Be Careful What You Wish For

Kristina Litvjack unsplash

Once upon a time, I told myself I wanted to date a certain kind of guy. For some puerile reason, I was very specific about what my ideal guy would look like. He had to have a beard, a scarf and trekking boots. He was supposed to be mature, sociable and we wouldn’t hold hands.

I’m not sure how long I held on to this thought, perhaps about a year or more. Fast forward, we were going up an escalator.

“Listen,” I said, “why don’t we hold hands?” Him, smiling, “Because we’re cool like that.”

That was a key moment when I realised something might have gone wrong. I had my guy and every single box had been ticked. But somehow it didn’t feel right. I had my guy, and yet, I didn’t.

A long saga ensued and you might find bits and pieces of it scattered along this blog. But the point of it all is that I had to learn some important lessons.

Primarily, I had to recalibrate my entire way of thinking and that was no easy task. Perhaps the greatest lesson that revealed itself was learning how to hold on to an awareness of the present, moment by moment, without getting dragged into a wishful thinking mind-space.

The mind-space is where, while growing up, we have stored a multitude of notions that do not serve us. Notions that we have accepted as true and that keep us away from being happy.

Just recently, a friend was telling me that her ideal partner would have to be a messy eater, with a good grasp of grammar and an athletic body. That is an example of coming from a very mind-based place where we assume that finding those qualities in someone would make us happy. Which is as far away from the truth as it gets.

Holding on to that kind of thinking pushes us away from the present moment which is infinitely embedded with possibilities. Possibilities which we cannot easily grasp. Not using our mind, at least. Thinking that we absolutely know what we want in a person closes the doors of actually realising when someone uniquely compatible is standing right in front of us. We are not open enough to feel the connection because our brain is incessantly passing judgement and creating a solid filter that limits our intuitive perception.

To share a concrete example, I spent close to half a decade with my bearded, scarf-wearing, boots-loving, social, mature, holding-hands-is-uncool guy, trying to make a relationship that I thought should work, work.

Likewise, I spent more than a year, in total unawareness, being chat buddies with someone who ended up being the missing piece on my road to finding happiness; all because I thought I knew what I wanted.

What I now understand with joy and awe is that life is infinitely more extraordinary than we can ever predict with our mind-based perception. And that is so important not to limit ourselves thinking we know better. What we should know is that we have been raised with limiting notions and that there’s a long road to coming back to our senses.

That being said, although the road is long, there is a simple and magical way to make choices that are right for us, without feeling trapped by misleading limitations.

The way is by staying humbly present while being aware of our heart’s whispers. Whenever faced with a choice, don’t think about it. Feel about it. Feel your way through everything, not being emotional or judgmental, but with gratitude and impartiality. You will notice life presenting itself with unexpected contours, different shades and magical occurrences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Love in a Parallel Universe

SW_Will Milne

From the first few days of hanging out together as potential boyfriend and girlfriend, I felt happy, relaxed and there was no trace of stress or worry.

I had no expectations whatsoever and I had not formed any thoughts in my mind about what I wanted. I had just left behind a complicated relationship and was still dealing with a newfound clarity that had been eluding me for years.

G was there, one of the many friends I had made while weaving a busy social life to distract me from what I was unhappy with in my personal life.

He was aware of my breakup struggle, without knowing too many details of what exactly went on. No one really did as I was putting up a thick front in the hope that things would eventually get better. Our friendship had always been of a polite, casual and almost intellectual sorts. We would talk about work and life, never getting too private about facts. I vaguely knew he had a brother he wasn’t close to and that his mum was struggling with a long-term illness. He knew that I was in a committed relationship and we had a common friend. Other than that, we probably knew ridiculously detailed facts about each other’s work as that was our main topic of discussion.

As my long-term relationship was coming to an end, I was dealing with going through a process of integrating my ‘shadow side’. Things I had kept hidden were being brought to light, all in a cathartic process of dealing with truths I had not allowed myself to see for years. My relationship wasn’t working and I hadn’t had the wisdom to deal with it maturely. I had been frivolous and there was no going back. I had created a life that I didn’t believe in. I had enveloped myself in a superficial layer of pretense and omissions. There was me and there was another me, a person doing things that I never thought myself capable of. A precious lesson in humility. Nothing left to judge in others once you’ve understood the process leading one to an undesired place.

