Day 54

Fear: My Constant Companion

For as long as I can remember Fear has been a part of my life. She was born not too long after I was. She is my sister. She has big eyes that seem to take in everything–well everything that could go wrong at least. She has been there at almost every life decision. She was there when I decided to leave Japan the first time to get my masters, and she was there when I decided to move back to Japan, and she’s been here insisting that I stay armed with a thousand reasons why leaving is a huge mistake. Fear is ready with all of the really terrible things that can go wrong if I make the wrong decisions. The only decisions she did not seem to be part of was choosing my spouse and my decision to have children. Or perhaps she was there, but I didn’t recognize her true form.

Fear, my beloved companion, is stronger than I am and much more certain. She holds my hand whenever I am uncertain about what to do, and she is always assertive about the “right” decision and she never wavers. Consistent and loyal, I can always count on her to be ready with all of the pitfalls and the risks involved in any choice, and she is always there to remind me of all the things I avoided when I am disappointed with a decision I’ve made as a result of her advice. Her strength has kept me safe, and I have relied on her perhaps for too long.

Now that I have committed to being better to myself which entails following my dream, ever consistent and predictable, Fear is forever in my ear warning me of my desire to follow my heart. She is ready with her list of things that could go really, terribly, badly wrong. She reminds with those big eyes that I could go broke; my children could starve, or I could end up homeless if I ever consider any other plan but the one that is safest and most reliable. She is very convincing, yet I can’t help arguing with her, and at times choosing the less safe option.

It is becoming more and more clear that in order to live a life worth living I am going to have to stop relying so much on Fear. I wonder if I am going to have to find my own way and let her go her way. On the other hand, maybe there is another reason that Fear is in my life?  Maybe she is meant to do more than just keep me safe. Maybe she is not fear at all, but something else. Teal Swan has a great video about this. It is called “Find Your Negative Imprint-Find Your Life Purpose,” and in it she talks about the opposite feeling signature and how it can lead you to your life purpose. Fear is my negative imprint. She is always there to push me towards my life purpose.

As I write this Fear sits opposite me hugging her knees close to her chest gazing at me with those huge eyes of hers. Smiling I return her gaze looking deep within those peepers to see the unmistakable glow of love.

Until next time, I wish you the very best.

 

Days 52 and 53

Looking for a Village

I am in complete agreement with the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and I’d like a village please. Things are getting complicated and raising two kids in a foreign country with no family to support us is really difficult. So far my husband and I have gotten by with help from friends and my colleagues, but like being in survival mode, I’m no longer okay with just getting by. So I am giving myself two options–find a village here or go else where.

I have been trying to build a community here for a very long time, and for whatever reason, mostly that the people with whom I have tried to build a village have been too busy or have a village of their own, I have been unable to maintain a community here. I’m sure this has a lot to do with the fact that I do not speak the language fluently and so that limits the pool from which I can find friends who are willing to be a surrogate family. Whatever the reason, I have been working on creating my own village here in Japan for almost a decade. I think it’s safe to say, there is probably no village to be had here and it is time to move on.

Leaving Japan has always been something I’ve wanted to do, but I have denied myself that option for two reasons. To leave without being fluent in the language is akin to failure in my estimation. I cannot bear the thought of leaving here after over a decade and being asked whether or not I speak the language fluently and having to say, “I could get by, but I am not a fluent speaker.” The other reason I have not entertained the option to leave is for fear of not being able to make a living. I make good money teaching at the university as what in the U.S. would be equivalent to an adjunct. I am able to be the sole breadwinner allowing my husband to stay home and take care of our children. There is also the added benefit of affordable health care. I had two C-section surgeries and two preemies, one of whom was in the NICU for three months and in the GCU for one. If we had been in the States when I had my two children, I think we would have gone bankrupt. I am not sure how I will find an equal or better occupation in the States or Canada where my family and I would most likely go if we left Japan. These factors compel me to stay.

