A Season of Decluttering: New Mindset for Relationships

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There are patterns I’m trying to make sense of. The question of why these relationships keep fleeting in the same manner, turns out, was the wrong one. That question left me in a never-ending loop, running around myself over and over again. I was circulating the problem, not unraveling it. A cosmic joke of sorts that I was the center of. What I’ve come to understand as of lately is that the question instead is, why do I continue to distract myself and hide within relationships when that space in my life is trying so hard to clear up for something else? Perhaps something more lasting? Something greater.

Since I was a child and acquired the same amount of frustration as I do now, my mother always responded with the same answer: “There is a time for everything. What you’re wanting, you will get. But this time, right now, it’s meant for something else. That time will come, too.” She was always annoying that way, you know, with her wisdom and such. I am socially inclined to roll my eyes at that. What does she know? Adolescent me wasn’t too fond of that response either.

But then came the time to reflect. The time where therapy found me instead of myself looking for it. Silly 21 year old me assumed that after those 4 years of therapy, after changing as much as I did, and after moving across the country and calling an end to what felt like a very significant chapter of my life, I must now be done. That this is it. I learned what I was meant to learn and now, I could be free and happy and satisfied all the time. I was finished the process of ‘becoming’. Ha. Ha. HA.

Moving to Vancouver, I found myself in a stream of relationships. I kept finding people, and not just regular people, but my people. It felt like a river of blessings being thrown at me. Friendships like the ones I’ve formed here are so different than any I’ve ever experienced. The partners I had, they were reflective of the type of person I was. It was strange for me, mostly because I was very happy being my introverted self, reading, writing, strolling along sidewalks and discovering new places to venture off to. But suddenly I wasn’t doing any of that alone anymore.

Everything in our lives is a preparation for what is to come. I wondered why after a period of intensive solitude, I was suddenly met with so much social activity. I mean, the last season of my life was spent in a cave of my own thoughts, writing the first draft of a novel and mourning over the loss of most of my friendships and relationships. But I went with it, as I try my best to do with most changes. I liked it even, so much so, that I let myself get used to all this new love I was stumbling upon.

If that is not foreshadowing enough, I’ll put it simply: Always be open to uncertainty. No, I don’t think that the answer is to “never get comfortable with things” or to forbode joy by any means. Trust me, I’ve tried that nonsense out for myself and it’s no good. But, for someone who has a mindset of being open to growth and change, it means your life will also come with a lot of hard lessons and endings.

Pain is the greatest teacher. I invite her in, always. I let her sit next to me for as long as she needs so that I can learn what I have to learn and relieve myself from having to repeat the same lesson over and over again. But still, my stubborn nature likes to resist certain lessons, especially when it comes to love and career…and friendships…and okay, pretty much everything.

I AM TRYING. I promise.

So what is the lesson here, right now? Why did a flood of people come into my life, only to leave again? Why is it that I cannot bare staying in one place for so long before my legs get itchy and I know it’s time to move again? Why did history repeat itself but with better people? Within a better place? Amidst a different version of myself?

Well, I suppose it’s because these endings were met with confrontation, tears, and sitting side by side with discomfort instead of avoidance — something I didn’t think I was capable of doing before. These endings were all met with saying the truth out loud and saying it in a way that is respectful, firm, and loving all at once (because I realized that there is such a way to do that).

Life is a series of endings and beginnings. It doesn’t mean we have to begin to walk into any sort of relationship with the prospect of its end. But instead, we do have to go in with an open mind. What is there to learn here? What value can I bring to this person and what value are they bringing me? For whatever amount of time that this is meant to last, how can we work together to bring each other to a greater place than where we stood prior to our meeting?

From getting used to this cycle of relationships, it’s so easy to get caught up in needing some sort of replacement right away. Find new people, find new friendships, find new partners. Something, something, now. You can get so caught up in it that you may even find yourself feeding off of others like they’re a bad drug habit. And what a great way to attract the right kind of people, right?

I guess, as my mother would say, there is a time for everything and just because you lost a lot in one area in your life, doesn’t mean you need to fill that exact space up right away. That time will come, but you don’t have to try so hard to do it now. And maybe replacing or trying to fill that area isn’t the answer. Maybe this space in my life is trying to clear out for something else, something I can’t even think of right now. Perhaps an expansion of another area of life is in order.

