Rip off the mask, tear down the walls. Show the world your beautiful self!

Posts tagged ‘empathy’

What Do You Do When Your Happy Is Gone?

Author’s Note: I wrote this in that often dark time between Christmas and New Year’s when so many people suffer from depression, and feel lost and alone. I wrote it for myself to help me start climbing out of my funk, but also for anyone who also experiences sadness and loneliness, not only at this time of year, but any other time too. We all have someone who cares, even if we don’t think we do, and we need to reach out to them when we’re feeling down. They want to help, but don’t always know we need it, or will even accept it. I urge you to let your friends and family see when you’re hurting instead of feeling like you have to hide it. You’ll be glad you did.

Nothing to Be Happy About

I’ve lost my happy. As I mope around the house, sometimes for days on end, I’m disinclined to even change out of my pajamas unless I’m going to the gym or to a relocated dance night. Even then, I often have to argue with myself before I get dressed and moving. I haven’t used the word “fantastic” or even “great” when someone asked me how I am in what seems like ages. The best people get out of me these days is “OK”, and it’s because I’m anything but. I see no reason to drag anyone down by telling them the truth. For those who know me, “OK” says it all anyway, as they keep checking in on me.

I know it started the night we lost 12 beautiful souls at the hands of a troubled young man; the night we lost more than just 12 innocents who were known for making this world better for many. We lost the place where we gather, where we unwind, where we de-stress, and where we knew we’d give and receive many warm, heartfelt hugs twice a week without fail. We lost our home.

The owner of the club is still talking about re-opening, some way, some how. But when, or even where is still a huge question; our own elephant in the room.

Insidious, Unseen Happiness Thieves

If this single event was the thief of my happiness, I might have found it by now; in the strengthening bonds, the shared hope, the resilience of our family, and the extraordinary heart and spirit of the families who lost children, brothers, husbands, sons, daughters. But it goes so much deeper for me right now.

My world is turned upside down by many things. I lost my sweet girl, Munchkin in December. I increased my debt significantly, but my income is still falling far behind. The 25th anniversary of the day my mom’s unhappiness got the best of her; the day she got tired enough of being unhappy and left us forever, came and went without a single thought until days later. A quarter of a century without my mom. Most of the dissension we shared is long forgotten, or at least the reasons we were so at odds. I don’t exactly miss her. I miss having a mom though. The mom I didn’t really have.

Empathic Cats Offer Comfort Wherever They Can

Even seemingly stupid stuff is getting to me now. I curled up on the guest room bed because I felt lousy and didn’t feel like doing any of my usual things. I didn’t have the energy to clean or the focus to read or even watch TV.

Pyewacket and Tiana

As I pulled the soft blanket Heather got me for Christmas up over my shoulders, I felt tears prickling the back of my eyes. The last time I did that, Munchkin came bounding in, her little bell jingling, knowing there was snuggling ahead. A little over a year ago, she’d have been joined by Toby stomping all over me until he found a good position laying across my body, and Dylan who’d walk across my pillow and lick my cheek. Now, only Dylan is left of the older cats, and he’s doing his best to comfort me when I’m not really ready to let go and be comforted.

Mulan and Dylan

Fortunately, the cats understand better than I realize. Pyewacket joined us, crawling under the blanket and snuggling for a little while. Mulan came in too and even refrained from stomping all over me, demanding attention. She simply curled up beside me, offering comfort. Even shy, skittish Tiana who I often mistook for Munchkin until I got a closer look has found a jingle ball and plays with it in the middle of the night, as if to remind me Munchkin’s love lives on in my heart and home. I love and appreciate those who are still here, but I miss the two who brought so much love into my life, and died way too soon. I can’t help missing them, any more than I can stop the tears from flowing whenever something reminds me of all they gave, and all I’ve lost.

I know Dylan feels the losses as much as I do. He hardly leaves my side any more, and seems distressed when I leave the house, even for an hour or two. We spend a lot of time sitting together, comforting each other, and grieving.

