Archives for posts with tag: emotional highs

This blog post comes from a fellow blogger who I admire very much, and who shared these words from Charlie Chaplin on a day when I was letting the ego’s voice get the better of me. I read this and felt so much better!

Lagniappe: Charlie Chaplin: As I Began to Love Myself | Streams of Consciousness.

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I woke up this morning at war with the snow. It had managed to highjack my weekend, causing me to cancel much anticipated arrangements as I feared a slippery accident if I was to venture too far afield. In addition to which, the wintery season seemed to have penetrated deep into my soul as well as my body; I spent much of last week feeling enclosed, sombre and a little tearful. At the start of this year I thought I had entered my spring, even if it was winter around me – I felt light and confident and ready to explore new challenges; but in the last week a darkness seems to have descended over me, much like the darkness I see outside for most of the day. I have to remind myself that we appreciate happiness so much more when we feel a little pain every now and again – this is the yin and yang, the light and darkness, of our existence.

And instead of moping around indoors, feeling trapped by the snow, I decided to go out and appreciate it. The snow is beautiful after all – its soft silence, the way it gives a chrystalline finish to even the most mundane surroundings. I may not be able to enjoy the weekend quite as I had planned, but I can at least go down the road and see the natural beauty of this most inhospitable of seasons.

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And by doing so – by feeling the crunch of snow underneath my feet and enjoying the footprints left by the birds and the icy images on the lake – I enabled that darkness to lift a little.

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I can see we have to move through this season, both outside and within – accept it, appreciate it, and look for the fresh and clear beauty that lies beneath it.

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Another year is about to draw to a close. And what a year it’s been, it seems for most people I know. 2012 has been the year of drama; of emotional upheavals, of extreme weather conditions, of personal tragedies and major transitions.

Fireworks

Fireworks (Photo credit: bayasaa)

The world didn’t end on 21st December, but then that was never really the prediction. What the Mayans and others have predicted is far more subtle and powerful, and far easier to hold both belief and hope in; the dawning of a new world in which we let go of the selfish ego and all our negative habits and beliefs. A world in which we feel the universal connection and no longer view ourselves as separate and isolated, or divided by religious, political or geographical boundaries. Where greed and self-interest no longer govern our desires, and instead we are driven by love and compassion. This sounds like a massive and ambitious project, and it is; we were never going to see changes overnight when the 21st December finally arrived.

I myself had the flu for that entire week, which stayed with me throughout most of the Christmas period. I didn’t feel much like celebrating anything, or even engaging in some major transition predicted by so many millions to occur during this time. But on the 21st December I did at least manage to sit myself down in a quiet place and consider the year so far – my challenges, my achievements, and all that I have overcome – as well as setting some intentions for the next year ahead. Such an exercise isn’t about new year’s resolutions that never get honoured; it is, again, about hope and belief – that we can move through whatever difficulties and dark periods that we experience, and learn from them. Our intentions should be about personal growth – about learning to love ourselves and to forgive others, and taking concrete steps to achieve these goals. This might mean promising yourself a special moment or treat each week that’s only for you; or forgiving someone who you have felt hurt by. Our personal growth is also about letting go of anxiety, anger and fears and maintaining courage that we are on the right path, even if that path can at times seem murky and full of obstacles.

And so intentions for the year ahead aren’t about making promises that can’t be kept – we have to be honest with ourselves, about what we need in order to really grow and realise our true nature and purpose in life. Material goods are important in achieving goals, but having spent a year in unintentional unemployment, I know now not to wish for a new job and loads of money. The last year hasn’t brought me material wealth, but it has brought me other gifts of courage, strength and moments of inner peace which no money can buy.

There have been tears – a whole ocean of them. There was a dark night of the soul, or did I have more than one of those?! But I’m reminded of a great quote by the spiritualist Mooji (and whether you believe in God here is irrelevant):

“Sometimes God challenges you to find strength you don’t have.
Only like this will you go beyond your imagined limits.
You must be pushed so far that you are forced to be humble. Only then, when your pride and arrogance are crushed, will you discover muscles that are not yours.
You will find and use the muscles of God. When you completely abandon yourself, your ego, this miracle becomes possible”

 

So congratulations to all that made it through this difficult year. Remember all that you’ve achieved, and all that you have the power to manifest in 2013, through honest intention and active commitment. By letting go of negative habits and beliefs, and encouraging love and compassion in everything that we do, perhaps we can put the world of darkness behind us.

