Courtesy and Misconduct: When to Hold on to Relationships

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I get blinded very easily. Not to say that I trust easily, but when I do, everything turns cloudy. My black and white vision suddenly becomes grey and all I can see is their rightness, even if that means that I’m in the wrong.  I don’t have a lot of pride when it comes to the people in my life that I love. Everything that comes with social conduct falls away and all I want to do is protect them from anything and everything. Sometimes that meant holding their pain for them. Other times it meant standing up for them. And then, in those odd cases, it meant leaving them behind to protect them from me.

I’ve talked about how that’s often led me to stop their growth, but what I haven’t discussed much is my own aloofness. How all of this didn’t just harm the people I love, but it also hurt me. Distractions are funny that way. Some people wander over to binge watch tv shows, others scroll up and down their phones for hours; but for me, I focus on everyone else’s problems.

I’ve been thinking about being courteous lately. Dating someone new means that they don’t always fall in line with what you’ve been used to in the past. I’m not going to lie, it did bother me. When you’ve been with people who fall under the same line, it’s a strange thing to experience something new. New behaviour, new voices, new laughter, new ways of expression. It’s a funny thing to learn about another human, to get close to another human, and then on top of that, it’s even stranger when that human doesn’t match what you are used to.

So back to courtesy. I’ve been making attempts to dissect it and what it actually means, and what I’ve realized is that it is just following societal expectations. It might just mean looking for social cues to accommodate yourself to. There are rules to dating, unwritten ones and written ones that we tend to follow intentionally. But what happens when someone doesn’t? Would you rather them play the role of being courteous, or would you rather them be authentic?

What I’m trying to get at is that I think our expectations for people tend to hold us back from new experiences. I know that mine have and I know that sometimes they still do. I also know that we’ve skewed away from the meaning of some words like courtesy for example. Something that was intended to mean politeness towards others later became mangled with the notion of chivalry.

I’ve been working on setting my priorities straight, creating a mental and physical note on what is actually important to me in any relationship whether it be a friendship, a partner, a family member, etc. What are my non-negotiables and what am I able to withstand? What do I want versus what I actually need?

In making the effort of becoming more intentional with everything that I do, I also want to apply that towards who I surround myself with. Our people have a lot to do with how we feel, what we expect, and how we communicate and think for ourselves. As social beings, there’s no way to avoid the mixing of your energies – that is unless you decide to completely isolate yourself from all of humanity for the remainder of your life. Either way, if you plan on holding on to relationships, remember that who you let into your life is a choice and you can say no (which was a hard lesson for me to get a grip on).

When you learn to accept instead of expect, there are fewer disappointments. But when it comes to other human beings, I think we have to really become clear on ourselves first. I remember going through a time of transformation when it felt like everything in my life was being ripped away from me. But looking back, I see it now for what it was: a decluttering. Sometimes we need that, too. But I think that before that, we have to know what we need and before we know what we need, we have to know who we are. Because we are always becoming, there’s always going to be the ups and downs, changing and restructuring. That’s the hard part (and the interesting part).

I think to avoid all of that gunk, we choose to stick to the standard rules of expectations that were given to us. But easier doesn’t always mean better. And I would argue that it’s actually more painful to live that way. To shut everyone else out. To hold on to belief systems you never bothered to look in to.

As Ziad Abdelnour once said, time decides who you meet in your life, your heart decides who you want in your life, and your behaviour decides who stays in your life.

something to look forward to

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I don’t pay attention to the
world ending.
it has ended for me
many times
and began again in the morning.

– Nayyirah Waheed

It would be easy for me to say that things are going well, but I think it’s more truthful to say that I worked towards making them better. These past couple of months felt like they were testing me. Each day, a new battle for me to learn how to conquer. Everything felt like a challenge. Everything felt uneasy, breakable, and anything I felt I had, disposable. It was only until I took a trip back home a few weeks ago that I came back to my sense of gratitude. I guess literally looking at the life you left behind can do that for you sometimes.

We forget, a lot of times, our progress because it tends gets diminished by our day to day routines, just like we can’t notice the changes in our physical appearance until we look back at photos of what we used to look like. In that same sense, we can forget our spiritual, emotional, and intellectual progress. The changes are so slight each day that it’s only when we take a trip down memory lane that we realize we wouldn’t make the same decisions if we went back. That our mindset, our perspective, our outlook is just different. That we, as a whole, are new.

