The Root of Belonging, Pt 1

So I have been inconsistently trying to write about belonging for the better part of a year. I had “finished” an essay, and my friend and mentor told me to break into parts because each paragraph was just scratching the surface of the story buried beneath.  I bring you the first part of my story of belonging.

I have struggled with belonging my entire life, and as a consequence, it contributed in undermining my self-confidence into virtually nothing over time. Growing up, there was nothing I wanted more than to belong. Even if it was just a little bit. That didn’t happen. I had a much better relationship with my teachers than students my own age. Kids are cruel, manipulative, and traitorous as we grow into our skin. And it can cut deep, and those cuts can last inflict a lifetime of psychological damage, if we let it. Once we recognize the hurt and identify some the reasons we hide ourselves; it is up to us to alleviate that pain and grow into our best selves. It is no longer our role to be a victim. It is our role and responsibility to be a badass survivor.

two-options

The myth of the society we live in is that vulnerability and emotion are to be avoided at all costs, especially in public. I have adhered to that rule for most of my life, until about five years ago when I started to realize my own self-worth. I am not sure where the idea of being emotional and vulnerable equated to being weak, but that is the point of view I adopted early on in my life. I do not remember any specific conversations, either directly or indirectly, taking place in my house growing up. It could be that I thought with all the added stress of growing up with a special needs sister that my social difficulties at school were of secondary importance in my mind. I do not know. This is what I do know; I used my distain for vulnerability to create an armor around myself, because not doing so made middle and high school indescribably painful. I had been hurt too many times by letting people know me. I wasn’t about to let anyone else penetrate my armor of protection. I would never let myself be vulnerable again. It simply led to being hurt.

For the rest of my middle school and high school life, to say I was withdrawn and introverted, would be an understatement. For the majority of my middle and high school life, I went to school, later work, and I came home. I would hibernate to my room to escape into the world of sports, music, reading, and writing poetry. I had two after-school activities I participated in, one in middle school and one in high school. I was baseball card club, which is just what it sounds like. Yes that was the actual name of the club, and I had started following sports obsessively to fill a void in my life. Baseball card club especially was a refuge to the self-imposed isolation of my life in middle school. I could just truly be me there, because it was a bunch of other displaced kids who loved baseball cards and sports as much as I did. I think many of us were outcasts. It was an escape from the cruelty that can be middle school, and allowed us to bond in a non-judgmental way that eluded many of us. I loved it, and I was truly devastated when I graduated middle school because it was my one tether to other kids who didn’t judge me for being socially awkward and shy.

teenage hero jolie

In high school, I joined an environmental group called Students for the Environment (SFE). It was a club comprised of like-minded students who were environmentally conscious that organized and promoted environmental causes. Until sophomore year of high school, I still felt pretty isolated and awkward in the group. I had a few friends a grade below me join the group, and I almost developed real friendship there for the first time in years. I felt relatively comfortable, and this bizarrely scared me back into my shell, when I became aware of the connection that was occurring. I realized I could get hurt again, and I pulled back my real self. We were still friends, but I hid my real self behind self-deprecation humor and put my vulnerability armor on. This ended up sabotaging the friendship to one of superficial nature. Ironically, the detachment hurt. Except it was my fault this time, and that was the first time that I realized maybe this armor wasn’t as effective as I had constructed it to be. I didn’t understand what had happened to the friendship until many years later. I didn’t understand it was ultimately my fault that my ever-present armor caused the friendship to collapse. That is how apprehensive I was about connection, and vulnerability. I sacrificed my first connection in years due to my fear of rejection, vulnerability, and to let people see and know me for whom I was.

The concept of finding a place and people where I could feel comfortable just being me was elusive until I was in my 30’s.   My beloved Garden Elite being the exception to that rule at Union County College. I owe that group more than I could ever explain because of their immediate acceptance of me. I struggled to find my tribe of belonging, and it hurt until I turned off the emotional intelligence part of my brain. These revelations have taken place over the past few years due to a wonderful therapist, self-reflection, and finally realizing that I am worth knowing all aspects of myself, and others do as well. I became to understand more of why I acted the way I do, and the underlining why. And it was and is not easy.  The proverbial cliche of peeling of an onion is really apropos, and I’ve been digging deep into a lot of issues resulting in a lot of layers being peeled.  None of this is easy, but it is worth it. That is for another essay that is forthcoming.

