Tag Archives: love

Closer to Love

Mat Kearney: Closer to Love

Oh it’s your light,
Oh it’s your way,
Pull me out of the dark
Just to show me the way
Cryin’ out now
From so far away…
You pull me closer to love
Closer to love

In the last 24 hours I’ve had two very thought-provoking things happen. The first was when a dear friend asked if I “missed being in a relationship,” after I mentioned the commitment I made to ride this year out single so I could focus on self-reflection and getting to know MYSELF through a variety of people and experiences. The second was when I ran across an incredibly dynamic and attractive individual – one of those people you just instantly connect with, that get you thinking intensely about what you want in life, somehow. You know those people – the game-changers. The “hail marys” of your life that skyrocket you into self-reflection and sometimes, powerful life changes.

Between those two incidents, I’ve been thinking deeply on how my approach to love has changed in the last decade. Thinking about the assumptions I now make about self and world, about how I’ve lost the romance along the way amidst the pain, and about the bigger picture of human relationships and connection.

I’ve been reading an amazing book lately called “Waking Up: a Guide to Spirituality without Religion” (available on amazon – highly recommend it!). In the beginning of the book, the author mentions that people tend to love one of two ways: first, for what you give them or how you make them feel, and second, for who you are. He calls the first “transactional love” and makes a firm point that this type of love exists in a vacuum – it cannot survive if practiced by one or either individual – in any type of relationship. Ironically, I’ve said this in my own way upon reflecting on my past this last few years. I say often that “it is possible to be loved selfishly, while loving selflessly.” 

My own experience of platonic and familial love has been powerful and life-changing. I have an incredibly, unconditionally loving family. Parents who love each other and their daughters with reckless, selfless abandon. I have friends who will be there for me at the drop of the hat – who truly love who I am, regardless of what I can do for them, or how I’ve changed. I’ve magnetized more and more of these people this last few years, and I am deeply grateful for them.

What has been painful for me is the romantic aspect of love. I have a deep, vested interest in the success and wellbeing of every stranger I meet. Truly, I care instantly for people, and want their best. If I only touch their lives briefly, I want to touch them powerfully, positively, and inspirationally. I want to help everyone. I’ve always been that way, and I passionately love this about myself.

This is, however, crippling for me in romantic relationships. In a culture where what we have – what we own – seems to determine our self-value, people seem to be just another commodity to acquire. Something entertaining, fulfilling, satisfying – to discard when the amusement has passed or the newer model becomes available. We’ve marginalized human relationships in our quenchless thirst for the next-best-thing.

I’ve never loved this way. I can honestly say that even in two long, emotional, deeply powerful, monogamous relationships, I’ve felt every day that I wanted the best of my partner first and foremost – even if their best was not me, or not what I wanted. I was more invested in their future, their health, their self-fulfillment, than in my selfishness on any level.

There is a fine line to walk here. I fully recognize that while selflessness is admirable, a martyr mentality is not a healthy approach to romantic love. What I’ve come to recognize the last few years is that love is at times, selfish. Love begins with self-love, and self-love INCLUDES a certain level of selfishness – the courage to say “I want this.” The commitment to speak up when we are hurt. The ability to ASK. 

Somewhere along the way, in the darkest places of my broken marriage, in the corners of my living room – as small as possible, hiding from the world and from my shattering reality – I learned that if I expected nothing, asked for nothing, dreamed of nothing – if I turned fear into open-handed coexistence, if I took away the romance… I was less brutally torn apart by rejection and sharp words and raised fists and a relentless verbal destruction of the things I had always found most beautiful about myself.

I learned not to ask, not to hope, because there is nothing more painful than loving selflessly, and being loved transactionally in return. There is nothing more painful than realizing that you love more deeply and powerfully than your significant other is capable of loving you. There is nothing worse than being loved intermittently, haphazardly, while loving someone with love like the ocean – vast, expansive, endless, deep, constantly moving and changing but always there. There is nothing sharper and more destructive than the careless wounds of someone you love wholly and completely for everything they are, and can be. 

I’ve swung to the opposite extreme these days – not to selfish love, but to the absence of romantic love. I expect nothing, hope for very little, and keep my hands open. I reassure people over and over that I’ll never ask anything of them – that I expect nothing of them – I don’t dream or read into things or romanticize anything, because it is much easier for me to accept the transience of human relationships than it is to hope that something powerful, purposeful, and earth-shattering could come into my life, and remain. 

This year of committing to be single is so very intentional. These are the revelations I need to make – the observations about my extremes that I need to master, to conquer – to find that middle ground. To find the balance between love and martyrdom. To practice discernment in avoiding transactional lovers, but investing fully where I find the possibility of something lasting.

Somewhere amidst the ashes of my former life, there are burning coals of romance and hope and passion and a curious desire to be loved the very same way I love everyone else in my life.

But if there is one, simple way to explain the evolution I am undergoing, it is this:

The more I love myself, the closer I feel to love. 

