Letting Go of All the Versions of Me to Reveal… Me

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Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

I spent a majority of my life trying to be several different people, all at once. It maybe all started with what I call a success-hybrid I created as a kid. Someone would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And I’d say, “A doctor-writer-veterinarian.” As I got older I adored to try new things. I played soccer for a year. I played the clarinet for 3 years. Theater and singing lasted longer, almost 8 years. I took on International Studies as a minor for a semester and dropped it almost immediately. I am a girlfriend, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a best friend, I work during the day, and write at night.

All those years I always compartmentalized who I was. If I was in a relationship but my friends were single, I would insist we not talk about my boyfriend. I didn’t want them to think I was actually that sensitive. (But I am.) I wouldn’t talk about my writing with my friends at the gym. I hardly ever mentioned my outside interests at work. It could seem at times even wrong to do so. I operated each piece of myself on its own.

Which ultimately started to drive me crazy because it was impossible to balance my time. Sometimes being a girlfriend took up three more hours than I had planned for. And so I couldn’t be a writer that day. Or I’d have to work late, and not be a friend that day. I have no idea why I did this, but I did. It wasn’t until the last year, maybe two, that I noticed it and attempted to stop it.

I asked my friends to welcome my boyfriend into our friend circle more fully, I made very close and dear friends at work, I told my superiors when I had work published so we could all celebrate. Instead of one or the other I was getting closer to the idea of me that I had as a child, I could be a couple things and it would be alright.

By removing my own compartments, I am a much happier person. My time doesn’t need to be parceled out hour by hour. My planner has become less precious to me. I write in the same room as my boyfriend. I am writer-girlfriend. I share my poems with my co-workers. I am poet-coworker. I make friends at work and introduce them to my boyfriend. I am coworker-girlfriend-friend. The more I combine my passions closer to one another the more like myself I feel. Every time I do not compromise one part of me for another, I glow. The tighter I wind in, pulling it all back, the more complete and whole I feel.

It turns out that I don’t need to be one person for each scenario. I just need to be me, in my entirety, and I will be happy. The closer I can get to my own core, the closer I get to being truly happy with the life I have built.

 

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How to Be Resilient

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Photo by Hyungyong Kim on Unsplash

2018 at my day job has been wild. We’ve lost a lot of great people to new jobs and it was painful for me to let go of friends and mentors all at the same time. I won’t say that I handled it particularly well because I had to call my mom to keep myself from crying one day. That’s pretty rare for me. I mean, I waited 24 hours to tell her I spent the night in the ER with a broken nose.

What she told me that day stuck with me and since then, each challenge that arises in my life, whether in direct relation to these big changes or not, I think about it to calm down.

She said to me, “All of this proves just how resilient you are.”

Wow, that’s a word. A word I was and am proud to have bestowed on me. Resilient! I sometimes walk around wondering if I am crazy for putting up with certain things or for not jumping from place to place, job to job, like many of my millennial counterparts. I often think of myself as a lame duck, just paddling along with one sad foot. But resilient? I feel flattered, Mom.

She’s right by the way.

I am not sure when change became so trendy– Quit your job! Travel the world with your savings! Keep moving until you’re happy. All of those concepts never resonated with me. Sure, on a surface level I was like “Hell yes let’s do it!” But deep down, I am the type of person that much prefers to work through the complications I have in front of me, to find happiness and joy in the everyday. I mean, duh, this blog is dedicated to that. But I needed her to remind me that this tendency also makes me resilient.

(PS – I mean if you’re unhappy please find your own happiness, I am not telling you to be miserable! That’s different and you know it. Don’t pin that on me. ;))

Resiliency can be a learned trait. I truly believe this and I will preach it to anyone who will listen. Learning how to be resilient comes from learning how to be uncomfortable. Finding comfort in your life is like finding comfort on a crowded subway– you may not have seat, but you can probably work your way into a safe corner. Since everyone responds well to lists, here’s a “How to Be Resilient” list to get you started on your own journey or to continue growing (everyone, no matter how resilient, always has room for improvement!)

