Fears & Toxic People

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop, held at the Baltimore Impact Hub.

What irrational fears did you have as a child?

When I was a kid, I had this fear that I would die alone.

The strange thing was, is that I didn’t have a great fear of dying. I experienced many many brushes with death, and I was almost always alone during them. Being from the subarctic, death was something that was nearby in a lot of ways, whether it was with friends who overdosed or committed suicide, or by the sheer level of danger that being surrounded by 300 miles of empty forest bore. Though, in the forest, I never felt alone…

What I really was afraid of was growing old, and having no one to give love to and to be loved by.

I feared deeper than anything that I would wind up with no one to hold me, with no one to hold, slowly decaying as the horrible monotony of life ate away and crumbled my bones.

And, it’s cheating to say that this was just a fear when I was a kid. This fear continued in my through childhood, through my teenage years, all the way through college, and deep into the majority of my marriage.

It held me with claws that sunk into the deepest part of me, so that I held on to each relationship, each friendship, each person I loved, with the same white-knuckled grip. I held on, even if they didn’t hold me in nearly the same way.

This ruined things. Many things. It had me hold on to my marriage far longer than I should have. It kept around me friends who didn’t have my best interest anywhere in their sphere of concern. It made me nervous, anxious, completely on edge that I was going to do or say something that would cost me these relationships.

All the while, I feared little else. I couldn’t even identify a single thing I was afraid of. I launched myself at things I was afraid of, often with dramatic results. But at no point was I putting myself and my own wellbeing as a priority.

Once I began facing my fear of being alone, through therapy and the support of close friends, I discovered this simple truth: Dying alone wasn’t an option for me.

Not only did I begin being my own best companion, and I began to not feel lonely anymore, but I realized that I would never truly be alone. People care about me. I have a family that is imperfect but cares about me. I have friends who are drawn to me and care about my wellbeing. Some deep. Some less deep. All of them matter. People are attracted to me and want to be in my company, who value my input, who love me.

Understanding not only that this is true, but that I am worthy of it, changed everything.

What was the last interaction like with the most toxic person you know?

This one is hard for me, because I think I might have a tough time labeling people as toxic.

I am constantly trying to see the very best in people, even when those people have done horrible things to me. It’s such a deeply challenging thing to call someone out for a bad thing they did.

It’s only when I started setting boundaries for myself that I realized that people I loved could be bad for me, and that I didn’t have to put up with it. Before that, toxic people literally controlled almost every part of my life, which meant that I was miserable for a good portion of it.

Now, if someone is toxic, rather than internalizing it and trying to see what I need to do to change to be less offensive to them, I am much quicker to let them, and whatever they were being cruel about, go.

That doesn’t mean I don’t listen to anyone or take advice from people. In fact, I feel like I listen more now, because I’m more choosy of who I listen to and invest time in. I have a greater bandwidth to be there for people who really care and love me.

Changes, steps, shame and fear

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop.

What are you doing to make changes for 2020?

I don’t know what will happen in 2020. I made plans for 2019, and none of them happened the way I expected.

I felt like I have been on an upward rise ever since I started going to therapy. My journey here was a long one, starting sometime in 2017 when I began watching Celest Viciere‘s Therascopes, where she would do public therapy sessions via Periscope. They were daily, practical sessions gear towards improving your mental health. And best of all for broke me, they were free. After around a year of that, I finally hired a therapist with Boundless Innovations in Baltimore, and things really began taking off. My self-confidence drastically improved. I began becoming more assertive. I took my self-care very seriously. I began doing yoga with Andhyana Yoga. I started working out. I began slowly cutting people out my life who were not encouraging me to improve. I got divorced. I healed.

The level of improvement that I’ve been on, and the trajectory that it has taken me, tells me I need to keep living with open hands. To keep moving forward. To keep loving. Keep being vulnerable.

Changes will come in 2020. But if I’m flexible and strong, I know I can handle, and even love these changes.

What steps do you need to take to catch up on doing the things you didn’t get to do in 2019?

The list is long. I want to get my book of art published. I want to get ready to move out of my house. I want to get fully back on the saddle with work so I’m bringing in a serious income again. I want to make sure I keep investing in my health; mental, physical, and emotional. I want to keep growing, keep loving.

  • The Book: I need to set aside an hour a week to work on the book and get it finished.
  • Move Out: I need to pack a box a week. I need to research places to stay. I need to secure funding for my next house and for the move itself.
  • Work: I need to commit to a regular schedule, and make sure I find a place I can work and focus while the kids are in school.
  • Health:
    • Mental: I need to make sure I continue going to therapy every week, start couples therapy, and come to the Writing For Your Sanity course at least 2x a month.
    • Physical: I need to go to the gym 3x a week. Minimum. I should also be going for walks in the mornings when I drop off the kids at school.
    • Emotional: I need to take care of myself, and make sure I am both vulnerable with my girlfriend, but also not using her for complete support.

If I didn’t feel shame of fear, what would I do now?

Oddly, I fear being vulnerable. Not because I fear being hurt or damaged. I feel like the pain I’ve been through has helped prove that I can get through that. What I fear is being a burden to my partner, to my friends, to my family.

If I didn’t feel that fear…? I would ask for what I need. Not stress about if they’re not available to be there for me. And keep moving.

The moment I am willing to change, it is amazing how the universe brings me what I need.

This has already begun becoming true. Today, I had a meeting with my bankruptcy lawyer, and he told me I’ll likely be out of my house in February.

That oddly pacified me, because now I have hard dates to follow, and a guide and a goal. I can now work towards that.

And once I became peaceful with that, I started to have people reach out to me. People from church, people from activism, even just friends, asking how they could support me with paying for housing in my next move.

I feel so loved. I feel so cared for.

