human kindness.

In a world where a human being can go to a gig and set off a bomb killing 22 innocent lives and injuring countless others, it can be difficult to believe in human kindness. Or maybe that’s just the pessimist in me. But the awful truth is that there are humans out in the world who lack empathy… who just don’t think about the people they’re going to hurt. Or perhaps they do and just don’t care. That’s probably worse.

I’m not just talking about people setting off bombs and using guns to shoot school children, though. I’m talking about the person who told you you’re not good enough, the bullies who called you fat and ugly, the partner who cheated on you. I’m talking about all the fundamentally hurtful things a person can do to another. The things that break people apart.

At some point, when you’ve been hurt by another person, it becomes difficult to distinguish who is kind. Genuine. Empathic. Understanding. It’s hard to distinguish the ones who want to hurt and the ones who hurt by mistake. And then something small happens that restores your faith in humanity.

I know that’s a loaded phrase: “restores your faith in humanity”. But it seems apt in the world we currently live in. Where there is endless suffering from one end of the earth to the other. Where even the earth itself is suffering because of things like greenhouse gases. In this state of chaos in which we currently live, even the smallest of gestures can do just that: restore your faith in humanity.

I’m lucky. I don’t shy away from admitting that I live an extremely privileged life. There are people around me who support me. Resources I can turn to when I need them most. Finances available to me because I have lived in countries that are among the wealthiest in the world. Despite being an ethnic minority where I currently reside, I don’t fear for my life. And yet, difficulties arise.

In comparison to others, my difficulties aren’t even a blip on the radar of global issues. But we live in a world where we compare ourselves to those who are most similar to ourselves, and in that world, we all have hard times. It’s like the common saying goes: “There’s always someone who has it worse off than you”.

Today sucked in my world. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, I’ve had worse days. We all have. But customers at work were driving me up the wall, I was experiencing knee pain, I was tired, I was hungry. Small things but, they add up nonetheless in my world. And then that small gesture.

I’m aware that this post may sound insensitive. It may sound overly privileged. Like I’m complaining about “first world problems”. But that phrase was coined with good reason. I live in the first world. My problems are indeed first world problems. But they’re still my problems. And today I needed a small gesture to get me out of my constant state of rumination and anxiety. Luckily, I got that.

To the human beings who make the gestures, big or small, this is a thank you. Because despite my pessimism and my anger and my anxiety, you remind me that there are still good, loving human beings out in the world.

At this moment, there are 6,470,818,671 people in the world. Some are running scared. Some are coming home. Some tell lies to make it through the day. Others are just now facing the truth. Some are evil men, that war with good. And some are good, struggling with evil. 6 billion people in the world. 6 billion souls. And sometimes, all you need is one.
-Peyton Sawyer*

*Yes, I’m aware this is a One Tree Hill quote. Sue me. I like teen dramas.
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I’m done.

I’m done hearing that 50 people have been murdered while they were enjoying themselves on a night out. I’m done hearing that a school was put on lockdown because of a suspected shooter. I’m done hearing about people dying in the cinema because they chose to watch a film. I’m done hearing about concert goers and singers being shot at venues when they come together to appreciate art. I’m done hearing about it all.

The mass murders. The shooting sprees. The planned attacks. I can’t do it anymore. My heart is aching. It doesn’t stop. Every day I wake up and see another article about another shooting. About one person who is suspected to be motivated by the Islamic State. Or about a person with mental health difficulties who had access to a gun. Or about a kid picking up his father’s gun and going to school.

It needs to stop. These are senseless acts perpetuated by loopholes in buying guns. Loopholes that should have been resolved after the first shooting, or better yet, before the first one. I cannot understand a government that has had 133 mass shootings in a span of seven years and does nothing.

This is me, standing up and saying that gun violence needs to end. And the solution is simple: stricter gun laws. Japan has one of the world’s most stringent gun laws that include a class, a mental health test, a drug test, and a rigorous background check. The result? A grand total of 6 deaths by firearm* in in 2014.

Like I said, a simple solution.

I don’t live in the US and likely never will because, frankly, the gun violence scares me. But if you do and you’re reading this, educate yourself on the laws and loopholes. And then call your senators. Speak up for those who no longer can because they’ve been killed by a firearm. Help make a change.

This organisation does an excellent job of giving facts and resources to do just that. Join the movement. End gun violence. And hopefully we’ll live in a happier world.

A bit of my soul.

“You can tell a lot about a person by what’s on their playlist.”
“I know you can. That’s what’s worrying me.
-Begin Again

Music is a large part of my life. There are songs that make me want to dance, songs for when I’m in the lowest of lows, songs that make me bob my head, songs that reflect everything I’m feeling in a moment, a week, a lifetime. In my room, when I’m listening to music, I sing and I dance and I cry and I smile. And I am me.

A lot of the music I listen to is what’s deemed “good” music: soulful, real instruments, lyrics that mean more than you can imagine, and gorgeous vocals. But I won’t lie when I say I also listen to a lot of “bad” music (otherwise known as top 40). There is Taylor Swift and One Direction and awful songs by Jessie J and Rihanna that just make me move.

So when I’m choosing a song to share with someone, I choose carefully. Most of the time, it isn’t these “bad” songs. Rather, it’s the ones that speak to me. The ones that move me. That make my heart skip a beat. Where a lyric jumps out. Or a particular string of chords. Or a piano rendition that will melt your face off. Or simply one single voice that transcends me to a different world.

