In case you missed them you can find:
This week we will dive deeper into my experience with connection to the ‘Divine’ and more into how we can develop this connection to foster creativity.
Back to my experience with God, or whatever we want to call what I was connecting with. Again as I explained, I had been a seeker my whole life, knowing that if I could just establish a *permanent* connection to this presence, that in this I would have the best chance at a happy life.
I didn’t know anyone who had what I wanted, and I’m not sure I could have explained myself at the time, had anyone asked what I was going for.
Looking back, I DO think that a part of it stemmed from the extreme isolation that was my reality. I was seeking a ‘secure attachment’ is something that loved me because this simply wasn’t a part of my 3D life. I was seeking someone to know me, to understand me, and to LIKE me - because I had never actually experienced that before. Rather, I grew up in a state where, from every angle, I was being reminded how not enough I was. How annoying I was. How horribly it was to be around me. I never knew from one day to the next if I was going to have friends at school. I never knew from one day to the next if my Caregivers were going to be antagonistic, indifferent or nice towards me. Most days I ended up in my bed crying over some form of rejection I couldn’t understand. I hated myself deeply, everything about myself. I was chronically ill and hated that because it just made people not like me. It made me appear weak and of course, it caused me a LOT of pain that there was never any ANSWER for. I was autistic and didn’t know it - so I hated my personality and the fact that it always seemed to drive people away. There was no feedback anywhere in my world that I might be good, that my pain wasn’t my fault and also that it wasn’t just a burden on others.
And yet, in all the brief moments when I had been able to connect with God as I understood it - there was love. There was compassion. There was a sense that I was GOOD that, to this day, I STILL don’t know where it came from. Perhaps it was my imagination. Perhaps it was my desire for love and community that drove me into a deep state of imagination. Perhaps it was real. All I know is that feeling was something I desperately wanted to be able to have any time, anywhere. Along with that again, as I grew into adulthood, I started to connect the dots between MY action, MY way of viewing things, MY choices and the OUTCOMES I was experiencing. I could see the intricate web of cause in emotions, self expression, how we were treated by others, conditioning and so on - and all of this made it very REAL to me that change was possible if we knew what we really felt and what we really wanted.
As I grew, there was a massive shift in MY worldview. A shift that took me OUT of what I had been trained to believe about life - that ‘good things’ happen to ‘good people’ who are faithful to God in the Christian sense of the word, and that if ‘bad things’ are happening to you it’s either a test of some sort or a result of not being holy enough and INTO the fact that life was so much more about cause and effect. I really deeply SAW that there was no test, and that there was little to no benefit in ‘waiting’ for God to come and magically change things - as I had watched not only myself but everyone in my life struggle with the same issues over and over again for years with no resolution using this technique. I watched as, in my own life, changing my choices, educating myself, getting clear on what was happening and why led to a better experience.
Life wasn’t a big mystery I couldn’t possibly understand, and my circumstances weren’t all out of my control - something I just had to have faith would improve one day.
God was in the intelligence and in the choices I made.
More importantly, it seemed like God was LOVE. God was understanding. God was seeing the goodness in me, and God was all about supporting me and helping me - not shaming me, blaming me or telling me that I was fundamentally broken.
The problem was, I had only had a few, very brief FELT encounters with this presence. MOST of my experience was still, much like everyone else, one filled with self doubt, self hate and the idea that I was constantly failing and doing everything wrong. Life was, for me, a perpetual state of deep loneliness, physical pain, emotional anguish and a LOT of confusion. Even as I was starting to sort things out, even as I was gaining more autonomy and making my way out into the world as an adult who could make my own choices, I was still plagued with a LOT of shame, blame and pain. The only difference between my adult pain and my childhood pain was that as an adult, I was in a state of CONSTANTLY trying to FIX myself.
