Tag Archives: men

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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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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Redemption

Life has been a wild ride

Of broken, faltering merry go round
Horses, wooden

Up and down;
Splinters of bygone pain,

Blistering skin,
Callouses, rainy

Storms and tempests wearing thin

Faith in the real

Truest forms of friendship:

The relationships which seal

Longevity with integrity and slip

A thread of hope

Through walls constructed for safety

Guarding hearts; rope
And steel, woven thick

From time and hurt

To keep out tricks,
Lies, false promises, the worst

Betrayals of love and truth.

That tendril curl, a vine
Twisting green, alive, promising
Thriving, growing, twining
From roots deep, shining
Sun’s rays from souls
Tenacious, unfaltering, beautiful
Made stronger with time and full
Knowledge of self;
Of value, of needs, of the world.

Dreams once shelved,
Dusted, cracked open, unfurling
Promises; tomes of wisdom,
Beauty, amidst unforgotten pain,
The surest confidence of future to come
Bright with honest gain,
Seen largely from contrast:

Diamonds of present company

More brilliant against mistakes of the past.

 

 

Image

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A poem. A River Runs From Them. Inspired by Jill Andrews’ “Always Be Sorry”

The deepest of duplicitous loves
Cause for tempests of doubt
Only the passion
Sustained in a vicious cycle
Of fear and distrust.
The greatest betrayals of belief
In a black hole of forgiveness
Transgressions disappearing
Into mercy
Extended once, twice too many times.
A small existence
Narrowed daily by broken confidence
Empty kisses
False promises
Embittered by betrayal of self
Soul sacrifices on an alter of commitment.
A past empty of companionship
A future shattered by fear
Broken glass on a dashboard of dreams.
Wounds so deep
A river runs from them
Memories of moments
Clinging to the dark corners of the mind.
Empty hands
Calloused heart
Virgin hopes robbed of their romance
Life of its sunshine.

Bitter darkness broken
By the sweet siren’s song;
Music, the poetry of the soul
Piercing through the marrow of pain
A thread of hope in the darkness of unforgotten misery.

[thank you to those who have recently revived a passionate interest in one of the greatest loves and the constant salvation of my life… music]

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The Souls that Save Us

The Souls that Save Us

I’ve wanted to write a post for a while about the people in our lives; the constants, the ones that weave in and out, and the transient relationships which play a small yet powerful role in the process of our evolution of character and personhood.

Before I begin, here’s one. You should follow this man. Rarely am I hooked enough by someone’s transparency and writing style to read through the entirety of a post. Want to be inspired, encouraged, uplifted? Check him out:

https://badmuzz.wordpress.com/

There are many people whom I have crossed paths with over the years. I have learned something from each of them. I moved at least 8 (if not more) times in the past few years, and have come across some interesting characters. I have had people encourage, exhort, affirm, build me up; I have had others tear me down, use me, abuse me, mistreat me. I have had those people in my life who simply shine with the radiance of tested character, and the people whose presence is so negative that the room seems to darken when they enter.

Everyone is a part of your journey.

I tell people often that the reason I am not aggressively seeking a relationship, nor am a clingy, obsessive person, is because I have learned many life lessons about a word I overuse but love: transience; the very unquestionable reality of the brevity of existence, of relationships, of materialistic things, and of life. Everything is passing, waning; a breath away from moving on.

7 years of chronic Lyme disease taught me to hold things loosely: to treat them with care, to invest fully where I am (Jim Elliot: “wherever you are, be all there”), and to value what I have been given; but to keep open hands. What I cling to becomes my foundation, and shifts with the sand; the only thing that will endure is my God, and my own character.

I learned to treat my tomorrows without guarantee, to treasure the good people in my life and to remember that nothing given should be taken for granted. I love these lessons; I wouldn’t trade them for 7 years of perfect health and the return on all of the moments I missed as a chronically ill individual during that time frame.

Enter relationships: I feel I may be one of the few people that desires something lasting and beautiful but readily accepts that if something ends, and I have acted with integrity to myself and to the other person, it is because that part of my journey is over, and it is time to move on. Relationships are not an end-all. Make a relationship your everything, make someone your world, and you forget that you really should be with someone who helps you DISCOVER the world, discover yourself. It’s a partnership focused on life and learning: relationships are not an end. They are the means to the greatest end: discovery of self, of the world, and of God.

This also allows me to treat men (and women) like human beings: people I can learn from, hopefully mutually strengthen, encourage. I find my greatest validation in the benefit and impact I am able to somehow have on others. Men are not objects, either for sexual gratification or for “marriage prospecting”. They are people, and many have contributed to my life in powerful and healthy ways.

