Being Who You Want To Be

Hi readers, thanks for continuing to visit my blog or for reading this posting arrived into your email.

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By this time I am settled in Manila, Philippines starting my latest travel adventure. I decided to begin this adventure in the Wanderers Guest House in the city of Malate (Metro Manila is a collection of cities, and Malate is one of the most central). Really it is a hostel where I will have my own room but will be able to meet fellow travellers, hopefully Filipino as well as international. Following this stay I will be joining a homestay in another central city of Metro Manila before making my way to interesting scenarios further afield.

There is generally a lag between my travel adventures and when I get a chance to share them with you but this one is another non-travel posting written while visiting friends in Cobb County, Georgia with some photos inserted from my current location in Manila.

The image below is a short clip walking the streets of Manila, click on the image to play. If you received this post by email, click on the title in blue to open this posting into your browser so you can also play the video.

“I don’t know who I am anymore,” he had said and I listened. I understood, I had been there myself.

I thought back through the years to when I struggled with my own identity the most, struggling to discover who I was early in university at age 18,19. Before I had accepted many things about myself. I wished I could change things about my nature that were unchangeable. Being inherently introverted. Being highly sensitive. Being creative. Wanting to fall in love with a man instead of a woman. This last one caused me my greatest grief. (I value all of these today as some of my greatest gifts.)

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I held to my conviction that all mankind is created equal. This helped me struggling with low self-esteem. Deep down I felt I was worth less than those around me. That I was broken and unlovable. But I’d remind myself that all of us are of equal value. I knew and felt that the poor man was as valuable as the rich, that a good-looking person was no better than a plain person. That we all had something within us to be cherished. Even me.

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One’s value is not determined by status. The person who found this public space to air their laundry is worth as much as the person whose housekeeper does theirs. When I see a scene like this, I think of the life of the person behind the scene.
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“You don’t need to know who you are,” I said to him after some moments of reflection. “You just need to know who you want to be. Within the limits of accepting your own nature and embracing your fixed character traits. Who you want to be is who you can be. Because who you are is constantly changing.”

Because who we are is mostly a collection of behaviours. And we can change most of our behaviours. We can focus to be more kind, more generous. more loving. We can take action to be less hurtful, less aggressive, less controlling. We may need the aid of a good therapist to figure these things out if we find it impossible to break our knee-jerk reactions, but there is nothing stopping you from making the effort to be more like the person you want to be starting today.

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Who we are is mostly a collection of behaviours. Think about how your job becomes a part of your identity, because it is what you do. I’ve had times when who I was – was a teacher in Japan. -was an office worker in Edinburgh. -was an espresso bar manager in London. -was an artist in Toronto. -was an actor and tour guide in Fredericton. -was a recruiter in China. -was a student. -was a substitute teacher in Winnipeg. -was a retail business owner in Winnipeg. What we do is changeable, not just for work but how we behave in all areas of our life.
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We all have our shortcomings but hopefully we all have ideals as to how we want to act, behave, and be in various situations. Often we react poorly and disappoint ourselves. But we can learn from our mistakes and improve. We can work towards being who we want to be in many different domains. It is well-known now that we cannot work towards being straight if we are gay, that is a fixed trait. But for character traits that actually matter, we can strive to improve.

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A closer view of someone’s laundry hanging to dry in Metro Manila, Philippines.
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Make a list of who you want to be as if it is true today.

What you value as important, is who you are. Or at least it can be, if you choose to make it so.

You may not be that yet, but you can work towards it. Changing automatic responses takes time, patience, and perseverance. But you can teach yourself to respond with kindness (for example) by being mindful to notice when you did not and promising yourself to behaving differently in the future. And then doing it.

Mine was something like this.

Who I am is someone who is:
-Kind, especially to those who deserve or need kindness.
-Generous and giving of myself and what I have. (But not overly generous, anymore. There needs to be balance. Too many people will take as much as you will give without consideration to you. I learned this the hard way.)
-Thoughtful of others thoughts and feelings.
-Polite and respectful with others behaviours, ideas, and values. (But also with my own.)
-Patient with myself and with others.

We can all benefit from stepping back, looking at ourselves, and deciding what values and behaviours we want more of and holding ourselves to a higher standard.

