Miracle.

Today was quite surreal. I did something I never thought was possible. I feel both shocked and humbled. Scratch that, “humbled” does not describe it well enough. I feel sobered. Have you ever had those out-of-body experiences when you look at yourself and can’t believe what just happened to you? Today was one such day for me, and I’ll explain it all. But first, some background information:

There is a certain person in my life. This person has quite frankly made my life miserable for over nine months. I won’t go into details…much…but just know this person has caused me many tears, moments of self-doubt, extreme stress, and general unhappiness. Forces beyond my control forced me into close proximity with this person on a frequent basis and because I am so conflict-adverse, I could not bring myself to ever tell this person how his or her behavior affected me. I keep referring to said individual as “this person” because I think it’s important for me to see the humanity behind the harsh approach and condescending tone of voice, to remind myself, Im dealing with a human being. It was THAT bad.

I can appreciate the clarity now and see how my “good-intentions” and complacent attitude actually did our connection an injustice. I let things fester which ultimately lead to resentment in both of us. What a horrible word, probably in my top 5 for bad words to avoid. Resentment. Wow, I hate to think Im a resentful person, but that is what happens when you bottle emotions and thoughts inside – things are escalated and blown way out of proportion. We should have talked sooner. Granted, some situations in life don’t allow a healthy exchange of such confiding, but I have seen the long-term effects of resentment, and I can personally attest that it only leads to inner turmoil and a wider ass because I certainly overate sugar-crack when I felt stressed about this person. And probably gained 20 lbs over it.

At the very least, I wish I started writing down my feelings about this person when things first started to turn downhill about eight months ago. Writing is my therapy, but I didn’t even consider that because I didn’t want to “waste” anymore time thinking about this person than I had to. I did other things to relieve my stress about this person on a regular basis that weren’t as constructive as writing would have been: I complained to friends, family and boyfriend at the time. I whined, I insulted. Not my finest moments, but those were my grieving and coping mechanisms.

I look back and feel ashamed that I said the things I did. After all, it does take two to tango, and although I don’t consider myself an enabler, the fact that I never approached this person willingly to discuss my feelings in a mature and proactive manner, well, that contributed to the increasing tension in its own way. Although I didn’t mean to cause harm, I caused harm by speaking to the wrong people who wouldn’t be able to actually help the situation, but rather nod and say comforting things like “I’m so sorry, that sounds horrible.” Sometimes all we really need is someone to listen to us, not judge, and just say they understand, but in this case, my whining was not helpful, it likely made me feel even worse and more hopeless about the situation.

This person was in a position of power, an elder, and someone I tried for months to be respectful to. I tried to live up to unreachably high expectations, while simultaneously walking on eggshells to avoid triggering this person’s explosive behavior. Several times people witnessed things this person would say to me and they would stand up for me and say “hey [name], stop bullying Andreea” or “Andreea, don’t let [name] get away with treating you like that.” This person even admitted to my face at the very beginning that he or she is a bully and I just need to learn to deal with it. The sad part is that I did want to deal with it. I know I’m a sensitive person and words, tone of voice, and positive and negative reinforcement really affect me in every sense.

My mental state is strained by constantly preparing myself for the worst around this person, my emotional state is compromised by constant criticism, and my physical state is constantly on high alert in “fight” mode just anticipating the need to protect itself from this looming source of stress. I wanted to become immune and shut off my sensitivity. I wanted to change not only how this person affected me, but also who I naturally am. This person got into my head so much, I allowed this person to chip away at my self-esteem and convince me that I wasn’t good enough. It was bad. I thought about it all day during work and all night when I came home.

When I was home, I was too exhausted to interact with friends or family because I spent all day on edge and it drained my energy. I became a hermit and saw friends less and less. And when I did see my friends, family, and boyfriend at the time, I just complained about this person and my stressful situation. I should have just walked away. I shouldn’t have waited for the universe to take matters into its own hands and force me away from that toxic environment. I should have had the self-respect and wisdom to walk away first. But I kept trying to prove my worth, to win this person over. I kept doubting myself and my abilities, and just saw myself through their lens of criticism. I suppose in some ways it was psychological abuse. But I wasn’t forced to stay there, I could have walked away at any time. None of this was ever against my will. It was my decision to stay and I made that decision a few times each day, it was absolutely exhausting. The daily rollercoaster of “I need to get out” and “I can handle this” was the worst pain of my life.

There was a period, about two months, when it was so bad I had scary thoughts creeping into my mind. Thoughts Ive never had before or every thought I’d have. I was worried about myself and confided in people I trust that I didn’t trust myself anymore. Even if it was my decision to be around this person, I had certain obligations and responsibilities tied to this person. I was stubborn, and determined. I also didn’t have the strength and faith to leap away from security into the unknown. So there were scary moments. Moments Im not proud of, but moments that happened regardless and worth mentioning. These moments brought ideas into my mind of how I could avoid seeing this person for some time, without completely severing ties and turning my back on my responsibilities. I remember thinking if I get into a car accident, it would be a legitimate excuse to be away from this person just for a day or two.

