Returning home

Julia recently returned home from living and working in Poland. She reflects on her challenging decision to move abroad. This was first posted on her site.

It’s almost strange referring to this as returning home, since I’d made a home in Warsaw for so long. A home filled with junk that I collected throughout my days, filled with the presence of friendships built from nothing, filled with mistakes and successes, and the lessons born from these. I’d lived what felt like a whole life there, only for it to become a closed chapter I can only look back on. Yet, although I may soon begin to forget some details, experiences like that never leave you. They shape who you are; from the way I now feel assured in myself to the way I now cook potatoes, my life there changed me – and here I am, the product of it all.

 Coming full circle like this is hard, back to my family home, back to the room where I spent endless restless nights imagining travelling distant places, dreaming of possibilities that felt unattainable. It’s funny being here now, staring at the untouched stack of books on the shelf, the expired vouchers stuck on the cork board, the clothes shoved in the wardrobe, all just as I left them and yet me not as I was when I did. Suddenly, these walls don’t suffocate me the way they used to. The world outside them hasn’t changed all that much, but I have… and so I guess I learnt how to climb out a window when I couldn’t see a door. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Sometimes we don’t see a way out, a way forward. At least, not an easy one – sometimes the only option is hurling yourself up onto the windowsill, throwing your leg over the edge, and carefully climbing down the drain pipe hoping you don’t fall. Equally, sometimes it’s a less-than-strategic jump, possibly served alongside a few cuts and bruises. You don’t always come out the other end as you’d hope, but at least you come out of the other end – at least you’ve moved forward in one way or another. Try things, fail at them, learn from them, and then realise that that in itself is the success. It’s growth.

In no way do I think my time in Poland was a failure, in fact I never viewed it as that. I tried my best to cherish every lesson, every experience, every novelty. I decided right at the start that this could give me so much more than it could possibly take away. Adopting that approach in itself has been the greatest takeaway from this whole experience. It allowed me to become the happiest I have ever been in my whole life, and for someone who for the majority of her life lived with anxiety and depression, this was no small feat.

I wish I could tell you just how to overcome those fears, but I don’t think there is a straightforward formula. Even when you do finally throw yourself into the situation you feared, you’re suddenly inside of it, and that comes with its own set of new and unexpected challenges. Yet, moving forward in it brings familiarity, knowledge, comfort. Suddenly it’s not all so scary. If the unknown is at the root of our fears, then it’s logical that we must get to know them to overcome them.

Before I get off as sounding too preachy, I’ll admit that I know all of this and yet I’m still constantly withdrawing into old habits of avoidance and self-deprecation. But having everything that I know now just makes it that bit easier to snap out of it and keep moving forward. Sometimes you have to trust that moving forward will be just so much better than standing still. Trust yourself and jump out of that window.

J x
Julia’s Atlas

I travelled to Toronto to cure my anxiety.

Megan Gant writes about a solo travel experience which was crucial in helping her overcome her social anxiety symptoms. The experience was, as she describes, part of a wider process, of therapy, making social connections and pursuing her interests. The piece was first published on her site.

Yep, you read that right.

It was mid 2019 and I had been going to therapy for about seven months, I had been making good progress and I was in one of the best mindsets I’d been in for a while. Everything seemed possible and I felt like I needed to do something.

Toronto had been on my list for a while. I felt drawn there, for some reason. I don’t have any friends there, not even any family, but nethertheless, I still booked a flight completely unaware if I would like it or if I would even make it there in the first place.

I’ve never been one for doing anything like this. I’ve always had social anxiety down to the point that I struggled until I was about 21 to even go up and order food for myself so this was a big thing. Saying that, I had actually gone to Sweden when I was 17 alone to meet a friend over there, but this seemed different, this was a whole two weeks, alone in a big busy city that I had never been to before.

From the second I booked my flights and accommodation it seemed that everyone around me was more nervous than I actually was. Perhaps it was because I’d spent the last year researching the hell out of Toronto, the best places to go, how safe it was, what each neighbourhood was like, how I was to get around, if I needed vaccinations to go, if I needed a visa. I had everything covered. The weeks leading up to my departure I was calm. I was ready. I got a coach to the airport and I was like an excited kid. Constantly looking out the window and as we approached Heathrow I turned my music off and just stared out the window, watching all the planes take off. Eventually we got to Terminal 5 and I was the last person on the coach. The lovely driver asked me where I was off too as he got my luggage out. I told him I was going to Toronto, ‘on your own?’ he said, ‘Yes’ I replied. He just smiled at me and wished me a good time. That felt good.

If anyone has been to Heathrow before, you’ll know it’s huge, especially Terminal 5 yet somehow it was almost like I knew where was going. Within a few minutes I checked in, sent my luggage off and made my way through to the waiting area. I walked past the many designer shops and ended up in WHSmith. I bought Elton John’s autobiography and sat back down in the waiting area. Somehow two hours went past and my gate was called. I walked through the airport with the confidence that I’d 100% done this before and I have to tell you, faking it to make it does sometimes really pay off. Sitting at the gate with a bunch of strangers also heading to Toronto was a weird feeling and by this point my anxiety was bubbling a little bit. I texted my mum to tell her I was boarding and that I’ll text her when I land. I turned my phone onto Airplane mode immediately and made my way onto the plane.

