We Are All Pinocchio

“Pinocchio went out into the world. He went on his road filled with good intentions, with a vision. He went ready to do all the things he dreamed, but he was pulled this way and that. He was distracted. He faltered. He made mistakes. But he kept on. Pinocchio, in the end, became himself — because the little flame inside him, no matter what crap he went through, would not be extinguished.” 

~Patty Smith

Seems to me even before he becomes a real boy, Pinocchio was already experiencing the reality of real life and more real than most of us. Everything that was mentioned above is characteristic of being human. I beg to disagree with this passage ” in the end, he became himself. “ In my eyes, he didn’t become, he was himself all along. He stayed true to himself no matter what without losing his core -the little flame that refused to be extinguished. When he first ventured out into the world, he was naive (recognizable?) and made poor choices and picked the wrong company and tried to get out of tricky situations by lying. We all did these in some points in our lives. If you tell me you hadn’t, then you’re lying. None of us were born aware and equipped with all the knowledge to survive in this world. We learned it as we go along stumbling and falling. In the end, like Pinocchio, we will realize who we are and where we belonged but the foundation of our true selves is already laid from the start. No amount of experience good or bad could alter our genetic makeup. It could alter the shape a bit but not the core. We are who we are and how we deal with things (attitude) shows what lies beneath. No mask and amount of lying and pretending could hide the real character of a person because eventually, it will show through his actions. I rather deal with an obnoxious person with a good heart than a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

How about you?

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How to Let Go of the Need to Be Perfect

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.” – Anne Lamott

You find yourself asking, “When will what I do be enough?” You wonder, “How do I know if I’m truly happy or just settling to be comfortable?” You catch yourself constantly striving for more—more money, more stuff, more beauty, more brains, more awards. But no matter how much you get, you never know if what you desire will help you become your best self or just drive you further down the dissatisfying road of perfectionism. I know the journey of perfectionism far too well. Every once in a while, when I least expect it, my own perfectionistic motivations creep up on me. They come into play most when I’m making decisions, working, or interacting with others.

It’s that feeling you get when you expect things of yourself that you’d never expect from others. It’s working yourself to exhaustion in hopes that you’ll feel whole, complete, worthy. It’s basing your self-worth on external accomplishments, feeling like you have something to prove all the time. It’s piling on the emotions of guilt, burnout, and self-hate. It’s always coloring inside the lines and giving yourself the metaphorical whip if you screw up.

Perfectionism lives and breathes in your fear of making a mistake. When you’re afraid of what might happen, you don’t always make the best possible choices.

Instead, you limit your options because you believe you’ll be unable to handle the outcome of your choices if they happen to be negative. Allowing perfectionism to run the show is like being on a hamster wheel; you just keep going and going and going, even after you’ve reached your original goal. You increase the stakes every time so that when you do accomplish something, you wonder if you could have done it better.

Feeling and thinking this way makes perfect sense because our culture puts a ton of pressure on us to be perfect. We’re made to feel as if there’s something wrong with us if we’re still single by a certain age, don’t make a certain amount of money, don’t have a big social media following, or don’t look a certain way. In the midst of all that pressure, it’s easy to forget all the great, unique things about ourselves.

Many of the people I work with in therapy are frustrated because no matter how hard they try, they still feel like nothing they do is good enough. Even after all the external successes they’ve achieved, they still aren’t happy, and they aren’t sure why. What I find is that most of the time, their goals never came from them. When you never feel good enough in the eyes of others, it’s hard to build a strong sense of yourself. It’s difficult to know what you truly want, what ultimately fills your true purpose.

Perfectionism stays alive when you look for other people to give you worth, relying on their opinions to give you a sense of your value.

It’s deceptive because other people can’t make you feel like enough; that’s a decision you have to make for yourself. What’s enough and not enough, and how far you need to go, are more effective when they’re determined by your inner values. Needing and lacking approval and acceptance will inevitably lead you to feel that what you do is never enough; you’ll spend your life looking to do better and more.

That’s why I’m offering another way to be—an alternative to the endless cycle of looking for personal fulfillment through grand accomplishments. I want to help you put an end to the cycle of perfectionism. Knowing who you are and what you value is vital. Once you have that down, you can make the decision to be enough in every situation you face. And, in time, each situation will serve as a way to guide you toward your true self and free you from the need to be perfect.

So how do I let go of perfectionism and have a strong sense of self?