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What Doesn’t Kill Me

If you look back on a brief synopsis of my life the last decade, you’d wonder how I am who I am today, how I am where I am – and where the hell I’m headed.

  • 7 years of chronic illness. Hospitals, dressing changes, PICC lines, never a normal life like all my friends had from 18-24… so much crying and so much fear. I went to bed wondering how much pain the next day would bring.
  • 3 years of intense emotional and physical pain in my marriage. Leaving and starting over as a single mother. Begging for money from strangers on my drive. Minimum wage, credit cards. The devil at my back, driving me to succeed because a Little Someone needed me to.
  • Moving for an opportunity that fell through 2 weeks after I had spent my entire, meager savings relocating and signing my first lease as a single mother. Getting a job two days later that fell through 2 months later when I was fired for reporting sexual harassment. Washing cars to make ends meet. Studying my ass off to recertify as a trainer. Never knowing every month if what I had would be enough. Eating rice cakes and peanut butter to survive. 11 things in collections… I simply couldn’t pay them.
  • Finally relocating for a better life, with someone I truly loved who treated me well, and MAKING it, first time in my life I wasn’t afraid of not surviving… breaking up 11 months later and facing my life head-on again, with a dramatic increase in living costs, and no help – once again, single mother, running from all of the possible failure at my back.

With the amount of fear and crying and that tight throat feeling I’ve had this last decade or more, I should be a bitter, jaded, angry, person. I should be cynical, fearful of change, living in anxiety and closed off to risks. I should be, but I am not.

“What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” – we have all heard it, but it’s not automatically true.

What doesn’t kill you can leave you broken. Your pain can debilitate you. Change you, degrade you, hurt you. Leave you alone in the darkness.

What doesn’t kill you can leave you destroyed – a shipwreck of humanity on the shores of broken dreams and one too many prayers for salvation.

Or…

It can make you stronger. But you know what the difference is in that “or”?

It’s just YOU. YOU are the difference. Your choice is the difference. Your determination, your ability to keep your chin up no matter how many times life throws a left hook and drops you. No matter how many times you’re beaten down and broken and hurt and afraid, no matter how many times you hit the “can’t” wall – no matter how many times life abuses your hopes and tarnishes the beauty of your optimism – YOU ARE THE DIFFERENCE.

You decide what you will make of your pain. You decide what will come of your past. YOU. YOU DECIDE.

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL TO ME. The little things are precious. Human connection is empowering. The ability to relate to others in pain I’ve experienced is priceless. Faith is a beacon. I don’t sweat the small stuff. I live hopeful, determined, progressive, disciplined, driven, strong. The world is bigger, more open, less limiting for the limitations I’ve experienced.

Life has never been easy for me, but my callouses are hard-earned, and impenetrable. I’m tough as nails, because I CHOSE TO BECOME STRONGER.

I am deeper, wiser, kinder, more hopeful, more loving, more outward-focused, more joyful, because life didn’t kill me. It didn’t break me. I pick myself up every damn time, and I FUCKING CHOOSE TO LIVE.

Here I am in sunny San Diego, surrounded by amazing friends, strapped again but LOVING the fact that I GOT MYSELF HERE. I toughened up, I CHOSE. I DECIDED TO BE STRONGER.

What didn’t kill me made me BEAUTIFUL.

Never forget that YOU are the determining factor in your life… who you become will be a result of what you choose to do with what COULD kill you. BE STRONGER. BE WISER, BE MORE FAITHFUL, DRIVEN, PASSIONATE, OPEN, LOVING, KIND, POWERFUL, CAPABLE…

Be STRONGER.

I believe in you.

smile

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The Importance of Being Earnest

If you haven’t seen the iconic “Importance of Being Earnest” movie, it’s a fluffy, cute romantic comedy starring some fan favorites. You can check it out here. The movie is based on a book by Oscar Wilde, and stars two men pretending to be something they are not… and remembering this film sparked some thoughts for me today.

Our culture is increasingly driven by two powerful “I” words: Ignorance and Image. It feeds off of those who can pretend to be what they are not, and those who believe them. Problem? I think so.

This generation is more belabored by bull shit than any previous generation. We’re surrounded by photoshopping, inflation, exaggeration, comparison, greed, and lies. We’re inundated with it. We live and breathe it.. and most likely as a result, we think it.

When you’re constantly exposed to small amounts of toxic chemicals, they can kill you. In the same way, the constant barrage from a culture based on things that are FAKE (Image) can promote similar tendencies in our own behavior if we are not keen to ascertain them (Ignorance).

Some people are clearly and maliciously fake. They pretend (and pretend very well) to be something or someone they are not. To want things they don’t want, to be what they think you want them to be for whatever end they are serving. Others of us, like myself, may slip into these habits from ignorance – from a lack of alertness to this common cultural bias toward being fake.

I see this in how I present myself to people. I may cater my words, retract a perspective, suggest something that is slightly untrue but not entirely false in order to gain approval or commendation. I may not do this maliciously, or often, but I may still do it. When I do it – or when I catch myself doing it – I hate it. I hate everything about it.