All the nonsense was being brought to light to prove that there was no way back.

While carrying the weight of my own shadow on my shoulders, all I told G was, “I’m not the person you think I am. I’m screwed up.” And all he said was, “I know you’re not.” And somehow I believed him.

My friend, J, asked me recently, “So, how did you and G start dating? Like, did he ask you out or how did it happen?” It confused her that I didn’t have a straight answer.

We were friends and then we became more than that once we opened up more about who we really were. We started spending time together and everything was incredibly easy and flowing. Humorous synchronicities started manifesting around us. I would tell him I liked ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and we would hum the tune of Moonriver. In  a couple of days we would realise that one of our random hang out places on the curb of a road was right in front of a shop called Moonriver. We would talk about my nagging landlord, Stella, for hours at end, trying to decipher how seemingly unreasonable people reason. Next thing we knew, G’s band member sent him the rough version of their next song, titled ‘Stella’.

I started being able to sleep deep and well at night. Although I was changing rents often in search of a cosy home, I felt good and unphased. What struck me most was the steadiness of how I felt. We seemed to be in synch all the time and there were no gaps. I wasn’t reflecting on what was happening or where it was leading to and I wasn’t projecting anything. It was more like I had a sense of wonder at how things were and I felt like we were always very present. It was as if he was reading my mind all the time and saying the right things, always at the right time. For a short while, I questioned my sanity, wondering if I was now living in a parallel universe where anything was possible, but maybe not real.

Slowly, I began to realise what was happening. I was dating someone and we seemed to be extremely compatible. But it never really felt like dating. It was something more that I did not need to frame. It just was and labels were unnecessary. And to call the kind of connection we established compatibility wouldn’t do it justice as it went way beyond that.

A few times, in my bewilderment, I felt like going and shouting out to people that it was real and that they were not crazy. What was real? I’ll let you think about that one.

Since all of these events took place, it’s been quite a journey for me. It feels radically different than before, even though the routines of my ordinary life may not seem exciting to an onlooker. Yet, it’s a path of living with clarity, gratitude and a renewed sense of purpose.

Another big change for me has been gaining an ability to filter out self-deceit in others. Fear and doubt are our faithful partners along the journey to personal growth. But many of my doubts and fears have lost their intensity, leaving enough space for me to hear the distinct echo of a voice we deny to exist. It’s, most of the times, an important message that can cure our doubts and support positive life-changes.

Well, everything is different now. It’s not easy to capture in what ways. We received a gift a year back that said:

Once in a while, in the middle of an ordinary life, Love gives us a fairy tale.

When I read ‘Love’ in the above quote, I think of Love as Connection, but also of Love as Awareness. Love as Choice. Love as You. Love as God. I’m addressing that part of you that Knows. Despite all the nonsense, the pain, the hurt and the questions, there is a part of you that simply knows that ‘what you seek, is seeking you.’

It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way

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In the early stages of growing a friendship with Eve, I was casually sharing some insights from my relationship.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard of any couple that doesn’t quarrel,” Eve said.

It was one of the many highlights that has showed up in my relationship, turned marriage – an aspect that continues to enthuse me to this day.

I used to be very good at picking a fight and I spent years wondering why that was and if there was something inherently wrong with me. At the time, I dated a great guy, but the fights were a regular routine and it felt like I was the reason for it. Each day, there was a search for a certain kind of balance that failed to show up. What manifested instead was a never ending cycle of tense confrontations. Even on holidays, we found ways to stir things up and quarrel incessantly. Talk about red flags.

Those complicated years shadowed by conflicts, doubts and frustration have not been all bad and they were what I chose and needed to get to where I am now. There were plenty of great times too. Travels, meeting lots of wonderful people and migrating to a new country were things that my partner at the time guided me to dive into. That’s why we now maintain a cordial relationship and I think that, while moving on, we both found a treasured place in each other’s hearts; a place of non-judgement and care.

