Relationships Take Two, and That Includes You

Hello, and happy Monday friends! Yeah, I know, I know, Mondays aren’t exactly happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting to crawl back into bed. I know.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s think of Mondays as a chance at a fresh start, a reset of sorts, every single week. Let’s take this opportunity to do it differently. Let’s make the changes we want to see in ourselves and the world, okay?

“It always takes two. For relationships to work, for them to break apart, for them to be fixed.”

— Emily Giffin, Heart of the Matter: A Novel

I’m a terrible friend.

I don’t text back. I don’t answer calls. I don’t send snaps or reply to Facebook comments. I don’t call to check in, and I don’t know what to say when my loved ones are going through hard times, so I say nothing. I’m a terrible friend. But not because I don’t care, but because I’m scared. I’m afraid I have nothing to offer, and I’m sure no one wants to be bothered with me. It’s selfish, even if I tell myself it isn’t and it’s wrong even if I tell myself it isn’t malicious. The truth is I’m not doing the work, and it isn’t fair.

The truth is I’m not doing the work, and it isn’t fair.

I’m lucky to have friends that understand, but lately, I’ve started to feel guilty. I shouldn’t let them pick up the slack just because I’m too afraid to try. We all deserve to have people reach out toward us everyone in a while to remind that they care and that we are too important to lose.

We all want to feel like we matter. We all want to be wanted. We all want the people we love to let us know with their actions not just with their words that we are important, liked, and desired. When our friends call us or send us funny videos to cheer us up, we feel good. When someone we love cooks our favorite dinner, buys us flowers or offers a back rub at the end of a hard day, we feel good. When family, co-workers, and spouses forgive us for our outbursts or let us know it’s okay after having made a mistake, we feel good.

We do deserve those things, but I’ve seen too many people who demand to be loved, understood, appreciated but make no effort to show anyone else the same. They see themselves as worthy of near worship and see humbling themselves and giving of themselves as degrading.

Relationships, whether they are romantic or not, familial or not, new or old, platonic, professional, or passionate, no matter what they are, they all take two people to make them work and grow. If just one gets forgets the boundaries, loses interest, or puts themselves at the center the whole thing fails. I’ve seen it, and lived it time and time again.

This week I celebrate 15 years with my girlfriend, and people are always asking me how we got this far. They want to know the secret, and I tell them it all boils down to seeing another person as worthy of all the same caring and effort you know that you deserve and then setting your pride aside to do it.

Too often we see ourselves as the main character of a story in which everyone around us only serves to move our own plot forward, but the truth is we are also playing the supporting role in everyone else’s story too. In this world, there is no center. We are all connected to one another and we all push and pull one another in all directions all at once.

If enough people decide to take more than they give all connections weaken and the world becomes a place where loneliness, struggling, and suffering becomes unnecessarily prevalent.

 

I’ve watched people let their relationships fall apart saying “Well if so-and-so wanted to talk to me they would” or “If so-and-so wanted to see me they’d make the time”, all the while they never reach out or make the time either. They say these things and never see how much they expect and how little their effort is in return. I’ve watched them condemn others for the exact same ways they are failing too.

I don’t think anyone means to be hurtful. It’s just the society we live in now. There is so much bad advice floating around about how we should treat each other and how to stay together or strengthen our bonds.

Everyone says that people who love you will just come to you. They say that anyone who wants to be a part of your life should have to earn it first. You shouldn’t have to chase anyone, you have already done enough. You shouldn’t have to do anything more. If people want you they will do whatever it takes. You aren’t being mean. You are only protecting yourself, respecting yourself, getting what you deserve.

But all that is only half the story. They never tell you how much you have to give of yourself and they never tell you that you should! We should be vulnerable, giving, and forgiving. We should be doing so much more to earn the love of the people we want in our lives. We should be giving second chances and calling even when we didn’t get a call back and inviting them again even when they didn’t show up last time. We should say good morning even if they didn’t say it back and we should do something nice even though they snapped at us yesterday. We should reach out even if they didn’t reply last time and we should let them know we still want to be friends.

You have to let go of your own needs and just be there for someone else for a while. Not all of the time, but, yes, some of the time. You have to take turns being the center of the universe.

Do it because we are all people and we all make mistakes. Do it because none of us come out of childhood knowing how to have healthy relationships or how to keep those relationships together.

