Layers of love – falling into trust

This is a bit of a long post. It’s centered around a lot of unpacking I’ve been doing lately around emotions, connection and belonging (in relationship and connection to places, people and myself). 

Movement and friendships

So I moved to Whangarei in a bit of a whirlwind 10ish months ago now – mainly as a career move to try out a particular role and whether it fit on me. Before leaving, it was my birthday and I took the time to really celebrate my friendships and support networks in Auckland. I’ve got a wide network of people but I regularly keep up with probably only about 5 – 10 people, maybe 15 at the absolute most. Friendships ranging from 5 months to ~10 years. The people I intend to invite into my space and share energy with, are usually people I can see myself sharing life-long and deeply fulfilling connections with.

With those people, I probably trust and share more with them than my family. I do still share a lot with my family, but not as much as I would with my friends (largely because of the type of role I have in my family and because I don’t live with them anymore). My friends have some of the pages of my life written into theirs and theirs into mine, of some of the highest and lowest moments of my life (and theirs). I probably wouldn’t be hard pushed to say we’re disciples unto each other’s lives. I allow this because I’ve built trust with them to varying degrees, which match up to the depth of closeness and connectedness I have with any particular one of them. In my friendships, I hope to shield and enrich their lives (with an Jill Scott or Sia Figiel warm-soul type vibe), because it’s what I would want a friend to do for me (love languages for platonic relationships aside).

To trust someone, I have to be willing to be vulnerable with them. I’m highly selective of who I’m vulnerable with. I’m sure anyone who has been hurt would say more or less the same. The people I’m vulnerable with have been a product of choice, chance and circumstance, but I think my choice is the greatest in that ratio. In the general stages of relationship development 1) connection/bliss 2) fear manifestation/storming 3) negotiating normal, I would trust too easily and then during the fear manifestation stage, I would just accept what happened rather than point out what was wrong about it and fight for accountability. I connected too willingly and got hurt. I wasn’t tempered through experience and emotional warning/coaching from my parents (I don’t blame them for this). Over the years, I’ve gone through the motions with my friends i.e. have felt or been betrayed, disappointed and taken advantage of. And I’ve done the same to some friends too, more than I can count unfortunately. And where that has happened, I would like to think that I have apologised and made up for it – at least for the friendships that have lasted, I know I can definitely say that. For the ones that haven’t, I’m not sure if any opportunity will present itself again to settle any dues but I wouldn’t hesitate to do so and move on. For the friendships that have lasted, I think I’ve developed a sense of intellectual, experiential and emotional intimacy that we both feel safe in. The best build up of this intimacy was built organically and without time pressure. In general relationship, I have a fear of emotional intimacy, fear of abandonment, lack of trust, rejection and control issues (of what I want or allow people to know about me). But with the deep friendships I have, I’m grateful for the growth I’ve made on those fears.

In moving to Whangarei, I’ve managed to sustain my friendships (and create new ones which I’m deeply grateful for!) and family relationships. And in some regards, those relationships have been strengthened by the distance. This is because of the value and effort I still place on them despite the distance. 

I’ve had family up in Whangarei and have spent a few summers there so I’ve had a connection to the place for a while. This thankfully made the move easier. I haven’t had too many issues with finding my sense of space given my work keeps me busy and work also helps with learning about the region. 

Movement and romantic connection

In terms of a romantic connection, I’ve been suppressing my emotions for some time since I moved to Northland because it didn’t end up working out and I tried to pretend it didn’t hurt. I began avoiding anyone who showed interest and really flirted only for shallow vanity and avoided any vulnerability sharing. However I do miss the intellectual, physical and most of all, emotional intimacy. But like I’ve mentioned above, I have a fear of falling into trust with someone again to be bothered to even begin making a connection with someone again. It’s a process and there is a lot of bliss and enjoyment, but also, a lot of work; working through the fears. 

Vulnerability: falling into trust

Alisha Lockley’s Ted talk on “Intimacy” describes the process aptly. 

The unravelling, the undoing, the resurrection. Unfinding, re-existing, unfolding. Creating paradise out of your breath and heartbeat. Bathed in the hush of another man’s prayers while soaking off all unreasonable doubt. Broken grace.