Change your mindset. Our mindset contains our ideas and views about life, which come from our previous experiences and perceptions of the world. How we look at the world influences our experience in it. Our perception becomes our reality. Creating a good-enough mindset that isn’t filled with unrealistic expectations will help you cultivate a sense of wellbeing. Therefore, the first step to feeling like you’re enough is changing your mindset and old beliefs about yourself derived from past experiences of what’s expected of you. The rest is a process of changing the idea that you need to work harder for approval and using that energy to just be enough for yourself.

Build self-reliance. You aren’t born with self-reliance, you gain it through trials and errors while you go through life making your own decisions. I started to develop confidence when I decided to think for myself and move forward with my decisions. People who act with self-reliance feel more in control of their environment, and feeling this way is an important ingredient of wellbeing. When what you do is in line with what you believe, your self-esteem and happiness grow. Being self-reliant means doing things for yourself. The more you do for yourself, the better you feel; the better you feel, the more confident you’ll become, and the less compelled you’ll feel to be perfect all the time.

Learn to let go. Try to let go of whatever it is that’s holding you back from accepting who you are. You’ll probably realize that you aren’t what other people say you are. You aren’t your pain, your past, or your emotions. It’s usually negative ideas about ourselves and hurtful self-talk that get in the way of who we really want to be and push us to never make any mistakes.

Make your own decisions. Start making your own decisions. It isn’t necessary to share every problem you encounter with everyone in your life. People do this to get advice, be told what they need to do, and pass their anxiety on to others. As you become more aware of what you want, you’ll start knowing the next step to take in your life, and you’ll recognize that nobody else has the answers. People who don’t feel good enough always look to others to make decisions for them. You know just as much as everyone else; in fact, you know more than others do about what’s right for you.

Remember, you can’t hate your way into accepting yourself. Convincing yourself of what a failure you are will never make any situation better, and repeating to yourself that you’ll never live up to your potential certainly won’t lead you to reach it. It’s important for you to remember that you are enough just as you are—and I promise, the more you practice it, the more you’ll believe it.

Make peace with the “now” before you feel satisfied with the “later.”We can’t feel totally satisfied with where we’re going until we can accept, acknowledge, and appreciate where we are. Make peace with where you are, and your journey toward something new will feel much more peaceful, rewarding, and satisfying.

Do you methodically look for evidence that you’re a nobody, that you don’t deserve acceptance, or that you aren’t living up to your potential? If so, I know how demoralizing and demeaning it can be. It will better serve you to focus on progress rather than perfection and on how far you’ve come instead of how far you have left to go.

One of the biggest pushes towards perfectionism is the need to always “get it right.” We strive for perfection and huge successes, and when we fall short, we feel worthless. What we don’t seem to realize is that working toward our goals and being willing to put ourselves out there are accomplishments within themselves. Give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back for trying, making progress, and coming as far as you have.

By Ilene S. Cohen, Ph.D.

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Standard

I remember the time our neighbor- the mother of my then best friend– phoned me to say that the brother of my current tenant was the perfect candidate for my future fling come next vacation. She said unlike all of his predecessors, this one is a professional and not a bum which seems to be my preference and would it not be great to have someone exactly the opposite for a change.

I could have told her a lot of things, one of those is_  it’s none of your busines_ I could have defended myself and my reputation against her wrong assumptions but I can recognize a hopeless situation when I see one. People talk judge and prejudice according to their cranial capacity. One can try to be the summum of decency and morality and still, people would talk. You cannot please everybody.

I could explain to her also that the reason I hang out with bums was time. They have plenty and I had a limited amount of it to spend before I go back to reality. Every second count. I have also an unorthodox way of doing everything. For one, I don’t sleep at night. I gallivant to my heart’s desire and often seek dangerous pursuit not suited for a lady. With me, expect the unexpected, anytime anywhere. The life I lead was not convenient for anyone who has a 9 to 5 day job or any job at all, married or committed or worried about what the people might say. I needed someone who was willing to be on standby 24/7, able to defend himself and protect me, streetwise, charming, sportive and daring. Someone who will lay his life for me and my quest, someone who does not ask too many questions, doesn’t expect anything and doesn’t want a title and the rights to go with it. And who is the ideal person to take the job? A bum.

A professional would complicate and expect things I cannot give. Besides, I didn’t need just a bum, I needed a fairly intelligent, innocent bum. Preferably a virgin who will be content with holding hands and doesn’t demand sex from me because contrary to what other people think, I don’t sleep around. That’s why that time I hung around mostly with teenagers. No, I am not a pedophile. I just preferred their no-nonsense approach in life. You would be surprised how more mature they are than their older counterparts. Luckily, because of my good genes, I looked like just one of them. I never encounter any difficulties associating myself with this group aside from what others thought of me that time_a wayward teenager with enough time in her hands and financial back up from mom and dad. I never bother to correct them.