Because of this conflict between the comforts and benefits of living here and my desire to leave, I have been at war with myself for about two years. Before I made the commitment to love myself and be true to my desires and needs, I thought that I needed to change my attitude in order to solve this problem. I needed to deny my needs to have a community and to be close to family and just accept the fact that I would never have that. I told myself that it was better to focus on the things I do have and to forget about the things that I don’t have. However, despite my efforts to accept my situation, the need to have family close and to be part of a circle of friends has always been there urging me to change my life, and now I don’t see a reason to deny myself the opportunity to pursue these dreams.

Part of loving myself is meeting my needs without judgment and with love and understanding. I do not question my children’s needs; I willingly meet them when I can. I take great care to validate their needs even when I don’t understand them, but I recognize the importance of being nurturing with my children, so why not do the same for myself? Why indeed considering those reasons that held me back no longer seem legitimate.

So, I’m leaving Japan. I still have a lot to do before I can pack up the family and go, but we will leave. It may not be this year, and it may not be next year, but everything I do from now until we make our move will be dedicated to finding a way to leave. I am now ready and willing to take the necessary steps that will take me out of this country. It feels great to finally allow myself this option. I am looking forward to finding and creating my village.

Until next time, I wish you all the very best.

 

Day 51

A Circle of Friends

I have friends and I am grateful for them, but I cannot deny the fact that I am very disappointed with my social life. I usually see my friends once or twice a year and some of them live very close to me. I would like to have friends who enjoyed spending time with me enough to make time to see me more than once or twice a year. I want people in my life who want to maintain a meaningful and close relationship with me, and I don’t think it is possible to do so if we only see each other once or twice a year, especially when it is usually at a party which makes it difficult to have a deep, meaningful conversation.

It is hard to write this because it admits that at 38 years old I have not managed to maintain a meaningful and deep relationship with anyone other than my husband. However, as I have committed to loving myself and meet my needs, I am allowing myself the desire to have meaningful and deep relationships with other adults outside of my family. I am admitting that I have a need, and that the friendships that I have although much appreciated and very valuable to me are not enough. The people with whom I have invested so much time and emotional energy for whatever reason are unable to meet my need for human connection. I am not angry with them or resentful, but I am sad. I am deeply saddened that feel unloved, undervalued, and insignificant in my current friendships. Well, those days are over.

There are people in my life who can give me what I need. There are people who love and respect me and want to commit to maintaining a relationship where we meet on a regular basis. There are people out there who would love to sit down with me and talk about life, the universe, and everything over a cup of tea. There are people who would like to share their ideas about parenting and living in a foreign country, and commiserate with me over the frustrations of being an adult child in a country whose language and culture continues to elude you despite the ten years you have spent there. Somewhere there is a woman whose parenting philosophy includes protecting her children’s psyche, helping them self-actualize through example. There is someone who is also asking the really big questions and getting a kick out of the adventure that comes with seeking the answers, and would love for me to join them on their journey.

I know you’re out there. I am open to meeting you whoever you are, and I am looking forward to experiencing life with a circle of friends.

Until next time, I wish all of you the very best.

Day 50

Riding the High of Self Love

So in my last post I described how I rescued the inner infant that was the source of my loneliness, and I am happy to say that the loneliness is still gone and I feel loved for the first time in a long time. This morning I had Dido’s song “Thank you,” playing in my head. I realized that I had no idea what the music video meant until last night. In the song, the speaker is describing all these bad things that are happening to her, and yet she is completely unaffected because she feels loved. That’s how I felt today when I overslept, and kind of started my day in a less than ideal way. Before I would have been really stressed out, but today, with the massive weight of loneliness lifted, I went through my day smiling and feeling as if I were floating on air.