You see, at 14 years old, I had experienced a kind of ‘rock bottom’. In the sense that I got to a place of such total exhaustion, pain and overwhelm that I was essentially hauled up on my parents couch for about 6 months. I barely passed grade 8 - not because my grades were low but because I had missed so many days of school they technically should have held me back. I had a cyst on my ovary, and my chronic stomach pain was the worst it had ever been. My social situation at school was at an all time low - constantly feeling like everyone hated me and being rejected. Home life wasn’t any better - with all my physical and emotional pain my caregivers had all but given up on trying to help me. So I was just kind of…left there. On the couch. In pain. Depressed.
It was at this time that the FULL awakening that I had power over my own life happened. Sitting there on the couch, I had a really deep, internal knowing experience that if I didn’t learn to help myself, that if I didn’t learn to figure out what I needed and what was going to make my life better - no one was coming for me. There was no one who was going to save me. No one was going to fix me. In fact, it had become really apparent to me that there was no one around who COULD save or fix me - it wasn’t that people didn’t want to, rather it appeared to me that even the most capable adults - like doctors and psychologist and my parents - literally didn’t have the skills to help me.
My parents had *tried* to help me with my stomach issues, only to find that most doctors wrote me off and reinforced to my caregivers that I was just ‘making it up.’ The hormonal issues that had led to the cyst again had been ignored for months and then I was just given a pill to drain the cyst. The mental and emotional pain I was in from being SO aware of how much everyone around me was suffering again, was not really understood by anyone around me - I was often told to just ‘stop worrying so much’ - which, as anyone with deep emotional awareness knows isn’t a thing you can do. God wasn’t helping me. Nothing was helping me.
Again, in this I can’t really explain what happened. All I know is that I had a knowing inside myself that I had to save me. I had to get myself off of that couch or I wasn’t going to get off the couch. I had to learn to be ok. To be stronger. To fix what was broken in my life. My new life mission was getting myself better.
This is when I discovered self help and dieting. I discovered that there was a DIRECT one to one connection between the things I was eating and the way I was feeling. I discovered that I could shift how I interacted with other people and that this changed the ways they related to me. I figured out that if I was strong, if I was capable, if I asked for less and was less needy - people seemed to like that better. I realized that I NEEDED to get strong. That I couldn’t stay sick, I couldn’t keep being so sad, I couldn’t continue to let my emotions run my life.
This revelation was simultaneously very empowering, and it also set me on a trajectory that would be relatively self destructive.
I decided I was done being on the couch. I started learning and I started fighting. I started to get stronger, and I started to build up some walls. I started to ask for less, and figure out how I could do more for myself.
I really believed that if I could become perfect, needless, fully strong - that in THIS I would finally find the peace, the love, the connection and the safety I had been looking for for my entire life. And if nothing else, I figured if I tried hard enough and pushed long enough I may be able to find all my own answers, so that I really wouldn’t need others for anything. I was swinging the other way - attempting to go from a state of feeling hyper dependent to feeling deeply independent.
From there, for the rest of my early adulthood, all I remember doing was fighting. Fighting with myself. Fighting with my body. Fighting to try to be what others wanted me to be. Fighting to get OUT of the circumstances I was in. It was as though I was swinging from one extreme to the other - going from a life where I was told that EVERYTHING was out of my hands because it was all ‘up to God’ and where a lot of things WERE out of my hands because I was a literal child who didn’t have control over much of anything, to a life where I felt like EVERYTHING was in my control, everything was my responsibility and everything was my ‘fault’ if it wasn’t perfect. I really believed that if I just made all the right choices I would one day arrive at a perfect, pain free life - and boy I was determined to make all those right choices.
I had had the ‘awakening’ that my actions mattered and that I had SOME power, but this had translated to me on some level to mean that anything that wasn’t ideal was a sign of my failing - and thus I felt a LOT of guilt and shame about the fact that I was in physical pain, the fact that I was in emotional pain, the fact that I was lonely and didn’t have many friends and the fact that I really wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be ‘doing’ with my life. I knew I wanted to help people, I knew I wanted to make the world a better place, I knew I wanted to pass on what I’d already learned in the way of making my own life better AND I wanted to prevent anyone from ever feeling as alone and isolated as I had been feeling - but at the same time I wasn’t sure HOW to do that because I didn’t have the money to go to University, and I was still struggling with a lot of my own pain.
