Do You Feel Loved?

I’ve been thinking lately about this whole idea of people feeling alone, even when they’re surrounded by a room full of others. We all feel this way sometimes. And it makes me wonder, why? Why is this loneliness such a common phenomenon? Why are we having such a hard time feeling connected to others? Is it that we’re not putting ourselves out there enough? Or are we putting ourselves out there too much, and just not getting any response? Are we hanging out with the wrong people? There are a ton of questions in my mind and even fewer answers.

I’m sure the reasons for being lonely vary from person to person. But one common theme that emerges when I talk to others, is that they are afraid of rejection, which stems from their core belief that they do not feel like they are good enough. If we believe we’re not good enough – because we’re too fat or too skinny, too shy or too hyper, too anything – then we feel the chance of being rejected by another person is high. Before we can experience the pain of rejection, we withdraw. We don’t reveal our true selves, or we pretend to be the kind of person other people would like. And where do we get our ideas about what makes a person likable? Well, I guess it’s all around us, in the TV shows we watch, the music we listen to, the ads in magazines or on billboards. Sure, we can blame the media for not including more diverse representations of people who are liked and accepted by society, but we continue to suffer. If we don’t make a concerted effort to be more self-aware and reflect on our own thought patterns and consequent behaviors, we’ll never break this cycle of feeling unworthy.

If you’re reading this right now, I invite you to close your eyes and imagine for a minute how it would feel if someone you cared about loved you and recognized you for being exactly who you are? This person could be a parent, a partner, a friend, anyone. Even if it’s not a reflection of your reality, just imagine that person appreciates you for simply being. Not for what you can do for them. Just for simply being.

How does it feel? Does it feel like a relief to let go of all the different masks you wear and people you pretend to be? Isn’t it freeing to disengage with all your fears and insecurities? Do you feel a sense of warmth from the knowledge that you are loved? Perhaps you can’t change how others treat you, but you can certainly change the way you respond to them. If you could walk around with this feeling of freedom from your self-imposed beliefs, and this sense of being loved for who you are, couldn’t that change your entire perception of life?

I know it’s easier said than done, but you cannot stop trying. Even when you are at your worst, you must remember that you are loved. Maybe not by the person you desire, or in the way you desire, but by the someone or something that created you. You are loved. That is the belief I have started carrying within me, to replace all the previous lies I used to tell myself. And this belief emerged after many years of struggle and despondency. It started to grow in me, the moment I made a conscious decision to lead a meaningful life in a quest for connection, with the world and God. The moment I decided to cast off the masks and be my true self.

Maybe we can start our road to feeling worthy by doing the exercise above from time to time, and imagining what it feels like to be confident in our own skins, and let go of all the emotional baggage weighing us down. If we spend enough time thinking about it and relishing in the surge of love that comes from within, maybe we can take small steps in our real lives to be our true selves. If we feel like we don’t even know our true selves, then we must commit to a journey of honesty and self-discovery. Let the Universe do the rest.

Adulting

Most days, I’m like a scared six-year-old who hates having to sleep alone in her room, who will make every excuse to invade the sanctity of her parents’ bed. Other days – and these are my best – I find delight in the little details of life, like bubbles reflecting rainbow colors or origami butterflies taking flight. But in between my deep need for comfort and my unadulterated joy, there are moments when I become an adult, and those are the moments I dread.

Ironing the wrinkles out of my husband’s shirts. Folding my child’s freshly laundered school uniforms. Driving to work in rush hour traffic. Apologizing for mistakes I never made, yet trying to justify the insensitivity of others. Making sure I return favors, remember to give gifts, wish someone a happy birthday on Facebook. Acting like everything’s going to be okay in front of my child, when I know they’re not okay at all. Smiling through depression. Remembering to pay the bills. Feeling the need to stay on top of current events and participate in drawing room discussions. Struggling to keep up with everyone else who, conveniently, seem to have their life sorted out. The list is endless and, when you put it together, feels insurmountable. “To Do” lists used to help me stay organized. Now they just give me anxiety. Is this what it means to be an adult? Really? Why was I ever in such a hurry to grow up?