I have learned more in the last six months of pain and soul-rendering than I have my entire life about myself, others, and the world. Would I wish this on others? No. Would I trade it for ignorance, uncertainty, insecurity of self and less depth of relationship with God? Absolutely not.

Life can bring its worst. I am ready for it. This has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with the unwavering assurance that “when all else slips away, He then is all my hope and stay”. In addition, it has to do with the powerful presence of courageous souls in my life who have paved a way for me, lifted me, carried me, tirelessly loved me… unconditionally so.

I have “Hope Anchors the Soul” tattooed on my right hip, from my favorite verse in Hebrews which says “We have this hope as a SURE and STEADFAST anchor of the soul; that Christ has gone before us on our behalf”. The same is true of the souls that have strengthened mine: iron sharpening iron, men and women teaching me about the depth and the brevity of life.

Thank you to the beautiful souls that have many times saved this one.

Dad: thank you for showing me what real love looks like. What a man should be for a woman, what a father should be to his daughters. I knew what my husband was not, because I know what he should be from your example.

Mom: thank you for your beautiful spirit. You empower others constantly and are the single most selfless person I’ve ever met. You never gave up your identity as a person, so you stand out as a mother who knows and values herself but also loved and pours herself into her family.

Liz: thank you for your ceaseless thirst for knowledge and your incredible capacity for pain. You fight onward when the world and your health are against you. You are my personal hero.

Katie: thank you for speaking truth with courage. Even when we don’t agree, you are the most truth-focused, honest person I know. You say it like it is, but you mean it from a heart of love.

Gran-jan: you are feminist through and through. But you deeply loved Paw-paw. You taught me to stand up for myself and my goals, and to follow-through, among many other valuable lessons. I love continuing to learn from you.

Paw-paw: you have gone before, but I remember you daily. I tell people all the time that you taught me this incredible lesson: “Never lose your curiosity for life; the moment you do, you stop living”.

Josh: thank you for the incredible, deep appreciation you have for women as a gender. Sounds odd, but you do. You cherish your lady friends, you treat them like gold. Thank you for being the first person to tolerate buckets of tears after I left. Thank you for reminding me that being feminine is not weakness.

Max: thank you for being a constant friend. We didn’t date, and we are both glad we didn’t – ha. You value me so much as a person that you want nothing else from me. This is rare, and beautiful. You approach the world with so much enthusiasm. I love it.

Cory: where did you come from? One of the best men I know. Your character and confidence shine as you continue to grow as a man… you are unashamedly you, but humbly so. God has used you powerfully in my life and continues to do so.

Katie D: you are fiercely loyal. I love you for it! You’re a champion of other peoples’ goals. That’s a precious thing. You fought for me when I couldn’t stand up for myself.

Jess, Charisa, Em, Sam, Jordan: you always have my back, and I hardly know you. You all face your own struggles but take the time to affirm me and reassure me of my own value when my past sneaks up and trips up my confidence.

Kenny, Bill: gifts I hardly deserve, purely from hearts of kindness, from people I haven’t even met. Amazing.

Christina, Brittany, Kevin: taking me in like family. Resilient, confident, beautiful people and amazing personalities.

Joe C: kicking butt, going for your goals, steering me gently during a really painful time. You and your family played a crucial role.

There are a million more, I need to stop.

Thank you all. Every single name brings to mind something about you, some way you’ve contributed to my life.

I am a blessed, blessed girl.

Cheers to the bright future. Look for the souls that save you, and take your lessons to heart.

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R-E-S-P-E-C-T

First of all, go listen to this:

Second, go read this:

http://jamesmsama.wordpress.com/2013/12/02/what-love-does-and-doesnt-look-like/

Finally, my turn.

Let’s talk about RESPECT.

The beautiful and classic Aretha sings:

Ain’t gonna do you wrong while you’re gone
Ain’t gonna do you wrong (oo) ’cause I don’t wanna (oo)
All I’m askin’ (oo)
Is for a little respect when you come home (just a little bit)
Baby (just a little bit) when you get home (just a little bit)
Yeah (just a little bit)

When I was a lass, early on in my first real relationship, with my skewed ideas of self-sacrifice and love and my juvenile grasp on self-sufficiency, my boyfriend (eventually fiance) told me progressively that he didn’t like:

– dangle earrings

– boots

-scarves

-hats

-heels

– eye makeup

– tattoos

– my playfullness

– my talking (politely and respectfully) to anyone of the opposite sex

– my affectionate behavior

– my talking in public.

Yes, you read that. There was more, but luckily it all escapes my memory.