 

Summer is drawing to a close already – the weather appears to be changing, after a brief Indian summer which we’d been promised since a very rainy June. This summer, as everyone gave in to Olympic fever, there has been a real buzz in the air; an atmospheric lift which has seen most Londoners being more friendly, more laid back, and living more in the moment – apparently putting their worries on hold to enjoy this most unique of holiday periods. They’ve put aside the cynicism for which us Brits are famous, and embraced new experiences and interests, the most notable being the unequivocal support which has been shown towards athletes of all races, backgrounds and physical abilities, whether at the Olympic Stadium, from the sofa at home, or in conversation on the train or in the pub. We all hope that the mood, and attitude, will last and be utilised meaningfully on a political, social and economic level.

Embracing the summer spirit: Notting Hill Carnival

Now it’s time to knuckle down and prepare for the autumn. Many view this with dread, as the season signals an end to outdoor parties and socialising and the start of more time spent at home, with oneself. It is a time to go inward, and reflect. Well, this is no new activity for me – I’m actually wondering how I embark on the autumn’s self-reflection when I seem to have spent a whole lot of my summer navel-gazing.

For thirty-somethings like myself, it appears that this whole year is one of change, which is sometimes frightening, sometimes exhilarating. How many people do I know who are questioning their life, where they’re at, where they’re going? Who, fearing the great unknown, are either continuing to be stuck in a job they don’t enjoy, or are unemployed and fluctuating between moments of excitement and moments of utter self-doubt. Sometimes it seems so much safer to stay in the former situation in order to avoid the ramifications of the latter – the highs and lows which I’ve talked about over the last few weeks. I certainly feel like I’ve learned a huge amount about myself – my fears and insecurities, my anger, my resentment – over the course of my transition, and none more so than in the last three weeks, when some gentle massaging and prodding from an acupressure practitioner seemed to open up a whole new chapter of my journey. Perhaps this would never have happened if I wasn’t out of work and forced to dig deep in order to make sense of why I’ve turned my back on old habits and old identities, to face a life of trying to be more honest about who I am and what I want.

When you embark on a transition, you don’t necessarily realise that it’s not just about leaving one career behind to try and build another. A transition goes to the very heart of our emotions and our identity. If we want to really feel happy and fulfilled, we have to do more than find a different job; we have to confront ourselves and ask, from one fleeing moment to another: How does this make your feel? If you’re feeling down, or agitated, or anxious, why is that? What is it that gives you confidence right now?  What is it that nourishes you?

Perhaps we need to remember that tears, like rain, play a nourishing role. They help us to grow.

We also have to admit to those negative emotions, which we try so hard to fight or to brush under the carpet. If we don’t want them to fester inside us, leading to illness and dis-ease, we have to do more than admit to them; we have to accept them into our lives, as part of us. It’s only by doing this that we can learn from them and learn about ourselves and who we really are. In my case, I’m beginning to realise that there’ve been many times when I’ve tried to ‘rise above’ a difficult situation, when in fact what I’ve probably done is buried it deep inside me, bottled it, instead of fully processing or even feeling it. This is understandable when you’re doing human rights or humanitarian work – we wouldn’t be very effective at our jobs if we were constantly in tears at every injustice we witnessed or experienced. But also in our everyday personal lives, it’s difficult to stop and confront our feelings. Whilst living under the same roof as my parents, I find myself hiding my emotions all the time in order to try and maintain a harmonious environment in the house – one that doesn’t upset or offend my parents, or lead to an argument or tensions. But this is not natural – we cannot remain strong and stoic all the time – and sooner or later the real emotions come flooding out, and our vulnerabilities and fears are laid bare. It is only once we fully release those emotions that we can really heal.

Why did a few sessions of acupressure unleash such strong emotions in me, causing me to cry on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis? Some of my friends have laughed when I’ve questioned this; You were working in Palestine for a year, you’ve been doing human rights work and activism for ten years, and now you’re living with your parents and trying to manage their emotions as well as your own – and you wonder why you’ve been crying?? It’s very hard for us to see these things for ourselves, much like it’s hard to admit to that term used to describe the emotional turmoil felt by development workers and activists – burnout. But if we see burnout as it’s described by the Activist Trauma Network – symptoms of irritability, feelings of hopelessness/helplessness/cynicism, non-enjoyment of activities enjoyed in the past, difficulty in making decisions, inability to stay focussed, and fatigue or other physical effects – we realise that such emotions are common, and likely to be experienced by every person doing this kind of work.