I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to travelling anywhere. Whether it’s on a coach or a plane, there’s just something about it that I love. I purposely book window seats and flying was no different. I got myself comfortable, well as comfortable as I can be in economy, and for the whole 7 hours and 45 minutes I was once again transfixed at the view.

I’m going to spare you the parts of the uber booking to get to my accommodation and the unpacking and the grocery store finding because in the grand scheme of things it’s not that important. Though I want to address the title of this blog post. I travelled to Toronto to cure my anxiety. Emphasis on cure.

I don’t want you to think this is a click bait article because it’s not. As from my previous posts you will know that I have struggled with anxiety for a very long time and my goal to be honest on here is something I want to keep to. The actual travel side to my trip to Toronto was actually okay, I had no unusually high anxiety apart from that that every human would get before getting into a metal box that’s going to fly 30,000 feet in the air.

The two weeks that I spent alone in Toronto I had one major panic attack. One! For me, in 2019 that was huge. Only one and that was on the first night where I’m pretty sure being jet lagged and walking back from the grocery store in the dark didn’t help. Though what I do want to say is, I researched everything and I mean everything and I think that had a big impact on how my brain was able to cope with being thousands of miles away in a strange city. I also gave myself time. I didn’t force myself to do everything everyday and on the other hand I knew that I had to rely on myself. I knew no one. I couldn’t just call someone and get them to force me to go somewhere. It was all on me and that was good for me.

This will not work for everyone so I do not endorse you to try it when you’re in the throws of your anxiety. I was in therapy and I had put the work in to get me to that place and I will never ever forget the time I travelled to Toronto alone at 23 and had the best time of my life. I found peace in myself. It gave me the reassurance and the confidence I needed when coming back to England that pushed me forward in ways that I never thought it would. It was the sitting on Toronto Harbour just listening to the water, watching planes take off over head and boats sail across where I just sat there and was able to breathe. Properly breathe. Feeling the air go into my lungs and know that I made it here and I was in that moment and I was ok. There was no fear. That seemed to drop away the second I took off from Heathrow and sitting here today nearly two years later, I can safely say that fear hasn’t returned. I’ve had two panic attacks in the last three years. For comparison, I was having one or two every week.

Don’t get me wrong, just because my anxiety is no where near as bad as it was doesn’t mean I am not suffering with anything at all or that I have to stop working with myself to clear my mind everyday. I still go to the same therapist and I still have days where I can’t get out of bed because my depression simply sucks the life and hope out of me but I still have me and I know that I can get through this and if it means taking another trip to what has become my safe place thousands of miles away to find that peace, then that’s what I’ll do.

Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is scary. It’s terrifying, but you will never regret it once you do. You are not your anxiety and you are not your depression. You are not your mental illness. You are not your thoughts. You are you. Respect that and respect yourself enough to make the decisions you want to make. Fuck everyone else.

by Megan Gant, August 3, 2021

Crashing with Friends, Controlling Mothers, and Complete Chaos

Rashell describes her recent difficult experience of moving our of her parent’s home to distance herself from a painful relationship with her mother. This was first published on her site.

I don’t know when I uploaded my last post, but it’s safe to say that I haven’t been posting a lot because I’ve been going through a LOT.

Basically, I feel like I’m going through a major life transition right now. Yes, my dad is okay now, and is safe with his little temporary defibrillator. But, I’m also moving out at the same time. And when I told my mom about this… well, the conversation didn’t go great.

I’m not going to say everything she said. I feel like it’s too soon and too revealing to tell a public space that she said this this and this. But I will say that she didn’t like that I was moving out. I mean, of course. She’s my mom, it would be horrible to say that she didn’t care at all. But she did say hurtful things that didn’t make sense.

When I told her that I already signed a lease and paid my security deposit and everything, she was hurt that I had made all these decisions without consulting with her in the first place. (“We’re a family, after all,” she said.). Which makes sense. Right now it’s tricky with my dad having major heart problems and my mom finding a job. But it wasn’t because I was leaving my mom because she gives me too many chores- it’s such a pain to live with her.

She’s very authoritative- and I know a lot of moms are like that. But the way she talks to me, yells at me for little things, (like how she yelled at me and scowled at me for putting too many candles on my brother’s birthday cake… by accident) and thinks of me as a manipulative person.

For example, I tried to come home at 8:30 pm because I had to put gas in my parents’ car and take care of moving stuff out of my old apartment, but I came home around 9 pm even when trying to plan ahead and come home earlier. I remember seeing my mom at my dad’s office, and her turning to look at me in an angry manner, to then tell me that she’s so disappointed in me coming home at night, that I was being a bad influence on my brother, and that I should go ahead and tell the truth as to when I was coming home.

