The Dragon and the Little Girl

dragonlittlegirl

There’s a little girl inside me; she’s petrified and desperate to be comforted.

It’s become clear to me that the dragon has to fiercely protect this little girl.

So I’ve been trying to be better, making sure I’m responding to my own needs so that little girl feels safe. Being compassionate, patient, and comforting. Making the commitment to her over and over, and keeping my promise by protecting her from bullies (most of whom live within my head). It hasn’t been easy, I’m far from a consistent guardian yet. I often get caught up in old habits, going along with the bully as she beats on the little girl. Or I end up fusing with the little girl’s fears to a point where I find myself joining the petrified child under the covers where we try to hide from monsters. I forget that I’m a dragon. I forget that I should be protecting her. I forget that I even can.

process

I’ve said before how committed I am to be the dragon, but what I’ve come to realize lately is that in order to be the dragon, I have to pay attention to the little girl. She needs to feel safe. This has to be my first priority.

The problem is that she doesn’t believe the dragon has her, and she is convinced she needs other people to take care of her. I don’t blame her of course, I don’t have a good track record of taking care of her. In fact, it’s a pretty shitty record. It’s no wonder she feels so strongly that she needs someone to nurture her, someone outside to protect her. It makes perfect sense to me, so I understand how I got here, and why she’s putting up such a fight to convince me that we’re not strong enough to cope. It’s hard not to believe her. It’s hard not to crawl back under the covers and wait for someone to come turn on the light and settle my fears. But I know that game, I’ve played that game my whole life, and it’s never gotten me out of the bed.

turn around

I know I have to be the dragon even when the little girl doesn’t think I can. I understand now that a big part of making her feel safe is going to be building trust. It sounds funny to have to build trust with yourself, but there’s certainly no one in this world whose trust I’ve damaged more than my own, so it actually makes a lot of sense.

I’ve started by acknowledging when the little girl gets overwhelmed; placing my hand on my chest and saying “I’ve got you”. Though, like any trust building rebuilding, you can’t just say things and expect the other person to believe it. You have to do things that prove you mean what you say. This is where being mindful of how I respond to her fears come into play. Responding to myself with compassion and giving myself whatever I need to feel safe.

I’ve also started a notebook of “Dragon Tales” where I write down everything I’ve managed to do on my own – all the times I’ve been my own hero. I’m hoping this will act as concrete evidence that “I, do in fact, got this” when I doubt my own resilience.

survived

One thing I have been trying to work out is how “I got my own back” fits with our very real need of healthy tribe. When I think about the importance of tribe it’s difficult for me to grasp why it’s so important that I learn to stand alone. I don’t quite have it all figured out, but what I keep coming back to is love versus fear. Am I living out of love, or living out of fear?

Love-or-Fear

Am I in this relationship out of fear of being alone, fear that I can’t survive without you? To me this place of fear rings true when I feel like I need others, as if our connection is serving a purpose of survival. Having you in my life because my safety depends on it. This isn’t where I want to be.

I want to connect out of love. I want to connect with others based on want. I want to want you in my life, not because I feel I need you.

stand by

It seems to me that if I felt stable enough on my own two feet, if I was able to ensure my own safety, that it would open up much more room for me to live out of love. To connect with others out of love. Connecting even more genuinely because there wouldn’t be this angst underlining (or upholding) our bond; it would be purely from a place of genuine desire to connect with one another. And isn’t that kind of connection actually what we mean when we talk about needing tribe?

hero

It’s time to stop living out of fear. It’s time to prove to the little girl that she doesn’t have to be afraid anymore. That she doesn’t have to depend on others to turn on the light. It’s time I tear off the covers and meet those monsters head on, showing that little girl the dragon can kick some serious ass, even in the dark.

 

 

I’m just going to put this here..

youI’m not sure this is the right place for this, but I felt a need to share this to mark what a meaningful day this is to me, and didn’t know where else to put it.

It’s been a long day of ploughing through with a fake smile, hiding what today really means to me. To share this is to honour the very one its about.

Kept up with a heavy heart I typed away in the darkness of my bedroom. This is what my heart had to say..

June 4th

Two years ago today was the day the stick turned from reading positive to negative. I lost you.

I was devastated. But it sickens me when I look back and know that the only baby that will ever grow inside me -even for the short time it was- wasn’t fully appreciated, never truly grieved. I was devastated, torn apart, but there was a part of me that held this baby as a beacon of hope, that saw their worth as a sign of “better things to come”, as a stepping stone to being a mom someday. How little did I know that that baby was all there will ever be.

I regret that I couldn’t fully acknowledge your life and the loss of it as meaning everything, carrying its own worth, not as a means to an end. I lost you and comforted myself with the idea that the pain of losing you would be worth it someday because I’d have someone else. How horrible a thing to reduce my only to-be child’s life to. To act as though it did not have enough worth and love to simply let it stand alone. If I could go back, I would have let myself know the pain was actually not worth it because of something someday, but rather the pain was simply a true indication of my love for you and who you may have been. You were not a small glimpse into the motherhood I would fully experience someday, you were it. You gave me a few days of elation and excitement, a few days to breathe, to have my husband treat me as the future mother of his child, to caress my belly in wonderment as I had wished to do for so many years, to feel the sense of miracle, to feel as though possibility was true and not far away. You stopped my heart when “pregnant” stared back at me from the stick. You made me believe that the impossible may be possible. Losing you taught me a lot, it just wasn’t what I thought at the time I lost you.

