfect example of how bad habits have the ability to warp our perspective without us realizing.

The Sleepy Woman

My best friend Vanessa and I were in French class, learning how to use a specific tense. For practice, our teacher decided to show us photos and we had to suggest things to the subjects within them. I think it’s important to note that this is a relatively recent event. I was a full 23 years old and in university.

The teacher put up a photo of a woman who had fallen asleep at her desk with her fingers still laced around a mug’s handle.

I decided to raise my hand and answer first. “The woman needs to drink more coffee.”

This was a perfectly fine and logical response, yes? Well, I thought so until Vanessa gasped, “Rayven!” and stared at me like I was crazy. She then quickly said, “The woman needs to get more sleep.”

My response had come so quickly and naturally to me, I did not even pause to think of any possible alternatives. This was a true reflection of how my terrible habits contrasted with her good ones. Not to mention how my own habits were so deeply ingrained into me that I saw nothing problematic with them to begin with.

And how do we first begin to battle unconscious habits? Awareness.

Now that I have become aware of these issues with my own health, I can actively fight against them. And my boyfriend (now fiance but that’s maybe another post) being here to support me is a wonderful help. Next step, more water!

Unconscious attempts at self-preservation.

•May 20, 2014 • 2 Comments

I am quite certain that the majority of you have heard the term ‘defense mechanism‘ at least once in your life. They refer to the unconscious attempt to guard our ever so fragile egos. I would like to stress the word unconscious because in my opinion, it is this trait that makes them dangerous.

So, what is the first step to warding off or at least battling unconscious habits? Become aware of them, of course! It is much harder to be mindful of something and accept it when we don’t know such things exist in the first place.

There are 15 common defense mechanisms and I suggest you take a look through them. Try to think back to moments in your life you may have employed such defenses yourself. You might be surprised.

The one that I have recently battled is denial and it will be the focus of this post.

denialSelective Denial by RavenMacabre

 

Denial is one of the most common defense mechanisms, used for all types of situations. It has been prevalent in my life, consistently blinding me from the harm being done on myself and my life.

Too often I have had to go through the slow process of feeling uncomfortable, not really understanding why. Things like anger, resentment, and (in my opinion the worst feeling) jealousy are triggered by seemingly random situations or images. This is the unconscious side of denial working itself on you; present enough to cause harm yet unwilling to show the truth of the circumstance.

What is most aggravating about this is that trying to battle the symptoms of an unconscious problem does absolutely nothing to relieve yourself of these feelings. You need to find the source; and fast.

Which brings me to the second most aggravating thing, our mind’s idea that this denial is safe and that our ability to handle the truth of the matter is laughable.

Just pretend it’s something else! What’s a little jealousy compared to what’s really going on? I’m sure you’re better off this way. Besides, if you deny it long enough, it will probably just go away!

It will not go away.

Denial ignores problems because it is afraid. Even in the face of truth it will turn away and make excuses. What you need to understand is that you can handle the truth, because handling lies is a lot more destructive and has the potential to damage you far worse than any truth you may face. Notice the little things you say to yourself when faced with unpleasant realities:

  • I’m probably over-reacting.
  • I shouldn’t make this into a big deal, it’s not worth it.
  • I’ll probably look like an idiot if I say something.
  • I don’t want to think of him/her like that.
  • Well, I’m sure they didn’t intend to hurt me.
  • Maybe I was unclear.

The list goes on and on and on and differs with each circumstance. Make a list of them, jot them down when they happen if that helps you keep them in check. Notice patterns of thought and behaviour, question every single thing you think and feel. This will become habitual over time and will start to release you from the grasps of denial and its close friend, avoidance.

I will not deny (no pun intended) that denial is necessary in certain cases. Sometimes we do need time to brace ourselves from what lies ahead. Just ensure that you take the time you need and no more. Unfortunately, the last time I dealt with a bad case of denial, it got so bad I ended up harming myself in more ways than one.

I don’t want this to happen to you.

If you start to doubt a situation, gain more than one perspective. No matter what, the decision is yours in the end, but it is very helpful to speak to one or two people you truly trust about anything you may be doubting. You will never see every angle, as hard as you may try.