“But I tried to come home earlier! I just lost track of time,” I told her in desperate Spanish.

“No,” my mom said, looking at me sternly. “You lied to me. You just wanted to come home late anyway.”

There’s never any point in arguing with her. Yes, it is normal for mothers to see their adult children as needing support and seeing them for what they were as younger kids, but my mom takes it a step too far.

And I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to leave or I would let my mom step all over me and decide my decisions.

It was last Saturday, and I was at my friends Allison’s* house stuffing Chick-Fil-A nuggets in my mouth at 3 pm after skipping lunch. I agreed that yeah, based on how I felt at my parents’ house and how my mom is crying, and how my dad is asking me if I can get out of the lease (because my mom is so upset that it would benefit the family in me getting out) I thought it was best for me to stay at her house with her husband, Derek*, for a little bit.

I sat at their small dining table, looking at Allison, who had to leave to record a podcast. She looked like she was concerned for me. I didn’t know what I looked like to her. I tried to dress up presentable from what I was wearing that morning, which was a worn-out ugly VBS t-shirt that I never wanted but my mom did, ugly red-stained ripped jeans, and wild, uncombed hair. Now, I was wearing a nicer gym tank top, some cute jeans with nice patches, and nice Nike tennis shoes.

But I thought I looked wild. Allison brought me some Chick-Fil-A because I told her I was so busy packing as much stuff as I could so I could leave in secret that I didn’t eat anything. I left the house shaky and so sweaty from the 90 degree heat. I didn’t know if I stank either.

Allison later told me that trying to coax me and encourage me to leave when my mom was crying while I felt like a mess, and asking if I need a ride felt like trying to smuggle me out of a foreign country. (Of course, these are two completely different scenarios, but there was still a sense of panic, urgency, and a strong need for me to leave.)

Things wouldn’t be calm in the house if I stayed. My mom would try and use that time to make me feel guilty and like I was making a bad decision, possibly, and I couldn’t deal with that for 2 weeks if that happened.

All I wanted to do was calm down and eat waffle fries. I remember when I finally stuffed everything in my dad’s Nissan Altima (that my mom told me I shouldn’t take with me, even though my family paid for it so I could use it to drive to my college town- for a car that I needed for transport). My mom went outside in complete shock as I stayed in the car, motor still running for me to leave.

“What are you doing?” she said, mouth open and looking at me like I was leaving her forever. “Get out of the car! I want to talk to you.”

I came out finally, talking to her for what seemed like centuries. It wasn’t a great conversation. We argued for like 10 minutes, me saying I couldn’t live with her subtle control over my life, her not understanding what I was talking about.

Then I brought up a moment in my life where she had hurt me by trashing my room (me finding my room around 7 years ago with things thrown on my floor, and finding my bedsheets ripped off and the mattress moved, as if she tried to overturn it- or, did she overturn it?), and she didn’t remember any of it.

“Rashell, I don’t remember that at all,” she said. “Are you sure it wasn’t you that threw stuff all over your room?”

No, it wasn’t. Why would I do that, I asked. She said she didn’t know. More and more arguing.

Then, she said similar to, “Okay, it’s not like I threw your stuff outside on the patio that day! I just threw them in your room!” As if that made it better.

More arguing, until I had to leave when she said it might as well be her that left the family for good. I drove off while she stared at me with her mouth open, like me leaving that moment wasn’t possible. Then she sat down on the steps with her head in her hands as I drove the other way.

And now I’m here, typing this in my friend’s house, better but still raw. It’s been around 10 days after I left my parents’ house. The first few days after that were a little rough. I felt like I was at a stranger’s house, eating their food and using their washing and drying machine. I could literally imagine my mom’s house as I used their cups and plates: What are you doing? Make sure you’re not actually an unwanted guest! And why are you using their water for your laundry?

But now I feel safe and secure. I may move into my apartment early August, and I already have *somewhat* of my stuff. I still need my table, recliner, and dresser from my room- but again, with my mom, I don’t know if that’s possible now.

I know that things are still going to be difficult with my mom (for a WHILE). Right now, I don’t want to talk to her, joke with her, or laugh with her until I figure out what relationship I can have with her and what boundaries I have to set.

I don’t want her to guilt-trip me into doing something I don’t want- or worse, make me feel again that my decision to leave her now is the worst, and “selfish at a time like this.”

I need to be more aware of my surroundings and environment, because leaving at the very last moment obviously brought more strain than needed- and it was because I was ignoring something that in my heart I knew was there a long time.

*fake names

by Rashell, Diary of an Unbreakable Soul, 30 July, 2021

Too afraid to ask questions at work

I work too much at work and bring pressure on myself because of my anxiety and low self-esteem. Often, I’m not able to stand my ground but, rather, I underplay my workload and take on work, so that I’m operating near full capacity all the time.

Others seem to protect themselves from being overburdened, if they can help it. It helps that they have the composure to organise their workload. Colleagues in workplaces I’ve been at have had time to browse the internet, have long conversations, go on courses and so on. Some former colleagues would do the absolutely bare minimum and spend the rest of their time working on personal projects.