Were my tears an expression of all of the above? Perhaps. Or perhaps I was crying over the heartache of failed relationships, or over the difficulties of my childhood, or over the hurt I’ve felt whilst dealing with each family crisis. I may not have the answers, but I do believe that the tears were necessary as part of the journey of transition. It is only once we have truly uncovered our emotions that we can begin to heal.

And so as we embark on the season of reflection, I think it’s important to try to embrace whatever comes, good or bad, much the same way we embraced the joy of the summer. It is only from truly experiencing darker moments, living and feeling them, that we can better understand ourselves, and appreciate the happiness that follows.

Last week I spoke of the tears we all shed during the Olympics – tears of joy, of wonder, of warmth. And only this week I spoke of some funny situations that perhaps only a transitioner would find themselves in. But it’s not always fun and games, and the tears of a transitioner are not always ones of joy.

Since my last blog post, I’ve been crying quite a lot; in fact, I’m in a perpetual state of holding back tears. Maybe it’s all that anger that the Qi Master told me, after an acupressure session, that I was holding in my stomach, along with any other emotions stuck there that are now releasing themselves, often against my will. The absence of any of my regular routines of yoga, Tai Chi or dance classes in the last few weeks since I had knee surgery probably hasn’t helped and has thrown me off kilter. My belief that getting wasted at the weekend would somehow be a good idea in this state of imbalance may well not have helped either.

A poem by Julia Cameron. Last week I finished her book ‘The Artist’s Way’, a 12 week course in unleashing your creativity (but it actually does a lot more than that). I think I’m having withdrawal symptoms!

Whatever it is, a transitioner’s tears are often letting out a whole lot more emotion than is easy to define or attribute to one particular disappointment or grievance. I cried today when my friend told me she got married. That’s not really the reaction a friend expects when giving such news (and luckily this was an online exchange so she didn’t have to know…although now maybe she does. Sorry, I hope I haven’t caused offence with such spontaneous tearfulness). Yesterday I read the poem attached to this blog post, and burst into tears; and carried on crying for a good solid half hour, my parents blissfully (and thankfully) unaware in their other rooms.

Call me ungrateful, or blind to all the good things I have in my life. But actually I have been seeing those things, and reminding myself religiously of them, every day. I have a safe and welcoming house to live in, and two very supportive parents, and some wonderfully encouraging friends. I have time to be creative, to write my blog and discover new and exciting projects to work on. But when you’re going through a bad patch as a transitioner, all these positives get pushed out by the so-called negatives; or, to use another term, those nasty little demons of anger, resentment and fear.

In my case, I start looking at the last ten years of my life. All that time spent fighting injustice and extreme poverty in various countries (or at least that’s what I hoped I was doing, but in these dark moments even that is thrown into serious doubt). The organisations I worked for with such commitment, often with little appreciation or support. The year I spent studying hard for a Master’s degree whilst living in a squat. All that hard work, so how do I find myself here, in my thirties and living with Mum and Dad? No matter how well you get on with your parents, such a situation can never feel quite right; I thought I’d grown out of depending on my parents years ago. Added to this my continuing dread every time I look for jobs – any jobs – and find myself despairing because I actually have no idea what I want to do. The self-doubt that accompanies longer term visions – mine being to write a book or to do a Phd – and which can take over if any person questions my motives or expectations. And then there’s the gaping hole that is my private life; my desire to go out and have more fun often dampened by the reality that this is not so easy whilst living in suburbia with my parents and with no income.

A cure for those emotional or creative blocks: bake a cake. I baked this yesterday – it’s a blueberry and hazelnut muffin cake.

