Journaling is a form of self-expression through writing that I enjoy a lot. I never had a diary or liked the idea of having to sit down everyday to write but I do love to jump on here and write whatever I need to take off my chest and mind. More often than not, it helps me to organise and process my feelings and thoughts.
The other week, I bought a new black notebook to reorganize and restructure myself. I was fed up of living in limbo and the feeling of being lost in the fog. I noticed I wasn’t living my life and that I had put myself on hold since the lockdown back in March. I went from living a dream-like state to a messy and painful hell in a short amount of time.
I did nothing for myself this summer, besides writing a whole book that became a very meaningful project since it answered a lot of questions regarding my health and capacity over the last couple of years. I don’t even know how I wrote it through pain and sickness, but I did. It was bigger than myself to prove my point and find the reason why I have suffered so much pain and disability from panic attacks to having to stop writing because I couldn’t even hold a pen.
Few people know the perils of living with generalised pain, endless fatigue crisis and not being able to get out of bed for days. It was scary to live all these again. The saddest part was that I saw myself suddenly unable to keep my bodybuilding training. It’s hard when you are used to lift 35 Kgs almost every night and then can’t even hold a plate in your hands or pick a fork to eat.
Growing up as a highly sensitive, I’m used to having people not understanding my pain and affliction. I endure a lot in silence though, so even when I complain, people don’t really pay attention or don’t even hear me. Maybe that’s why I write, I talk to myself and I let my wiser self come through to guide me in the form of insights and reflection. From there, I resolve and make peace with my issues. Or at least I try.
The down part is that I think people don’t know me and that’s probably my fault. I always give the best of me first and maybe that’s what I have been doing wrong. Whenever I’m sad or not that well, people don’t like that version and they want me back to that generous and light Vanessa who dreams and paints a rainbow in each corner of the house. People want the cheerleader, not the human being that also gets sick, grumpy and out of order.
I wish people knew I’m human too, and that I will always have ups and downs like everyone else, if not even more since I’m highly sensitive. I can’t avoid my downs as I have my own learning journey, my own life’s agenda. What’s life if not a collection of lessons? You can’t learn without mistakes and some moments of frustration. I have them too, and I secretly think people look at me as someone who is a rock. No human being is a rock though.
I stupidly might portray to be one, even without wanting so. I’m used to be left alone and I think I’ve done a pretty good job so far by myself. I learnt to read the signs of the universe at my own cost and I did my best to stop being a bird in a beautiful golden cage. I lived all my life in one, pleasing other human beings, singing to them in the morning… but I honestly hate cages and I don’t think I fit in one now.
And like every bird who is free, I can break a wing or be hurt for following my own route, but what is a bird supposed to do if not following its curiosity about the world? There are people who help afflicted birds and there are people who ignore their suffering. I’ve learnt I can’t expect someone to mend my wings and therefore I have to heal them myself and later offer to others what I would have liked to receive. When I think about my students and the letter I wrote to my future child years ago, there is one very important thing that always shows up. Actually, two. No, three. One is freedom. The other is love, and the other trust.
Whatever path we choose to follow out of freedom, there is always the risk of hurting ourselves in the way. Someone throws a stone at us, someone laughs at us. We may hurt ourselves, but we all have the capacity to learn from our own mistakes and each person has a set of mistakes and risks to take in life in order to evolve.
This is hard to grasp and practise when we are talking about our children, partners and family. We want the best for them and we want to protect them from what we think it’s harmful or dangerous, but the truth is that we want to control their path so that they don’t suffer or do as we told them. What happens then? Eventually we take their freedom away and freedom for me is priceless, because when you are free, you are light, and when you are light you can listen to your heart’s whispers.
I need freedom as I need air to breathe. That’s why love is so important, because love allows us to be present and keeps ourselves grounded and connected to each other. For instances, I know love is what keeps my students resilient and willing to try again whenever they fail an exercise or task. I don’t call them stupid and I don’t push their buttons. I lovingly tell them so let’s see what we have here and I kneel down so that we can be at the same high. I put my focus on loving them and from there grows a huge respect between us.
Then trust seals everything, because love needs freedom and we must trust that the other person will always evolve by herself and reach that beautiful stage of becoming a butterfly. I don’t give away the answers to my students. I only adjust their flashing light so they can see the answers for themselves. Sometimes they see it right away, other times I have to try a different approach, but I never give them the answers or say they did a stupid thing. Who am I to take away their freedom of thought?
I know many people don’t get this and a few others might find this stupid or pointless. However, if I learned anything with my students in the last 13 years is that kindness and grace are very important for wellbeing and self-development. On last Thursday, I called a 10-year old’s attention, who is also highly sensitive, for not measuring his strength well enough yet and for not listening to his friend’s appeal to stop. Mind you that I kept the whole week calling him on his behaviour and manners in the classroom.
Seconds after, he went through a crisis and froze. Tears started streaming down his face and I realised that we had hit a breaking point. I reached out to him and he told me he would rather die because his family kept saying he was worthless at home and now he was also worthless at school. I thought about my own dark moments in that moment, those in which I secretly held that wish to myself, so I first offered him freedom – those were his feelings and thoughts -, then love and finally trust.
Thinking back, I just helped him readjust his flashing light. I told him how intelligent and special he is. Finally, I told him that I trust he can improve his behaviour. As a matter of fact, what else could I really do, other than trust his own capacity to develop himself into the beautiful butterfly I know he will be? I can’t have him disrupting our classes all the time, but what can I do now besides offering him freedom, love and trust?
I don’t have answers to be honest, it’s the first time I have a student whose own sensitivity disrupts himself, but I do know one thing: each one of us is in a personal journey and no one can walk it through for us. In the meantime, we can only be kind to each other and mindful of how we live our life daily. Life is not all made of ups. As Buddha observed, we can’t deny there is pain, famine, disease, death… life is dukkha (suffering). There is, of course, a way to free ourselves from suffering, which is to follow the middle way or the eightfold path. This includes right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. This is what we are here to learn. Moderation, which for me is freedom based on love and trust.