God knows I love a good fixer upper project. I’m the queen of the come up, and I’ll turn another man’s trash into treasure all day err’ day. My steps kids joked that Thrift Shop was my theme song. I have an entire Facebook album of shit I bought from Goodwill and upcycled. I decorated my entire wedding with stuff from Goodwill, and then at least half of my house.
This excellent, innovative ability to see untapped potential, revitalize and make use out of broken or unwanted things takes a turn for the worst in other parts of my personality, when I try to revitalize and make use out of broken people.
“But Ashley, isn’t that what a healer does?”
Helping people heal becomes problematic when you’re using it to avoid healing yourself.
That can look like a number of things. For me, it manifests as, “I’m the strong one. I don’t need help. I can take on your problems as well as my own, and we’re going to focus on yours first because mine aren’t dire.”
But there’s plenty of people in the world whose problems are more dire than your own, and you’re always going to be able to find one. The storage closet of projects not-yet-started in my basement proved that. In this analogy, it means you’re always going to be prioritizing other people’s dire problems ahead of your own, and that means you never actually fully focus on your own healing.
To use the oxygen mask analogy – it’s not just the equivalent of putting on someone else’s mask before your own. It’s trying to put oxygen masks on everyone else on the entire fucking plane before you put on your own. YOU’RE GOING TO DIE before you get to row seven.
You don’t realize you’re doing it and before you know it, you’re crying yourself to sleep at night, breaking down in the shower, your hair is falling out and your immune system crashes because you’ve been under a tremendous amount of emotional stress that’s built up over all the years you’ve gleefully ignored it while helping everyone else. You wake up one day and you’re entire fucking life fell apart while you were busy fixing other people’s problems. I’m speaking from personal experience here, obviously.
There will always be another project, so you’d might as well make yourself one.
Take it from me. I finally put on my oxygen mask. I can save a whole plane now instead of being that idiot who thinks that martyring myself sounds like a glorious way to die.
I‘ve had a pretty magical couple of weeks. I’ve mentioned that I’ve been lucky enough to connect with a handful of really special, amazing, powerfully spiritual women since I’ve moved here. A couple of months ago, I decided that I should start connecting those people, so three of us met up in Brooklyn for a weekend brunch and the energy was amazing. I think everyone involved would agree that we all left feeling energized and amazing. So much so that we decided we needed to do it again, and make it bigger.
So last weekend, the three of us got together again and this time, yet another spiritual friend of mine who was in town for the weekend came, and the energy was even stronger. The four of us CLICKED like we’ve known each other our whole lives.
“I’m so happy knowing you. I can’t remember the last time I felt so alive and seen,” one of them recently texted to our now ongoing, daily group text.
Isn’t that what any of us really wants? To be truly seen as we are and accepted? To stop carrying around the weight of hiding ourselves? To let go of the fear of being rejected for who we are?
The farmer’s market in the park next to my apartment opened today and one of the vendors I recognized as a woman who lived across the street from me. She used to own the only metaphysical shop in Jersey City but closed it shortly after I moved here. We struck up a conversation and I mentioned that I’d moved here from cross-country and she told me that she’d done the same.
“It’s really hard to make deep connections with people here,” she said. And that’s true. It’s something that I became acutely aware of after moving here.
New York is a great place, but at the same time, it’s incredibly surface-level. Perhaps the pace of life is so fast that people don’t take the time to slow down and savor their relationships, or take them to a deeper level. And perhaps that’s why so many people here are so incredibly dissatisfied inside. So many connections, but so little depth to any of them. So many chances to be seen, and yet so many continue to hide themselves behind their masks.
Cultivating deep, meaningful relationships requires a level of investment – both in yourself and in those people and relationships – that not many people here are willing to give. It requires vulnerability and a willingness to allow others to see you.
I think a lot of people are honestly terrified to be truly seen. That means opening yourself up to the possibility of rejection. It’s too scary. And it’s so much easier to just keep wearing the mask.
But when you do connect with people who get you and love you and respect you for what’s inside, it’s the most amazing feeling. It’s freeing. You never realize how heavy the armor is or how exhausting it’s been carrying it around until you take it off.
