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A Tough Year

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  • #410696
    Aum
    Participant

    Hi everyone. I’m half looking for advice, and half hoping this might resonate with someone so we’ll feel less alone.

    I had a lot of goals for myself at the beginning of 2022. For the first couple of months, things were absolutely going my way. Around April, it went downhill. I lost some work gigs (I’m self-employed) and didn’t have income for months. I’m still struggling to find work now, despite applying/enquiring every day.  I also had some family issues that are tense, but okay-ish now.

    Not having an income put me in a downward spiral. I had suicidal thoughts for a few weeks, and when my birthday came up I almost followed through on them. I don’t really have a good support system, so I was pretty much dealing with it alone. I’m doing okay now, though  I do sometimes worry that I’ll go back to that dark place.

    Since it’s November (already?!) it’s hard not to think about the year that’s passed. I don’t know if anyone can relate, but I’ve always felt anxious at the end of the year. I look at all the goals I didn’t get to, all the hopes and dreams I had for myself and it makes me afraid of setting new ones for the new year.

    What if I fail and let myself down again? What if I hope for something and it never happens? Will I be able to survive?

    If I look back, I did manage to achieve some things. And even at my lowest points, I made it through. That has to mean something right? Because I’m hopeful, I really am. I want to be stronger, set new goals and honour them. I owe it to myself to be happy and healthy.

    I guess my question is this: how do we overcome the past year, especially when it was so tough, and move on to the next one with hope and faith?

    #410715
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Aum:

    I re-read all of your previous posts of Aug 2020 and Aug 2021 in order to understand your current original post better. I want to first quote from your previous threads as it relates to your current thread:

    I don’t have many friends, and again, my relationship with my parents is dysfunctional” (Aug 2020), “I didn’t have the best support system growing up – my parents and my only sibling, my brother are not what you would call emotionally available or even aware” (Aug 2021), “I don’t really have a good support system” (Nov 2022).

    In the previous threads, you described the dysfunction you grew up with, the one from which you still suffer: “I had also been taking care of family from a very young age… I’ve always been compared to my brother by extended family members and friends… It’s a lifelong pain that I’ve had… I feel like I don’t belong in my bro’s life or even my parents’ lives… it hurts to be around them – esp. since I know that if I put some (literal) distance between us I can be much happier, healthier, and at peace. When I was away from them, I felt like I was my best self. My absence didn’t seem to impact them in any way, my bro in particular seems indifferent to whether I’m even in the house or not” (2020, 2021).

    Because your parents and others compared you unfavorably to your brother, you naturally felt angry from an early age: “I’m the easily angered, opinionated, ‘disagreeable’ one… I lashed out a lot when I was a child, and even now, being around them makes me want to lash out“.

    And now, to your current original thread, a year and 3 months after the last:

    I’ve always felt anxious at the end of the year. I look at all the goals I didn’t get to, all the hopes and dreams I had for myself and it makes me afraid of setting new ones for the new year. What if I fail and let myself down again? What if I hope for something and it never happens? Will I be able to survive?“-  I assume that your goals in past years were about taking care of your family and finally winning their approval.. finally making them value you. You can set new goals that have to do with creating that physical distance that you need from them and finding your value outside the context of your family, outside the dysfunction that you were born into (a dysfunction that you did not create!)

    If I look back, I did manage to achieve some things. And even at my lowest points, I made it through. That has to mean something right?“- yes, it means that you are strong, enduring, and resilient.

    Because I’m hopeful, I really am“- no longer hopeful to win your family’s approval, I hope.

    I want to be stronger, set new goals and honour them. I owe it to myself to be happy and healthy“- set new goals outside the dysfunction you were born into because you do indeed owe it to yourself, as an individual who was born to be free (not one born to be imprisoned in a familial role).

    I guess my question is this: how do we overcome the past year, especially when it was so tough, and move on to the next one with hope and faith?“- I will answer using the 2020 and 2021 quotes:

    I’ve always been compared to my brother… It’s a lifelong pain that I’ve had“- free yourself from this comparison and pain in 2023.

