Building on ruins

This is a piece I’ve deeply thought about writing, as I can’t tell myself that I’m a fan of cheesy writings. However, this is about me, about you, and everything in-between, a little longer Thank You note.

 I can recall starting this column in November 2019. It was a gloomy, cold day, and I was feeling low. I was trying to find something to do that would actually make sense, something that would help both me and others. So I thought that it would be a good time to actually put my Psychology knowledge and my personal background to good use. This is how Tuesday Conversations started: from the mix of the thought that I’m not able to write consistently, the need of finding meaning in my life, and the wish to tell my story.

This is how the blog column got to cover all kinds of topics, talking about feminism, suicide, eating disorders, anxiety, saying no, or creating boundaries for the interaction with other people. And I’ve been up for a pretty big surprise, have to say. Not only I have found that I actually can write about various topics consistently, but I have also discovered that there were people that needed these topics to be addressed.

It seemed like those were not just parts of my story, but parts of a whole bunch of other stories which have, by now, found their voice. It was like the tribe I didn’t know I was belonging to found me without me asking for it to happen.

And this brought me to one of the most surprising conclusions so far: something can be built from scratch, even if the foundation is a ruin. Ruins are not dead. Even if what you build is a narrative, a story having her focus on aspects that have been rather hidden than put on display your building has meaning and a purpose to serve.

I can’t help but remember a thing a friend told me when we were talking about writing, drawing, and letting our writings and drawings roam free on the internet: I have always wondered how it feels to write about things so intimate and to share them with the world. It was that moment when I understood that I don’t see the things I’ve faced or the things that hurt me in the past as a private area of my life. Not anymore. Once they stopped hurting, they turned into stories to be told about passing through dark places, as I believe that no one should ever pass through dark times alone.

For me, life means stories to be told, as they are the best way to actually put together a group. Because a problem that no one talks about is a problem that doesn’t actually exist. And mental health has been for too long an invisible problem to keep being ashamed of it, especially when that shame affects us all.

Obviously, it was and still is a process that leaves me speechless every now and then. I write, I post, and it happens to look at those materials and tell myself Did I really write that? Whoa. as my 16 years old self would rather have died than admit there’s something wrong with her. This column helped me not just bring some issues to light or help other people recover, but it has also given me a measure of my evolution. I’ve read the writings and seen how far I’ve come, sometimes without even noticing the evolution,  the direction of the process.

In the end, this is how we learn, by doing things and looking behind us every now and then. And this is how one gets to understand that healing is, indeed, a process. Something beautiful, something spectacular, something deep, unique, and extremely personal. At the end of the day, there is no actual recipe for fast healing and even the thought of a universal recipe to heal one’s wounds sounds like a fantasy plot.

Just like our traumas and our life history, our ways of healing are unique. There are no two individuals with the same way of healing their wounds or the same way of living through their suffering. Actually, the mere idea of it sounds absurd as one is reading this. But this doesn’t involve that there are no common points, as they certainly do. The beauty of it though is the fact that you can’t find those common points without being brave enough to step in the lights and tell your story. You don’t even have to tell the world all of it, or to use words. You can sing, dance, paint, act, sculpt, run, draw, photograph, even film your story, your way out of the hurting. You have total freedom when it comes to how much you’re feeling to express about your journey, and you have total freedom when it comes to the way you choose to do it.

Tuesday Conversations, my mental health column, will go on. I’m deeply thankful for all the wonderful people I’ve met along the way, for their support and critics that helped me make it better, and I hope that more and more people will become brave enough to start telling their stories. Your stories matter, your feelings are valid, and your healing process is worth it. You, as individuals, are worth love, appreciation, respect, support, and help. Go into the world and allow yourself to get them.

#circumstanțială

uneori corpul meu mă urăște,
durerea
rămâne indicatorul sincer, semn
că iar am greșit drumul

atâtea nume în jur care
nu-mi spun nimic.
oameni
adunați ca într-un pomelnic închinat
unei vieți care…
nu mai e

scroll, scroll, scroll.
mi-am pus amanet timpul și-am plecat
să mă redescopăr, să învăț
să mă citesc prin ochii altora,
în sens opus parcă
vechii fugi de mine

realitatea are corp, iar corpul meu
are memorie. ține neapărat
să nu uit nimic.
nici cine am fost, nici cu cine
m-am intersectat,
cu care trupuri
m-am împărțit nedemocratic dând
mereu mai mult decât aș fi putut primi

câteodată,
atunci când eu vreau să uit, iar el nu uită
îmi amintesc că trupul meu
are accese violente de ură uneori,
durerea
îmi amintește continuu cine sunt
scurtează liniile vagi, mentale
și-atunci
îmi privesc lung mâinile gândind
că explorarea începe din interior,
c-a venit vremea
să mă ating de corpul meu cu drag,
ca de-o minune.
un corp cu o istorie imperfectă și un nume

My favorite word

Life as an introvert has never been easy. And you learn this especially in your teenage years, when the pressure to conform is simply huge.

