Redefining mirrors and gratitude

20170613-DSC03206.jpgCamp buddy from Day 1 of 2. This man is in his late 80’s, and is from Afghanistan. A few days prior to this picture being taken, his family left him to go to Germany, and he was left behind because he recently had a stroke, and was no longer physically fit for the intense journey. He is now alone at the refugee camp, and is known as the camp ‘grandfather’. He loved receiving attention from all of the We Journey and Emfasis Foundation volunteers (especially the ladies!). He is the most generous man I have ever met. The turquoise ring you see on my index finger is a ring he gave me instantaneously after receiving the compliment I gave him of how beautiful it was. What a treasure.

 

I’m a feeler. I’m intuitive. I’m bold and adventurous. I love humanity as I love myself, and I love to pour my happiness and gratitude for life onto others.

There are many stories I could tell, as I’ve been fortunate to have many incredible adventures, however, in this article, I will lead you through an experience which was unique and special to me on a multitude of life perspectives.

I am going to be vulnerable in this article; raw, real, and honest, as that is my style of living… so get prepared for this juicy tale.

It all began around January. My personal Coach and I were having a session, and I was voicing to her my desire to compel ‘my man’ into my life. May sound a bit interesting to you, if you are not familiar with the style of Coaching I participate in, but that’s another story. For now, all you need to know is that after writing out what I wanted in a relationship, my Coach intuitively felt inclined to present me with a particular man’s name. I did a little research, and became instantly drawn to him. I loved what he was representing, the approach he took with relating to people,  championing humanity, and driving positive change in the world. I didn’t know how to feel about it since I had never met this person, but still felt so drawn to him. To speed it up, we had a Skype call, and he invited me to some upcoming trips that he was involved in, because he loves bringing like-minded people together… So then what?

One of the trips was in Greece, through an organization called We Journey, and the more I began to investigate, the more interested I became. Since I live in Amsterdam, this was the most realistic trip of the two proposed, and so then I had a decision to make. Trust my heart or trust my head? From what I’ve already described of myself, what do you think I listened to?

Yep, you guessed it. I listened to my heart, and booked the week-long trip, where I was going to serve in a refugee camp, integrate on a Grecian island, and meet this man who I was for some reason drawn to.

I didn’t really know what to expect of this trip, and was accepting of that. All I knew is that I needed to be there for some unknown reason. I trusted my gut, and giggled at myself as I sat on the plane waiting for takeoff: “Here we go, again!”.

Upon the first round of group introductions in Athens, I instantly realized one of the reasons I was there: to be surrounded by a group of self-developed individuals to learn from. I felt insecure, and uncomfortable, as I quickly realized that a lot of the incredible individuals who were there were thriving in their success, were confident, and able to vocalize their opinions, insights, and wisdom, seamlessly. My first mirror appeared within minutes of beginning the week-long adventure. I got knocked off my high-horse, and realized where I stood in my personal development, where I wanted to be, and how big the gap was between the two.

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It’s hard to find a segue into the refugee camp portion of this journey because throughout the entire trip I had personal mirrors show me truth’s I was unfamiliar with, while I was at the same time experiencing such a critical situation, being educated, and opening my heart to those in the refugee camp. I think this is why this story is so profound to me, because it was a course of learnings about myself, of others, and how I relate with humans all at the same time!

Let’s switch gears, and I’ll tell you about the incredible refugee’s I connected with at the camp…

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We were at the camp for two days, total. Our physical mission was to build a boutique on the camp site so that the people living there felt more comfortable when ‘shopping’. We created a dressing room, and a ‘trendy’ theme to display the clothing. Our emotional mission was… well, for me, it was to connect. The first day, I didn’t really know how to do that, or understand what type of significance I could bring to these individuals, considering the incredibly challenging, and traumatizing experience they’ve had. Only on the second day, (after having a couple more extremely confronting conversations with other We Journey participants), I was able to better understand how I was going to approach the camp situation.

On the second day, I decided to walk into the camp, releasing all of myself, my ego, my ‘self development fulfillment’, and give my heart, my joy for life, my love, my passion, my kindness, and warmth to every person I had an encounter with. I lost control, and asked God, the source, or higher power, to use me as a vessel, and deliver to these people what they needed at this exact moment in time. That was hard… but I coached myself through it, and remained present.