Healthy Routines Aren’t Always Enough

If that wasn’t enough to make me struggle to regain my former happy, cheerful self, I learned my blood pressure is now in the unhealthy range. I informed my doctor’s PA I would, under no circumstances take medication to reduce it, so I’ve had to make some significant changes to my eating habits instead. The hardest has been giving up my morning coffee. I’m hoping it’s only temporary. Green tea is OK, but it doesn’t have the strength of a good cup of coffee.

Scrappy Doo

Scrappy Doo

More exercise would help too, but getting myself out of the house for anything but my pre-set routines is nearly impossible. Lately, my laundry consists of workout clothes, pajamas, and the shorts I wore on the few nights I did dance. And cat purrs. Lots and lots of cat purrs.

Dimming My Light

https://www.flickr.com/photos/anieto2k/8156999698/in/photolist-dqNKPQ-8xXrZz-a2tqF7-ecib3q-aR5rxR-23UMduh-aWLsg4-aQ6X3p-dTTc5c-dcyQ5m-b1FLUp-drS8ZF-bsmN5R-nNhBzE-6ssEeg-9jEcfZ-aVXtzx-j6LK2o-aNpZyT-dCTfD3-dvswdt-b3pgdi-dtXu4B-6LJawW-8CFHEg-8aL7Jf-hDdmuC-anA578-cPoDxo-9qmjuQ-dtXueV-qsdJSm-dqq1i2-2cGG4pp-dqq1sP-hp14Hw-cbnjHE-7bv7xs-chavXC-7uLgNT-8E3GL9-ar7X3y-aai6ME-nt1LXG-gZvg1N-S1DgTf-8kUop7-6532HD-exeWcJ-di6ynQMy bright colored blouses hang on the rack collecting dust. When I do go out, I’m either wearing a black t-shirt commemorating the fateful night, or something else that lets me blend into the crowd. Wearing bright colors doesn’t feel good right now.

When I do go dancing and talk turns to next year’s line dance cruise, I feel even more alone and left out. My current finances won’t allow an expenditure like that, or another much-needed writer’s conference, for that matter.

That’s not to say things aren’t improving a bit, but it seems like for every windfall, I’ve had extra expenses as well. And when I have a large expenditure like Munchkin’s vet bills, there’s no offsetting gain.

I know a lot of it is my mindset. Although I’m starting to attract more notice and more interest from my target audience (read, people who could use my particular type of writing skills and can afford to pay for them), the process is slow since I am still learning the marketing ropes. Again, I know I’m improving with a lot of help from my coach. But the holidays and Munchkin created a hiatus of nearly a month so I’m going to have to recapture some of the momentum. Still, the negative voices, imposter syndrome, and sheer ennui keep getting in the way. I stumble over my own feet too often.

Temporary Down Turns and Lights in the Darkness

I’m grateful I recognize this unhappiness as not only temporary, but uncharacteristic. I know I can fix it, and that I don’t have to fix it alone. Right now, I feel adrift, alone in a storm mostly of my own making, But I also know I won’t remain here, if for no other reason than I won’t allow it.

I see the lack of appetite as an asset as it’s helping me lose some of the weight I’ve put on because I’m not dancing as much. The high blood pressure keeps me from eating the salty snacks I was eating while mindlessly glued to the television. Without them, I rarely eat after dinner even if my stomach starts to growl. I’ve had to find a recipe for the amazing lentil soup I was buying from Trader Joe’s, but which has too much sodium for my new lifestyle. I’m looking forward to adding to my freezer stock soon. In spite of myself, I’m developing healthier habits again, and I know I can re-balance my system without artificial and potentially harmful means.

Being Sad Without Guilt

Right now, I’m allowing myself to be sad. I’m establishing new relationships with the younger cats as they do their best to fill the enormous holes Munchkin and Toby left. I also realize the best way to help myself is to help others, and am looking for ways to do that.

I know the pain, the hurt, and the loneliness I’m feeling right now will ultimately fade and I’ll find my happy again. I’ve learned it might take time, and it can’t be rushed. Times of pain and sadness are part of our process; part of our evolution. We have to walk through the storm in order to find and appreciate the sunshine. I guess I’ve yet to tire of the storm enough to move towards the sunshine. But I will. I always do.

