Stillness.

I’ve had something weighing heavy on my heart and mind for a few months now, and I feel the only way to truly surrender the anxiety it’s causing me is to write it out. Writing is my therapy – it’s where I have the opportunity to be raw, authentic, and accountable. It’s me writing these words, most often to myself in a journal, but recently I went public with my words and there is a positive sense of liberation in that transparency.

I no longer have to pretend I have all my stuff together and I’m finally okay with people seeing I feel pain, worry, and sadness from time to time. Writing also feels like direct and unfiltered communication to God, and there is a calming sense of security knowing that as the emotions flow through my fingertips on the keyboard, I am being guided by my Higher Power to express myself completely and never hold back or censor myself.

Some people work out until their muscles burn, others drink until they can’t stand up anymore, I write. We all have our coping mechanisms. This brings me to the topic heavy on my mind lately: stillness. I feel people these days don’t understand the concept anymore, and worse, I feel there is a pressure imposed by society to constantly do interesting things and eat interesting things at interesting new restaurants with our interesting brand new friends wearing the new interesting outfit from that brand new interesting boutique. What happened to valuing what we’ve already been given and nurturing it over time?

I took a step back from my hectic and over-ambitious social calendar a few months ago and re-evaluated my priorities. My time on this planet is so precious. Time: it’s the only thing we have that binds us together across generations and borders. We will all have different opportunities and amounts of money and types of lifestyles, but we are all given 24 hours in one day. I am appalled at how we undervalue our precious 24 hours. Some of us aren’t even given that.

So it got me thinking: I have 24 hours in a day, about ten are reserved for work (preparing, driving to and from, sitting at a desk being a marketing writer genius all day), about eight are needed for sleeping (I don’t consume caffeine so I need eight hours to keep me energized throughout my day), and that leaves me with six hours to do with as I please. Why have I been crowding that space with as much stuff as possible the past three years? Those six precious hours that I am able to fill with anything that I want are the hours I live for, they define me, they recharge me.

I don’t have obligations to a husband or any children yet, so at this point in my life, those six hours are Andreea time, and they are so valuable. They’re just as valuable as the hours in which I am paid to produce work for my company, if not more-so because they bring happiness and meaning to my life. Work hours do not bring happiness and meaning to my life, they bring money so I can avoid living under the highway because it smells there and it’s not a generally warm and soft place for me to hang out. But I wouldn’t call hours spent at work fun and meaningful. If your job brings value to your life, power to you, you hit the jackpot! I write for a bank, it’s not as glamorous or rewarding as snuggling with koala bear babies or taste testing Taco Bell’s new recipes – both of which I am immediately available for if you hear of any openings…you know how to contact me.

Short story long, I gave up on the rush. I let go of the pushing and forcing and over-booking my schedule because I stopped running away from my problems. It took me three years of hiding behind a busy social agenda before I could listen to my exhausted body and mind and just stop running. Instead, I turned around and faced those problems head-on that had been chasing me for years.

Oh my, it was not pretty. I broke down. There were many tears. I abused and suffered from sugar crack comas to cope (Reece’s Pieces ARE crack. Don’t try to disprove me. You will hurt for days). I whined to friends and family – bless their hearts, they never abandoned me or told me to suck it up and quite complaining. They did, however, remind me that I am loved and supported by many, and that I have been blessed with SO many great people, opportunities, and things in my life. That helped me get myself out of that hole I dug for myself the past three years. How silly of me to think if I overload myself with distractions, that my emotions will just fix themselves. Ha!

I’m not completely free of the struggles, but now I am aware of them and they cannot hurt me if I see them coming. I am wiser and stronger because I got through this by sheer determination and strong will, not by ignoring it and hoping it will go away. I talked through my thoughts with people who know me best, and even some strangers – their words of support really got me through those times where I felt utterly hopeless and alone. In the moments I felt the most despair, I prayed, and God listened and answered my prayers. I may not have gotten the answers my heart wanted, but I got the answers my mind needed to move forward and heal.