You notice quickly that your extroverted friends do better in society: they receive more attention, more compliments, they’re invited everywhere and everybody wants to be around them. That’s how everything starts, with thinking that if you’ll be more like them and less like you, you’ll be better.  So you begin to say yes  to everything you notice as being trendy, rushing to blend in.

And, even if it might look like an understandable choice, in the long run it will show you the contrary. It is an exhausting game, pretending to be somebody you’re not, just to fit in. And it is also visible, but I’ve noticed this way later.

Because I used to be one of those yes-teens too. To say yes when it was actually no just to avoid arguments, to do things I wasn’t really fond of and say things I was not believing, just to fit in, to be accepted. To be like the others, the cool kids. Because I’ve always wanted a bit of that attention they were receiving so effortlessly. And I wasn’t so different from them, after all, was I?

Well, truth be told, I was. I’ve always had a different view about life than the popular kids around me. I liked things they couldn’t care less about. I had my inner world, my passions, my beliefs. Somehow, I’ve always been skeptical about sharing them with other people around me.

Then, high school happened. And a lot started to change. I discovered people who were more like me, and the fact that I have options to choose from. I spent more time with them, debating things we cared about till we eventually got tired, and less with  old friends, which made me  feel like I wasn’t good enough to fit in. Eventually, I got to spend time with them only when it was really required, like family gatherings.

But it was only in my university years when I  discovered that I can say no. A small word with magical powers. A word I had always been afraid of.

I’ve been equally afraid of saying no, as I was of being told so. Of being rejected, dismissed as not good enough. Everything till one day, on my way back home, I had a revelation: I can either begin by being picky, or I will end up losing myself for good.

It was a tough thought to handle, especially thinking about the fact that I always hated to hurt people, but I knew it was the right thing to do. Took everything easy: spending more time with myself, making up excuses to avoid going somewhere where I already knew that I  was going to feel uncomfortable, cutting off some long time friendships, as I noticed them becoming meaningless interactions.

The worst part of learning to say no was, though, the guilt. I was feeling guilty for rejecting people or invites almost all the time, and in the beginning the guilt trips were awful, but  there  came a day when I  understood that, as long as I have the resources, I also have the power to choose where I will invest them.

It was, perhaps, the most liberating thing I’ve ever done. Learning to say no when it was no, instead of saying yes. This happened when I got to understand that saying no is not about rejection, it is about boundaries.

About knowing your needs, your passions, and your worth. About giving up on settling with whatever comes in your direction, and start choosing only what brings you joy. That saying no is not about being mean, as it is about self-respect. And the same thing goes for being told no, as well. Not being good enough for someone will not make you a failure. It only means that there are different needs to be met.

Of course, there are still moments when I say yes, but I mean no, but they are not that frequent anymore. Maybe this is the sign that I’ve grown up, but today I’m not afraid of saying or being told no anymore. Today I can easily say that it has become my favorite word, the one  that makes life easier, as I can speak my truths without fears.

Because knowing where to draw the line requires to have spent enough time with yourself, so you know for sure what is and what isn’t meaningful to you. A good exercise for knowing when to say no to something is to ask yourself these three questions before: Is it true? Is it good? Is it useful? If the answer is mostly no, then no is what you should say to those things, too. It is the easiest way of finding out what is and is not for you, to see if it speaks true to you, if it’s something that is useful or brings you joy. If you have more than  one negative answer to these questions, you can refuse without regrets.

I admit, learning never stops, especially when it comes to setting boundaries to others or, even better, to yourself. But learning is part of life, and we should not treat any of them like something limited or a chore.

At the end of the day, somehow, the only talk you need to have is the one about how much of who you are will you sacrifice for the sake of others. And if you feel like you’ve had enough of that already, then learn to unfit.

To unlearn all the toxic patterns which you’ve picked up along your way and which have taught you that the only way to be appreciated is to never say no. Actually, it seems like it’s the opposite: you’ll be really appreciated if you dare to stand up for yourself, knowing who you are. And that usually begins with declining everything you don’t feel it serves you in any way.

Saying no more often will only help your growth, your mental wellbeing, and will better  filter the people around you, so, in the end, why wouldn’t you give it a try? Because, if you will keep saying yes to everyone and everything, you might, one day, discover that you were only saying no to yourself all this time.