“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well we can be present with the darkness of others”.
– Brené Brown, Rising Strong
I have always been curious about my emotional life. I have come to realize that the only way we can break free is by exploring and understanding the things we feel, think and do, and understanding how they relate. After facing struggle several times I have come across an outstanding discovery: love is the answer to our search for meaning and belonging. Compassion is something that derives from our ability to love and our willingness to face the discomfort of vulnerability in order to engage in profound and selfless love. Being curious has taken me in interesting directions. I have read everything I can put my hands on that seems to help me unravel the mysteries that lay beneath the truth about love.
I stumbled upon compassion in an attempt to rise strong after a terrible fall. While doing so, I fell in love, again. Knowing that love was the answer I did everything I could to learn how to truly love this person. I read the books, practiced courage and made compassion my secret weapon against feeling and inflicting shame. This new way of engagement made this relationship seem magical. Love had never felt better and I was sure I had hacked love once and for all. But everything suddenly changed. I faced betrayal beyond my understanding and grief came back into my life bigger and stronger than ever. After every lie, every unjust treatment, I looked for the courage to set fear aside and find my way back into love through compassion. I thought that I was excelling at love. I tried to baptize myself in Mother Theresa’s wiseness by wholeheartedly believing her when she said: “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love”. In my attempt to be the best version of myself I forgot something very important: setting boundaries.
As I navigate through grief I am learning a lot about why boundaries are so important and why I have always struggled with them. Researcher, social worker, and best-selling author Brené Brown opened my eyes with this great quote from her book Rising Strong:
“Generosity is not a free pass for people to take advantage of us, treat us unfairly, or be purposely disrespectful and mean. What I realized was that generous assumption without boundaries is another recipe for resentment, misunderstanding, and judgment. We could all stand to be more generous, but we also need to maintain our integrity and our boundaries”.
I realized that my struggle with boundaries comes from a place of scarcity: the fear of believing that I am not enough and therefore, not worthy of love and belonging. I accepted the unacceptable for all the wrong reasons. I wasn’t being generous or kind, I was being permissive out of fear of not being able to love perfectly. I’m starting to understand how I battle with perfectionism when it comes to love. I keep on trying to hack love and make sure I do it perfectly so I can avoid pain, rejection, and disappointment. I know how these three things can take a toll on my sense of self so I try to fight them back with perfectionism. I’m rationally aware of the fact that instead of trying to be perfect, what I really need to do is understand why do I feel so shitty and unworthy when rejected, especially romantically, but when loss and betrayal happened, my emotions got the best of me and I felt completely lost.
I know that grief comes in stages and I have studied them profoundly. As I navigate through these stages I do my best to make sense of them and of all the emotions that come with each stage. Denial, fear, anger, anxiety, hopelessness and depression, just to mention a few. Instead of shoving these terrible emotions under the rug, I do my best to allow myself to feel my way through them in hopes that when I finally get to the other side I’ll be wiser, stronger and more compassionate not only with others but also with myself.
People often say things like “the universe is trying to tell me something” when strange things that are related to our current inner journey come across our path. I don’t believe it to be just coincidental, I also find myself feeling like something bigger than me is watching me struggle and giving me the tools I so desperately ask for to survive my struggle, which can sometimes feel never ending and soul sucking. I have always turned to writing as a way of understanding and navigating through emotions, especially the hard ones. But in order to write, I always do a lot of research. I look for answers in shared common experience and I can say, from my experience, that it is through human creation that we are able to express and find light in the hollow aisles of darkness.
I have collected throughout my life a lot of quotes that resonate with me emotionally, rationally and spiritually. I’m talking about songs, poems, movies, books, and essays written by all sorts of people: scientists, anthropologists, phycologists, philosophers, writers, spiritual and religious leaders, astronomers, physicists, psychiatrists, screenwriters… you name it. In the end, they all share certain characteristics: they are all human, they are all curious, and they all seek for truth and meaning. It is amazing how sometimes I find myself stumbling upon the perfect song, book, article, movie or poem during my research phase. I sometimes get overwhelmed and feel like it is the universe talking to me, but I also believe that it is a matter of my own effort to leave comfort behind and lean into the discomfort of courage and awareness.
As Carl Sagan said, “We can judge our progress by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers, our willingness to embrace what is true rather than what feels good”. So once I start this journey, I come to terms with a terrifying truth: there is no going back. Once I set myself for the adventure of shedding light on an emotional issue I am well aware of the consequences: truth might be painful, but, as Carl Sagan also said: “Better by far to embrace the hard truth than a reassuring fable”.
Right now I am in the middle of that journey, and the middle is the worst part. Making a choice to venture into the arena seems to be the hardest part, but it is only the beginning. What comes next is the messy, painful and crazy journey that will ultimately lead to something better. Learning is an extremely vulnerable experience, but as I always say “How will I ever be right if I’m afraid to be wrong?” Denying fear is delusional, and it makes us get stuck in a terrible place where we can’t move forward. When we fail to acknowledge our fear, it becomes our puppeteer, and we fail to be the leading role in our own story. We become victims rather than heroes, and let’s face it, we were all born to be heroes.
In my attempt to fulfill my destiny as a heroine, I have worked really hard on making sense of my spiritual journey as I try to stand up after a terrible fall. I am facing my fear and trying without knowing how this journey will end. But I know I am not alone. I have found courage in the words of others. And I have faced failure time and time again, but I know these folks have faced failure too. I have indulged in flawed coping mechanisms and I have made poor choices when I’m in pain. I am willing to believe that people are always doing the best they can. I think that of myself too and it gives me the strength to go on and the courage to be nice to myself even when I’m drowning in shame. I believe in making things right after I’ve done wrong because redemption is empowering.
Sometimes people tell me that I am very annoying because I talk too much and I always seem to be lecturing people as if I had all the answers. The truth is I know nothing. When I drop conclusions about anything, what I’m really doing is asking a question. I’m saying “Hey, I put a lot of thought into this and this is what I came up with in conclusion, do you have any information that can help me better understand the issue? Is there something I missed?”
This is why I love writing and putting my thoughts out there because I want to be a part of the conversation. I want to learn. I’ve always loved it. I find such joy in light.
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