shall pass kidney stone

I discovered more of the equation of belonging in high school while discussing it with a friend of mine I hadn’t seen in a few years. Every time we see each other, I realize how alike we are in many aspects. It is one of the those rare friendships that deepens over time, and it doesn’t matter how often we see each other. She has also struggled with belonging. We are both smart, definitely high on the nerd scale, had similar childhood backgrounds, and can be socially awkward. We tried clubs, activities, and eventually I gave up in high school except for SFE. I ended up working a lot. She was much braver than I was, and did a variety of after school activities that I am still in awe of. I didn’t know much about this until recently, and our friendship has been evolving in the best way as I become more vulnerable and trusting. It seems the more vulnerable I become; the deeper the friendship goes. Vulnerability and trust go together like thunderstorm and a rainbow. It is sometimes volatile, but a beautiful thing to watch as the light comes shining through illuminating the invisible beauty within. It’s been a hard concept to grasp, and grudgingly accept as truth. Since I have an exceptionally hard time practicing both vulnerability and trust. Both are worth risking in order finding your true belonging, and your true self.

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Empathy and Vulnerability

I had dinner at my apartment with one of my best friends, who has gone through a lot lately. We were talking and she said, “we tend to hide from the people who know us best. Because they can see us.” And all of a sudden, the pain and the hurt over the past few months made sense. I have been her, and I have written about it. Because being seen when you have been through so much shit feels so fraking painful. It is so much safer to hide yourself than be vulnerable, and it is often with the ones who love you that you hide from. It is so much easier to put on a front of antipathy when you are feeling like your world is collapsing.

judgment self-destruction

Except it really isn’t easier. This has taken a lot of time and self-reflection to get this perspective.  For further explanation, I wrote about it here. It was before I understood that I am worthy of sharing my emotion with people. That by shutting off my emotion to those who love me the most, I could (and have) end up with fractured and untimely-ended relationships. Trust is deserved to go both ways. It wasn’t until the past six months that I understood how much I potentially and unknowingly hurt my friends in the past. I wouldn’t let them in. I thought it would hurt too much based on prior experience. I thought I had to be the strong one.  It was all very wrong in every aspect. Learned behavior is such a bitch to change. It was an epiphany of epic portions.

point in life

There is something about being empathetic that engenders compassion, obviously. In the past couple of years, I have somehow been able to create an emotional block where the physical pain of empathy is no longer felt, but the energy of soul releasing it remains available for reception and interpretation.  This has allowed me to be able to control how the energy of empathy is interpreted and transformed into an emotional energy I can interpret without it being crippling to me.  It is a welcome development to both myself and those around me.  For my entire life empathy has been a crippling sense of duty and painful burden.  “The Block” as I call it, has been a freeing and glorious development.  I can use my empathy to problem solve the best way to help the pain, and now it feels like a gift I am meant to share with the world instead of being a martyr to it.

This might not make any sense unless you are an empath, and I apologize if you feel confused.  When I explain this to empaths, they ask me “how did I do that”?  I wish I knew how.   I know believe that people have specific gifts they are meant to share with the world to fulfill their greater purpose.  Empathy is one of my true gifts to the world, and most of the time it felt like a curse to me.  I wake up most days grateful to have it, and can sense and then ease pain in a friend.  Sometimes all it takes is a “that really sucks and I’m sorry” or a really funny meme.

life is all the feels

I think it was when I made an unconscious decision to be seen and my presence known that this mindset shifted. It was no longer about me. It never truly was. It was my decision to step up to my value as a human being and a person when things started to shift in my life. I am gifted with a variety of leaders in my life, but I am stepping up to the Viper, taking flight, and starting to become my own leader. It’s not a role I ever thought I’d be playing, but here it is. It is time to step up. Step up to leadership and responsibility, in spite of how terrifying it is. It is time to be me. Whole-heartedly and with passion. Fear be damned because it’s my time to be bold. It’s my time to grow into myself, again.

Friendship and Progress

Hello out there in blog land.  I have been away for a long time, and I apologize for that.  I will not make excuses for myself, and just know that I have been writing.  I just wasn’t ready to share a lot of it publicly.  Here is one of many to come.  If you are still out there ready this, I can never express my gratitude to my readers for being there offering supporting.

