Extrovert?

The wedding was everything I’d hoped it would be. Almost everyone came, it was a beautiful day, the food was excellent, the music was varied enough that everyone had something to connect with and enjoy, and all I heard were compliments.

Even the things that went wrong were fantastic: the thing that was forgotten was a pair of cufflinks, of which we had two extra. The injury was an annoying scratch on my finger that I forgot about and no one noticed. The moment when I froze was an opportunity to practice stand-up comedy, which was well-received. The wardrobe malfunction was a detachable cap sleeve that came undone in the middle of my and Fox’s first dance and stayed attached so we could continue dancing unimpeded. People said they liked the dress even more without it and its counterpart! We ran behind schedule and yet things ended up happening at the time I’d planned for them to. The lulls in music and activity were great opportunities for people to talk and connect with each other.

There are some things I wish had gone differently, but they’re minor compared to all the things that were good. My guests had a wonderful time and thanked and congratulated me and told me I was beautiful. Our families came together as one and wished us well. We took a risk and started a new tradition that worked out beautifully. The cake was gorgeous. I succeeded in getting some of it on Fox’s face.

And best of all, I was able to be fully engaged in the celebration pretty much from the moment I woke up. I didn’t even need to use the restroom from the time I got into the dress until I was on my way back to the bridal suite to take it off! The dress was gorgeous and fit me perfectly (yay lace-up back!) and moved with me while I danced uninhibited. Mom kept track of time and gave me reminders so I could just enjoy interacting with guests. I was totally in the moment, expressing emotions as they came up (mostly joy), asserting myself, connecting with people, and feeling secure and confident and loved. So loved!

I thoroughly enjoyed being the center of attention. One of the highlights of the afternoon was when Mom was bugging reminding me to do introductions (of the bridal party) and a song came on that I wanted to dance to. I ran out in the middle of the dance floor and started dancing, completely improvised. I had so much fun! Everyone was watching me and people even clapped along with the music and it was so fantastic! No second guesses, no insecurity, no worries, no fear, no nerves, just confidence. I was performing. I was gorgeous and graceful and one with the music and so full of joy! People got amazing pictures that show off the dress and my radiance. I loved every moment of it.

I was exhausted after the wedding and my feet hurt so much I could barely walk upright. For about a quarter of a second, I considered collapsing on a couch in a private room that was part of the bridal suite and happened to be empty. But then I thought, “No, I need to be around people right now. If I’m alone I’ll crash too hard.” So I chilled with my and Fox’s friends who were sitting around the main room talking. We went back to the hotel and went in the Jacuzzi for a bit, which was excellent for my sore muscles and helped me calm down while still feeling happy. I felt motivated to interact with my family members as much as possible that evening and the next morning and was able to connect with them and that felt fantastic. I loved being surrounded by people I love who love me and were saying things that made me feel so wonderful! Like my uncle saying he wouldn’t have missed this for anything.

I really shouldn’t have been driving around on Monday because I was too tired, but I was happy to spend time with Banji and her family. Yesterday I was so exhausted I decided to Skype in for my session with Wakana. I told her all about the wedding and she was just beaming to see me so happy. She said she thinks I’m an extrovert and being around people is what gives me energy – not to say that I don’t need or can’t enjoy some alone time, just that being with others is what makes me feel the most alive.

I thought about my life and realized she really has a point. Just being surrounded by people isn’t enough, I need to feel like I’m connected with them – otherwise I might as well be alone. (Actually, it’s worse than being alone. It’s lonely.) But when I am able to interact with others and they respond to me and we feel a connection, that is how I feel like a person who exists in the world and matters and can be expressive and creative and free. That is when I feel the most joy.

Even when I’m enjoying my time alone, it seems I want to socialize. As a kid I would play pretend and make up imaginary characters to interact with. My thoughts have always taken the form of at least two people having a conversation. I spend inordinate amounts of time on Facebook and checking email or other social media. I socialize vicariously through the books I read, video media I watch, and how I play The Sims 3. My favorite video games are RPGs in which the player gets to run around talking to a variety of characters; even when I’m traveling or exploring a dungeon I like to have a companion with me. Blogging is a great opportunity for introspection, but I also use it to connect with other people. I thrive on readers’ feedback.