You weren’t insignificant. You weren’t a means to an end.

There are no stepping stones to your life, there is only life. Life is lived right there on the rocks. You can’t wait for a stick to stare back at you like a magic eight ball, you can’t put your life on hold until it’s time to start living. You are missing it. Living like this isn’t living at all..the way I grieved you wasn’t grieving at all. I have to accept what is for what it is. I have to lean into all of it. The bad things don’t have to have some greater meaning, the pain is meaningful all in itself. You didn’t need a silver lining to make you beautiful. I know now that you were not significant for any other reason than the fact that you were.

You taught me that letting go isn’t something you do to reach for something better. It’s fully accepting what is and grieving it with all of yourself. Moving on only comes from fully letting go, and to let go you have to fully know what you are letting go of. I didn’t know what that was at the time. I feel like I let go too quickly, except I realize I never actually let go until now because I failed to see you for what you were. You were there so short of a time that you were hardly living, but you taught me more about living than I learned in the 27 years before you.

I’m not letting go because I want to move on to better things. I’m letting go now because I know you now, and I love you for everything you are. I am so thankful for every ounce of pain I feel because that is my love for you. And without you I wouldn’t have had that either. I thought you were going to be the beginning of my life, and in a way you were.

 

Keeping a Steady Aim by Adjusting Targets

This week I’ve gained valuable insight into what I’m aiming for and why, and how to get there.. even when I can’t fully get there.

archery

I took up archery this week (hence the inspiration for the name of this post) and the biggest thing I’ve learned so far has nothing to do with my bow. New hobbies have a way of opening our minds to new ways of thinking and understanding. I’m just starting out with archery so it is easy for me not to expect myself to hit difficult targets, or any target at all for that matter (I’ve already somehow lost an arrow in the abyss of my backyard). Learning something new takes patience, understanding, and compassion. It’s easy when you are a beginner at something to accept that, and hand it over willingly. Unfortunately this willingness to accept where we are is not so forthcoming when it’s something that isn’t new to us.

The resistance we have to accept where we are is fueled by our good ol’ friend comparison. We compare to our own past performance, where others are, and where we think we should be. This leads to pushing ourselves too far, expecting too much, not giving ourselves what we really need, and ultimately setting ourselves up for failure. I have found this in many different aspects of my life.

beginner

During yoga class I notice this when I automatically push myself to where I was able to get last class- without even paying attention to where my body is that day. I assume because I know where I was able to get last time, that I know where I should go this time. I’ve been mindful of this tendency over the last few days and instead try to approach it as though I’ve never done it before. It has been great practice for staying in the moment, honouring where I am, seeing the judgement that arises, and letting it go.

whereyouare

Being mindful of where I am right now and responding to that non-judgmentally and with compassion is helping me with more than my downward facing dog.

I reached a low point this week after having a bad panic attack at ballet class, which forced me to leave early. I spent the rest of the night wallowing and beating myself up. I was extra frustrated with myself because ballet is one of my empowering activities, and now I’ve made myself afraid of it. I was petrified that this was the marker that the dragon is dead.

The next evening I was supposed to go to another dance class. All day I was anxious and contemplating whether to go. I was scared to go because I knew it was likely that I’d panic again. I questioned whether I should even go because if I had to leave again I’d only further perpetuate this panic response to dance. I almost had myself convinced that it would be healthier to avoid it. Thankfully that morning I had an eye-opening therapy session and the truth of how vital it is to my life to stay the dragon was clear in my mind.

My goal then was to figure out how I was still going to be a dragon, panicking or not. The first inclination was to set the target to where I was able to succeed before (go to class and don’t leave). Failing to be present and accepting of where I am was only digging the hole I’m in deeper. By looking at myself honestly and compassionately, I realized this was too much for where I am right now, so I adjusted the target.

hole

Just keep showing up. I decided that would be my mark of success. That will be how I’m still a dragon. I’ll measure my success by my perseverance in showing up. Not on if I panic, not on if I leave, just showing up.

showup

This was a light bulb moment for me. One thing about panic attacks is it feels like they control your actions. They feel debilitating because if you have a panic attack in one place, you will likely have one there the next time, and it becomes easy to assume you need to avoid these places in order to avoid the panic. This can feel like panic is forcing you to lose what you love, and can make your world very small. What I realized is with my “Show Up” rule I am taking control over my actions. Despite whether or not I have a panic attack, I am going to continue to show up. It also takes the pressure off my ability to not have a panic attack or to be able to control it once it happens. For now, I’ve decided I will just be in control of whether I show up. This felt doable and empowering.

Since establishing the “Show Up” rule I’ve managed to show up for another dance class and four yoga classes. As a bonus I was actually able to stay for all of them, but what I’m most proud of is showing up to them at all.

choices

I’m still aiming at targets, but now I’m being more mindful that they are targets I can hit.

I invite you all to try being mindful of where you are at any given moment and respond to that with compassion.

Are there targets in your life that may need adjustment?