I’m from the old-school society that things that your value depends heavily on how much Integrity you have – another “I” word that is a million times more powerful than Ignorance and Image. When you have integrity to what you believe, who you are, what you stand for – and additionally, to the good and respect of others… you can do amazing things, and you can live with yourself.

It’s so easy to cave to this culture, to forget that we so quickly cater to the people around us in small ways. It’s so easy to let your guard down and be what someone wants you to be because you love them or because you simply want them to like you. But it is so, so detrimental to your character, and your relationships.

This can play out in some odd ways you might not expect. Someone asked me once if I regretted anything from my relationship with my ex-husband. I had to think about it pretty heavily. I finally realized I did have one regret – I regretted lying to him for years. Sound appalling? It is, but it was more subtle than you think.

These were lies of omission – of omitting how I really felt and thought about things. How I felt about him yelling at me, about porn affecting our relationship. How I felt about never seeing him, never getting time together. About his hours and hours on the computer and me crawling into bed alone every night. About sexuality when he wanted it, but only when he did… and always when he did, and how he wanted it. I lied about who I was by not saying how I felt. By not standing up for myself. By not being honest when things hurt me. By the time I did, he was genuinely shocked that I remembered every single hurt, abuse, and neglect. Every single malicious word. Every put-down. Every time I paid for his bad days. I remembered Every. Single. One.

My dear friend Josh was the unfortunate beast of burden right after I left my ex and drove in the middle of the night many hours away. He had to listen as I poured my heart out, brokenly, about finally leaving. About fear and pain and loss and hurt. We talked about a lot of things and he called me out when I said that my ex forgetting every little thing about me every day – likes and dislikes and holidays and birthdays and anniversaries – never hurt me. He said “when did the romantic Jen die? You know, it is okay to be a woman.” I burst into tears.

Have you ever heard the phrase “We accept the love we believe we deserve?” Neither had I until this year. But that is so damn true.

The more you lie to yourself, the more you omit things in your relationships, the less you say when things hurt, when they break you down – the less you listen to your gut instincts, the less you are honest with others about who you are, what you want, and where you’re headed – the more you cater and cave and conform… the more you will find yourself playing right into a culture of Ignorance and Image.

You’re losing your Integrity.

The little things that bother you. The repeated hurtful words. The distance or the disregard. Those things will destroy you – they will destroy your relationships if you do not speak up.

Have the integrity to operate outside of a culture of lies. Be earnestly, completely, fully yourself. Fully honest with yourself, and with others. If you do love someone and you do care about them, be honest now. Speak up now. Be real – NOW. Before it is too late and one day you break, and you’re real and raw with them and everything falls apart because it was based on lies.

The truth will either make your relationship stronger, or it will break you apart – and if the truth breaks you apart, you never would have made it. Wouldn’t you rather know now?

Be honest with yourself. Be honest with others.

Be real, and true, and raw with the world.

Be you.

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10 Reasons to DQ Your Long-term Girlfriend

Whoa, whoa, that’s not nice, right?

Maybe, but truth is, it can be very hard to discern at times where we are blind when it comes to making the decision to take a relationship further (whether that means saying four little words, or making a verbal commitment, moving in together or buying some bling).

My target audience is usually different, but this one’s for the boys: this is for you blind lovers out there who can’t really decide when you’ve got all-that up in yo FACE and you WANT IT… when she pitches constant bitch fits but makes some amazing lasagna… when she’s a dog person, and you love dogs… but she can’t spell her own name.

Here’s how to decide if you should make that leap… or nah: Here’s 10 Reasons to DQ Your Long-Term Girlfriend. And because I know half of you boys won’t read anything this long, scroll to the bottom for a summary.

10 Reasons to DQ Your Long-Term Girlfriend

1. She likes shiny things more than paying her electric bill.

Long-term relationships require some responsibility on the part of both partners. If your girl is slinging diamonds and Prada instead of making her rent payment on-time… it’s a DQ. Long-term relationships require an awareness of and adherence to adult responsibilities. 

2. She can name every character on Jersey Shore but thinks “suffrage” for women is as inhumane as the way Jionni treated Snooki on Season 2. 

If you haven’t seen it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lysWbzQyiWw.

Apparently the majority of women these days don’t even know basics about history and culture. If your girl lives in a tiny bubble full of fist-pumping, oompa-loompa-colored Italians with grammar problems… it’s a DQ. Long-term relationships need big-picture partners (she doesn’t need to be Einstein, but she does need to care about something of value). 

3. She can’t leave the house without a 90-minute primp session, even when you’re already 283 minutes late. 

The older you get, the more you realize that while RESPECT demands some level of self-care,  SELF-OBSESSION is marked by a constant clinging to insecurities at the expense of honoring your commitments. If she’s unwilling to sacrifice a perfect image to respect yours (or others’) time… it’s a DQ. Long-term relationships require respect for others. 