 

Do it because you care and because you know deep down that every relationship takes work from both parties. It requires vulnerability and a willingness to humble yourself. It requires that you occasionally stop thinking about yourself, give up, and give a little more than you might be getting in return. It requires leading by example and making room for our flaws and forgetfulness. If enough of us make compassion, humility, and understanding part of our relationships we can change the narrative and make giving the goal of every relationship rather than receiving.

Do it so that when it’s you not doing enough because you were busy, too stressed out, or too self-centered, the understanding and love will be there when you return.

***

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You are What You Cook for Me

I’m easily lured by food
bad for the body
but good for the soul
You are what you cook for me

I’ve never had the self-control
To choose what is good
Over what feels good

Sweet, and savory
Spicy, and so soul comforting
You really are what you cook for me
And I will ever over-indulge

***

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Written in response to The Daily Post Prompt: Fry

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Five Minute Friday // In the Slow Time

Nothing feels slow anymore. I’m rushing to work, rushing through the day, rushing to get home, rushing to clean up, walk the dog, eat dinner, watch tv, and go to bed where I rush to sleep, to rush back to work the next day. Going, going, going, but getting nowhere I guess.

There are some slow times in there, and I savor them. They mean the world to me and when I guard it fiercely. So often it feels like that is all I have.

My favorite is every evening when the time comes for me to stretch out on my side of the couch, and the lovely woman who loves me back sits close by. We might not be paying much attention to each other, we may be looking at tv screens, iPad screens, laptop screens, or phones but it’s ok. We are together. The world is outside of these shitty, shabby walls and none of it can get it. This is our slow time.

There are pillows are piled up, and more blankets than we need. There are snacks, and drinks, Netflix, and chargers for every device. The dog joins on the far end and the cat squeezes in wherever she can. There is everything we need right there.

I stretch my feet out to rest on the lovely woman next to me, and she asks me what we ought to watch. We chew our dinner and enjoy it, not like the breakfast that comes in liquid form or the lunches that may not come at all. We talk about the day and finally find our feelings for it. At work, with others, there is no time to decide what you should have done or felt, but it all comes out in the slow time.

***

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Written in response to Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday prompt: Slow

Featured image via Unsplash

 

Embracing Uncertainty

Hello, dear readers and happy Monday! I know I know, Mondays aren’t happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting nothing more than to crawl back into bed and escaping the world.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s think of Mondays as a fresh start, every week. Mondays are our do-overs, our reset buttons, our first days. Let’s make the changes we want to see in ourselves and the world, okay?

For me, this Monday is a super easy one, and, hopefully, if I can focus, a productive one too. It’s the first day of my winter break from work, and I hope to spend it writing as much as I can since I blew off the whole weekend laying on the couch or visiting family. I still have to work a few days over this week and next but today I am home. I am relaxed but focused. I have coffee, and I have set up shop in the spare bedroom, far away from the TV.

I am trying.

“The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.”

— Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to grow up and grow old with another person.

I feel lucky to have lived as close to a fairy tale as most people can ever hope. It has been—and continues to be a roller coaster ride of emotion and uncertainty by as time go one the highs are less high and the lows aren’t so low. It’s a good thing to be slow and steady and secure in each other. We are like one person with two brains. We fight, we confess, we whisper sweet nothings, and sometimes we want to get away from one another. It is all very lovely and typical.

We wanted to be secure with each other, but we became too confident in the trajectory of our lives. Lately, things are beginning to feel repetitive. Lately, things have started to feel like they are over.

We wake up, we work, we come home, we watch Netflix, we go to bed. We grocery shop, we see family, and we go to the movies. We pay our bills, we have food, we have a roof, we have water and heat. We have fun, and we laugh, but we have fun and laugh in all the same places with all the same people. We love each other, and we love the life we built, but it’s beginning to feel a bit too insulated I think.

There is no more uncertainty, and we have found that instead of making us any happier, it’s actually driving us a little insane.

Last night, just before we fell asleep, we had a bit of a joint existential crisis and decided that life feels too much like life is already over like we did everything everyone is supposed to do, or that we can do, and now we are just going through the motions until the end. It was sad, and I realized that to be feeling like this before we’ve even lived half of our lives is so awful. We are not supposed to be feeling like this!

So, I proposed that we make a joint New Year’s resolution. We will resolve to start, right away, doing all the things we’ve always wanted to do. All the places we’ve wanted to visit, all the experiences we’ve wanted to have, all the things we wanted to learn, they are going on the list. Some of the things on the list will be easy, trips and classes to take, some will be big, like changing our careers big.

