Authenticity

This video is so very beautiful. It’s a short snippet from an interview Oprah did with India Arie. India Arie radiates genuine inner confidence that may just give you chills.

After watching the video, I wrote a few words in reflection (shared below).

Take time to let yourself simply be—as you are, without fixing or looking for a new direction. Sink into the present moment—approach life in the here and now—breathe in clarity, breathe out confusion. Let yourself feel grounded and supported, rooted into the rich soil of the universe.

And remind yourself that the universe will rise up to meet you. Trust the process.

… If the video doesn’t show up, you can see it on youtube.

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Have you ever been hurt or betrayed by someone you trusted? Have you ever been so badly hurt that your life felt consumed by how you could possibly move on in such an unjust world? I think it’s pretty safe to say that most people experience betrayal in some form—some more than others and some more intensely than others. But we don’t need to measure our betrayal(s) against one another because the thing about being betrayed: it is intensely personal (which is what makes it so very difficult to experience and process). It doesn’t look the same for everyone and our reactions can range from numbness to hysteria.

Inspiring Socrates Quote

Intensely personal. How do you move forward after someone has betrayed your trust? How do you react? Below is a list of some of the common reactions (from my perspective, as someone who has been deeply betrayed and someone who has helped others who have been deeply betrayed—in no way is this list comprehensive).

… Why me?

… This is not fair.

… How could s/he do this…to me?

… What is wrong with me?

… I will never let someone do that to me again.

… I need to make this person feel the way they made me feel.

… I can’t believe this person did this to me.

… I don’t know what to do, how to react?

… I don’t want other people to think they can do this to me too.

… I feel like I’m not good enough.

… How will I ever move forward, away from this pain?

These questions are constantly brewing, and the urge to answer them is strong yet scary. We often react with anger, an emotion that is very difficult to understand. The anger can manifest as different emotions—making the situation even more confusing. Sitting still and letting go don’t feel like options—your emotions have been amplified and you are clear that someone else put you in this state. This knowledge can seem liberating (you can clearly identity the cause and the effect), but really it shackles you to the memory of the pain.

Looking back, I’ve been hurt by others on different occasions, but really only betrayed once. This one betrayal puts the other betrayals into perspective, as tiny blips on my radar. After I was betrayed by someone I trusted, I felt anger and did what I do best: research. And just in time, Revenge (the tv show) began to air. I had another word to add to my growing anger vocabulary: Revenge. I vowed to myself that I would make sure that no one experienced what I experienced, because that felt more politically correct and emotionally mature than making someone pay for what I went through emotionally.

And here is where I want to insert a disclaimer, being hurt by another person—to be betrayed by someone you trust—is intensely personal. The words I share should not be seen as advice but merely one perspective of countless. Because for some people, action needs to be taken and there is no shame at all in taking action.

But for me, I got lost in my anger. And with the lapse of time, I subsumed other people into my anger—how could others so easily forget what had been done or feel that time heals all wounds? Time didn’t heal my wounds and actually made them worse. I felt more isolated by the betrayal and felt that I was weak because I did nothing. The anger turned inwards and this is when I felt the real betrayal—turning against myself.

It was this realization that altered my perspective and allowed me to see the bigger picture, to practice self-compassion. Until this switch occurred, I felt very much like a victim without a voice. I felt like power had been stripped from me. I felt lost in my own life. And it’s only now, when I reflect on this period of time that I realize I let myself change into this person. I lost all confidence. And I guess I am not a good actress because I could not hide this lack of confidence from others. It wasn’t until I forced myself to get uncomfortable and think like my old self in a high stakes situation that I finally felt like I was beginning to regain my stripes. And regain my stripes I did. It took well over a year to rebuild my trust in myself and to recognize that my self-worth could not and would not be changed by another person. Most importantly, I learned to protect myself—from self-betrayal.

Reacting to betrayal is messy and very uncomfortable. There is no timeline. Others typically don’t understand what you are going through because you experience the pain internally and try to hide the weaknesses and your vulnerability. I know what a privilege it is when someone lets me help them during this period, to create a safe space to process the raw emotions they are experiencing without much clarity. There is no simple solution or plan. There are questions and there is uncertainty. And what I find myself asking others is this:

… How can you begin to practice self-compassion during this uncertainty?

… How can you sit with the questions without getting angry at yourself?

… How can you let yourself feel the emotions as they come without judging yourself?

… How can you serve as your own protector?

Because at the end of the day, we cannot control the actions of anyone but ourselves (logically we know this, emotionally we need to remind ourselves of this lesson repeatedly). We can’t change the past or even forget it. It’s there and it’s going to remain there. Your position however is up to you—one day at a time.

My story is still unfolding. I sit with uncertainty and questions, but they are no longer laced with anger or a need to know the million dollar question: why. I’m okay with the answer as it is today: I don’t know why. Emotional pain is the wisest teacher I’ve ever had. And yes, for that I am grateful—for the lessons I learned, some I wish I could unlearn but know that is impossible.

inspiring life quote by douglas adams

Writing these words and reflecting on this time is still uncomfortable for me. There is no tidy ending or ribbon to tie together the truths gained during this period. I need more distance to gain greater clarity. With each step forward, my new foundation is strengthened and my perspective broadened. I could wait until this foundation is perfectly formed to share a tidy beautiful fairy tale ending with you, but that would be a charade that I would not want others just beginning this path to see. Because life does not conform to our carefully laid plans. Everyday, we must dig deep and embrace the experiences we are given with courage and wholehearted honesty.

Always remember, what you are experiencing is intensely personal. 

images: splendid and sound (prints available for purchase on etsy)

:: follow a beautiful ripple effect on bloglovin’

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Over the past few months, I have truly neglected blogging. Writing here is such a large part of my identity that this unintentional time away has felt very strange.

I wrote the words above on a piece of paper yesterday and began writing without a clue as to where I would end up. It took me two pages of justifying to myself why I’ve neglected the blog to get to my “AHA” moment. Those two pages of nonsense—totally worth it!

What I Realized: Simply stated, I am not superwoman. I know, a very disappointing realization :). Not so simply stated, I recognized a pattern. In the past, I have pushed myself with no self-imposed boundaries, which led to lots of health issues. Now that I’m setting more boundaries for myself, important things (like blogging and two rubies, now on etsy!) have been neglected. I have blamed myself for not finding a way to make it all work; however, I realize (finally) that I need to approach this new and healthier phase differently. And different means flexing new muscles and persevering through growing pains.

What Does Different Look Like? Or… How Do I Get My Blogging Mojo Back?

First, I need to be vulnerable, to be open about what I’m experiencing. Silence serves no one. Next, I need to ask for help—using what I’ve learned in the past from failed “asks.” I need to ask differently, approach this new phase with more intention.

What I Know: I need a right-hand woman (or man, but my hubby may get upset since he’s my right hand man!) to join my team. I’ve worked with incredible virtual assistants in the past, but no one has really been a partner for me—someone passionate about the work and willing to help steer the boat rather than just paddle. I am an imperfect perfectionist who hates to delegate. And this is the struggle, I need someone who is willing to move through the growing pains with me as I learn to let go of feeling guilty about delegating.

What I Don’t Know: I don’t know how I will find “my person.” But just recognizing that I can’t do everything I want to do alone is liberating. It gives me hope for this new phase of my life. I am open to matchmakers! If you know someone (or think you may be “my person”) who will make my heart flutter with delight, please email me (carolynblog@me.com) and tell me why you’re my match :). I never got to explore the online dating world so I can pretend this is my little online dating experience!

Life Online

… While I haven’t been blogging or tweeting, I have been spending time online. Primarily, I’ve been feeding my addiction (pinterest) and getting hooked into instagram. I love looking into the daily lives of inspiring individuals and connecting through images. I would love to connect if you’re on instagram, my username is crubenstein :). Below is a collage of a few recent images I’ve posted on instagram.

… I have used Google Reader forever to read blogs and am so sad it’s closing on July 1st. If you’re looking for a new feed reader, I’ve explored quite a few and found bloglovin’ to be my favorite. If you’re transitioning from Google Reader to Bloglovin’, check out this post on how to switch with ease.

Thank you so much for your patience and support while I navigate this new phase of blogging. I know it’s only going to change for the better with a partner in inspiration to help me steer! After 4.5 years of blogging, I think it’s time for some positive shifts!

Wishing you a happy start to June!
Carolyn

top photo: photo credits here

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Moments blur together and days pass by so quickly that I truly cannot believe it is May. This past month and the past few months have been trying to say the least, yet incredible. Oh and it bothers me so when people say that, that there is a silver lining to those trying times when you’re in the midst of the struggle. It’s a battle to keep yourself from sinking into the quick sand. I’ve been there and am a bit wobbly still but hope that for just a few minutes, I can glance in the rearview mirror.

I had the surgery two weeks ago. And it was frightening in every way possible. My husband and parents were so strong for me. I had a multi-hour delay after being prepped for surgery—that was the scariest time. Every worry that I had worked so hard to keep myself from fretting over had lots of time to take center stage. But I just let it be. I leaned on my family and got through it, tears and all. The next couple of days post-surgery are a blur to me. And then I went right into the last week of classes and then this week: finals. My perspective has shifted so drastically. I’m exhausted and working hard to get everything done, but trying not to beat myself up over the many ways I could have made this week easier for myself “if only” I had (fill in the blank!). I need to remember that it’s only been two weeks and I’m not superhuman. It’s okay to take time to process and recover. Until today, I haven’t been able to do any exercise. I can’t wait to move my body again rather than crunch over books or type frantically as I watch my timer tick away.

Then, next week everything changes again. I’m so ready for a different pace, for time to connect with the people close to me and to begin exciting new journeys. But this frantic pace, it’s not conducive to the way I work and learn. I’ve taken enough tests for five people to go to college and never take a test again. Pre-test adrenaline no longer excites me, it exhausts me. My energy and time are valuable commodities that I took for granted for too long. I want to explore different ways of conserving these valuables so I can be resilient for trying times. I guess this is me looking back at the person I used to praise for getting so much done and realizing that none of that matters. None of what I’ve done defines me. I don’t rest on my laurels. But I’ve been challenged enough to know that when presented with a challenge, worthy of my energy and time, I will rise to the occasion. Right now, I am doing that. I am pressing pause and focusing on finishing what I started, this semester of graduate school. Why? Because the process is everything, it’s these moments when I don’t give up and so easily could that I reflect on during other challenges and know that I’ve done it before and I can do it again. And I do it again because the goal is more than three letters stamped next to my name. It’s one step in a much bigger picture that represents my future dreams, the crazy ones and the realistic ones.

My timer has just buzzed and the calendar officially says May 1st. I have a feeling this is going to be a beautiful month.

I hope that in my journey, you can see a glimmer of relatability–to who you were or who you are. Each day, I am reminded that our journeys are much more similar than we realize. I hope that May brings beautiful moments into your life, filled with glimmers of hope and possibility. And take time to soak up the magic of everyday moments, because I am choosing to believe that as corny as it sounds April Showers do bring May Flowers!

But above all, I sat down to write this post to thank you, each of you reading my blog, for your thoughts and prayers two weeks ago. I read your comments during those hours of waiting and they brought me so much comfort.

I am so grateful for you.

Love,

Carolyn

image: from my instagram feed! (username: @crubenstein)

 

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Over the summer, I began writing this post. I would open a new text file each time I sat at my computer, waiting for the right words to find me. I wrote words, lots and lots of words that I didn’t know what to do with. Do I share them? Do I compile them? Or do I ignore them? As the text files piled up on my desktop, I felt the weight of these words building. I needed to make a decision and move on. Without a decision, I felt stuck. And I’ve been stuck until now. Today I finally decided that I need to write more words, some similar to the words I wrote but never published over the summer. This decision feels safer right now because the world has given me a reality check (i.e., the tragic events in Boston). It’s interesting that so many of my own personal tragedies occurred in Boston. It’s a city I lived in for five years and grew to love, primarily for the pain it provided me (not the city itself, but my experiences while living in the city) to grow into the person I am today. This post, I wouldn’t be writing if it weren’t for those years in Boston.

Recently, I wrote about my confusion around the topic of blogging. My confusion still exists and feels greater now than ever before. While I maintain that this blog is personal (because it is), I also have clear boundaries about what I talk online about and what I leave offline. Today, a lot of my life is offline. And I’m struggling to determine how much to say, if anything at all, about what I’m currently processing and experiencing. I will say from the start that I don’t know the answer to this question. So this discussion will likely be a bit piecemeal, but to disappear from this space all together doesn’t feel right at all. And to post something unrelated and not say anything doesn’t feel right either. Because in a year when I look back at the posts from this time, I want to know what I was saying and how I was showing up online. I want some type of record.

So ultimately I decided to show up and begin writing the words for this post because I know other people, actually a lot of people, are in the same boat as me. We go through our lives with smiles on our faces even while navigating stormy waters. We try to fit everything into our day, sacrifice as little as possible, even when our schedules are a bit lopsided. We don’t want to make excuses or garner pity. We just need to make it all work. At least that is how I felt, until I told one of my research supervisors. And her compassion and understanding was and is truly remarkable. I know that most people don’t respond in the way she did when I told her about life, right now, and how I needed to make a few changes to my schedule. I’ve experienced callousness in the past that hardened me. To experience a compassionate response while in such a vulnerable state, I was able to release a huge weight of guilt and angst. And it allowed me to recognize the need to prioritize self-compassion which may look different now than it did 3 months ago. It freed me to think about myself first and others second. This shift needed to happen.

My “right now” consists of a lot of work, good work that feeds my soul, keeping me very busy and a tremendous amount of support offline. I feel so very grateful and nurtured.

When I enter the online sphere, I retreat to the other version of me—the version that wants to just pretend I can do it all with a smile on my face. This discrepancy is strange because it has always been the reverse. I started blogging because it allowed me to have a voice during a time when a lot of my vulnerability offline had to be kept hidden.

And I feel silly because I don’t even want to say what it is that I’m experiencing…because compared to what others are going through (and what has just happened in Boston) what I’m experiencing is a blip on the road. But since it is my road to travel alone, the blip seems bigger to me than others and I know that is just reality. We each have very different experiences and have to live life from our own perspective not someone else’s. I don’t want to minimize the worthiness of my feelings.

Over the summer, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s (an autoimmune disease that is related to thyroid functioning—see these bloggers for more insight on this disorder). It took time to find the right endocrinologist and get my body into balance, something I’ll continue monitoring for the rest of my life. This is manageable and is just something that has become part of my regular life. Then, unrelated, a couple of months ago, my doctor found one or two growths that need to be surgically removed (from a female region). I’m having the surgery tomorrow (Wednesday). And I’m scared. I really just want it to be over. I’m ready to be on the other side of this experience moving forward, stronger and more resilient.

I’m forging ahead, living with the fear and anxiety and not letting it live for me. I’m being proactive and preparing lots of self-compassion for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I am going to use these days to be very kind to myself.

This is my right now. And I haven’t been talking about it online. And yikes it feels good to just say it and move forward. Wednesday should be a cakewalk after this blog post :).

p.s. the title of this post is inspired by one of my favorite blogs, a blog about love.

photo of magical heart by @bspoont (my husband)

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