The thing about music is that it is inherently objective. What some may call bad music, others revel in. Maybe there’s a 12-year-old girl who listens to Taylor Swift and really connects with “Mean” because she’s being bullied (myself included, when I think back to that age). Or maybe there’s something about hard electronic dance music with dropping beats and the image of strobing lights that means something to an 45-year-old yearning for their younger years.

I think that sharing music is sharing a bit of your soul, whether you pass someone your laptop or send someone a song from Spotify. It can be sitting in a room with someone listening together, across the Internet, over the phone; whatever way it’s shared, it’s a moment where both people get to experience the other.

I am wary about sharing music, though. Not everyone will like the same music. Hell, nobody really likes all the same music as someone else. You might find a band you love in common or one particular genre but, most people have eclectic tastes. I can’t stand jazz but, when someone sends me a jazz tune and I imagine them listening to it with a smile on their face, I feel like I understand them a little more.

Music has always meant something to me. It’s been a way to let out anger and fear and sadness. And listening to it has been a way to get lost in my own mind for three to five short minutes. So sharing my favourite songs or one that I think will lift someone’s mood, that means everything to me.

So if I’ve ever sent you a song or told you to listen to an album or posted a song on Facebook for everyone to hear, know that I’m baring a part of my soul. Know that I am trusting you to know a part of me that may not make any sense to you. And know that I’m scared. But I believe that music has meaning and I’m hoping we can somehow share that meaning, even if in the tiniest way. And if you want to send me something, know that I am excited to know you a little better.

Oh, and here‘s a song that has meant something to me today.

 

Unbearable Lightness.

I first picked up Portia de Rossi’s book when I was struggling with my self-image. I was hoping for insight into how disordered eating comes about and reassurance that my eating habits weren’t disordered. Instead, I found a scared young girl who was falling quickly into an eating disorder.

I’ve never actually been diagnosed with an ED but, I recognise now that my eating habits were definitely disordered. I would go a day without eating and then binge the next because I couldn’t stand the feeling of my stomach eating itself. There were times that I would order an entire pizza and chicken wings, eat one slice and throw the rest out. The voice in my head kept telling me that I wasn’t skinny enough, that I had to be skinny to be liked and berate me for not being regimented enough to have an eating disorder.

Over the years, I’ve reread Unbearable Lightness numerous times. Sometimes it was because I needed a wake up call. Other times, it was to get tips and tricks on losing weight. Those times were particularly bad. But no matter the reason for picking up this book, I end up in tears. I cry for the girl in the book who whittled herself down to 82 pounds because of the pressure of society. I cry for the girl staring at me in the mirror who still feels like weighing 100 pounds is the be-all and end-all. And I cry because a part of me feels so close to losing the battle.

I won’t lie. I struggle every single day. I try to eat healthy but, I still order pizza and eat burritos and drink calorific alcohol. I also still have days where I don’t want to eat at all. I can stare at my body in the mirror for an hour pointing out my belly and the way my thighs touch and the extra fat on my arms.

But I no longer allow the voice in my head to tell me I’m not enough. Because maybe I’m not 100 pounds and maybe I’ll never be again. But I shouldn’t be. That would be unhealthy, put me underweight, and I would be killing myself to get there.

In the epilogue, Portia talks about anorexia being her first love. The good things that Ana did for her. And then all the bad. And when I read that passage, all I can think is “Thank God I never went that far”. Eating disorders come out of nowhere. One day you’re restricting and the next day, it has taken over your life. Anorexia or any other eating disorder will never be my first love. I won’t let it.

Empowerment.

On a Sunday, I’ll wake up and think about my clients. The ones with crippling anxiety, the ones with no sense of self-worth, the ones struggling to cope with manipulative family members, the ones who don’t know why they act out in anger, the ones who have tried to hurt themselves to quiet the monsters in their head.

When I’m thinking about them, I am thinking about me. I think about the panic attack I had when my professor made me do a French oral presentation. I think about the years when I felt I had no place in the world. I think about the anger that bubbles up because of the man who hurt me. I think about the loss of self I’ve experienced when I thought about hurting myself.

When I’m thinking about them though, I’m thinking about the sense of power and the vindication that comes from sharing my stories. I think about how it allows people to support me and hold me. I think about my friends who tell me time and time again that I matter. I think about how sharing a little bit at a time makes me trust people more. And that having them understand makes me want to trust.

On a Sunday when I am constantly thinking, I think about how I am a work in progress. In all the rage and the sadness and the fear, I have people around me that will be there for me. That will back me up when I bring it in to class or when I write it down for the world to see. That even though I’ve been hurt in the past, they will always be my salvation.

I relish in the empowerment of a strong support network. I relish in the fact that the people who hurt me in the past can’t touch me now. I relish the feelings that make me a better therapist and a better friend. I relish in the thought that any person I’ve shared these stories with has felt the same way in a different context.

And as I sit reflecting on a Sunday morning, I feel lucky. Lucky to be offered the opportunity to share. Lucky to have women behind me and women out in the world who advocate for me. Lucky to have friends who understand why it takes me longer to trust anyone. Lucky to be alive. And lucky that I am allowed to be a work in progress.