Find Your Edge, Honor Your Edge

If you’re anything like me, you used to do the opposite of what your mother would tell you to do just to prove the point that you are your own person. You dated the person you knew your family would despise. You spent your whole undergraduate career earning a degree in something that was more artistic than lucrative. You denounced the religion you were raised in simply just to rebel. Especially during those teen years and early twenties, you saw yourself as invincible and dangerously entitled.

Don’t deny it. Don’t try to kid yourself. 
We were all there.

And hopefully, you broke out of that entitlement and realized limitations are not a bad thing. No, you should not stomp out anyone’s rights just as they should not stomp out your’s. I’m talking limitations as boundaries, healthy boundaries that let you know you are not ready to go beyond a certain point and boundaries that let you know okay it’s time to move past this.

This Sunday in yoga, the instructor–who I will call Ariel–kept saying “Find your edge” throughout the class.

Find your edgeI love that line. It’s such an improvement over the old saying “Know your limitations.” Let’s face it: who wants to be limited? No one! But we are all human beings. Superman and Superwoman do not exist (sorry my fellow nerds).

We all have our boundaries. Our bodies have limits. Mentally we can only go so far before we begin feeling drained. Financially we must act within a budget or else risk falling into debt. You get the picture. 

There is only so far we can go.
And that is okay.

Yoga helps to find your edges physically and mentally. This Sunday I found out I wasn’t quite ready for  a new pose. I thought I was, but I should’ve listened more closely to what my body was telling me, instead of riding on the goal of proving something. Now, I have a pulled muscle somewhere around my shoulder blade to teach me a lesson. But the theme of that yoga class can be taken beyond the studio and applied to daily life.

It’s good to find your edges, because it helps you understand yourself as a person. Those boundaries help guide you through relationships by allowing you to understand the type of people you are compatible with. They help you to get to know yourself deeply on all levels.

We were all raised a certain way. Some of us were groomed by our parents since day one to live a certain life. And while they may have had our best interests at heart, it usually falls more in line of what they want. Growing up, I saw a lot of my friends endure emotional turmoil, because their parents wanted them to be something other than what they wanted. And although in the end at least of my friends was able to pursue a career she wanted despite her parents wishes, it was brutal, bloody battle getting there.

I am all for being close as a family, but even families have to have boundaries. People need to be able to live their own lives. 

You don’t have to twist yourself into a pretzel to find your edge. It can be as simple as asking yourself what you want your life to be like. 

And if you’re unsure, that’s okay. Why? It gives you a blank slate to work with. See new places. Meet new people. Take different classes and workshops. Try a different job. Nerves aren’t always a bad thing. Yes, they can manifest into uncomfortable symptoms such as shortness of breath or diarrhea, but that usually means we’re on the verge of discovering a new edge. Instead of giving into feeling nervousness, think of it as excitement. So much excitement for a new discovery of your life that it is difficult to contain.

My good friend, Natasha, is about to start the MFA program for memoir writing at Hunter college. Naturally, she’s feeling a bit nervous. Going to school in the city, working while earning a degree, having your writing (which is a good chunk of your life story) critiqued by published authors, is all very intimidating. In her latest post on her blog Tenement Thoughts and City Dreams, Natasha writes “I’m beginning. Again. Picking shards of failure up. Moving. Breathing deeply, expelling resistance within myself.”

I love the ending of that line: “…expelling resistance within myself.” It is a beautiful example of what I was attempting to explain. Everyone gets nervous. Everyone feels afraid and anxious. We cannot push ourselves for something we are definitely not ready for. We will only harm ourselves if we do. But there are times we do have to push ourselves in order to move forward on to something better. Natasha sums it up beautifully by saying “I am my own cause. I am my own reason to be better. I’m disturbing the solitude of my own universe. ‘Do I dare?’ Yes.”

Why take that scary first step towards something new, something different? Why disturb the comfort of the little world you have known for so long? Because you are your own reason. Your life is your’s. No one can live it for you. And if you’re in a not-so-great situation, guess what: only you can make it better. Somehow. Some way.

Cinderella had a fairy godmother.
You do not.
No one does.

If your lip is quivering and your eyes are watering, you’ll get over it. Trust me. You will survive those three lines of reality. Like I said before about turning nervousness into excitement, take the water in your eyes and that pouty lip and do the same thing with that.

You are responsible for your life and the choices you make. You can have a very good support system, but don’t use those people as crutches. It can be very easy to become comfortable and complacent. Easier than you realize. Be on the lookout for that. Don’t let someone make you think you need them, because chances are they need you in order for them to be happy. And that’s unhealthy.

So, go out there. Find your edges and who you are. Learn your boundaries. Learn when to push yourself and when you should allow yourself to rest and learn a little more.

It just takes self-awareness and real honesty with yourself.

