Thoughts while meditating on the subjects of gratitude and abundance, on Thanksgiving in 2020.
Before I get into anything about today’s meditation, I feel it is important to update you all on what I’ve been going through emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, over the last two years. My blog’s description states that I “will not hold back from rawness,” and it’s about time I lived up to that expectation.
As you might have noticed, it’s been over a year since my last post. Being that my last posts were eulogies I wrote for my father’s funeral, I really didn’t know how to follow it up; anything I thought to write felt unimportant by comparison, or just, inappropriate. On Instagram I was able to move forward by focusing on what I still have with me, but I think the idea of a more concentrated blog post on the subject just was hard for me to wrap my head around, because my heart has been closed off for so long now.
There were events in 2019 before my father’s stroke, that just had me in survival mode all year. Abuse from a narcissist who nearly got me fired from my job because of lies he spread about me. A bad acid trip while contemplating my potential demise as I waited to hear back results of a biopsy of a lump that had grown in my right breast. Social defamation from a somewhat-famous Uber passenger who refused to exit my vehicle after I asked him to leave because of incessant verbal abuse; and it taking nearly a year to get Twitter to take the posts down. Then my without warning, my dad had the stroke.
It was feeling like 2019 was one curveball after another, and the only way to survive was to consciously shut off my emotions. While he was in the ICU, my family and I got into a couple of excruciating arguments; the worst were with my sister. These triggered every baseline fear that has been the main cause of my clinical depression and anxiety since I was a kid: abandonment, not feeling wanted or desired (as a lot of adopted kids tend to feel), not being appreciated, feeling left out in the cold…
These feelings have been reflected in my adult relationships, too. So when the person who had been pursuing me and flirting with me right after I had raced home to be with my dad in the last few weeks before his death, who then established a sexual relationship with me when I came back to LA and then Burning Man briefly, pulled a 180 on me and left me to pursue feelings he had for his coworker right before my father’s funeral, I completely broke down. This one relief from the mountains of trauma that I had been experiencing, this one space where I felt safe to let down my guard because it was a source of good feelings, had abandoned me right when I needed his support the most.
Looking back, I see now that I was operating from a place of scarcity. I wasn’t seeing how much emotional support I really had around me. I didn’t trust it. I would start to open up about all that I had been through to a friend and then would realize that they had no clue how to respond. When you haven’t experienced loss like that, it’s just difficult to know what to say or what the “right way” is to support someone going through something like that. So, from fear of losing the friends that I had left, it just felt safer to close up, and put my energy into helping others. My dad was always there for his friends and neighbors; and if you read the second eulogy I wrote, you would remember that I felt the transference of his more gracious traits onto me when he passed.
With everyone moving inside, and being released from the pressure to constantly be job hunting, because my industries were shut down and I was earning unemployment, I felt a sense of relief. I didn’t have to so actively wall up anymore when I was safe being alone most of the time, anyways. I gained more energy, and with more energy, an opening started to happen; and with that, my rage started to surface. At first I was angry about societal conditions: mask deniers, the arts not being appreciated nor funded enough, police shootings, racial injustice, and the Senate totally failing us. Then the deeper roots of my anger came out: being mansplained to, the producers and gate keepers of the industry I’m still breaking into being condescending, sexist assholes; fair-weather friends, and people who weren’t showing up for my successes; dishonest love interests, people who have hurt me deeply continuing to deny what they have done; my work and efforts going unappreciated; not feeling seen, and not being heard.
It sounds like torture, but it was part of opening back up again, and all the anger in it’s own way motivated the hell out of me. I put all my anger from mask deniers into creating a PSA on COVID-19 Etiquette. I put all my anger from the person I co-wrote the script with, continuously talking down to me and mansplaining to me, into making the PSA better than it would have been had he stayed on the project. I took the anger I had from the composer dropping out of the project at the last-minute, after refusing to take any of my notes on the music, into getting it into as many drive-in theaters as possible; yes so it would get seen and have an impact, but also, if I’m being totally honest with myself, so he would feel like an idiot screwing me and the project over so much. Revenge success I’m learning is a real thing, and it is quite the motivator. My anger and disappointment in myself for not believing in myself enough to push The Family Tree, the feature documentary about my dad, forward, I channeled into applying for a post-production documentary course put on by none other than Sundance Collab. And I got in! With The Family Tree, and the PSA, I kept exceeding the expectations that I originally had set out for myself; I started to trust myself more and more.
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve started to feel myself break open. The walls crumbling down, feeling vulnerable again for the first time in over two years. I’ve been feeling scared, excited, hopeful, worried, aroused, and even… giddy! Opening my heart in the dating space again, has been the most intimidating. What if they pulled a 180 on me? What if my judgement is missing red flags? What if I can’t keep my balance with my many, many projects and goals, and developing a new relationship at the same time?
Today, it being Thanksgiving and all, gratitude had been at the forefront of my mind. I was reminded that gratitude overwrites fear, worry, and scarcity; and I had been disconnected from that feeling. But if I was open enough to feel all of these negative emotions, I was open enough to feel the positive ones, too, right? And I think that’s what scared me most about the positive; what if they were going to just, go away? And it hit me; there are fundamental things in my life, and with my own human self, that aren’t going to just disappear. So I went into a deep meditation to focus on the abundance in my life to remind myself how held I really am.