During this time, I was essentially CONSTANTLY in a state of trying to get myself to be the ‘ideal’ version of me. I was in a perpetual state of trying to fix my emotions so that I could be calm, centered and needless. I was trying to fix my body so that it would be perfect - so that it would look perfect and function perfectly. I was trying to learn new skills to be a better support for others - always studying something. I was working multiple jobs. Doing all the cooking and cleaning. Trying to be the best partner to my boyfriend that I could be. All the while feeling like a perpetual failure - like I could never get it right. No matter what, my pain, my past, my emotions, my physical issues would ALWAYS bleed through the attempts I was making to be perfect, leading to more shame, leading to more guilt, leading to more seeking to fix.
This went on, basically from the age of about 14 when I first realized I could shift how I was feeling via shifting my nutrition, through turning 18 and leaving my religion, heading out into the world, moving away from home, getting into my first relationship, beginning to find my way in the working world to the place I was at 24.
The Rock Bottom
Basically, by the time I got to 24 years old, I was completely burnt out. Again. For the past several years I had been burning the candle at both ends - I had been working 2-3 jobs at a time, always enrolled in some form of continuing education, doing all the cooking and cleaning at home, navigating having a serious relationship for the first time, trying to heal my body that was in a perpetual state of pain, pursuing spirituality like getting enlightened was my job and doing all the other things one must do to function within society. All through this I was seeing more and more how society was just NOT fair in any way. Seeing people live on the streets, being aware of the financial struggles most people had and the ways in which our systems were set up to perpetuate those struggles, watching people not have the resources to improve their lives, seeing the pain and desperation in the bodies and minds of those who DID have enough on a physical level, knowing how deeply lonely everyone seemed to be as we all struggled forward in the ‘rat race.’ I was trying to be strong, I was trying to be a support for people - but the whole time I just constantly felt like I was swimming upstream, failing, never doing or being enough.
I wanted out.
I needed an escape. I knew there had to be a better way and I knew that the Western way of life and value system was TOTALLY messed up. I didn’t really know all the ‘why’s’ yet, but I knew it wasn’t good and I knew I wanted to leave.
So at the end of 2012, my boyfriend and I decided to take a trip. Our first trip out of the country, and my first time off of the continent. You see, back when I was 17, as part of my healing journey, I had discovered the concept of Raw Foods. Through this, I had discovered fruitarianism, and this had opened my eyes to the fact that there was a WHOLE OTHER WORLD out there called ASIA. I started eating tropical fruits, going to my local Asian markets, and this began my life long love affair with South East Asia.
I had dreamt of escaping to this magical place for years, and finally it was time to make that dream a reality. We (very naively) packed up our backpacks for a 21 day ‘tour’ through southern Thailand, got on a plane and began what would become one of the most pivotal phases of my entire life.
After three flights, a good 12 hour overnight layover in China and 36 hours total travel time, we arrived in Bangkok. The airport was quiet and waiting for our tour guide meant meandering around waiting to be told what to do next. I remember finding dried fruit in the 7-11 and thinking it was so cool that they had fruit - there. We were collected by our guide and instructed to gather at the van that was going to take us to our hotel for the night. I dutifully followed orders, gathered my things and made my way to the exit. I stood as the automatic doors slid aside, and the wave of intense tropical heat quickly won its battle with the air conditioning of the airport - hugging each of my cells. The symphony of tuk-tuk and motorcycle motors blending in with the sounds of birds and cicadas took over my awareness. The smell - that unique, indescribable mixture of hot earth, tar, smoked meats, and the mystery scent of Thailand filled my nostrils. Before my mind could even comprehend what was happening every single muscle in my body relaxed and my brain said to itself ‘I’m home.’ It was odd. Very odd. I had been to warm places before - I knew the heat of Mexico and California. I had known that I was going to like Asia. But literally not having experienced Asia to that point my reaction made no sense.
Expect for the fact that to me, it made complete and total sense.
I sat in the car as everyone chatted the nervous ‘nice to meet you totally foreign person in this totally foreign place’ chatter. I stared out the window, watching the nightlife of street vendors, hungry civilians and confused tourists whipped by. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this is where I belonged.