Although we have learned the lessons we needed to know and I can now share things with a positive outlook, it doesn’t mean that leaving behind a long-term relationship happened with smiles and handshakes. There were tears, painful confessions, bad words thrown around, fists clenched and arms folded. And I honour all of it. It just shows we were authentic in our quest to make things work, all the way to the end.

My convoluted experience in my past relationship was what taught me gratitude and how to recognise the gifts of what I have now. It also taught me that I create my life with every choice I make. There is nothing random, nothing left to chance. The better I understand what motivates my choices, the happier I can become.

I know it’s overrated, but I came to believe that the only thing that matters is knowing yourself. Not selfishly and not by excluding others. Know yourself so you can be yourself. Understand how you’ve knitted the complex web of experiences you’re having right now, and decide what is the greatest change that you would like to see happen. Then go for it, take the leap. The magic lies on the other side.

To say life is good doesn’t begin to capture how different everything feels now. The word “easy” minimises the experience as well. To mention that we don’t ever quarrel is just one piece of the puzzle that has mysteriously rearranged itself, morphing into a familiar shape that resurfaced only when I was ready to recognise it.

PS: I took this photo while on a coffee date with Eve, who has a family blog which you can check out here.

 

Breaking Up and Breaking Out

SplitShire-7606I was recently talking to a close friend during the time leading up to her break up and after, and some interesting things came up during our free-flow type of discussions.

I witnessed my friend progressing from a state of extreme sadness and bitterness, with lots of questions, doubts and restlessness, to a newfound state of calm awareness.

During the time things were falling apart in her relationship, it was painful to see her trying to rationalise why it should work while coping with the fact that it wasn’t. Her mind kept telling her, “If only we wouldn’t quarrel, that would solve all the problems.” Her doubts were taking a toll on her health and I could see her clothes getting looser by the day.

We had casual conversations during rushed lunches and I was surprised to see that she didn’t totally dismiss my thoughts when I started sharing snippets of beliefs I had accumulated from my own experience.

What I had to share, things I strongly believed in, made sense to my friend and, long story short, she overcame her break up much faster than I had anticipated.

Among many things that have been said, my friend revealed that what has struck her the most was my saying that relationships don’t have to be all about compromising and struggle in order to reach a functional state. There are relationships that just work, without us having to give up or change anything. Relationships where things are easy, there is a good rapport and lots of natural empathy.

Another important idea that appealed to my friend was the realisation that if a relationship doesn’t work, it does not necessarily mean that any of the parties is at fault. It’s not that “You always…” or “You never…” and that’s why we don’t work. That’s the mind trying to rationalise how life should fit into a box. If only I could put a ribbon on you, a plaster here and there… If only we would do less of this and more of that… then we would work, for sure! So, let me try to make you understand what we need to do here. Yes, we’re quarreling, just listen. Now that we’ve fully confused ourselves, let’s try to clear this mess up. By repeating the same sequence, every day.

I’m not sure if this sounds familiar to you, but it does to me. I was in that place and only now do I realise how difficult it was. And somehow I had brainwashed myself into thinking that that was normal. People around me contributed, I mean, doesn’t everyone go through the same kind of scenarios all the time?

I could now share with my friend that there is another way. A way where you don’t need to force anything and every day is one of a kind, because you get to spend it with someone who gets you and is truly happy to be with you, as you are. No quarrels, no sadness, no unhealthy jealousy or insecurities, no doubts and no fear.

My friend clicked with these ideas and was somehow able to grasp that it was no one’s fault and that it was obvious from the start that her relationship had major cracks.

She was able to gain an extraordinary ability to see how crippled she has been, not having felt like she can fully be herself and live as she is, a sharp, vibrant, joyous being.

I believe we are connected in very diverse ways to those people we surround ourselves with. One important element that I believe has to be present between two people who have a bond is enchantment. A sort of chemistry that makes you feel Good in that person’s presence. It’s a unique kind of vibe that feels breezy and natural. It’s not mental; it feels comfortable and safe. It is not over-excitement fueled by frenzied anticipation (as it often happens when we think we are in love).

Let us look for that enchantment in any kind of relationships we are building with those around us. Let us look for that ease and freedom where we can just be ourselves without having to prove or change a single thing. Let us find ourselves in others, remembering that not everyone is your “other”. But once you are there, you will know. No doubts, no fear.