Every time a friend of mine (and sometimes I considered them close friends) has pretty much made it clear that they no longer wish to be friends, I have let it go. I have not asked why or what I did to cause their alienation. It hasn’t happened in several years where I felt a significant loss. I have learned to choose my friends carefully. I sent a text to a friend of mine about two months ago, saying “hey would love to see you and get catch up.” No response. I briefly ask about her to a mutual acquaintance, and she said a friend of hers is going through a rough time that is probably why. I texted a month ago, and still nothing. I finally got up the courage tonight to be like, “I clearly have done something to offend you, and I would like to know what it is to avoid it in the future. I truly am sorry for anything I have done to hurt you.” This was not an easy text to send. I love this person. But something had clearly changed. As always my scientist brain likes to know why because a) so I can maybe fix it if it’s a misunderstanding; b) avoid doing whatever it was/is in the future.

They responded very courageously themselves, “I don’t know what to say, other than I don’t wish to have a dialogue[…]I wish you the best and will remain kind and cordial.” She could have ignored me. Or blasted me. Did I learn what happened? No. Do I have an inkling of what might have happened? Yes. Do I have closure? Somewhat.

let go of people

People move in and out of our lives. I don’t let a lot of people in to begin with, so when one leaves it creates a hole. And it hurts. Every time. Because I want to know what I did, and that is probably selfish of me. It is also entirely possible that I didn’t really do anything, and the friendship had simply run its course. In this instance though, for the first time probably ever, I have confronted the situation. I didn’t just let the other person go; I deserved confirmation of events. And I got it. Not necessarily the way I wanted it, but I know where I stand. And sometimes that has to be good enough.

I have another friend, someone who knows me better than anyone, and I feel that we are at a crossroads. And that hurts. It wasn’t until tonight that I have begun to understand why we are at a crossroads. I stopped growing and pushing myself. I had identified a lot of some of the deeper issues. I wrote a ridiculous amount in August and September, but all of it scared me. It is one of the only times on my self-development journey that I ran away from confronting the demons within. I don’t know why, maybe because it was all too close to confront. There would be a lot of hurt, pain, and growth involved. I was identifying the bullshit obstacles in my life, and there was a lot to identify. Therefore, a lot to process and change. The demon within said, “haven’t you done enough of that? Don’t you deserve a break from self-reflection?” I unknowingly agreed.

The conclusion I came to tonight after hearing her impassioned plea to be better and courageous? I deserve to step up into so many aspects of my life. Deserve to get back in there. Deserve to be seen again. Because for so long I have been half-seen. I couldn’t go back to not being seen at all. But to trying to lurk and be seen was mainly myself wanting to hide behind a layer of bullshit. And the bullshit layer eventually starts to hurt.

I have tackled a lot of mind bullshit layer before, but this feels profoundly different. This hurts more than almost any other time. I have pushed myself so far into the background that my own friends might not recognize me anymore. My gift. My passion. My code. Has been buried under a maze of bullshit that I am just starting to dig out of the manure and see the root of greatness ready to sprout.

judgment self-destruction

It’s interesting because I thought I was digging through it for months now. And I have, in a way. I am now at the crust of my potential, and I know the pain to go through that will be so intense. I want to shrink back and procrastinate into oblivion Quite frankly, that has not worked out well for me. They say, you experience growth when your pain becomes bigger than your obstacles. Well, I think I am finally there. My heart is racing and I am SCARED about where I am about to go. Because I know it’s big. I just have to keep going upwards, and not let myself get sidetracked by the demon within that pushes procrastination with meaningless drivel.

I have not felt this kind of raw pain in some time. It feels good, somehow. Like I am alive again. I realize that I have been working towards this for about nine months. I have stumbled again and again by own my mind giving me an excuse to procrastinate on the meaningless distraction. I am grateful for this journey. For all this pain. Because it is all part of a plan to show myself that I can prove myself right. That this is the true me. The ugly, messy, and fucked self that is also so grateful to be alive and on this path to greatness.

Where am I going with this? I am declaring to be better every day. I am declaring to getting back to myself and showing people how to build a better life through my example. I am declaring that I will not stop until this pain of disappointment is consumed with gratitude of being an inspiration to thousands. Because I can. I have before. I just got very lost in my own head of doubt and shame, and I just needed a compass of encouragement to get me out. Well, here I am. I am coming, and I am ready to be me. I don’t think I have ever been so scared, except for the last time I found myself. This time I will not run away. I am running towards the demon of shame. Because that is the only way to conquer shame. To shine light on it, and extinguish the flame of self-deceit.

Demon Within

It causes

Inexplicably

Self-
Destructive

Behavior.

Sometimes

Repeatedly,

and
Often.

worst yet,

We

See
what is

Happening

and

Do

Nothing

about

It.

It is

Easier

to

Ignore

the

Demon
within

than to

Conquer

the
Devil

behind
It.