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An old woman, a father, and his child were walking into their container-like home, and I felt pulled towards them. I made eye contact with (what appeared to be) the grandmother, and knew I needed to spend some time with them. They invited me into their home, and I was instantly gifted with fresh beets and cake and lots of tea. They were so hospitable, kind, and welcoming. This particular family did not speak any English, so it was very challenging to communicate with them… but it actually didn’t matter, because what we were sharing was bigger than what words can communicate. We were speaking from heart to heart.

The father learned that I was living in The Netherlands, and mentioned that he had spent some time in the country, and hoped to migrate his family back there some day. After about 30 minutes of conveying that message, he found a Dutch TV channel on their television from the 90’s, and began reciting the subtitles, in effort to display his determination. Before long, I had a newborn baby in my arms, and the mother began taking selfies us, women, on her cell phone. The Grandma ensured that I was looking my best in the pictures; combing my hair with her fingers, and making sure my T-shirt sleeves were properly unrolled and tidy.

This family received many hugs, smiles, kisses, and… dances! We listened to some of their favorite music, and I insisted that the youngest woman and Grandma get up and dance with me… they blushed, laughed, and indulged in the ‘crazy American’ moment they were experiencing.

My time with this incredible family came to an end approximately 3 hours later, when I realized I needed to check in with my volunteer team. They were completing the finishing touches on the boutique, so I still had a little bit more time to engage and share love and light with residents of the camp.

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I felt that it was time to play. A group of kids were playing around with a ball, and so I decided to join in and kick it around with them, committing 100% of my energy and (little) skill to the game. Then somehow they were enthusiastic about being picked up and swung around in circles. And so then I became that person… a line formed quickly, and I mustered up all my adrenaline and deep love to swing every kid around. Their laugh, and simplistic form of joy emotionally moved me, and physically moved me forward to keep pushing.

The last interaction I had was with a doctor. This man was a true inspiration and model of hope and determination. If we talk about using appropriate language to compel your future… this man models it perfectly! He was at the refugee camp alone, and was only 23. He was a doctor in Afghanistan, and left the country because he was not safe, and did not have the freedom he felt was elsewhere in the world… so he fled. He was full of light and hope, this man. He expressed to me how he felt so free in Greece, even though this was only a stepping stone in his journey. He is beginning to study at a University in Athens to get more educated to become a doctor, is intensely practicing his English (which is already pretty good), and is keeping his eyes on the prize, which is seeking asylum in Canada. I was so inspired by this man’s determination and motivation to continue to push forward in his quest to achieve all he is set out to do in this world. Talk about being fearless.

20170613-DSC03296.jpgAs it came time to leave the refugee camp, I saw the kids continuing to play with their make-shift soccer ball. I knew in my heart this was my last hoorah, my last opportunity to give of myself. I did my best attempt at a soccer trick, landed it, and bid my farewell to a community which greatly enriched my life, educated me, tested me, and grew me. I was a different person now, in this moment, and all that mattered was love, connection, and faith. Being the feeler that I am, I can tell you, I’ve never felt so much gratitude in my heart… ever in my life. I shed tears of deep happiness and sadness on our departure back to the center of Athens.

Does it end there? Nope!

After Athens, the We Journey crew boarded a ferry which brought us to the beautiful isle of Naxos. This is when the integration portion of the trip began, and when a lot of the experiences I had (personally, and at the refugee camp), really began to settle in. At some point, it felt a bit too much (although I didn’t identify it that way in the moment), and so I jumped into the sea, my safe place, and sunk into the water. Just as I had done at the refugee camp, I let go. I lost myself. I was entranced by the water, I became the water. I found my escape in nature.

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Only later did I realize… again after another confrontational conversation with one of the many incredible We Journey attendee’s, as beautiful as that moment was, it wasn’t the right time to experience it. I realized that what I was trying to do was avoid the intense feelings I had about my self-reflections and about the recent experience I had at the refugee camp.

“Shit…” I said to myself, “what am I supposed to do then?” Earlier that day I had committed myself to a solo paddle boarding trip in a nearby lagoon. I learned that this was dangerous territory, because it could go one of two ways: 1. I could naturally choose to ‘lose myself’ again in the experience, or 2. Consciously be aware, and use paddle boarding as a metaphor to work through my current personal obstacles, realities. Being conscious of these two scenarios, I chose the latter, and actively listened, vocalized, and physically worked through what was happening.

The remainder of this trip was a bundle of these precious insights, discoveries of self, discoveries of relation with others, and pure beauty of life.