My young self, with my stunted emotional independence and church mouse conformity, readily threw away or gave away every article of clothing, accessory, and personality trait he disliked. I worked my @ss off trying to be what he wanted me to be.

Lucky for him, and even luckier for me, things went downhill quickly and we broke things off. He went on to marry the exact opposite of me, and someone who by nature fit the criteria I was forcing on myself.

You would think I would’ve learned from this relationship, but I didn’t.

My next relationship was about 5 months long. This guy had me convinced that his unwillingness to touch me (in 5 months of dating he only ever gave me a side hug) for the sake of purity was normal. I changed my perspective on things that were or were not appropriate, and I took my standards way “up”, in a manner of speaking, so that he felt I could match his level of “purity” (i.e. drinking was a sin, even one drink, and secular music was a pitfall… things like that).

This one ended when I began to realize how unhealthy the pattern was, and I stood up for myself.

My next serious relationship was my marriage. I flew through the process because of the passion, and looking back I wish I hadn’t, but at the same time, I know I would’ve made the same decisions with the maturity I had at the time, so I do not regret it. Life is a learning curve.

Compromise to me, in this relationship, meant a heavy adjustment of goals and priorities both for the sake of military life, and for the comfort of my partner. If my goals and dreams and likes and dislikes upset him, I backed off, suppressed, changed.

I’ve learned this can only last so long.

In each of these relationships, the other person was threatened in some way by my differences, opinions, personality, and dreams. Not only did they each have their own issues, but they were not secure enough to accept the respect I offered, and to offer the same.

I can legitimately, honestly, with integrity say that in my relationships, I am never the one to make demands. I want, beyond a shadow of a doubt, and clearly to an extreme, the happiness of my partner. I will sacrifice everything to secure that. In some ways, this is not healthy. In other ways, I am very proud of how secure I am in of myself to be happiest when my partner is happy, even if things the like, want, do, or change are not my preference.

Here’s the not healthy, and how I’m learning to address it.

1. Respect is a two-way street.

Only boys will project their insecurities onto you. If you have done nothing but honor, care, respect, and love, and they decide to be cagey, jealous, angry, possessive, controlling, and demanding, that is not respect, and it is an undeserved projection of insecurities.

2. Compromise requires constant redefinition.

We like to say relationships require compromise. In a situation, for instance, where I wanted my Master’s degree and was offered an amazing opportunity, was told to turn it down, and did, that was not compromise. Compromise would’ve looked like patiently and lovingly evaluating the situation and making a healthy, adult decision of my own out of a desire to both pursue my dreams and honor my relationships. Compromise is also a two-way street. If there’s something that you don’t like or that makes you uncomfortable, you discuss it openly (you don’t sit on it for months), immediately, and from a heart of love and support, and you do this on a regular basis.

3. Respect requires communication.

When I was deeply hurt or confused by the actions of my partners, I would internalize because I didn’t want to be “that girl”: the bitch that makes a big deal out of emotional, physical, or mental hurt. WRONG. When you respect yourself, you are open with hurt in a mature way so the other person can know they’ve disrespected you. You may be forgiving, but those little hurts, over time, will undermine a relationship.

4. Changing the things you really want, and the way you really are, is only temporary.

If you go with your gut and you choose to recognize who you really are, what you really believe, and what your own standards are; the core values, the personality, the strong preferences and the things that hurt you or bring you down; when you own those things, you recognize you cannot change them. If you try, and many, many people try, it will eventually wear you down or wear off, and the other person will feel hurt and disillusioned and angry because you’re being yourself.

5. The deepest and most beautiful relationships have mutual respect.

Respect that also includes an autonomy: a value of self. Respect that says I love you for your ESSENCE. If you want purple hair and a butt tattoo, I might not like it, but that’s on you. Respect that also says I want to be attractive to and to encourage and uplift my partner, so there are things I can recognize as trivial and can give up or change because they aren’t a part of my essence, I’m not changing who I am. Respect that values the other person’s dreams, goals, ambitions, personality, differences, and delights in them. Respect that cares enough to go deep, to push someone further, to see their potential and help them realize it, even when that means challenging them in difficult ways. Respect that does not lose the value of self in being fully absorbed in someone else, but still wants and desires and longs for the companionship and partnership of the other person.

Next time around,

I want to know I’m valued for the deepest parts of who I am. I want to feel honored and supported. I want to know I have the liberty to do what I like, so that I can make conscious choices to compromise from a place of independent self-assessment and not oppressive control. There are very few things I want so badly (VERY few) that I will not give them up for someone else, but there are now a few things I value so deeply that I will not sacrifice them.

Like respect.

xoxoxo

-sportyspice

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