Life may become a little less certain for us, but just thinking about this list and where it might lead us feels so exciting. It feels like life can begin again for us, together, as it should.

Life should never feel stale, and I regret letting things go on the same day after day the way I have. I grew up in chaos, and so this calm felt good. It felt like I could finally breathe. I could stop and look around, I could get my bearing and figure what it meant to exist, to be me, and to love, and suffer, and learn. But I have done that, and now it is time to shatter everything I think I know and let my life become something new again.

This week, we should all start thinking about what your life has become and what you always meant for it to be. How do you feel about where you are and what you might have thought was good and it turns out was not what you wanted after all? Think about what you have learned over your life and what you still hope to.

Think about how much time you have left and how you might feel when the end comes, and you have continued just as you are for the rest of the time you have. How might you feel?

Make a list of the things you want to do, see, and learn. Put them in whatever order you like and make it your mission to check off whatever you can—however you can—until you can’t anymore.

Think about how good that will make you feel, when the end comes, and you had the courage to let go and give into a little uncertainty so that you could really live!

***

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Quote via Austin Kleon

Featured image via Unsplash

Find the People Worth Suffering For

Hello, dear readers and happy…Tuesday! I know I know, I’m late, but I still want to start the week off right. I still want to think about the way I do things and the way I wish I did things. I still want to make changes in my life, and I want to share those changes with you.

For me, this week is off to a very rough start, obviously. I have been nearly bedridden since Saturday evening with the very worst migraine I have ever had. Nothing I tried helped. Not ibuprophen—my go to painkiller—not sleep, not warm showers, not cold showers, not hot tea, caffeine, or relaxation exercises or stretching. I couldn’t handle light or sound or even moving from one position to another.

What ended up doing the trick was a packet of BC Powder—aspirin and caffeine in power form—that I got from a friend. It felt like a miracle.

I did receive some good news, too! My very first paid writing piece went up today. A personal essay I wrote for Femsplain on my relationship with my mother, her failures, and my own titled She Didn’t Succeed, but I’m the One Who Failed. It’s very personal. I’ve only been able to read it once since it went up last night and I was in tears. I’d love if you all checked it out, left some feedback, and shared it if you find it worthy.

“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for”

— Bob Marley

I grew up in an environment where we were all supposed to be strong, independent, and unforgiving. If someone hurt us just once, we cut them out of our lives for good. These were the lessons taught to me and to nearly every kid I knew. What I noticed early on in my life was that while this was the advice being given to us, no adult in my life seemed to be any happier for it.*

I saw a lot of adults suffering because they were alone. They were harsh and found any small reason to cut someone from their lives. I found myself frustrated just watching every mistake and misunderstanding lead to fights and the cold shoulder. These people were suffering alone when they should have been looking for people who were worth suffering for.

As an adult, I watch these same kinds of people do the same sorts of things around me. They were taught the same lessons and like the people who taught them to be so ruthless, don’t seem happier for it at all.

No one encouraged them to find a middle ground. No one thought about the middle ground because humans have a hard time seeing that the same mistakes they make are made by everyone else. They can’t understand those other people, like them, have good intentions, but they just fuck it up sometimes. They don’t know that everyone hurts everyone else. Human being are complicated creatures, and sometimes we act in ways that are the opposite of how we wish to.

Yeah, you said the wrong thing. You offered the wrong kind of help. You made things worse. You raised your voice. You said something you didn’t mean. You hurt someone’s feelings. You weren’t there. Your phone was on silent. You forgot to text back. You lost track of time. You forgot their birthday. You didn’t notice the new haircut. You came to the wrong conclusion. You didn’t listen. You got angry over nothing, but you didn’t mean it. You are sorry. Can’t we all move on? Can’t you just forgive me?

When you make mistakes, you expect to be forgiven.

When someone does them to you, you don’t need that in your life?

When we make mistakes that no one will forgive, when we didn’t mean it, and we want to make it up, it can be devastating when we find we will not be forgiven. We are labeled as something people don’t have time for, don’t need, and will not put up with.

What we all have to realize is that we are all very, very flawed, but we are wonderful too. We have to learn to see ourselves in other people, not just for what is good in all of us but also for what is bad.

When you hurt the people you love, you don’t mean it. You are usually either just angry and have lost temporary control of yourself, or you have perceived the situation wrong and acted from a distorted or false reality. You are not a bad person. You just messed up. The people in your life, for the most part, are the same too. They screwed up, and they could use a little understanding and forgiveness.