As soon as I spoke to someone about my last predicament, I could no longer push the truth away. It did not get easier, but it did release me from certain binds that restricted me from truly getting better. After that, I healed and although it still hurts sometimes, I can accept the truth.

There is still so much to be said about this complex mechanism. I have only touched on one aspect of it, but there are so many more.

Keep your eyes open, even if you have to strain them at first. Let them adjust, and eventually the light won’t be so harsh. We cannot awaken without facing the day’s sunlight after the darkness.

sunlight

And I can breathe again.

•March 13, 2014 • 5 Comments

I feel like I should put in a more relaxed post that isn’t laced with intense emotion and depth. Things don’t always have to be so serious and at the moment, I’ve just stuffed my face with four pieces of pizza and am staring at the chocolate lava cake that came with my order. So I mean, why not bask in my (near) satiation? One of the most aggravating things about life is that as soon as you start to feel calm and comfortable, things shift and you’re inevitably faced with things you would rather not deal with or feel. Also, I find myself quite tired a lot of the time (not for lack of trying), and as the ever influential  Neitzche says,

“When we are tired,
we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.”

So rather than brood in the anxiety and nostalgia, I will take this time to list some things I am grateful for. This idea was motivated by my friend Leroy, who has recently started a self-improvement blog. What’s that? I’m promoting?

I have no idea what you’re talking about

pssst click the above to see the post that inspired me

1. Kesha

Although she is trying her best to steal my attention away at the moment by blocking my view of the screen entirely, I appreciate her company greatly. She came to me at a wonderful time in my life, prompting me to get out of bed even if for a little while, so that I could lure her out from under the bed and make sure she ate.

Oh, I’m talking about my cat by the way. But I adore the singer, too.

I was never a pet person and never expected to have one of my own, unless it were a chameleon. Chameleons are awesome. But my cousin rescued the poor little thing and something compelled me to take her. Now she greets me at the door and offers immediate cuddles. She also pouts if I’m gone for too long, so I expect a grumpy kitty when I get back from Virginia in about a week.

I have so many photos of her and I, but this is one of my favourites:

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2. Chocolate

I just ate that chocolate lava cake from Domin’s pizza and it obliterated my craving whilst forcing happy hormones to expel themselves from my brain. Thank you chocolate. I love you, forever and always.

3. People

Friends

Despite being a complete hermit I do have friends and I enjoy seeing them. Some I don’t see often (or ever) but I adore them nonetheless, because I am capable of loving from a distance (I am in a long distance relationship after all). Friends don’t depreciate over time, even if some people seem to think so.

They are human beings with characteristics of their own, separate from my influence and admiration. Basically what I mean to say is, they don’t stop being awesome when they’re not around me.

My Boyfriend

This man helped me overcome the vast majority of my commitment issues and continuously makes me feel loved. We can’t see each other often (long distance as I mentioned), but we speak every day and hope to live together in a few months. He encourages me constantly, asking about school and contemplating the meanings behind my poetry.

We push each other to do well and support each other when things become hard. He’s a wonderful addition to my life and I am grateful to have met him. He is sunshine!

My Sister

Sometimes it seems like she and I are complete opposites and in some cases, we really are. But I’m fortunate enough to be able to witness the silliness that is my sister. She often hides that side of herself, but I know it’s there and I adore it. She’s there for me when nobody else is and vice versa.

Growing up together was hard, in more ways than one, but I would do it all again as long as she was by my side.

4. Mental Illness

And by that I mean my own, not that it exists in general. Weird, right? Let me explain.

As much as I abhor having to put up with mental illness, it has shed light on dark corners I never would have seen otherwise. It pushes me to self-reflect and achieve greater self-awareness. It has been a struggle in life that taught me how to cope and survive, while still being capable of loving and appreciating the good that does come to me.

It has created a more empathetic and understanding person in me. I am open and try to keep judgement to a minimum, and I owe some (possibly most) to my own experiences with mental illness.

