Life on Life’s Terms

serenity

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and the wisdom to know the difference.

The serenity prayer has helped millions of recovering alcoholics to accept life on life’s terms, and cope with the everyday struggles that are sometimes out of our control. Whether you are an alcoholic or not, chances are that you could also benefit from the teachings of the 12 Step Program. I am lucky to say that I have never struggled with having a problem relating to alcohol, but I have a whole heart of compassion for the people who have. I honestly believe that the 12 step recovery process is a life changer for anyone (alcoholic or not) who commits to the principles and seeks to live a satisfying, honest, and accepting life.

Undoubtedly one of the most difficult things to accept in life is that there are many things that we have absolutely no control over. It is important to recognize those things, and learn to accept our powerlessness over them. We should expend our efforts and energy towards the things that are within our control, allowing us to reach a greater level of satisfaction, pride, and meaning once our influence has proved successful. Learning to live life on life’s terms means that you are willing to accept the ups and downs that the universe delivers, without putting up resistance or acting out as a means of coping.

I recently starting reading the NY Times Bestseller, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson, and despite what you may think from the title, it’s actually been a pretty eye-opening read. The premise of the book is that life sucks sometimes, but it’s better to just admit it, shrug your shoulders and get over it. Manson says that we should really stop kidding ourselves and acting as though nothing but positivity surrounds us. He says we should just honor the fact that the world is shitty, and then make the most of what’s left of it. In other words, accept life on life’s terms. It’s important to remain level-headed through all of life’s shitty, unfair moments, and continue to give fucks about only the things that truly matter. Be honest with whatever your situation, and be honest with yourself. Life gets better once you accept the things you cannot change.

xx allie

On Integrity

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In·teg·ri·ty

inˈteɡrədē/

noun: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.

Synonyms: honesty, probity, rectitude, honor, good character, principles, ethics, morals, righteousness, morality, virtue, decency, fairness, sincerity, truthfulness, trustworthiness.

As I grow older, I am discovering the value of integrity in others. Not every person we meet has integrity. Not every person we meet is authentic, and true. There are many people who struggle with being honest and trustworthy. There are many people who feel a strong need to fabricate in order to win acceptance from others. Unfortunately, (or fortunately) the truth is often uncovered, making the acceptance and belonging that was so sought after, virtually unattainable.

As social media becomes more central to society, it seems that integrity as a trait is declining. Now I don’t have proof or statistics, but I’m just describing an overwhelming observation.  More and more people are beginning to obsess over how others see them. More important than the true nature of a person, seems to be the façade that they create for themselves and protect at whatever cost or expense.

What exactly is a façade?

Façade: an outward appearance that is maintained to conceal a less pleasant or creditable reality.

What’s more, they are more or less unaware of (or in denial about) how unauthentic they are being. Not only are they not being honest to others, but more importantly they are not being true to themselves. What happens as a result? They live an unfulfilling life. They cannot be wholehearted. They cannot be at peace within their soul. They will constantly work to uphold the image they’ve created, and a false one at that. It’s like running on a treadmill that never lets up. Running and running, but getting nowhere. Trying to catch up with their lies, but coming up short every time.

More than anything, I feel sorry for the people that don’t feel “good enough” to just be honestly themselves. They are afraid of criticism or rejection. They are afraid of judgment. But what is worse is that they are harvesting superficial relationships that are not built on a foundation of integrity. People like and accept them for the façade they are displaying, but not for the true person that they are. They are illusionists–sometimes so good at creating the illusion that they start to believe it themselves. That’s where the problem ensues. But deep down they don’t have a choice. They’ll do anything to feel accepted. They’ll do anything to feel belonging. They don’t realize that they are only hurting themselves. They are only sabotaging all that the universe provides to them.

To the outsiders that aren’t fooled by the façade, we get angry. We wonder how people can be so foolish and conniving. We wonder why they could lie to prop themselves up, at the expense of others. But instead of anger, it is best to harbor compassion. It’s time to notice their struggle and acknowledge their powerlessness in defeating it. Or moreover, their unwillingness or incapability to notice it themselves. They are afraid of being vulnerable. They are afraid to step out from under their veil. They are afraid to have integrity.

