Monday, December 31, 2012

some thoughts on the best year of my life (so far).

you may have experienced "rock bottom" or what is sometimes called the "lowest low." mine was twothousand eleven. no, not every day and every minute- but much of that year, which meant that when it came time to start twothousand twelve, i was hopeful for something better. (naturally)

this year started with a move that literally changed my life. i'd gone from being in a house of guy friends from college to being in a house of girls who were either friends or acquaintances. soon after the move, i found myself in a meaningful romantic relationship that was healthy... i was present and it was built on trust. this new relationship led to the ending of a long time friendship because it was getting in my way and wasn't going to benefit my current relationship; especially because it was never going to be what i'd hoped it would be while we were each in our current state. so i let go and committed to redefining me; getting back the pieces of the woman i lost in twothousand eleven.

the next few months of therapy were filled with forgiveness, grief, excitement and grace. i slowly peeled back my layers, relearning who i was, what i believed i deserved, and remembering the type of life i wanted to create for myself. because i had previously allowed myself to be treated a certain way, the relationship i was in created many "corrective emotional experiences" that said to me, "you deserve so much more."

it was during the late spring and early summer that i learned what love is. in april i posted about what i thought love was, believing that i'd never just know because that wasn't my experience. later i'd learn how wrong i was. i didn't just know because in this very case, i wasn't in love. surely i loved this person and would do anything for him but it wasn't the same as what i'd eventually know to be love in the way c.s. lewis refers to eros love.

there was a saturday night in april and a letter in may and a weekend in july that changed my life. really, i mean that. it's hard to detail the feelings i experienced regarding these events but i can tell you now that they only changed my life because of the work i'd done on me, for me. and of course the person on the other side of these events had deeply changed and grown, too- but we both did these things unrelated to each other.

and there was that day in july where i came to realize why i was with the person i was with, which resulted in the ending of our relationship. this was also part of a larger discussion about allowing others the freedom to be themselves, without trying to change who they are. i was familiar with this concept, but only because i talked the walk instead of walking the walk. as i look back, i was in it because i believed he would be a faithful partner, good father, and we'd be secure together. but these are not reasons to stay with someone! i wanted to stay because of an authentic desire to be with that person, because our relationship was built on love. when i faced my doubts that day, it had nothing to do with that old friend; i left because i knew that i could very easily regret my "i do." i would rather be alone than living a life of regret.

the weekend that my friend nick ran around san francisco will always be marked with the beginning of love with that old friend. it's when i didn't settle and i actually knew what it meant to just know. it especially represents great risk and great reward. it is the beginning of learning that trust is a choice, not an airy-fairy feeling that you grab out of the sky or even something that "comes with time."

at the end, my big take away for this year is that i believe some people stay in (unhealthy) relationships because it's what they think they deserve. no, in twothousand eleven, i never thought "yes, i deserve to be treated like shit in this relationship- keep it coming!" but i tolerated it because i didn't actually believe i deserved more and because i dreamed up things with this person and created a life that didn't exist. i think this may be other peoples' experience, too; they believe the (unhealthy) relationship they're in is the best thing that will ever happen to them. this is either due to low self confidence or a fear of being alone. unfortunately, these both lead to loneliness. and worse than this realization is that we can't actually help the person who believes this- like me, they must learn it on their own.

cheers to this year, this best year, where i've learned about love.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

my (recent) story of failure.

at the end of february twothousand eleven i set some goals: i'd run a second marathon, i'd take my first mft exam, and i'd sing a song in public. i gave myself threehundred sixtyfive days, making the completion day march first, twothousand twelve. as march was approaching, i'd finished the marathon and the singing escapade but i'd neglected to study for my exam. i put it off and postponed the exam date until i realized i just needed to take the damn test, regardless of the amount of studying i didn't do. at the time, it was more important to complete the goal regardless of my preparation for the goal. i think this was symbolic of twothousand eleven- one of the most difficult years of my life; i needed to know that some of the central components of who i was were still deep inside me: courage, diligence and drive.

 so i went to the testing center on march first and took the first of the two exams. you learn the results immediately following the exam so when i read the big red letters FAIL i wasn't terribly surprised. okay maybe they weren't bigger than the standard twelve point font but they were red. either way, i failed. in that moment, and in the weeks following, shame followed me around like a rain cloud in seattle.

i began processing my failure in therapy where i was quickly reminded of all that i've achieved. we talked about failure and why it was so significant to me: it was more about letting others down with the perceived expectations people had of me than it was about my own expectations for myself. for some reason, because i didn't waltz into the test and pass without studying, i now would be classified as stupid.

slowly i told people here and there but the most monumental experience of sharing my failure was when i told my small group of high school girls. showing these four girls that i could fail and my life didn't come crashing to the ground and that i could even still be successful in my career was what we all needed to hear. i was humbled by their response, but more so, i was grateful to show them that attending a good college will still be an option if they don't have straight a's, perfect sat scores, and more extracurricular activities than they can count on their toes and fingers. we laughed and talked about ways each of us had failed recently. we talked about what it meant to be smart, what it meant to live for (the perceived) expectations of others, and what it meant to have expectations of ourselves. it was so worth it. i became a little bit more human for those girls in that day.

i went on to put in significant time and effort to study for the first test. i took it over again on november twelfth and passed, which opened up eligibility to take the second test. passing brought me a new confidence and i decided to put everything into studying for the second exam. december seventeenth at eleven in the morning i saw a green PASS on the screen. the feeling of completion overcame me; the journey of becoming a marriage and family therapist started in a classroom in august of twothousand seven and it was finally finished.

failing that first exam and bringing my shame into the light has been the most significant part of this career journey. i am grateful.