5. Writing

I’m pretty good at it, although I don’t do it nearly as often as I should or want to. It’s an outlet that has proven to be highly useful in various ways. Words have felt the weight of my disdain and feathery brush strokes of love. They are comforting in their indifference. I enjoy being able to manipulate them as I see fit, sometimes growing complacent with their limits but one can only expect so much.

– – – – – – – – – –

So there you have it, just a few things and people I’m grateful for in my life. I feel better already. Thank you, Leroy (this is where the smug winky face comes in – go ahead, envision it, I assure you it’s peeking out at you from behind these words)!

Have another photo or two of my cat. She makes me smile.

Kesha

Temperance: A Tarot Card Reading

•March 12, 2014 • 5 Comments

My mom has always been into tarot card readings and visited a couple psychics. She’s been told that she herself harnesses ‘psychic’ abilities, but she never deeply explored that area of her life. I have always wanted to go to a psychic simply because my mom’s visits have always been enlightening and deep.

I’m sure there are plenty who will read this and dismiss it as fantasy, similar to horoscope readings. But in all honesty, how unlikely is it that there may be people who can sense energy we no longer observe? We are vibrations and electrical pulses. Everything, including ourselves, emit energy. If our physical form fails us for whatever reason, natural or not, does our energy cease to exist? I think not.

In any case, maybe I will go deeper into those beliefs another time. This post is meant to introduce the temperance tarot card. Why? Because my mother mentioned pulling a card a little while ago and I decided I would, too. That was the card that came to me.

I anticipate that this card will encompass a couple or perhaps even a few posts. Not only is there a lot to the card, but I have had much time to deliberate its meaning in my life as well as its general purpose to the world. So, allow me to deconstruct a little. I thank you for bearing with me.

“The temperance card is the Tarot’s way of indicating that peace will not be arriving, because you already have it within you.”

temperance

I have reached a point in my life where I am capable of embracing the fact that the idea of attachment is harmful. I say idea because that’s exactly what it is. Personally, I see it as a delusional concept that detaches us from one another, as well as our environment and experiences. This is where I feel I can (at least partially) connect with Buddhist beliefs.

We are whole individuals who are capable of conscious thought and decisions. Whereas animals mostly function in a way that is quite basic, restricting decisions to the most ideal and best outcome for survival, humans are able to predict and move towards the most desirable outcome.

Desire is not the driving force that you should be allowing behind the steering wheel. Desire breeds attachment of all kinds; false notions of happiness.

As a psychology student, the important of operational definitions has been ingrained into me. So, I will do my best to define attachment as I see it and speak of it here.

As mentioned above, attachment separates us from not only each other, but our environment and experiences as well. If we have our mind set on one outcome, we are likely to take what does happen for granted.

For example, remember that time you had your heart set on eating mint chocolate chip ice cream but found out there was none left, so you had to “settle” for heavenly hash? Me too! And even though I really enjoy heavenly hash in all its glory, I was still left with a lingering and off-putting sense of disappointment. I was not able to enjoy it as much as I should have. I was lucky to be getting ice cream in the first place.

But that sense of attachment to mint chocolate chip ice cream made me incapable of truly appreciating the wonders of something different. Can you imagine how detrimental this can be on a larger, more important scale?

It’s attachment that places those nagging “what if” questions in your mind and leads you to repeat bad habits and patterns. It is what keeps you from giving yourself the freedom you need to let go and create the new.

Do not mistake attachment for love. Love is not meant to hold you back and keep you down, as attachment does. You are whole; not only with yourself but with your environment, too. It is natural for things and people to come and go. You do not share a path with anyone; it is yours and yours alone.

“Attachment is the great fabricator of illusions; reality can be attained only by someone who is detached.”

You see the truth in this when you take a step back from a situation that makes you angry. Anger, the illusion, pushes you to behave fueled by emotions alone. Detaching oneself from the situation allows you to breathe and think through the best course of action, without the emotional veil.

It all comes down to the self, which is the core idea in the quote at the beginning of this post. Peace cannot come to you when it is already there. You just have to let yourself truly embrace it.