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.