Be Honest. Be True. Be Humble.

xx allie

The Light Between the Cracks

light in crack

“There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

-Leonard Cohen

 

One of my favorite courses that I took while attending UCSB was “The Dark Side of Relational Communication”. Not because I am a dark, sadistic person (because I’m not), but because the main premise of the class was that even the worst aspects of our relationships, and the sometimes harsh ways that they end, have a silver lining.

You cannot begin to appreciate the light without darkness. I have been struggling with a very difficult life transition lately. But despite my less than enthusiastic mood and notes of negativity, my support system is rockin’ it. I couldn’t be more grateful for a fantastic group of friends (who are basically family), and family (who are also friends) who have taken it upon themselves to rush in and comfort.  Despite the changes that occur in life, my support system has always been a constant. They are there through the best of times, and the worst of times. They are there to rise up my spirits, and remind me of my worth. They are truly the real MVPs, as they never let me down in my time of need.

I am able to be real with every single one of these people, and they are able to be real with me. They are the foundation on which I stand. They talk to me about the finer things in life, the things that are not always easy to discuss. They question my intentions, my values, and my aspirations, and challenge me to do what’s best. They are what make my life beautiful. They are what make my life deep.  Because that is what life is all about: human connection and belonging. I feel 100% connected by their presence and company in my life. I feel strengthened by their very existence to me. I am incredibly lucky, as not everybody gets the chance to meet life-changing people like these. They truly add to my life, and inspire me to always be my best self.

It takes a loss sometimes to be reminded of all that I have not lost, and never will. The people that see the light in me, will want to remain in my life. They will feel enriched in my presence, as I do in theirs. They will feel inspired by me to be a better version of themselves. To me, a thriving relationship is one in which both parties feel the value of their counterpart, and acknowledge it to them. There is a give-and-take exchange, where both parties feel balanced from the equal reciprocity among them. There are equal parts gratefulness. Equal parts love. Equal parts understanding. And equal parts patience.

There is not always agreement, but there is acceptance for the other side. There is respect, in spite of controversy. Not everybody is willing to make the sacrifices that must be made to cradle a relationship and solidify a bond. Not everybody is willing to endure the darkness, to appreciate the light. I am beginning to see the beauty of the cracks. I am beginning to value the presence of the dark.

xx allie

“13 Reasons Why” Review (Mild Spoiler Alert)

hannah baker

I honestly don’t even know how to begin this post. This series had a lot of shock-value, but the strange thing is, it was wildly realistic. The series starts off with a recording of a young high school girl, Hannah Baker, explaining that by the time anyone hears the recording, she will have already killed herself. She then proceeds to explain how she’s recorded 13 different tapes, outlining the 13 reasons that led up to, and caused her suicide. She has requested that 13 people (all who contributed to her suicide in some way) listen to the tapes and pass them along to the next one on the list after finishing.

If you aren’t a fan of dark shows, then you probably won’t like this one. However, I couldn’t help but be drawn in as I witnessed a likeable and charismatic young girl suffer from the constant bashing and bullying of nearly everyone around her. And while she isn’t always the target of the antagonists, she unfortunately must bear witness to some of the awful things that occur behind the scenes of the high school setting.

She quickly learns that her peers only care to look out for themselves, and will easily throw her under the bus to avoid criticism or confrontation from others. She learns that making friends is not an easy task, and that even the people she considers friends at one point or another, make poor decisions and betray her in the end. She is objectified by the students, and has to endure unwanted attention towards her body, and inappropriate ass-slaps by boys in public settings. She has loving parents, but they are constantly swept up in their business, getting by from paycheck to paycheck and in turn paying little attention to their daughter, who is clearly not okay.

The romance in the story is sweet and promising, but unfortunately Hannah pushes away even the boy she secretly loves due to her fear of being used and hurt yet again. She loses trust for everyone around her, and ultimately feels alone and empty. She makes efforts to participate in school activities, like the “Dollar Valentine” or the poetry club, but even those backfire and she’s left in despair. Hannah stands up for herself in many occasions, and faces the criticism head-on, but towards the end she loses the battle and ceases to care about anything. After trying so desperately to get through the drama that has become her life, she comes to believe that the world would be better off without her in it. She cries for help, and even visits the school counselor as a last ditch attempt to save her life, only to be disappointed one final time by his lack of support and professionalism.