“God I hope I can do this for other people!! So much love!!” continued my new friend.
Vulnerability is contagious. I think that it’s my willingness to be so open about myself that gives others permission to do it, too. If I can sit here and talk about how fucked up I am, and how I’m working to heal myself, the people around me can feel safe doing that, too.
Unless, of course, they’re not ready to take off the mask, and that’s happened. I met a girl on Bumble BFF shortly after moving here. We met for coffee, talked for three hours. I was just as open with her as I am with you, here. I texted her a week later to see if she wanted to hang out again. No response. And you have to be prepared for that kind of rejection. I open myself up to it all the time now, and it stings a little less each time.
When you finally do find people who are willing to accept you, to be vulnerable with you, and you create this sense of connection, you can’t help but want to give it to the world. To look for all of the other misfits who are just as misunderstood as you and let them know that they’re ok, too. Or at least, they can be, if they choose it. What we find for ourselves, we offer to others ten fold. This is how we heal the world.
I posted a few weeks ago about my own process of cultivating radical vulnerability. I see that there’s a need for this in the world, both in friendships and deep, intimate relationships. I’ve never seen the need for it so starkly as I see it here in New York.
It’s got me thinking – how can I teach others how to open themselves up to the world? How can I show others how to cultivate the kind of intimacy in relationships that they so deeply desire, but are so afraid of? I’m still figuring that out myself, honestly, but I think I’ve laid a great foundation so far.
As promised in my last post, I said I would post the results from my Johari and Nohari Window questions in my next blog post, so here they are. I realize that a lot of you don’t know me in person so it’s hard to choose, and I also recognize that it forces you to choose 6 traits and so you might have ended up having to pick random things even though you didn’t really feel they were applicable. That in mind, I tried to look at the ones that more than one person chose (which you will see bolded in the results) as being more accurate.
I’ve always been fascinated with how other people perceive me and how closely or not so closely it aligns with how I perceive myself. I used to tell people that I actually wanted to see a psychologist because I was morbidly curious as to what he or she would make of me.
The more aware I become of who I really am, the more I recognize how some people have been spot on about me in the past, while others have been completely fooled by the illusion of who I presented myself to be.
I used to be extremely closed off. In certain situations, I still am. I didn’t share my feelings openly, but I was quick to share my thoughts or opinions. A friend in college pointed out how unemotional I portrayed myself. At the time, I didn’t think that was accurate, but the more I’ve grown into myself, I realize that she was right.
Up until very recently, I’d always led with walls and it took a very long time for me to allow anyone inside. I was reserved and evasive. I could easily avoid talking about my emotions by deflecting and steering a conversation in a more comfortable direction.
Many people who have known me for years laud me for how independent I am. “You don’t care what anybody thinks about you. You just do your own thing.” I realize now that what they perceived as independence was actually avoidance. It appeared as though I didn’t care what people thought about me because I never allowed myself to get close enough to anyone to care what they thought of me. I did my own thing, not necessarily because I refused to conform, but because I didn’t know how to connect, or was too afraid to, and never bothered to try. What they thought was ‘doing my own thing’ was really just me, wandering aimlessly on the outskirts feeling like an outsider.
People used to complimented me on how even-keeled my state of being seemed to be. My cheer coach in high school once told me how she envied me because I never let anything bother me. “You just let it roll off your back,” she said. She didn’t know that nothing bothered me because I was dead inside. It’s hard to be bothered by things when you don’t allow yourself to feel anything. My heart was frozen and I navigated life with cold, hard logic. I held all of my emotions in.
I had people in college who told me that they couldn’t believe I had been a cheerleader. Apparently I didn’t fit the “bubbly and energetic” stereotype.
Especially in my twenties, I gave people the impression that I was aloof and uncaring. “Cold and standoffish” were the words my neighbor used to describe me my senior year of college. In reality, I was painfully introverted and experienced a copious amount of social anxiety. I spent six out of seven nights a week that semester drunk or nearing it so that I could function in a social environment, so he must have been one of the unlucky people who caught me on a sober day.
My own blog readers used to tell me that they thought I had my shit together, and they didn’t think I had any problems. Wrong. SOOOOOO WRONG.