Like my neighbor who was questioning my standard for a company, onlookers didn’t know or understand my motives. And I cannot blame them because actions speak louder than words they say. They made judgment based on what they think they see and process their thoughts accordingly. It is much easier to jump into conclusion than engage with the taxing work of understanding what lies beneath. Nobody does that anymore. Time-consuming. Wrong pursuit. 

As for myself, I hardly care. I know who I am. I knew what I was doing and what I wanted and the rest were sideshows. My standard when choosing a partner is sky high. I will talk about it in another blog post.  The people I have shared my escapades are not chosen for their shining achievements and social status. They were chosen because they served a purpose. Momentarily. They don’t have a place in my reality nor they hold a permanent position in my life. They were just casualties of my ongoing battle with finding my rainbow connection. Nothing more nothing less.

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The Morning After I Killed Myself

I woke up.

I made myself breakfast in bed. I added salt and pepper to my eggs and used my toast for a cheese and bacon sandwich. I squeezed a grapefruit into a juice glass. I scraped the ashes from the frying pan and rinsed the butter off the counter. I washed the dishes and folded the towels.

The morning after I killed myself, I fell in love. Not with the boy down the street or the middle school principal. Not with the everyday jogger or the grocer who always left the avocados out of the bag. I fell in love with my mother and the way she sat on the floor of my room holding each rock from my collection in her palms until they grew dark with sweat. I fell in love with my father down at the river as he placed my note into a bottle and sent it into the current. With my brother who once believed in unicorns but who now sat in his desk at school trying desperately to believe I still existed.

The morning after I killed myself, I walked the dog. I watched the way her tail twitched when a bird flew by or how her pace quickened at the sight of a cat. I saw the empty space in her eyes when she reached a stick and turned around to greet me so we could play catch but saw nothing but sky in my place. I stood by as strangers stroked her muzzle and she wilted beneath their touch like she did once for mine.

The morning after I killed myself, I went back to the neighbors’ yard where I left my footprints in concrete as a two-year-old and examined how they were already fading. I picked a few daylilies and pulled a few weeds and watched the elderly woman through her window as she read the paper with the news of my death. I saw her husband spit tobacco into the kitchen sink and bring her her daily medication.

The morning after I killed myself, I watched the sun come up. Each orange tree opened like a hand and the kid down the street pointed out a single red cloud to his mother.

The morning after I killed myself, I went back to that body in the morgue and tried to talk some sense into her. I told her about the avocados and the stepping stones, the river, and her parents. I told her about the sunsets and the dog and the beach.

The morning after I killed myself, I tried to unkill myself, but couldn’t finish what I started.

—Meggie Royer

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Karma Is a Bitch

I was always the one who left, broke hearts, and made grown men cry. I didn’t care who they were, or how many. I lost count a long time ago. But now I find myself on the other side. I’m the one who can’t leave even though I know I should. The door is wide open but I don’t move. So this is how it feels. It’s like all their broken hearts and crushed hopes are coming back to punish me.  — Sweet Serenity

Guilty. Guilty all the way.

I didn’t only break hearts, I trampled them into pieces and walk away without a backward glance.

Don’t get me wrong. I never intended to hurt anyone. It just happened that way. I was upfront with my intentions. Never deceive. I never lied about my age, who I am and my relationship status. They knew what they were getting into right from the start. 

Whatever I said and did during the entire affair, I meant it with all my heart.

But what happened in Vegas stays in Vegas. I can’t let fantasy ruin my reality. I always left everything (and everyone) behind the moment I boarded the plane. So simple is that.

In theory, it is. But there were complications sometimes. Few of them had threatened to make a mess of my carefully separated existence. None of them passed the threshold of my home and my heart. Both are intact.

None of them was the reason for the break up of my marriage. It was doomed from the start and already beyond saving when I found out that eat your heart out is a wonderful, wonderful motto. Have a taste of your own medicine. Nobody likes the taste it seems. And life goes on.

I lost the taste for it.  I lost the patience and got tired of running. I settled down. I often ask myself if it is the right decision. I miss the chase. I miss the fun. I miss being alive. But time waits for no one. I was not the girl I once was. Perhaps deep down inside I didn’t really change, but the effect of the fountain of youth I discovered once upon a time is slowly wearing off and wearing thin. Mirrors don’t lie. Though it is still early summer in my heart, in reality, it’s November. Winter will be here soon. Sooner than I wish. Sooner than I want.

