BYJ: Day 41 – Accept Your Imperfections

Wow!

For those of you that have been following my blog for a while, you know I have been reading a book, sporadically, about working on my own beauty – it’s a book focused on transforming oneself into woman more empowered to accept her own beauty. The topic for day 41 is Accepting Your Imperfections.

And the reason I said “Wow” above, is because of the sheer irony of how much I need to pay attention to the advice on this section.  The author says, “Not one of us is perfect, and yet we often worry that if we don’t keep the illusion of our own perfection, someone might discover our horrifying secret – that everything we do isn’t brilliant.”  I don’t think there is a statement that describes my struggle more accurately and after reading this, it made me realize how much I have depended on others’ acceptance of me – or actually, their praise of me.

Obviously, this is something I have been working on and I’m still struggling with it. And today, as a bout of depressive feelings come on (I might write more about this later), I’m glad I read it. I needed to see it. I needed to see that it is okay to not meet the standards I think others have for me. Or better yet, even if people do have those standards that they feel I need to meet, it is entirely up to me if I even want to bother. Sometimes, it is easy to lose sight of the big picture, so to speak.

Today, I’m going to focus on this author’s final sentence on this topic:

“And by embracing who you are – strengths and challenges entwined – you begin to celebrate the beauty within you.”

Keeping Me In Your Prayers…

God never intended for you to be treated like that”.

This line stood out in the email I received this morning from a fellow blogger.  And truthfully, it means a lot to me to receive compassion and kindness from people – unfortunately, I feel the world can use more kindness and compassion.  But this was truly meaningful and this blogger was referring to an event I had blogged about, where I had been sexually assaulted when I was a lot younger than I am now.  I truly believe this blogger wants the best for me and she offered to include me in her prayers.

She isn’t the first to offer prayers for me. I’ve had a couple of other wonderful bloggers here offer the same.  Sometimes, I think they pray to help me find peace from my depression or anxiety. Sometimes, I believe they hope I find a resolution to my sexual hang-ups. Sometimes, I wonder if they hope I become more of a believer in God – in Jesus Christ. Whatever the reason, I am always thankful and appreciative of the sentiment.

But, I would be lying, if I said I believed the same.  I simply do not.  Of course, there is this part of me that wants to believe the Pie In the Sky, that there is some sort of Higher Power.  I have mentioned in many of my posts that this is something I believe I will always struggle with understanding. I’ve even mentioned that I have made my Higher Power – or my God, if you will – some very unsavory things: alcohol, money, sex, etc. Having been raised as a Catholic, I have a fairly good knowledge base of what the faith of my youth teaches and requires – of course, I have had many a confessor explain to me that development of my personal relationship with God is of the utmost importance, over the ritualistic practices of my faith. The reality, for me, is that I have found peace in a lot of the things I have participated in, when it comes to practicing that faith.  Unfortunately, however, I can’t find a way to make my sexuality coincide with the faith of my youth. I can’t find the requisite reconciliation of my sexual preferences and I find that attempting to “force” it, makes me miserable – I’m growing quite fond of accepting myself as I am.

I won’t link each and every post I’ve made about my struggle with God, because it would take me forever, but simply searching for God or Religion on my blog, you can find quite a few things I have posted. I will always be aware that I have a connection to God on some level. I can’t simply ignore God as a myth or something made up. I even have a scientific understanding of God – and won’t go into detail about why I believe it to be the case, other than to say that the same reasoning that a lot of scientists use to not accept a God is the exact same reasoning that many believers use to accept God. But I also think that there are things about human nature that can not be ignored outright either, but seem to be in direct conflict with the God of most religion’s understanding – namely sexuality.

I can not accept that sexuality is a man made (or human made) construct – there have been a multitude of situations where people were not influenced into their sexual preferences. Of course, I would be a liar, if I did not accept that there are some things that influence sexual behavior. I mention this, because of the sexual assault I described on an earlier post and linked above.  There are most certainly, situations that have an influence on how people view sex. I can even remember times in my life that I have questioned sexuality and have been told there is nothing wrong with impulses and urges, as long as some were not acted on.  But that is part of the conundrum I have with the matter – who dictates that?  Some say God dictates this, but the references they use are the documents that have been scrutinized for as long as their existence and they have all had mankind’s direct involvement in their creation. The nature versus nurture debate goes right along with this.

I have always felt that there is some truth to both a natural existence of sexual orientation, as much as their is a nurturing understanding of human sexuality. I can give specific examples from my own life where I felt both of these forces at work – granted, it took the totality of my life to really begin to grasp the concepts. I have been slowly arriving at a place were I peacefully know more about myself than I did when I was a 12 year old, a 15 year old, a 21 year old or even a 35 year old.  I can’t ignore my attractions to women, just like I can’t ignore my attractions to men. I have a basic desire to be loved, and I don’t want to question if it comes from a woman or if it comes for a man.  Sometimes, I feel masculine and yet sometimes I like the way I look in a skirt. I don’t want to feel the conflict of doing something evil – especially when there are real atrocities in the world.  I want to believe in a God that loves me, but I can’t ignore scientific principles.

