Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Malificent, the Evil Witch of Self Doubt

Hello, Invisible Audience. Long time no talk.

My family has been here and I’ve been traipsing around Panama, showing them my new home. This is probably as good a time as any to say that again: this is my home. I live here now; I do not have plans to leave anytime soon. This is no longer traveling for me; this is having found a place where I’d like to spend some more time, a place I feel safe and loved, and a place where I have been able to recalibrate and feel grounded. It’s not in my five-year plan to move back to the States. My only five-year plan is to live happily ever after, wherever that may be.

Alrighty. So that’s out of the way. Let’s move on. This last week or so has felt kind of really super shitty.

It’s hard to host your entire family in your new foreign home. They didn’t stay with me in my house, but there are still a lot of questions to ask and a lot of knowledge to impart when you’re the one fluent in the language; more familiar with the culture; more aware of the costs and drawbacks of where you are compared to where your family is coming from. It is tiring. It is not quite as tiring, however, as ramming yourself into an iceberg and realizing that actually, it’s not an iceberg at all, but a continent that you have hit that suddenly means you’re going to have to walk when you were enjoying drifting along in the current.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how I felt like I’d crossed a hurdle; that suddenly I was ready to leave my past in my past. It opened up a bunch of space, and for awhile I just got to enjoy that space, awhile being approximately the first half of the time my family was visiting. Then we made it back to Boquete, and I found out that two of the people I am closest to in town, one of whom I spend more time with than anyone else, had decided to move back to the States. The feeling I got was somewhere between nausea, dizziness, a child’s temper tantrum and food poisoning. 

It’s only a week later that I’m really starting to make sense of what happened, and its depth. As far as the things I have managed to survive in my life, having two people that I care deeply for go in search of their own bliss hardly seems to be a blip on the radar. What has become apparent, however, is that this knowledge is what stopped me cold, convinced me I needed to go see what the problem was, and made me realize that I was no longer coasting along merrily, but had just bottomed out my boat on a big fuckin’ mountain.

I know, I know; too many metaphors. Here’s what I think has happened: I finally let go of my past, and was greeted with a pretty, past-free present. It looked good; it looked easy; it looked like I might have some fun. I was looking forward to coming back to Boquete, getting back into the swing of things and just coasting for awhile. Before I even got back to town, though, I realized that suddenly I could hear something that I hadn’t been aware of before. It was a voice that had always been there, whispering bile in my ear, but in the din of what I was trying to recover from, I had never realized how ugly the words were. So as I stood on a beach in the bright supermoon with my feet in the ocean, thinking about how I couldn’t wait to get home and see my friends, this voice – whom I have named Malificent, after the witch in Sleeping Beauty – stopped whispering underneath all the other crap and finally started talking in a normal voice. 

“Just who the hell do you think you are?”

I tried my best to ignore her, but suddenly my hearing was either that much better or there was much less interference, and by the time I found out some of my favorite partners in crime were leaving town, the bonfire of self-doubt she was stirring up inside me had already reached, well, bonfire heights. “Of course they’re leaving. You thought you were worth staying for? You wretched, stupid creature.”

I don’t know why she’s here. I know she’s not a new voice, but for the life of me I cannot imagine how she ever came into being. I cannot imagine – as I can with some of my other defense mechanisms that have turned into super powers, such as empathy and the ability to really listen to someone – just how in the hell she could possibly have ever helped me in any way, shape or form. All I know is that Malificent feeds my self-doubt, confirms my worst fears, and considers it her job to tell me how unworthy I am. 

It’s much bigger than just some friends moving on and being legitimately sad that they’re leaving. What I am feeling – what Malificent represents – is a lifetime of fear, a continent of pain standing between me and my dreams; a guilt of having chosen to live differently, oftentimes without really consciously meaning to, and thinking that any change at all, especially one where people move on at their own volition, is directly related to not being worthy of their company, instead of knowing that the truth has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with them needing something different than what they have now. 

Since I’ve already come this far, it seems to follow suit to admit here that when I am in the midst of my worst doubts, when I am feeling my most vulnerable, I never thank my lucky stars that I have been able to make decisions that have led me where I am today. Instead, I feel as if I have a self-destruct button that has destroyed anything that I might want to build for myself, and that where I have ended up is due to a series of random acts of irresponsibility that have led me there. 

That’s when I’m feeling my worst, which thankfully is not always, even if it is now. The rest of the time, I am thankful for that self-destruct button, that has blown up relationships that were not serving me, taken me out of situations that made me unhappy, and brought me to this safe, sacred space full of people who are willing to catch me, hold me, hug me and love me as I unsheathe layers and layers of an onion that has no center. On the good days, I can remember that I made conscious choices to bring myself here, and that what I deserve of this life is an expansion of the moments of contentment, happiness and awe I feel as part of my journey, not the guilt and shame I drag myself through for feeling like I escaped when I shouldn’t have. 

