Do your childhood photos tell a story? Mine do. But it took me a lifetime to realize this.
Recently, I've been paying more attention to the photos of my youth. For years, I've glanced through them... fairly unaware and detached. Oh, here's where I cut my bangs off myself. Here's where I look like I've been crying. Most of the photos of me look pretty sad. Because I was.
Actually I've spent a lot of my life with sadness as a primary emotion. Sadness for me has meant being very sensitive and also very aware of wrongs related to those I love and wrongs on the planet. It's an easy frequency for me to tune into. I don't even have to try very hard. What happened to me is that somewhere early in my childhood, for whatever reasons, I went noticeably out of balance. Photos don't lie.
If you are a caring being, and you are sensitive, and you grow up aware of other people's struggles and even subjected to them > it's hard to not get sucked into that vortex. Anytime someone close to me shares their distress, I have to pay attention to be caring and compassionate but not to internalize it and go into distress. Much of my life I was not aware of my own freedom to choose my experience, so I got sucked into the experiences of others. Or people just blatantly made their problems mine!
Over my lifetime, without even fully realizing it, I've been constantly seeking balance. It's something I dearly aim for now on a moment by moment and daily basis. How can I feel the feelings I feel and then turn inward and become clear and lift my thoughts and actions into better feeling ones? Because, if I am down, down in the dumps, down in the vortex... it doesn't help me or anyone else.
I'm still learning and practicing this process of balance.
Here are three things I've learned NOT to do:
1) I strive to not take problem ownership for problems I did not cause. I don't know about you, but I can feel somehow responsible for the problems of others even when I had nothing to do with it. This is one of "The Four Agreements" too - it's not about you! Likewise, I cannot blame other people for my problems. Even if someone contributed to hurting me, eventually I need to deal with it.
2) I strive to not believe I have to solve other's problems ~ otherwise I easily become co-dependent. This can be so very very hard if you care about someone. I strive to believe that other people have the ability to work through their own problems. The more you care, the more important it is to allow someone the freedom to work through their own story. If they ask you to help, and you (of your own will) want to, then by all means do so. But know that caring about someone doesn't mean you have to fix them ~ because you can't!
3) I strive to not let other's problems keep me from my own work. It is so super easy to get lost in the problems of others that you don't do your own growth work. Investing in yourself and your own healing and transformation is one of the most important things you will ever do. Don't let any distraction keep you from your own self-nurturing.
When we are abused, traumatized, wounded... it's easy to go out of balance. The tendency after that is to go to extremes. We can either become doormats and overly accommodating and putting up with a lot of "crap" we need not put up with. Or, we can become quickly angry, over zealous, easily offended, demanding and setting strong boundaries.
Healing our abuse, traumas and wounds means we can feel more balanced internally... more spacious... more gracious AND still not take any grief from others. It's a deep inner knowing and confidence that says:
"I am deserving... of good... of being treated well... of treating myself well... of being my own unique person... of being happy even if others are sad... of trusting I am safe... of creating safety myself now!"
Recently, I told my mom of a childhood incident when a babysitter locked me in a closet. She was upset I had not told her at the time. I'm pretty sure it's when I was very young - preschool age - and I don't know why I didn't tell her. Frankly, when it would come up over the years in therapy... I would mention it like I was talking about the weather. But that incident, along with other difficult childhood events, affected me a lot. You can see it in the progression of my photos if you line them up.
As part of my healing process, I drew a series of sketches. "Little Fearful Me" in the closet. "Me Now" coming and opening the door. "Me Now" reaching my hand out to "Little Fearful Me" in the closet. "Little Fearful Me" not reaching for the hand. "Me Now" sitting down by "Little Fearful Me" and being present, then reaching out my hand again and holding it there. "Little Fearful Me" finally holding it. "Little Fearful Me" coming to sit on the lap of "Me Now." "Me Now" holding "Little Fearful Me" for awhile. Eventually both of us getting up and leaving. In the last frame, the closet is open, no one is there and the sun shines into it.
That journey is a huge part of me returning to balance: "Me Now" acknowledging all the hurts I have experienced and going back to help "Little Fearful Me" ~ the younger, wounded part of me from the past. In that moment, I am balanced!!
Self-care and self-love means being committed to finding our balance. It's making choices to prioritize our needs and paying attention to our hurts and going inward to heal them. It's also about sharing love and inspiration with others so they can feel supported in the journey. I've had so many amazing people and beings support and love me through some pretty imbalanced times. I love being able to support others move into balance too!!
My childhood photos tell a story... and the photos continue to today. I commit and dedicate myself to capture the joy I held before life's experiences began taking it away. I know I can do it. If you had a similar journey, I know you can too! Every day in every way, we are more balanced and full of joy!!
Photo: Me before - full of joy and innocence. Sometimes we don't even remember me before... but she or he exists! If you don't have the photo, imagine the pure, love and joy filled expression you are... you still are! Then, commit to being that person!!