I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t overly sensitive to what others say. At times it has felt like that were even more true when others were the subject of criticism, but I later on realised that when I am on the receiving end, I bite down hard and try to pretend it doesn’t touch me. When in fact it cuts to the bone. I just take some time to react. Do you know what I mean? Like I don’t want to face it, or that I try to tell myself it doesn’t mean something is wrong with me — it is just this other person’s opinion of me or of what I do… or don’t do.
So many times in the past when I have found out an opinion about me that made me feel inadequate or that I wasn’t doing all that I should or not doing it well enough, I set it upon myself to do better. So much more than I had to. And it always resulted in abandoning my own dreams.
Some of us, it seems, are able to receive criticism and harsh words and they just roll off like water droplets on feathers. Whereas others, like myself, take them to heart and then try to do everything in our power to gain approval and praise. I should say, I used to.
After my breakdown back in 2014 — quitting my education, going down in hours at work, taking out sick-leave, only to resign and move to Sweden — I had had enough of being weak, being easily influenced, having no sense of self. I simply couldn’t handle even a regular day with regular moods. If I saw no smiles, if the tone of someone’s voice was anything other than light or even happy, I would break on the inside and take it as a personal failure. My entire purpose in life was to make sure everyone around me were content, and if they weren’t, it was my fault. I had to do better. I had to do more.
After years living like a bright flame on a candle, I burned down until there was nothing left to draw from.
But then I started working on it. I wanted to be strong and independent. To live a stable life in which words and criticism, others’ moods or bad days that are such a natural part of life wouldn’t unhinge me.
During this time, I came to understand I had, in fact, been strong. Incredibly much so. So much more stronger than I had to be. Over the years I had built up thick steel walls around myself and tamped down hard on those parts of me that had received so much criticism, weren’t appreciated or were misunderstood. But it was hard work, because I have also been surrounded by empathetic and understanding people. This resulted in a lot of switching back and forth. Walking around like a human mood and emotion barometer to get a reading. How do I act around this person? It was exhausting. Sometimes — and especially in my mid-to-later twenties — I couldn’t tell how I needed to be which caused so much confusion and ambivalence. I would start asking. What can I do? What do you need? Just tell me what I need to do.
That a lifetime of this would go away in a couple of years isn’t something I have had any illusions of. I have consciously told myself it will take time and that I must let it. To force a behaviour that doesn’t come spontaneously is what nearly broke me, and the same goes for getting myself to where I want to be. Where I feel I am meant to be. For myself. Within myself. From the core.
So when I heard today that someone thought I should get a real job, those old, well-used cogs from decades of habitual use began to turn. I’ll start looking for a job. I’ll do whatever it takes. I know I can and I will just have to make it work. Somehow I will. I felt the shut-down. It took over my entire body. Like cold, liquid iron crawling over me and through me to protect me from those feelings of inadequacy. But that mechanism failed somehow and I felt so awful. Like all my emotions and my entire past came flooding over me. Yet I was oddly composed. I told Jay when we got back from Rauma, I am going outside to catch this light before the sun sets completely.
Instead of breaking on the inside, and instead of raving and justifying myself as I have in the past, my mind took me to these harvested fields and I had clung to that until we got back to our farm. Let it out. Express it. Let it go.
I used to be full of ideas once, and I couldn’t seem to even stop myself from letting that out in various ways. Some time before my breakdown, I lost all of it. I loved to draw, to craft, to write, to sing, to grab on to any creative outlet and just go for it. Until one day I couldn’t. I was empty. A hollow shell. Even if I felt so full of chaos I might crack open. Those times were my own personal Dark Ages. Music didn’t even move or uplift me as it once had.
Slowly — so very slowly — over the last two years, I have felt it returning. At times it has been like a wild thing crossing paths with a human out in the wilderness. It is curious, it wants to find out, but it isn’t entirely certain of this human. Is it dangerous? Is it a threat? But ever so carefully, it might come closer. And when it does, I get to feel and be that flaming passion to create. I love that. With all my heart and soul. Nothing else I have experienced this far in life leaves me so connected, so open and free as when I get to follow the ribbon of creativity.
As I lied there in the field, in-between running back and forth to my camera to press the shutter for another set of timed images (I haven’t gotten a new remote shutter yet), I looked up at the clouds. They were the deepest blue, fringed by illuminated light from the sun. The earth beneath me was cold and the air like chilled wings fluttering across the surface of my skin. I felt oddly warm though. A sense of peace came over me, and I forgot about what I had heard, didn’t get up to press the shutter — I stayed there, unmoving, and just watched the movements of the darks and light above me. I knew then that what had upset me so much to begin with is irrelevant. Words of others are theirs. It won’t change me just as I wouldn’t ever go out of my way again to try and change their opinion. It is entirely and fully outside of myself. Just a passing thing of no substance.
It isn’t what others say that matters, it’s what we do, isn’t it? Words are words and so flighty. They may hurt, but all I can do is to continue this path I have chosen. I know it will be difficult for some to see what I see — especially since this kind of work I do isn’t the traditional nine-to-five and doesn’t produce numbers in a bank account yet. Once it bears fruit that can be seen and touched, it will be accepted, I know that, but I can’t chase those results nor do I want to. I would frighten that beautiful and wild thing out into the wilderness again.
But I also know that what I do is good enough, you know? I cannot shake the sense I am on the right path. It is just a matter of time and I have to and want to be in the now to take it in. I will achieve what I have set out to do, but only if I nurture the connection to that which allows me to create. Belief. Trust. In myself and what I do.
It is now Monday, and another week of opportunities has begun. I wish and hope with all my heart that you, too, dear friends and fellow folk believe in yourselves. Trust in that inner voice, even if it is just a whisper. Even whispers gain strength when moving closer.
Have a wonderful week. Much love. ❤