See you next time.

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Paradoxically Yours

I’m a paradox. I want to be happy, but I think of things that make me sad. I’m lazy, yet I’m ambitious. I don’t like myself, but I also love who I am. I say I don’t care, but I really do. I crave attention but reject it when it comes my way. I’m a conflicted contradiction. If I can’t figure myself out, there’s no way anyone else has.

― Imjust-a-girl

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And Yet

A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.

— Charles Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities)

And yet people seem to always know you. In fact, in places where people have ample times in their hands, they seem to know more about your life than you do. They create far-fetched stories about faraway places they never been and put you in the middle of their fantasy. The funny thing is others tend to believe them. Great minds think alike indeed.

Reminds me of something I’ve read somewhere that goes like this:

Gossip can have devastating consequences. We tend to have a strong negativity bias: Almost all of us pay more attention to negative information than we do to positive information. Think about the last time you posted something to Facebook, for example, and got a string of enthusiastic comments followed by a single, stinging rebuke. Which comment did you focus on?

It’s true, isn’t it?

We always tend to see the single black dot on a paper and focus on it but we forget the vast whiteness of the paper surrounding the black spot.

People love to believe fat juicy lies than the simple truth especially if it is about someone they are secretly jealous of or envious of the life that someone is leading. They will gladly swallow anything that can damage their perfect perception of you and your life. It makes them feel better about themselves. Justifying somehow their insecurities and personal issues. Often than not those sort of people will happily feed the fire till there is nothing left anymore of whatever the truth might have been. I have fallen victim of this sort of gossips so many times I lost count already the number of times people have spin gory tales about me. Mind you, my unconventional behavior and nonchalant attitude towards rumors didn’t help much with their already wrong impression of me and once upon a time I couldn’t care less.

They can say whatever they want as long as it doesn’t interfere with my agenda. But you cannot be in the middle of someone’s concept and be invisible. Sooner or later hell will break loose and often times the leading character is the only casualty because it is easier to hit a single target than multiple ones. Safety by numbers and the majority always win.  Fortunately, their movies are not my reality. Unfortunately, like one of those sci-fi movies, when you get hurt or die in virtual reality you die in real life too, the consequences can travel through time and dimensions and even if you don’t die the scars are deep it shows.

You know what they say:

It’s difficult to be the subject of a negative rumor, particularly one that has no basis in reality.

And even if:

You can’t always control what other people say about you, but you can control how you respond—and you can be resilient…

You are only human. You are not invincible. Everybody has limits and sooner or later you will reach your saturation point. And once you’re there you can only do a couple of things:

Wage a war against those who are set to harm you  (which in Dutch is equivalent to “dweilen met de kraan open.” Literally translated: Mopping the floor with the tap wide open meaning: ‘Bailing out a sinking ship.’)

Change your ways and conform. (Yeah, follow the heard and be a copy of the majority. Die before you’re dead.)

Or be a Hermit like me.

Which one it is?

Make your choice and let me know.

 

Depression

In a strange way, I had fallen in love with my depression. I loved it because it was all I had. I thought depression was the part of my character that made me worthwhile. I thought so little of myself, felt that I had such scant offerings to give to the world, that the one thing that justified my existence at all was my pain.

— Elizabeth Wurtze

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Family

“One of the problems was my belief that family were always there for each other. That was the cause of my pain and my guilt. The fact that I no longer had them in my life meant that I was going against a code I held close to my heart. I had to modify that belief. I had to change my definition of family. It was no longer those to whom I was linked by blood. My family now became the friends who had been there the whole time. People who I knew I could count on when things went wrong… Finding and surrounding yourself with people who truly care for you is your gift to yourself. You deserve that. You will be okay. I no longer believe that I have lost my family. I have only now finally recognized who they truly are.”

~Anonymous

“Friends are the family we choose for ourselves.” ~Edna Buchanan

A few years ago I ended all contact with my parents, and I have not seen or spoken to them since then.

The truth is I am actually okay with that. Initially, I thought I was going to lose my mind. I had been brought up to believe that family comes first. Children should respect and take care of their parents. Family should—and will—always be there for each other.

Those beliefs were based on love, and I cherished them.

I wanted so much to feel that connection—that unconditional love those beliefs promised. It was never there.

Our lives were filled with so much fear, pain, hurt, betrayal, and lies. Manipulation and deceit were at the core of our home.