 

*And while you’re at it check out Natasha’s blog and see what makes her MFA worthy. You won’t regret it.*

 

 

 

Ghost in Your Eyes

I see a ghost staring back at me
from your eyes.

Eyes, that once had a brightness
I imagined would match 
Her smile.

I can still smell the water she 
would splash in.
The turquoise of her little swim suit
Matching with the blue of your shirt.

She’d see you, jump into your arms,
Her curls wet and shining from the pool,
reaching the small of her back.

The sun would shine down
on both of you.

I see these dreams we once had,
in the ghost staring back at me.

The Hardness that Comes with Being a Woman

There’s a hardness that comes with being a woman,
a woman in my line.

The secrets we’ve kept,
we still keep,
we sacrifice our truths and other bits
of ourselves
to protect the ones we love,
nurture our families so they grow
beyond us
into tall tales and legends.

We each have a gift to pass down.
We each have a secret.

It’s a hardness that forms
in the bruises left by our husbands
thick, calloused fingers
around our necks.

It is a shell we’ve created
from all the times we’ve had to lie
on our backs for our survival
and the survival of our children.

The only way we could keep a roof
over our heads.

Our scales, sharp and thickened
from the onslaughts we
were made to swallow.

The stones in our bellies,
pulling at our insides
as we put one foot in front of the other.

Again.
And again.

Despite the bruising, the bleeding,
the violent words.

Our love is great.
Our hearts,
always broken.

We stich our wounds together
with our own needles,
Passed down from mother
to daughter.

We bleed still,
from our wounded hearts,
but you’ll never know.

We keep it tucked away
deep down in a hidden place.

Pretend to be meek.
Pretend to be rough around the edges,
Biddies from the old neighborhoods,
chasing children with wooden spoons.

You see what our hardness wants you to see.

We know the real stories,
our stories.

Being Honest is More Important than Being Blunt

A couple of weeks ago, my S.O. and I were talking about triggers. As a few of you already know, triggers are a huge deal for me. This past year I struggled with a lot that were reminiscent of emotional abuse, as well as energetic and sexual assaults.

It is not easy for anyone who has lived through trauma to deal with triggers when they’re somehow activated. It is not your fault if you are still learning to cope, adapt, and work through them. But it is also not easy for the ones closest to us to experience those moments either. Oftentimes, they have to watch us struggle and I know in my case, triggers change me depending on how strong they are.

We had a small blackout around the time this conversation happened, and being in the dark, in my bedroom made me into a different person. Although I knew I was safe, those elements reminded me of when I was attacked and sexually assaulted in a place that was supposed to be my home. A place that was supposed to feel safe. I became to shiver. My lungs tightened so I couldn’t breathe easily and sharp pain made my head feel like it was slowly splitting. I felt nauseated and afraid to move, so I curled up into a tight ball against the wall. All I could think about was feeling the darkness on me.

My S.O. was very supportive. He did what he could to remedy the blackout, because he knew the real reasons I feel so afraid of the dark. He made phone calls and stayed with me, watching Youtube videos and Netflix to redirect my focus until someone came to fix the breakers.

But despite living and being together for four years, it can still be challenging now and then. Like I said, triggers change people. There are times a trigger hits me out of nowhere. My fight or flight kicks into full gear within seconds, which often leads to me shutting down and becoming defensive thinking No one will understand. And sometimes when my S.O. tries to help me through it I snap at him, because I do not know how to deal with all the fear, anxiety, and irrational thoughts coursing through me all at once. As you might guess, arguments happen. 

Hence: our conversation about how to handle triggers.

A lot of our talk focused on communication. Not so much what to say, but how to say it. 

This was something big for my S.O. and I, because we tend to be very blunt people. We come from Jersey City. Our families are very blunt. We value honesty but have a tendency to be rough around the edges with it. Especially in my family, where we all grew up with a tough love approach.

For example: how did my mother and uncles learn to swim? My grandfather threw them into the Atlantic and stood on the shores of Sandy Hook, letting them figure out how to swim.

How did they learn to ride bikes? My grandfather took them to the top of the hills in Hudson County Park in Bayonne, sat them on bikes, and pushed them down the slopes. Over and over until they finally “learned” how to balance on two wheels.

In my family English is our second language. Sarcasm is the first.

Word of advice: don’t ever use sarcasm when someone is experiencing a trigger. It down plays their experience and makes fun of them and their situation. It’s mean and will make things worse. I’m all for joking around and busting chops, but there’s a time and place for it.

A trigger moment is not one of them.

Back to being blunt. Bluntness is not the same as honesty. Being blunt gives words a hard edge and can come off as rude in the wrong moments. I have often said do not treat anyone as if you need to walk on eggshells around them (again, tough love upbringing), but I learned that sometimes you do have to be a little more sensitive.