What bothers me is that we’ve branded “adulting” as being this terrible condition where life is all work and no play, and the only time you can let your hair down is when the kids are in bed, or there’s a babysitter available, or you’re holding a cocktail in your hand while lying on a beach chair in Puerto Rico (although that would be nice). Why can’t we reframe the narrative and think of adults as being these awesome people who have the same level of curiosity and imagination as children, only with more resources at their disposal to transform some of those dreams into reality? We all grew up thinking about what we wanted to be as adults – writers, artists, doctors, astronauts. But many of us ended up basing our career choices on what made sense for us at the time or what would earn us the most money. And now many of us are stuck in these jobs we hate, taking care of these families we resent, feeling like the joy has just been sucked out of our lives.

Imagine always being able to see the world through a child’s eyes. Close your eyes and really think about what that would be like. Where do you still find wonder? What excites you, or makes you want to know more? Where does your inner voice lead you, when you’re half awake and half dreaming? I love stories. Even when I’m not reading a book or watching a movie, I’m making up my own stories. Sometimes they’re projections of me in the future, imagining myself becoming the person I want to be. Other times, they’ve got complex characters and intriguing storylines. Should I be writing these down? Sharing them? Publishing them? Maybe. I’m not sure where my sense of wonder will take me next. Do you think it’s possible to make a career out of chasing wonder?

What do you hear when you close your eyes and listen? Where does your mind journey, when you allow it some freedom? It doesn’t matter how seemingly ridiculous or far-fetched it might sound. We need to re-claim a little bit of our childhood, in order to become cooler, better, and ultimately, happier adults.

New Chapter

This summer, I moved with my family from one continent to another. And so began a new chapter in my life. I’m overwhelmed by the possibilities, paralyzed, really, by all the different ways in which I can reinvent myself. What will most likely happen, though, is that I will stay put in this exact same persona, doomed to carry on the same cycle of negative thinking. I’m trying so hard for this not to be true. To be a stronger, more emotionally resilient person. Not so dependent on any one person to make me feel loved or special. The love lies within, I keep telling myself. The strength lies within.

But who am I kidding? This is easier said than done. The frequency of moments in which I feel overwhelmed just keeps increasing. The potency of those moments, too, and their ability to just shut me down, completely. I always feel a hair’s length away from falling apart. Why am I like this, I often wonder. God made me this way, so I can’t be all bad, right? God made me sensitive and caring to a fault. There must be some way to be sensitive yet strong. To not lose heart every time I hear the news, or talk to my son about what bothers him, or see my spouse vacillate between moods. I want to find this wellspring of strength within me. I need to find it. Because I don’t think my life can go on this way.

A new chapter means new beginnings and endless possibilities. I hope I find that strength so that I might be the surprise character who emerges from this next chapter, the one who will carry the entire story through to its glorious end.

No One

The thing is, I keep telling people that the world needs more “unmasking”, that we need to stop “posing” and acting like everything’s all right when, in fact, we’re breaking down inside. But do I follow any of my own advice? Nope. Hardly ever.

There’s a comfort in knowing that, even if I’m breaking down today, maybe I’ll feel better tomorrow. And why bother someone with the details of what I’m going through, why ruin the flawless impression they have of me, when I don’t really need to? I’ll bounce back in no time, on my own. Right? Or, maybe I won’t. And I’ll just suffer quietly for as long as this exterior mask will last. The question is, how long can I keep the charade going?