I told myself that all families have degrees of dysfunction, and our family was no different. I could not allow myself to believe that our family was different. I believed that one day my parents would realize what they were doing and change. I desperately wanted their love and approval.

On the night when my husband and I ended up inside a police station explaining why I thought my father was about to come to my home and hurt me, while my two grown sons waited in the car, I realized I had to wake up.

My fantasy was over. I could no longer go on pretending our family was just like everyone else. That night I said my last goodbye to my mother as she lied to protect my father. The next day I spoke the last words to my father as he screamed into the phone repeating the lies from my childhood. It was over.

Giving up the hope that things would get better was the hardest part. I was terrified that I was doing the wrong thing. I thought I was being a bad daughter. I was going against every cherished belief about family.

It broke my heart to know that my life had been based on an illusion. The picture I had created of my parents was shattered. They had never been there for me, and they never would be.

I had lied to myself to protect my fantasy and keep them in my life. Now I could no longer do it.

Over time I began to understand why I had fought so hard to live out the lie, and I began to forgive myself for not being brave enough to stand up earlier.

One of the problems was my belief that family were always there for each other. That was the cause of my pain and my guilt. The fact that I no longer had them in my life meant that I was going against a code I held close to my heart.

I had to modify that belief. I had to change my definition of family. It was no longer those to whom I was linked by blood. My family now became the friends who had been there the whole time. People who I knew I could count on when things went wrong. That was never my parents.

I also realized that I was afraid I was not lovable. In my mind if my own parents could not love me, there had to be something wrong with me.

I did everything I could to minimize disagreements between us, keeping quiet just to keep the peace. I knew that if I spoke up we would argue, they would get mad at me, and they would not love me. I failed to realize that this was something I only experienced with them.

It was hard work just to be around them. I was always on edge, cautious, and scared. That was not a loving relationship. I came to accept that if they could not love me, it didn’t change anything about me. I had created other loving relationships around me, and they were the scaffolding holding me up.

My first Christmas after was hard. I had always gone to my parents’ house to live the fairy tale of being surrounded by love.

It was always hard to ready myself for those days. We would act out the roles of happy family, hoping in some way that was our truth. It wasn’t. I had no idea how tense I was at these interactions until I no longer had to do it.

Part of the hurt was that I now had no tradition, so I decided to start a new one. Christmas is no longer a day of obligation. I now spend it with the people who are my true family.

I’ve come to realize that the love I had for my parents was based on a childhood need for safety and security. I had to see them as the parents who loved me, despite the things they did. I could not accept that the people responsible for my well-being were also responsible for my suffering.

So much of the world I had created around my parents was simply not real. I have had to accept that truth and move on with my life.

One of my fears was that by breaking contact with my parents, I was setting an example that my sons could repeat with me. I’d like to think this won’t happen because of my parents.

The pain of my childhood taught me how important it is for a child to truly feel loved, safe, and cherished. I’ve tried to live that truth with my boys. I don’t know what the future holds for us. I can only hope that the love I’ve shown them will have created a space in their hearts where I will always be thought of with love.

I try to imagine how I’ll feel when I find out that my parents have died. I honestly don’t know. I’m sure that part of me will be sad that we did not have a better ending. However, I know in my heart of hearts that I tried for over forty years to make it work. In the end, it just wasn’t enough.

My parents were never who I thought them to be. I have had to let it all go. The fantasy of the perfect ending with them is over. I am setting out on a new horizon where I have redefined my world.

As abused children, we may feel that it is somehow our responsibility to fix the broken parts of our family. It’s not. Sometimes there is no fairy tale ending where our parents realize how truly wonderful we are.

The hard part is recognizing that and moving on. Sometimes it’s the only way to find real peace. It’s heartbreaking. It’s not easy. Finding and surrounding yourself with people who truly care for you is your gift to yourself. You deserve that. You will be okay.

I no longer believe that I have lost my family. I have only now finally recognized who they truly are.

By Anonymous

homeless-girl

November

The wild November comes at last
      Beneath a veil of rain,
      The night wind blows its folds aside—
      Her face is full of pain.

The latest of her race, she takes
      The Autumn’s vacant throne;
      She has but one short moon to live,
      And she must live alone.

A barren realm of withered fields,
      Bleak woods, and falling leaves,
      The palest morns that ever dawned;
      The dreariest of eves.

It is no wonder that she comes,
      Poor month! with tears of pain;
      For what can one so hopeless do
      But weep, and weep again.

~R.H. Stoddard (1825–1903)

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