The
ultimate

Culprit

is

Shame.

which

Breeds

in

Fear,

Secrecy,

and Judgment.

The
best

way
to

Duel
the

Demon

Within

is to

bring the
Secret

Out.

Own
your

Story,

own
Your

Imperfections.

this

Painful
Concession

Sets

us

Free.

from the

impossible

Burden
of

Perfection.

which

Destroys

the

best of

Us

when
we

Strive

to Reach
it.

My
Ultimate

Vulnerability

is when
I

Write

for the
World

to

Delve into.

I love
to

Hate
the Process.

Cliché as
it is,

it Sets
me

Free.

it is
my

Art

to

Transcend

my Pain,

Vulnerability,

Epiphanies,

and Emotion

to
Share

Connection

with
a greater

Audience.

That is my

Power

and
one
of
my

Gifts
to

Share

with

Intention

of
Connection.

Hiding, Settling, and Pushing

For the past year I have been hiding behind my circumstances of injury, PTSD, hurt, depression, and the worst one is self-deceit. I have always been quite open to criticism, so I could power forward and learn. Last year is all of my inner circle was going through heavy shit just like I was. They were not in a position to offer constructive criticism because they were trying to survive. Which I understood because we were all struggling in different, but very challenging obstacles. As my friend put it, we ALL went south for a period of time. I have written about hitting my wall here. Anytime I had hit a wall I went into survival mode, which meant I went into a ball. I was talking with a friend of mine about childhood bullying in general, and snowball fights came up. She said that she hated them. I said, I always thought they were fun. She retorted, “I was always the one being pelted and worried my glasses would break”. I said, “oh I just always went into a ball.” She said, “I just stood there”. I had an epiphany that day about my reaction to internal struggle, and about how when things really get tough I would go into a ball. She said, “it’s time to unfurl. And I’ve been watching you slowly unfurl for 6 years now. It’s time to unfurl and become fully you”.

believeinyourself

From that moment on, I have been steadily and more consciously unfurling myself from the past year of pain, heartache, and being utterly lost. Being lost sucks. Either metaphorically or physically. My life that I had taken so much effort and time to create was slowly being dismantled. The worst part is I was the one who was unconsciously administrating the dismantling. The biggest bitch of it was, I truly didn’t realize how bad it was. Or how much I had internalized my pain that was externalized into confusion. All of these realizations have come about today, and things are starting to click.

For my social marketing business, we are doing a 90 day bootcamp with a training call every Sunday with some of the top leaders in the company. The trainer on the call on Sunday asked, what do you fear the most? I instantly wrote disappointment. And then wrote in big letters FUCK under it. My instant  reaction and consistent fear is not being disappointed, but in disappointing others. It is then when the epiphanies started infiltrating my brain.  Disclaimer:  if you cursing bothers you, I would suggest skipping this entry entirely.

The internal dialogue went something like this:

Me: I thought I conquered that
Inner me (referenced as the niggle from now on): apparently not
Me: Well frak. What am I supposed to do about that?! There’s no book for that. Because I have tackled a lot of things, and I bet that is the underlying cause of a lot of it.
This was later exposed as doubt in therapy, it’s been a heavy week.

When I encounter a problem I can’t solve, I text my coach to ask for guidance. I said something like, “I have an answer to the trainers question and it’s fraking disappointment. I am not sure what to do about it.”

catepillar

My coach says, “It’s a legit fear, and to lean into it and do it.”

I was confused by this and responded, “lean into disappointment?”

My infinitely patient coach says, “no. Lean into the FEAR of disappointment and do it anyway.” After that I got it, and have proceeded to not only kick ass but KILL the niggle. My therapist was resistant to the word kill (she wanted it to have a permanent vacation). I know how insidious that little bastard is, and it needs to die before it infects another human being with its nonsense.

I hit what I call the frak it button, but only part way.  Like a safety on a gun. To clarify, my version of the frak it button is I don’t care WTF people think of me. I do it anyway. This is how I went to the second level of leadership the first time with my social marketing business, and am doing it again now. And it feels SO GOOD to be me again. But that’s a different entry all together.  I am ready to pull the trigger on the frak it button.  Be all in.

After today, I went through something called EFT (look it up of you’re curious) or otherwise called tapping. I went FAR back to where the niggling (saboteur) came from. The emotional imprint originated from an incident so long ago. Except after processing the memory, I discovered that it morphed into disappointment others not so much myself.