 

 

 

 

 

Why You Will Not Marry the Wrong Person

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I recently clicked on an article because of its teasing title – “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person”.

Marriages seem complicated and messy. One the one hand, there’s the fairy tale-like illusion that embellishes the idea of marriage, on the other hand, there’s all the negativity that shadows it coming from ideas such as compromise, submission, loss of identity, disillusionment and so on.

For many years, I’ve wondered what happens to people in relationships and marriages. Why do things get so hard and why do we grow up with unrealistic desires that, later on, can never be matched?

When I started reading the above-mentioned article, I predicted that the reasons of our misguided choices for getting married will be addressed, followed by suggestions on how to correct a lifetime of conditioning and make wiser decisions. I got the first part right, but the latter took me off guard.

I wasn’t prepared for what the author of the article had in store for its curious readers. In a nutshell, we are invited to adopt a radically pessimistic view on the idea of marriage, in order to set correct expectations and to counter the illusory image implanted in our perception.

WE need to swap the Romantic view for a tragic (and at points comedic) awareness that every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden and disappoint us — and we will (without any malice) do the same to them. There can be no end to our sense of emptiness and incompleteness. But none of this is unusual or grounds for divorce. Choosing whom to commit ourselves to is merely a case of identifying which particular variety of suffering we would most like to sacrifice ourselves for.

Reading this, I could see how a highly-intelligent person may relate to this idea and nod their head in approval. At the end of the day, isn’t this what we all experience eventually? Aren’t everyone’s illusions brutally shattered not long after starting a committed partnership?

What I like about this article is that it tries to create awareness by offering a concrete recipe to establish a mind frame that encourages educated choices. If we start from that low point, we are left with only two options: experience staying there, very low, where we knew we would be, or be pleasantly surprised that things are not, in fact, that bad.

When someone young and hopeful reads this piece, they might get a wake-up call and, instead of daydreaming of gaining an unrealistic sense of personal fulfillment in a marriage, they might focus on what they can do for themselves now.

What the article lacks, in my opinion, is addressing the fact that there are more ways to counter making erroneous choices that result in burdensome marriages. Choosing to adopt an utterly pessimistic perspective in order to recalibrate our theoretical expectations surely cannot be the only way. By looking at things from such a narrow angle, we are basically minimising life’s diversity and complexity. Not to mention that assuming such a viewpoint implies a total disregard of the fact that not all relationships or marriages are unsuccessful.

Instead of advising the innocent and untamed to bury their hopes and brace themselves in expectation of the worst, why not show them how to make better choices?

The same article voices out a belief that many have: the impractical expectations from marriages come from a romantic vision that we unconsciously and steadily assume while growing up. But I wouldn’t turn this vision into something absurd. This whimsical assumption that a “perfect” being for us exists stems from a need of love and connection which is inherent in all of us and was not conditioned by society.

There are many things that we have been deprived of and they will surely condition our deepest needs that may never be met by someone else until we learn to fulfill them first. But the desire for a close and authentic connection to another human being is not romantic. It’s natural. And it’s natural because it is possible.

I wouldn’t make such bold statements if I didn’t experience this truth myself. I started this post by saying that, for a long time, I didn’t understand why things go wrong in relationships and marriages. Things are different now and, although I may not have it all figured out, I have become aware of enough things to make new choices and to start feeling intensely happy.

Going back to my question – aren’t everyone’s illusions brutally shattered not long after starting a committed partnership? No, not everyone’s.

So, let us steer our conversation in a different direction. It all boils down to how we make choices. Pessimism should not be a guidance system for improving our decision-making process. Instead, we can have an impartial look at our daily choices and how they make us feel. How we feel right now, with the choices we’ve made thus far, is a good indicator of how we will feel later, with our bigger and more serious decisions.

We can feel right with ourselves and we can feel right next to someone. Although it’s an option, we don’t need to “accommodate ourselves to wrongness”. There is another way – choosing. When we think it’s too late, when we think it’s impossible, when we think it’s a sin, when we have all the reasons not to, we can CHOOSE. Again and again, striving hard to make better choices will demonstrate that things can fall into place, just like we knew they would.