Gratitude: One of the Best Healers

  1. I am grateful for friends who understand that “OK” isn’t a good place for me.
  2. I am grateful for my cats who demand little and give so much.
  3. I am grateful for my writing as it gives me an outlet for my deepest, darkest places so they don’t fester and become toxic.
  4. I am grateful for all of the people who are finding ways to keep us together and dancing.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, laughter, friendship, vulnerability, caring, sharing, giving, receiving, introspection, opportunities, challenges, inspiration, health, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws , of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Pain Won’t Respect Our Walls

Pain and Trauma Make Repeat Performances

At one time or another, we all suffer some kind of pain or trauma. It might be a broken friendship or relationship, the death of a beloved family member. For many, it’s far worse, and to many of us unimaginable. Yet regardless of what caused our suffering, most of us have one thing in common; we try to wall away the pain and get on with our lives.

We might or might know the best thing to do is work through the painful event, but life and society, and a host of other excuses make it easier to shove our feelings into a box, and get on with our lives—or so we’d like to believe.

The trouble with pain is it has a nasty habit of re-introducing itself into our lives at inconvenient moments, and it does it with insidious regularity. It isn’t really coming back at us to punish us though. We are meant to both deal with our painful moments and learn from them. When we wall them away, we guarantee we’ll be revisited; our own personal version of the Ghosts of Traumas Past.

The Masks We Wear

https://www.flickr.com/photos/katsexagesima01/3612047773/in/photolist-6vbFXK-7mfHK5-82q4rd-7Ku82r-7xTufQ-7xTvNm-noV2nx-8v7yLg-7xTtxw-b5JoM-awiDbx-74ofjQ-4xTEyL-aFUvSc-2nJqV-pnUS3J-UZSY-KSCvY-q54hFw-74jkL8-57r2Za-rXWSV-RAqoKt-wCAn3-74jkCt-459Ltf-8VkKtr-jrTTpy-7Mx4vz-9gJ6Hm-q2BAZF-A1eTBs-4sLmnj-7hJteh-nDn5BQ-98W5r7-4oJBHP-FUYqD-66WsR1-aaLTe-9gF1wt-7AibaD-cof4ks-bKGrY-7pamwZ-9yY17Q-2QEkGc-qtnpn9-qUrb5H-5EB1gvThere are so many people we meet who seem to continuously wear a smile on their faces. Some of them even make us smile just to see them. But what’s really behind those smiles? The positive exterior? What does it cost them to maintain the mask and the ruse that everything in their life is perfect?

I’ve learned so much about that in recent years. We all have our secrets and things we choose to hold in rather than inflict on others. We all smile when we’re hurting inside at one time or another, telling anyone who asks we’re “fine”. The general public accepts our words and looks no further, but what about the people closest to us? Do they listen to the words and ignore what lies closer to the surface than we’d like? Do they look into our eyes, see the pain lurking in their depths and offer comfort though we don’t, and would never ask?

Letting People Down When We Hide From Our Pain

I think about my dad and all the times he ignored my mom’s pain while at the same time, walling away his own. Some, I know was years of habit. I think at one time, he was conscious of her inner turmoil, her need to be loved and accepted without qualification. But when her need wasn’t met by her family, she sank deeper into herself and only in those moments when they were alone together and her defenses dropped, albeit deeply, might he have seen the quagmire of her soul beneath the carefully constructed facade.

Coming from a family where emotions were rarely displayed and where stoicism was highly valued, I don’t think he knew how to deal with raw emotion in himself or anyone else. I suspect it was even terrifying for him when mom’s masks slipped and he saw the raw and bleeding soul beneath. I’m not surprised he developed defense mechanisms and responded with anger or disgust. So much of the way he responded was self-directed too.

The tendency to hide from our emotions and pain is perpetuated into adulthood. I remember a female manager taking me under her wing when I was working in aerospace. One of her most oft-repeated lessons had to do with hiding your emotions. Women had to work harder to be taken seriously in that environment, and showing emotion was the quickest way to kill any upward momentum you might have achieved. I took her message to heart, embracing the lesson with the zealousness of a religious fanatic.