These people have the self-esteem and cognitive functioning to put themselves first. When you have low self-esteem and are afraid, you are almost the perfect slave; that is, someone who works incredibly hard without the need for much of a carrot or stick. Such a person is driven by the Sisyphean desire to ‘prove’ themselves. Like a wind-up toy that just goes and goes.

I’ve barely taken any annual leave this year. Recently, I’ve skipped lunches, not because I have urgent deadlines but there is a terror inside of me of my manager and working sometimes seems easier than interacting with others. Often, I can’t think straight or beyond my immediate tasks.

The paradox is, I’ve missed deadlines despite working so hard. I take on too much, work alone and struggle to organise and think ahead. Working so hard and thoughtlessly is counter-productive intellectually. You need to engage with colleagues, take breaks and think beyond your daily tasks to develop your mind.

The questions we don’t ask

There are three questions we normally consider, whether we vocalise them or not, when we’re given a task:

1. Why should I do this?

2. What should I do?

3. How/when should I do it?

A person with self-esteem and healthy cognitive functioning in a situation will consider these questions extensively because they value themselves and their well-being. It’s very likely that considering these questions and evaluating the situation will also increase the likelihood of a successful outcome. They are able to, in the moment, have a sense of their own rights and worth and feel protected enough to assert these.

They might evaluate the request and then reject the task, or ask for adjustments. Or they may accept the task without a challenge – but they will experience thoughts and feelings about the task.

A person with low self-esteem or fear in a situation may not have the capacity to ask the first two questions but go straight to focusing on Q3 – how/when should I do it? Out of situational fear and lack of self-esteem, they assume that they must do what they’re told. Moreover, they assume that they have little or no right to question what they have to do.

A person with low self-esteem, or such extreme fear in a situation, may be so afraid that even the question of ‘how/when?’ is overlooked. That is, they get to work instantly without further thought, like an automaton. Even the question of whether they need help to complete the task is overlooked.

Any relationship is necessarily abusive or exploitative when the person taking orders has not the situational self-esteem or confidence to inquire about these questions, whether internally or externally.  The likelihood of succeeding with the task is also reduced if the individual lacks the capacity or is not given the opportunity to think for themselves.

On my triumphant return to socializing in the BDSM scene – anxiety on a night out

Lyra reflects on her difficult experience attending a social event and the lessons she learnt. The piece was first published on her site.

It’s been about a month since I attended my first Tears for Beers. It’s taken this long to process how all that went. 

Take a healthcare worker with social anxiety; throw in a recent musclo-skeletal injury and the pressure to impress at my first fetish social.

The way I prepped and premed for this. The clothes, makeup, earrings and bobbypins strewn about the room I languished in the entire next day.

I went in with a nervous edge. It’s my first night out in a long time. As in, I stopped clubbing in 2017. I stopped drinking in 2019. My dream social experience involves something quiet, like going for a massage or watching a movie, loud bunkers ain’t my thing. Coupled with a fresh whiplash and muscle injury affecting half my body, I was in for a good night(?) 

Ok more like so long and goodnight. 

(at least I didn’t get kicked out)

But I’m a domme now, right?

I not only have to BE SOCIAL, I have to be the instigator, the first move-maker, the top. This feels somewhat alien to me. Socialized as a privileged white girl I had cookie-cutter leanings. My deep well of catholic guilt runneth over to the point where ya girl didn’t even masturbate until last year. Or… didn’t masturbate and manage to cum. But that’s a story for another post.

I’m a domme. I have to be serious, tall, imposing, fearsome. But my issue is that I don’t feel this way. I’m burnt out. I can’t turn it on and off like a switch. Family stress and physical injury has had me feeling isolated and crazy. I’m convinced if I shut down and hibernate I can push through it. But the social scene is opening up. Our T*ry Overlords have decided it’s safe to go out again. I’m feeling overworked and letdown by my main job. I want to domme full time, and this is my chance.

People were so nice to me when I arrived. I was dripping in sweat from hopping on and off of trains. I was dabbing my hair with a hankie in an effort to not look like a wet rat. The table service was, as you would expect it would be on a Wednesday in an underground crypt club. Lacking. It’s also a million degrees down here and I am wearing wool trousers. I remember most of the faces and some of the names. I didn’t get plastered until late into the night, so co-pervert comrades sat with me and got to know the sweat puddle. When my beer arrived I choked it down. My mouth was so dry and I was so nervous.  

I had fairly productive conversations with the table that kindly invited me to join them. My nerves were turned up to 11 and so was the music, so that made for a really intellectual atmosphere, mostly people asking me questions about myself and me gawping at them like a fish. When I did answer questions it was with speed and defensiveness, like I wanted it to be over with.

 Our group essentially collected all the newies, the people flying solo. I watched one guy with an annoying face enter and just knew he’d be stuck to me like glue all night. Why do submissive men talk so much? SHHHHHH. I spent our entire conversation with my eyes roving around for someone, anyone to catch them, and break me away from the limpet now attached to me, standing over me and actively preventing anyone else from joining our convo. 