At first, my gratitude went to more immediate things: my friend who invited me to her place for Thanksgiving with her and one other friend, my church community whom I volunteered with today, my mom and neighbors who I Facetimed with. Then, it went to my physical things: my brand new bike and the freedom it gives, my Canon 5D miii and not only the pleasure shooting with it gives me but also the money it’s brought in over the years; and of course my computers that allow me to connect and create on a daily basis.
Then, I reflected on the relationships I have in my life, and how life would be like if I didn’t have them. It hit me then, too: if I didn’t have two particular friends in my life – Robert and Camilla – I might not be here typing this right now. A year ago, the impetus to my going back on antidepressants, was an intense breakdown that I had, that lead to my being suicidal. My father’s death, the fears deep inside of me that came to the surface from the fights with my family, and the abandonment and betrayal I experienced from someone I was romantically involved with… it all just came to a head, and overloaded me with fear, grief, pain, and anxiety. One thing they don’t tell you about breakdowns leading to suicidal episodes, is how it’s not just the events that lead to the breakdowns, but the breakdowns themselves, that can cause trauma. With the events that lead up to it, you lose faith in other people. With the breakdown itself, you lose faith in yourself. And I can tell you right now, I’m 95% sure that if Rob and Camilla hadn’t been there for me when I needed them the most, I probably would have killed myself. I was that much on the edge. In the moment of this really landing on me today, I felt the most profound gratitude for these people in my life, and everyone else who has supported me along the way.
The last time I was suicidal, I was in college, reeling from a horrible breakup from a toxic, abusive relationship, and no one seemed to believe me when I was expressing how much pain I was in. So I swallowed a bottle of Motrin to make it clear, and I was kicked out of school for a semester, because afterward I had regretted my actions and called the ambulance to the dormitory. I’ve never talked about it publicly before because the way the school treated me after that, was as if I was a liability. I was rarely trusted after that, and entering back in with a new class of freshmen, I was quickly the outcast. While I have no shame in what I’ve battled personally, the stark reality of how other people will shame you, and rip you of opportunity because of how afraid they now are of you, has been a harsh reality that I’ve lived with most of my life. In confidence with close friends, it’s always been something I’ve expressed from a place of gratitude. That I experienced that much darkness at such a young age, I have been more prepared than most for what has since transpired in the world. I’ve had a deepening of empathy, and non-judgement for others’ struggles. I’ve discovered that I am strong, and can survive anything. I’ve seen that if you hang on long enough, you will experience joy again. So going through that just over a year ago, with everything I learned from that, and being fourteen years older and wiser, I reached out to these friends telling them how I felt, wanting to be saved. And I was. I then found a new therapist, a psychiatrist, and requested to go back on antidepressants, for the first time in over ten years.
I tried numerous medications and all of them just made me feel incredibly numb, with bad side effects. The numbness was safe, but it wasn’t living at all. I had been processing all my pain with my therapists, and a tea ceremony group that my friend Brett leads. I had projects and opportunities I created for myself that gave me a sense of divine purpose. I was in tune with my intuition, and teaching tarot, and coaching people; and feeling value in myself and what I was doing with my life. It was time to feel again! So finally last summer, I was ready to go off of antidepressants again, and try a new therapy called TMS (trans-magnetic stimulation). For six weeks straight, five days a week, I would have a magnet pointed to the part in my brain that controls mood, that would send magnetic pulses to that area. For 40% of patients it’s proven to reduce Depression symptoms, with zero side effects. I’m very grateful today to say that I am part of that 40%.
I can feel again. I have a range of emotions that I’m experiencing for the first time in years, all over again. It’s amazing how in one hour I can go from worry, to gratitude, to competence, to peace, and back to worry all over again. It’s reminding me how important my mindfulness practices are. It’s reminding me how important non-attachment is. And today, it especially reminded me of how, with my current healthy mental state, my brain largely controls how I feel.
So if I think about all the things that could potentially go wrong with a love interest, I start to feel worried, and desperate. But if I switch that focus to, the friends I have in my life, who are part of the reason I am still here today, I feel profound gratitude for what I already have – and in that way, losing something feels less scary because of all of the abundance in my life.
There was then a shift in the meditation, where I found myself feeling gratitude for myself. I hugged myself so tightly, and I let the tears burst out like a geyser. It had really landed on me how much I really can trust myself. Because in the end, I still had the strength to reach out to my friends, before taking any irreversible actions. I had the humility to find a psychiatrist to relieve myself of my most destructive feelings, so I could recover and heal. I had the self-awareness to know when I was ready to have emotions again, and was brave enough to try new methods. I’ve left behind friends who have drained me of my energy, and left me feeling unappreciated. I’ve drawn healthy boundaries with a family member who mistreated me and wouldn’t take actions to work things out. I had the intuition to know when prospective romantic connections weren’t right for me. I had the gumption to not give up on my dreams, and instead, created new opportunities for myself.
In the end, this whole year has really been about proving myself, to myself. Knowing that I deserve success. That I am good enough, smart enough, talented enough, loving enough, and above all, reliable enough. That I don’t have to lean on or rely on anybody else, when I have myself. But that choosing to open my heart again, is a choice I can make in order to enrich my life with softer emotions. Emotions that make me cry from laughing too much. Emotions that get me excited about sharing my future. Emotions that expose me to all that I am capable of. Emotions that have me staring at my phone like a goof. Emotions that make me feel safe enough within myself, to be sharing all of these things with you, whoever you are.
Thank you for being in my life by reading about my life. More important, thank yourself, for being present for your own life. Happy Thanksgiving.