HOW TO BE RESILIENT

  1. Learn to Be Uncomfortable – Life is never going to be 100% sunshine. Find joy in rain. If you’re avoiding a work project because it seems complicated, try to find a way to un-complicate it. Create space where you are.
  2. Find Your Edge, And then Push Past It – Like with exercise or eating kale or starting a particularly hard book… If you stick with it, just past your edge (your breaking point, the day you usually give up) you’ll find that it is possible for you to get past whatever is holding you back. And you don’t need to go far past it, just enough so that tomorrow, you’re a little bit stronger.
  3. Support Others – Believe it or not but helping others to get over their own fears and problems will make you stronger. Others give us purpose, which in turn gives us strength to carry on.
  4. Take Breaks – No human being is going to be capable of taking sh*t nonstop. Learning how to be resilient also means learning how to take a big old break from the work of getting stronger. If you’re tired, take a seat, just don’t turnaround, you are so close!

How often do you think about being resilient? Does thinking of this word make you more capable? Is this the first time you’ve applied the word to yourself? Do you feel resilient now? Let me know…

Love, light and red wine,
Amanda

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Guest Post: Are You Flinch Tolerant? Why You Need to Burn to Heal

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Photo: Giovanni Riberio

The first time I touched a flame I flinched. Natural reaction to the rising heat against my delicate skin. A primal instinct of “Ouch, that hurts”! As I’ve grown older the flame real and metaphorical is harder to flinch at. There’s a numbness or rather a tolerance to the things I inherently know are bad for me. The longer it’s taken to flinch has been an indication of how much I’ve let various misfortunes rule my life. It’s a dare, a means of control, yearning to feel—to test or merely seeking to punish. Ultimately, yes, a measure of my self worth or lack there of. So noting and treating my torrential mood disorder, physical pains, and self esteem—felt incredibly self indulgent. The overarching goal was power through and survive.

The other drive has been this intense need to control my narrative.

How can I go through so much in a lifetime? Sometimes I feel like a combination of bizarre statistics or I must be remembering wrong or I’m on a sick and twisted game of candid camera. I didn’t want to be defined by my chronic mental & physical illnesses. I didn’t want people to see me as damaged for having been raped and physically assaulted. I didn’t want to admit I’d attempted and failed to end it all more than once. I ultimately didn’t want the secret out that I didn’t have it all figured out. If I let that slip then I felt I wouldn’t be free to chase my ambitions. “Someday I’ll take a break and figure shit out”, I’d say. Until that day I’d work tirelessly to appear be the badass I worked hard to cultivate.

Sure, there have been pockets of time where I have been forced to heal. Whether it was hospitalization, therapy or just my own personal obsession to occasionally “treat myself” to the holistic life.

I must admit, I judged the hemp-shake hippie lapses as flights of fancy. I normally left no space for treating myself— I even gave myself a silly allowance for tears. “Only twice a year!” (No more than that seemed necessary.) Little did I know how it’d add up.

Life has a way of bringing about lessons over and over again until they finally sink in. So, just in time for what seems to be the self care revolution—I am all here for it.

When you become “flinch tolerant”, you emit a beacon. This beacon attracts predators/negative energy in abundance. Yes, law of attraction. I had been violated emotionally & physically to my core but—- hadn’t flinched in so long. The more it happened the less I wanted to recognize the flame. Not anymore. My change of heart came from a sudden health scare that made me realize how much I had to lose, how much I had to be grateful for, and I had to start to respect myself. My body is my temple so time to clean house. Writing this and becoming transparent with my close friends & family is my attempt to be held accountable. No excuses. And if it reaches one person I’ll consider the band-aid rip worth it.

So what am I getting at—Check in. Does it hurt? Do you judge self care as self indulgent? Do you become irritable at happiness of others or even yourself? Do you experience physical and/or emotional pain regularly that you don’t address? Is it getting worse? Do you go so far as to question your very existence because you stopped allowing feeling —therefore lacking some kind of meaning? You aren’t alone as I have learned and there are so many ways to address this.

We all had those balancing habits the things that brought us back to equilibrium when the pain got us to or close to flinch. Crystals. Kombucha tea. Yoga. Binge watching FRIENDS. Talking to your real friends. Running. Meditation. Prank calls. Ridged potato chips. Star gazing. Point is we checked in and released the tension through these rituals.

It’s time to get consistent. The older we get the less inclined we are to find these things as sacred tension relieving rituals but rather we see them as flighty indulgences made under the protection of early life. It’s shocking how many of us don’t afford time to even really breathe. So do it.

Soothe the aches, the burn in your life. Feel it-flinch even. Note what feels good and what doesn’t. Anoint the ritual of magazine collage making as sacred and utterly important to your ultimate well being. The burns will heal. It’ll sting at first but in time you’ll reveal a new layer. It is in the act of numbing the flinch that we create the eternal cycle that gnaws so earnestly. End the cycle. Find your happy place and feel your sad place and if you have the inclination—seek deeper and deeper into the balance of the peaceful place.