This week I just want you to recognize the people in your life who may mess up from time to time but who you know are really there for you, care about you, and want the best for you.

Your friend may have forgotten to call you, but she might have been there for you through some of you worst times. Your mom may have said the wrong thing when you needed her to be there for you, but she may not have meant it quite the way she said it—mothers are famous for this.

Your girlfriend/boyfriend left their socks out, again, they didn’t wash the dishes, again, and they forgot to pick up the milk on the way home, again. They mess it up, time and time again, but there may be some good they do too. They rub your back after a stressful day. They buy you your favorite candy to cheer you up. The text you sweet nothings and kissy face emojis all day from work.

People are going to hurt you, but there are surely people worth hurting for. They have good intentions, they care, they love you and want you to do all the things you want to in this life.

Keep those people, forgive those people, and pray they do the same for you.

***

*There are, of course, times when a person is not worth fighting for. There is a difference between mistakes and misunderstandings and outright abuse. If you are questioning the difference or under which category your relationship falls I encourage you to seek help.

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Give Compliments That Matter

Hello, dear readers and happy Monday! I know I know, Mondays aren’t happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting nothing more than to crawl back into bed and escaping the world.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s imagine that Mondays are the days when we get to start all over again. Let’s imagine all the bad things that happened last week don’t matter anymore and that we’ve been given a second chance to do it all again, and this time, we might even get it right.

From now on Monday’s are for making the changes we want to see in ourselves, and for thinking about the changes we want to see in the world. Monday’s are our new favorite days!

As for me, this Monday has been off to a rough start. I went to bed late last night and failed to get anything ready for this morning, so I struggled. I lost important papers, I had to wait for clothes to dry, and I forgot to set my “5-minute” warning alarm and left the house a little late too. I’m doing my best to remember that the day is far from over and that it’s never too late to reset my mind and mood. I plan to take a walk, then eat lunch, and forget all about the shitty morning.

caroline1_1280v2
Caroline Caldwell

I came across the above image on Tumblr last night, and I fell in love with it. It took a while but I finally the source, the artist, and an Upworthy story to elaborate on the artist’s motivations.

Apparently, Caroline Caldwell “decided that people needed some ideas for how to compliment each other on things besides looks and physical appearance.” So, in collaboration with Van Nguyen, she created a public art piece to remind us all that there is more that can be, good about a person that what is on the outside.

I’m not very good about giving compliments. I didn’t exactly grow up in an environment where people said nice things about each other. Giving and receiving compliments makes me feel very anxious, uncomfortable, and sometimes, pretty panicky. Looking around and listening to the way people talk to each other and interact I get the feeling I’m not alone in this.

Complimenting someone makes us emotionally vulnerable. We fear either our compliment will fall flat or be rejected, or that it will be misinterpreted. We are afraid to give away our feelings for another person when we aren’t sure that the other person feels something of equal value for us. We don’t want to care too much. We don’t want to get attached. We don’t want to open our hearts, not even the tiny bit it takes to show someone we see something good in them and to thank them for bringing that good into our lives.

It’s a shame we’ve all become so bottled up and afraid. Life shouldn’t be like this. I should be able to say nice things and have nice things said about me without it being a big deal. None of us should ever feel unsure about what it is our loved ones love about us, and no one we love should feel insecure or unsure how much or why we love them too.

This goes for everyone in your life. Tell your mom why she’s great. Tell your sister what she means to you. Tell your wife what she does that keeps you coming back. Tell your kids why you are proud of them. Tell your friends why you choose them. Tell your coworkers how they brighten your day. Tell everyone you think something good about what that good thing is.

The catch? Do your best to make those compliments about something much, much more than looks and appearance.

Yeah we all like to look good, and we want people to notice and tell us when we do, but I’ve noticed that when people are comfortable giving or receiving compliments it is nearly always about what we look like on the outside. Those compliments are too easy. Let’s dig a little deeper this week okay?

If complimenting doesn’t come easily to you, give yourself permission to fudge it up a few times in the name of practice and progress. It will benefit you in the end, yes. Your relationships will become stronger, and people will feel comfortable to open themselves up to you too but remember you aren’t really doing this for yourself. You are doing this so to make others feel better. You are doing it because it makes this world a happier and healthier place to live in.

If enough of us resolve to be a little nicer and let ourselves be a little more vulnerable every week, we could get very far in a very short time.