I’m going to make my own new list in my journal right now, as part of my starting 2015 on the right foot. Why don’t you do the same? It will only take a few minutes and it can only bring good.

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Why 2015 Is Going To Be Great!

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I left Canada on Jan 6th and here is a pic of my gratitude notes with me today from 2015. (Refer to my previous post if you don’t know what I’m talking about.) I’m using a stack of origami paper rather than a tear-off notepad at the moment.

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I’m still in Acworth, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta, preparing for my soon departure for Manila, Philippines. I don’t really consider this travel, as I am visiting with long-time friends who I know well and the purpose of my visit was to spend time with them, it’s like being with family. So this is another non-travel posting.

Before I move on, I want to add another gratitude practice that my friends here do every single night with their two daughters. Last thing before bed, the family sits in the living room with their pajamas on and teeth brushed. After their daily prayer, they then go around the room and give account of what they are thankful for that day. It is a beautiful practice and a wonderfully positive way to end each day. The process of making yourself think about what you are grateful for during the day calls to remembrance that you have things to be grateful for. It also reinforces those happy memories rather than replaying the negative memories, a wonderful thing to do right before bed.

This practice differs from keeping gratitude notes, in that with the notes you will generally want to write down novel situations whereas at the end of the day, you might be most grateful for many of the same things every night. (Grateful for loving family, grateful to be able to eat healthy food, grateful to live in a free country, grateful for your loving friends, grateful for your employment . . . ) It’s good not to take for granted the amazing things we enjoy in life.

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More non-travel pics for this posting. I first started painting as a hobby in Matsuyama, Japan, which is also where I met my friends in here near Atlanta. Previous to that my main hobbies had been signing and acting. I also took a Japanese flower-arranging class at the same time, so my arrangements provided subjects for my first paintings. These first paintings were drawn with ink and then painted. This is around 1999.
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Why 2015 Is Going To Be Great!

This is another exercise I came upon recently, that I think is pretty great.

You’ve probably noticed that I have made no mention of “New Year Resolutions” in my New Year postings. The change of the calendar can be a good time to reflect on what is working for you and what is not – what is moving you towards the life you want and what is not. In that practice, making mental stock and writing down what you want to change is a great idea. Just don’t wait for the new year to start changing your life/living the life you want to live. Start changing your life today and every day. Even if you love your life exactly as it is, it takes work to maintain healthy and happy relationships and to keep the love flowing. When you remain still, you slide backwards.

The following is another practice that can help you have more happy days in 2015.

The exercise I came upon was to start each day by deciding why your day is going to be a great day. Do this when you wake-up, thinking about what good is going to come from your day, rather than letting your mind wander into worrying or fretting about what could go wrong or what you are dreading. Focus on the positive rather than the negative, and make more of what you want happen rather than more of what you don’t want. (You get more of what you focus on.)

That is the entire exercise. But I decided it can go further. Anyway, let’s start there.

Complete this sentence every day:

Today is going to be a great day because _____________________________________________.

This simple activity will help start your focus on the positive. We can dwell on all sorts of reasons why it’s not going to be a great day – it’s really cold, I have to work, it’s Monday, it’s garbage day, I have to do the shopping today – but that is only a good idea if you want to have an unhappy day.

How much better to focus on why your day is going to be great? Because my family is healthy, because I have a job to afford my life, because I have a car to be able to get to the store, because I can afford groceries, because I live in a warm home and have a warm coat and even though it’s cold I am not freezing myself. Because I have plenty my household has created rubbish, and it won’t just sit there rotting either, there is a collection service – I don’t even have to transport it away, I just have to take it to the curb!

Mine today: This is going to be a great day because I will enjoy another day with my friends near Atlanta, I will talk to my boyfriend on the phone, I will be able to get to the gym and work towards my fitness goals, and I’ll enjoy a nice dinner with friends and their family who are coming over tonight.

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Another of my earliest paintings from 1999, of a Japanese-syle flower arrangement (called Ikebana).
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Here is where I have extended the exercise to be more global.

Complete this sentence:

This week is going to be a great week because ________________________________________.