I think I started to panic at that point. I wasn’t making connections. I wasn’t impressing as a dominatrix or really even as a person. I was dumbfounded and wide eyed. So I did my usual party trick and absolutely rinsed the bar.

Later on in the night I was talking to, then kissing a pair of friends by the bar (double vax and test for work- SUCK IT). Then one drink became 3 or 4 and they ditched me. Or moved out of my toddler’s field of vision. Seriously, why am I like this?

The most ick-inducing moment is burned into my brain. I joined a conversation and felt everyone leave. It was like the world’s saddest magic trick. How to make 5 possible new friends book it away from you. It’s fair, I was slurring and sloppy. I would’ve done the same.

So my monkey brain decided it would be a fab idea to sit beside the girl I had been kissing and playfully bite her shoulder. I got a view of the woman across from her’s face as I did. Abject horror. I did a faux pas. At the kink club. Bad girl. bad domme. 

I don’t know if my brain blacked out in the interim. I used to think the anaesthetic affect of alcohol saved me from my embarrassing moments. Now I know they caused, amplified and vilified me the next day. 

I have snippets. By now I was fighting contact lenses, heels and pain from my injury. I remember a trip to the toilets with the beetlejuice broadway lighting. I remember speaking to groups of different people. Walking around with lipstick smeared down my chin and on my nose. 

I was moving through the sea of people towards Woman Whose Shoulder I Bit. I remember her name but I doubt she’d want it posted here. I casually (slurredly) asked her where her and her friend were heading now and she told me straight with a really kind voice at I was “a bit drunk.” So no. Very British. I can hear it echoing in my head and my body recoils with embarrassment. 

So I Irish Goodbye-d that shit. I smiled at her like she had given me some great insight. I did a pat down to make sure I hadn’t lost anything and I booked it. I turned on my heel and boosted away from the group of 8-10 people all saying their goodbyes. I didn’t even look back. I was legit too ashamed. 

How did I fuck up my first kink party?

Well, here’s how:

1. Over expectation 

2. The demon drink

3. Not being authentic self 

I showed up there prepared to schmoose and make contacts. I’m spending my next evening out being friendly, respecting boundaries and enforcing my own.

I offer up my sincere apology to anybody who was in attendance and saw me. Or had to deal with me. Or just the second-hand embarrassment. I apologize most of all to Woman Who’s Shoulder I Bit and her Man Friend. Nothing spoils chemistry like drinking past the ability to consent. 

My next social is August 3rd

I saw the ticket a few days after my astronomical hangover. Still reeling, it was in my basket and paid for at a touch of my fingertips. 

That’s one thing I can depend on myself for. When the demons really have their grip on me I can drag myself back. My body and my ego were bruised. I’ve winced a lot while writing this. I’m embarrassed and feel like a social pariah. 

I’m battered and bruised, cut up from the inside out, but determined to go back and try again. 

Mostly to fix first impressions and also because I want to apologise in person to WWSIB. I’ll be slugging the occasional beer between full fat Cokes. But only after I track down some people and apologise for being a batty crease. 

I’m coming back to Tears for Beers in a different mindset. I’m tempted to go in different hair so nobody recognizes me. However I’m trying to own it. I’m the tit that got panic drunk on an empty stomach at her first kink social. 

I’m not the first and I’m definitely wont’ be the last.

The worst has already happened.

What do I have to lose?

Miss Lyra666, 25 July, 2021

Interacting with other people – customer service & approval

The writer reflects on working in a health store, customer social interaction and managing the desire for external approval. It was first published on her site.

Hi. Its been a few days (or weeks) I always want to write about what I feel is relevant in my life, I feel like that will give me the best insights, and at the moment its meeting new people.

I recently started a new job, around two weeks ago. I work in a health store over the summer. My task is to greet the customers, give them a good experience and then either give them guidance or show them to whatever they are on a hunt for. Its really rewarding because its a lot of problemsolving and i get to practise what i know and have learned the past years.

Most people that come in know what they want but some people are just lost. Its interesting though, how interactions with other people go. There is the small talk. The very brief exchange of phrases for the shallow relationships. Its almost like a dance. It’s understood, what the situation is. I say something, they say whats expected. The barrier. The authority. It feels unnatural. I feel fake. Because I feel like a phony. Im just little me, standing here and playing grown up. I cant say whatever I want. There is a script and rules to the situation. It’s a game of power. Even though its not that serious..

I don’t like that working too much in customer service makes you probably evolve to someone you´re not around other people. That’s why my goal is to work one to one. Be self-employed. Ive gone from call center jobs where EVERYTHING is scripted and forced, to sitting at a grocery store as a cashier to now, less interactions quantitatively speaking, but still face to face encounters with people. It feels better, but still not quite right.

