hope

Let not your dreams go to waste… (battling some demons)

All my posts come from my blog over at http://proseandconstellations.com.

The year is drawing to a close and with it, a difficult chapter, and as the door to a new one opens I sit in the half-light of the in-between. It’s New Year’s Eve, and yes, traditionally this is a time for goals and reflection (and when have I not taken the opportunity to make a big list to dive into?), but I think I’ve been doing a lot of that over the past five months while I’ve been removed from my life. 2014 beckons with a warm glow, but recently I’ve felt plagued with the old flames of self-doubt I thought had been extinguished.

As I mentioned in my last post, breaking my arm led to a whole topsy-turvying of worlds, and the time has come to get back on board. I’m not fully healed by any means, but I am well enough to do most of the basics, and am hopefully on track for the anticipated full recovery by about August if I put in the work. The routine part of normal life is scheduled to commence on the 2nd, and I will once again join the ranks of the daily workers. I’m scared, because I’ve now been off for almost as long as I was at the job in the first place, and I was by no means an expert in my role when I had the accident. I’d given it my all, and brought in new things to the company (and will be returning with a completed project I hope my boss adores) that I think made a difference, but now I’m going back and I feel like the new girl all over again, except this time, there’s the expectation I should fall straight back into the groove of things. So much happened in the six months I was there, I can’t imagine how much more there is to learn almost another half-year later. I want to go back and show them how committed I am, how determined I am, how I’m worth holding onto… but my fear of not being well-versed or up-to-date enough coupled with pain and limited mobility frighten me.

I think I’ve allowed this fear to fester in other attempts to regain a sense of normality lately, too, and I don’t like it one bit. Throughout the injury I’ve been pretty down about not being able to do so many things that were either part of the things in life I loved most, or were about to become them. In recent weeks, I’ve gone back to music – I can hold an instrument now, and AC and I made a joint goal in November to get 50 live performances under our belts by this time next year. That’s at least one per week, and we’re relatively on track, but after most of them, I’ve found those long-buried voices resurfacing, telling me I’m not good enough. And firmly believing I’m not. I watched an old video I did in my apartment before we decided to start a band, and it made me incredibly sad, because though it was before I’d ventured onto any sort of stage, I sounded better, vocally and instrumentally, than I do now. I know, logically, that if you take five months off from any activity, you’re not going to be a pro when you first try again, but it frustrates me to no end knowing I’m filled with such determination and had the courage to go from throwing up after singing one song in front of someone to being asked to do several shows (and being thoroughly exhilarated by them) – to having a weaker voice, less of a range, and losing much of the progress I’d made in playing. I know I can’t help what happened, but in a linear fashion, logic says I should be better than this video by now. And I’m not. And it’s horribly discouraging. 

The same seems to be happening in another area I was really enjoying before the break. At the beginning of this year, I’d decided to give modelling another go, and over a few months discovered a passion for artistic, conceptual photographic storytelling – something I plan on exploring on the other side of the lens in the new year. I’d done a bit of it years ago, but being cursed with apparently not aging (please don’t tell me I’ll appreciate it when I’m 40; I’m sure I will, but for now it’s hard turning 29 and still looking 20 and trying to be taken seriously in the professional world), I decided to give it another go, and became really passionate about it. Anyone who knows me in person knows I feel HARD, for better or worse, and so when I’m excited about something, I can’t not let it shine. I had great compliments from photographers, took risks, and took pride in being a model who could be counted on to be there on time, prepared, make everyone laugh and take risks for a good picture (not always the best decision), and it was a passion that kept building.

Then it happened, and I watched the world continue on without me. In recent weeks, I had a couple of opportunities to get back on set. I was prepared for the fact that I wouldn’t have full mobility, but I wasn’t prepared for my mind acting like it did years ago. I found myself in a sort of physical and mental paralysis that forbade me from being what I was before, and I didn’t seem to be able to do anything about it. I was completely taken over by having watched the world continue to spin without me and pent-up feelings of being forgotten that I couldn’t shake the feeling of not being good enough. My mind kept telling me: you were great six months ago; you should be better now. Again, logically I know an extended break is going to set anyone back, but I couldn’t stop judging myself. And it made me a poor performer. My photos reflected someone whose fear was overtaking their passion. My own mind was sabotaging the very things I love to do as an artist. And I can’t not see the results of how I was compared to how I am now and not be saddened.