 

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Photo by: Zachery Ali

 

Asta Paredes is a dynamic and multi-talented actress and filmmaker based in New York City. She is most well known for her lead role as CHRISSY in RETURN TO NUKE ‘EM HIGH VOL. 1 & 2. After a whirlwind tour (from the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, International Theatrical Release, and recognition as a 2013 Museum of Modern Art CONTENDERS SERIES film)- she came home to being a mix of unexpected cult icon status, outspoken advocate for LGBT rights, and critical acclaim.

You can learn more at:
www.astaparedes.com
IG: @astaparedes

Caring is Cool: A Letter to Myself At 14

Dear Amanda-at-14,

I just want to let you know that caring about stuff is okay. In fact, caring is pretty cool. I know how much easier it is to pretend like you don’t care, because if something goes wrong no one has to know that it mattered to you. I know how much you hate to fail. But the risk of everyone knowing that you’re hurting is worth it, because caring will allow you to experience the world in a much richer way.

You will care deeply about people who will betray you, who won’t support you, and who will make you feel less than. It will be hard to get their words out of your head and sometimes they’ll get louder. But…

You will care deeply for people who will always be there, who will never let you down, who will let you make a mistake or two every once awhile. It is when you meet these people and love these people that you’ll see just how important it is to care.

You will lose people because you didn’t show them you cared. Open up your heart just a little more sometimes.

You will learn to take care of your body and you should never forget that accomplishment. Moving your body and eating good stuff isn’t scary, it’s freeing, and you’ll find a different, and really cool, part of yourself on gym floors, and early morning runs, and yoga mats. She’ll make you happy even on grey days.

Sometimes you’ll find that you care too much and you’ll be really hard on yourself. You have the tendency to overdo everything. Try not to do this with caring. Don’t lose yourself in other people, don’t stress about everything you have to get done, don’t worry about missing a workout. In that way you should remember how you feel now, at 14, when mistakes don’t feel so serious.

I know you’re afraid right now, that you’re going to a school where everyone seems perfect and smart and beautiful. You are too. I know that’s hard to believe but stick it out, do your best, care about stuff and in a couple of years you’ll find that no one is perfect and you’re just as great. You got this.

Love,
Amanda-at-28

We Do A Lot. (And We Should Say Thank You.)

love2Today was a hard day.

But I had it in my planner that I had to write a new blog post.

And so here I am.

I tried for an hour to come up with a reasonable post topic. And in that hour I took the dog out for the night, made my lunch for the week, put on a face mask, did the dishes, and swept my floor because I got cauliflower everywhere while I was cooking. The rice is still cooling while I type. And no topic came to me except for the one flowing from my fingers right now. Which I am realizing is this: We Do A Lot.

Most of my readers are people like me. Dreamers, doers, fighters, and believers. We put effort into every single day because we don’t know how else to live. We make plans and follow them. We make plans and change them for better ones. We do more everyday in hopes that our lives will get better, that a stroke of luck will come our way and we’ll be ready to pounce on it. We do a lot and we’re never gentle on ourselves.

Today I cooked an elaborate breakfast for a man I’m seeing, walked my dog, tidied my apartment, went to my day job, walked my dog again, went back to work, ran some errands, worked out, had dinner, started drafting a freelance blog post, and then came the whole list I opened with. I’m not listing this to brag (at least not right now because sometimes I do like to brag), I am listing it because it sounds like a lot. It is a lot and yet, I found myself, while washing the dishes thinking:

You’re so pathetic. What an unproductive day. You won’t even attempt to draft a blog. How lazy can you get?


And on and on until I dragged myself in here to begin. We do so much and we never say “thank you” to ourselves. I hardly ever thank my body for working out everyday, thank my mind for getting me through a challenging day at work, thank my resolve for maintaining side gigs. I just keep pushing.

Of course, it is this desire to push that gets everything done. The will that pushes me to move ahead, to work harder and smarter, and get more done and find more to do. The desire that I love in me and that I am sure you love in you, my fellow Doers.

But every once in awhile wouldn’t it be nice to say “thank you”? To acknowledge just how much we do instead of always seeing ourselves as falling short? Just to say “thank you” could change our whole perception of how we see ourselves and the work that we do.

We do a lot. And sometimes not doing it all is okay, too. I just wanted to remind you (me) of that today. love