If you are to read the first and last sentence of this article, I am certain you would be surprised that it is the same story. 1 week. That’s all it took. A change of perspective, a change of lifestyle, a change of outlook, a change of understanding and acceptance. A deeper sense of gratitude and appreciation of life, human connection, and freedom.

There are no further words to describe this experience. I’ve opened my heart, shown the real, in hopes that you can better comprehend a raw experience with self and others.

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As mentioned in the opening picture caption, I have learned what generosity, strength and compassion means in the most authentic sense from this experience. As I continue on with my adventures through life, continue to learn about myself, continue to develop, and bridge that gap of where I’m at now, and where I want to be, I am going to remember these people. The ones who taught me most about what it means to give and love and be a light when the world seems so dark.

I’m a feeler. I’m intuitive. I’m bold and adventurous. I love humanity as I love myself, and I love to pour my happiness and gratitude for life onto others.

Thank you, for everyone involved, refugee and volunteer, you’ve changed my life, and fueled me to dive in, even deeper to discovering me.

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Photo credits: Perry Jay Grone, Gabby Perez, Jen Morilla

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Here’s To My ‘A Team’

Recently I wrote a reflection post about 2016. This was a very open an honest post, however I knew from the start it was missing something… something important. I sent the draft over to a couple of my girlfriends, asking them to review it, in hopes they would catch the missing piece. They thought it was worthy of publishing, so I went ahead and did, avoiding the weird, egoistic feeling I had felt in my stomach. I re-read, re-read, and monitored the responses and feedback from friends and family, until one of my closest friends spoke up, one that I had not sent the draft to.

The missing piece that I had been looking for was not just one, but MANY people who helped and supported me to get to where I am today. When my friend pointed this out to me, my heart sank below the ground, and my tail went in between my legs. I instantly began to put myself down, and question how on earth I could have forgotten to accredit those who have been along the journey with me. After watching a couple Golden Globe acceptance speeches, I began to feel as though I had won an award for making it out strong from 2016, but I ran off the stage, taking my trophy without a thankful word. This is why I had felt an uneasy, shallow feeling within myself prior to posting, because ultimately I had framed it from a position of someone who does things alone.

“How could I have done that?” I kept asking myself. I value my friends and family an incredible amount – and am typically okay at showing them that – so how could this not have come into play in my writing?  I am not a person for excuses but rather reasoning and understanding, which is why it has been so necessary for me to dissect the root of which my actions became. Here were a few of my thoughts:

  1. American culture can sometimes reflect a “fend for yourself” kind of mentality. I think that from a young age, I recognized and adopted this mentality on an unconscious level, not truly letting others fully in out of protection for myself (hence making myself feel alone on a more deep level).
  2. Until I was a teenager, I was raised an only child. I grew up ‘alone’, not necessarily in a bad way, but I didn’t really have siblings to support or be supported by. Yes, I did have friends, but I also moved a lot, and friends seemed to come and go a lot as I passed through. Geographically, Arizona is very spread out, which creates physical distance between friends, making it difficult to be ‘close’ with them on a regular basis. This laid the foundation of my fundamentals of friendships.
  3. I have had a lot of support in my prior years from my family and from boyfriends. I didn’t necessarily ask friends as my first resource to rely on. 2016 was really the first time (aside from the first couple of months in Sweden before I met Tim), that was necessary for me to rely firsthand on friends. This meant it was necessary for me to open up a bit more, be honest, and ASK FOR HELP… something that I was not really used to doing with friends. So in a way, when growing up, I closed myself off from helping friends and allowing myself to be helped as well.
  4. My ego has grown! Which can be fine in some ways, because I think it is important for one to have confidence and pride in their accomplishments, however, it is important to see the full picture, rather than just one frame. I think because I have heard so many people tell me this year how proud they are of me, it makes it easy for me to unconsciously think that it is my doing. Yes, I have personally done a lot of growth, but, I have only been allowed room for that growth because other people have been there making space for it by doing other tasks for me, or being there for me in difficult times.