It’s a wonderful feeling, and now instead of feeling fear and despair when thinking about my future, I feel hopeful and excited. I honestly feel physically lighter than I have ever felt. I have a different perspective on things that once disappointed me. Before when I was disappointed, felt under valued, or unimportant to people whom I valued, it was devastatingly painful. This of course was my inner infant begging to be loved and cared for. Now that she is being nurtured and feels loved, I no longer feel so down when things don’t go well in my social life. Sure I’m disappointed and a little sad, but I recover from those emotions much quicker than I did when such disappointments evoked the deep seeded loneliness born of the neglect and abuse I experienced as an infant. Now that I have reintegrated that part of myself that was stuck in the past, I am more present in the present. I feel fantastic.

I know I still have a long way to go, and there are still parts of myself that are still waiting in the shadows sending out signals to let me know my work has only just begun, but for now, for a little while, I am going to bask in the warm glow of feeling loved.

Wishing you all the best.

 

Day 40

Lost in the Shadows

After three attempts at shadow work, I have discovered that there is a part of me that is unbearably lonely. Last night, I sat with this feeling of loneliness. It is a lump in my throat, a hollow and persistent ache. It is a black hole of need that can never be filled and can never be satiated. Each time I have tried to embrace and accept this part of myself and find the root cause of this emotion, I have either been met with complete silence or I’ve fallen asleep. I wake up feeling anxious and panicked because I feel like I’m running out of time.

This is perhaps the hardest emotion I’ve had to face. I have grappled with loneliness for as long as I can remember. I can be surrounded by loved ones and still feel isolated and alone. This feeling prevents me from experiencing all the love and appreciation I receive from so many people in my life. Stuck in the past, I am unable to fully appreciate the people in my life who love and respect me. It’s like being in a glass bubble or living life as a ghost unable to experience what is going on in the present. I can see and hear the people around me, but I cannot feel their love. I know that the way to come to terms with this insatiable need for love, attention, and approval is to accept it and learn from it, but this is proving most difficult.

Nevertheless, I will persevere. I will find the source of  my loneliness. I will stay in the shadows until I can find the inner child who is trapped in this state of acute emotional pain and rescue her and tell her that everything is different now and she no longer has to feel so alone. This is my mission. I will succeed no matter how long it takes.

Until next time, I wish you the very best.

Day 39

Growing Pains: Learning To Thrive

In my last post, I mentioned the email I received from my mother and all the fear and anxiety it evoked. I’ve been grappling with those emotions all day. It’s brought up my past and it has made me realize that with my mother I often exist in the past.

My childhood was not a happy one. I spent most of my time feeling isolated, and desperate for attention, affection, and love. In elementary school during recess, I would find a little corner somewhere away from the other kids and just cry silently. I was in so much emotional pain, that in my early teens I contemplated suicide, and once downed an entire bottle of over the counter pain killers in a feeble attempt to end my life thereby ending the pain, but nothing happened. I didn’t even get sick, and I didn’t really want to die, I just wanted to be free of the pain.

Fortunately, this overwhelming agony dulled when my mother decided to enter my siblings and me into a private college preparatory school. Thoughts of suicide waned, and I found salvation in the pursuit of knowledge. I was happiest when I was learning, and I also had attentive and compassionate teachers under whose tutelage I thrived. It was the beginning of my love affair with academia.

I was also blessed with a family friend who took me under her wing, loved me unconditionally, and showed me that I mattered. In my early adult years, I confided in her sharing my emotional pain and misery with her, and she listened. She listened and she shared her story of pain and strife, and eventual triumph in the face of misery and self-doubt that comes out of a painful childhood. She too suffered emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her mother. Being able to share my pain with her helped me tremendously.

So I survived. I have been surviving most of my adult life. Although I am grateful for everything that I went through and all the things that I have learned throughout my life, and I know that those things will help me in my endeavors to be whole and happy, I am tired of just surviving. It’s not enough for me anymore. I’ve learned to love myself enough to give myself the permission to want a better life. I have just begun to live a life worth living, and it is proving much harder than a life lived surviving.