4. She knows every Taylor Swift song by heart but can’t remember the name of your favorite team.

This may seem trivial, but the things that matter most to you should matter to your girl. While she may not be able to list off the entire starting lineup for for the Lakers or your current level of achievement in World of Warcraft, she should be able to recognize a few key things that matter to you. If not? DQ. Long-term relationships need partners who care.

5. She’s a constant bitch-track about her job, her family, or her friends. 

Let’s face it, you might be able to handle a little whining here and there… but picture that ish for 20 years. Can you really stand her griping on replay… forever? While you should be able to be honest and complain once and a while with your partner, there’s like, totally, a limit before you like, want to shoot yourself. Does she even DO anything about the things she “can’t evens” about? If not… DQ. Long-term relationships require partners who contribute positively to each other’s lives. 

6. She expects you to fix everything. 

We aren’t talking household appliances here (sorry boys, if she can’t that one’s on you), we’re talking life shit. All of that stuff she might complain about (see 5)? If she expects you to fix everything, she ain’t the one. Can’t leave her alone for an hour without worrying she might fall apart on her own? Not a good sign: DQ. Long-term relationships aren’t truly codependent, they require partners who can each take care of their own shit. 

7. She’s her own breed of Hungry Hippo when it comes to attention from other guys. 

This is bad, bad, bad news bears. Here’s a good example:

Recently my boyfriend and I had a “tiff”. A guy friend I’ve known for a long time (and never dated) commented something sarcastic on my Instagram – it looked like a compliment, but I know him, he’s a sarcastic bastard and it wasn’t intended as a nicety. I replied with an equally sarcastic kissy face emoji. What I saw? A joking, friendly, non-romantic, non-flirtatious interaction with an old friend in good nature. What my boyfriend saw? Flirting. Lucky for me, I’ve never broken his trust so a quick explanation and a post adjustment was all that was needed to smooth the situation over.

However, it’s something I see all too often: girls hungry for the attention of other guys – in public, in social media, with “old friends” in private, at school… and their guy doesn’t see the warning signs. If your girl’s crack is another guy’s gaze (no pun intended), DQ her. Long-term relationships require benchmark fidelity (and constant flirtation is just a foreshadowing of bad things to come). 

8. Her only friends are you and her Pomeranian, “Sprinkles”. 

Like it or not, in the long-term, if your girl’s friend list as as short as that skirt you love, you’re in trouble. You cannot and will not ever be anyone’s everything.  These relationships fail, FAST. Guaranteed, if she’s putting you on a pedestal now, later on when you disappoint her in some way (you will), or when you’re unavailable and she feels “lonely”, you’ll be the fall guy. I’ve seen so many girls blame their man when he “falls short” because they’ve made everything in their life about him, or become jealous of his (even male-only) own friendships. If your girl can’t make a few good friends independently of you, it’s a DQ. Long-term relationships require outside relationships for support. 

9. She’s your biggest cheerleader… NOT. 

It’s been said too much because it’s super, totally, completely, like, awesomely, but really – TRUE. Your partner should be your most relentless supporter! If what you want and what you’re doing and what you are passionate about isn’t directly hurting her or anyone else, she should be championing it. She should be the one saying “babe, pick up the guitar” or “go for it, you can do it” or “you’re getting better and better!”. If your girl is more hyped to start the next season of Gossip Girl than she is for your band’s debut at a local dive bar, DQ her. The example might seem silly, but it’s spot-on. I’ve seen so many relationships fail when people realize that the other person wasn’t willing to support them, or to pick them up when they failed after multiple tries. Long-term relationships require partners who passionately champion each other’s hopes and dreams. 

10. She freaks out like a squirrel on crack if you don’t text her back.

Oh boys, this one is so big. Don’t dig this grave! If you can’t leave your phone for 5 seconds without a dozen self-defeating messages, DQ her!!! Example:

8:43 Babe: hey lover, good morning (insert string of dumb emojis here)

8:44 Babe: hey, you awake?

8:45 Babe: I know you’re awake, I just checked your Facebook, where are you

8:46 Babe: are you sick? are you okay?

8:47 Babe: you’re mad aren’t you, about the other night – that’s stupid, seriously babe?

8:48 Babe: i’m really worried about you! text me back, what the heck? are you seriously that pissed?

8:49 Babe: i’m crying, you made me cry. great, i have to go to work looking like shit.

9:43 Babe: i’m on my way to work, you better call me later i’m super pissed. this is ridiculous, you’re a child. i’m dating a child.

I KNOW you’ve all dated or talked to that girl! DON’T COMMIT! Long-term relationships require partners who are SECURE in the care, affection, and interest of the other. If you’ve never done anything to break trust, and neither has she, this kind of shit has no place in a long-term commitment.

Because I KNOW most guys only skim, here’s a summary.