Intimacy – the self-unraveling, the diving with divinity, the sanctuary you have in someone else and vice versa, ego becomes evaporated and you give up the portion of your right to be in control. Its a beautiful thing to allow yourself to be broken in front of another human being, someone with whom you’re not afraid to be scared. Having someone who reinforces our immediate completeness. In intimacy, we surrender our perfect balance into the hands of someone, realising that we could slip through their fingers [like in a trust fall], trust is regenerative, not disposable. Open heart, open mind, open spirit.

But when vulnerability is taken advantage of, then we avoid feeling the need to need anyone other than myself. This defence mechanism creates the domino effect that because I’ve been hurt, no one else from this point on deserves to become familiar with me, my will to remain undisturbed is of greater cost to work towards, than to find the resilient piece to remain open, regardless of whether or not my environment welcomes it.

We forget that someone else may just require your vulnerability later on – we forget that someone else may require us to practice an undressing of pretence. A naked and real story. I thought I was enough. I fell apart. Sanctuary in someone else’s being.

When someone is asking to be caught, during the process of falling into trust with someone, it’s because they’re looking for a sanctuary. Which is what I miss, when I have flashbacks of the times I’ve spent in trust and in relationship. Having that space in someone and someone create that space for me within them. But because I’ve developed this allergy to emotional vulnerability, I’ve been doing some reading around it through the work of Brene Brown to try and get comfortable with doing it again. In one of her podcasts she highlights the consequences of avoiding vulnerability:

  • The cost of vulnerability is that joy becomes foreboding – we become compelled to self-sabotage that joy. I can definitely say I self-sabotage a lot when it comes to new friendships and in my dating life.
  • Disappointment becomes a lifestyle – one side-steps getting excited about something, because it’s easier to maintain the status quo and feed the disappointment 
  • Low-grade disconnection keeps one miserable, where you never correct or rebalance the connection, becomes like a constant “fever” or “flu” that eats at the immunity of that relationship or connection. I’m guilty of this in family relationships where I simply don’t want to do the work to reconnect, because of my own emotions and moral high ground I’ve gone to. Think of family disputes between family members who believe they’re right and the other person is wrong, resulting in years of disconnect until eventually, non-existent relationships
  • Perfection – nothing can go wrong if I’m perfect (nothing to do with healthy striving) but this is more about the defense mechanism
  • Faith – vulnerability = extremeism. For me, my extremism was perfectionism and being a workaholic – and my type of work rewards that behaviour, so compound toxic effect
  • We numb e.g. through addictions (food, work, spending, consumption generally rather than sitting in it and working through it).
    • Important to note you cannot selectively numb dark emotions – in addiction studies, intensely negative AS WELL as intensely positive experiences can trigger a relapse toward addictive behaviours
  • Scarcity e.g. we are never good/safe/certain/perfect/extraordinary enough – an ordinary life has become synonymous with a meaningless life. Missing whats really important because we’re on this quest for “extraordinary” – an “alchemist” quest. And yes, I am making reference to Paulo Cohelo’s work here. 

In that podcast, which I’ll link below, Brene also goes on to illustrate how to build vulnerability:

  • Practice gratitude
  • Honour the ordinary (that is the extraordinary in most cases – ordinary moments with profound moments that manifest vulnerability being shared/entrusted)
  • If you don’t experience love, then you don’t have anything in the tank for when the times get rough

Since engaging more with Brene’s work and applying it to my life, I definitely have opened up myself to being more vulnerable with people. It’s been rewarding and satisfying, being more open and creating trust and safe spaces with people that I can count on and rely on in my life. There is still a lot of work and nuances around my character traits that I want to unravel and understand, but on the whole, I can definitely say I have a wholly different outlook to relationships than I did 3 years ago. 

And most of all, applying Brene’s work and doing the homework around this has given me a better understanding of people and of myself. 

Progress

This weekend, I wanted to celebrate some small wins. That’s what I’ll call them for now in my current context.

  1. House pre-approval. I’m hoping to buy something really soon, just shy of my birthday.
  2. Recognition – one of my seniors comended me for the good work I had done so far. I’ve appreciated the good compliments and recognition (given the tough situation its been since March through to now). I hope to remember this during the harder days to come.
  3. Career progression – I’ve done a few more substantive appearances so far and have been given more responsibility for which I’m grateful. I’ve done about 9 months now, so things are going good. I’m just shy of 3 years PQE and hope to be with the firm until I reach at least 6 years PQE.