    “I feel like I don’t belong in my bro’s life or even my parents’ lives… it hurts to be around them – esp. since I know that if I put some (literal) distance between us I can be much happier, healthier, and at peace. When I was away from them, I felt like I was my best self“- don’t stay where you don’t belong; don’t take care of a family that thinks of you as less valuable, put the physical distance that you need between you and them.

    You will feel guilty for a while: it will be the price you’ll have to pay for your freedom and eventual health, peace of mind and best self.

    “My absence didn’t seem to impact them in any way, my bro in particular seems indifferent to whether I’m even in the house or not“- they will be okay when you are not around and so will you.

    anita

    #410725
    Roberta
    Participant

    Dear Aum

    I am an only child, but I have dharma brothers & sisters and we are there for each other even though we are now many hundred miles apart ( we mostly first met each other on retreat). Also there is a world wide scheme called adopt a granny. I live in a small community and befriended an elderly lady she became grranny Freya and she got to spend time with my family which brought her great joy in the last years of her life. I ran a drop in Sunday social at our meditation centre and thru that I now have a wonderfully supportive big sister.

    You dont have to share the same DNA to be a family.

    Try looking out for a retreat that runs over the christmas/newyear I have always found them a good way to shed any burdens of the previous year and give me a good grounded outlook for the next.

    Best wishes

    Roberta

    #410936
    Aum
    Participant

    Hi Anita, it’s good to hear from you. Thanks for taking the time to give such a detailed response, I appreciate it.

    To be honest, I’ve worked a lot on my relationship with my parents these past 2 years. I’ve set some boundaries and honestly expressed my feelings. Though progress is slow, it’s surprisingly improved. I understand and accept that they do the best they can with who they are. I’m not as angry toward them as I used to be. I also talk to them about comparing me to my brother, and they actually make an effort to understand. It’s helped me stop comparing too, and has really changed my self-worth.

    Unfortunately, my relationship with my brother isn’t as great. I have tried to have the same honest conversations with him, and he isn’t ready. I still keep my distance from my family though, because I think it’s for the best.

    All of my goals for this year were actually self-focused. As you said, I needed to “find value outside the context of my family”. I actually managed to do this. I did the work to make sure I put myself first. That’s why I’m a little disappointed about the practical goals I didn’t achieve. I feel like I let myself down. When I say I’m hopeful, I definitely mean for myself, not for anyone’s approval. I’m just looking for reassurance I suppose. How does one bounce back from setbacks and try again?

     

    #410937
    Aum
    Participant

    Dear Roberta,

    Thanks so much for your advice! I do agree with you when you say you don’t have to share the same DNA to be a family. I have often found kindness among strangers, so this rings true.

    I think going on a retreat is a good idea. Grounding myself before the new year could help me change my perspective. Thank you for suggesting it.

    #410941
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Aum:

    You are very welcome. “I’ve worked a lot on my relationship with my parents these past 2 years… it’s surprisingly improved“- good thing. I want to note though that your relationship with your parents did not improve to the point of providing you with a support system (only 4 days ago, you wrote: “I don’t really have a good support system“).

    I understand and accept that they do the best they can with who they are“- personally, I know that I need to go beyond doing the best with who I am (as in being a constant, remaining the same): I need to become more of who I am: more understanding, more patient, etc.

    I’m not as angry toward them as I used to be“- less angry, still angry.

    I also talk to them about comparing me to my brother, and they actually make an effort to understand. It’s helped me stop comparing too, and has really changed my self-worth“- so they do make an effort to understand what they didn’t understand before… excellent, if they indeed stopped comparing!

    All of my goals for this year were actually self-focused. As you said, I needed to ‘find value outside the context of my family’. I actually managed to do this. I did the work to make sure I put myself first“- excellent!

    That’s why I’m a little disappointed about the practical goals I didn’t achieve… How does one bounce back from setbacks and try again?“- add to your goals and measure your progress in regard to your new goals.