My last post, however, was all about choice. I’ve always believed that life truly is only 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it, but sometimes it’s a really tough battle, even when you’re given the tools with which to choose. It’d be easy to stop, now. But it would go against my entire nature to do so. I’m determined, and always have been, to be better each and every day than I was the day prior, whether as a person, a friend, a lover, a musician, a thinker, or a writer. I also realise the power of acceptance, and maybe I have to take this as a lesson in that. That maybe the reality is that something horrible happened and it did take me ten steps backward. But staying there isn’t the answer. Staying there isn’t me. I have to remind myself on days where the voices resurge that I, too, have a choice, and maybe I can’t help where I am right now. But I can choose how I deal with it. Stop judging myself, and realise that other people probably aren’t judging too harshly either. Start from where I am, keep marching forward, and if I make mistakes or don’t live up to my own expectations, then work harder. It’s what I have to do with my arm, so it’s the same attitude I should have with everything else I’m trying to rebuild. The hard part is that all those things are in their very nature, worthy of being judged. Modelling. Singing. Performing. Writing. All efforts to put something out into the world for anyone to see. But I think to keep going is to keep following dreams, and to be brave. And that’s something I’ve always tried to do.

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I came across a quote recently that I feel may be apt for this situation, and may lead me through the door into a new chapter and a new year safely:

“If you have built castles in the sky, let not your dreams go to waste; just build the foundations under them.”

– Henry David Thoreau

I am finding it tough. But I think if I learn to accept, stop judging, be brave, put in the work, and look at reality, life is going to not only return to normal, but become even more of what I’ve always wanted it to be. I’m determined to make 2014 the year I tried my absolute hardest to make my dreams come true, to fill every moment with love and gratitude, and to try to always make the right choice.

“We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well,” someone once said, “that Death will tremble to take us.”

Have a wonderful new year, and don’t forget that no matter where you are now, every passing moment is another chance to turn it all around.

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Battlefield

So, I’m going to hazard a guess that my absence from the blogosphere lately, on top of several vague tweets and a thoroughly emo Facebook photo didn’t go 100% unnoticed. I say this as a result of something I hadn’t imagined happening: a complete outpouring of love, concern and support. This community has been incredibly kind to me in the past on many, many occasions, and through good and bad, I consider myself blessed to have built relationships with so many of you. Real life friends have become pillars of strength, and so many some would call “strangers” have offered solace and guidance – but someone once told me that a stranger was “just a friend you hadn’t met yet”. So many of you have truly shown the meaning of real friendship over these last few weeks whether the distance between us is five blocks or five thousand miles. So for all the e-mails, texts, hugs and phone calls, please know that the gratitude I express through saying “thank you” here can only reflect a small percentage of the magnitude of how very deeply I mean it.

I’m not going to go into details of what happened over the last couple of weeks, because this is partly the story of others, and it’s not fair for me to put something out there if it’s not one hundred per cent mine. But a lot of you already know, and trust me, everything you’ve expressed, advised and warned me about has been looping on repeat inside. I never thought Jordin Sparks would be my new best friend, but the only way I can describe what’s been going on inside me is in terms of visualising a battlefield.  I’ve had two sides raging against each other in my mind; one comprised of soldiers of shock and armies of anger under a ruling hand of disbelief; the other of heart, of hope, and of forgiveness. There seems to be a middle ground of reason which doesn’t seem able to join with either, and sits rather uncomfortably on the fence as both sides battle for its allegiance and the right to call it theirs.  In about twenty minutes, it will be reckoning night, and there can only be one winner. This is a fight to the death.

Supporters of both are cheering on loudly; banners of fear and betrayal held high as the opposition’s cries of compassion fight for the victory. Each believes wholeheartedly that they are battling for the right reasons, and I find myself sitting somewhere above it all, watching from afar. But the clock is ticking. I need to join a team. How could it be so difficult to choose between two sides so completely and utterly at opposite ends of the spectrum? One side’s soldiers wear shades of grey; a monochromatic army of emotion past and horror realised. As a fabulous song reminds me, everything they’re fighting for is like punching in a dream and breathing life into the nightmare. The ghost of disillusion hovers like a weight over them all, penetrating their swords with the stranglehold of memory, fuelling the fight to rage on. The other side, by contrast, doesn’t seem to have a uniform, but though in and of themselves they bear no semblance of cohesion, juxtaposed next to the resistance, are united with a sort of glow. Their cross-shields are emblazoned with symbols of love and hope; giant doves adorn armour and shimmering spells are cast across the battlefield, taking down dozens of greys at a time. In the heat of war, neither side seems to notice their torn observer, and I find myself praying for some kind of sign. The team to which I pledge allegiance will pave the way forward, and it is not a decision to make lightly.