So here’s my acceptance speech to you, my killer ‘A Team’:

This is to my friends, family, near and far. This past year was really hard, and you were there for me every. fucking. step. of. the. way. Whether you were sending me a message on Messenger to make sure I was okay; endlessly house searching (and possibly risking your credibility on behalf of me) to give me and Skye a place to stay; demanding a Skype call; setting up a GoFundMe account to help me financially during a time of distress; donating to my GoFundMe account; reminding me that ‘life will go on’ regardless of what happens next; giving me furniture and presents; helping me to hurry and deep clean my old house so I could get my security deposit back; helping me with taking care of Skye and/or helping me to find care for her; complaining with me but ending conversations with hope and optimism; being a ‘step-in’ parent because my own couldn’t be there physically; giving me a hug or a shoulder to cry on; sending me links to job vacancies; calling me or picking up the phone during spontaneous painful moments; dealing with my ‘on-edge’, ’emotional rollercoaster’ moments; HELPING ME MOVE (double thumbs up to you people 😉 ); sending me a Christmas card, gifts, dinner, message; rubbing my feet and watching movies with me; turning my cries into laughs; and/or simply just being there. I know there are probably some really amazing things that I am missing in this list, but please know that your actions and thoughts have not gone unrecognized.

I am in a happy, ambitious, fulfilled, independent, and thriving place because I have had your help, support, and reliability. That, dear people, is the best gift a human can have in life: companionship. I’ve learned from you all this year truly what that word means and its significance. I hope to be as good of a friend to you as you’ve been to me. Thank you.

Ready for 2017? …because I am continuing to take you along for this crazy adventure, moving “one foot forward” together! 🙂

Live Fully,

Allison

 

 

Sit With It: You’ll Never Win A Race Against Google

Emotional recognition and expression is so important, especially living in our high-speed world today. I will straight up advise that this post is a bit deeper than the last one I published. Nevertheless, I hope you find value in the educational experience I provide for you below.

By the way, here is a nice album that I was listening to as I wrote this.

Recently one of my friends was going through a breakup, and was trying to figure out how to handle the feelings it brought on. Typically she would merely acknowledge what she felt and carry on with her day, in hopes that the feelings would pass as she distracted herself with her normal routine. What I’ve learned in therapy and through books, is how important it is to sit with your emotions. But what does that really mean? My friend was a bit confused when I told her to do this, and I completely understand why. “What am I supposed to do?”

In today’s digital, fast-paced society, we are instructed to constantly do. Post updates to your Facebook page, plan your next trip, exercise, meet up with friends or co-workers, work on improving your resume, volunteer, do your hobbies, start your own business, etc.. I think we are expected to do too much, especially when inner healing needs attention. Depending on where life leads you, we all go through challenging times in our life. What matters is how we handle the emotions that come along with each difficult situation. Emotional breakdowns, burnouts, chronic stress, these are becoming more and more common. It is NOT fun, let me tell you. This shit’s real people, and it isn’t going to get better until we learn how to prevent it by balancing our well being needs with the modern pace of life. Just because we can Google a question, and have an answer in less than 1 second, doesn’t mean that our human being can heal at the same rate. It takes time and active processing; we need to appreciate that.

Why is it though, that we so easily and naturally push down our emotions? When our reality becomes intolerable, we subconsciously numb the pain and protect ourselves through the usage of various ego defenses. The most common are: “denial (not actually happening); repression (never happened); dissociation (don’t remember what happened); projection (happening to you, not me); conversion (I do something else when I feel it happening); and minimizing (happened, but not that big of a deal).” (Bradshaw) Can you identify with any of the above ego defenses? Personally, I can relate to minimization. Don’t worry though, this is our body’s natural way of protection against emotional pain.

Read further…

According to R. L. Isaacson, the neocortex (the thinking brain) is concerned with overcoming memories and habits from the past, which “include the deeply grooved imprints (neuronal pathways) created by overwhelming stress and trauma.” (Bradshaw) The neocortex suppresses the noise and signals generated in our internal world, thus making itself capable to function unhindered. But the signals don’t just go away! Researchers theorize that “they continue to travel around and around close circuits of nerve fibers within the limbic system. The ego defenses bypass the tension and the pain, but the tension and pain remain. They are registered subcortically as an imbalance, an aborted action sequence awaiting release and integration. The energy of the original trauma remains like an electrical storm that reverberates tension throughout the biological system. People with seemingly rational adult lives may continue to live stormy emotional lives. Their storms continue because their original pain is unresolved.” (Bradshaw)

You’re probably thinking, “okay, yeah that’s interesting, but still, what am I supposed to do?” The answer lies within you! What I do, for example, is write. I love to write. I get all of my feelings out on paper (or screen, rather), and it somehow validates my emotions when I read my entry back to myself. While mindful of the situation and emotional discomfort, some people may dance, color, run, meditate, sleep, walk, scream, make music, paint, punch their pillow, cry, laugh, the list goes on. Sit with the discomfort and get it out! Don’t let your emotions get buried so that you have to deal with them later. In my opinion, it is way stressful to think about having to fight a big scary monster of emotions some day; one who may haunt you with its features throughout your life. Better to deal with them one by one as you go step by step, leaving you with a richer understanding of your individuality and wholeness of life itself. No more distractions from the big scary monster!

