Got ‘Til It’s Gone
Janet Jackson’s “Got ‘Til It’s Gone” opens with Joni Mitchell’s ‘Don’t it always seem to go/That you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone;’ in my case, Relationships. When I completed EMDR and eventually moved over to occasional talk therapy with my therapist, she said “you’ve done well and you’ll find that relationships will be a challenge. I understand your frustration but keep at it.” I asked her why after all the work I’ve done individually, I still struggled with relationships. Be it romantic and work relationships, friendships, and even with family, it was such a challenge to interact.
Fast forward to Japan. I was in crisis in December from multiple stressors. I now call it my personal and professional “Swiss Cheese Effect,” wherein everything lined up for me to feel so hopeless with my life. Of course this would happen after Thanksgiving, which signifies for us in America, the start of Christmas preparations. People talk about the stress surrounding Christmas. I was always apathetic during the holidays. I did not connect my feelings of alienation to the holiday season until a conversation I had with one of my brothers. He contextualized my crisis and related it to a memory of me when we were young around Christmas time. Christmas was spent in my father’s ancestral home in Baguio City, Philippines. It was our tradition to have a bonfire, barbecuing marshmallows, hotdog, etc. My father’s siblings and their families were there, including ours, sans my mother, who would be in New York most Christmases. My brother’s memory was of a distraught and wailing young me on the phone surrounded by jubilant family at midnight Christmas day, talking to my mom over the phone. I do not recall the memory at all but did elicit a reaction from me. I teared up and knew right away that he was right. I remember the resentment of feeling so alone despite having family around me. I just wanted my mother for Christmas.
By the time Christmas arrived, I was off from work and was given a pause from patient care, which initially weighed heavy on me. I felt shame and guilt for my inability to cope when I prided myself to be an expert in my field. How dare I take a job overseas only to buckle at the first sign of distress. And that’s what it boiled down to, Pride. I was proud of my work in mental health and thought myself to be immune from emotional and mental distress. Even though I was reminded that I was only human, I would be entangled in self-loathing. It would take a book by Don Miguel Ruiz entitled “The Four Agreements,” which Angela gave me with instructions to “Read it on the plane,” en route to Japan. I read it but stopped on the first two pages of the First Agreement, Be Impeccable With Your Word. I picked up where I left off and instantaneously devoured the book during my break. I was not at all Impeccable with my words - and in this case, it was my negative thoughts, since I was putting myself down. I was not kind at all! Words we say to others and ourselves are powerful. I was reminded at that moment why I choose to say alcohol or drug misuse versus abuse when I know my patient copes with substances. When I finished the book, I realized I was not ready to read it on the plane. I needed it at that particular moment in order to find value in the simple yet difficult teachings of the Toltec. The other three Agreements are: Don’t Take Anything Personally, Don’t Make Assumptions and Always Do Your Best.
From completing the book to walking around the streets of Fukuoka on Christmas Eve, I had the most profound realization of how my Pride, therefore my Ego led me to believe my self-worth was attached to my achievements; and how my motivation to be in relationships was ego-driven and fear-based. As I watched couples, friends, and families take pictures of themselves with the Christmas tree, I felt such great warmth to be in the presence of Love. Then I physically felt it, from my root to my heart chakras; whatever resentment I attached to Christmas dissipated. Despite being away from my loved-ones on Christmas, it would be the first time in my life I would not feel lonely or sad. I walked away from the tree with a huge smile as if solving the greatest mystery; that indeed, Home is where the Heart is.
In a few days, I will be on a plane flying back Home. The work I needed to do out here in Japan is done. I have completed this chapter of my Journey. As the Lunar Year, Year of the Tiger starts, I resolve to ferociously value my Relationships more and learn to prioritize the most important ones. Happy 02/02/2022!
I’ve completed my Assignment. Your Highness, what's my score?
In Love and In Light,