self-image

Dance Party Friday: Stronger Edition

"This illness won't get you...You are too strong...tomorrow holds the promise of a new day." My friend Kim's words rang in my ears as I fell asleep last night, and were the first words that I heard as I awoke this morning.

The past 3 weeks have been a roller coaster ride with more loops than I'd like, some throwing my mental health off track, others reminding me of how fragile life is, as several of my friends and even my mother are facing serious health & life issues....and yet still others have forced me to face painfully abusive memories I'd rather forget, but can't because working through them is the only way I'll heal and be able to eventually forgive.

But....

You are too strong....this life needs you

I woke up with these words pushing me out of bed and on my feet. I looked around at my apartment, at the mess that accumulates during my lows, and these words directed each step I took as I set to cleaning it all up.

This illness won't get you....You are too strong....this life needs you

I repeated them, over and over while taking a shower, combing my hair, painting my nails, eating breakfast, watching cartoons with my sick kiddo....until I finally felt strong, strong enough to keep fighting and keep moving.

A friend of mine told me on Facebook this week that she doesn't understand how I can continue to hold onto a belief in God when I've been through so much hell in my life. She then asked me a rather poignant and difficult question: why does God allow bad things to happen?

Not wanting to give a cookie cutter answer full of Christianese, I waited and directed the question at God: "Why do you allow bad things to happen? Why do you allow us to suffer if you love us so much? Why God? Why have I had to endure so much pain, so many rough circumstances? Why do I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle with this illness and everything else? I'm tired God. I'm just tired."

I spent the week telling God that I'm tired of being beat down and broken, but woke up this morning with Kim's words guiding me and an answer...or at least some kind of theory.

You might not like or agree with my theory and that's ok....but y'all I think we experience brokenness and pain in our lives as a reminder that we are human. We like to think we're invincible but the truth is we aren't.  What if we went through life never experiencing loss, pain, hurt, rejection, or a part of us that malfunctions and needs fixing? If we didn't experience these things, I don't think we would know or understand and value things like LOVE....we wouldn't know how to be vulnerable, which would render us incapable of empathy and compassion for others.  We wouldn't know how to care for one another, and be there for each other, and be able to bear one another up in times of need. Pain and brokenness....no one wants to endure or experience either, but without them as the fertilizer, seeds of courage, hope, love, empathy, and strength wouldn't grow in us and we would be nothing more than calloused, cold, stagnant beings.

So we experience things that challenge us...that break us...that remind us that life is fragile and to not take it for granted, no matter what hand we've been dealt. We only get one hand in this poker game y'all. That's it. Just one hand and one set of chips is all we get to bet with. It's up to us how we handle what we're dealt.

So no...I don't like the fact that my meds aren't working and I need yet again to keep searching for the right cocktail. I don't like that I have to live with a condition that renders me incapable of wanting to live at times. I don't think it's fair that I had to endure abuse at the hands of men who were supposed to protect me. I hate that I have to struggle my way through life....

But guess what? I'm too strong, only because I've endured these things and am still here today, writing this to you. I'm strong. Only because I have been hurt and broken. I am strong because I have known pain and am learning  to use it as the bridge to vulnerability and wholehearted living.

I am too strong. This illness will not get me. My painful past will not keep me trapped and tangled. I won't let it. Instead I'll use it; to help others, to encourage and inspire, to empower those who have been through the same to overcome and choose to keep living. I've had bad things happen to me, but I'll let them teach me how to treat and love my boys and others I encounter in this life.

I don't know what you're facing, or what you've had to endure in this life. But I do know that if you're enduring it, if you're surviving it, then I know for a fact that you are a stronger person because you experienced it. I know from first hand experience that if you spend all your time asking why, the pain will only intensify and breed more pain. Choose to use what you've been through to help someone else-let it teach you how to live wholeheartedly.

The hurt and pain won't last forever. As Kim told me last night....it's always darkest right before the dawn. So stand up. Dance your way through the rain drops. Your'e stronger than you think.

note: my video isn't perfect..I just couldn't get the syncing right for some reason today. so I apologize for my crappy editing skills. I hope you still enjoy it anyway. 

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/35775673]

Birthday (& Holiday) Gifts: Less Filler, More Substance

So. It's Friday. The day after Thanksgiving. The day when hundreds of thousands of people have been clamoring, pushing past and at least in California, pepper spraying each other in their pursuit of the all American ideal of consumerism. STUFF! MORE STUFF!

Do we really need more things? Now before you start rolling your eyes and think that this is a post about buying less, becoming a minimalist, or occupying the aisles of Targets & WalMarts in protest, let me assure you it isn't.

It's actually a post about what I want for my birthday.

My birthday that's in exactly 6 days...as in next Thursday...as in DECEMBER 1ST....as in I"m letting you know now so you can flood my FB wall and my Twitter mentions with oodles and oodles of birthday wishes and video dedications!

I'm joking. (am I?)

Strange how social media outlets have altered our expectations of those around us, our "friends" & "followers"...subconsciously pressuring them into feeding our egos celebrating us. I wonder sometimes if we're becoming serial narcissists....

BUT like I said....this is about what I want for my birthday.