Get that shit out, don’t push it down! When it comes to healing, you’ll never win a race against Google. Wait for your answers, be patient with yourself and your human emotional needs. Here is my challenge for you: The next time you are going through a situation that could cause for emotional discomfort, I urge you to acknowledge the feeling, be with it, find your expression tool, and take, your, time. You may or may not notice an immediate response, however, you are healing yourself, and are setting yourself up for a lighter, brighter, more joyful life in your many years ahead.

 

Thanks for reading! I am now accepting subject requests to discuss in my future posts. If you would like to submit your topic, or have any further questions, please contact me at my According To Allie email: life.according.to.allie@gmail.com

P.S. My puppy, Skye Louie, is growing so fast! Here is a little video I made of her on our walk yesterday! Enjoy.

 

References: Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child by John Bradshaw

In a Nutshell

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Welcome to According to Allie! I am 25, driven to find happiness in the moment, and to be able to share the wisdom of how to find it with others. I have a rich history of life experience for my age, which enables me to see a unique, relative depth perspective — Hopefully one of which will benefit you.

This blog site has been made during a very important point of my life. Over the past couple of weeks I have been recovering from a pre-burnout. Over this time, I have had a lot of things to process and face, head on. I’ve been trying to re-discover what it means to live. I am an active, go-getter person, who often forgets to live in the “now” — Constantly focused on what needs to be done, or how to progress forward in life. Over the years, this has paid a toll on my physical and emotional well-being, and it has come to this point for me to realize it. And so this blog was formed!

MY LIFE IN A NUTSHELL:

I was born in Phoenix, AZ, and grew up in a divorced family setting. I mostly lived with my mom, visiting my dad, step-mom, step-sister, and half-brother frequently. I moved around a lot as a kid, and was able to call several places home, however I knew it was never permanent. Between the ages of 14 and 16, I was able to experience my first love relationship. I moved to Folsom, CA with my mom when I was 17, in hopes for a brighter future in college. I spent my senior year of high school focusing on college selection and my spirituality. I moved in 2008, ready to begin my studies at California State University, Chico. I started out with studying Photography, however, after my first year, changed to Music Industry and Technology. My heart always centered around music, and since I knew my singing was merely to be a hobby, I decided to get as close to music in another way – Working from the business perspective. My 4th year of college, I decided to study abroad in Uppsala, Sweden, to complete my minor in International Media and Communication. 1 and a half months before I was to leave, a very sudden and tragic event happened in my life: My mom died. This experience turned my life upside down, being that she was unmarried, I was her only child and that we were so close.  In honor of what she would have wanted me to do, I continued on my journey to Sweden. I knew it was the right decision when I stepped on the plane in August 2011. Shortly after my arrival, I met some great friends, and my current partner, Tim. That year was monumental for my growth, and I was lucky to have such a great support system alongside my adventure. I became so fond of my European lifestyle that I decided to stay an extra year. I was also not feeling as though I was capable to go back to Chico and do a full course load after my mom’s passing. So I decided to move to Haarlem, Netherlands to be an Au Pair for a lovely family in Heemstede. It was a great year, becoming familiar with the Dutch lifestyle, learning another language, and living with Tim. In Spring 2012, when my time as an Au Pair had ended, I returned to Chico, CA where I graduated with a Bachelors Degree by the end of the academic year in Spring 2013. From there, Tim came out to join me in the U.S. We moved to Oakland, CA where I had an internship and numerous jobs in San Francisco, and Tim did his Masters internship at UC Berkeley. Once Tim’s internship ended in Spring 2014, and he had a taste of what it was like to live in the country where I came from, we mutually decided to move back to The Netherlands. Here we are now! I currently work for an entertainment tour logistics company in Amsterdam, Tim has a PhD position at Leiden University, and together we have a cozy home with our little 5 month old German Shepherd pup, Skye Louie. This is my life in a nutshell.

 

If you are able to relate in any way, please, take a look at some of my posts. I think you will be able to find useful techniques, and common ground to help center yourself, and ultimately have a more relaxed and healthy life!

If you have any topics that you would like me to observe and write about, please feel free to comment on this or any of my posts!

“Forever is composed of nows.”
Emily Dickinson

«Allie»