Many of us fret and worry that our week is going to hold all sorts of hardship. How much better is it to face our challenges knowing that in fact during the week, hundreds of little things are all going right. Your car will probably not break down, your dishwasher will probably clean dishes well enough to save you some effort, you will probably be able to do your laundry in a machine that makes that easier . . . if you have a loving partner even with ups and downs you are not alone . . . or because you are single you can enjoy the freedom that brings you whether or not you are looking for a partner. . . . because you love your children . . . , because you’re moving towards a goal you have set . . .

Mine this week:This is going to be a great week because on Monday I’ll be able to talk to my family by phone, I will enjoy a final night with friends here before on Tuesday I depart for the Philippines where I’ll be starting another great adventure!

Believe it or not, I could fret over the 37 hours of travel ahead of me. I could worry about arriving in Manila after flights to Chicago and Tokyo. I could fret that my accommodation might be less than I hoped, that I might get lost, that it might be too hot without air conditioning, that I won’t be able to sleep from the 13 hour time difference, that I could get taken advantage of by a taxi driver who wants to cheat my fare or try to take me to “his friends hotel, the one you want is closed, sir”. But I choose to know that this week is going to be great. Things will go wrong, they always do, but in the end I know I will be alive and well.

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These paintings are not very clearly photographed because they are framed behind glass and hanging in my Dad’s house in New Brunswick.
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Complete this sentence:

This is going to be a great month because: ________________________________________________.

Rather than focusing on that this is going to be a hard month because I miss my boyfriend so much and I wish he were with me and I’m worried about being lonely without him – I choose to be thankful that :

Mine this month: This is going to be a great month because I love and feel loved by my boyfriend even though he will be far away, and by my friends and family even though they are far away, and I’m thankful that we will be able to keep in touch with the internet – how lucky are we to have the internet! And it’s going to be great because I’m going to meet lots of new people and make some new friends in Asia, have lots of new experiences, and create some great adventures to write about to further my goal towards having a publishable collection of stories.

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This painting took me a week to complete all the details, it was not one I could feasibly sell at the price-point I was able to charge as a mostly unknown artist. Listed at $800 (a bargain considering that time effort in Toronto) it never sold from multiple shows including the One of A Kind Show. The original hangs in my mother’s home in New Brunswick. I ended-up making paintings that took much less time so that I could afford to charge much less and still make a living, and in the end I was just painting products for sale and didn’t care about it any more. (Completely different experience for hobby artists who may not by trying to charge for their time as an income.)

I think you know what is coming. Why 2015 Is Going To Be Great!

2015 is going to be a great year because: _________________________________________________.

Now, hopefully we can all do more than a sentence. But think about what you most want to achieve in 2015 and believe that you can do that. Think about upcoming events and challenges and know that you can rise above them. Acknowledge that if a door closes for you, it means that you are supposed to find another door. Sometimes our path takes turns that we don’t expect and that we cannot see the immediate purpose of, but it is still our path.

Mine this year: 2015 is going to be a great year because I no longer suffer anxiety and depression and I am able to share love and kindness with friends and family better than ever before. Because I love and am loved by my family and friends. Because I am enjoying the freedom to travel and find stories to write about. Because I will take a great writing course in April and May that will improve my writing. Because I will enjoy travels with my boyfriend and create life-long memories with family during a family wedding in Tuscany this coming summer. Because I am able to pursue my health and fitness goals and feel great because of that. Mostly 2015 is going to be great because I have started it with the greatest love I have experienced in twenty years.

Now don’t just read it – do it!

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Thank you for visiting my blog! I hope you will join me on my adventures by clicking on “Follow” to the right of your screen and entering your email address to receive my postings to your inbox. You can unfollow with a single click on any email you receive from me, and you will receive nothing apart from my blog postings. Cheers! Darren

Thank You 2014!

Happy New Year!

I wanted to write a Thank You to 2014 as I now spend time in Cobb County with friends near Atlanta, Georgia, USA. If you don’t use the practice (often called the gratitude jar) I highly encourage you to. It’s simple and a great way to shift your focus to the positive.

Give yourself the gift of making the most of your happy moments!