And what if I do tell people how I really feel? They’ll most likely say the most inane things, which, despite being well-intentioned, will just bug the shit out of me. If I am a little too honest about how I feel regarding my mother, my spouse, or my best friend, those are words I’ll never be able to take back, and relationships forever altered. I want to be comfortable being me, but without any of the collateral damage I fear it will incur. Perhaps the biggest fear is that, in being me, I’m really being no one. Because, let’s face it, I am no one. The voices in my head have done such a phenomenal job of convincing me of this. No amount of therapy and medication has been able to undo this belief. I am no one, and all I want is to be a someone, a me who I can be proud to represent.

I’ve always thought I had great faith in God. He will get me through this. Every night or day I cry, I beg Him for some help, some strength, a sign, perhaps, of what my next step should be. “Please steer me in the right direction, so I can climb out of this black hole.” I have lost interest in everything, even the things I used to love – movies, books, family. Writing. The things that used to make me feel a sense of connection with the world. They just don’t make me feel the same way, anymore.

I think I am craving connection. In this world of 7.5 billion people, why is that so hard to find? Do any of you feel the same way, too? Is anyone even out there?

 

 

 

Walls

I’ve been hearing how satisfying it is to allow oneself to be vulnerable.

Tear down those walls, they say.

Only then will you feel real joy.

Live each day to the fullest, they say,

doing whatever it is you were meant to do.

Follow your passion, they say,

but first figure out what your passion is.

What they don’t really focus on, though,

is how terrifying it is to do any of this.

I built these walls three decades ago.

I know what to expect.

They protect me from feeling too much,

when the news has only death to deliver,

when my spouse says something hurtful that will stay with me for years,

when my boss overlooks me in favor of my colleague.

These walls have kept me from drowning in sorrow.

But they’ve done something else, too.

They’ve removed me,

made me irrelevant.

I’ve spent so long crouched within them, I no longer feel like a part of this world.

Is that what’s happening to all of us?

We’re not just building walls to divide borders,

we’re building walls around our hearts?

I don’t like what’s happening to us.

The isolation,

the fear,

the paralysis,

allowing others to take over,

allowing power and money to take precedence over life.

If tearing down my walls is what I need to do to become more a part of this world,

to the point where the sorrow might overwhelm me,

but it might move me, too,

and push me out of my comfort zone,

then that is exactly what I’m going to do.

The thing is,

it’s terrifying.

I cry every day.

My heart shudders all the time.

I feel more scared than ever.

But I don’t want to hide anymore.

I don’t know why God made me this way,

a hulking mass of depression, anxiety, and pessimism,

but I need to believe that I am who I am

for a reason.

The truth is,

we are living in monstrous times.

The worst monsters are the ones we can’t see,

but that manipulate us anyway.

How can we get rid of something we can’t even see?

Well, we built invisible walls around us, didn’t we?

If we can create invisible forces,

we can certainly learn to get rid of them, too.

If we shed the walls, we shed the chains.

If we shed the chains, we’re free to “fight” the monsters,

the ones we can see, as well as the ones we can’t:

the power that corrupts

and the people who wield that power,

the imbalance where money is more valuable than human lives,

the suffering of those people, who,

even though we can’t see them or they’re just a soundbite in our system,

and they feel so far away,

are still a part of this world,

and a part of us.

Just because the powers-that-be thought it best to divide us into nations, races, and religions,

doesn’t mean we should let them separate us in spirit.

We are all one.

So to hell with it if I cry when I watch the news.

At least then I might actually take action

in ending this misery,

because the truth is,

we live in monstrous times,

but these are the only times we’re going to get.

Let’s turn them into something else,

so that years later,

when our children and grandchildren remember us,

they’ll say,

“Man, those were such wonderful times.

Everyone cared, everyone was an activist.

Everyone did their part in unifying this world,

which is the main reason

we live in such peaceful times

today.”