Someone wise told me a couple weeks ago that during her entire life she was afraid of the waves in the ocean and she would run towards the beach and away from the waves when she saw big ones coming at her, but every single time, the waves would catch up to her and eventually crush her from behind. Until one day, when she decided she was tired of getting crushed and she looked at a big wave coming straight-on and did something she never thought possible: she dived head-first into the wave and came out on the other side of it. She was stronger than ever because for once, she didn’t turn her back on the big wave or let it crush her.

So my takeaway for this topic is to stop and smell the flowers more often than not. And if it’s winter and there are no flowers, stick your tongue out and eat some free-falling snow. Either way, don’t crowd your precious happy “you” time with unnecessary or excessive plans to run from the truth. You’ll always know when you’re doing this because you are exhausted and feel unbalanced and anxious all the time. Take a step back, try to see it from a different perspective, and catch yourself before you let yourself take the easy way out.

Easy is running to the beach, but strong is diving head-first into your biggest waves and knowing they have no chance to ever crush you.

Relationships.

At times I almost feel out of control, as if something or someone I’ve just stumbled upon is amazing and I go full throttle and immerse myself into that something or someone. It could be a hobby, but today specifically, I’m referring to people and the relationships I form when I jump head-first into someone I just met. Figuratively speaking, of course – I wouldn’t want to put any questionable images into your heads!

When I engage in this behavior, I tend to subconsciously make this new, shiny, fascinating person in my life my new Higher Power, and therein lies my problem and source of constant struggle and heartache. I put too much pressure and expectation on one person to make me feel better, happier, safer.

Today I came across a beautiful quote. It was so serendipitously placed in my life so I may stumble upon it, that I cannot help but smile to myself and take it as direct advice from God:

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

After reading this, my eyes have finally been opened to something my friends and family have been telling me for years, but I just wasn’t comprehending, or perhaps, I just wasn’t ready to accept, and that is that my feelings of worth should come from within. My self-worth should not waiver based upon objects I’ve attained or people’s perceptions of me. Those external forces could be taken away just as easily as they are given to me, and if I continue to place my value in them, there is no hope for me to lead a healthy, thriving life.

The pressure alone, which I must have put on people when I did this, must have been exhausting. I value everyone in my life for what they’ve contributed to me, and I stand back now from a different vantage point humbled by what people have done to support me, in their own unique ways. I may not have seen their efforts at the time because I was too preoccupied with complaining they didn’t do exactly what I expected and wanted, but I see their efforts and support now. I am grateful for each of them and their own unique ways they loved me.

I could clearly see how I’ve been contributing to my own pain and disappointment. When I demanded so much of people, I was placing too much pressure on them because I was hoping they would save me when I could not save myself – I was making them my Higher Power. No wonder my relationships with people kept failing, because expecting someone to save me will never work and will always leave me feeling isolated, abandoned, and hopeless. 

I learned this the hard way through a series of several devastating failed relationships, and in retrospect, those relationships needed to fail for me to understand this basic principle: we cannot thrive in a healthy relationship if we make it, or another person, our Higher Power, our God. This applies to relationships with friends, family, and work colleagues, not just romance.

Holding people to my high standards and putting immense pressure on them as I make them my Higher Power, is unfair to them. I held them to extreme standards which I myself was unable to adhere to, yet I got upset with them if they didn’t do things my way. This, I’ve learned the hard way, is the quickest way to lose people in my life and push them away. If I could go back and learn this lesson sooner and prevent hurting the people I did, I would.

All I can do is now is pray for strength to not do this again in the future, and treasure people for who they are when God brings them into my life. It is not my duty to judge them, change them, or hold them to unrealistic standards, but rather to love them, support them, and be grateful that they are in my life.

I’m not perfect, I screw up all the time, and I am the first to admit it. I try to be understanding and see things from other perspectives, constantly seeking to self-improve and grow. During these moments of soul searching, I realized I can’t be angry with people for not being who I want them and expect them to be. Learning to love people as they are is my new priority and I believe if I work on this, I will become a better friend and listener.

A job, a boyfriend, even a best friend don’t define my worth. My integrity, work-ethic, and perseverance do though. I shall try my hardest to let these values define my self-worth speak for themselves and my character. I can only take this lesson and continue to seek more values to add to this list.

Positively grateful for this clarity and opportunity to change how I make people in my life feel going forward!

Letting go and letting God.