  1. Long-term relationships require an awareness of and adherence to adult responsibilities. 
  2. Long-term relationships need big-picture partners (she doesn’t need to be Einstein, but she does need to care about something of value). 
  3. Long-term relationships need partners who care.
  4. Long-term relationships require respect for others. 
  5. Long-term relationships require partners who contribute positively to each other’s lives. 
  6. Long-term relationships aren’t truly codependent, they require partners who can each take care of their own shit. 
  7. Long-term relationships require benchmark fidelity (and constant flirtation is just a foreshadowing of bad things to come). 
  8. Long-term relationships require outside relationships for support. 
  9. Long-term relationships require partners who passionately champion each other’s hopes and dreams. 
  10.  Long-term relationships require partners who are SECURE in the care, affection, and interest of the other.

Cheers, and best of luck.

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The Power of Experience

Day three  – in a row – of blogging. This has certainly never happened before, and it feels as good as my coffee tastes this morning. 

The older I get (as I approach the ripe age of 27, ripe being an apt adjective for this post), the more I realize that when people said “you won’t understand until you’re older”, what they’re really speaking of is experience. 

There are some things that you simply cannot learn without time and experience. 

This valued ingredient of maturity, experience, is also the reason why some people age and never mature. There are people so sheltered, who run and hide from the challenges, risks, successes and failures that life brings, and as a result fail to develop the depth of character that can come from experiencing more of the world. 

The majority of the unexperienced are narrow-minded, and lack empathy and respect. 

It is fairly impossible to be immature without being unexperienced. 

Here is the best illustration I have for you:

Growing up, I was quite sheltered, as has been previously discussed. This kept me from much pain, but also slowed my maturing, and kept me close-minded, arrogant, and self-righteous. 

I would hear about women who were married, unhappy, wanted a divorce, and I would be shocked, and make generalizations common to the church culture: “Well, she shouldn’t have gotten married if she didn’t realize marriage was work”. “Divorce is way too easy these days”. “They need counseling”. “She didn’t ever love him if she wants a divorce”. “If she prays more fervently and realizes her heart is deceitful, she will come around”. 

One woman left her husband, and weeks later was with another man. My brain processed: “Adulterer”. “Sinner”. “Slut”. 

My categories for right and wrong were limited simply to what I had heard was right. They were limited by my inexperience.

Years later, many years later, I left an abusive marriage. I was a shell of a human being. Destroyed emotionally, and terrified. I felt I had no value. I was lost and broken. If I had stayed in that marriage, I strongly believeI would have eventually killed myself (or been killed) from fear and depression. Very few people knew anything of that marriage but the happy exterior. The young me, the inexperienced me, looking in, would have been appalled that I left. Shocked that I wanted a divorce months after I left.

But it was right. 

Months after this, I was on the road to recovery in abuse counseling. I was dating. 

What. Dating? And still legally married. 

The young me, the inexperienced me, would have been stunned.

But it was right. 

Even more stunned when, after months of a few dates with various individuals, I met the love of my life, a gentle, amazing, kind, empathetic, patient, loving man, and he moved in with me, long after I left my ex-husband, but before the final processing date for the divorce. 

Technically, according to law, I was a married woman living with another man. Our separation paperwork agreement allowed for this, but my younger “conscience” would not have. Nor would the culture I grew up in, I’m sure. 

But it was right. 

Looking at every step of that journey, I regret none of it. I know exactly why every decision was made, and made in good conscience. Experience has taught me that many things which seem so very black and white are never so until you walk through them, alone, yourself; painfully, slowly, sincerely, with all of the emotional wrestling matches you will encounter on the way, and all of the incredible “AHA!” moments that experience brings with those painful struggles.

It is to my shame that I made so many harsh judgments of others growing up. The older I get, the more I learn to never judge what seems a certain way from the outside. Unless someone is hurting someone else or directly self-harming, no judgments are made. I cannot speak without walking in their shoes, and the likelihood is, because I haven’t had to, I wouldn’t be strong enough to understand the lessons they are learning, anyway.

Experience is the greatest teacher, and the most painful one. 

I note, painfully, the inexperience of people I know, as a reason for their judgment, arrogance, and self-righteous behavior. 

Purely and simply, people fear what they do not understand.

Put more clearly, they fear what they have not experienced. 

Fear drives people to judge, hate, and hurt.

Be slow to judge what you cannot understand, what you have not been called to experience. Respect the painful journeys of others, in their own uniqueness, with their own set of trials and understanding.

And pursue experience. Take risks, interact with people outside of your “experience circle”. Learn from them, learn to love and respect the differences, and release fears of the unknown. 

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Let’s Light the Fuse

So today, I’m sipping coffee (again) in Berkeley (again) before my fasted run (again), and not complaining (at all).

And today, my uncle Tim is marrying the love of his life, his partner, Bennie. 

Today, I’m attending my first gay wedding. 

And today, I’m going to discuss what I never branch into discussing, because it’s such a hot-button topic: gay marriage. 

I grew up in an incredibly conservative, restrictive, cult-like Christian culture. Gratefully, my parents moved away from that when I was 18, and started their own church, which helped me break out of a lot of brainwashing, lies, bigotry, distortion of scripture, and self-righteous, fear-driven, extra-biblical “law”.