For so long I thought I was introverted; when I realized my experience and needs were different from introverted friends I thought it was just because I was less introverted than they are. But I think the reason why I predominantly preferred to be alone for much if not most of my life was because I felt insecure, out of control, and ostracized in most social situations – particularly large groups. That has nothing to do with introversion; it’s from having an inaccurate understanding of my place in the world as a result of trauma from birth through adolescence.

I still generally prefer smaller groups, or at least to only have to interact with a handful of people at a time. But the point is, I find it energizing.

As long as whomever I’m with isn’t actively draining me, I don’t need to be alone to recover my energy after socializing. Since the wedding, I haven’t wanted to be alone; I’ve actually made a lot of effort to avoid being alone. Today there might not be anyone else in the living room with me, but I’ve been hungrily eating ‘likes’ on Facebook. I keep reading people’s congratulations and staring at pictures from the wedding. I’m trying to regain that experience of being surrounded by almost a hundred people who had all come to celebrate me.

Harnessing the Dark Horse

On Wednesday I had my first music therapy session in nearly a month. I told my therapist how stressed I’ve been about moving back in with Mom, including the changes, mess, and decision-making involved in fixing up the house.

Our conversation came to the difference between merging and bonding with another person.

Merging is becoming too emotionally involved, to the point where there aren’t really two people relating to each other any more, but rather a “blob” as I tend to put it. When I’m merged with someone I can’t tell whether what I’m thinking and feeling are my own thoughts and emotions, or the other person’s. I feel pressured, imposed upon, like I’m losing myself and have no control over my actions. I get very angry, but it’s hard to focus that energy into anything other than lashing out.

Bonding is sharing a special connection with someone, but remaining separate and able to relate as a unique human being. When I bond with someone I feel very happy. I’m aware of my own thoughts and emotions and can express them fully. I can appreciate the other person for who ze is, including the things ze does that annoy me.

My therapist, who I’ll call Wakana, asked if I felt merged with her, and I said, “sometimes.”

Wakana: What would help?
Ziya: Just listen.
Wakana: You want to play alone? And I’ll listen to you?
Ziya: Yes.
Wakana: Okay.

She sat back from the drum she had been playing and watched me. I picked up two mallets and started playing on a cymbal. I love crashing the cymbal, it makes such a sudden, loud, complex sound!

I played different rhythms and volumes. I hit the cymbal several times, then took a mallet and rubbed it gently along the top. One tone emerged from the chaos, which varied in pitch depending on how close to the center I rubbed. I mentioned this to Wakana and she shared in my enjoyment of the discovery.

Then I started playing again, hitting the cymbal very, very hard. It rocked on its stand so hard there were times when it was almost completely vertical! The tip of one of my mallets flew off, but I kept playing. The loud crashing sound filled the whole room, to the point where I yelled something to Wakana and I don’t think she heard at all – I could barely hear my own voice! It felt so wonderful, just to let all that energy flow. I felt like I was in complete control.

When I stopped playing, Wakana observed that I had a lot of anger. She described it as a fire that can burn down the house, or be contained in a fireplace for warmth and light, or be harnessed in an oven to bake pottery. Anger is necessary for setting boundaries. It can be channeled into creativity. It can be an impetus for change. It’s great that I have it.

But my anger, energy, emotions, life force, creative energy, etc. are a dark horse, wild and untamed. The horse rampages around inside the prison where I have suppressed zir, snorting and kicking and crashing into things; trampling and biting and otherwise hurting me. When ze breaks free, ze destroys things and hurts other people.

Wakana said that if I tame the Dark Horse, ze can be a powerful ally. The Dark Horse will fight to defend me, or help me flee from danger. If I can take control of the Dark Horse, I can run free with the wind and go wherever I want.