A friend told me something in passing and I don’t think her intention was to completely change the way that I think, because it never really is. But that’s exactly what it did. When telling her about my trip back to Toronto when I had initially booked it in spontaneous fashion, her response was, “That’s really good! It’s always nice to have something to look forward to.” Something about that struck a chord with me. It was like knowing something all along but finally clueing into what it actually means.

It’s always nice to have something to look forward to.

That was it. That was the answer I was looking for without even realizing the question that was hidden in my subconscious the whole time. The times in my life when I was happiest was when I had something to look forward to. And it didn’t always have to be big. It could be looking forward to going home and taking a nice, long bubble bath and reading. It could be writing. It could be trying out a new class which I’ve been doing a lot lately. It could be spending one-on-one time with a friend. It could be booking a trip or taking a long walk in the snowfall. But it’s always nice to have something to look forward to. More than that, it gives you a boost of energy, excitement, and enthusiasm when you have something to look forward to. It puts a beat to your step. It makes you dance awkwardly alone in your bedroom in the morning. It gives you hope. It gives you meaning and purpose.

I think a lot of times, at least speaking for myself, I tried (and still sometimes find myself trying) to create purpose and meaning in my life through accomplishments that are viewed as societally successful. But the truth is, the meaning of it all is to remember that all of this could be taken away from you at any moment. The meaning is that you get to make this time whatever you want it to be. The meaning is happiness and joy. To find it within yourself and then spread it like wildfire.

I’ve been really intentional about making it a point to have something to look forward to each week. I booked a trip to Hong Kong and then Thailand. I’m spending more time with friends that I have a strong meaningful connection with. I’m actively putting myself out there, taking dance classes, going to kickboxing, trying out different yoga studios and barre classes. I’m walking around in the snow I feel followed me here to Vancouver. I’m reading new books that are giving me life. I purposefully move myself to the other side of the street so that the sun can touch my face and I can rest in its warmth. I’m writing on this blog again. All of which are things I get to look forward to, each week and each day.

So you can say that things are going well, but the truth is, I am actively working on making them better. And it all starts with having something to look forward to.

When the Mirror Doesn’t Match: A Travel Back Into Time

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I like to think that the snow followed me here to Vancouver. While people walk with their sneakers and umbrellas in the air, not knowing how to deal with such weather, my eyes glisten wider than before. It feels like an opening. This sense of familiarity that traveled here solely for my own comfort.

I’m looking at life differently. I’m looking at it in a way where all my dreams can come to life. My own little heaven, a fantasy that lived in the depths of my mind for so long now feels like it can become plausible in reality, too.

For so long I felt accustomed to bitterness. “This is the way it is and therefore, this is the way it will always be,” I remember was once my mantra. My life challenged that thought, but not without resistance. My stubbornness tried so hard to get in the way. Like it preferred misery only because it meant I would be right.

That was years ago, but those memories don’t go away so easily. It would be simplistic for me to say they haunt me, but that would also mean that I am still under their control. The truth is, I’m not. Sometimes I worry I might become under it, but I think that for the most part, these memories hold me accountable. They remind me of a life that once was, that I now get the pleasure of comparing with, a life that now is.

I always felt like I got tested far more than the ordinary person. That sometimes life unfolded in a way that most would presume only to be acceptable on their screens. But once the show was over, they could close their laptops or televisions and get on with the rest of their day. I didn’t always have that luxury. But it’s egotistical of me to assume that I’m the only one facing this dilemma.

I’ve played the role of both the victim and the hero, back and forth. Both had their benefits, but both were also very fixated on holding me inside a box I didn’t always fit in to. That’s the problem with roles. They keep you stuck, trapped. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized this was the case. That the reason why my life seemed to be running in a constant loop was because I was caging myself into roles that encompassed parts of me but never told the whole story.

I found that I knew all too much about the people around me, but next to nothing about myself. There are points in all of our lives that are meant to grow us, or at least they give us the opportunity to. It’s up to you whether you want to take it or remain as you are.

It took me a while to even see that opportunity for what it was. To be honest, when it presented itself, it wasn’t exactly the way I’d imagined. It looked warped, crooked and imperfect. Nothing like I’d fantasized about. It didn’t appear like an opportunity, but rather it felt like an evacuation.

Sometimes, more often than not, I guess we need that push. We need the evacuation out of our current lives to get us to look at what else is even out there.

The good news is, I’m still looking and I don’t intend to stop.