Are you bulletproof?

I heard Guetta’s song ‘Titanium’ on the radio the other day and it reminded me of a fantasy I had conjured at University about my future. I would be ruthless, powerful, successful and very much alone. An Ice Queen. Beneath the superficial dressing of my fantasy was a craving for absolute security and insulation from emotional pain. I wanted to be bulletproof.

I believed then, with certainty, that children of alcoholics marry or become alcoholics themselves. I was convinced this would be my future. And I was so determined to avoid it, I decided it would be safer to build a fortress around my soul and never let anyone in. That way if I did become an alcoholic the only person I would be hurting was me.

I was lucky to have people around me who cared enough to push me into facing my demons. So I started seeing a therapist. She taught me to see life as something of my own making. To see the choices I had, and to realise I didn’t have to accept that future. I also began to understand how much I was hurting myself by keeping everyone around me outside my walls.

So I started the painful task of taking them down, brick by brick. I developed new ways of being. I tried trusting and letting people in. I found I could show myself as less than perfect and still be liked and accepted. I learned to see the cracks in my soul as a source of light and beauty, like in the Cohen song. I discovered I could let my emotions out without completely unravelling. That I had more strength and resilience when I was being honest than when I was wasting energy pretending to be fine all the time.

Twenty years on I still struggle. It’s not always comfortable to show up warts and all, particularly when I’m feeling broken, raw and vulnerable. And yet I’ve learned that unless I create the space for honesty by doing it myself, relationships rarely get beyond the superficial. The rewards are amazing – rich and meaningful conversations, deep connections and amazing friendships. And I know that even if I meet rejection or ridicule I have the resilience to survive and keep going.

What I find helps strengthen my ability to cope with life is taking care of myself. Somewhat ironically, I often say that when I jog and meditate regularly, I feel bulletproof. I’ve noticed that when I do these two things together, life gets easier. I don’t react to the stresses and frustrations quite so sharply. The hurt, disappointment, sadness and challenges still come, but they don’t seem to penetrate as deep and stick around as long. I cope better, bounce back faster.

Something else I find interesting is how many alcoholics I know who say that meditation is a critical part of remaining sober for them. My mom never really managed to deal with her addiction. In her later years I had begun to wonder if the benefits of meditation (peace, acceptance and focus on being in the present) could help. I’ll never know, but in the meantime I don’t mind telling anyone who will listen how beneficial I think mindfulness and meditation are. For everything.

If you’re still reading, I’m curious to know what if anything in this post has spoken to you? Do you allow yourself to be vulnerable? Or do you try to keep the pain away with walls? Do you enjoy the pleasure of connection and friendship? Or do you feel isolated and alone?  How do you take care of yourself to build your resilience?

I’ve tried to create some space to be vulnerable. Feel free to step in and open up.

With love,

Alison

What are you afraid of?

As I sit down to write my first ever blog post, I am all too aware of the thoughts and feelings racing around in me. I feel like I’m stepping out into the unknown and taking a risk. It feels scary. I’m not sure I really know what I’m doing. I want more information, more certainty, some reassurance. I’m afraid of making a mistake, of being judged, of not being liked.

If I allow these feelings to stop me, I could miss out on a lot. On a great chance to learn and grow. On the opportunity to connect and exchange ideas with new people. On the process of reflection that comes with writing.

I could fail miserably. And I’m honestly not even sure what that would mean. It’s more of a sense of foreboding than anything else. What would failure look like? No one will read what I have to say…? That would be disappointing. Worse, people will read it and pan me. That could be embarrassing. I could end up with hurt feelings and a bruised ego. Ok, that would suck. But I won’t die of humiliation. Perhaps even worse, I might succeed and find pressure to continue to write things people want to read. Ah, the joys of the inner dialogue.

My point? It’s pretty normal to be afraid of doing something new. But if we allow our fear to stop us, we risk missing out on a lot.

The thing is, we often feel afraid and allow that to stop us without really taking the time to think things through. What I usually find is that once we’ve named our fears, they lose a lot of their power. And when we take the time to think about what we would do if things don’t go the way we want, we realise we’re more able to deal with things than we think. And suddenly things don’t look quite so hard after all.

And so as I reach what feels like a natural end to my first blog post, I find that the process of writing about my fear has lessened its hold. I’ve done it now. I’m going to push ‘publish’ in a minute, and the world is not going to end. I don’t know what’s coming, but I’ve taken the first step and I feel ok with whatever comes next.

And so my question for you, is what are you afraid of? What’s holding you back from doing something you want? And what could you do if things didn’t go according to plan?

Name them. And then let them go. And step out into a world of possibilities.

With love and affection,

Alison