It’s taken me a very long time and a lot of hard work to lean into feeling. Allowing myself to talk about love and to tell other people how I feel about them has been a major accomplishment for me, as stated in my last blog post on cultivating radical authenticity.
I still have a tendency to swallow anger and avoid conflict, and that’s something I’m trying to push through in a balanced way. I’m slowly and surely, over the course of the last two years or so, allowing myself to be more open and vulnerable in the most intimate aspects of my life, relationships in particular.
It’s a bit ironic. I used to despise public displays of affection and loathed any showing of feeling. It made me extremely uncomfortable when other people would tell me how they felt about me, and when it came to relationships, I would completely shut down and run away. I told myself I didn’t need to be in a relationship. I was fine being alone. I was in total denial of the fact that connection was the thing I craved the most, and that I was utterly terrified of the prospect.
I realize now that having deep, fulfilling connection in my relationships is exceptionally important to me. I want to be seen and understood and loved, and I’m far more willing, now, to allow myself to be seen and understood, and to give love and allow it to be reciprocated. Touch is actually my love language, and I’m an exceptionally physically affectionate person, even publicly.
Isn’t it bizarre how deny ourselves the things we need most?
I’m still fascinated with how people perceive me. I wonder if more of who I am on the inside is now in alignment with how I present myself to the world. You might be able to help me find out! Visit this link and you’ll see a list of positive adjectives. Choose 5 or 6 that you believe most describe me, enter your name (or just put in “anonymous”) and submit your answers. I’ll be able to see which words others use to describe how they perceive me.
Next, visit this link and you’ll see a list of negative adjectives. Again, choose 5 or 6 that you believe most describe me, and enter your name (or don’t if you don’t want me to know who you are) and submit your answers. I’ll also be able to see which words you use to describe how you perceive me.
It’s taken me a very long time to get comfortable with vulnerability. I knew what it was as a concept a long time ago when I wrote my first post about it, but I hadn’t yet put it into practice.
In that post, I wrote:
The truth is, expressing one’s vulnerability is the epitome of strength and courage. It takes far more strength to be open and vulnerable than it does to be hard and emotionless.
Being vulnerable is absolutely the ultimate show of strength, because it requires fearlessness and being vulnerable is usually the thing we fear the most.
I’ve been cultivating that kind of vulnerability for about four years now. It began with me writing a few emails to an ex from college and being honest, for the first time, about what I was really going through, how I really felt, and the kind of impact our interactions had on me.
Funny story about that first email…I knew I had to write it. I could feel my guides pushing me to do it, if for no other reason than to be an exercise in vulnerability. So I wrote it and I held onto it. For a full week, I read it. I edited it. I read it again. I changed it again. I was buying myself time before detonating the bomb. One night, I was laying in bed once again rereading the message on my phone, just to be sure it was what I really wanted to say when my cat jumped into bed with me, got all up in my face, walked across the screen of my phone and landed her paw squarely on the send button.
First I laughed. Then I panicked. Then I laughed. Then I panicked. Then I dropped my phone on the floor and beat my face into the mattress for a solid 30 seconds (which lasts much longer than you would expect until your face is actually planted into one).
Divine intervention via furball was not how I thought I would go down.
Much to my surprise, impending doom never came. Four months went by with no response and when a message from him finally did land in my inbox on Christmas Eve, it was about four sentences in length, full of completely surface level niceties, and not a word was uttered about the email that had been sent four months earlier. And, mind you, this was the first time I’d heard from him in about three years.
That’s how the vast majority of my experiences with radical vulnerability have gone down ever since. It’s either me pitching the raw truth of myself into a black void of nothingness, or a complete and total inability to handle it and a quick shut down. Such is my experience with relationships. But with each outpouring of the real me, and with every lack of response or stalwart rejection, I’ve become less and less reliant on the approval of the other person, and more accepting of myself. Not even just accepting… I’ve started to actually LOVE the real me.
The qualities that I once thought were points of weakness or sources of shame, I slowly began to see in a different light.