Ive thought a lot about that, why I feel unnatural and fake. its all just a feeling I have. Or a belief. Working in sales and customer service doesn’t really go with the idea that I think of myself as shy. I limit myself there. It doesn’t go together with the idea of how ive been an majority of my life so this sales version of myself feels foreign. And I can fake it, but its not me, its like playing pretend. But since ive done it now for a few years its starting to feel a bit easier. Does that make it natural? Is it just something that becomes a part of myself as time goes on? Fake it until you make it sort of thing?

It’s a strange thing, because having social anxiety for a majority of my life has made me think that I am a person who is fearful of other people and am there for reserved socially until I have trust with the person and then I open up. That feels like me. That’s how I have evolved to be socially. But its not a trait, I have to remind myself. Its just a habit. Difference between trait and habit? I think one comes before the other. Maybe habits become a trait. A habit that repeats itself day after day. Year after year. Then you catch it, notice it and realize; it doesn’t serve me. Its not benefiting me. The opposite actually. Its limiting myself and my goals I now have. And, as youre unhappy with a trait then you have the power to break that habit. I can change whatever Im not happy with. I need to realize that. Im not a prisoner in my mind. I can actually change whatever the heck I want.

Anyway, the concept of conversation is so intriguing to me. To share your view of the world with anothers version of the world. Intersect those worlds. Expanding. I find people and connections so interesting. I want to understand people and learn about others and therefor myself. How we are all connected..

There was this one woman who was very reserved as she walked in to the store the other day. She was talking a bit to herself and getting things from shelves, knowing very well what she needed. Me, standing behind the counter, pushing down my ego at her dismissing my attempts at reaching out if she needed help. I take it personal, I always do, their response to me. I pick up immediately if they are friendly or not and it sets my mood even though i try to hide it. If they are talkative or if they dismiss my attempts. Im soooo desperate for outward approval, I know this, yet it is hard in a profession like customer service not to be. You need to give the customer a good impression, fish for their likes. Youre hired for literally getting their approval..

Yet, this woman, not wanting help kept walking around by herself.. she then asked me one small thing. I didn’t know the response and then she dismissed me again. Didn’t deem my presence to be of worth (sidenote;THIS is what my ego thought at the moment! Important!

Hahah obviously its impossible for me to know what she actually thought) After she´d paid for her things and we´d engaged in some small talk I asked her one question to hopefully leave her with a good impression. She surprisingly took the bait and opened up and started talking about hundreds of things. She was a very interesting lady. She spoke about spirituality, meditation, how she worked with healing crystals and how she saw angels etc.

We talked maybe for fifteen minutes (or more like, she talked haha) and as the conversation went by I chimed in to say something, wanting to give my input or share something from my life, she didn’t give it much energy. She said something very small, like a word or a hum, then continued on with something else. And, I noticed afterwards as I retold this story to my boyfriend that my desperate feelings of getting approval, especially from someone that doesn’t “care” steams from my daddy issues. It felt veeeeery similar to how I feel when im talking to him. I tell him something and he doesn’t even let me finish before asking a new question. He just asks something because he is supposed to as a dad – now he has done his part in acting interested. It makes me feel unimportant and even more desperate to get him to care, say something good or funny enough.

I always thought of my dad as narcissistic, in a search for an explanation because my ego couldn’t possibly accept that my own dad doesn’t care for real about me, but it doesn’t really matter. I always felt that way concerning him. And this woman left me with that very same feeling. I also realized afterwards that maybe this woman wasn’t interested in my life, she was so fulfilled in hers that she doesn’t have interest in little me and my story. She only wanted to share her experience. And that’s not from some hateful place, its just, some people are like that. Either, they have difficulty connecting with other people or they don’t feel the need.

The thing was, from that experience with the scattered lady I noticed so much. That lady doesn’t owe me anything. Yes, its nice to be polite to strangers sure but im just a store clerk. She has her life and I have mine. She doesn’t owe me shit. Some people get more out of wordly exchanges and maybe that’s when someone is on someone elses level but this woman felt so “above” me, if I can phrase myself like that, on a spiritual level, that maybe she didn’t feel like my words gave her much. And that sort of stung at the moment but reflecting afterwards im like, huh. Im self-entilted. And lol that feels obvious but it’s a good reality check.

People have their life and problems and no one is obliged to reciprocate to whatever you’re feeling. My feeling towards this lady was “wow, tell me your secrets” but her intention could have been “okay I need to stop by this store for a quick moment and get the things I want” This feels ridiculous now, writing about it. Hahhahaha of course its like that. A stranger. But you get caught up in emotions and being entitled, feeling that things surround about you. It was just a good reminder that, hey, no one owes you anything. Because when you have a habit of needing to get everyone elses approval, its not something you always reflect on. That youre unimportant to other people. Naturally. You cant be of importance to everyone. And don’t get me wrong, the conversation we had (or she) was lovely in the end. She told me a lot of things that left me thinking but it just was onesided and the whole thing made me think about conversating.

