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

Say No to the New Lands and Titles Bill

Sipping Koko

I’m not a lawyer and only took a business law class back in university, but even I can spot the holes in the newly proposed Lands and Titles Act Bill that is meant to repeal the 1981 Bill. There are a lot of opinions out there right now – many who are opposed to this Bill, and rightly so. This Bill will give the government power to slowly remove matais from the process, take declared or customary land, use smoke and mirrors as a way for the Head of State to make whatever rules he/she wants to, and so much more. So, with all this I’m going to break down some of my findings and why you should care and start calling your family on the island to protest this Bill. Also, before I dive in, there’s a petition you can sign opposing this Bill. Sign it here.

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Digital footprint & virtual reputations

I’m part of the generation that the internet became a thing; the transition phase i.e. Gen Y. So I remember growing up without laptops, smart phones/watches or tablets for most of my primary school years in the early 90s, and then venturing on to MSN messenger in the early 00s to pointlessly talk to the same kids I saw during the day. Desktops were becoming a thing in the 90s growing up. My computer experience consisted of SkiFree or 3D Pinball, some Carmen Sandiago or Magic School Bus adventure and whatever lucky dip CDs my Dad let me buy from the Duffy Book catalogue for our desktop at home.

Then as a teenager, social media was born.  Myspace was more popular overseas but Bebo was the buzz here in Aotearoa. My friends and I created profiles on both virtual playgrounds. Teenagers of the early 2000s could now re-confirm our insecurities around the clock. Sending hearts, asking to be in another person’s top 16 and posting grainy photos from some point and shoot camera.

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Then phones became more common, Kelly Rowland was able to send texts through excel spreadsheet and you get the rest of the story. I’ve been fortunate to have game consoles and desktops like most middle-ish class kids growing up in the 90s, so my digital navigation isn’t too shabby. But I dread to think what my initial search engine histories were like, let alone my general digital footprint since data and internet has become more and more accessible accessible, particularly during my pubescent years *cringe*. Don’t know how to do something? Google it. Too scared to ask your parents about it? Google it. Someone asking you something you don’t know? Tell them to Google it.

Fast forward to my 20-somethings, I started piecing together a patchwork career in spaces that I thought I could contribute some positive value to – that fit the story I wanted my life to tell. This meant connecting with lots of people I had no networks in and putting my best foot forward so they’d want to work with me.

Naturally when people get your CV for a work opportunity, they will complete a background check via your references, certifications and virtual presence. Because no one wants to hire someone that isn’t fit-for-purpose or at least doesn’t have the base attitude to be developed into fit-for-purpose. I didn’t have any serious cringe-worthy photos online or subscriptions to questionable websites. A google search of my name was mostly littered with articles or posts about the voluntary work I had done throughout university degrees. That being said, I did have:

  • A public video I edited of me and my girlfriend partying in Thailand – my attempt at trying to be influencer-esque (my edit was crap).
  • A few photos from some TFP contracts I’d done – including one with me dressed up as cat woman and one of me wearing nothing but the New Zealand flag.
  • Posed party-shots on my Facebook page that weren’t private.

Granted, one of my employers saw the first of those and I was still hired. I don’t know if that would’ve been the same outcome if he’d seen the TFP shots given the #MeToo climate. I had actually asked the photographer months beforehand to remove my photos from his online portfolio (THANK YOU PAST ME – but not past past me who thought that kind of photoshoot was a good idea in the first place).

I only properly started to clean up my online act toward the end of university. During my earlier years, I wanted to be “relevant and cool” with the crowds I mixed in. Now, I simply dgaf. I’m much more comfortable in my identity than I was in my early 20s, I like who I am and who I’m striving to be. That person doesn’t engage in TFPs and likes a whole lot of privacy now. However, even that being said, the decision to have an online presence at all is so easily made, without thinking of the layers and consequences of each digital decision one makes. I know I easily toss these decisions aside to get the information I desire whenever, where ever and from whatever agency/organisation is giving it on the other side.

This is definitely something I want to explore a little more given we’re in the age of big data, control over that data is blurry and all the policy implications on personal sovereignty (i.e. choice) that arise. For now, I’ll continue to clean up my online presence, try not to watch too many movies like Unfriended and check the encryption on any photos posted of myself online.

 

How Some Pacific Women Are Responding to Climate Change and Natural Disasters

HUMAN WRONGS WATCH

Human Wrongs Watch

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Women in the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu are dealing with six crises currently – COVID 19, drought, scarcity of potable water, and volcanic ash, acid rain and sulphur gas as there are several active volcanoes on the island. But global women’s rights organisations are collaborating with regional alliances in supporting local women.

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