My Life Teacher

Daily Prompt: Teacher’s Pet

~*~

Dance Like No One’s Watching

I was never teacher’s pet. Or, if I was I never knew it. School was a nightmare for me.

At the time I wasn’t aware of it, but I was a child with abandonment issues lugging around a good deal of emotional trauma. My trust had been broken at an early age by the adults I was supposed to be able to rely on the most, so trusting that anyone else, including a teacher, would have my best interests at heart was next to impossible.

And when you can’t trust anyone, who can teach you?

It’s not that I wasn’t loved. I know my mother loved me, but she was so wrapped up in her music career while putting food on the table that I inadvertently became a shadow dweller ~ lost; lonely and invisible.

I didn’t begin to understand my early history and how it created the misshapen patterns of my life until I checked myself into therapy in spring 2009. Feeling stuck in survival mode I needed someone to help sort me out.

Coincidentally, or not, it was about this time the symptoms of adrenal fatigue, complicated by early-onset menopause (or the other way around, it doesn’t matter, it was brutal) began to manifest. Anxiety and panic attacks, extreme fatigue, unexplained weight gain, et al, drove me to near distraction. I wanted explanations. I needed to know what was going on. I needed to address underlying issues and give myself life again.

Like most people I was hesitant about jumping into the mental health abyss. Psychotherapy still has such a stigma attached to it ~ as if it is a weakness to step up to the plate and ask a specially-trained objective third-party, “Why am I this way and what can be done about it?” Still, it became clear after a tumultuous trip to Sarajevo in February that year, during which I had three separate and inexplicable panic attacks, that something needed to change. And anti-depressants, or any their kin, were not the answer.

So, with my husband’s support, I found a good, trustworthy therapist. I prefer to call her my life teacher ~ a person who can safely reflect back to me who I was/am ~ for good or ill ~ and show me how to embrace what works and re-configure what doesn’t it.

And, what a journey it has been …

I have learned more about myself and my world (and my place in it) in the last few years than I’d known in a lifetime up to the point of sitting down in that therapist’s office. My therapist is the life teacher I’d never had, shining a light on a window to my world that I would never have been able to look through, let alone begin to enjoy the view.

She has shown me my strength; helped me to see my successes more clearly; opened the way for me to have the courage to recognize my pain without dwelling on it. Naturally it has not been easy, but facing my truth has given me the strength to see myself so longer as a victim but as a woman who can share the wisdom of her life experiences in profound and empathic ways.

I can say, in all honesty, that I am not the person I was when I walked into my life teacher’s office nearly six years ago. I’m thriving more than surviving.

Of course, the journey continues. There is much more to sort through; much more to learn but, truth be told, I have always looked forward to that hour and a half per week where I can sit down and sift through my emotions and issues with someone who does not judge me for the absurdities (self-judgement) that trips from my lips. Every visit my life teacher shows me how to see myself through a softer, less judgemental lens; to take life as it comes and let the past be where it lives ~ in memory only as a teaching tool. And to take what I learn of, and from, my past and recognize the strength of character that brought me through those experiences to this point.

My life teacher has taught me that my past is not my present, or my future. That I can reprogram my dysfunctional ways to create a new more holistic way of being. A way of being that integrates past experiences with present realities to support deeply-held and beautiful personal truths that have no attachment to my early childhood trauma and the illusion I’d lived under for so long.

So, you ask who my most important teacher was … and still is?

The person who has taught me to see, be, and love, my Self ~ my therapist; my life teacher.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Again

Free Write Friday with Kellie Elmore.

Time and place scenario.

Source: We Heart It
Source: We Heart It

You suddenly find yourself standing alone on an unknown sidewalk in an unknown place. It’s night and snowing and the only other person around is walking away from you….

~*~

Again

I’ve been here before

In this place

Alone.

A back turned.

Abandoned.

A swell of surprise

Rises and

Falls.

How could you leave me?

Again?

A promise made;

A promise broken.

Again.

Hollow. Forsaken. Bewildered.

I bend to my own

Resilience.

Survival mode kicks in.

Again.

Keep walking.

I’ll find my way.

Again.

~*~

What an odd weekend of challenges. A triple whammy of emotionally challenging scenarios … at least or me.

First a Daily Prompt highlighting the “Twilight Zone.”

Then a Weekly Photo Challenge on the subject of “Abandoned.”

And now this.

All topics that hover at a rather deep, and uncomfortable, level for me.

In my blog Eyes to Heart I tackled the subject of “abandoned” as far as I dare take it.

A couple of days ago in this blog I started writing about the “Twilight Zone” but couldn’t finish. Maybe I will as the week (or year) progresses and I can find a way to reconcile the many heavy themes that popped out of the ether and onto the page.

With this free writing challenge it appears the bewilderment of being abandoned and standing in that twilight zone have come to the fore. 

Worlds collide.

Again.

Thanks for visiting,

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

Sink or Swim

rain-gif

Sink or swim?

A choice I,

And I alone,

Must make.