An Act of Fearlessness

Lately, I’ve been suffering from anxiety, which is new for me. It feels like there are a thousand spiders crawling underneath my skin, like my body is full of toxic chemicals, and all I want to do is scream. I snap at my closest loved ones over the smallest things. I wish they would go away and just leave me alone. My head feels muddled, my speech gets tongue-tied, and my hands shake. My heart races and I keep trying different things to calm myself down – deep breathing, light reading, watching a funny show. Nothing seems to work, except sleep, of course. Sleep feels like the answer to everything, sometimes.

Perhaps the Universe is using anxiety to spur me to write more. I usually end up feeling better after writing, but the act of saying “no” to all the daily demands of life, finding a quiet corner, and putting pen to paper can feel more overwhelming than just dealing with all the shit life throws at you. Sometimes I think I’d write more, if only I could get a break, a few days with no one around to make demands of me. I know that wouldn’t help though. I mean, I’d love the free time, but I know I wouldn’t write. I’ve been in that situation before, and I did everything from cleaning the bathrooms to binge watching old sitcoms, anything to avoid writing. How can one person want so badly to write and yet run away from it at the same time? All my life, I’ve heard people say, you know you’re a writer if you always feel the desire to write. I hardly ever want to write, but I know I’m most alive when I do.  For me, writing feels like an event, an act of fearlessness. Does anyone else ever feel that way?

 

Bare Naked

Bare yourself naked, they say.

Be who you really are.

Allow yourself to be vulnerable;

only then will you achieve genuine happiness.

No matter that you’ll feel genuine sorrow, too,

and pain and love and passion,

the whole gamut of emotions.

What does it mean, though, to be vulnerable?

Should you unpeel yourself like a piece of fruit?

First, the outer, strongest layer,

the one that protects you from pain,

but also the one that prevents you from truly mixing with the others who are so like and unlike you,

the banana with the mandarin,

the apples with the strawberries,

the pomegranate with the pears?

If you strip away this outer layer of ego, what will happen?

Only the pulp will remain,

the substance,

the spirit.

Imagine unpeeling even further,

till you get to the core,

till you understand what exactly is at the center of your being.

It’s a mystery, and yet, you want so badly to know, don’t you?

Is there a black hole inside you, swallowing your emotions,

leaving you feeling alienated and numb in this world,

a black hole that, one day, will swallow you up entirely?

Or is it more like a white light, which illuminates your mind,

and pours through your pores,

making you shine like a gemstone,

dissolving your outer surface,

the sharp edges and rough texturing,

to reveal the hidden quartz inside?

What will you find at the core of your being,

if only you would examine it,

excavate it,

empower it?

You have a theory.

You think God might be hiding inside of you,

playing the longest ever game of hide and seek,

and you haven’t been able to find Him

until now.

He’s hiding inside you,

but also inside him and her,

and within the bark of the trees and the veins of the leaves.

He’s hiding in a light bulb where a moth will burn if it gets too close,

and in the center of the sun,

where you’re warned not to look for fear of going blind.

He’s hiding in your parents and grandparents,

in your children and grandchildren,

in the puzzle pieces you used to play with,

clapping in triumph when you’d finally put them all together.

He’s hiding in books and movies which have moved you to tears, laughter, and awe.

He’s hiding in the music which lifts you, and makes you want to dance,

or meditate on meaning.

He’s even hiding in your enemy, isn’t He?

Showing you what it means to be “other”,

because only then will you know what it means to be human,

and how to bring the world closer together.

What does it mean, then, to be vulnerable?

It means just letting yourself be,

travelling deep within and unlocking the gates,

exposing whatever there is inside –

the dark, the beautiful, the glistening, the gray –

allowing people in and allowing people out.

It means learning to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

It means doing the things that scare you the most,

‘cause what’s life without a little adventure?

It means using your voice to change the world,

but first,

going in search of that voice.

I bet it’s hiding in there somewhere,

maybe right next to God.

Go find it and don’t come back till you do.

 

Bare yourself naked, they say.

Well, are they ready to hear what’s coming their way?

Are they ready for you?

Are YOU ready for you?

It’s about damn time.