Men + Myself + God

Tag: therapy

Are You Normal? Me neither.

by P. Braithwaite

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Photo credit: A Widow’s Voice

Lately, I’ve taken to saying that I’m going through a spiritual adolescence. It’s like a seven year soul puberty that just can’t stop. I’m like the girl with the concave chest waiting for her boobs to sprout. I’m doing all the exercises in the back of Cosmo Girl, but nothing…the boobs just won’t come up.

When I was a kid (going through physical adolescence), my father used to remark that I was “all over the place.” I’d have a new interest and then drop it. I’d have a passion and then leave it behind. When I felt like I discovered something, I’d toss it to the side. I’ve spent most of my life wishing I were a more grounded person. I’ve always secretly admired those who can tough it out, think logistics and ignore emotions.

I’m not that person. At all. If the wind blows me left, I’m riding with it.

Lately, I feel scattered and uncertain. My sense of self is changing. Have you ever felt this way? An image comes to mind: the old version of myself is giving birth to a newer me, but in a very violent and aggressive way. This new ME has pushed herself out of my stomach, and I feel like she’s trying to kill me.

Normal people, I think, call this an existential crisis. I wouldn’t really know. I’m f*cking weird…

Here’s what I know for sure: As abnormal as I come off, I’m even less normal than that. In my private space – absolutely private space between ex-boos and new ideas – I’m a gypsy. I talk to spirits; I spin tall tales and soft souls out of pine needles and thread. I wish to cover myself with mud and live inside a tree trunk. I learn to speak the language of energy and dreams.

I’m not normal, ya’ll. And that’s okay.

We define so much of ourselves in opposition. We say: I’m not like my father; I’m different from my best friend. I’ll never be the person I was that one time when I was in love with him [or her].

Those statements, though potent, don’t scratch the surface of who you are. We cannot exist forever by who we aren’t. That’s not progress; that’s baggage. The truth of who we are begins where the opposition stops. The truth of who we are lives in the silence.

I’m still figuring it out, but here’s something else I know: asking the right questions is the route to transformation.

Are you normal? Me neither. I salute you

My Ex is NOT a D-bag: General Theories on Forgivness

by P. Braithwaite

My ex and I broke up two years ago because he didn’t come to my grandmother’s funeral. Actually, it’s not that he didn’t come, he  refused to come.

“I don’t do funerals,” he said as I cried on the phone.

Fast forward: This ex called me the other day and we had an awesome conversation about art and creativity. It was great, but when he called back the next day, I found myself getting irritated — really irritated. I actually ignored his phone calls for a week or so until I finally sent him the text with the following question: why do you think I should maintain a friendship with you? What value-added do you bring into my life?

Now while I think it was a fair question (I honestly couldn’t think of an answer), I knew I was being a little aggressive. The harshness of that question had me wondering if I’d ever really forgiven him. And that question made me wonder: what the f*ck is forgiveness, anyway?

These are the moments when I wish I had Oprah on speed dial.

Some general reflections on forgiveness:

1. The heart always forgives immediately. The ego takes a bit longer: I’ve been trying to check into how certain emotions feel in my body. When I used the word forgiveness toward my ex, I felt a slow burn in my stomach. It felt like a balloon deflating slowly – a steady stream of helium escaping from a blow-hole. This was surprising because I expected to feel pain in my heart or tears in my eyes. The lack thereof made me think that my heart was perfectly intact and that perhaps my ego was a little injured. I think the heart forgives almost immediately. I actually don’t think that hearts break at all….everything else however, is susceptible to injury.

2. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we ever have to be friends again:
I have a friend that says forgiveness means you can invite a person over to your home for dinner. I think forgiveness is more like inviting the person over to your home for dinner without wanting to poison them. Just because I forgive you, doesn’t mean that I ever want to interact again. It doesn’t mean they deserve my time, energy or attention. It just means that, one way or another, I’m no longer holding perceived injustices against you. Oprah says: “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different.” Agreed, but that doesn’t mean we have to sign up for repeat performances.

3. Forgiveness of others comes after forgiveness of self:

I firmly believe there are no victims in life. Everyone, on some level, is complicit in the relationships they participate in. Yes, people lie; yes, people cheat; but ultimately you agree to stay, ignore, struggle, and/or fight. So when it comes time to forgive another person, I truly don’t believe we can do that until we’ve freed ourselves from judgment. When I looked myself in the mirror and forgave myself for dating such a douche-bag (sorry), I was able to really survey the situation. I didn’t have to pretend to be this “nice” or “enlightened” person who was so centered that she actually wanted to have a conversation with her ex. I didn’t have to downplay my hurt or pretend it didn’t matter. NOPE! Instead, I could value myself enough to know that my time and affection are better spent elsewhere. What haven’t you forgiven yourself for? How does that residual blame bleed into your relationships?