-Carry a note pad with tear-away sheets and keep your mind open to noticing things you should be grateful for. (Or keep it at home – somewhere you will notice every day.)
-When you notice something you are grateful for (or should be grateful for – you can practice this even when you’re not feeling it) write it down and fold the sheet to put your note into a jar. (Your gratitude jar. I put it in a gratitude ziplock bag myself because I’m always travelling.)
-At the end of the year, you can look at all the notes you collected, remembering the good and inspiring times you had throughout the year. Focusing on the love you felt, the joy you experienced, and the challenges you rose above will lead to more of the same in the coming year.
Keep your notes of gratitude, compile a list, make a collage, or just file them away with your memorabilia to refer to again. (I have not done mine yet and I don’t have my 2014 gratitude notes with me.)
-The focus of looking for things to be grateful for will help improve your focus to look for the positive and will increase your overall happiness and well-being.

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A close-up of a painting from my “Dancing with Flowers” collection, from when I was an artist.

What are you thankful for from 2014?

Why not take a few moments to think about that. Jot a few things down.

I am grateful that I was able to have a reunion tour in the winter of 2014. On a road trip down the Eastern seaboard I reconnected with dear friends from my past, many whom I had not seen for a decade or more. I am also learning to reconnect more meaningfully with new people I meet.

I am thankful that I was able to spend time with family.

I am grateful that I was able to devote time to writing.

I am thankful that I was able to join groups that felt purposeful, and met people I felt I was meant to meet. And that one thing led to another, one person led to another. With forward motion came more forward motion.

I am grateful that I had more love in my life by the end of 2014 than I had at the beginning.

I am thankful I met a number of people who have become special to me during 2014. One in particular who will likely be a central figure in my life.

I am grateful for my loving friends and family.

I am thankful to be alive and well.

Stay tuned for my next new year posting – “Why 2015 Is Going To Be Great!”

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My Autumn Journey Part Five : The Conclusion

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Just for colour, I include some more of my paintings, my Autumn journey ending in snow. For a short time I was mostly painting custom home portraits. (I do not paint anymore, not for quite a few years.)

My Autumn Journey Part Five: The Conclusion

I just want to make a quick wrap-up to my Autumn Journey with a conclusion that I couldn’t have made-up.

As you know this fall I spent some time dealing with shame issues (at it’s core, shame is the fear of being not good enough/unlovable). Everyone has some shame issues, and to reduce their power we need exposure plus love and acceptance. It’s important that the exposure be to the right person/people as to have a positive outcome. This came from the teachings of Brene Brown, if you have not at least watched one of her Ted Talks yet, do it!

I also learned that the main thing people have in common who feel loved is that they feel worthy of love. When you don’t feel worthy, you deflect peoples expression of love (you don’t allow yourself to feel their love because you can’t believe it), and you don’t attract people to love you. It’s like you’ve taken in the welcome mat for love. People may still love you, but not nearly as much as when you have that welcome mat ready to give and receive. This fall I’ve been cleaning-up and brushing-off my welcome mat simply as a part of my journey and not with thoughts of what it might lead to.

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Toronto row houses. 2003.

I am in a chapter of my life when I am embracing personal growth and change. I am also working on becoming a writer, specifically of humourous non-fiction travel stories. To this purpose, I go out in to the world looking for interesting experiences to write about.

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A farmhouse in Uxbridge, North of Toronto.

At the same time, I have been investing in my life in Toronto between travel adventures. Although I did not want to have reason to stay around at the moment, I find myself becoming more and more connected to my life here. New loving friendships, a spiritual journey, activities and groups I enjoy. I still want to travel, but not for as long and it’s getting harder to leave.

Because I was also completely blind-sided.

But the heart knows what it wants, and apparently it wants to be in love.

I met someone.

It’s early days, but wow does he feel like “the one”.

Time will tell.

I’m still departing for my next trip on January 5th, but now with heavier feet. And as for my original idea of missing winter, I can’t stay away that long.

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Toronto’s main Chinatown, Spadina Avenue. 2003. I did a number of city scenes, luckily my sister bought two of them as the rest went to homes unknown sold through a gallery.