Treading water

Tires the more

I delay.

Clouds of confusion

Hover and rain

Down their tears

Upon these

Restless waters

That drown

My spirit.

A dry, distant horizon

Hints at light and

Beckons, and still

I delay.

Oops … there’s a shark.

~*~

This is my response to Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday challenge for this week.

This was fun … 😉

Thanks for visiting,

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

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#FWF: Life Changers … My Sarajevo

Here is today’s prompt, courtesy of Kelley Rose, for Free Write Friday:

free-write-friday-kellie-elmore

” … what was that pivotal moment for you [in your life], and most importantly, how did it change you?”

~*~

Interestingly, I addressed this at great length in my last post ~ A Life Unravelled.

If I have to zero in on one life changing moment in my recent history, however, I guess it would be this.

Sarajevo

My Sarajevo

A war-torn urban landscape

Potholed and Bullet-ridden.

Skeletal remains

Of blasted buildings.

Ghosts.

I can’t look, yet

Cannot look

Away.

Derelict remains

Of panic and pain.

Haunted eyes

Reflecting lost

Ones lost

Forever.

Sadness.

Grief.

*

Anxiety; panic

Drafts me. Terrors

Arise from

Depths unplumbed,

Besieging;

Overwhelming.

My broken-ness

Revealed by another’s

Devastation.

Much like the great city,

Rebuild I must.

Take action.

Make

Peace with my

Self.

Heal my own

Sarajevo.

~*~

Sarajevo

The broken city that forced me to face my broken self. A catalyst for positive change in my life.

One week in February 2009, amongst the physical and emotional scars of the war torn. Evidence of the Siege of Sarajevo everywhere to be seen.

Panic attacks the reverberations of my own inner battles rising to the surface; stating cases I could no longer ignore.

Buoyed by the spirit and quiet strength of the citizens of that ancient city, and with professional help, I rise to the challenge of reclaiming my life.

Thank you, Sarajevo.

~*~

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

A Life Unravelled

A Life Unravelled

I am of an age

When the formative years

Speak.

“Remember me?”

They ask.

It starts with

Music.

A song.

A memory.

A feeling.

Hmmm …

I had forgotten.

Lost in

Tumultuous times of

Twenty-plus years.

Tumult covered by more

Tumult.

A child overwhelmed;

A teenager confused;

A twenty-something

Ungrounded,

Until in the thirties

Unravelling begins.

As it must ~

Or die bitter.

~*~

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m seeking professional help to unravel and make peace with my life.

Starting in my late 20s I began to experience wake-up calls. People and events emerged to shake things up, most often sending me into an emotional tailspin.

My initial response was always that of the victim.

“Why me? What did I do?”

Then one day something started to happen.

I started to wake up.

My grandmother’s death when I was in my early thirties snapped me out of a career malaise. Instead of being bitter about the loss of someone I loved I was going to honour her memory by honouring my heart’s desire.

I embarked on my true journey with the horse. Granny would like this, I thought, as she was also passionate about horses. More importantly, however, she’d want me to be happy.

My two years as an equestrian coaching intern were a refiner’s fire. The veneer of my “happy” married life began to be stripped away until I could finally see the truth of its dysfunction. The victim was alive and well and absorbed into the drama of another who, I quickly realized, resembled my emotionally distant, self-absorbed and delinquent father.

Within a few years we divorced. I sought my first round of counselling and avoided dating once I realized I was attracting variations on a negative theme. I was determined to relinquish emotional baggage and find a healthier way of being.

My eyes were opening.

Eighteen months later I met my future husband. A kind, gentle, thoughtful, caring and emotionally mature man. (What he was doing with me took me a long time to understand.) The road was rocky. I’d had no experience being with such a person. But  unlike the previously dysfunctional men in my life, he was genuinely interested in my well-being and demonstrated through deed, and not just word, his devotion.

I learned to accept I might be worthy of something different than my normal experience.

My eyes opened further.

Two years later, tragedy in the riding arena as a school horse I’d been riding died following a freak jumping accident. Getting back in the saddle was difficult. The silver lining came a few months later with the opportunity to part-board a beautiful thoroughbred mare, Murphy. This lasted nearly three years.

And then Murphy died of cancer. More blinding misery, but the courage to look for a silver lining.

Five months later, a dream come true when Bear entered my life. Finally, a horse to call my own. But I wanted to be an aware horse owner. I wanted to build a relationship based on trust. I turned to natural horsemanship and enrolled in Chris Irwin‘s Train the Trainer program. While I was fine tuning my horsemanship skills the horses were reflecting back to me how broken I was, my insecurities rearing their ugly heads and demanding my unbridled attention.

Another wake up call; another realization that I needed more help.

Wise Old Equus

Enter art therapy and meditation. I became more grounded and a beautiful collection of veil paintings was born of my unburdening. This journey lasted about 18 months.

And I was still working with Bear ~ the experience of self-awareness around him bringing greater depth and meaning to our relationship. A new self-confidence was emerging; the victim was beginning her retreat.