I was once afraid to tell someone that I loved them for fear that they didn’t feel the same way. It felt shameful to me, somehow, to have that kind of feeling for someone who didn’t reciprocate it. And when I realized that I couldn’t make that feeling go away or shut it off, but I also couldn’t make the other person feel the same way, no matter how much of myself I gave away to try and fit whatever mold I thought they’d be more apt to accept, it left me trapped in a place of eternal suffering. For most of my life, this was the only way I had ever experienced love. It was synonymous with agony and I began to wonder if it was even possible to separate the two. Hence why my personal journal was titled, “La Douleur Exquise,” or, the exquisite pain.
The exquisite pain of wanting someone that you know you can never have, and knowing that you will still try to be with them. Has drug like effects.
Kate: So you’ll sleep with him and then you’ll hate him for sleeping with you and hate yourself for doing it?
Lauren: Yea. I’m psyched.
That just about sums it up. Codependency, in a nutshell.
For a while, I thought I was an emotional masochist. I couldn’t stop feeling what I felt and the shame of that drove me to hate myself. Or, as quoted from one of those emails I mentioned earlier, “At one point I thought, ‘This would be so much easier if I could just hate him.’ But I couldn’t. Not even remotely. So I hated me instead.”
I hated myself for not being ‘good enough’ for love. I hated myself for loving someone who didn’t love me back. I hated myself for my inability to control that emotion. And so, for the longest of times, I kept my heart locked away in a safe little metaphorical metal box where it would never have to bare the shame of being unworthy to receive the kind of love I was willing to give.
Then one day, I decided to face that fear head on. I imagined myself telling him that I loved him, and I made myself sit and imagine how it would feel to have him tell me that he didn’t love me. I nearly had a panic attack during the process, but, watching myself do this from almost a third person perspective, I kept saying to myself, “It’s ok. It’s ok. It’s ok.” In that moment, my perspective shifted and I saw love in a very different way. I was finally able to recognize that love – real, unconditional love – is not born from approval found outside of yourself. Real love is something that comes from inside of you, from a limitless source that you can’t imagine. It’s unconditional, and it’s the greatest gift that you have to give another human being, and to the world.
That kind of love is unearthed and embodied only through radical vulnerability.
People talk about oversharing as a red flag. Emotional vomit, it’s been termed. But that isn’t vulnerability. That comes from a place of need and manipulation. Real vulnerability comes from a place of self acceptance and raw authenticity.
Only as I’ve been practicing radical vulnerability in my daily life have I begun to notice just how out of touch with self the rest of the world is, and just how horrifying most people find the thought of it. Rejection hurts, certainly. All any of us really wants is to be seen, accepted, and loved regardless of who we are or were. But the more comfortable I become with who I was and who I am, the less it stings.
I’m solid with my beliefs. I enjoy my magick. And I even love how it feels and the way I express myself when I’m being vulnerable. I love that feeling. It used to terrify me. It felt like being naked in a room full of people. Now it feels amazing. Like being naked in a room full of people. 🙂 But being naked in a room full of people isn’t amazing for everyone, whether it’s you or them that’s been stripped down. And those are the people who are going to balk at how you stand tall and comfortable in your own vulnerability.
You’ll know you’ve reached that place of radical authenticity and vulnerability when they balk, and instead of giving them a middle finger up the left nostril like you used to back when you were an emotionally immature thundercunt, you respond from a place of peace, compassion, and understanding that they’re just not ready for someone like you yet, and that’s ok. Because you and your radically vulnerable self have a heart that is an endless well of love for all things, most importantly, you. And you even have enough to pass some of it on to the person who couldn’t handle the all of you, and that’s ok, too.
Why should we even care to be vulnerable in this way? Why would we not? It’s exhausting, constantly pretending to be someone else, hiding parts of yourself to make other people comfortable. Imagine all of the ridiculous manipulation and confusion you could eliminate out of your daily life if you were just HONEST about your thoughts, feelings, experiences, identity, and intentions? The efficiency freak in me loves to cut to the chase. My blunt south node revels in the idea of brute honesty. The old sage in me loves sharing experiences with a grain of wisdom. And my heart is married to the concept of just being myself.