Again, my S.O. and I are notorious for being very blunt people. We also bust each other’s chops a lot, tease each other, play pranks, etc. It’s our way of being playful in our relationship. But the other night when we were talking, I admitted to my S.O. I need more tenderness than bluntness during a trigger. And that was a lot to confess for me, because I’m so used to handling things on my own. But it’s true. In those moments, being blunt doesn’t always work with me. Even though he is trying to help ground me and help me, I feel I am being criticized, judged, and shut down even more. I’m not in the proper mental state in those moments.

I am not asking for coddling when it happens. Remember: being blunt is different than being honest. You can be honest while still being sensitive. Let the bluntness come once the dust has settled.

I’ve learned when it comes to honesty, the truth is always the main focus. There is more compassion and co-working. When it comes to being blunt, it’s more about the person speaking. Yes, that person may have your best interests at heart and simply want to help you, but I’ll bet they also have a drive to want to be right. 

Not always, but sometimes. They could simply be working with a method they’ve always known and might just need a little education. That’s fine. I encourage education when the tides are calm. But if you think someone is pushing you, because they’re the type of person who needs to be right, or maybe their defense mechanisms are coming into play, because they don’t know how to deal with something, it may be best to draw some boundaries.

That person may not have bad intentions, but you need to focus on what works for you.

And if  you don’t know what to do when someone close to you is experiencing a trigger, it’s okay to be quiet. It’s okay to be still if that’s what they need. Sometimes, your presence is more than enough. Then when the dust settles, try to talk it out with them. Let them talk about their experience without being interrupted. If you have questions I strongly encourage you to ask them. Education is key. Just wait until they’ve said all they needed to say.

Also, if you’re unsure of what to say or are more accustomed to a tough love approach, try being a little gentler. Do not point out what you think they are doing wrong in the moment, or tell them they need to let it go, or go back to therapy. Those things do not allow them the space to adequately speak about what they’re experiencing and can be very dismissive. When people are struggling, they need to process what they are going through before they can take the next step. You can help them make educated decisions on what steps to take, but ultimately, they decide what the next step is. As long as they are of sound mind, you cannot make that decision for them. Healing is all about the process, not the destination. But a lot of people like to jump the gun and go right to solving the matter.

STOP.

Especially if you are not a trained mental health professional,

STOP.

Even if you have lived through similar experiences,

STOP.

Different people process and react to stressors differently. You can match someone’s experience with a 9 out of 10. But you are not that person. You did not and do not live that other person’s life. It is not your place to tell that person what you think the answer is. I understand that may be hard for some people, especially for family members who are close to us and feel they know us, but a supportive role helps the person along the journey. It does not catapult them to the solution. Only the person going through it can find the solution.

Be gentle. Be tender. Be mindful.

Sometimes be quiet altogether until the person is ready to talk. Silence can be very honest. It conveys “I do not know what to do, but I want to be here for you.”

Keep it simple and tell that person “I am here.” Ask that person “What do you need?” or “What can I do?” I will even accept telling that person “It is okay.” I used to be against saying that because of the mental turmoil that person is experiencing, but I have come to realize it can help to ground the person in reality. Help that person recognize they are experiencing a bad memory that will pass.

You can also do something sensory with that person, such as holding hands, putting your arm around their shoulders, hold them. As long as they are comfortable with it. Remember: sometimes people who have been physically and sexually abused do not like to be touched, especially in vulnerable moments.

This all may not fall under the definition of traditional honesty, but I choose to use the word honest, because truth is always light in the end. No matter what. 

It’s how you tell the truth that matters.

If you want to know more about triggers, tips on how to work through them, and educate those around you and strengthen your support system, check out my posts Trigger ItchFuck SilenceGrowing Paine, and Other than You, Who’s Worth It?.

When Loved Ones Struggle, Find Harmony.

Today, I keep coming across the word harmony, and usually when something repeats, it means there is a message that is coming through.

Harmony. Being in sync. Coming together. Cooperation. Agreement.

See where I’m going with this yet?
Let’s start with this morning around 9:30 a.m. I didn’t see the word harmony yet, but early in the day it was made clear to me on how it is today’s central theme. 

Every yoga session has always been for me. I have always carved out that time and practice solely for myself. Yoga is a big chunk of my “Me” time, something I use to challenge myself, cleanse my energy and my body, and a physical representation of facing obstacles and overcoming them. It has always been for me, but today was the first time I have ever dedicated my practice to someone else.

It wasn’t the type of decision I sat down and said I am going to do this today. It came to me, as if a higher part of myself said to day-to-day, Earthly me, This is what needs to be done. This is the right thing to do. And I breathed deep with knowing. My body felt at ease in that knowing. I knew it was right, so I dedicated my practice to someone close to me who is going through a difficult time. This practice is for So-and-so also became my mantra throughout the class.