Hannah Baker, although not a real student in the real world, has a story that is shared by many. Many students feel afraid to go to school because of the extreme peer pressure and disparagement that exists. And while students should be supporting one another and lifting each other’s spirits, it is exactly the opposite in too many cases. Although one bad-mannered comment may not mean much to the person who says it, it could potentially be the comment that causes someone to pull the trigger. We can’t pretend that we understand what others might be going through. Everybody has their own story, their own past, or their own family issues. There is more to life than meets the eye, and kindness and compassion can mean all of the difference to someone who is struggling with the will to stay alive. This show truly mastered the dangers of teenage life, and the everyday challenges that so many kids must face. While it is a difficult show to watch, the message is quite profound. The show encourages parents and schools to pay better attention to those children who may be struggling. It encourages children to be kinder to one another, and more accepting. It is a devastating portrayal of the sorrows of life growing up, but the sad part is that it’s hardly an exaggeration.

The show concludes with a lot of questions unanswered, making me squirm with anticipation for the second season. Although the ending is sad, as you are made aware from the very beginning, there is still hope for justice to Hannah’s family and a sense of humanity for those people who come forward to make things right for all of those involved. Nothing but amazing things to say about this show and its impact on me, and hopefully on others. Take a chance & give it a watch. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

xx allie

Trust in the Universe, and Be Open to Fate

universe

As a child, I was exposed to a variety of very troubling experiences. Learning to cope with adverse, life-altering events was difficult at best, but also impactful in the development of my character and personality. I lost my innocence to the sometimes harsh and unfair world, before I had even hit puberty. Nevertheless, I am thankful for the wisdom and maturity that I gained as a result.

One of the most important lessons that I learned from my childhood experiences, is that you have no control over the way that life unfolds. Without question, there will be many challenging experiences that you will be forced to endure, but they cannot be altered by any acts of yours. You are helpless in the way that the universe dictates events. When you try to predict, control, and manipulate the turns of the universe, you are only disrupting the peace and flow of nature.  You are creating a source of anxiety for yourself, and the illusion that you have any role in the way that forthcoming events unravel.

Accepting this truth has been quite a struggle for me. Oftentimes I agonize over trying to control things and the way they play out. Feeling helpless in controlling the struggles of my childhood has contributed to a strong inclination to want to take things into my own hands, and do everything in my power to control the outcome of events that have not yet occurred. Although I feel responsible for controlling things, I ironically feel powerless in doing so. Therefore I am conflicted most of the time.

Lately I have been working on trusting in the universe, and simply letting myself be naturally affected by my experiences. Waves of the ocean come and go, rocking objects that exist within their path…much like experiences that come and go, rocking us as we come to know them. We do not dwell on any one wave, in the same way that we should not dwell on any one experience. There are always more on the horizon.

The universe has a plan, and largely operates by the law of attraction. You can attract good things into your life by harvesting positive energy, and dispensing it out into the world. Your positive vibrations are picked up on by your surroundings. When you send positivity out into the world, you allow space for it to come back around full circle. The universe has your best interest in mind. It will work with you harmoniously, if you allow it.

Visualization is key. When you envision the future you hope for, the universe finds a way to give it to you. If you’ve ever read “The Secret”, then you may be akin to how powerful visualization truly is, and the several accounts that attest to this. There are no bounds to the generosity of the universe. Trust that there is much to be reaped when you are open to fate.

xx allie

Introspection

introspection

We all strive to have honest relationships with our friends, family members, and significant others. After all, honesty is the best policy. We want to feel like we can trust those who are close to us.

But sometimes, we are so caught up in determining whether there is sound honesty in our relationships, that we forget to be honest with ourselves first and foremost.

What does it mean to be honest with yourself? It means to reflect on your values and ideologies and evaluate whether you act in accordance with them. It means to listen to what you preach, or tell others, and interpret whether or not you practice these beliefs in your everyday life and actions. If there is a disconnect between the way you are, and the way that you tell yourself that you are, then perhaps you are not being honest with yourself.