One day, hopefully sooner rather than later, I’ll find a guy who, after seeing my most intimate and raw self, instead of balking or clamming up, will step back and say, “God damn. I want that.” He’ll be the only other naked person in the room. Until then, I’ll keep pitching love bombs into black holes, waiting to see if anything comes back from other side of the universe.
In case you are wondering, my personal journal title has since been updated to, “And Then She Flew” as of a few months ago. I decided it was time to put old ghosts to rest, and old beliefs out to pasture. Love and pain are not one and the same, and I’m no longer completely at the mercy of the latter. The former, however, she is not a cruel mistress. No, not at all. She’s a much finer muse than pain could ever hope to be.
Last August, when I was spending most of my days laying in bed staring at the ceiling and barely able to function, I asked my friend Teresa to do a reading for me (she’s awesome, by the way, and if you’re interested in booking a session with her, you can visit her website here. I built it 🙂 ). I needed some some serious guidance and I was in no condition to go and find it for myself.
A lot of great information came out of that reading, but most relevant to this blog post was that she told me I was processing and releasing a lot of old karmic energy, not just from this life, but from many. She said I was doing a lot of it subconsciously and while I slept (which was a lot) and that’s why I was so detached and ungrounded. She also told me it was going to last for about nine months. You can imagine the look on my face.
In my early attempts at networking last October, I met up with another woman here locally who does reiki and she, too, told me that I was going to be working through a lot of things all the way through April.
It’s now April, and we’re at just around the nine month mark. Healing is not a linear process, but rather, an upward spiral of sorts. You process things cyclically and each time it comes around, you peel back another layer and get closer to your core. That’s certainly been true for me over the last several months, and I do feel like I’m starting to reach the pinnacle of it all. Finally.
The last three weeks or so I’ve really focused on doing some crystal and energy healing on myself, which isn’t really something I’ve done much of in the past – at least not on my own. I’ve enlisted my friend Tara for some really powerful long-distance energy sessions here and there, which have helped greatly, but I’d never sincerely attempted to do much for myself, until now.
As things have progressed over the last few months, I’ve become so much more self aware, and as that’s happened, I’ve become a thousand times more energetically sensitive. I pay more attention now to what triggers me and I am better at figuring out where it comes from. I pay attention to where in my body I feel certain things – anxiety, fear, etc. – whether it’s coming from my heart, my upper stomach or lower stomach. I’m also more proactive about addressing it and working through it.
A lot of that proactivity has involved energy healing sessions over the last few weeks that have had really incredible results. Only recently have I actually been able to have emotional releases during a session. Usually they don’t happen until the day after, but these last few, I’ve have two to three every time.
The first one I did was focused on inner-child healing and trauma release. I knew this one was a big one for me – it is for just about everyone, and it’s often the root cause of a lot of our fears and self misconceptions later in life.
I struggle a lot with feeling secure in relationships and making deep connections with other people. Some of this is related to past life traumas, and some of it comes from childhood stuff. I can’t really pinpoint anything specific, but I know it because of some common themes that have come up in my dreams over the last couple of years about feeling alone and unwanted.
One in particular, I think the timing was pretty significant. It was the night of my birthday in 2016. My dad had forgotten my birthday for the second year in a row. My grandmother, who was one of the people who would never forget my birthday, died earlier that year. That night, I had this dream:
I was in this house with a woman and her daughter. The living room was covered in clutter, and it was all stuff that belonged to her little girl, but they were things her mother bought for her.
The mother asked me to pack things for the girl, or clean them up, I can’t remember. As I was looking through it all, I thought, “This is all completely useless. There’s nothing in here that she needs. Why would you even buy her this?”
Then the mother became overwhelmed by all of the useless shit that she’d bought her daughter and decided she wanted to get rid of her.
The little girl looked at me and asked, “Why does no one want me?” And I said, “It’s not your fault,” and I began to explain to her that her mother was upset about all the things she’d bought her and taking it out on her. Then I woke up.
While I was in the middle of this inner-child healing session, I saw the same little girl. I knew she was me, even back when I had the dream. But here she was again. I saw myself hugging her.