Not long ago someone told me that many of my latest blog posts sounded like I was trying to justify my life and asking for people to love me despite the guilt I felt for being different. The truth is, that has been the underlying theme of my blog posts for years; the difference is that recently I have finally been able to sometimes let go of that and write something else: something less apologetic, and a little more joyous. Now I know that it is my battle with Malificent that I have been trying to bring to light: that hers is the voice I’ve been hearing all this time, and it is the continent she lives on that I keep running into while I’m searching in the dark for my island paradise. 

I don’t quite know how it will work from here on out. All I know is that recognizing her for what she is and what she’s been doing to my life is a huge step. Now that I’ve moved out of the past into the present, now that I can hear her and see her, it’s time to actually face her so that she’ll get the hell out of the way and let me get on with my life: let me connect with the person I’m destined to become, who no longer doubts her own worth: who can see why people love her, accept their choices as part of the adventure and the journey, and finally, without a struggle, simply let herself be loved.

Love and Malificent free kisses,

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Empty Space

I’ve had a weird feeling the last week or so, and there was nothing much I could attribute it to. It was a mix of nausea, exhaustion, a stomachache and an overall tiredness. It was at once a mental tiredness, an emotional wailing and a physical pain. It was all these things, and yet there was nothing much I could pin it on. I wrote about it, thought about it, ruminated on it, changed the diet around it, tried to walk it out and couldn’t get myself to cry about it.

And then it came to me: it was an emptiness. 

I’ve tried to write this blog post three times, and it hasn’t come out until now. This is unusual for me – usually I come up with an idea, toy with it a couple days, and write it in one fell swoop. My last post felt more like pulling teeth than writing, and this one is also not coming as easily as they usually do. The difference, I think, is that suddenly, out of nowhere, I’ve finished writing about what used to hurt me as if it defines me. 

A couple years ago, I wrote a post called “I Used To Be Funny,” about a shift from writing self-deprecating emails about traipsing through the world one mishap at a time into needing to take myself more seriously and writing about what I really thought and felt. Even sometimes when I wanted to write something funny, all that would come out is what you will find on my blog: deep introspection over what has made me tick, made me cry, and made me into the person that I am today.

But here’s what happened: nothing. Nothing happened, except that I had a conversation with someone who had gone through a lot more pain than I had, pain I couldn’t directly identify with because our lives are very different, and I realized that I didn’t want to engage this person based on our pain. Whereas usually I would listen to them and then break in with a similar way that I had hurt, I found that suddenly it wasn’t that I didn’t care to hear what he said, but I didn’t want to share it with him, or step into times in my life where I had felt the same way so that I could understand what he was going through. I found the thought of continuing the conversation as it was exhausting, so I changed the subject to something lighter. In doing so, I realized that suddenly, it wasn’t so important anymore: my past, the scars that I bear, the hurts I have suffered and the people who have suffered with me. Suddenly I realized that where there was once a need to explain myself in terms of my past and ruminate on it, today there is simply a desire to move forward, into whatever is waiting for me in the empty space when my need to explore what brought me here is gone.

Eleven months ago today, I arrived in Panama. I wrote a blogpost not long after defending my need to come here, explaining that I was not escaping my problems, rather bringing them with me so that I could look them over, one by one, and try to understand what they had to tell me. Obviously this is a work that is never done, but it seems that the specific hurts that I brought with me have now all made it through the line and are gone. I have looked up from my work and realized that I’ve done it: for now, and perhaps for a little while longer, my past can be safely tucked away in the past where it belongs, and I can now look forward into the future to see where I’m going after having determined with greater clarity what made me into me and who I am because of it, even if I no longer need to define myself by that information. 

It’s a little scary. I’m not sure what it will look like. The words don’t seem to come as easily here, not yet anyway, but I’m sure the more time I give this space, the more it will reveal itself to me in terms of who I want to be when I have put down all the expectations, taken away all my limitations, and moved on from what has held me back for so long. It’s a vast and echoing empty space, but it doesn’t have to be a scary one. There’s all sorts of room for growth here: for new relationships that celebrate this new person, for more time spent in the moment instead of reliving past moments, for continuing to feel lucky for the existence I have created here, not just as a shelter to weather an emotional storm, but as a place to enjoy the newfound person I have become. It’s been a rough journey, but an important one, and I’m ready for the next step: ready to explore this new empty space.

Love and vast empty space kisses