I value conversation and connection with people so much. Also why I feel so fake when having small talk with customers. I don’t want to have conversations about the weather or the news. I want them to tell me their secrets. Their struggles. Stuff they don’t want to tell anyone. Like, why? Hahaha. Why on earth do I want that? I think, maybe if I get peoples trust I can trust them. I can be myself. If I can manipulate this random person to like me so they expose their real self maybe I can be myself. No games. And this, controlling and manipulating my surroundings to be myself is just.. sigh..

I need trust in myself. If I have that, nothing else matters I wont feel desperate and look for it outwards. I have it inside myself. Easier said then done though.. (ofcourse, connecting with other people will still always be really important to me, I crave to evolve and connect with others, but maybe it wont be in the same – chasing everyone elses approval type of way) It’s a working process. My relationship to myself is definitely improving this year and that’s more than I can say for past years. Past years been a different focus, so I think im on my way to really getting to know myself and learning to have my back. Its always good for me to reflect on my meeting with people and learn from it. ❤

by Luna, Luna Mil, July 25, 2021

Flowers over a fence – let me know if you know their name! (S.Ali)

The State of Loneliness

Reflections on coming to terms with loneliness, by AEJ, first published on her site.

Loneliness is a difficult emotion because it isn’t just synonymous with isolation. We can feel lonely without being alone. It’s hard to understand why we feel so disconnected when we’re socially active with others. We can have a myriad of friends, but these friends don’t necessarily appease the solitude. It’s frustrating to feel empty when you’re in a room full of people, and you may, as I do, conclude there’s something wrong with you. 

I don’t have many friends, and that’s fine. I’m comfortable with my introversion now, and I don’t think I could handle popularity. I used to like the idea of being close to many people, but that gradually fell out of fashion the older I grew. I keep an intimate group of companions today, which I know and love well, and I don’t think that should ever be a bad thing; grateful doesn’t come close to the way I feel for this amazing company.

Despite the friendship group I’m blessed to have, I don’t always feel like I belong there, and I don’t mean in terms of common interests, and it’s definitely not something to do with how my friends treat or have treated me. I believe, in simple terms, the detachment is my fault. The loneliness I feel is an internal deficit. I’m insecure and uncomfortable sharing myself with others. The former response primarily concerns people I know, and the latter is saved for acquaintances and strangers.

Ever since I was little, I feared rejection from others, and this dread continues to be an issue in adulthood, trying to feel safe in my current relationships is impossible because I assume people will leave me, there is apprehension for them “finding me out”, realising I’m not worthy. I may think my insecurities remain internal, but from an outsiders point of view, I may physically withdraw or incidentally push someone away. Making new friends is hard too, and approaching someone unfamiliar regularly feels pointless because I can never give them my authentic self. I don’t trust people, and I rarely express my opinions, convinced I’ll be ostracised for them. And with all these mental factors considered, loneliness appears.

I don’t think we’re educated enough on loneliness because we often misunderstand it; solitude is not just situational. Loneliness is subjective. We can feel lonely for many reasons and it doesn’t just depend on our physical state or environments. We could be at a party or hanging out with friends and still feel forlorn, we don’t have to be alone to feel lonely, and we shouldn’t feel guilty for experiencing it, either.

I used to feel a lot of shame for my own solitude because with what I had, friendships, a good environment and my youth, the loneliness felt inappropriate. It’s sad to think that even whilst experiencing an emotion, we can trick ourselves into thinking it’s something else entirely because we don’t believe we meet the standard/s to feel it. Well, hitting the bar or not, I do feel lonely, and I’m not afraid to admit that. In going forward, I hope to resolve these feelings for the sake of my current relationships and those I go on to make. After all, the first step in recovery is admitting to your problems.

by AEJ,

For Your Entertainment — online platforms as a career

The internet offers hope to the isolated individual as a source of social connection and, even, income – through turning a hobby into a business and sharing their stories or expertise. However, as with many careers, I wonder if chances of success are significantly weighted towards those with socioeconomic and other privilege and the dream that is popularised by great success stories is, in truth, denied to most.

I wonder what harm is being done to those who place all their hopes on a self-made online career and what help and education is needed to help them to realise their hopes.

The writer of the piece below identifies themselves as a recent high school graduate who is entering college. They have hopes of using online platforms to pursue a career, motivated, at least partly, by their social anxiety and expectation that they will struggle to hold down a traditional job.

“Since I was 9, the idea of being a YouTuber or streamer was incredibly appealing. I could do what I loved, and still make a living. I didn’t ever have to show my face, just talk and be funny. I didn’t even have to be a YouTuber or anything—I just wanted to do something. I wanted to make an impact.

Over the years, I tried to launch my channel and a few other assorted channels or social media accounts to no avail. I hopped around 2-3 pseudonyms, recorded videos of what I loved on my potato computer, and tried to maintain a social media presence. I explored various avenues, from simple browser gaming to Minecraft skin creation to Minecraft itself. The furthest I ever managed to get was 600+ subscribers on Planet Minecraft. But the bottom line was, I was getting nowhere.”

To read the full piece, check the blog link below.