I posted on my Facebook page last week about being the person you needed when you were younger.
That’s a behavior that I’ve actively cultivated in myself over the last couple of years. It’s too easy to tear yourself down. That’s why we do it so frequently. It’s a lot harder to give yourself the kind of compassion you needed when you were young and vulnerable.
At the end of that session, I felt happy for the first time in a long time. But I wasn’t done yet.
A few days later, I did a couple more sessions that focused mostly on my sacral chakra and I was surprised at how many past life traumas came up (just like Teresa said). I did one on Tuesday and I saw myself being stabbed in the abdomen with a sword, and also having my stomach cut open to deliver a baby. I died both times.
A lot of times, I can feel that there’s something I need to work through I just don’t know what it is, exactly, so I’ll pull some oracle cards or tarot cards to help me pinpoint it. Even if they don’t make sense immediately, I’ll typically start to understand it once I start to focus.
For Tuesday’s session I drew cards about boundaries in relationships and the need to cleanse. Boundaries, of course, are related to the sacral chakra, and I already knew I had a lot of work to do there, anyway, so it made total sense.
Last night I drew several cards about seeing my true self and feminine energy. I seem to consistently injure myself on the left side – I almost cut the end of my finger off with a kitchen knife within three days of moving here. Left hand. My hip and lower back on the left side have been giving me a lot of trouble since early 2017 and I fell down icy stairs in front of my apartment, which severely aggravated it. And yesterday on my way home, my shoe somehow slipped on dry concrete and I fell and gashed my left knee open, and stabbed the same finger on my left hand that I cut on a chain link fence.
The left side of the body is considered the feminine side. My feminine side has had the shit beaten out of it, emotionally and physically, both by myself and by others over the years. And in more recent time, as I’ve learned to be more in-tune with that energy, I’ve given a lot of it away in my relationships, which is the kind of self-sacrificing behavior that is indicative of imbalance.
So, during last night’s session, I called all of my energy back to me from all of the people I’ve given too much of myself to over my lifetime. In some instances, it was hard to do. Some of them didn’t want to let go, and it was very emotional. In a sense, it was like giving myself a cord cutting (in case you aren’t familiar with cords, they are energetic attachments created between you and another person with whom you have an emotionally intimate relationship. Particularly when these relationships end badly, they can remain and cause confusion and emotional entanglement on a subconscious level).
After all of this releasing, it feels like I’m starting to reach the top of the spiral. I see myself more clearly and I have a healthier relationship with myself, most importantly. This cycle is finally wrapping up, and perhaps one day in the very near future, a new adventure can begin.
Iposted this to my Facebook group already, but thought it was worth sharing (and adding to) for the blog. This is going to sound really silly to some of you, I’m sure, but I just reached a really big personal care milestone.
I’ve had a lot of hip/lower back issues since 2015 and they have been getting progressively worse, particularly since I moved. I’ve also had very limited flexibility in my right hip, probably even longer than 2015.
I first noticed it when giving myself a pedicure/clipping toenails. I could bring my left foot almost up to my chest, no problem, but I couldn’t get my right foot anywhere close.
Since January of 2016, I started making a serious effort to stretch on a fairly regular basis.
I just noticed today that I was able to almost bring my right foot up the same way I can my other leg. It only took two years.
The thing is, I’ve had to learn how to make time to take care of myself. I used to put things like this off because I had work to do, or things to clean (all of which boiled down to taking care of other people before myself). I always told myself that whatever I needed could wait. Until it couldn’t wait anymore, and I was (still am) consistently in pain, started losing my hair, and my immune system crashed and I was sick with a respiratory infection for 10 out of 18 months between 2016 and 2017, and got the stomach flu for the first time in 13 years.
I had to learn how to prioritize my own needs and stop sacrificing them for the benefit of other people. I’m still learning, but I’m getting better at it. And, as you know, that prioritization created a lot of really big life changes for me.
Additionally, I’ve been taking vitamins for hair growth since November to try and get some of my hair back, and I noticed this weekend that I have a lot of baby hairs growing in. And it is very much like baby hair – all crazy different lengths. Which is why I cut off my hair this weekend to allow it all to catch up.