THIS is when the epiphany occurred. If you believe that you have disappointed others, especially if you are viewing it from a leadership role, GIVE IT UP. Two reasons, 1) you haven’t and your life’s purpose is bigger than you; 2) any mentor or coach who feels that way isn’t worth your time. Because if your mentors/coaches feel that way, they are making it about them. My experience is that people eventually make themselves known. Carletta Nelson says, “time either exposes you or establishes you.” Which is dead true. I have spent the past year or more trying to figure out my place in this world.   I do apologize for all clichés in this articles, but sometimes there is no other better substitute. They are clichés for a reason.

self-love train

It has been awhile, which is a huge red flag for me, where the lesson caused me utter terror. Because it means I am ready to be the leader so many others leaders believe I am, but more importantly I Believe that to be true.

This entry has been a long time coming. I went into a ball to protect myself last spring (literally and figuratively), hit an emotion wall in September, and have been slowly unfurling myself ever since.

It is about trying to have the courage to fulfill my greater purpose. I always knew I would have courage to fill it. I was unsure of the timeframe. I ready to embrace the reality and responsibility of being the leader of this company now.

My greater and life purpose is to teach other people how to build a better life of their own through empowerment, as well as expressing my love of arts while being able to make a bitchin’ income at the same time. My greater purpose is about fulfilling lives, and I am READY to fill that purpose. Bring it on life. I am ready.

Grief Journey

I was inspired to write this by a friend of mine’s hashtag Grief Journey.

Grief is
Never

Neat
and

Tidy.

in
some
Ways

Depending
on the

Connection

it might
Linger

for

Years.

it can
Lessen

as we

Heal,

but the

Memories
of

Time

Lost

is a

Consistent

Burden.

Feeling
as

though

We are

Suspended

in

Time.

As the
Pain

lessens

the
Guilt

sets in.

How
could
we

Forget?

it’s a
Cycle,

and it
Sucks.

but it

Sucks

beautifully.

our

Memories

Turn from

Pain
and

Heartache

to
one of

happy
Reflection

of a

Commonality

still

Shared.

Pain and Acceptance of the Rainbow Bridge

The decision was made to put my dog down last Saturday, and we all knew it was coming.  He had a fantastic, long life, but it doesn’t prepare you for the pain of losing a pet.  I asked why it was called the Rainbow Bridge, and several people linked me to the story.  I didn’t find any solace in it at all, and in fact just the opposite.  So here is my version of the Rainbow Bridge. Farewell my baby boy, I hope you catch all the squirrels. xoxo

Version 2

My mom with Doonie

Pain and Acceptance of the Rainbow Bridge (c) A. Krukovsky 2018

There’s a

Void,
a Hole,
a Gap

in my
Soul

which
Cannot be
filled

with logic
or reason.

It sometimes doesn’t
Feel
real,
then it can be so

Painfully Real that
I can’t
Breathe.

I know You have
Gone,
and that is was
your Time.

it might be terrible, but
I don’t take
much
Solace in that
fact.

there is still only
Pain and
Loss.

You were always there to
Comfort,
Soothe, and
Snuggle

whenever we
Needed you to.

and now it’s an

Empty Blanket,

left vacant and cold.

I can’t come to Peace with that,
even Days later.

May we find each other in
another life,
at another time,
where there will only be

Beauty,
Snuggles,
Kisses, and
Frolicking to be had.

None of this Pain that
Haunts me.

I know the grief will get better, but
It hasn’t Yet.

Despite all this Grief,
I do take Comfort
in Knowing
there is

Beauty and
Purpose

in all things.

Even in grief and loss.

May we meet again
in this life or another,

Until then
I will Cherish
the memories of the

Snuggles and
Love

We had for
Each
other.

 

Ambition and Small-Minded People

To be successful you must have a few things as your core beliefs to achieve long-lasting success. I believe those things to be integrity, ambition, and stickability to never quit. I am lucky to have a reservoir of all those traits, and admittedly sometimes those traits get buried underneath stories that no longer served me. The more dangerous aspect of being successful, though is you become a target. Often it is those closest to you. They tend to be jealous, narcissistic, and fear-based human beings who only know how to deal with success-minded people by hurting them. I am calling it the small-minded syndrome.

As I rose in the levels of leadership, I had wonderful mentors who offered council on how to grow and implement strategies to continue the platform of success. Along my journey of self-discovery and greatness, I had various and sometimes close members of my family say very hurtful and occasionally devastating proclamations. Such as, “this will never work”; “you are never here when we need you”, and my personal favorite, “you’ll never move out” with a sneer and scoff. They wanted to keep me “small” because their life is small. They were unable to make the commitment to make their small, unfulfilling existence into something they could truly be proud of. They resented not being able to be courageous in their life; therefore aimed to keep me small in mine.

