On the brink of a birthday

I have the good fortune to have some truly amazing people in my life, and with my upcoming annual celebration of life, folks are asking for things that I might like. This is hard, as there are many things that I like, but would not want to have (except a Pyrex jug, which apparently is not a suitable to gift to ask someone for). So I started to think about things that I have really appreciated that people have done for me on this remarkable day.

I was once made a birthday card by Kathryn and Tina. This gift felt incredible, as I could see the time, effort, and knowledge of me that had gone into it. And it was also both dark and incredibly funny, which is likely why I still remember it. I still have this somewhere.

On my 17th birthday, my mum invited some of my friends over to dinner as a surprise. I don’t thnk that I can remember feeling that genuinely shocked by something in all my adult life. It just felt so amazing and so utterly unexpected. I have had someone end an eighteen month relationship with me over the telephone, been told that I need surgery, and found out I was pregnant (okay, that one is a definite contender for top place) and lots of other things, but that is what stands out, my Mum organising something so incredibly kind.

But in thinking about actual stuff that requires direct purchase, my brother has given me some things that I have really liked over the years. They have mostly all been Zelda themed and this is good! He also gave me his orange woolly bobble hat that is likely the most awesome thing on the planet (If you have ever seen the TV series ‘Firefly’, the hat will make perfect sense).

I am at a place now though, where I don’t know what I want. I feel so utterly blessed with the life I now get to lead, that thinking bigger than the now, beyond my present, actually feels really hard. So maybe for my jubilant cycle of the sun, what I would really like is a new perspective.

Map Point. What would be the best gift someone could give me?



My voice

I have often felt frustration with how I use my words. It is every time I wish I have said something to someone who has put me down, dismissed me because I do not register as important to them, and it creates utter frustration with myself. Why can’t I be the person who is okay to speak up, who is certain of themselves enough to believe that they are worth being heard?

Perhaps it is conditioning of being told to be quiet and not to question, of being made to feel annoying or stupid if I ever I did. School can be harsh in lots of ways. Perhaps it was being in a relationship for a long time with someone who continually spoke over me. I felt as if my words were worth nothing at all.

I was always a quiet child. School reports labelled me as ‘shy’ and ‘needing to come out of myself more’. But I think I was genuinely happy, functioning contently in my world of books, art and plastic bricks (still a massive Lego fan now). I didn’t particularly speak up for myself, but there mostly wasn’t a requirement for me to do so.

The strange thing is, friends have often commented on how strong I am, how well I meet the challenges that I am faced with, how it sometimes appears that there is nothing I cannot do. I have had people who I have not seen for some years telling me that I am almost unrecognisable (in a good way!) to the person they once knew. This creates a quandary.

I am clearly very attached to the person that I was and have kept the memory of that emotional place without realising quite how much I have changed. This feels like quite a big thing when I try and define who I am, I am using words that would have described a ‘past’ me and not the ‘present’ version.

Maybe we have to grow into the person who we actually are without carrying all this unnecessary weight. We all have our histories which have shaped up and brought us to the present moment. However some of the insecurities we have dropped along the way, even if we have not realised it. It would be truly wonderful to provide all long-term friends with a tick sheet once a year to somewhat more objectively chart our growth. But this isn’t necessary. It’s being realistic with our definitions. If I consider myself to be someone who is insecure in their words, then I need to be able to find recent examples within my life. If all the memories that are stirred are from years ago, then it is likely time to let that definition go.

Map Point. Am I the person I think I am?

A new perspective (I no longer need this heavy suitcase)

When I was becoming so well practiced with my five amazing memories, other thoughts started to occur to me, firstly although I knew that I was no longer flooding my mind with unhappy (and replacing it with happy), I still wasn’t actually ‘happy’. This led me to consider what had triggered such a negative mindset to begin with. Now I guess this is different for everyone, but essentially could likely be summed up with ‘sad stories that we couldn’t get past’. So I thought about my sad stories and tried to rationalise them, see them objectively, and for all intents and purposes, this is a really hard task!

If I have been holding onto to an unhappy memory for many years, then that sad story has become a familiarity, and mostly, we don’t like losing what we consider to be ‘ours’. Even applying fresh eyes to a situation can feel somehow traitorous to our sense of self. But at the same time, I recognised that feeling this level of sadness over something that I cannot change does not lead to happy! Events, I reasoned, can’t be changed, but maybe my thoughts about them can. So I proceeded. Cautiously.

Throughout my teenage years, I experienced anxiety, manifesting into the form of panic attacks. At the time these were scary, isolating and I felt that nothing, not even my own body, could be trusted. I lived in this state for a long time, and went through the usual channels of medication and therapy, but never seemed to make any genuine progress. This I can relay as a sad story. However looking at this as an adult, I can apply a whole new set of parameters. I experienced the anxiety because of the environment I was in, and I didn’t have the confidence or vocabulary to be able to express my needs. It wasn’t anxiety I was suffering from, it was repressed anger, rage at the situations that I was unable to control. And then perhaps the hardest bit of looking back on these memories. What have I gained from these experiences?

I am compassionate with those around me, and I understand that what a person is trying to express is not always the words that they say. Language can become muddy sometimes. I have also learned that to confidently express my needs is a truly empowering thing and I am utterly allowed to do that.

Sometimes it feels that a situation will just keep reoccurring until I work out what I can gain from it. Which feels quite frustrating for the most part, but if I can learn from things that have hurt me, maybe I can let them go. And that feels enlightening.

Do I experience anxiety as an adult? On occasion, absolutely, but as a weekly or monthly feature, absolutely not. For me, recognising and understanding the causes of my anxiety was the first stage, but then learning to let go of the memories that I held so dearly was quite another, a much more difficult challenge. We choose the weight that we want to carry with us.

Map Point. What am I carrying that is no longer serving me?