The clock ticks loudly, an obnoxious reminder that my time is up. As I close my eyes in those last remaining seconds and surrender the decision to a blind leap of faith, the banner of a lone soldier catches my eye, and I see him looking directly at me. The rest of the field becomes a blur as our eyes lock in a simultaneously fleeting and eternal moment, and suddenly, my decision is made. The answer had been sitting inside of me the whole time, and was scrawled in giant, shining letters across his flag. Philosophy. I had to do what I did in every other walk of life, and apply my philosophy just as I would to anything else. I’ve always been a firm believer in humanity’s ability to choose their reaction, and no matter how difficult any situation may be, we all have a weapon of choice. My mission over the last year has been made evident time and time again: choose the right one. Fear is a trusty protector, and has been relied upon in battle after battle to shield from harm. But it’s only one weapon. A weapon that also blocks out the sun, and along with it, the potential for everything wonderful.

We cave so easily to the option of self-constructed walls around our hearts in misguided endeavours to keep them safe. The temptation to hold on tightly to those things from the past is almost sirenesque (did I just make that word up?), but like those sailors stolen from the seas, doing so only results in destruction. The power of acceptance has been pointed out to me in the past, and I think the lesson here may be to simply accept that in itself, and work it into my life’s philosophy. It’s an ongoing and ever-evolving mission statement, but I suppose in the grand scheme of things, that’s what life’s really all about. As I touched on earlier in the week, my philosophy already includes choice, love, forgiveness, integrity, and a focus on the big picture. At the end of the day, every one of us is only human, and if every person on the planet held onto all the hurts and pains from the past in order to protect themselves, this world would be a terrible place indeed. I think my lesson here is to focus on life from this point forward, not backward. Reaction to something that’s already happened isn’t going to stop it from happening (space-time continuum issues aside), but I believe accepting it, leading with love, and focusing on shaping a better future is the way forward.

We all have a choice. I just hope my heart is leading me in the right direction. Here goes…

Blessings in a Bittersweet Christmas

In this week leading up to Christmas, there have been several thoroughly unfestive incidents affecting me personally, or indirectly through friends, family and other bloggers, which have left me desperately endeavouring to keep my holiday spirits high.  I’ve been shocked at how much death and illness has surrounded us at this time of year; lives of friends, relatives, and celebrities have all recently fallen into cessation, leaving behind heartbroken families at a time of year when goodwill and festivities are supposed to eclipse the worries of the rest of the year.

But it’s tough, when life insists mercilessly on throwing lemons, on a schedule inconsiderate of Christmas spirit.  I’ve been reading blogs of friends who are going through loss, grief, infertility and sadness, and all I want for anyone right now is to be able to enjoy the holiday season.  It’s just so hard to raise a shield and feign holiday joy in the face of adversity’s relentless persistence.

My heart goes out to anybody whose Christmas this year is tainted.  I’ve spent more than enough Christmases dealing with breakups, surgery and divorce, and everything at this time of year seems exacerbated by the inherent expectations of festivity and merriment.  I want you to know that if you’re going through something challenging this year, my thoughts and prayers go out to you by hundredfold.

In the last two weeks, the incident with my mother exploded as a result of her determination to maintain vendettas, as opposed to recognising someone in need and having an actual heart.  After years of disproportionate efforts, I’m finally done with her negativity.  She knows where to find me, should she suddenly grow a conscience, but until then I made it very clear I was done, and she was not going to be coming to my wedding.

My dad, who I love dearly, got laid off from his job.  A pretty high-end management position, two weeks before Christmas.  Luckily he has a few interviews this week, but in this economy and at this time of year (especially when you’re paying spousal support to someone who refuses to recognise the difficulty in actually paying when you don’t have a job…), I just hope and pray he gets something soon.

Because his mother, my dear Nan back in England, is in hospital.  She gets dizzy and has falls and lives by herself in a 2-storey house which poses more of a danger these days than a home.  Recently she had a fall, and fractured her arm and a rib, and is being kept in a hospital until at least the New Year.  The hospital is out of town, and the only relative who’d actually visit her doesn’t have a car, and hasn’t been able to take her up some clean clothes, or even visit.  My dad and I are totally helpless from halfway round the world, and it’s just so disheartening that we have other relatives over there who, for the sake of maintaining grudges, won’t go and visit.  And my dad can’t go over because he has interviews all week.

