(SeLoFest17 Post: Day 3, click here for all prompts so far)
It was late 2015, and I had moved to La Rochelle for the second time in my life. It was summertime and I felt like I had the world at the palm of my hand. I had just arrived to France on an adventure, and on a whim decided to move there. Despite all of that, I felt very gloomy and called my best friend, Emiliano, completely crushed and upset. Before I was even done with my second sentence he said, “who are you with?” Startled at the interruption, I did not know how to answer the question and simply asked, “huh?” to which Emiliano replied, “yeah, have you been seeing your family or any friends or anything?” I didn’t understand where he was going with it because I was telling him I felt like crap and not really talking about anyone else, but I answered frustrated nonetheless, “no one, I’ve seen no one and hung out with no one” to which he replied, as if it made the most sense in the world, gently chuckling, “well that’s what it is babe, you have to surround yourself with people. You always get a little down when you’ve been on your own for too long.”
I don’t remember so many essential and important memories of my life, but I remember that conversation because I pride myself in being someone that knows myself inside and out, better than anyone could ever know me. Or so I thought. But here was this dumb nerd, who after only two years, knew this essential thing about me, this thing that at 31 years of experience in being me, startled me.
The even more frustrating part about it was that when I told other close friends and family members this simple realization that had taken me so long to realize, they all responded the same way. “Well. Yeah. You need attention.”
So I grabbed that realization by the balls, sat it on a chair, and pointed a big bright light into its face, demanding this need where it came from, why it was here, and where it had been on the night of September 27th at 8:31 PM. (Ok not the last one, but you get the jist. I wasn’t about to let this go.)
I understood need, and going in and of my comfort zone because that’s what I was exploring at that time. The whole concept of being of exploring my comfort zones, understanding them, to later redefine them. I wanted to know just how much I needed people, and to what extent I could go without them.
As fate would have it, the following two years gave me a phenomenal opportunity to experience the different levels of needing someone, and the painfully creative forms that one can experience grief. As depressed as I had been in my life, and the losses I had suffered, I had never associated the word grief into my vocabulary. I had never suffered a death, or example, from anyone that was close enough to me for me to feel anything beyond extreme sadness.
It was the death of a relationship with a person that was still alive that struck me. The cognitive dissonance felt like I was being kicked while I was already down. It was visceral, the betrayal of someone you “knew” would be there for you always. The loneliness of not being able to explain it to anyone, because of how unique the whole relationship was, only made me pull further away from myself and everyone around me, and night time brought no rest, as I dreamed of rejection and betrayal every night for 20 nights before the nightmares started to lessen.
I could not trust myself, as clearly I kept picking people that would hurt me or leave me, and I could not trust anyone else, as clearly no one was strong enough to deal with me without at some point hurting me. The world looked ugly, and my biggest love (humanity) had disappointed me at a level I was not surviving. I fantasized with suicide as a way to help me deal with the release of the pain.
However, at that time, my then boyfriend, T, could no longer deal with my lows. We talked about breaking up for the first time, and because I knew that if I lost him as well I would surely end up hurting myself, I decided to use him as motivation to get better.
I made a list of things I had to do not only to take care of myself, but to contribute to the household, and to contribute to my career or future. It was hard to do, because I didn’t know what I wanted to do and a lot of time deciding you’re going to get out of the depression is the mental click that you need, but your body doesn’t always follow along and you still wake up with extreme fatigue and a total lack of motivation.
It was a small step forward, but it’s what lead for me to be here.
Eventually, T and I spoke again and we agreed that despite both of us doing better, we did not want futures that we could work into each other’s lives, and so we enjoyed the rest of our relationship loving each other freely, and honestly, knowing it would end, but that we had both given our best and had still helped each other out tremendously. I am grateful to T for how much he loved me and all that he gave me, and wish him an incredibly joyful life with someone that will match his lifestyle and will love his children the way they deserve to be loved.
In creating the plan for myself to get better, I acknowledged the thing that Emiliano had told me two years before, the thing that I had tried to pull away from: the needing other people. On one side I had my mother, who always taught me and raised me to be strong and independent, to not need anyone, but on the other side, I had my own self, the self that did need to be supported and loved. I spoke to Kat, who is like the older sister I never knew I wanted, who is a therapist and someone whose opinions and views I highly value and many many times have helped me find balance in my own firecracker personality.
She introduced me to the concept of interdependence. As I understand it, it’s the healthy alternative to independence (where you pretend to not need anyone, which we do, and it’s a realistic aspect of life) and codependence (when you cannot function without other people validating you). As I understood it, it’s holding yourself accountable, but knowing to reach out, and having the emotional maturity to do so.
Coming to terms with that, and then visiting Kat, and Morgan and them in Minneapolis, is what made me realize I no longer wanted to stay in France. I still had to work on being independent, however, always with the realistic understanding of needing others to help me, perhaps sometimes, more than your average Jane.
And so now, I have been working on what it looks like to establish community. For me, my community is fluid and not standstill since I am still at a very transitional part of my life. However, I am working with my family, and friends that are far away, and reaching out in different ways, testing the waters in different ways, and of course GIVING of myself and who I am and being generous with my qualities. I wish to be a good friend and family member but I also wish to be of use, I know I have gifts that benefit humanity and I want to give those things to people that value them, and take advantage of those things. So I don’t waste my time with people who I can tell don’t see or value me, or that only take but don’t work with me, as I not always the easiest person to understand.
Establishing community and working to have people around you is a FUNDAMENTAL part of taking care of ourselves. It is essential to self love, especially if you have any kind of mental or physical challenge. It is also important in today’s day and age, where humanity is being hurt in so many ways in so many different countries. Being able to give our best and go out to the world and give is fundamental to taking care of the earth, whether it’s the land, the animals, the people, or the whole of it.
The Prompt: Who’s your team? Do you have one? If not, design your dream team, what that would look like, what you might need, and action steps that you can take to begin creating that dream team such as reaching out to people you already know, or going out to make friends, repairing a relationship, etc. If you already do have a team, what are things you’re grateful for? How do YOU help out others? Who are people or communities you’ve recently helped? Is this something you’d like to continue doing?
The activity: Make a list of the action steps, or the things you’re grateful for. If you can’t think of someone or a community you help on the regular as well, plan out how you can be realistically more giving without exhausting yourself or surpassing your limits or your schedule. Can you read more? Be more informed? Share more information? Donate? Volunteer? Start a blog?
In your journal: Draw or paint your team if you already have one, but only draw their head, hair, and nose. Don’t draw their eyes or mouths. Work on what you recognize them with without giving them an expression (this part is just for fun). Then, under or next to them, list the things you’re grateful for them helping you with. If you DONT have a team, design what it would look like if you could create the perfect team, how many people would be in your team and what would they help you with? Make it fun but believable. Create action steps to make this team a reality. Give yourself believable steps and a date you must do them by. Then, under the label “The gifts I offer”, take a moment to reflect on what you already give, and what you’d like to do more of. Feel free to use color or play around with the handwriting. If you need help with any of these feel free to contact me.
My beautiful, amazing, family has been my pillar in the last months. I am eternally grateful to my mom, Jaimito, Sebastian and Paloma.