The little jabs that are seemingly innocent at first, when reflected upon become a glaringly obvious lever of manipulation and belittling. It took me a long time to realize that what my friends and family were saying was not only debilitating to me, but indirectly to them. It is a direct reflection of how they value their lives and themselves when they bring people down with sometimes seemingly innocuous comments. They might even perceive themselves as being funny, which I have written about here. I am realizing that the people verbalizing to inflict wounds are not usually bad people. I believe that most people love and express themselves in the best way they know how, and sometimes that way is royally fraked.

There are people in society who do not have a life of their own, so they must tear down others to feel better about their small life. This is not to say that it doesn’t hurt just as deep. Because It Does. Holy hell it does. There are some people who know just what buttons and emotions to press to sustain massive internal damage that can leave us wrecked for days. It can continue to hurt for some time after the initial barrage after you process the hell you’ve endured, and the effects can last for years. They say forgiveness is really a gift to yourself, but I have a hard time forgiving those who have deeply hurt the ones closest to me. To be honest, I do not think I’ve ever fully processed the people who have hurt me the most. I am not sure I want to.

There are times in my life where I felt untouchable and kicked ass in every aspect of my life. When anyone tells me I can’t do something, I take that as a personal affront and avenge to prove them wrong. And I do, almost every time. It often comes at a cost, though.  Everything worthwhile has a cost, and it’s a cost I will gladly pay. You find out who really loves you and wants you to succeed. And who wants to keep you small and on their level of comfort. This is when small-minded people feel threatened the most, when you are ready to have a mindset shift. It is also the time when the disparaging and denigration is at a peak. I have come to the conclusion that this is a defense mechanism, and it saddens me. It still hurts like hell when someone close to you assaults you with words. The person who wrote, “sticks and stones my break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was an idiot of epic proportions. I would much rather have someone throw a stone at me than words that penetrate and sometimes break my soul open. Cuts bleed, scab, then heal and fall off. Words though? They penetrate and can become a black hole of self-doubt, pain, and anger. They can fracture families and leave a permanent rift that will never be healed. Words become thoughts, thoughts become actions, and actions can have devastating results. Verbal abuse leaves a much longer affect on the soul and harder to remedy on one’s psyche than physical.

that is pain

Any kind of abuse obviously is traumatic, but one is more sinister because it is much easier to hide from a physical and psychological aspect.   It often takes place through self-delusion and denial brought on by low self-esteem from being broken in the past. These pieces are often buried deep, and sometimes we think we have gotten past them. This is where small-minded people are so insidious. Because they are usually weaved into your life, and sometimes pretty intricately. And they know us. The clinically narcissistic ones use that knowledge to inflict the worst kind of psychological pain.  Some even take glee in it.

Everyone is a work in progress. I have hurt those I love, and some of them deeply. The difference is I am willing to apologize, and learn how to corrective action so I don’t hurt them again. Small-minded people have no desire to better themselves because that would take effort and a commitment to go outside their comfort zone. They would much rather tear others down instead. I am working towards accepting and almost feeling pity for those with small-minded syndrome. Except the hurt goes deep, and I’ve got a long way to go for that mindset switch to occur.

Protecting Our Students

I started this as a Facebook status that morphed into a blog entry. It is obviously not my typical subject category, but I feel this needs to be written and explored. This is not the time for hate, rhetoric, or FB political discussions that tend to be non-productive at best. It is a time for love, light, and actual discussion of a solution to solve this problem. One of my unwritten rules of this blog was no politics. I am breaking that rule today.

politics

I am scared, confused, and heartbroken for not only my country, but also every citizen in it. Risk is a part of my life. It is part of what makes it fun and fulfilling when we push ourselves to be better or do something outside our comfort zone. Risk should not include seeing a movie, going to school, or church. Death should not be a considered risk for going out.

I respect and support the right to own guns, but there is not one reason outside of the military and law enforcement that anyone needs a semi-automatic assault rifle. NO ONE. Not hunters and not people who shoot for the skill. I have lots of friends who own guns, and most of them say there is no reason for people to own semi-automatic assault rifles.