4. No one can tell you what forgiveness looks like. It’s personal:
Self-explanatory. Our loved ones love to see us moving forward, but no one can tell us when or how forgiveness will show up. Every day for me is a process of forgiveness — deep forgiveness of self and others. It’s something I think I’ll be exploring for years to come. Not because I am unusually bitter and angry, but because (God willing) life is long and hurt happens easily. When you’re ready to let it go, you will.

5. Forgiveness isn’t necessarily the absence of anger. It’s simply a greater amount of love:

I’ve been having a love affair with anger lately. Growing up, anger wasn’t really something that was expressed in our home (hi mom), so I realize that I’m not really sure what it is or why it exists. Also, when you get out into the world, no one wants you to be angry – people are always trying to calm you down. The truth is, though, anger feels a little bit empowering. It feels better than depression and despair, that’s for sure. So, I think you can still forgive someone and have a little bit of leftover anger in your freezer. I think the key is, though, that there’s more love and healing energy in your heart than anger. If the scale tips in the favor of love, I’d say you’re living in the energy of forgiveness; however, if you’re tuned into all anger all the time – it might be time to take a look at letting go.

That’s all I’ve got so far, but I’m hoping to start reading “Radical Self-Forgiveness” and “Radical Forgiveness” sometime in the near future (I’m currently reading like 40 books, this may take a while). I’ll share whatever ah-ha moments I have with you! In the meantime, share yours with me! What does forgiveness look like to you?

Guess Who’s Back!

by P. Braithwaite

Hello Lovers,

I’ve been away for a while, but I think our time apart has been good for our relationship. I’ve missed you, and hope that you haven’t forgotten about me. I certainly haven’t forgotten about all of you.

 While I was away:

1. I finished my Master’s thesis: In about two weeks I will officially be a Master of Fine Arts, and (although I have no idea what that really means) that feels GREAT!! Now that I’m done being a student (in the traditional sense), I can begin my life-long commitment of being a slave to the written word. I really loved graduate school, and I think my decision to go was sort of brilliant. I got to live as an artist, while telling everyone I was a responsible academic type. I got to live my passion without the scrutiny of others. I wish I’d realized that sooner. It would’ve saved me some angst. In any case, I think that what the MFA has really taught me is that I’m a writer all of the time. School or no school; blog or no blog.  Writing is a very big part of how I’m going to spend this life. It’s time to stop delaying and pondering; it’s time to get to the business of doing the thing…

2. I’ve gotten some career clarity: The writing life is only part, albeit a huge part, of my overall picture. While getting some clarity, I have come to understand that I am passionate about personal development, motivation and spirituality. I’m hoping to blend writing with a day job in personal coaching/empowerment. If I could spend 40/60 hours a week helping folks become better people, and then spend my free time working on writing and deepening my connection to self, I’d be the happiest girl in Kansas (though I live in Brooklyn). Regular readers know that I may or may not be an English instructor, and so I think that I (may or may not be) already doing a bit of coaching and development work, but I’m hoping really expand the definition of what it means to be a teacher. I really want to live my best life, and help others do the same. (I blame Oprah)

3. I haven’t worked on the God Book: I’ve thought about it a lot, but I really wanted to concentrate on finishing my thesis. It’s interesting because there are a lot of people who have asked me about my process, and have offered to connect me with people who are willing to help. Now that the thesis is almost a distant memory, it’s time to recommit to the project.

4. I’ve been showing up more as myself: I turned 28 last month, and I’ve spent a lot of time enjoying myself and the people in my offline life. That said, I’ve also been doing a lot of inner work. At the risk of being completely vulnerable, I’ve been doing the therapy thing and I’ve enlisted the help of an AMAZING life coach. I’m up to my ears in self-help books and empowerment tapes, and I’m meditating (almost) daily. Though I’m sure this sounds a bit crazy, this process has helped me to see how some of my attempts to protect myself are actually getting in the way of my potential. Those who have known me for a while have told me that I look different and move differently. I chalk that up to me showing up as my authentic self instead of as I think I should be.

5. I cut off my hair: Afro chic!

So I’ve bored you with list in an effort to explain that, while I have been away, I’ve been really busy becoming a better person and shit. I am aware of the life I want, and I’m determined to become the person capable of birthing that life. The best part is, I look in the mirror and I’m beginning to see that I AM that person.

So I’m back and I’m more focused than I’ve ever been. There will be some changes to the blog in the upcoming weeks (hopefully some new voices) and I’m going to be posting more regularly. I hope that those of you who read my posts will comment. When I look back on when and how I started writing, I really believe that I started writing to convince myself that I existed. I was sooo quiet and much of my time was spent alone. At some point I picked up a pen and started talking to myself. So comment when the spirit moves you, don’t talk yourself out of it.…it validates my existence. 😉

Here’s a question: what have you all been doing while I’ve been cutting off my hair and running the streets? Do you have any interesting insights?