That’s what I’m choosing to believe, only because this frame of thought has gotten me this far and I’m sure it will take me farther.

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.

Love and Duty: When They Intertwine and When One Shadows the Other

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A lot of my love comes from this sense of duty I have towards my people. It’s a very traditional and practical mode that I’ve both realized and come to terms with about myself. But then there’s the romantic in me that questions, “Do I love this person or do I feel obligated towards them?”

I didn’t realize this was a struggle of mine until fairly recently. How it makes sense the way I’ve been throughout my life. How dedicated and loyal I can be to people who I later understood were not good for me. And then as I became more and more self-aware, I learned how to create boundaries because as much as I felt this obligation towards them, I didn’t know if I loved them. And if I did, I didn’t know if they really loved me back.

It’s strange that I often find myself confusing both of these things, mostly because growing up, they came hand in hand for me. If I loved someone, I would care for them, I would sit into the night with their head on my shoulder and let them cry. I would wake up in dire hours of the night if they called to rant to me. I would bring medicine and soup if they were ill. I would support them through everything and give them all the love I had to offer. I pretty much tried to be everyone’s Lorelai Gilmore.

Here’s the problem with that: First, being that person for all of my friends and family is a big stretch of myself. Being young, I didn’t have much of an identity at that point. I never thought to look inside. And being a woman (because let’s be real, us women do this ALL the time), my identity then became a list of all the people I loved, and therefore, had an obligation towards. There was no self to uncover. I didn’t have time for that. I had duties to fulfill, people to heal.

You might guess why some of these relationships I had went south, really quickly. Well here’s the thing, when you do this for others, when you stretch your time for them and you do these small detailed things that often go unnoticed, the problem becomes that these gestures then become expected from you. When you are this person, you are then expected to always be this person and always make time to be this person for each and every person in your life. Sounds a tad exhausting, right? Especially because this is pre-self/spiritual discovery and taking out any toxic people from my life.

And another fun fact about me: I don’t like being told what to do. This part of me diluted a bit after my teenage years, but there still remains a part of me that rebels. I like doing these things for my people and though it was frustrating that over time, they became more and more unnoticed, I still felt this notion of duty that kept me going. It was the only when the expectations became more pronounced that led to this visceral reaction of mine.

What I didn’t like was when arguments were formed because I got busier with work or university. “Why aren’t you there for me anymore?” texts, followed by 10+ missed calls. It was getting ridiculous. But whose fault was this really? I mean, did I plant this on myself? Did giving all my time away to take care of everyone make them lose control when I wasn’t available as much as before? Or was I missing something about them that I was only perpetuating by babying them?

All these texts and calls from people who kept wanting things from me, but not one that ever really asked if I was doing okay. If I liked this new town I was living in. If I was enjoying university or what clubs I joined.

I don’t think these people are to blame. I mean, it’s always 50/50. In my past relationships, I avoided all talk about myself. I didn’t think I was interesting enough and then later, I was too much of a mess that I didn’t want to understand it. I didn’t even want to look at myself in the mirror.

But what happened when I became less available was that it gave me time to do just that, to look closely at myself. To realize that I was so broken and under a deep state of depression. That I was constantly anxious. That I was hurting everyone around me. That there was no way for me to be of help to others if I was so damaged myself.

And to those people in my life who needed me to give them more time, more love, more affection, more of myself, I hadn’t been helping them at all. I was merely a band-aid fix. I was helping them distract themselves from the root of the problem. I was trying to take everyone’s pain for myself so that I could deal with it and so that they didn’t have to. But by doing that, I was taking away what would indefinitely make them stronger and I was hiding from my own pain at the same time.

I don’t think my sense of duty is a bad thing. Actually, acts of service is just my love language. But for so long I had it all mixed up. I didn’t choose friends the right way. I felt obligated to everyone in my life even if they were toxic for me. I was hiding from my own pain and covering it up with everyone else’s. It was my own self-destruction as well as their’s. For a person who loves to problem solve and resolve things, it’s frustrating to know that I was just going in circles for so long.

As much as I want to be the superhero in everyone else’s lives, I understand now that I have to be the superhero of my own first. Everything you flourish into the world starts from within and I guess it took me a long time to learn that I can’t help anyone without helping myself. I can only love anyone as much as I love myself. And I can only heal others as much as I have healed me.

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