I also grew up in a culture which was composed of at least 75% broken, miserable, unhappy, abusive, chauvenistic, fucked up marriages, with the other 25% being purely beautiful, full of respect and love (my parents’ is one of the amazing ones). 

But even after we left, I still would have told you that gay marriage was “sinful” and “wrong”.

Fast-forward 8 years. 

Fast-forward through 7 years of chronic illness, 3 years of a broken, abusive, unbiblical “christian” marriage, rape, two years of motherhood, several moves, unemployment, and many broken moments of single motherhood; fast forward through a shit ton of life experiences, and you’ll find ME.

Me, learning to redefine my religion from a basis of LOVE, open-mindedness, and experience with the “God” I KNOW. 

The “God” I pray to, talk to, still believe exists, who held me together and helped me find my feet and myself and my way through illness, abuse, and recovery, he LOVES. 

There are several ways to approach this issue.

I could say that according to the Bible, God created marriage to be for a man and woman, but all of that was distorted and changed at “the fall”. Therefore, what matters is that these people, in this day and age, are loving and respectful of each other, and we shouldn’t expect everyone to have “straight” marriages anymore. 

I could say that biblical law is archaic, that banning gay marriage goes right up there with wondering if we should still stone people for adultery or lying. I could remind you that much of old testament and new testament scripture is ignored by church culture. 

I could point out the discrepancy between “christians” who get drunk, who have sex outside of marriage, who do many things you aren’t SUPPOSED to do, and still condemn another “sin” – the sin of gay marriage – despite their own transgressions. 

I could remind you that Jesus ate with tax collectors and prostitutes, so even if you don’t think gay people should be married, you have no right to condemn, abuse, malign, ostracize or disrespect them.

But what I find myself doing – as I struggle to pick up the pieces of a once seemingly rock-solid faith that was in truth completely untested by time, maturity, and the pain that life brings – is arguing simply and irrevocably from a position of LOVE. 

I have learned to love what I believe mirrors the characteristics of the God that I know. The Being that created a world that should’ve reflected love, respect, integrity, friendship, companionship, affection, joy, family, giving, community… “peace, patience, kindness, no record of wrongdoing, delighting not in evil, but rejoicing with truth”. 

Through all of the pain I have incurred, I have learned to simply and purely respect what is GOOD: what builds up and draws together and demonstrates LOVE, at it’s selfless, priceless, genuine essence, and to reject that which is EVIL: which pulls apart, which causes pain, which puts down and destroys, selfishly, fearfully, and without sincerity, full of hypocrisy. 

For this reason – because I love these two people, because they love each other, because I simply respect what they have built over many years with each other; the people they’ve drawn together, the community they’ve created, the respect and integrity they share – for this reason, I stand behind them today, and I delight in doing so. 

Happy wedding day, Tim and Bennie!

Thank you for unintentionally pushing me to grapple with yet another issue that leads me to a place of loving myself, and others. 

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A Clash of Culture and Common Sense

I’m sitting here this morning, sipping on black coffee, baking egg whites in muffin tins and putting off my fasted run in 99% humidity, and I’m musing over some recent self-revelations that have been disturbing to me. 

I’m in a relationship now, with a wonderful man. A genuinely wonderful man. The honeymoon phase is over, and he’s still a wonderful, wonderful man. 

What has been so disturbing to me in recent days has been the self-revelation that happiness is unsettling. I don’t know what to do with it. I’m like a child, given a strange, new toy. It delights me, enthralls me, exhilarates me, contents me… but I’m surprised by it every time I look at it. I’m wondering when it will be taken away, because it is so very delightful. It seems to be logical that with how beautiful and strange and wonderful it is, it won’t last. 

Disturbing, isn’t it?

We live in a world where the altruism of youth is absolutely eclipsed by the hedonistic self-obsession of our society. As we age, we are taught more and more to pursue ambition, gratification – instant gratification – possessions, status symbols, achievements. The value of human relationships at their essence, has been lost to us. 

This culture seems to have accepted that what is best for us is what is best now, how we want it, when we want it. What we say, do, intend, think, believe, encourage, promote, value, and request in our relationships, both platonic and otherwise, is centered around what WE WANT. 

In addition, we live in a culture that has lost a sense of SELF-VALUE. There is a wild difference between SELFISHNESS and SELF-AWARENESS. Knowing WHO you are has been lost in a mad scramble to identify, to fit in, to make others happy, to self-gratify.

The very sad truth is, if you look at common sense, and you look at relationships, the ones that last are grounded in two very, very important things which fly in the face of current culture:

1. Selfish self-awareness

2. Selfless conduct

Those two seem mutually exclusive, do they not? Let me explain.

One of the most valuable lessons my destructive young marriage taught me was that without self-value, without self-awareness, you cannot be selfless. Without a true knowledge and love for who you are independently, autonomously, you will never be able to make the right kind of sacrifices in a relationship. 