This weekend has been somewhat busy with Te Hunga Roia zui a tau taking up most of my Saturday and me needing to do some work today, but I hope to carve out some time this week if not next weekend to look at my end of year schedule and road trip (pending no more community transmission re Covid – otherwise, it’ll just be nature visits and no man-made attractions, hopefully less crowds but I doubt it).

 

The danger of single stories

James Clear’s website has a section where he’s shared transcripts from great speeches that we’ve likely never heard. I’ve been reading one speech every weekend over the past five and I’m grateful to him for the curation. Today, however, I found myself remembering the first one – The danger of single stories by Chimamanda Ngozi […]

The danger of single stories

Women that inspire me – for specific reasons

I aspire to be a better boxer (do a few more fights and hopefully, and basically ride out all the corporate cards I can get), a better dancer (I still want to perform in my island’s te Maeva Nui squad and create my own dance atlas exploring body language and gender roles in different indigenous cultures – or at least learn a little about it), a better advocate (fortunately I have a great network of role models regarding that goal), and a better person in general. I have specific reasons why I’ve tried to make these my “things” fueling me towards this vision of myself and the world I want to create, but that’s not the point of this post! It’s to celebrate women that inspire me to be better at these things.

Below is a mish-mash of women I think are impressive, well regarded, and are at the top of their craft or heading in that direction. They are in no particular order. However, most of them are based in the Australasia/Pacific region, otherwise, I’ve had some engagement with them. This is no discredit to other writers/authors/artists which I adore and are based further abroad (i.e. Roxanne Gay, Michelle Obama and more) but this list is a bit more specific to my world.

Not every woman here is a woman of colour. And I have no further comment on that point. All photos are taken from google and the internet in general, I take no credit for them.

Also, because the internet is the internet and we all love to be offended – I may have simply missed some women which I haven’t come to know or read enough about. The internet is a great tool of information but it doesn’t mean I’m endlessly trawling it, so if I haven’t included someone it doesn’t mean I’m intentionally excluding them.

Edit: I aim to continually update this post when time allows. There are some women not mentioned here, especially some of the friends I’ve made over the years. I want to keep celebrating female peers and leaders because

  1. It offers a counter-narrative to female intra-sexual competition and competition in general (because unless you’re competiting in an actual competition i.e. sports, education, or science, what is the constructive benefit and point for competing for the male and patriarchical gaze when it’s destructive to the equality and human dignitiy of women?)
  2. Female peers are often my sound-boards (like “peer-mentors” almost), will sometimes call me on my bs if they care about me enough and will help influence/shape me since they’re part of my vā/ close social-environment
  3. Sharing life and breaking bread with women that have shared values is a blessing and privilege that shouldn’t go unappreciated!

So, heres my list:

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Moena Maiotui – Ori Tahiti expert

I managed to take a Ori class when she was here with my old Ura Tabu girls and my Ori cup was definitely full after that. She did some more warrior-inspired choreography in that set she taught and I am here for it e va’ine toa.

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Genah Fabian – Muay Thai/MMA Fighter

She is just an all-round bad-ass and I admire women in combat-sports. It’s a lonely but character-defining and tough journey in my opinion.

All the female fighters at Mayhem Boxing – some of them have punched me in the head and given me tips/direction, which I’m grateful for. No photos because I’d die of embarrassment if they found this post lol.

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Rachel Reed QC – Lawyer

In my first legal role I had the privilege of meeting Ms Reed. I’ve said something really embarrasing in front of her which makes me cringe regularly to this day; and sometimes I can’t sleep because of it. It serves as a lifelong reminder to read the room and try to know influential people before you meet them. It’ll have that timeless effect for as long as I’m an advocate -_-

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Julie-Anne Kincaid QC – Lawyer. Again, privileged to know her. She is a fantastic advocate in my opinion.

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Lisa Taouma – Writer & Producer

She’s produced Marks of Mana, was the founder of Coconet and many other amazing projects. Plus she’s also from Faleasi’u (village represent). ‘Nuff said lol

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Parris Goebel – Dancer, Choreographer, Business owner

Several reasons. And also, how could I (and others) not admire her?!? She has given the world enough reasons.

