My power (a manifesto)

Lately, as you know, I’ve had the good fortune of being faced with an enormous personal loss. This is not sarcastic: taking some time to dig into my own life is starting to become a very rewarding challenge. Among the many things I’ve learned about myself is the amount of power that I possess. Obviously, I don’t mean having power over anybody else or being able to control what happens to me in life. I can’t control the basic effects that people, places, and events have on me: things happen, I perceive, and I feel. I’ve always been exceedingly sensitive and I always will be. Furthermore, there are times in life when I’d actually prefer to be overwhelmed, if only for a moment (particularly in romantic contexts). But for the most part, from now on, I want to be in control of myself. I want to stand sturdily on my own two feet. Recently I’ve begun to see what it’s like to live that way, and wow!—it feels good.

This is all a part of simply growing up, I think, but it is also a revelation. For years and years I have been much more attuned to my faults than to my assets. I’ve probably seen many more flaws in myself than anybody else has, although I’ve never been shy about admitting to those flaws. It’s time that I started to recognize not only my strengths, but those expansive places in between the framework where there is endless room to build more character.

Here is what I’m capable of adding to that framework.

I am capable of having emotions without being steamrolled by them. I can sit with my feelings—though not always comfortably—and understand that they will pass. They will affect me, and they might even change me, but they will never be destructive unless I let them. Contrary to my previously-held theory, emotions may be fully experienced without also being fully examined. Under the regime of old habits (not yet toppled, I admit), I would literally examine my feelings to death: pulverizing them until they formed a thick, choking cloud of anxiety. No more getting stuck in the fog.

I am capable of making decisions that support my needs, desires, and values. Decision-making, at all levels, is another task that I’ve struggled to undertake without ruminating my way into anxiety. The struggle shows up in the smallest ways, from thinking about what to eat for dinner to choosing new towels for the bathroom. I have learned that while not every decision will turn out to be correct, it doesn’t pay to strive for perfection from the beginning. Striving to be infallible doesn’t work, either. No more chasing after things that can never be reached.

I am capable of loving without clinging. When I was with him, the love never came from a place of feeling incomplete; when he left, naturally, I fell into a state of pining. I carried around a justifiable sense of betrayal and horrific loss, and I still carry chunks of those along with a kitchen sink of bitterness, rage, sadness, confusion, regret, and longing. But amidst the mess, the love has always been clear. Because it is rare and beautiful, I will cradle it in my heart for as long as it asks to be held. No more grasping.

I am capable of forgiving when I know the heart of the person to be forgiven. Most importantly, I can forgive myself. I am okay with the small mistakes I make every day. I am okay with my flaws, even those that have played a role in the dissolution of several relationships. For the times when I’ve betrayed my own values, and for the times when I’ve inflicted pain on others, I forgive myself because I know that my heart is good. No more holding grudges against the person I see in the mirror every day.

I am capable of turning down opportunities to create unnecessary struggle.

I am capable of creating a happy life.

I am capable of being unselfish.

I am capable of change.

I am capable of loving myself.

I am capable of becoming a better writer, so that someday I’ll be able to convey just how much these things mean to me.

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2 Comments

  1. Kristen –

    I can feel your strength in this post – what amazing shifts are happening. Loss is hard and I can only imagine the power of the emotions that come along with your loss. It’s ironic isn’t it – we are on the opposite sides of a loss situation. I am in essence the one who is breaking my husband’s heart and that is what causes me the most guilt and pain. You are on the side of being left. Neither is a fun place to be. You are stong and amazing and what a fantastic journey (the e-course) that we are on in this time of our lives!

  2. kristenpdx

     /  April 4, 2010

    Michelle, thanks for the comment. I know you’re having a very hard time, too, and I hope the e-course will continue to be a source of comfort for you.

    And just so everybody knows that I don’t have it all together: lastnight (Saturday) I felt so crummy that I went to bed at 8:45, without dinner. Today will be better.

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