At times like this, the transition can seem like a long, dark tunnel with no light at the end of it; and one in which everyone else appears to be whizzing past, apparently able to see the light more clearly than me, despite all my efforts at ‘knowing myself better’. Whilst others have been working on their jobs, their careers, their marriages, their children, I’ve spent a whole lot of time working on myself. But am I any wiser? Searching for my inner truth appears to be a much longer journey than I had anticipated, and not always one that brings fulfilment, or even clarity. There are days when everything simply seems terribly unfair, when one can’t get past the loneliness or emptiness of a life of uncertainty. We’re only human after all, and tears are natural, even healthy. Maybe I’m making up for all the tears I’ve held back and buried in the pit of my stomach over the years. Tears release what sometimes dare not be admitted or publicly revealed – our vulnerability, our desperate need to be loved, to be appreciated, and ultimately to be happy.

Breaking from, or letting go of, the past: a pre-requisite for a period of transition. Now ‘the past’ encompasses a whole range of experiences, choices and actions (and you can read about some of mine in the ‘About’ section of this blog). What I find I’m really grappling with is identifying which areas of my past I need to break from in order to move forward.

In October last year I left Palestine with a huge feeling of loss and confusion. I felt like I was not only saying goodbye to Palestine, but to a whole part of my life which I could no longer sustain because my passion for it had been eroded. And so I now find myself looking at job vacancies in the human rights and international development sector and asking myself, Do you want to do this anymore? Would you make a difference if you did? Would it be good for you or anyone else? I can barely read a newspaper report related to the work I’ve been doing without being overcome with a whole host of unpleasant and painful emotions which are difficult to put into words.

There I was, thinking I would return home from Palestine and find the answers to my loss of assuredness and identity overnight. But a transition, I’m finding out, actually takes a long time, which is not great for an impatient person like me. You have to work at a transition, question every day whether what you are doing is what you really want and fits well with who you really are. This is hard when this mode of self-inquiry is often accompanied with feelings of guilt and self-doubt – Am I being selfish? Should I really take this long to move on? What’s my problem, can’t I just be happy with what I’ve got and get on with my life? What would my friends say? What would my parents say, watching me stuck like this after all these years?

Today I learned that there is a handy phrase which sums up the more negative emotions which arise when going through a transition: RAGS  (Regret, Anxiety, Guilt, Shame). Regret, because as we contemplate the challenges and difficulties of this transition, we are nagged by the ‘if onlys’ of our past.  Anxiety, because we no longer have a clue what it is that we want, and worry over how long it’s going to take us to work this out. Guilt, because we are not used to standing still and focusing purely on ourselves. Shame, because the transition takes so long and how do we explain what we’re doing – standing still – to everyone around us?

Everyone’s life experiences are different, but I imagine the questions and doubts, if you are in a moment of transition, remain the same, or similar. The trick, so I’ve been told by many inspiring friends, healers and yogis, is to stop fretting about the past or future, and focus on the present moment. This is easier said than done, when you feel that everyone around you is meanwhile busy galloping on ahead with new jobs, new homes, new wives/husbands/babies. I sometimes ask myself, why didn’t I decide to have this transition period earlier? It would have been so much easier back in my twenties; then I wouldn’t feel like I was somehow running out of time! But that is not how transitions work, and ultimately it should be regarded as a privilege to have the time to stop and reflect on what it is we’re doing and whether it’s really what we want.

Indeed, a period of transition leaves us with what on a bad day could be labelled a void, but what on a good day could be called an abundance of opportunities. In fact, on any given day I go through a see-saw of emotions, ranging from the severe panic which comes with looking at potential jobs and realising I either can’t or don’t want to do any of them, to a sense of elation, where I suddenly get excited because now’s the time to improve my French, or master yoga.

So this week I made a decision, and that was to stop looking at job vacancies completely; at least, for a couple of weeks. In addition, I’m avoiding any news reports related to the work I’ve been doing in the last ten years or which are likely to instil negative emotions; which pretty much means not reading a newspaper at all. Both these choices are proving to be quite a challenge, as trawling through job vacancies and reading the newspaper and online articles on human rights and conflict had previously taken up a good proportion of my day. But this is a little test for myself – will this mini-break from the past lead to extra space in which to develop new ideas and discover hitherto hidden opportunities? Will the emotional see-saw change in some way? Will I fill those newly gained hours with something completely new and different?

This new regime is going to be a little difficult to explain when I next go to claim my job seekers allowance. Job Centre Advisor: So, what have you been doing the last couple of weeks? Me: Oh, you know, transitioning. I didn’t look at any jobs, but I have gained a new interest in baking!

How do we break from the past and embrace the transition without getting RAGS? Please share your thoughts!

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