Boundaries, qualities, and mirrors

Questions from Melony Hill’s Writing for My Sanity Therapeutic Writing Workshop.

What do boundaries mean to you?

I lived the majority of my previous relationships being criticized for my boundaries, or lack thereof. Not because I was abusive or violent or philandering, but because I was extra. I was too much. I felt as if the amount of time I wanted to spend with the person I loved was too much. That my level of romanticism was overwhelming. That my playfulness was foolish and annoying.

I had the tendency to spiral into codependent relationships, where my hunger for my partner was only exacerbated by their desire to run from me. I felt constricted; trapped. I felt afraid, that my demands would leave me lonely.

Through therapy, I began to learn to love and be confident in myself. I began to appreciate that the “lack of boundaries” not as something that I needed to kick myself over, but as something that someone else might want. Maybe it wasn’t that what I was doing was too much, but maybe I was doing too much for the wrong person.

It took me a long time to come around to that realization. But once I began to appreciate myself and my own giving, it gave me power. It gave me a litmus test to see if someone is a good fit for me. I could relax and not be so manic. I could be calm and not worry where the next bit of affection was going to come from because I could give it to myself. It helped me set boundaries. I began to realize that these boundaries were my values.

Now; one of my boundaries is that if you cannot accept the whole person that I am, maybe you don’t deserve the time and love I have to give. If I cannot be corny and romantic around you, maybe we’re not really meant to be. If I can’t let you know how I feel, maybe we don’t need to be around each other.

Once I started creating those boundaries as expectations for myself, I began to realize that there were other boundaries that I could create. Things I wanted in a partner. Reciprocation. Touch. Affection. Attention. Tenderness. And once I started building those qualifications, I realized that anyone who didn’t meet those wasn’t worthy of my time.

Before this point, I felt like requesting the things that I wanted was conceited, demanding, bossy. I’ve begun to learn that these things are the bare minimum I need to feel loved. To grow.

I realized things like reciprocation, touch, tenderness, affection, and attention were things I could give to myself. Although it was awkward at first, eventually I grew to appreciate my capacity for giving by giving to myself. That only strengthed the boundaries stronger, so that once I met someone who understood and appreciated those boundaries, we connected on an incredibly deep level.

What are my best qualities?

Just today I was talking with my girlfriend about how I had been encouraged by my therapist to love myself and appreciate different aspects of myself.

I like that I give freely. I like that I don’t shy from affection. I like that I can be calm and steadfast. I like that I appreciate small beauties and stop the car to look at pretty trees or the sunset. I like that I can make a client out of any situation if I choose to. I love that no matter how bad the situation is, I can find something special and wonderful in it. I like that I am strong. I like that I am subversive. I like being recalcitrant. I like my beard and my hair. I like that I’m cuddly. I like that I am creative and think of things other people haven’t. I like my eyebrows. I like the intensity and softness of my eyes. I like the depth of my voice.

I feel this in my soul. This is true.

What if everything is as it should be?

Everything… DOES feel as it should be.

I almost feel hesitant to say that. As if some vestiges of my chains of expecting are still lurking in the corner. I know that when shackles come off you, the feeling of metal around your wrists linger for a long time. Sometimes you still feel tied up.

And I know that I must continuously do the work of making sure I unlock myself, stretch, and remember that I have the power to be free.

The doubt may never go away. But the memory that, with work, doubt CAN be overcome, will never go away either.

The people in my life are really mirrors of me.

This is completely true. Mirrors don’t always give a very flattering or complementary view of you. And this is not necessarily because you don’t look good, it could be entirely how you perceive yourself. Either way; the people who are mirrors around me can either be reflective of how I actually am, or how I perceive myself.

I’ve thrown out a lot of mirrors since I’ve started looking at myself better.

Long Point Beach

I went to the beach today.

And; I know. If you’re thinking “Who the hell goes to the beach in Canada on the last week of December?”, then two things:

1. You clearly haven’t been following me long enough; I do this kind of stuff all the time.

2. It was the warmest day of the week, it wasn’t bad.

My first stop was in the marshlands. They had this tower you could go up and look out from the top of. The sky was mostly overcast, with bits of blue peeking through. And the clouds were moving FAST.
It has rained the night before; which meant that every trace of anything having ever walked on the beach before was erased. It felt like walking on the moon. In the direction the wind was coming from, a thin slice of gold lit up the sky…
Knowing I was truly alone; I let music fill me as I walked. @
jboogiejustin
filtered in my earbuds, syncopated with the sounds of the surf and the buffering of the wind.
The coastline was golden and inviting, but dipping my hand in revealed it was anything but. Maybe if I had some heated towels and warms arms waiting for me in the car, I might have risked a swim. But not this time.
The clouds churned as I walked; the band of gold growing wider and wider. I headed south along the beach, knowing it could take me forever. I wasn’t going to get another workout today, so I walked until I got tired.
I found a heavy log nestled among some dune cliffs, and sat to meditate as the light grew.
As I sat, the light exploded around me as the sun shot through the opening in the clouds. Instantly everything felt warmer, and I closed my eyes, basking in its glow. This shot is completely unedited; the colours are exactly as they were.
The sun wasn’t long for this hemisphere; and though this was its first appearance of the day, it was ready to rest. The wind picked up, sending waves chopping upward as the sun lit them. The log was cold all alone, so I left it.
It seemed impossible to take a bad photo at this point, nearly everywhere I went seemed stunning. Walking back took much longer, I kept stopping to drink everything in.
As the sun crested the horizon, the water grew dark and glassy, a mirror refracting the dark swirling clouds above.
As I crossed the dunes, the magic faded behind me, and the sky drew dusky. A rustling caught my attention as I pulled my earbuds out. A red heart lay tangled in the branches of some driftwood. The air grew cold and crisp. I breathed deep and walked on.