Dedicating your practice to someone else pushes you on a different level, because you are no longer working for yourself. You are working for someone else as well. If you have a challenge being compassionate and are more used to hiding behind fear and/or anger, dedicating your yoga session to someone is a great way to practice compassion. It brings you closer to the person by helping you understand a little about their struggle. Granted, you putting your body through an intense workout is not the same as what they are actually going through. But you can develop more compassion and understanding.

For example, I noticed today my body was very tight, preventing me from doing poses I normally would not find challenging. The difficulty in achieving a pose made me think of the difficulty So-and-so is experiencing. How my struggle to push forward, to not give up and take the easy route of going straight into child’s pose, echoes So-and-so’s challenge of  pushing forward each day.

The pain and tightness made me think of what kind of pain So-and-so must be experiencing. This brought in the mental challenge for me. I do not like pain. Emotional or physical. I think my tolerance for it has increased, but it is one of my least favorite things in existence, even if it does promote some sort of growth. Part of my mind reeled against the pain in my body, while another part fought back. It was sort of like the mental battle between Professor X and Apocalypse in X Men: Apocalypse. 

Fortunately, the Prof. X side won. It again brought the experience back to the person I was doing this for and helped me to start channeling positive energy to that person. Yes, I was in physical pain. Yes, I was struggling mentally. Yes, I wanted to give up and take an easier route. But I silenced those thoughts as I reaffirmed my dedication and began to pray. I reminded myself why I was there in yoga and who I was doing it for.

Let my strength become So-and-so’s strength.
Let my determination become So-and-so’s determination to keep moving forward.
Allow me to make it through this session and overcome these challenges,
so that So-and-so may make it through and overcome
current challenges as well.

In the moments I eased up on my body, now and then there would be some negative thoughts telling me I was weak and I couldn’t handle the physical challenge of yoga. Thoughts that told me I was no good, because by now I should be more experienced and better at what I was doing. Again, I considered how thoughts similar to these, and even more intense, could be running through the mind of the person I dedicated my practice to.

To come against those thoughts, I worked with my breath and focused on compassion. I was compassionate towards myself, and I reminded myself my body has limits. And that is okay.  I then took that compassion and prayed again:

Let my compassion become So-and-so’s compassion.  

A lot of times when some we love is suffering, we feel there is nothing we can do. Maybe inside jokes don’t make them laugh like they used to or the words I love you don’t seem to have the same effect. Maybe they turn inward and stick to themselves a lot more than usual, even close themselves off. Maybe they don’t want any sort of help in the beginning. It can take a toll and chip away at us. 

None of us wants to see our loved ones suffer, but there is only so much we can do. We are not Superman or Superwoman. No matter what happens, we have to remain as balanced as possible for their sakes and our own. We cannot sink, because if we both fall, how can either of us help the other one? Someone needs to remain upright in order to help the other back up. It is hard, and it is a lot to take care of yourself and someone else who is suffering. But sometimes, and this may be hard to accept at first, all we can do is stand back and watch.

That does not mean we grow cold, distant, detached, and leave the people we care about to fend for themselves. It simply means we find another way. It means 1. we accept our limits and the fact that we cannot solve every problem we encounter, whether that problem belongs to us or someone else. and 2. we cannot walk each other’s journeys. In order to grow, people need to go through the grit in order to come out clean in the end. Dr. Andrea Dinardo offers some wonderful insight on how to empower someone else in her post We Were Made to Thrive. I highly recommend checking it out.

Whether or not someone comes out of a raging storm  is solely up to them. You can offer support, console them when they are down. Offer them food, shelter, money, kind words. Give them advice and be compassionate. But in the end, they are the ones who put in the real effort and the real work.

You cannot do it for them, but you can do something.

You can dedicate something to them. For me, I dedicated my yoga session, because it is something close to me and something that helps me. But you can dedicate anything that brings you joy, strength, power. You can dedicate a meditation session to them, and use it to send them positive energy. Something as simple as a kind thought can work wonders. You can also pray for them. Light a candle to guide their way. 

You don’t have to be part of any particular faith or religion.
You just have to have faith that your act of dedication 
will somehow reach that person.

No one has to know what you are doing. Frankly, it’s no one’s business. The person you’re praying for or sending positive energy to may not even know what you are doing. But please know those things work wonders. Even if you do not think you see any change, remember things come through to people in many different ways.

This post is very personal and I chose to share it, because despite what the general attitude may be, good things such as thoughts, intentions, and prayers do not go unheard.

I have seen miracles happen because of that stuff,
which is why I am sharing this.

So, just because you may not see any results with your eyes, do not let that dissuade you.

Because I promise there will be a time you feel the loneliest you can ever feel and think no one is there for you. I promise there will be at least one time you feel hopeless and have no idea what to do.

Most of all, I promise there will be at least one time you wish someone would say a prayer for you and shed some Light on whatever darkness you are going through.