***

 

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Things I Thou​ght Love Was, and Learned the Hard Way, that it Wasn’t

Today is a big day. Today I am celebrating 14 years with my lovely lady. Fourteen years since the day I decided I only wanted to be with her, and I only wanted her to be with me too. Fourteen years since she told me she wanted the same, and we started this strange and wonderful journey together.

This anniversary doesn’t feel like an especially exciting one, but I think for good reason. I think we have come to the point where anniversaries are less of an accomplishment and more of an inevitability. Now, instead of celebrating by doing something special and new, we do things the things we always do because they are our favorite things. I like it better this way.  It feels like honoring how far we have come and who we are together.

I would like to honor what we have learned along the way by sharing it with you.

***

When I was young, and my love and I were first together, I thought that love was about perfection. I thought that love was proof of her perfection and mine, and our perfect perfection together. I thought once she started to find faults with me, that she must be falling out of love. I thought that since I saw faults in her, she must not be the one.

I learned that love is about accepting imperfection, in each other and in your relationship. The trick is finding more good than bad in one another and always striving to do better.

I learned that the person who loves you is the only one who can show you your faults in a way that makes you love yourself despite them. I learned that only seeing the good in a person and making them perfect in your mind is cruel. It is cruel because the illusion will fade and the fall will be worse than if you had both been honest and loved one another, flaws and all, from the beginning.

***

When I was young, and my love and I were first together, I thought that love was only expressed with kindness, empathy, and generosity. I thought fighting meant you weren’t in love and when my girlfriend and I began to fight I became afraid. When I saw her anger I thought she didn’t love me, and when I felt angry it was only my frustration at trying and failing to make her and us happy.

I learned that sometimes love is expressed through actions and feelings that look nothing like love. Sometimes love is angry and mean. Sometimes love is scared and jealous. Sometimes love hurts and is hurting.

No one comes out of their childhood unscathed, and no one comes into a relationship emotionally unburdened. Everything we were taught about how love should feel and be expressed becomes what we expect from the one we’ve chosen to spend our lives with. When our expectations aren’t met, it scares us, and we react in irrational ways.

We try to change, control, and cage each other, thinking we will escape a terrible fate. I will tell you if you do that you will set yourself on a course for failure and heartbreak.

***

When I was young, and my love and I were first together, I thought that love was the prize. I thought once promises were made to spend eternity together there was no need to chase and earn that love again. I thought the fight was over, the rest of my life only need be lived, but when we both became restless and feared being taken for granted, I thought I had to go looking for love elsewhere.

I learned that meeting, falling in love, and settling in our home was not the ends of the journey; it was only the beginning. I learned that love is not like finding your treasure and settling down to empty your spoils. Falling in love is like finally being handed the treasure map and a partner to go hunting with, for the rest of your life.

I thought that love should feel like a burning, consuming passion and love that doesn’t is a love that has run its course, fizzled out, and should be abandoned. I had never been told that after the passion and drama there comes a kind of peace. There comes comfort and contentment and if you come to it without fear it can be something more beautiful than the drama and passion ever were.

Let that comfort be the place your love is journeying toward.

***

When I was young, and my love and I were first together, I thought that love was static and unchanging. I thought that the person I fall for would remain the same person forever. I thought, I hoped, that the paradise we had found and created in and with one another would be timeless and insulated from outside influence.

When I woke up one day and looked at my love and saw someone I didn’t know and who didn’t know me, I panicked. I heard the words “grown up” and “grown apart” saw her drifting away. I raged, and I whined, and I tried to make her back into the girl I first knew, and she only drifted more.

Love isn’t supposed to stay the same forever. Love grows and morphs from day-to-day because ethe people who fee it grow and morph too. They may grow apart, that is a part of the risk, but if they are careful and give one another space and support, the love will grow stronger, and the bond solidifies. Don’t fear the change. Take pride in the way you and your love move through life, sampling different temperaments and becoming different people.

It is the gift you are meant to give one another.

***

When I was young and my love and I were first together we didn’t know what it meant to learn to not only love each other but to live and grow together. Most couples fail to learn the lessons, but we were determined to make it through the dark caverns of jealousy and the jagged mountains of uncertainty. We came out the other side feeling like two people who had also become one entity and would always be.

We are happy, even with our flaws and our fighting we are happy.

I hope you are too, and if you aren’t I hope you can stick it out and come out the other side filled with love, comfort, and contentment.

***

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Post inspired by The Daily Post’s Discover Challenge: The Poetry of List-Making

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