Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Say WHAT? (I think it's a good one!)

"Everything has been figured out, except how to live."
~Jean-Paul Sartre ~
French Philosopher 1905-1980

I don't (by any means) claim to be a philosopher, as Jean-Paul Sartre was.  Although, I'm pretty sure a synonym to the term is "thinker"... and by golly, I am always thinkin'!  However, having not studied much about the subject, I do not know much about Existentialism or how I feel about the topic.

Here is what I believe.  
We are born and genetically predisposed to some things.  Someone I greatly admire once said this to me, "Leslie, your brain works differently than anyone else's brain.  It is time to remove YOUR judgments about how your brain works.  Then you can start learning how to work with what you've got."  It was simple and profound.  And, it reminds me that I was born with all these parts.  Some work more conventionally than others. 

I also believe ALL of our surroundings and experiences have a HUGE impact on each of us.  (Again, personal belief, I'm no expert!)  Every night these days, I go to sleep listening to a book by Oliver Sacks, An Anthropologist on Mars.  In one of the chapters he is working with a man that regained his sight after over 40 years.  The strangest thing for me was to consider that this man had no experience seeing!  And, on April 3, 2013, as I looked into my beautiful NEW niece's eyes, it seemed so obvious!  She was seeing for the first time.  She was looking at lights and shadows and what babies look at.  She had no idea what shape my face was or the color of my eyes.  She will have to learn through experience and her surroundings exactly what she is seeing.  The man Dr. Oliver Sacks was working with had lived for many years learning about his surroundings, dealing with life's everyday and not so everyday experiences and a quick surgery changed his experience and flipped his surroundings upside down.  The combination of my two experiences got me wondering... HOW MUCH DO OUR EXPERIENCES AND SURROUNDINGS SHAPE OUR LIVES?  Or should I say, teach us how to see the world?   
Some people learn at a different pace and some are not able to process things at all.  Let's add faith, family values, societal rules and regulations, social expectations, social awkwardness, wanting to be accepted, different resources, and a whole mess of other things heaped on top.  And, the most unfortunate and beyond our grasp is the trauma some experience... (Are you kidding me???)

Let me see if I can summarize this.  We are all built differently.  We each experience different surroundings.  And, because we are all different, we may be in the same space at the time as someone else AND have very different experiences.  All of these things combined with CHOICE are what begin to teach us how to see the world and in turn begin shaping each of us.  Nature and nurture are just as flawed as we are.

I have already lived many years searching for answers.  Some questions that have plagued me? "WHO AM I?" "Why can't I do this right?"  "How does everyone seem to know how to play the game while I feel like I am on the wrong field?"

Sometimes in order to see the goal... you have to start running FIRST!  Which is why I couldn't see the forrest for the trees!  Also, your goal is your own!

I'll share MY answer now.  I shall quit asking someone to tell me how to do life!  I will do what I think is right and I will DRAW on my knowledge and experience.  I will DRAW on the strength of others!  I will DRAW on my God for wisdom and take His word as truth.  I don't have to have an answer to each question.  When something comes up I can DRAW on the support of my friends, family, therapist, and (a super exciting part!) even strangers!  I don't have to figure out HOW TO LIVE all alone...  And, I can only do one thing at a time.  

Did anybody notice my emphasis on a certain word?  
Another incredible thing I have learned is... I can DRAW or paint, etc. to express my emotions when I don't have the words or the clarity to see them.  I can DRAW to distract and keep my emotions under control until I have help.  Craziest thing?  If I find myself worrying about "How to live?"  I can DRAW something in the room to keep me in the present moment.  
Vincent Van Gogh painted self portraits. I draw Mr. Van Gogh's self portraits! This was one of the first things I have ever drawn... AND, I did it while under mega-distress AND... I got through my moment!  Now that's some crazy if I've ever seen crazy!
So, considering the vastness of humanity and (a bigger word???) for our personal experiences.  My best advice to everyone is to...  Pay attention to how things work and grow!  Try to do things.  Decide what you think is right and wrong.  Ask for help from wise people.  Use your faith as a guide.  Don't give up!!!  Cause according to this Jean-Paul dude... nobody has this "life" thing figured out!

Now, let's get goin'!
Your Favorite Oxymoron

Monday, April 8, 2013

fighting to stay afloat...

It has been a long time since I have felt like giving up. Yesterday, I wanted to. Yesterday, I had planned my last post. Yesterday, I canceled my next therapy appointments. I was discouraged and exhausted and I wanted to walk away.

I am writing this now because I will not censor myself when it is uncomfortable. When I am discouraged I will express myself. I will not be afraid of what others think of me.

Today, I need to express that I am in pain. I am suffering. I am sad and lonely. I am so afraid. Today, I am walking, NO crawling, through these next moments when I must continue to learn how to protect myself. I must remember my rainbow. The promise of beauty that I will experience when I make it through this storm. And the next inevitable storms.

Today, I am fighting to stay afloat. Today, I am recommitting to fighting for the life I deserve to live. The life I deserve to enjoy and find fulfilling.

I will keep fighting. I won't stop. It will not always be easy AND it is my choice to continue. I must make it a life worth living. I will fight for ME. I will be stronger because of it.

When I was in California I was introduced to an amazing woman. She guided me through my first real experience with art therapy. I found her and this new and desperately needed form of expression and self discovery invaluable! The project I was given during our final session of 2012 was to somehow depict what I wanted to leave behind. I had never used acrylic paint before (I HAD NEVER EVEN PAINTED BEFORE!) and it turned out to be the perfect medium for this particular project. This is what I painted.
At the end of each session our small group would share our work with one another. This was always the point where I discovered how important what I had expressed really was. Now, I will do my best to explain what this means to me...

I have spent my life running. Running because I thought it was the only escape from my mistakes and from the fear, anger, and shame that burdened me. The problem with that is that I was running into a wall. And each time I hit that wall I ended up more broken and bruised and burdened. But, it was all I knew. It was all I could do. Because I had begun learning other ways to get through these things... the running was what I knew I wanted to leave behind. One of the girls in my group asked me what the thing was covering the bottom of the page. When I painted it I didn't see what I was doing. But, when I looked at it again... what I saw was HUGE! I had tried to cover up my mistake. I had never painted a leg! I just went for it. But, the feet really tripped me up. And I just started painting to cover up the mess. How VERY interesting! Not only did I run to try and escape... But, I hid just as hard. I didn't want anyone to see the mess. I didn't want anyone to know I didn't know what I was doing! I didn't want to look like I was an incompetent fool! When I discovered the significance of this project, I wept. These were the things I wanted to leave behind. I wanted to quit running AND I wanted to quit hiding! The only thing those two actions did for me was to cause me more pain and suffering. And, I wanted to quit damaging myself. I wanted to leave them in the past and try something new.

That is the one of the main reasons I created this blog. It should be pretty impossible for me to run and hide if I continue to use this blog to share my story. I need to share my successes AND my failures. But, considering how many years I ran and hid, I guess I should give myself a break if I get off track every once in a while.

Thanks for reading.

Your Favorite Oxymoron