For the first time EVER, I felt like I was supposed to be somewhere. I didn’t feel like I was in the wrong place just waiting to do what I needed to do so I could leave. I felt, for the first time in my entire life, like a place made SENSE.
And I had NO idea why I felt this way, because again, I knew nothing of where I was. I just knew it was right.
We spent the first few days getting acclimatized. Figuring out what days on tour were going to be like. Taking trains, buses and speedboats. Sleeping in different beds every night. Finding food to eat. Then our first ‘stop’ on the tour where we were going to spend a good 4 days was on the Island of Koh Phangan. We were staying on one of the more secluded sides of the island - having to take a boat to get to the main part of the island where most things were.
This was the most remote and isolated place I’d ever been.
Also at the time, we didn’t have unlocked high tech cell phones or computers - which meant our only internet access was through a little internet cafe - meaning we sent a single email to my sister to let her know we were alive and that was about it. The rest of the time was pure immersion in present moment beach life.
While everyone else was using this time to party late into the night and sleep late into the day - I was using this time to feel, in a word, absolutely miserable. At this point, I was used to drowning out my anxiety, depression and incessant inner critic with LOTS of activity. Work. School. Housework. Working out. Running errands. Internet, internet and more internet. I hadn’t had to spend extended hours of the day doing…nothing…since I had been at my DTS at 18 years old. In fact, I had specifically engineered my life to make SURE I didn’t have any idol time. So this blast into literally sitting around looking at the ocean and having nothing else to do was the perfect catalyst for ALL of my ‘stuff’ to come up.
I remember feeling SO uncomfortable in my body. Feeling so inadequate in every way. Thinking about my career, thinking about my health, thinking about my relationships and where I was in life in general - I didn’t have a single positive thought to try to help me navigate what I was feeling. I was sitting in the overwhelming, boiling sensation of wanting nothing more than to crawl out of my own skin.
At this point in my life, my body was still my main scapegoat. I still blamed her for every uncomfortable feeling, thinking that if I could just ‘fix’ my body that this would ‘fix’ my entire life experience. I felt fat, frumpy, bloated, swollen, itchy, sore and generally ‘clogged.’ Like all of my joints were on fire and my body was holding onto fluid in an attempt to squelch the flames. My limbs felt like water balloons and my face felt droopy. Years later I would come to understand that I really WAS dealing with a lot of SYMPTOMS for chronic illness, rather than just being overly preoccupied with my body - but even with that, the fact that I HATED her so much for her symptoms, the fact that I was blaming her for being weak and the cause of all my pain was obfuscating my capacity to actually HEAR her, to hear what she was saying to me, and to hear the guidance she would eventually give me in finding true relief. The hate, blame and shame was blinding me.
I just wanted to be like the other girls on the trip, the other girls I had worked with, the other girls I had gone to school with.
Everyone else seemed to be able to just relax and be comfortable. They wore little bathing suits and ate in the day and seemed to be having a good time. Why couldn’t I have that? Why couldn’t I just fucking RELAX? Why couldn’t I be GOOD ENOUGH?
Why couldn’t I FEEL good? At all? In any sense?
I truly believed it was all the fault of my broken body - because looking at all the deep emotional, social and familial trauma I was carrying around would have been WAY too much at this point. All I could see in this moment was my body, her pain, that pain being my fault, and self blame being the only way forward.
This all culminated in a moment where I was sitting with my boyfriend at a restaurant on a rock, overlooking the most expansive and majestic ocean scene anyone could ever dream up, sitting with this man I had dreamed about since my early youth. At the time I was working for an online raw foods company as their community manager/main content creator - a job that I actually felt was helping me make a real difference in people’s lives. I lived far from my parents and the youth I had experienced. I was in Thailand. This place I had dreamt about visiting since I was a mere 17 year old sitting on the couch in the dead of winter. I had no responsibilities at this moment. Life was, for all intents and purposes, better for me than it had EVER been, and so many of the things I had worked SO HARD to create, I had.
