Last night my anxiety came to a bit of a head. I felt suddenly like I've been acting braver about my trip home than I'm actually feeling. It's exciting, yes, but I started thinking “What if I'm not ready?” There is such a possibility of losing all the ground that I've made in a very short time and that scares the pants off of me. I don't ever want to go through this process again. A big challenge with this concept is explaining to the people in my life that, yes, I've been gone for 8 months, yes, I look a lot better and I really do feel alive and so very different, but yes, there is a lot more work for me to do and I'm not There yet.
I've found myself looking forward to my return to Portugal after my trip and towards the changes that will happen in my care. Moving out of the villa and becoming more independent and officially an outpatient is very exciting but even this upcoming time away where I don't have sessions with my counsellors is anxiety provoking and I know that maintaining the frequency of my sessions even as an outpatient is what is going to carry me through when I return.
I've come so far in so many ways and I see it. The fact that I can admit to being scared is progress, that I can evaluate the degree of impulsivity in my plans and if it's a good impulsive or a negative impulsive – is also progress. Behaviour-wise, I really don't feel that I have a problem anymore. I enjoy eating, I eat a large variety of food, I respond to the cues I have and even when they are absent I treat my body to what I know it needs so in that respect, I am ready. I know that hurting myself is actually never the answer and when that old demon rears its ugly head, I need to stay alert and aware of what more is going on under the surface.. What I am finding most challenging, and rightly so, is developing a way of being that will work for me and work in the world.
For example, I'm trying hard to examine and reduce my expectations of others. Just in general. I'm trying very hard to meet people where they are at and accept them for that and delight in them as who they really are all the while honouring myself. I know that my way of being is not necessarily common to the greater population of the world and although I will seek out those who share the same values and appreciate and respect the essence of me, there are the people in the world who are inevitably not going to understand. I found this passage yesterday and although it can be taken quite literally and as it directly applies to manners, I feel that it can be related to much of the way of being I desire:
"So far as we habituate ourselves to courtesy and good-breeding because we shall stand better with the world if we are polite than if we are rude, we are cultivating a merely external habit, which we shall be likely to throw off as often as we think it safe to go without it, as we should an uncomfortably fitting dress; and out manners do not belong to our Character any more than our coats belong to our persons. This is the transient side of manners. If, on the contrary, if we are polite from an inward conviction that politeness is one of the forms of love to the neighbour, and because we believe that in being polite we are performing a duty that our neighbour has a right to claim from us, and because politeness is a trait that we love for its own inherent beauty, our manners belong to the substance of out Character, --they are not its garment, but its skin; and this is the permanent side of manners. Such manners will be ours in death, and afterwards, no less than in life."
(The Elements of Character by Mary G. Chandler – bold font add by me for emphasis)
This has helped me understand how I can reduce expectations of others. I have understood for a long time that not everyone in the world shares my manners and my desire for proper etiquette. I have seen that here in the people from all over the world that have come to Portugal and in observing the way they are with the native people and how they react to the country has been very interesting.
Regardless, the above passage describes exactly what I feel about manners – that it is less of an expectation or so much of a social nicety, and more of a way of being for me that honours the degree of respect I choose to give others. It is a simple extension of love which is a core value of mine. I will continue to extend myself in this fashion not only because as in the first part of the passage, it enables me to exist better with the world, but because of the deeper meaning of manners.
So, how does this relate to the rest of me? There are times when I get frustrated when people don't share the same level of respect for each other or themselves. I know that life can be so much simpler than it is for people if they accept the connectedness of the world and seek it out. I am working hard on eliminating my expectations of people and assuming that they will spring from the same premise as I do and it is hard work. Unless, I see what I value as a part of me that I choose to extend and absolutely do not need reciprocated.
This is where it gets more tricky. I find myself feeling a bit winded at times when I have extended an inherent-to-me courtesy to another and when the situation is reversed, the other person doesn't respond similarly. This was often bringing me down and leaving me wondering about the goodness of people in general so I chose to start working towards lowering my expectations and appreciating what is in me that I feel makes the world a better place for me and for others and it has helped. This is a double edged sword for me, however, because I have difficulty knowing where the line should be drawn between not having expectations but ensuring that I receive the respect I deserve.
I don't have the answer for this yet. This is my current quest: to find a way of being that I feel good about, that honours the core of Julia but does not compromise my well-being and continues to ensure that my needs are met.
I suppose that this trip home will teach me a lot. I will leave with a better understanding of where I'm really at with myself and the world. I will likely discover who I want to continue to hold close to me. I find myself anticipating my return to Portugal and imagine the sigh of relief I will experience as I fall back into the safety net of love and support that is here and work through the experience of being home. That indicates to me how careful I need to be to avoid stretching myself too thin. I have some simple ideas on how to prevent this: get enough sleep; consider my boundaries and make sure I establish them in my surroundings shortly after my arrival; stay connected with the people here that have brought me this far; and commit to staying aware of how I really am doing, understanding that I cannot be strong all the time and that I am going to experience some painful moments while away that I can and will not only survive but can learn from.
On another note, I have also been thinking about how, in many moments, I find myself feeling so overwhelmed and thinking “I just cannot do this. This is not working. I cannot get through this.” The old concept of not being dealt more than you can handle frustrates me in those moments. I can feel so overwhelmed and really, really unable to deal with my situation but here's the thing: looking back, there were many times where life seemed impossible to me and I really did want to give up and right into my core felt unable to carry on, but! Here I am!!! I made it, I weathered every situation from the past and survived. Thus, although that idea – that knowing – that I can handle anything that is put on me in the moment does not often help me get through the present, it really is the truth. I can get through, I will not be given anything more than I can handle and over time, less and less will things feel so overwhelming and impossible.
Here's to a gentle end to all your weeks. Thanks for being my sounding board.