I was terrified. I caught myself thinking this a couple times and burst into tears. How crazy to think something like that. That was the 2nd lowest part of my life. The 1st is a completely different blog entry, stay tuned! J

So I prayed. I had no other options at this point. When you think a car accident will bring you peace, you know things have gotten out of control. So I strengthened my relationship with God. That was THE ONLY option left for me. Just as I refused to walk away from this person who caused me so much pain, I refused to let the pain ruin me and all I have worked for my 28.5 years. I put my thoughts into prayer and I gave it all to God.

Just recently, God answered my prayers. I was too stubborn or too scared to walk away on my own and eventually events unfolded on their own to separate me from this person so this person no longer has power over me. I no longer have to swallow my feelings, and the most unthinkable thing happened. We bonded over a mutual hardship. This is what I love most about the power of prayer. You pray and you open up your soul to God and ask for guidance, wisdom, and strength, and God listens, then gives you the lesson of a lifetime.

So back to what I did today which shocked me. Let’s talk about the seed planted. It was an out of body experience and the initial thought came to me out of nowhere. It was a couple weeks ago when I was driving home on the 5 south merging onto 80 towards San Francisco. It was a moment of clarity and then extreme confusion, questioning, and doubt. Where did this come from? How could I ever do this to myself? It would be a lie. How could God expect me to lie? Then I quickly dismissed the thought as a dangerous seed I dare not nurture. I pushed that idea out of my mind, hid it in a box, locked the box, closed the vault door, then locked the vault with a 16 random-digit code. And I hoped it would pass. Why would I ever do anything to willingly help this person? I was certain this person was pure evil. I have made several jokes at some point about resemblances to Satan and the fiery pits of hell.

But in true God-like fashion, the joke was on me. A few days ago, I was forced in the same room with this person and we managed for the first time in nine+ months, to be real with each other. This person showed me vulnerability, something I’ve never thought I’d see. This person told me deep, personal secrets and listened to me as I shared what was heavy on my shoulders. We bonded over the mutual pain we were both experiencing, and at one point this person chuckled and said “How ironic that we’ve been through so much together and right now, we are the only ones who can comfort each other through this.” How true were those words.

For months I spent HOURS each day worried about this person, dreading seeing this person, and questioning my value and worth because of how this person saw me. I talked about this person with everyone in my life and asked for advice on how to handle this person. I know for sure this person confided in others about me, and I’ve heard confirmations from those people of what was said about me. I was no angel either. I caused this person a lot of stress in my own ways and Im certain he or she resented me for months as well. Yet, when life stepped in to bring us both to reality through hardship, per usual, we found comfort in each other. And then we hugged. It was weird. I felt connected to this person for the first time since we met. I saw this person as a human with feelings, with hopes, and with vulnerability. So I reached out for a hug in consolation. There may have been shock on both our ends, but from that moment on, things changed.

The next morning, I was convinced of what I had to do. I unlocked the vault, opened the box, and reexamined that idea that popped in my head on the highway on the way home a few weeks ago. I sat down in silence, searched my soul for every ounce of good I find in myself, and I forced myself to write this person a letter of recommendation. I knew from our recent conversations that this person was actively applying for new jobs, and I knew this was my only opportunity to make amends and to clear myself of resentment. That was God’s work. That was a miracle.

This person and I have no tension anymore. We are civil, we laugh now. We may even be friends one day, but at least I know we are no longer enemies. And it all stemmed from one tiny idea. It was an isolated idea, and something I had never in the past nine months ever considered possible. I couldn’t fathom ever saying something nice about this person to another in passing, let alone creating a letter highlighting this person’s strengths when I had spent nearly a year focusing on this person’s weaknesses. It changed me. It changed me in a way I cannot take any credit for. I spent hours praying, questioning, “GOD WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME”, and begging “PLEASE STOP THIS because I cant.” God answered that prayer and it came in a spontaneous thought while driving on the highway one day.

Now I look at myself with a newfound kindness. I understand my limitations, and I respect myself for having them. No longer will I prolong situations which make me feel uncomfortable, or connections of any kind which make me question myself, my abilities, or my worth.

No amount of money, power, or prestige are worth batting yourself for. And that is an invaluable lesson I have learned in all of this. Walk away when you aren’t valued. Every breath you take is precious and if someone comes between you and your self-worth, you stand up straight, you pray to God for strength, and you walk as fast as you can in the opposite direction.

I no longer make exceptions for people because they are family, managers, life-long friends, or exciting intimate partners. If you abuse my trust and patience, to a point where I question my worth, I WILL walk away from you.

I challenge you to look deep inside yourself and be brutally honest with yourself. If there is someone making you uncomfortable or unhappy, try to see things from his or her perspective. Look at how you react to this person and how your actions or inactions may have affected them and the situation. We are rarely victims outright with no contributions of our own.

I am positively grateful for this life lesson. This experience taught me more about myself, my strength, and my capabilities than the past 28 years of my life combined. Thank you, God, for answering my prayers in the most epic way: with a lesson learned and with a smile on my face at the end of that chapter.