Last week I just broke down.  Things are supposed to be happy at Christmas.  And so I did everything I could to try and refocus my thoughts on how much I actually have.  I have wonderful friends who come round with hugs and cake and amazingly thoughtful gifts (we even got each other the same present!).  I have coworkers who send me emails, invite me to their holiday parties, and get together and pray for my Nan. I have you guys, who despite being miles away, read and write to me,  offer your support and even send me cards in the post. And I have my dad, who’s been there for me my whole life, and I’m trying to be able to do the same for him.

I put up decorations, hung the cards, downloaded a bunch of Christmas music and cranked it, singing at the top of my voice while I did laundry.  I made little snowflake cupcakes and bought stuff to make my first mince pies since I moved here ten years ago.  I dug out Love Actually and the Polar Express and my next two nights are full of plans of cat snuggles, movies and some Hot Butter Rum. (Seriously, make some – it’s the best Christmas drink ever, and it’s the only time of year you can drink it and not feel guilty about the calories!)

I’m really thankful for what I have, for my little cat, for my friends and family, and for all of you I’ve found this past year. I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to personally grow, the wonderful conversations, and the chances I’ve had to give back.  If you’re going through something tough this Christmas, my heart honestly goes out to you.  I hope you can take a moment to count even the smallest of blessings; those of friendship, of the work you do, of the gifts you have.  And I sincerely hope and pray that 2010 brings good things for all of you.

Find yourself

I’ve been struggling a bit lot for the last little while with a lot of personal issues, and while I’ve been exceptionally grateful for the people who’ve offered words of advice and encouragement, I can’t seem to shake what’s going on. 

I count myself so lucky to be blessed with wonderful friends, a wonderful partner, a bright, sunny city that embraces culture, diversity and the arts, to live in a beautiful house and never have to worry about things that affect so many people in other parts of the world… these are the things I try to keep at the forefront of my mind, but I find so often they find themselves in the back seat, while my personal insecurities and anxieties take over. 

I worry so much about everything it’s affecting – well, everything.  I worry I’m not fun to be around, that nobody would ever want to hang out with me if I didn’t make the first move.  I worry about what other people will think of me if I open my mouth and offer an opinion.  I worry that they’ll see me turning red and shaking, and then I’ll get upset because I’ll convince myself they think I made a bigger fool of myself than I do.  I worry the past will repeat itself and I’ll be left for something… better, more exciting.  I worry about people judging me, thinking I’m incompetent, tactless, ugly, weird.  Even when I’m around people I love dearly, I worry about what they really think of me.  Do they secretly see me as the socially awkward, funny looking, too quiet, unexciting girl I do? 

I have so many dreams… if I could get over this constant fear, I’d be able to do so much more.  I love to sing, but I’ll only do it alone when all the windows are shut tight.  I love to dance… and I’ll throw myself into it, when I’m sure nobody’s home.  I love to write and create… but I’ve stopped trying, for fear it’s all rubbish anyway.  I’d love to write a play but the fear of it being judged horribly scares me away.  I love to share, to educate others on the issues of the world… but I’ll make my contribution in the form of a monthly donation, or a sponsored event where I don’t have to be in front of anybody.  I love to play games and throw dinner parties… something I haven’t done in years.  I gave up on my dreams of being a teacher two years into my post-secondary education when I realised I’d never be able to stand in front of anyone for a living.  I’m passionate about so many things… and I just feel trapped by my own insecurities, and I don’t know how to get past it.

I saw a play last night, a good friend of mine was in it, and one of her lines said something along the lines of “I don’t get embarrassed.  I just made the decision not to a long time ago.”  If only it were that easy, I thought.  If only I could make the decision to believe what other people tell me, believe in myself, and not be so sure everyone else in the world thinks I’m an idiot. 

I spoke to someone about it all a few weeks ago, and she said it was all about finding who you are, where you fit in in the world.  I’ve always kind of turned my nose up whenever people say they went off “to find themselves”, but maybe there’s something in it after all.  Right now there’s the person I think I am, and the person I want to be.  The stress, I guess, is caused by the discrepancy.  I want to be able to be fun, exciting, talented, confident, someone who can inspire others and someone people want to be around.  But maybe I’m just better off by myself? Maybe I need to realise that I do better alone, when I’m at home with my cat reading or singing or watching TV.  Maybe if I didn’t feel such a need to be reassured all the time I’d actually feel more okay about myself, and not worry so much about being judged.  I don’t know what the issue is, but I wish I could just go take a week and spend it somewhere remote, figure it all out, and come back ready to face the world.  I think it’s my turn to find myself, and maybe when I do, things will be a whole lot better.