And, I want the feeling of sexual fulfillment.

And I value my friendships – especially those that keep me in their prayers.

Chiseled Into Beauty

As many of you have realized from my blogs, I suffer from some pretty major self-esteem issues.  I am on a path to recovery, however, and participated in a little more Mountain Therapy over the past week or so.  I didn’t go on any long hikes, but rather, did a little driving in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado and one particular place really stood out to me and I did hike/climb to it. The Natural Arch shown here:

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I had been here before around 20 years ago, but the impact it had on me then wasn’t nearly as strong as it was now.  Of course, 20 years ago, I was much healthier, much stronger and I didn’t have nearly the aches and pains as I do now. But I climbed the fairly steep incline to reach the arch.  Unfortunately, I only have one picture, but I assure you this is a big oval that is, maybe, 30 feet top to bottom on the inside.  And it is a couple hundred feet climb up to it.

But as I stood looking at it, I was enamored with the idea that wind had pounded the rock walls of this structure over time.  The winds were destructive and this one section seemed to wither from the impact, appearing weaker then the rest of the rock wall. Obviously, it took many, many, many years to create something so incredibly beautiful.

And then…

I became aware of my own beauty, thinking that my life has been a struggle for so long. Maybe, just maybe the winds of my life are creating me to be something beautiful.  I smiled like I have not done in a long time.

I smiled

An authentic, joyous smile.

 

BYJ: Day 40 – Go to Bed Earlier

I haven’t read my Beautiful You Journal in quite some time (in fact, I haven’t been here in almost 2 weeks…wow!), but today I cracked it open and the reading for day 40 is about getting more sleep.  Specifically, the author strongly encourages us to find out what time we need to be awake in the morning to begin our day and then to go to bed exactly 8 hours earlier.

If I look at it and I’m honest about it, some of you might be extremely shocked (then again, maybe it won’t surprise you in the least), but I can’t remember the last time I slept for eight hours straight.  If I had to guess, it was probably over 20 years ago.  I tend to be so busy doing things, that I allow my sleep to suffer from it.  I’m no medical expert, but I’m sure this has had a tremendous impact on my health and mental well being.  I tend to be a very focused and committed person, when I have a goal, to the point that I remember my last semester of college, I was lucky to get a few hours of sleep at a time.  Back then, I had a full time job, attended classes full time and worked two part time jobs. This was in addition to being a husband and father at the time.  Unfortunately for me, I continued that kind of behavior into my professional career. And I can look back on it all now and feel like it was not worth the sacrifice.

I look at this behavior and can’t help but wonder how my lack of proper sleep had a major part to due with my depression and anxiety, as well. I know I have made some changes to improve this and I am now up to averaging 6 hours of sleep per night. I’ve even set my Fitbit to monitor this. I have one drawback, however, and it has to due with my anxiety. I can’t fall asleep unless I am utterly exhausted and my eyelids are ready to fall off my face from being so heavy.  I’m also trying to change my diet to make sure I’m eating foods that are more conducive to healthy living.

Either way, I am working towards the goal of sleeping for eight hours of sleep per night.

SARD: Part 20 – Fantasies…

A couple of days ago, I had someone email me and were discussing dreams. I Was asked if I am the type of person that remembers dreams.  Typically, I am not.  I fall asleep and then I wake up. I can’t remember, regularly remembering my dreams, since I was a teenaged kid.  There is one type of dream I have, however, on a regular basis and it is a highly sexual and erotic dream…

Now, before you all get excited for me to post it, I’ll just mention I am not going to discuss it. I’m not going to go into the sordid details, nor the surrounding topics within the sexual fantasy I have.  Because, that’s not really the point of this post. The point of this post is that it is the only dream I can ever remember. I’m not sure why it is that I can only remember THIS dream when I wake up or struggle with sleeping because it invades my mind and doesn’t leave.

The only thing I can surmise is that it exposes something about myself that is extremely self-deprecating (Have any of you noticed this tendency about myself). It gives me an image of myself I am not comfortable with, but it surrounds a fact about myself that shouldn’t be an issue but it is. It is such a focus of my dream-fantasy, that my senses become heightened and I am so….hmmm….aroused, that I don’t know what to do about it.

Sure, I have had other fantasies, but those fantasies are usually fantasies I have while I’m awake.  And this particular fantasy is one that I have awake, asleep, eating dinner, going for a walk…whatever. It’s a fantasy that makes me hyper aware of my vulnerability and overwhelmed with the knowledge that there is nothing I can do about it.  But ultimately, it is the only fantasy I can remember dreaming about when I have been a sleep.

I know a lot of you are probably wanting me to just divulge it, based on the number of things I have discussed that demonstrates my ability to be vulnerable. But it is the kind of fantasy that has even caused issues within relationships.  It’s not something illegal, and it doesn’t involve anyone being physically hurt. It is literally a psychological mind-fuck (for lack of a better term) and I have never understood why I fantasize about it.