Yet all I could think about was how UNCOMFORTABLE I was. How broken and gross my body was. I felt so deeply unworthy of every good thing I had. The intensity of the hatred I had for myself was so strong, I could literally hear it ringing in my ears like a siren. I felt like if something didn’t change - and fast - my heart was going to explode. I was paralyzed by the feeling - unable to cry or shout or even verbalize what was happening as my inner world crumbled.
Then just when I thought the pressure was going to kill me - I had a memory.
A memory of my grandma standing at her kitchen counter, telling me about a new diet she was going on to lose a few pounds before her upcoming trip to Mexico. She was in her 60’s. I then flashed-back to myself at 14 - a full decade in my past - and realized that I was basically the same weight/size/feeling at 24 that I’d been at 14. I’d spent the last TEN YEARS trying SO HARD to fix my body, and essentially, had made little to no progress. Sure I was far more functional than I had been, I had gotten off the couch and I had given myself the ability to GET THROUGH life with all the alterations I’d made - but I wasn’t HAPPY. I wasn’t FIXED by any stretch of the imagination.
I looked out at the water, and realized that this ride - this ride of hating my body, being on a diet, trying to fix - it was never going to end if I didn’t choose to end it. My Grandma was STILL on the ride.Most women I knew were on the ride. My perspective broadened in that moment. I was snapped out of the ‘let’s just do this one thing’ mentality that had been driving all of my body modification attempts - all the diets, all the workout programs, all the day by day ‘plans’ I had to FINALLY lose the weight/get healthy into seeing the LONG RANGE. I had, like so many others, been living from step to step. Diet to diet. Discipline to discipline. I wasn’t ever taking the whole journey into perspective. I was never connecting the dots. I THOUGHT I had been making progress - but that progress was always thwarted by something - symptoms not being cleared up how I was promised they would be, not being able to stick to a program, constantly changing what I was doing and never settling on anything. There was always a next thing to try, a new motivation, a new goal - but again, where had it all led me? To a place where I felt just as out of control, just as clueless about what my body actually wanted or needed, just as hopeless as I had felt sitting on the couch 10 years earlier.
I realized that it was totally possible, and actually probable, that I could spend the REST OF MY LIFE ‘just doing this one thing’ - perpetually. There was no endpoint. There was no good enough.There were endless diets and endless iterations on the diets I’d tried. Always a new theory. I realized that given that I had been investing SO much of my time into trying to fix my body for 10 years and had made almost NO progress towards where I wanted to be externally, and given that my grandmother - and millions upon millions of women (and let’s face it, just HUMANS) like her - had never figured it out, had never gotten to a place of feeling good enough - what made me think that I was going to ‘get there?’ What made me think that I was going to figure it out? I expanded even more and thought about ALL the conversations I’d had with all my female acquaintances - and the CONSTANT body shaming/blaming/nit-picking. Even the girls I thought looked amazing seemed to ALWAYS have SOME sort of issue with SOMETHING on their physical self. None of them were happy or satisfied. They were all doing just ‘one little thing’ or planning to do just ‘one little thing.’ For the next event. For the summer. For the trip. Because they felt ‘blah.’
I looked into my future and realized I had NO desire to be going on another diet when I was 60. I had no desire to keep doing ‘one more thing’ because the ‘one more thing’ had NEVER panned out. I was sick of the rollercoaster of getting on a new program or protocol, sticking to it with all of my might, not getting results, not feeling better, the high wearing off, feeling confused, finding a new thing. I was SICK of praying for God to change my body. I was tired of hoping every night that I would wake up the next day with a magically transformed physical shell. I was DONE asking for the answers that would fix me. Done eating foods I didn’t like because I thought they would heal me. Done working out and then walking to work and standing all day. Done pushing. Done forcing. I hated it. I hated every minute of it, and there was NOTHING inside of me that was going to let me do it for the rest of my life. I was only 24. That meant I could have another 60 years ahead. Another 60 years of deprivation, pushing, hating, nit-picking? No. 10 years had been enough. 24 years of pain had been enough.
I wanted off.the.ride.
I was done.
Let’s break here, and come back next week for more!
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