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Tyla Va’aefou – Tattooist & artist

I’ve happily been inked by her and am looking at more ink for my annual birthday ink session. I may have also drunk snapped her through a friend which is slightly embarrasing now that I think of it.

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Tapu Misa – Journalist & writer

I have never met her personally but I have a memory of someone in high-school telling me that she called the highschool asking why her daughter hadn’t been crowned head-girl, and then I saw her for the first time in our school hall in the front row for an awards presentation at an assembly where I was doing my head-girl weekly announcements. I don’t know if the phone call was true, but maybe one day I’ll get to ask her. I was slightly horrified when I found out because, my parents come from a humble background when I found out she was elan educated woman. In any case, I admire her and what she has done for Pacific journalism. To put her kaupapa into perspective, here is what she said in a recent article:

“You don’t have to be a particularly sensitive person to be profoundly affected by this [how Pacific people are framed in mainstream media]. How we, as a society, tell stories about ourselves and each other, makes a difference. Our stories create the lens through which we see ourselves and our neighbours and the world around us. Storytelling has the power to shape who and what we are.

I know first-hand the impact that an unrelenting onslaught of bad news and negative stereotypes can have. For me, an immigrant who arrived here at the age of eight, it’s meant a sometimes crippling lack of confidence, and a sense of never quite belonging.

I want better for the next generation of Māori and Pasifika women.”

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Faumui Penelope Ginnen & Judge Ida Malosi – District Court Judges and part of the pioneer Pacific Maori female lawfirm King Alofivae Malosi.

I didn’t make it to the swearing in ceremony for Judge Ginnen because I was working that day but it was a pensive moment when she sang Ua fa’afetai in the Northern Club given the history of that place.

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Ladi6 – Musician. I respect her for all the free concerts she did during the Ihumatao campaigns.

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Aarahdna – Musician. She sings and speaks with conviction, which I love.

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Maisey Rika – Musician, as above with Aaradhna, her soul pours through her voice. It’s beautiful to hear and witness.

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The women of Ura Tabu – Polynesian dance. The collective learning and culture in this crew has always been a joy to watch and experience.

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Seiuli Fiao’o Fa’amausili, Fa’amoana Leilua, Niall Williams & women in Rugby generally – Sportswomen. Fiao’o is a beast, I admire her tenacity.

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Leonie Pihama – Scholar & activitst

My friend admires her way more than I and has a lot more to do with her. I’ve only had the privilege of hearing her speak at the Mana Wahine event run by the Women’s Centre in Tamaki Makaurau. She speaks with conviction. I have yet to go through her works.

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Natalie Coates, Maia Wikaira and Annette Sykes – Lawyers

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Tofilau Yolande Ah Chong – Media personality, Pacific Media Network broadcaster

I will forever stan her comment on the Pacific vote. She has been around forever and has done a lot of work in Pacific Media. I just admire her MC ability.

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Chlöe Swarbrick – Member of Parliament

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Jacinta Ruru – Academic

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Soana Moala – Judge

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Helena Kaho – All-round amazing woman

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Loana Tanielu – Doctor, mother and my ex-Sunday School teacher. I fangirl her mum, Dr. Lonise Tanielu. That family is just full of brown excellence.

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Moana Maniapoto – Singer & activist

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Emaline Afeaki Mafile’o – Social entrepeneur

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Pania Newton – Advocate and activist. Her conviction and fearlessness is unmatched, and she is a definition of va’ine toa if I ever met one.

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Angela Tiatia – Artist

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Goretti Chadwick & Anapela Polataivao – Actresses

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Luti Richards – Poet

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Tessa Temata – HC to the Cook Islands

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Jahra Wasasala – Dancer

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Olive Asi & the other women of the South Auckland Poets Collective – Spoken word artists

Honor Ford – Lawyer. She is eloquent, caring and fierce. And I’m grateful to be able to call her a friend.

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Vea Mafile’o – film maker

Belinda Sellars QC – Lawyer. She helped pioneer the Public Defence Service.

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Indira Stewart – Journalist

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Teresia Teaiwa – Scholar, Poet & Activist

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Selina Tusitala Marsh – Writer

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Sia Figiel – Writer