GunControlMeme

How did we get here? I am not even a parent yet, and I am almost scared for my cousins and all my friends with kids. How is this okay?! How do we teach them to love and live in a world that is filled with hatred? These are hard questions that are just getting more complicated and scary. School teachers who texted their spouses something like this: “don’t be a hero and get out of there if [a school shooting] were to happen”. This is NOT normal.

School is hard enough without having to worry about getting shot in the process. I am not being glib. Middle school is brutal, and it doesn’t get much better in high school. And now some of them have to contend with the thought of being shot, too?

Five school shootings this year, that’s a little less than one a WEEK since the beginning of the year (Cox, et. al). Something needs to change. The country and our kids deserve something more than thoughts and prayers because that phrase gets more hollow every time mass shootings happen with no action to back up those thoughts and prayers. Do they (Congress, leaders) prayer for a safer life and community? Do something about it that will actually ensure change for those prayers and not just rhetoric for a sound bite.

arm every teacherThere have been studies from around the world of why mass shootings are such an issue in the United States. Many theories abound: lack of mental healthcare; it’s a violent society, and it’s a divisive country. It’s quite simple, and it’s about math. It’s the astronomical amount of guns. We hold 4.2% of the population, but an almost an insane 42% of the world’s guns. Only Yemen has a higher rate of mass shootings than the United States (Fisher et al). The article is quite a stark look at gun facts across the globe. The difference is the culture and the choice we have made over the years. Unregulated gun rights versus responsibility and cost of society. Life is about choice, and government is no different.

john oliver

Depending on the source the number varies to as low as 25.  It’s still a high number.

I am not delusional in thinking that there will be sensible gun laws enacted any time soon. In fact our president repealed the mental health background checks last February. The first argument will be “but the 2nd amendment!” Yes, we have the right to bear arms. I do think it’s safe to say that there should be restrictions in the right to obtain those arms. I hope there aren’t too many logical person that actually thinks the government is coming after your legal guns that you already own. I would be very interested to see actual evidence that this has ever happened in the United States in recently history (meaning the last 25 years). I am not talking about buying back gun programs; I am referring to guns permanently removing legally obtained guns from a house that were not connected to a crime. I am not saying it hasn’t happened, but it’s probably pretty rare.

Another favorite argument, the criminals will get guns anyway so why make it harder for responsible citizens to get one? Agreed, people will always find a way to get something if they really want to. But why not make it harder for them to get it legally? Stronger background checks is something 90% of Americans and even 52% to 74% of NRA members approve of (Parker 2017, Kertscher 2015, respectively). Another argument is Chicago’s gun violence, which does have strict gun control laws. The surrounding states, however, do not have strong gun laws. More than half the number of guns recovered in crimes came from out of state (Kurtzleben 2017).

forefathers

I love this country. I think we are in a time of transition, and we aren’t quite sure where to go or who we are. We are like teenagers, and there’s so much at stake. Not just for this country, but for the globe. The United States has set the precedent for many world issues in the past, and we have fallen behind in many areas. I almost feel like it’s Star Wars, and the country is being pulled to the Dark Side. There is a growing divide in this country of hate and derision that is only getting stronger and spreading. I do not pretend to know the answers, nor do I wish for this to extend into the typical online forum of very little discussion and much rhetoric. I am all for an actual discussion though. Let there be peace and change.

Sources

Cox, John Woodword and Steven Rich. The Washington Post, 2/15/2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/no-there-havent-been-18-school-shooting-in-2018-that-number-is-flat-wrong/2018/02/15/.

Fisher, Max and Josh Keller. “What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer”. The New York Times, 11/7/2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/07/world/americas/mass-shootings-us-international.html.

Kertscher 2015. “Most NRA members back background checks on all gun purchases”.   Politifact, Times Publishing Company, 3/18/2015. http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2015/mar/18/lena-taylor/most-nra-members-back-background-checks-all-gun-pu/.

Kurtzleben 2017. “Fact Check: Is Chicago Proof that Gun Laws Don’t Work?” National Public Radio, NPR, 10/05/2017. https://www.npr.org/2017/10/05/555580598/fact-check-is-chicago-proof-that-gun-laws-don-t-work.

Parker 2017. “Among gun owners, NRA members have a unique set of views and experiences”. The Pew Research Center, 7/5/2017. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/07/05/among-gun-owners-nra-members-have-a-unique-set-of-views-and-experiences/.

 

Myth of Self-Depreciation Humor

I am from Jersey, which means a few things. I know what a jughandle is; we understand how to navigate a traffic circle, and we not only talk sarcasm we breed it. I get it. I have done it. I lived it, been proud of it. We wear sarcasm like armor.  There is sarcasm which can be witty, and then there is self-depreciation “humor”.

