Tag Archives: passion

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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CANDOR

Sometimes you sit, and you stare at the reality that is your life, and you reflect.

Today I’ve been all caught up in my head space. I spend way too much time overanalyzing my own progress or regression. I am easily devastated by the opinions of anyone I trust, if a negative criticism is suggested.

Today someone suggested I had PTSD from prior relationships. That’ I run from potential. That I have a lot of unresolved issues.

They said this when I suggested that things were moving too fast – that it was important to slow down and build something rationally, explore possibilities without making assumptions.

I sat there, and I wondered – am I damaged?

I’ve been severely ill, abused, and abandoned. What are the ramifications of those three separate life events?

Are we a product of our circumstances, or of our choices, or of our self-awareness? All three? Does my obsessive self-reflection and desire to understand my own psyche help me progress, or do I need to learn to live in the moment? Abandon all learned behaviors and defenses in favor of possibility? What is truly wise, and what is fear-driven?

Sometimes I am so confident that I know myself, and others, I wonder if I’m blind to my own inconsistencies.

My soul is a war of traditional with free spirit – on a regular basis. Reserve and caution and respect for the culture I grew up in, at war with my constant desire to be free and open to the world, to walk around without boundaries, to rebel against the idea that I could be owned or possessed or controlled in any way by another human.

I’ve changed dynamically and exponentially this last few years. I’ve become a person that I NEVER expected to be – but someone I truly love. I never stop growing, changing, evolving, learning.

The more I know myself, the more I realize how much I have to learn.

The problem with realizing how much you evolve and open up and change is that you realize you’re boundless – your limits are unknown. Apart from your moral and ethical code, you have no idea where your journey and self-development may take you. You’re unaware of who you may be in 6 months, a year, 5 years. You can hardly ever say “I wouldn’t”… because you know the “wouldn’ts” you’ve already done.

The older I get, the more I learn myself, the more I realize that being candid with myself and others means admitting that I am a constantly growing, changing, burning, fiercely alive human being. I am passionately and intensely and humanly both consistent and inconsistent. I am reliable where it matters, and transient and changing where life ebbs and flows. Harsh lessons and beautiful connections empower and compel me to change and evolve.

Candor means admitting that sometimes, I do not know what I want. Sometimes, that is purely because I understand my own capacity for evolution – and not because I’m damaged, broken, or unresolved in any way.

I am simply human.

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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 Low-Down on Living Life with Passion

Today is a rest day for me, so while my body woke me up at 5:02 a.m. to get my cardio in and I tried to tell it otherwise, I’m up and ready for the day with a few minutes to spare… and holy SHITTAKE MUSHROOMS that is a rarity these days!

Most of you can relate to the insane hustle and bustle of the race to simply survive these days. I work over 40 hour weeks, sometimes 13 hour days every day, have a two year old, am looking to move to the West Coast soon –  so applying for jobs and getting packed up – and am in school full time my senior year (at 26… hey, at least I’m finishing my degree!). I’m always burnt out. Add to this the stress and specificity of competition training for a national show next year, and you have one tired, decrepit, worn out, burnt out, dragging-my-ass-everywhere momma.

EVERYONE has stressors in their life and EVERYONE feels, at some point, “like butter scraped over too much bread” (thank you Jeeves and Wooster for that one).

Despite all of that, people constantly ask me “How do you live so passionately”?

Part of the reason, without a doubt, is that I spent almost a decade of my life chronically ill and fighting to simply function. Add moderate health and remission to that, and you certainly have a “joi de vivre”, because you know what life is like without normalcy.

HOWEVER, almost two years into remission now, that feeling is easy to forget. So what sustains my zest for life amidst the daily grind, the rat race, the draining hamster wheel of life?

A few, specific things keep me going. Check ’em out:

1. Keep Learning

I firmly believe you are never too old to find something new that interests you. Shop around! Try stumbleupon.com, or luminosity.com, or play a game of freerice.com and trip your brain cells into a little fresh action.

2. Stay Curious

My grandfather once told me “the moment you lose your curiosity for life, you stop living”. This man was learning new things in his seventies: he mastered cooking and french at an old age, because he had an insatiable curiosity for the unknown. Pique your curiosity in new ways, daily. Never stop asking “why?”.

3. Explore

The older we get, the more we risk living in a bubble. Hell, I did this at 18! Don’t get stuck. Find ways to get out of your comfort zone, off your cushion, and explore the world.

4. Make New Friends

This sounds the cheesiest, most gossip-girls-y point of them all, but the truth is, when we stagnate in relationships, we begin to lose our joy for life. Much of what you love and how you fuel passion is through relationships with people who are different from you. Find people you DON’T agree with, but can respect, and nurture those relationships.

5. Don’t Let Experience Rob you of Joy

The most important point of them all, in my opinion. I’ve long found that experience is the greatest teacher, but also the most embittering and disillusioning part of life if you let it be so. If, however, you take your experiences, and you recognize that true character and passion come from within, you will fight to stay strong in your uniqueness, learning, exploration, curiosity, friendships, and you will keep your passion. The more you fight to know yourself, and what you are capable of, the more you will fuel that fire.

“Do not let the world make you hard.

Do not let the pain make you hate.

Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.

Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree,

You still believe it to be a beautiful place”.

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