If by being introspective you discover that there are inconsistencies between your actions and your dialogue (either internal or external), then perhaps it is time to reevaluate what is important to you and how you portray it.

It is definitely not easy to be honest with yourself. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes the truth feels better left unsought. Sometimes we’d rather lie to ourselves than deal with the discomfort of living with the truth. And still yet, no matter how honest you think you are being with others, if you are not honest with yourself then you are living less than ideally. Honesty with others often relies on the mere stipulation that you’ve been honest with yourself first.

When we ask others to be honest, therefore, we are really asking them to be honest with themselves. Nothing else is true or valuable without first the knowledge that this person has come to understand and uphold their own belief systems and values. They must be true to themselves, in order to gain our respect…and in order to gain our trust.

You can only suppress or deny a truth for so long, until it bubbles up from beneath the surface and becomes so blinding and apparent that you can barely withstand its noise. You cannot live a satisfying life by lying. You cannot feel fulfilled.

Introspection is key. Unfortunately, there are many individuals who will live their lives feeling unsatisfied, but never find the courage or patience to look within. When you look within, questions are answered, conundrums are solved, and discovery is promising. You can never unlearn what you learn, but who would want to? The truth will always set you free. The truth is your identity.

xx allie

The Trust Impasse & Building Credit

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One of the most important facets of any type of relationship is trust. The ironic part is that it is also notably the most difficult to achieve. So while it is vital to have it in a well-functioning and successful relationship, sometimes it takes a great deal of time until both parties wholeheartedly begin to trust one another. In fact, some individuals may try their entire life and never fully be able to trust anyone, while still others may be too trusting. The truth of the matter is, you either trust or you don’t. There is no in between. If you ‘kind of’ trust somebody, then you don’t trust them.

There are many different viewpoints regarding trust. While it is vital to some, others believe that no one can or should be trusted. They live life with a skeptical worldview, always on the defensive. While it is true that they may not be hurt as badly once someone inevitably betrays their trust, they in turn do not experience a relationship to its full potential.

For those individuals who do strive to achieve trust in their relationships, the approach seems to vary. For instance, some people believe that trust should be earned over time and through demonstration. Others believe that everyone should be initially deemed as trustworthy, until they do something that proves otherwise.

Personally, for me, I do believe that trust is important in relationships, and that people can be trusted to do the right thing. I also believe that trust takes time to build, and that it’s not always easy. These two fundamental beliefs join and leave me with a prolonged sense of cognitive dissonance. While on one hand I know that trust is crucial to the development and success of any interdependent relationship, on the other hand I am unable to expend trust until a decent amount of time has passed and I feel that I know a person well. Therefore, several months (or even years) can pass in a relationship, without achieving the vital aspect that nourishes any healthy relationship. This concept illustrates the struggle of reaching the “trust impasse”.

For a while, this dilemma felt strangely familiar to me. I experienced a feeling of déjà vu. After much deliberation, I recognized another situation with the same type of impasse. Building credit.

When I was younger, I distinctly remember having trouble being issued my first credit card. Not because I didn’t have a stable flow of income, but mainly because I hadn’t established enough credit. How ironic! I wanted to have a credit card, but didn’t have enough credit to be trusted to have one. Well, how was I to build credit without a vehicle for doing so? An impasse.

This is where the trust part comes in–there are some credit card companies that put their faith in you (even with little to go off of), and issue you a credit card so that you can build credit, and thus, creditworthiness. Building trust in a relationship is very much like building your credit. How can someone begin to earn your trust if they are never given the opportunity to? Without extending some initial trust to the person, there would never be a way for them to prove themselves to you, and thus to earn your trust. You would ultimately be at a standstill, never being able to work towards a solid foundation of trust. Slowly but surely, when the right decisions are made over the course of time, that individual will earn your trust and thus build their ‘credit’. Credit can’t be established until being issued a vehicle to establish it with—in this case, your faith & an opportunity.

All in all, the absolute worst case scenario is that a person shatters any trust that they’ve earned with you, and you learn. You learn that perhaps that person wasn’t who you thought they were, perhaps you aren’t compatible as friends or partners, or perhaps you weren’t on the same level of understanding. All you can ever do is hope for the best…but it always, inevitably, starts with a little faith.

xx allie