I've gotta be honest and say that I completely and I mean COMPLETELY suck at telling people who ask what I want for gifts. Ask me what we should get for a friend, relative, co-worker, boyfriend, hey, I'm oozing suggestions. Ask me what I want for my birthday and I all of a sudden have amensia-my mind goes completely blank. Case in point: Last week my close friend asked me what I wanted. I mumbled something unintelligible and finally said, "I have no idea. Nothing...I don't want anything I guess...I mean....(sigh) dude I have no freaking clue. I don't need anything..." Her response? "Well think about it and let me know."

Darn it. I thought she was going to let me off the hook. Boo.

And I have. Thinking hard. For the past month in therapy I've been unearthing a ton of things about myself and the messages I've been getting from others (ie Parents & Significant Others)...I've been coming to understand how these messages whether verbal or non verbal have helped shaped my sense of identity and the expectations I have for myself. I've slowly come to the realization that I get crappy gifts or gifts that aren't really, well, ME because I've let others define who I am. I let them set my standards, it's their authority and judgement I depend on, it's their opinion that matters. Their needs. Their wants. So the gifts they give me don't really reflect anything about my personality or are even things I actually desire. People give me what they think I should want....what I should need....even what I should wear, since I'm an adult and all. And you know what? I accept them. I wear them. I smile and think that this is exactly what I deserve and yes, this is how I should be celebrated, never paying attention to the fact that I don't like it. I NEVER allow myself to think that I don't like it, and if for some reason I do, I shame myself for being so ungrateful.

I don't go, know, or even ask for what I want because I never thought it mattered. It's never been communicated to me that my needs, my wants, my desires matter. Oh sure, people ask. But they ignore my response, or tell me, "No, you don't need that, this is what you need..." or "Why do you want that? That's not you! You're an adult/a mother/a woman/a (fill in the blank with whatever you can think of) you shouldn't want that."

My dad never asked me what I wanted for Christmas or my birthday. He always bought me what he thought I should have. " I bought you this coin counter because I wanted you to have this. You need it." (I didn't have a coin collection!)

My mom: " I know you said you wanted a bag, but I brought you this purse because you're a grown woman, and women carry nice purses, not messenger bags." "I got this dress for you because it will help you look more grown up."  ( I can't stand purses!)

My ex: "I don't really like that shirt...I mean you could stand to "fem" it up some more. You don't dress like other women." (Dude, while I enjoy dressing up, I'm a mother of 2 boys who doesn't have a lot of time to get ready. I enjoy being comfy. I love wearing flats, chuck taylor's, comfy jeans or dresses & graphic tees w/artwork or a message on them. I wear eye shadow...is that "fem" enough?)

I'm sure you're thinking these are all trivial and I'm whining. I used to think so too. But when you've got a set of mountains in your life called

LACK OF IDENTITY, POOR SELF-IMAGE & UNWORTHINESS

the examples I mentioned don't seem so trivial.

I don't always know what I want because I lack vision as to who I am, what I like, and what makes me feel alive. Why? I don't pay any real attention to myself-why should I when those around me don't? I don't always ask for what I want because when I do, nine times out of ten, I'm ignored or I'm told I shouldn't want it. I don't think about my needs because I've been conditioned like Pavlov's dogs to salivate at the needs of others-theirs come first. Mine second...if at all. I don't go after what I want because I don't feel worthy enough to have it. I don't embrace & live out who I am because I'm always being told that who I am is wrong, I shouldn't be a certain way, and I should be something else.

Well....I'm going to be 29 next Thursday. I have a lot of mixed emotions about that, some good, some not so good, but one emotion that's rising above them all is connected to a desire to just be myself. To ditch the expectations others have constructed for me and build my own. To redefine what normal is, and what is normal for my life, not others. To put down the comparison charts, the standards I flog myself with daily.  To deconstruct the image of how I thought my life should be and embrace something that fits me.

So when it comes to what I want for my birthday, I'm done accepting clearance rack gifts and people who don't take the time and effort to really get me something that says, "This is A'Driane," If I've gotta do better at understanding and communicating what it is I do want, then those in my life have to do a better job at listening and supporting me in this area.

I don't want more "things" either. No more "filler" items. I've determined that starting this year, I will only buy those items that really speak to who I am, my passions, my goals & ambitions. After all, if you're going to spend money, shouldn't it be on stuff that matters? On items that will pour into you and help you be who you are?

I think so.

So...... What do I want for my birthday?

Well....I adore this shirt from TWLOHA

Owning your story and living wholeheartedly is something I've come to believe in.

And speaking of wholehearted living, I'd love something by Brene Brown....

I admire her and her work because a) it helps me and b) This is the kind of work I want to do. (hence the desire to be a counselor, dance movement therapist, social worker, this blog....you get the picture, right?)

The holidays are here. Don't accept things or gifts  that aren't "you." When you're buying a gift for someone, really take the time to think about if it reflects who they are in some way. Don't just buy "stuff." Our culture is rampant with enough "filler" & empty materialism isn't it? Make your gifts to yourself & others count.

Also...I'll take anything by Prince. Do I really have to explain why?

:)