And then my eyes opened some more.

A week in Sarajevo in February 2009. Panic attacks. Anxiety. My inner personal hell rising to the surface and reflected in the sad, unhappy state of a recovering war-torn city.

Within weeks I was sitting in a therapist’s office, the depression and anxiety, the feeling of being stuck and weighted down by things beyond my understanding more than I could bear.

The true work of unravelling a lifetime began sitting in a chair opposite a stranger whose only desire was to help me along the road to wellness.

The pain, anger, bitterness, grief, shame, the trauma of abuse laid bare. The broken-ness of my life lying before me like the scattered pieces of a puzzle waiting to be re-assembled, but with awareness.

Eyes ever opening.

And with this a sense of liberty. The freedom to begin to see myself differently. The triumph of survival and a new-found understanding of what it means to thrive. The tools to rebuild the puzzle of my life into something more functional. An opportunity to create a clearer picture of who I really am while releasing the illusion forced upon me when I had no concept of self and no choice but to absorb and reflect the drama and dysfunction of the adults around me.

A life unravelled.

A life reclaimed.

~*~

Thanks for visiting,

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Dear Critical One: The Fourth Letter in a Series …

From: Dear Me: A Collection of Letters Addressed to Various Aspects of My Self … ©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

~*~

Free SpiritThe fourth in a series of letters addressed to my critical Self. The date is the actual date it was written as a free writing, and freeing, exercise.

July 11, 1013

Dear Critical One ~

Why is it that you are the first one to greet me in the morning?

I awaken to a beautiful day after a night of broken sleep; I look at the clock and it’s later than I’d like, but instead of allowing me to be grateful for the fact I have the luxury of sleeping in if I need it (which evidently I do this week) you clime in “You should have been up two hours ago … “?

And that’s the problem ~ you’re unrelenting and “shoulding” me to death!

You “should” the smile right off my face.

“You should do it this way” or “you should have done it that way.”

Instead of allowing me to enjoy the process you question and nitpick everything I do. You make it almost impossible for me to be happy with anything I do or achieve.

And I say almost because things are changing.

I’m changing.

Your power is becoming less potent though I feel it more acutely. In your desperation to hang on to whatever power as you suppose you have over me your methods become more grasping.

Would you really criticize me for spending some of my precious time cleaning up after my sick dog?

Criticize me because I am not spending it writing which, as you know is what I really want to do.

Don’t you know that when you do that you interfere with my right and ability to nurture what I love?

This is true of my writing also.

Every time you wholesale delete something I’ve created from awareness you make me feel as if my voice is of no importance and no one should hear it.

I know at some mislead level you’re trying to protect me, but what you need to understand, and I don’t know how many times I have to tell you this, is that you are actually strangling my ability to express myself … and it’s just not on!

Do you have any idea just how negative you are?

Have you not understood or, rather, observed how I have, during the past several years, divested myself of the negative voices around me? Those voices that fed you and funded all my insecurities?

They are gone.

You “should” be feeling weaker. And perhaps you are. Perhaps now you are hanging on for dear life, going down kicking and screaming.

It’s difficult for me to love you into submission. You’ve been so damaging and I see that I am still angry about it.

But you will submit, make no mistake. I’m standing up to you and your bullying ways. I know what’s good for me, and you are not among them.

Look inward, dear Critical One. What’s eating you that you feel the need to eat away at me?

Lovingly,

Dorothy

~*~

Letters to The Critical One

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

The Critical One: The Third Letter in a Series …

From: Dear Me: A Collection of Letters Addressed to Various Aspects of My Self … ©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

~*~

Free SpiritThe third letter in a series addressed to my critical Self. The date is the actual date it was written as a free writing, and freeing, exercise.

July 10, 2013

Dear Critical One ~

Perhaps you have noticed lately that I am making the conscious effort to release the need to be perfect.

I know you’ve noticed, actually, because I can always feel you nagging away at me to …

Fix it! Fix it! Fix it!!!

You’re always nagging at me about how I use my time, asking … have I done enough; have I presented myself well enough? The sad thing for me (and disappointing for you) is nothing I ever do is enough.

You cast your critical eye over everything I do, and when you’re feeling particularly obnoxious about it you simply delete my efforts as if they never existed at all.

I would agree that learning to let go is a powerful tool for wellness, and I have adopted this rather well into my current way of being. Still, when you “let go” of something I have created, you annihilate it! There’s no loving it away. It’s an act of terror that leaves me feeling stunned and legless.

How many times have you killed the Creative One who, though she rises again like the indomitable Phoenix, must endure again and again your lust to satisfy the Perfectionist?

The Perfectionist kills authenticity.

The pursuit of something unattainable is exhausting, debilitating and hopeless. You must stop listening to the Perfectionist lest one day she stabs you in the back because YOU are not good enough.

Allow me to love you into a new way of being.

Be my ally. Embrace acceptance.

Lovingly,

Dorothy

~*~

The Critical One: The First and Second Letters in a Series …

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013