Imagine for a moment a dragon (I love dragons… nerd moment alert), and a treasure trove. The dragon knows he lives in a cave, with his treasure trove, but he is blind. He doesn’t know what he has. He has a small sense of it, but he can’t see it, can hardly feel it. A stranger comes to his cave, and wants to take some treasure. The dragon has two recourses, because he doesn’t know what’s actually available to him. One: hoard, protect, fight for all of it. Two: sacrifice some of it, but without knowing which of the pieces are most valuable and important to him, because he cannot see them.

Corny illustration, I know. Best thing I could think of. Bear with me. 

So imagine now, yourself. You have very little self-awareness, very little security in who you are. A stranger comes into your life, wants to help themselves to some of YOU. You don’t know yourself, your values, your loves and hates and what parts of you are most important to you, so you cannot conduct yourself selflessly, effectively in that relationship, because you don’t know which parts of you are too important to sacrifice, and which parts you can freely give without incurring bitterness or resentment later for giving those things to someone else that you really wanted to keep for yourself.

In order to GIVE you have to know and value appropriately what you HAVE. 

In order to survive and thrive in a relationship you have to know how to be SELFISHLY SELF-AWARE so you can operate SELFLESSLY where you are able to. You have to know what you’re willing to give up, and what you’re going to fight to preserve.

THIS is the knowledge I come back to when I am disturbed by how confused I feel by how happy and content I have been with this man. From this last year of so much pain and frustration, I have fought for, won, and learned who I am, what I value, and what I am willing to give. 

And that has made all the difference, this time around. A beautiful, valuable, wonderful difference. 

Take the time to understand YOU, and make sure your partner does the same. 

Don’t let this selfish, insecure, image-driven, ignorant culture drive you to selfish, or selflessly UNaware relationships. Use common sense, and find yourself first, and give from that deep knowledge of who you are. 

“To say ‘I love you’, 

One must first know how

To say the ‘I'”.

-Ayn Rand

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Evolution of Self

Evolution of Self

I woke up today, and I went to brush my teeth… and as melodramatic as it may seem, I stopped, and I looked in the mirror. And I saw myself, for the first time in a long, long time.

I saw a woman who is a fucking fighter, who never gives up and who champions her own dreams when no one else will.

I saw a mother who has scraped together a living for her and her son, who refuses to live in fear and torment of tomorrow’s worries by delighting in today and working her ass off without complaining.

I saw a daughter and sister who revels in the beauty of her family’s unconditional love and support.

I saw a friend who is honest, straightforward, no bull shit, true to herself, and puts others first on the reg.

I saw a girl, who was so lost, so hopeless, so empty, so without self-awareness, or knowledge of her own beauty and inner strength and potential… I thought I saw her, and then she was gone. She is gone. I don’t see her anymore.

Now I see me. I see resilience, tenacity, faith, courage, relentless confidence in the promises that tomorrow brings.

This is not boasting. This is beautiful, powerful self-awareness that has come through MUCH pain, trial, hardship, counseling, and a never-ever-ever-give-up mentality. It has come through acknowledging aloud every struggle and downfall and steep climb. Through empowering others and learning wisdom and deriving strength from coming alongside them.

I see beauty. I am beautiful. I don’t know why, and I am not full of myself, but I am. I am beautiful. I genuinely see it.

I see strength. I have an emotional strength that is unbeknownst to many, but that everyone is capable of achieving. I am so. Strong. I have survived SO much. I am a champion.

I see love. I love others selflessly, without looking for what I can get from them. I treat others well even when I am mistreated. That is real love.

I see intuition. A woman who FINALLY goes with her gut and listens to herself and does not apologize for it. Those gut decisions have never steered me wrong.

I see faith. Tested faith. Confidence in the promise that I will never walk alone, no matter how alone I feel.

I see integrity. Someone who is true to who they are when the world thrives on duplicity and secrecy. Someone who is straight up and confident but open-minded.

I see potential. So. Much. Potential. Mentally, emotionally, and physically. Who I am today I was not, or did not see, a few months ago, or over 9 months ago when I walked out that door and drove, sobbing, begging strangers for money for gas, to West Chester, PA, where I stayed in my old boss’ attic for 2 days with my son before I moved home to my parents’ house. I did not know then, what I was capable of, who I am.

I have so far to go. So much to learn. So much to do, so many people to help and inspire and lift up, so many to be inspired BY.

But I see ME. I see her. That WOMAN. In the mirror… and I love who she is, and all she is becoming.

What an incredibly powerful feeling. I have to share this quote again:

“You can be the most beautiful person in the world and everybody sees light and rainbows when they look at you, but if you yourself don’t know it, all of that doesn’t even matter. Every second that you spend on doubting your worth, every moment that you use to criticize yourself; is a second of your life wasted, is a moment of your life thrown away. It’s not like you have forever, so don’t waste any of your seconds, don’t throw even one of your moments away.”
― C. JoyBell C.

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Beauty

Beauty

I shed tears tonight for the first time in a while.