For Your Entertainment — OurThreeSeas

Late – accepting and receiving support

This writer, who is a mother, shares a personal insight of how difficult it can be to accept and receive real help – especially, when it comes to childcare. The post was first written on her site, Confessions of a Social Anxious Introvert.

I’m trying to accept help. I have done almost everything for my kids from the day they were born. I take them to their activities, I schedule their appointments, I give them reminders, I feed them (or make sure they will be fed), I make sure they have someone to watch them if I’m away, and I keep track of everywhere they need to be and when. So when I lamented to my husband that I didn’t know how I was going to take our son to band camp and make dinner before we needed to be at the church for rehearsal and he offered to take our son, I resisted the urge to say I’d take care of it and took him up on the offer.

You would think accepting help would reduce my stress and anxiety. You would be wrong. Apparently it just made it worse.

Band camp started at 5:00. At 4:20 I reminded my husband that he would need to leave in about 15 minutes (the time I would leave to give a cushion for finding the room in a new building). Twenty minutes later, my son was waiting by the door waiting. No husband. I found him sitting on the toilet. Another few minutes and I’m getting super anxious, so I say “Should I just take him?” Which got an exasperated “Really?!” in response.

I took a deep breath and reined in the response I wanted to give and said “Don’t” and walked out.

When he finally emerged, he said nothing to me and I said nothing to him. As a result of my irritation I forgot to ask my son if he had grabbed a mask. So once they left I had that to worry about too.

Seriously, the anxiety of depending on someone else is more stressful than figuring out how to do it myself because I’m not in control. I hate it. You’d think after knowing me for more than 25 years he would understand that being late is not an option. Maybe he’s trying to ensure I won’t take him up on the offer next time. *sigh*

Confessions of a Social Anxious Introvert, July 26, 2021

Fear and having a purpose

In this piece, Natalie Buske Thomas, makes an interesting connection between our personal values and acting out of faith or instinct. It was first published on her site, where she also shares her work as an oil painter.

What scares you? Fires, hurricanes, storms, floods, criminal violence, car/plane/train crashes, losing a loved one, medical issues, loss of freedom? Open spaces, closed spaces, heights, water, heat, cold? Social anxiety in a crowd, or isolation when not in one? When things stay the same, or when things change? Finding your own way, or being told what to think?

Faith is about believing even when there is no evidence of our belief. We just “know”. Some call it intuition. Others think of this as a spiritual commitment to hold certain truths in our hearts, never wavering or disloyal to a higher calling. Usually this relates to living a moral life, defined by our personal values. For animals, faith seems much less complicated. Little birds may be literally pushed out of the nest by their mothers, but in a few short seconds they believe that they can fly- and indeed, they can.

When we believe in who we are, and the abilities we were born with, we trust that we can do what we were meant to do. Faith comes easier, requiring no proof of our claims, if we make a spiritual, intellectual, and physical commitment to be true to our purpose. If we believe we are meant to be strong, healthy, and positive for our families and communities, we can act in faith to BE strong, healthy, and positive.

Fear can be a mysteriously beautiful thing, just like an out of control forest fire. When we are afraid, we are aware of how fragile life is, and how vulnerable we are. We are aware of how precious time is. We may see our role in this universe as very small, but each of us are a tiny intersection point on a vast web. We matter. Every life connects to other lives. When we lose a connection point, part of the web falls apart. All of this may come to us in a fuzzy sort of way that we don’t analyze, but on a gut level our focus is sharper when we are afraid.

Fear is an opportunity. Do we rise? Do we respond with cowardice, submission, and defeat? Do we abdicate our responsibilities to others, and let them dictate our lives? When we give up our authority, when we surrender our sovereign self, we allow fear to be an excuse to abandon who we are, to lay down our purpose under the cloak of compliance.

When we choose to rise in the face of fear, some may call it choosing faith over fear. But perhaps it’s more fitting to say that we choose faith through fear. Fear can be an exhilarating journey; when we are aware of death, we are aware of LIFE. Our passion to live may be ignited, cultivated, and utilized to provide lasting change. We may “level up” spiritually, intellectually, and even physically. Mind, body and spirit are always connected. When we elevate in one, we elevate our full selves.

Fear can be a blessing. The choice is ours. Fight for your purpose. Never give in, back down, or give up in the face of fear. Embrace what scares you and stand firmly rooted in who you are. May your responses be in alignment with your core values, and never compromised by the demands of other entities, agendas, or people.

I finally started my new painting today, after two days of planning to do so, but getting distracted by family things. I don’t regret going with the moment and focusing on the family. Awareness of time helps us choose what’s most important. Even though my vocation is very important to me, work is work. It is here today, and gone tomorrow, even if I become successful enough to be legendary. One day my art will mean whatever people want it to mean, with or without me. 

But love is forever. What we invest in people lives on spiritually, eternally. When we experience fear, we understand this concept in a heightened way that is a blessing, should we accept. I accept. I hope you do as well.

by Natalie Buske Thomas, July 22, 2021