I’m not crazy about the word “tame” because I think part of taming an animal – especially a horse – is breaking its spirit. I have suppressed the Dark Horse for far too long, and I fear what might happen to me if I try to change any part of hir nature. I can harness the Dark Horse, however – come to understand zir, bond with zir, form an alliance, and eventually take the reins so I can guide zir where we want to go. This is ultimately a part of myself, after all, so I have more to gain from working with it.

I resonate so strongly with this theme, I’m tempted to make it the focus of this blog. I’m considering changing the blog’s title to “Harnessing the Dark Horse,” but I’d want to change the URL to match and I don’t know if that’s something I can do on WordPress. Whether I change anything about the blog or not, I will definitely be writing about this topic again. This is not a process that can be completed overnight, but it is key to my recovery.

I wanted to draw the Dark Horse, but I couldn’t get a firm enough image in my mind’s eye to feel comfortable trying, and there were many distractions. I decided to make a horse in The Sims 3 Pets – who, by the way, is Aggressive, Ornery, and Untrained. This picture of my sim horse will represent the Dark Horse for now, but in time I hope I’ll be able to draw (paint? sculpt? etc) other satisfactory representations.

sims-dark-horse

Energies Flow: A Self-Drawn Mandala in Oil Pastels

The past couple days have been much, much better. I really needed Friday to recuperate. Since then I’ve been calmer and more cheerful. I’ve only had a couple moments when I felt overwhelmed by my emotions, and one of them was when I let myself get too hungry. I’d call the past 2 days good days; I’ve enjoyed spending time with my fiance and my best friend and I’ve been able to remain emotionally engaged. Relaxing and playing fun games have helped as well. 🙂

Tonight I felt like drawing and my carbon pencils both need to be sharpened, so I pulled out my oil pastels instead. I created a mandala by making 5 overlapping circles with a purple pastel. This created a flower-like shape where the circles all overlap; I colored the center yellow, the small inner petals purple, and the large outer petals pink.

2012-12-31

Next I finished coloring the inner circle clockwise from the upper right: blue, blue green, green, and blue green again – to create a kind of transition from the blue to the green and back again. Come to think of it, that’s kind of like the seasons.

The blue in what remains of the outer four circles represents the sky and freedom. After filling them in, I colored with silver above and below the circles. The red triangle at the top of the page seemed to form on its own and felt kind of ominous. I remembered the “invasion” from the Web Mandala and wondered if impulsiveness and anger were threatening the balanced and beautiful flower I had created below it.

Next I added the purple on either side of the 5 overlapping circles to represent spirituality. It’s holding them up in a way. I colored green at the bottom, providing a nice firm ground to stand on. I thought about green’s connection with growth and recovery, especially as I colored over the silver.

I wanted to color yellow between the top of the flower and the red triangle, but I was concerned about getting the yellow pastel dirty from the darker colors. After debating about it for a short while, I decided it was worth the risk to express what I wanted and needed to express; I could always try and clean the pastel later. (It cleaned quite easily.) As I colored, the yellow mixed with the red to create orange.

So I put yellow – inspiration, intellect, and imagination – as a boundary between the flower and the “invading” impulsiveness and anger (red) and created orange: energy, ambition, joy, courage, and strength. … yeah, that sounds about right.

Finally, what’s the fun in using oil pastels if you don’t smudge them? This was a lot harder than I expected: my tissue fell apart, so I tore out the next page in my sketchbook and used strips of that instead. I tried to follow the flow of energy around the 5 circles and while the colors didn’t blend much, I think I added a nice sense of movement to the image. One of my favorite parts is on the left side where green accidentally got smudged in the middle of the purple area.

There’s always a risk of messing up the image I just created with so much care, so I tend to feel a bit wary of smudging my artwork. But it seems to work out and maybe giving up a little bit of control over the final product – taking that risk – is good for me. In this case, I like the movement and the way different colors mix. No aspect of my experience is “pure.” Everything is mixed with and colored by all my memories, hopes, fears, and simultaneous experiences.