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Covet.

I’ve heard that the grass is always greener on the other side for many years and I never quite appreciated its meaning in my life until recently. I realized I fall victim to this on a frequent basis but where it affects me most is my love life.

I absolutely detest dating. I can’t think of a more uncomfortable experience than faking interest in small talk and getting all dolled up to attract a complete stranger just so he thinks Im interesting and sexy enough, all the while spending hours feeling nervous and wondering if he’s actually a cartel member who is going to kidnap me in his white van and drive me to Tijuana to sell me into slavery. I know what you’re thinking, dramatic much? But this actually happens, I know. I read the news every morning.

Easily within about 20 minutes, I know if a new person I meet is someone I can respect, someone who can make me laugh, and someone I would let kiss me. Because let’s not kid ourselves, that’s a very important quality in a date. Oh also, I know right away if a person will make me uncomfortable in any way. You’d be surprised how hard it is to find someone compatible to date within those parameters. So needless to say, I don’t date much. I’ve always been a relationship girl – years with the same person and valuing consistency, stability, and loyalty.

In retrospect though, I never quite lived in the moment throughout those years. I always had an idea in the back of my mind of what I expected during that point in my life and a looming deadline I subconsciously placed on that expectation. Until recently, this didn’t usually have anything to do with my boyfriend, but rather expectations I placed on myself or to appease others’ expectations of me.

I have always thought two steps ahead; it just comes naturally to me.  I’ve been so successful in my academic and professional careers by strategizing and planning, that I assumed my love life would prosper the same way. I only found out recently how wrong I had been for so many years and I’m kind of ashamed to admit I wasted so much time over-analyzing and wishing for something I didn’t yet have, that I lost out on the opportunity to live in the moment and fully appreciate the many blessings that I already had.

My various relationships were fulfilling and taught me wonderful things about myself, some even showed me how strong I am and how much pain I can endure. But sadly, these self-realizations never occurred in real time. They came months, sometimes years, after relationships ended and I had found clarity and closure. I was too busy wanting what I didn’t have to realize how wonderful my relationships already were.

This is one of my favorite quotes and is from Milan Kundera’s novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being:

“Perhaps all the questions we ask of love, to measure, test, probe, and save it, have the additional effect of cutting it short. Perhaps the reason we are unable to love is that we yearn to be loved, that is, we demand something (love) from our partner instead of delivering ourselves up to him demand-free and asking for nothing but his company.”

Reading that always gives me chills because it pinpoints exactly how I have contributed to my own pain, and others’.

I realize now how chasing desires can be so consuming and blinding. In a way though, it’s liberating to be aware of this character defect now, while I still have time to change and prevent this from happening again. So that got me thinking about the things I’ve been craving all these years…were they really important? They seemed important at the time, and they varied depending on my age and the stages of life I was in. Maybe they were and maybe fighting and pushing for these achievements make me who I am today.

I think my life has been a series of back-to-back events of trying to prove something to someone. In high school, I was focused on proving to myself and others, that I could get accepted to a great four-year university. I never once even went to a high school party because I was so focused on my academics and my boyfriend at the time. Poor guy though, I don’t think he ever really had my attention 100%. I certainly didn’t appreciate him or all he did for me during the years we were together, but looking back now, I value those years we spent together because he encouraged me to focus on what was important to me at the time, and that was my education. Im grateful to him now, but I don’t think I thanked him enough during that time when he was my biggest supporter.

While I was in Norway, I spent years focusing on proving myself worthy enough of staying in Norway. I tried to prove this to myself, to the Norwegian government, to my friends in Norway, and it was exhausting. I don’t think I really lived when I was in Norway, I just hustled and I pushed for a visa, twice, to be able to stay, it was a constant battle. It took a toll on me and I think it prevented me from fully appreciating the gifts I was blessed with: my relationship at that time and the ability to spend those years of my life in such an incredible country. I had grown up a bit by this point, so I think I was a better girlfriend than I was to my high school boyfriend, but I wasn’t the person I am today: I was not able to convey my gratitude fully.

My most recent relationships reaffirmed what Milan Kundera so wisely wrote in his book about the things we demand of love: expectations kill love – they attempt to contain a fire that naturally burns wild. Ignoring love’s power and beauty in my life also kills love, and I see that now. Love comes in all shapes, in types I didn’t know I had, in unexpected serendipitous meetings with someone I haven’t seen in 10 years. Love is so precious and rare for me, and I vow that next time I am blessed to meet it face-to-face: I will focus on one day at a time, I’ll be grateful for what I have in that moment, and I will not worry about what else I think I want.

I’ve come to realize recently that my ego is my worst enemy. It makes me think I want something but most often, I don’t actually want it, I just want to know I can have it if I choose to. I’ve learned to take a step back and ask myself if it’s just my ego that is fighting to know it can have it, or if I sincerely want or need to have it.

I’m at a point where I know I can achieve anything I want when I put my mind to it, my mind and my will are really that powerful. But like a naïve child playing with fire, I have to be careful what I wish for – just because I can have it, doesn’t mean I should.