Thank you for visiting Personal Travel Stories! I hope you will join in my adventure by clicking on “Follow” and entering your email address to get each of my postings by email. (And nothing else.) Worry not, you can unfollow at any time with one click. Cheers! Darren

My Autumn Journey Part Four : Reconnecting

My Autumn Journey Part Four : Reconnecting
Learning to Live a Wholehearted Life

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In this posting I share some photos of paintings I did. I was an artist professionally in the early 2000s. These ones are from one style I played with, but I played with a variety of styles.
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In parts one, two and three of My Autumn Journey I focused on the teachings of Brene Brown and the universal need to love and belong. Through extensive research, Brown had discovered that the common quality of people who feel loved, is that they feel worthy of being loved. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I feel like right now there is a societal movement away from pretension and towards authenticity. Away from pretending all is perfect and always showing a brave face – to exposing our imperfections to connect more deeply with others. A recognition that we all have our struggles and challenges.

If you are joining me for the first time, I’d recommend joining my Autumn Journey from Part One.
Thanks for coming along for the ride.

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I have often written about how I left my life in Winnipeg in May, 2012 and started my current journey back to becoming the person I was meant to be. Throughout my life I have fluctuated further from and closer to my authentic self, but for sure by the end of that chapter I was as far away as I could have become. I say this because I had hit rock bottom, to the degree that my will to live was very weak. I was self-destructing.

2013 was mostly about adventures and having the feeling of moving forward by physically moving forward, mostly in India and England. I focused on regaining my health mentally and physically.

2014 has mostly been about relationships. Including repairing old wounds, self-acceptance, and continuing to move forward in all areas of my life.

2015 will be about cultivating love and taking my writing to a new level.

I have had chapters where I’ve made loving friends in the past, but they have been chapters. I knew some great people in Edinburgh, but then they were no longer part of my life. I made very loving friends in Japan, but then I was alone and isolated again. Especially in those days before Facebook and email that moved with you, and affordable long distance calling.

In 2014 I had planned to winter in Asia but I changed my plans instead to take a reunion tour of the Eastern US, where a number of friends who had been very dear to me in Japan now live. The time since I had last seen them, or even contacted beyond sending a Christmas Card, ranged from ten years to seventeen. It became a healing journey where I loved and felt loved. (In 2015 I again plan to winter in Asia, but again my plan may change direction as I follow the ebb and flow of where I feel I am meant to be. Already my expectation of duration is changing due to a scenario I did not imagine. More on that in future posts.)

I had so many years when I had no one-to-one friendships, from an early age all through my development years I had lots of “friends” but I felt friendless. I didn’t think anyone would accept me so I only had friends in groups. This was a tendency I repeated and returned to throughout my life, my default was to feel unworthy of having friends.

The week after I turned 40, in October, 2013, I joined a discussion group in Toronto. This turned-out to be an amazing group where we discuss things that matter in a non-judgemental and very supportive setting. Members share our deepest regrets, our darkest secrets, our biggest challenges. Things that are normally hard to bring-up. I had lots of issues I wanted to work on, things from my past that I wanted to revisit and find clarity about and things in my present that I was not satisfied with. I had already broken out of my depression, changed my lifestyle with regards to health (eating healthfully, exercising regularly, drinking far less, and I quit smoking) but I was still suffering social anxieties. And I was not where I wanted to be emotionally. I had already been working on reducing my anxieties by pushing through my fears to do things and to reduce their power.

I hadn’t realised until I was in Montreal (Aug, Sept, Oct 2014), that by sharing our shameful secrets in this group, perhaps the biggest thing we were actually doing was removing the shame around them. In her book, “The Gifts of Imperfection”, Brene Brown tells us that to be healed from shame, we need to feel EXPOSED and LOVED and ACCEPTED – all at the same time. The group, led by a loving psychologist, provided this. The more deeply and vulnerably one member shared, the more deeply and vulnerable the other members shared too. And we loved each other for it. For our imperfections. Our imperfections make us human.

My initial behaviour at the group was to push myself to share very authentically in the group. I would even decide beforehand what I wanted to deal with so that I would move deeply, rather than just attending to see what happened. But each evening as soon as the group ended, I would bolt out the door and run home. A complete return to highschool. I tended to be an integral and even central member of groups, with no personal contact outside.