Hiding and Re-living: An Endless Cycle Until We Learn and Accept

Through a divorce, the death of my mother, and the challenges of juggling career, self-care, and two young children, I kept my struggles to myself. The result was what appeared to be a rock-hard exterior and few I could call “friend”. The false front prevented anyone from getting close. No one ever figured out that a slight tap on that exterior would have cracked it into a million pieces. I even convinced myself I preferred the solitude and the isolation.

As the years have passed, the painful moments were triggered over and over. Often they led to periods of even more isolation as I tried vainly to shore up the eroding walls. Ultimately I learned to face the reminders head on and find the lesson in the pain. And I learned to be more understanding and compassionate of others.

We Are Never Truly Alone

Part of learning to manage and accept our own painful past is the realization we’re not alone. Everyone suffered a setback, a loss, or a trauma at some point in their lives. Yet comparing ours to theirs isn’t the answer either. It’s easy to say “I shouldn’t feel so bad. This other person has suffered far more than I.” But we all suffer within our own contract; our own capabilities. We all have challenges which help us learn to become the person we were meant to be.

It’s not a matter of comparing. It’s a matter of empathizing and connecting. Sometimes we connect through our propensity to wall away the pain. Other times, we connect because of similarities in our experiences. The best connections, in my opinion, are those made when we understand it’s not the level of pain or how we’ve worked through it, but that we all have. It’s an unspoken understanding that at one time or another, we all need to straighten our spine and go on, even when we’d rather crawl into a hole.

Yet, it’s also that moment when we truly accept we weren’t meant to soldier through alone. Sometimes, it takes some life-shattering moments, much like the ones I experienced before we accept that we deserve to ask for and receive help. Even there, we find connection with others who believed themselves unworthy. We connect with the isolated, the hermits, the ones who for years believed themselves to be oddballs. We find our community where we least expected it—with the ones who are connected through being different.

Finding Our Community in Our Differences

Perhaps it’s easier to find comfort in a community where everyone thinks like we do, and shares all the same values, beliefs, and visions. It’s harder when your world-view is a unique combination of pieces and parts gleaned from what you’ve read, seen, and experienced as an isolated soul on its own journey. But the very fact we hide our feelings and thoughts away to blend in is what ultimately brings us together. When we have the epiphany and realize we were never meant to blend in and doing so is stifling the unique and beautiful butterfly of our soul, we find ourselves in a garden with thousands of other unique and beautiful souls.

The hardest thing in the world is to come out from behind the walls we spent a lifetime building—the walls which make us appear to belong. Yet there comes a point when we can no longer maintain a construction which was never structurally sound. For some, it comes with the force of an earthquake, stone, mortar, blood, and tears flying everywhere with no hope for containment. Others may voluntarily take down their walls as they allow themselves to see past the smokescreens and preconceived notions.

However it happens, finding the garden beyond where uniqueness is valued instead of squashed is worth the effort and even the pain of the journey.

Do we ever completely release our painful and traumatic moments? Probably not. There will always be some which come back to haunt us in one way or another. But there will also be those which fade into distant memory as we deal with the pain, embrace the lesson, and move onto other things. Some of those become our ability to relate and help others through their own which I believe was the purpose of the experience in the first place. I know my own life is richer for the opportunities I’ve been given to be there for someone with whom an experience we in some way share is still fresh, or returning in full force to bring them to their knees as it once brought me to mine.

Knowing We Always Have Something to Be Grateful For

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the experiences which have made me stronger, but even more for the ones which taught me compassion.
  2. I’m grateful for the opportunity to give back now that I’ve learned my walls only kept me from experiencing joy and connection.
  3. I’m grateful for my friends and family who teach me every day to be a kinder, more compassionate Divine Being having a Human experience.
  4. I’m grateful for love. Without it, we’re incomplete.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, life, lessons, compassion, kindness, beauty, peace, harmony, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats, suicide survivors, mental health, and depression. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She specializes in creating content that helps entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author

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