    In your original post, you wrote: “I had a lot of goals for myself at the beginning of 2022. For the first couple of months, things were absolutely going my way. Around April, it went downhill. I lost some work gigs“- your goals had to do with work and when you lost a few work gigs, you failed in regard to those goals and you became depressed. Many if not all of the reasons for losing the work gigs had to do with circumstances and conditions out of your control, right?

    My suggestion: add goals in regard to what you do have control over, and make these your primary goals. Measure your daily progress in regard to your primary goals. This way, when things happen out of your control, you have something to hold on to: daily success in achieving the primary goals. Does this make sense to you?

    anita

    #410951
    Peter
    Participant

    I guess my question is this: how do we overcome the past year, especially when it was so tough, and move on to the next one with hope and faith?

    We work for that which no work is required.

    #411099
    Aum
    Participant

    Dear Anita, thank you for getting back to me 🙂

    I definitely don’t expect my parents to be the kind of support system I need at this point in time. And yes, unfortunately, I do still have some anger/resentment toward my family. I actively try and work on this though so I really appreciate spaces like these where I can talk about it. As I said, I think everyone is just trying to do their best with who they are, so it’s more productive to focus on myself and on what I can change for myself.

    “Personally, I know that I need to go beyond doing the best with who I am (as in being a constant, remaining the same): I need to become more of who I am: more understanding, more patient, etc. – this really resonated with me – I’m the same way. I once heard a therapist say that some people have the emotional capacity of a tall glass but others only have a teacup-sized emotional capacity. So often, the people with a bigger emotional capacity give much more and expect more in return. Only they can’t get it all back because the teacup-sized capacity people can only give as much as a teacup.

    I think this really helped me put into perspective the relationship I have with my family. It helped me manage my expectations of them and also taught me to not pour all of myself out. I hope this makes sense.

    Many if not all of the reasons for losing the work gigs had to do with circumstances and conditions out of your control, right? – yes this was generally the case. It’s challenging to not be in control or feel like you don’t have control. Esp when it comes to practical things like jobs/work/income etc. I’m sure many people are experiencing this right now.

    My suggestion: add goals in regard to what you do have control over, and make these your primary goals.- when you say primary goals, do you mean breaking them down into smaller, daily goals? So for example: let’s say I need to look for work, a primary goal would then be to search and apply for at least one job a day. Something like this?

    I’m also interested in hearing your thoughts about feelings of powerlessness and feeling like a victim. I sometimes struggle to keep these feelings at bay, esp when things are out of my control.

    #411105
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Aum:

    You are welcome.

    Unfortunately, I do still have some anger/resentment toward my family. I actively try and work on this though“- I hope that you didn’t think that I criticized you for feeling angry at your parents. When I felt angry at my mother, I felt guilty for it, as if feeling anger at a parent is a sin. But it is not true: it is not wrong to feel anger at a parent or at anyone else. There is a valid message that anger wants to deliver. Once I heard and respected the message in my anger at my mother, much and often all of the anger went away.

    I like your tall glass-teacup imagery, each holding a different amount of emotional capacity, the first give and expect more in return. Unfortunately children are not able to make use of this thinking because they are tall glasses and they can’t help but need a whole lot. It is a good idea though to make good use of this imagery as adults, thank you for presenting it to me!

    <b>”</b>when you say primary goals, do you mean breaking them down into smaller, daily goals?“- no. I probably used the wrong words. By primary goals I meant goals that are more important– in your own mind- than secondary goals. Also, primary goals would be goals that aren’t much dependent on outside conditions, ex., to act assertively every day, and to apply to a new job every day, while a secondary goal would be to get hired for a job by the end of this year. Every evening or day, as you look over your goals, you judge your progress based on your achievement of your primary goals.

    I’m also interested in hearing your thoughts about feelings of powerlessness and feeling like a victim. I sometimes struggle to keep these feelings at bay, esp. when things are out of my control“- the idea right above: to set goals that are within your power to achieve, and then, to judge your progress and success  based on your chosen, primary goals will give you a sense of power over yourself and your life.

    anita

    #411430
    anita
    Participant

    How are you, Aum?

    anita

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