Thriving means delving deep into the shadows where the most brilliant parts of myself are waiting patiently to be released. They are the parts of myself I’ve abandoned in my childhood or in my adolescence in order to survive. They are the parts of myself that I need in order to thrive. I know this. I understand this, but the fear, that faithful and familiar companion that has been with me for so long, keeps me from going back in.

Although I’ve done it with excellent results, I am afraid to do shadow work. If you’ve followed this blog since the beginning you know that I’ve had great results from delving into the shadows. I’ve gained self confidence, a sense of purpose, and I now believe in my core that I matter and I have value. These are priceless and wonderful things, and they have all come about as a result of my facing my fears and plunging into the depths. So what’s stopping me now?

I can only say that it is the fear of losing my mother. The fear I feel now is related to my mother and our relationship. As I face this realization, I am reminded of Teal Swan’s video called “The Catch-up Effect” in which she talks about the real reason we fear change. She says that it is because we are afraid of losing a loved one. Of all the people in my life that I love, my mother is the one whose love I fear losing the most. Despite her constant betrayals, and her manipulation, and her disregard for my feelings and my individuality, I have always craved her love and attention. I am attached to my mother, and I’m afraid that if I do the work that I know I must do I will lose her.

This fear is irrational. There is no guarantee that I will lose her because after all, it is not my current relationship with my mother that is the problem, it is the trauma associated with the relationship that I had with her in the past. Resolving those issues that cause me to react negatively to the seemingly benign and even loving gestures she makes now will allow me to have a healthier and more adult relationship with my mother.It will give me the clarity I need to be present with our relationship now, so that I can behave appropriately when she offers to pay for my daughter’s tickets and offers to let us stay at her place. It will make our relationship better.

Rationally I know this, but the little girl inside of me that is afraid that confronting all the wrongs my mother committed in my childhood will result in mother’s disapproval and consequently the loss of her love is begging me not to do anything to jeopardize our relationship. Those parts of us that are stuck in the past have no idea that we are adults now and that our circumstances and our ability to change our situation have changed. They are still living in the past where the trauma occurred forever experiencing the emotions that were born of the trauma.

As I write this, the fear dissipates a little. I sigh deeply and accept what needs to be done. I will close my eyes, let myself feel what I feel and embrace it, sit with it, and learn what lessons I must from it. Delving into the shadows learning something about myself and reintegrating the part of me that is crying out to be loved and to be accepted I will emerge a stronger wiser version of myself ever blossoming into one who thrives.

Until next time, I wish you all the very best.

Day 38

An Email From Mom

This summer we plan to go to the States to visit family, and as usual my mother wants to monopolize all of our time. I just received an email from her lovingly offering to pay for my daughter’s ticket and explaining how nice it would be to have us stay at her house and how much she wants my children, especially my daughter, to stay with her. Really, nothing my mother ever offers comes with no strings attached. She is a master manipulator and she is all sweetness and light until you dare oppose her.

I feel like the walls are closing in on me. I feel pressured to say something to her, but I’m afraid of the fall out because we will not be staying with her, and will be staying at my husband’s parents’ house, which is not okay with my mother at all. She’ll use her usual “What about family,” speech in which she will completely lose sight of the fact that my husband’s family is family. I’ve been here before and I just don’t see a way out of this.

So of course I ask the question “What would someone who loved themselves do?” The answer is simple; someone who loved themselves would politely and lovingly inform their mother that they will be paying for their own tickets, and that they will be staying at their in laws’ house and that their children will stay with their mother at some time during their visit if their mother can respect their decisions and be pleasant when they come to visit her, if they decide to visit her.

I’d love to be able to say that. I’d love to be in a space in my life where that will be possible. However, this is easier said than done. I have a lot of fear where my mother is concerned, and rightly so, she is my mother. She raised me to fear her and to obey her, and to agree with her. She raised me to understand that she will withdraw her love the minute I even think of defying her, and my need for her love and approval is so deeply ingrained in me that I would rather abandoned myself and my family to keep her love. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it is true. I have so much work to do.

Until next time, I wish you all the very best.