Not for anything recent, but for the self-revelation of these last eight months or more; the deep, abasing knowledge that I gave so much of myself to someone who debilitated my heart over the course of many harsh words, criticisms, and pain, like acid, dripping on a ruby red stone.

When I left, I was still in a daze. For about a month I rode the high of freedom and the conceptual reality that I could spread my wings. Shortly after, I realized I was still chained to the ground, emotionally and mentally and in some ways physically; a prisoner of the past and of enabled allowances for degradation of self.

I began to realize that I had allowed my integrity to myself to be swallowed up in the all-consuming desire to make someone else happy; to conform to their reality, their opinion, their ever-changing versions of temporal happiness and pleasure. I lost myself, in being someone else, for someone I never asked to change for me.

The damages of this extend through to today. I am growing in confidence, there is a smile in my eyes. There is a person – and actually many persons – in my life who show me what it means to be seen, trusted, respected, acknowledged, affirmed, valued, and I am daily more aware of the deep worth I bring to the world, and to others.

Yet amidst this there is a conflict of self-analysis: a fear of acknowledging beauty or desirability, a constant, nagging thought that nothing good will last, that I deserve nothing so good as what is being given to me: that joy is only transient. There is a deep war between wisdom, learned from pain and struggle, and fear, also learned from the same.

Daily, I attempt to sacrifice fear on the alter of hope. Sometimes I win, sometimes I do not.

One very screwed-up way that fear manifests itself in my mind right now is an unwillingness to admit to any physical beauty – I think because I gave myself so completely to someone who informed me that I was no longer desirable or noticeable to them, I downgraded my self-perspective so that I could make sense of that type of pain.

People may tell me all they like, but I go in and out of seeing what others seem to see so clearly. This is no attempt to fish for compliments, because they are regularly given, but until I acknowledge it myself, accept it myself, understand it myself, remember myself that I am beautiful, it will not truly resonate.

I often wonder how to get there.

Grief is a journey, and a journey you cannot rush. I grieve the loss of my innocence, of my integrity for several years, of my stability in some ways emotional and mental. I am determined to reacquire all I had, and beyond, but fear sidelines courage on a regular basis.

I have learned to surrender to the ebb and tide of emotion. These days, it is far less violent and the waters of my tempestuous thoughts are regularly more still as glass. Slowly, surely, daily, the chaos of my life is unmatched on a mental level: I find myself retreating from the insanity into the peace and self-awareness I find in my own heart, rather than fleeing to the busy chaos of my world to escape the upheaval of my mind.

Much progress has been made, but much more is to come.

Say what you may, time is the truest healer. There is no band aid for what has been done to me, for what I accepted and endured. No quick fix, no easy button. Time will heal my wounds if I simply keep pressing on. Time will help me to learn, believe, and accept that I am beautiful, inside and out. Time will show me value beyond what I even knew I had before all of this pain.

I don’t believe in regrets, because we choose to learn from our experiences. There is much value in my life I would not recognize were it not for the pain I went through. However, if I could speak one thing to my younger self, or to anyone in a jealous, controlling, fear-dominated, volatile relationship where they are conforming to someone else’s desires for them, someone else’s picture of what they should be, it would be this:

let go. Now. Don’t do it. Stop. Run, flee, turn, escape. Never, ever, ever, change who you know yourself to be; never sacrifice your integrity on the alter of false emotion, great sex, a desire for companionship, fear of being alone. Never, ever, ever back down from your sense of who you are to make someone happy. Stand your ground, or pay the price. Compromise of character is a surrender of everything that will truly sustain you in the long run.

Do you know who you are? Find it. Acknowledge it. Refine it. Accept it.

Do not change it.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
― Mary Oliver

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Time

Toss a pebble of sorrow

Into an ocean of memories

Salty with tears

Ripples of unfulfilled promise

Waves of emotion
Crashing on the shores

Of bitter sand; grains of beautiful shells

Once homes to cherished jewels
Laughter, friendship, and hope.

Gaze on the shoreline
A mellow moment of history’s introspection
Reflection of shimmering sun’s rays of joy
Darkened by clouds of shattered dreams
Tempests of self destruction
Helpless at the helm.

Listen to the wind whisper stories past
Vivid imprints of the footprints of a soul
Ghostly shadows of haunted dreams
Frustrations brightened by threads of past beauty
Clipped, snipped, broken, a tapestry undone
A landscape unpainted
A story, with no final chapter
A neverending storm with an eerie final calm.
 
Sink into sands of time
Memories slipping through fingers
Coarse, real, tangible, present
Shifting, falling, moving, passing
Eroded dunes of opportunity
Withheld but barely by thin roots of seagrass
Clinging desperately to a past heavy with companionship.
 
Hear the albatross cry hope
Over the siren’s song of the past
Horizons bright with promise
After blood red setting sun
Captain’s pride
Destiny’s wake
Strong oars
Weathered hands
Bright sails
Steady wind

Tomorrow’s promise.

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