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.

Spectrum of Consistency: The Power People Hold Over Us

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It’s funny that the posts I intend to write are never the ones that end up being written – at least right away. There’s usually something else on my mind, something deeper that I have to dive into. Something I haven’t acknowledged in my conscious state that finds its way through this mode. Today I was hoping to talk about shame in relation to work, which is definitely coming soon, but instead, I’m going to discuss power. Specifically, I’ll be talking about the power people hold over you. Or rather, the power we allow people to hold over us.

Power is an interesting thing. As a child and growing up, I recognized it as something fatalistic; an egoic way of being. If your life were directed towards gaining power, then you were likely on the wrong path. I understood power in relation to anger. Both of them must coincide, I assumed, mostly because that’s the way I saw it play out in my own home. Power was inflated with money and anger. Power instills fear in others. In the spectrum of a black and white world, power is the most negative of them all.

As I grew, I found myself battling others in a way that I refused to let them have power over me. I was a variation between a pushover and someone who was obstinate. I became better and better at catching someone when they were trying to take advantage of me. In the same respect, I put myself down every time I let it slide and forgave them without even acknowledging the matter of fact. In some cases, I find that I really was getting better at recognizing the parasites I allowed into my life. In other cases, I was only inflating my triggers.

I was an extremist – either letting people walk all over me or cutting them out cold. There was no room for compromise. In my world, there was no reason for it to exist at all. I like giving everything I have to the people I love, but I found that I often attracted those who simply liked to take. So my theory of power therefore was proven time and time again.

In psychology, this sort of behaviour is theorized as the confirmation bias – aka, as the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of your existing beliefs or theories. I was looking for these people, attracting them, for the sole purpose of remaining consistent in my belief.

These people in my life were power-hungry, I imagined. That must be the case. And I, aloof, ignorant, and not nearly as self-aware as I am today, can only continue to get caught in their web. There are only two types of people in the world: Those who want power, and those who want freedom. I, of course, fell on the latter. That’s the way I understood things to be. It was easy, simple, and black and white. But now I understand that it’s also not true.

I think I reached a point where I was willing to be more openminded with what power can actually mean. And from there, I learned that power has its own spectrum and that spectrum is dependant on intentionality. The truth is, there is nothing simple about what this word really means and similar to success, it can vary from person to person, depending on their beliefs and experience in the world. But in general, I think of power as the ability to have an effect on others whether that’s on a small or large scale.

If that’s true, then where power is rooted from is really who you are, because as we all know, our energy transfers and connects. Our effect on others, therefore, is contingent on our relationship with ourselves. Funny how everything always trickles down to this.

Whether we are aware of it or not, we have an effect on every person we meet, and even those we just walk next to on the street. We have an effect on our friends, our family, our partners, our neighbours, our co-workers, our clients. That is power. How we use that, and what we use it for, well, that’s dependant on our own nature. It’s easy to presume a negative connotation of power, but it’s like the sun. It can give you nutrients. It can shine light on your day. It has been proven to have a huge effect on your mood. But then again, it can also burn you. It can blind your eyes. It can do a lot of damage. But experiencing any of these results doesn’t make us turn to the sun and instill some sort of persona upon it. It just is what it is. Not good or bad, but whatever you make of it.

Another example being money – something many of us, myself included, have had a negative mindset about or maybe still do. But money is just a resource. How you use it is dependant on you.

When I understood ‘power’ in that same manner, it felt like everything shifted for me. For one, I didn’t feel like I had to submit to weakness only to avoid being egotistical. And secondly, I felt this sort of strength within myself (that was always there) finally find a space to expand itself. Having this belief system not only meant holding myself back, but it also meant actively suppressing certain parts of myself simply out of fear.

Like Leon Brown once said, “It all begins and ends in your mind. What you give power to, has power over you, if you allow it.”

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.