I was expecting acceptance in the group, but still fearing rejection outside of it – by the very same members. A very unhealthy mental loop to be replaying. I recognised this and shared it with the group leader because it was an isolation tactic that I wanted to break. He challenged me to accept every invite thereafter, to make my default a “yes” rather than a “no” until I have broken my habit. I started to meet members after the group for coffee, and I started contacting individual members to meet-up completely away from the group. This was new behaviour for me. I was learning how to create meaningful friendships I had not learned how to do growing-up. And I was learning that I am worthy of those friendships.

My experience in the group is what inspired me to reunite with friends who had been dear in my past. I would not have had the worthiness to reach out after so many years without that experience. I would have told myself that maybe we were very close only because we were expats in Japan. We were a tight little community, we only had each other. We were like family because our families were thousands of miles away. I was only worthy of such loving friendships in that very specific situation.

I was wrong.

I set out in the winter of 2013/2014 on a road trip and I proved myself wrong again-and-again, all the way down the US Eastern seaboard. Time and distance had not broken my love for my friends, nor their love for me. I was re-learning my worthiness of love and belonging.

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Thank you for joining My Autumn Journey. I hope you’ll come with me by clicking on “Follow” and entering your email to receive each post to your inbox. You will not receive anything else and you can unfollow at any time with one click.

In January, 2015 I depart for my next travel adventure (probably Atlanta – the Philippines – Brunei – Indonesia – East Timor – durations and destinations not yet finalised) and until then I will be sharing more of my inner-journey, including the exciting unexpected developments coming from learning to feel worthy of love. Follow now and don’t miss a thing! Cheers! Darren

My Autumn Journey, Part Three : Unconditional Love

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More views form my visit to New Brunswick in October, 2014.
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Most of my postings are travel-related but my Autumn journey to Quebec and New Brunswick became more an inner journey than an outer one. So thank you for joining me as I continue to explore the teachings of Brene Brown. As I apply them to my own life, I hope you will take the time to reflect and apply them to yours.

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend visiting http://www.BreneBrown.com for these universal lessons.

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My August Journey, Part Three : Unconditional Love
Learning how to live a wholehearted life

Brene Brown studied people who she described as living a “wholehearted life”. Apart from feeling worthy of love and acceptance (belonging), she discovered that these people had traits that she would come to describe as “shame resilience”.

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I have now written several times that Brown describes shame as coming down to “the fear of being unlovable”. Being loved and belonging are the two essential traits of a happy life, in fact they are essential human needs. It should therefore be no surprise that without these things some people become depressed or even suicidal. It would seem that shame is the main block to feeling worthy and therefore the main block to being truly happy.

Brown tells us that to live and grow, shame needs three things. And unfortunately, these things tend to self-perpetuate when living in shame. It needs: 1. Secrecy, 2. Silence, and 3. Judgement. It’s pretty easy not to talk about our greatest secret, but over time can lead to all manner of mental health issues. For me, I have mostly suffered anxiety and depression.

In fact, my shame that caused me to suffer anxiety and depression grew still and I also became ashamed that I was depressed, and ashamed of my anxieties. The self-punishment we humans inflict on ourselves! I went to great lengths to hide my depression and was so successful that it was only discovered after a serious suicide attempt landed me in the hospital for some time. One of my doctors figured it out.

Eventually this led to my acceptance of being gay and the incredible release of shame that I had had around that. I was happy for a few years. How did I release my shame surrounding being gay? Exposure. First I met other gay people through a somewhat secret group organised by the counselling department of my university. In meeting other nice gay people, I realised that they were good people who should not be ashamed of being gay. I could see they were worthy of love and acceptance. Soon I was able to apply this to myself.

Shame hates to be exposed, it nearly requires secrecy and silence. And the judgement was both self-judgement and what I had been taught growing-up with Christian convictions. Most peoples Christian convictions have now adapted to accept people much more than at that time.

I spent the next few years after university mostly living abroad. It seemed I had recovered fully from my depression that had lasted through my younger years, that by releasing my shame of being gay and by living openly I was whole again. But it didn’t quite work out like that. That was a big lift, for sure, but eventually shame crept back again and brought with it depression.

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I went on antidepressants some months after my return to Canada. I just couldn’t seem to break a sadness that had re-occupied my mind. I had perhaps forgotten my past while living overseas, but I had not adequately dealt with it.