The more time I have spent with my family recently, whom I love dearly, it is readily apparent how frequently some of them use the latter as a deflection tactic in the aim of humor that I used for years. No one likes a person who takes themselves too seriously, but there is a line between light-hearted banter and consistently put yourself down.  It is not funny to actively break your own self down. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because your brain doesn’t know what is true and what isn’t.  If you say it enough times, even if it was jokingly at first, it becomes a reality in your mind.  A reality that is incredibly challenging to break.  I did this for years. And there’s a reason people do it.

day stop self-destruction

Depending on your life experiences, it can be easy to make fun of yourself. You may say, “easy?”  If this is your reaction, I am epically happy for you.  If you come from a background of belittling, bullying or abuse it becomes is a defense mechanism. In one’s mind they think, “what must this person be thinking about me? I’ll short circuit their thinking and prevent their verbal strike by making myself smaller.” What is the one thing above anything else that human beings protect themselves against from an evolutionary perspective? Being hurt and pain. It’s instinctual and biological, and fighting instinct is a formidable task. Eventually when you experience that much emotional pain, the self-depreciation humor becomes like Captain American’s protective shield. I have been thinking about this for a few weeks now, and it became crystal clear today when I heard it multiple times from multiple people I care about. These are smart and successful people who have no business saying they are a loser or lazy.

goal bullshit story

On the opposite side of all this are the people who have hurt you in the past. I am not saying whatever they did was justified because it most likely wasn’t.  I have come to the conclusion that most people do not mean to be hurtful in their actions. Most people love and act the best way they know how, and sometimes it’s incredible destructive because that’s all they have been taught. It sucks on both ends of the interaction.

One of the most painful parts of this discovery is how real this reality has been for me.  I am certain I did this on a daily basis. It is the self-worth onion that is continually evolving. It literally pains me to hear the ones I love say these things about themselves. Because I know it’s not true.  It also makes things so much clearer as to why I did it for so long.  It’s what I knew.

permission

I don’t have a solution to this. The armor is kind of like the Emperor’s new clothes. It is not real. And eventually that armor actually ends up being more of a self-penetrating device because it punctures your self-confidence every time you use your self-imposed ammunition of protection.

2017, the Takeaway thru all of the Bullshit

2017 has been filled with good, bad, and ugly. There has been a lot of bad and ugly in my case, but it has also been filled with the opportunity of growth and stubborn determination to breakthrough the ugly. If someone had told me last year at this time: I would be a life-changing accident, get my hours cut, months of on-going physical therapy, and subsequently months of on-going therapy, I would have said you are nuts and I want some. And yet that is what happened and then some.

that is pain

Like most of my friends, 2017 was a year of growth and pain. It was also the year of discovering my inner-resolve and growth. The year of how fucking bad do you want this life. For me, I have had to have more tenacity in both my growth and business than I ever had before. It was up to me and me only to get schnitz done. I would apologize for all the cursing in this entry, but I really don’t care.

Because it got real this year. In every fraking way of my life did it get real. My business, my work life, and my life in general. I have struggled more than I have in a very long time, and you know what? I conquered it.  It wasn’t pretty, but I did it. I conquered the deck I was dealt, and I nailed that river card like I was in Vegas betting my life.

breakdown no matter

In a lot of ways, I did bet my life. I put so much on the line that I haven’t before. I was more vulnerable in my writing than ever. Relating my struggles with PTSD, my life struggles of the last five years, and becoming the person I wanted to be. The person I was distancing myself being (the partier) from that at times keeps coming back trying to pull me back to mediocrity. There is nothing wrong with partying lifestyle per say. I have done all of that, and enjoyed it at the time. I have had some of my best times partying with the people I love. It’s just not who I am growing into becoming, and sometimes it’s tough to remind myself of that.

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Part of my fam

This is a relatively short entry about this past year. There is so much to ponder, and tonight I was pushing towards a goal and I reached it. One takeaway, there is nothing as satisfying as reaching a goal you thought was out of a reach a few days ago. This is a cliché, but if you do your best and miss at least at the end of the day, you can hit your head on the pillow with a quiet calm of knowing you can kick ass tomorrow. I know from experience that regret sucks. Some of my worst pain, and there’s been quite a bit, has been from the things I didn’t attempt for fear of disappointment. Fail forward towards your best self. It sucks. It hurts. But you do move forward.