The other day, I was emailing with another blogger who had offered a suggestion about facets of my sexuality that made some sense to me.  Again, I won’t mention the details of the conversation, because it scratches the surface of the topic of my fantasies, but it is something that stands on the forefront of my mind as being utterly accurate. Ultimately, I have never understood where the fantasy originates, why it is there nor how to grasp it’s impact to my sexual desires. But it is there, it is a part of me and it is the only thing I can remember when I dream…

Setting & Keeping Boundaries – a.k.a Not Being a Doormat

So, I follow a blogger that I find particularly motivational.  And I really enjoy the different memes/advice/slogans she posts on a daily basis. Today, she posted something, that kind of hits close to home for me and it is a struggle I haven’t quite figured out just yet.  You can check out her statement on boundaries here.

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This topic hits very close to home for me, because I am not so good at setting boundaries. In fact, I tend to allow people to walk on me, because I find that to be an easier, more peaceful solution than to confront things head on. Being raised as a catholic, in my youth, it was often I heard the advice, “Turn the other cheek” when wronged. Although, I understand the point of it – i.e. it is better to allow a wrong than to commit another wrong in vengeance. But, for some reason, I have taken this to the extreme.

There have been plenty of incidences that would make ample examples when I have allowed myself to be a doormat. I can remember times, playing with my brothers and sisters, when one of my brothers was a complete ass to everyone and in particular to me, he would attempt some emotional manipulation with things like, “If you don’t do it, I won’t be your brother”.  Things like this would be somewhat mind blowing to me, I didn’t understand how he could be mean to his own brother. Of course, I would get frustrated and tell one of my parents, who would say, “So what?!  Let him believe what he wants. Don’t fall for that.” And I would let it go, but secretly it would eat me up.

I also remember a time when I had a girlfriend that slept with everyone within earshot, Okay…maybe it wasn’t that bad, but it sure felt like it at the time. She would always admit it to me and always tell me how sorry she was and would promise to not do it again. And oddly enough, that song by The Offspring is bouncing around in my brain….which also happened to be on the charts during the time I was allowing myself to be walked all over.  This situation is one of the times I had seriously considered suicide.  Eventually, I got so sick of her cheating and boning everyone under the sun, that she had called me once and told me she wanted to get together for a weekend and I popped.

notyouagain

She called me up, although I knew she had been living with a guy for 6 months at the time. I had told her that I still loved her, but because I had moved, I didn’t think things would work out.

She asked me if she and I could still get together when I returned to town on weekends, I asked her, “But aren’t you living with, Jeff (the guy she was living with)…?”

And her reply is what sent my head spinning, “Yeah, but I love fucking you…”

I set the phone down for a moment, as I tried to collect my mind as it fell out of my butt, and I heard her repeating my name.

I picked up the phone and said, “I mean this with all sincerity, but I hope you die of AIDS…”

I hung up the phone, never to speak to her again. But this wasn’t the defining moment that taught me to establish healthy boundaries. No, it was the defining moment that taught me, though I didn’t realize it at the time, that I will continue to allow the women in my life to walk all over me.  A lot of this came out later, when I began going to therapy and told the therapist about all of my relationships with women – my mom, my sisters, my wife, any woman.  I find it impossible to set healthy boundaries, and when I tried, I was highly susceptible to guilt-trips. I allowed my frustrations to build and build and build until I began having self-destructive behavior.

I have always felt, however, that people don’t change unless they make a concerted effort to change, there are subtle sustained influences over long periods of time, or there is some cataclysmic event in their lives.  But now, as I prepare for divorce, I understand the need for boundaries, but I have not developed an understanding of how to set them or enact them.  But, I am taking the path of choosing to do so. And when I do it, I find myself feeling more and more sure of myself.

For example, I have not discussed my soon-to-be-ended-marriage and the problems in them at great length.  There are so many dysfunctional aspects to it, they are hard to define and I finally got to the point where I decided I don’t have to understand what the details are in the dysfunctions, I just need to be aware that something is not right and it may never change. I took a stand one day and I did it in the most calm manner I have ever tried to stand up for myself, I stepped away from a cliff. I felt empowered by it.

Recently, I had another situation that told me that I am capable of setting boundaries without being upset. I am finally willing to explore my sexuality in a healthy and non-destructive manner. I am considering dating, but I am not willing to go into it without making sure my soul and mental well being are protected. I am establishing boundaries for what I want in a relationship.

Certainly, I didn’t write about every event or incident in my life that demonstrated I didn;t understand how to set boundaries, but as I sat down and wrote this all a huge light went off in my head and it is a mantra I have always believed:

I have no responsibility over the behavior others choose, but I am most powerful when I choose my behavior.

I have a long ways to go, and I believe this process is one that will take practice, but I am taking important steps along that path.

byefelicia