There is a difference between forgetting about something, and having closure with something. When we force ourselves to forget it may seem like we are healthfully moving forward rather than reliving the past, but in reality the past comes-out in our choices and our actions whether we want it to or not. We may end-up choosing relationships that repeat unhealthy relationships from our past, because they were not finished. We may unknowingly self-sabotage – feeling unworthy of being happy, or unworthy of being successful. We may make poor choices, clouded by repressed anger or frustration or hurt. My greatest tendency is to isolate. It comes from a fear of being unworthy combined with self-preservation. As in introvert, I need some alone time to recharge. If I don’t get that time, panic can ensue.

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For me, the pain of too much interaction is worse than the pain of too little interaction. I have come to see this as a strength – many people can not have solo travel experiences as happily and successfully as I do.

We humans are wired to connect with others. I prefer to do this meaningfully, I prefer quality over quantity. I am happy to explore all day by myself and if I can then meet people for some real conversation in the evening I have had a perfectly balanced day. I can even achieve this through Facebook or the phone or even email if needed. Many extraverts, for whom it often seems the world was designed, would find my current life painfully lonely. So it can be seen as a weakness, of not being able to always be with others, or as a great strength, of being able to be happily alone.

Antidepressants definitely have their place. I was trying therapy but had very poor luck with the therapist I tried, and I was quick to suppose that I had grown-up feeling depressed, so perhaps that is just the way I became wired. Eventually I also ended-up on ADHD meds, which also had an off-label use for treating anxiety. In my case, they may have contributed to developing anxiety, also a known effect.

I stayed on antidepressants for much of my adult life and I am thankful to have had them until I weaned myself off all medications during my India travels in 2013. I have realised since that even without the specific shame I had attached to being gay, I have a generalised shame, as so many of us do. That I am not good enough.

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In this next bit I don’t mean to mislead. Let me be honest and explain that I don’t actually believe in Jesus but I do believe in the metaphor of Jesus. Lately, I have even chosen to attend a Christian church that promotes love and acceptance for all. I attend because I believe in connection and community and moving forward and the positive values this particular church encourages.

It is interesting to me that even though I am unable to force a belief that Jesus existed, I can still embrace much of what he stood for as an icon. I even take communion now, whereas I hadn’t for some years. Because I believe that we are all one; we are all connected. We are all a part of the same universe. That when we hurt another, we hurt ourselves. When we help another, we help ourselves. We must love ourselves to love others, forgive ourselves to forgive others. We need to feel worthy of love to feel loved. To feel worthy of forgiveness to feel forgiven. The message is that we are worthy. So worthy, in fact, that we are worthy of someone sacrificing himself for us. So that we may live. Not just be alive, but LIVE. Even if I don’t believe it physically happened, I believe the message is true.

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The church has long used our shame issues as a hook, with the message that Jesus loves you (even if no one else will). This is a very healing message and it plays into our fear of being unlovable (shame).

We are told that God can see into the deep recesses of our heart (where shame dwells); that he knows our deepest secrets but he loves us anyway. With this belief we feel exposed to him and accepted by him. This, according to Brown, is exactly what is required to be healed from our shame. Exposure (telling someone) with acceptance (someone loving us anyway). Brown points out that we need to choose carefully who we share our shame stories with, the person needs to earn our trust first as someone who will accept us, as to not become a reinforcement of our shame story. Basically, we need to share with someone who will either not judge us, or who will exercise unconditional love.

The good news is – when we learn to be vulnerable and share our shames with these people we trust, we discover that many fellow humans can still love us too. Not just Jesus.

Because none of us are perfect.

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I hope you’ll join me for Part Four of “My Autumn Journey”. Click on “Follow” and enter your email address to get my postings (and nothing else). You can unfollow at any time with one click on any of the emails.

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My sister’s dog, Andy, also visited New Brunswick (from Toronto) when I was there. My sister came with him. Here he is reflecting on his own shame issues (most of us have some) while looking out to Mom’s patio.

If you’re not sure about your own issues yet, watch Brene Brown’s Ted Talk (that has already been viewed more than four million times) by clicking here: http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame