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Pressed: And They Lived Happily Ever After

8 Aug

And They Lived Happily Ever After.

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And They Lived Happily Ever After: July, 2015

Shelley Robinson

Warranty Runs Out at 50: Sometimes it takes travelling away to see a new relationship for what it really means to me. Being on a trip to Hungary, Slavakia, Austria, Germany and Holland on a river boat cruise given to my sister and I by my parents to share with them, forced me to really take stock of who I am having just turned 50, and my new relationship with Chris. First of all, I had not counted on the first five months of our relationship to be when my body warranty decided to come up for renewal. Medical issues crept up on me from my bladder to shoulder to incredible work fatigue and now to a matter with my eyes. Chris had not counted on losing a position that he had quit a position for in Alberta in order to move back to the Comox Valley so that we could leap into this relationship with both feet; and, as well, so that he could become better connected with his family on the island.

However, I still see our new romance like a fairy tale. Like all fairy tales promise ” and they all lived happily ever after”, actually seemed possible for me in this new situation. I am interested in knowing what that actually means. I hope to explore that more with Chris who has agreed to document some of our journey together in order for us to make sense of it, and as well, to share our ideas with others who are learning about relationships.

Jumping Right In: Regardless of our life obstacles that seemed to jump out in front of us at every turn, Chris and I embraced our new dating relationship with a bit of wild abandon. We started with a romantic trip to Tofino. Here we explored the rain forests of the west side of Vancouver Island. Soon after, I took him to my little cottage on Pender Island where he helped me to set it up for the season. I was so pleased to share this little hideaway that I had been keeping to myself most of the time. Then we backpacked into the Elk River Valley, and experimented with our new hiking equipment. We planned how we would approach our next treks together, and more importantly, how we would lighten our pack loads. Trips to Victoria, Calgary and then again to Pender Island helped us to solidify our relationship by meeting friends and family. Words of love and forever were shared, and we started to believe in each other as a strong partnership that might enable us to approach our life dreams in new and dynamic ways.

The Peanut Gallery: Like all new relationships, there is always commentary from the gallery (family, friends, colleagues and other). Everyone has advice for the new couple, but more importantly, they want to make sure that Chris and I are incredibly happy. “Happy”, by the conservative definition, means being very very careful. “Are you sure?” “How do you know?” “This seems very fast.” These kinds of comments were anticipated, and surprisingly, despite a few cautionary tales, we were well-supported by most of the people that we cared about, despite a couple of disappointments. It seemed to be a consensus that at 49 and 50 we really had more to lose by not trying out something that we could see to be so very special, than by being laden with fear and speculation. Everyone seemed to say how lucky we were to believe that we had found our soul mates. “Taking on a new relationship would take hard work”, was the general theme of most conversations, and I was prepared to learn what I could from some of my married friends and family. It continued to surprise me that after so much time as a dedicated single person, that I had finally let down my guard to become a couple.

A Second Look: What I am finding as I look at our relationship from a distance, is that I am learning more about relationships by jumping into one than by standing precariously on the edge wondering what it might be like. It has not been our first time apart given that he was in Fort MacMurray for work, and then I was in Austin Texas on holidays for some of our time together. However, being away from Chris until the end of the month, has forced me to really evaluate where I am standing in my head and heart in our new connection together. What is abundantly clear, is that I miss him very much. What I have learned through our exciting romantic encounters, and through some real life challenges are the following three things that perhaps I am only seeing now for the first time as an older person in a new relationship:

Sex is Important: At this age, if the sex isn’t good, it is telling of the relationship. Sex is the relationship thermometer of so many things. It is good to be with someone who has a similar intensity about the physical side of a relationship as I do. This means learning to be as creative as possible while understanding what makes the other tick in so many vital ways in and out of the bedroom. Sharing a strong sexual energy with each other is a spiritual connection for us, and it helps us stay very close in ways that words and actions are not always capable of doing otherwise.

Intention, Words and Actions: Follow-through is the foundation of trust. What has meant more to me than anything about my relationship with Chris is his commitment to do what he says that he will do. We have agreed to “say what we mean and then do what we say”. I cannot believe how this is playing out so well in terms of us trusting each other. When he says that he is going to do something, despite a few normal circumstances, he always gets things done. Perhaps this type of behaviour is a sign of maturity, but it was seriously lacking for me in previous relationships. When his words turn into actions, it feels like respect to me, and I believe that it encourages me to do the same for him in return.

Mind the Gap: One thing that we have agreed to do regularly is to “check in” with each other. When we speak about checking in, it is about connecting with each other in really deep and intentional ways. We ask each other questions, usually at the end of our day, to insure that we are close and connected. Sometimes these conversations have led us into some really interesting directions because we are forced to disclose how we are truly feeling with each other where we might normally have skirted over topics in favour of a good night’s sleep. We have also agreed to talk about things when issues arise and to anticipate and respond to matters where we feel that there might be a gap developing with each other. This has been our biggest joy and challenge together to learn how to do this together.

Reflections: In a nutshell, anyone can be in love, but not everyone can stay in love. Both Chris and I have experienced the devastation of failed relationships. It can be a humiliating thing to lose people that we believed we would stay with us in long term relationships. However, we both believe that we had the good fortune to learn from our previous experiences so that at this time in our lives, we can be sure to give each other our best. Chris is always telling me that he wants our relationship “to be extraordinary”. He also says quite regularly that he wants to learn to be the best boyfriend that I have ever had. What a wonderful thing to say to someone that you love.

I have much to learn to be the best girlfriend in return. I stumble over my humanness on a daily basis. I learn more about myself and Chris everyday, and I hope to continue to feed this relationship with grace and kindness wherever possible. We both believe that we have been given a special gift, and now we have the choice to decide what we do with this chance afforded to us by the universe.

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.

Albert Schweitzer

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Forty-Eight: What Happens When God Answers?

17 Jun

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Forty-Eight: What Happens When God Answers?.

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Getting Bossy with God:  Elizabeth Gilbert references in her book entitled Eat, Pray, Love this idea of petitioning God for what we want. Earlier this year, I made a very deliberate request to have certain things happen to me in order for me to be the best that I could be for myself and everyone around me.  It felt a bit like bargaining with God and saying, “Look God, I have been waiting for a long time to find, accomplish or experience certain things in my life, and I am determined to make this happen.  Your help is required, and I hope that you will ‘step up’ and help make it happen.  If you do, I can fulfill my dreams and be in a place of greater abundance to help others as well”.  It was not a typical experience to negotiate with God as a conservative Protestant who was always a little bit shy to ask the universe for anything knowing that I am better off than most people around the world.

However, I had been waiting 49 years for one very important thing in my life–a relationship with someone special–a champion.  I wanted a relationship in this new and wonderful place where I had dared to start a new life on Vancouver Island.  People were starting to worry about me being alone, saying things like, “There is no perfect person out there, and you might have to lower your standards.”  I always shook my head and responded quite confidently, and convincingly (even to myself) that I knew what I was looking for.  I would find it, and when I met him, I would know it.

One of my friends asked me, “What if you had to wait until your next life time to meet someone?  What if you are not intended to meet this person now or any time soon?”  I replied pretty definitively, “No, I am not prepared to wait on this one, nor die in order to experience another lifetime to do so.  I am going to get bossy with God and say exactly what I want, and when I want it.”  The deal that I had made explicitly with God was this:  Meeting someone special to share a life with would need to happen before I turned 50 years old.  This relationship would need to be a good fit, and so much so that I would feel very “wowwed” by this person.  The “wow” factor was something very important to me.

She continued to debate the matter, “You don’t need to have someone in your life.  When you are ready to really love yourself, you will not need anyone else, or you will attract someone to you who loves you just for you.”   Of course she is correct.  This is absolutely the case.  I have spent many years learning how to love and respect myself on many levels and for many personal and professional outcomes, not just finding a partner.  However, I felt ready.  In fact, I was liking myself so much that I was starting to choose my own company instead of going out with people on dates on the off-chance that they didn’t have crazy deal-breaking habits that I could not overlook (smoking dope, lying, being married, being a workaholic, posting naked pictures online, cheating, anger management issues, addictions, etc.)

And then one day…just when I was pretty close to closing down my online dating site (as it always seemed a bit more like viewing America-Canada’s Most Wanted than a perfect life mate), I got a message.  He commented on my profile picture that happened to be a picture of me in the exact same setting as his profile picture on the top of Mt. Maxwell on Saltspring Island.  We were posed similarly, and had the same gorgeous Gulf Island view behind us.  I was in a practical mode of thinking at that point, to meet over coffee.  My observation in the cyber dating world was that there is a serious “failure to launch in the real world” phenomenon of emailing and texting, and I was not interested in this type of protracted dating process with little outcome.  Given some recent dating encounters that I had experienced since I had moved here, a couple of which had gotten my hopes up about, I did not want to invest too much energy and hope into something until I investigated the situation first hand.

We efficiently negotiated our early morning meeting time and place like a business deal in a quick phone call.  It felt like a business transaction.  You can tell a lot about someone by their ability to engage in a phone call.  He was polite, responded to my questions, and asked me a bit about myself.  I had been used to phone conversations where I either had to carry the entire interaction, or had to sit listening in a zoned out state of utter disengagement.  Instead, this gentleman had phone call etiquette figured out, and I liked him immediately.  I reminded him that I would prefer to meet him in person instead of walking in the woods alone with a stranger, which was his original suggestion.  I joked that I might be an axe murderer, and it might be in his best interests to meet me in a public place.  He agreed.  We met for breakfast in downtown Courtenay.

At First Glance:  It did not take long for me to know that I would love this man.  Not only did we like the same food, but we loved to hike.  We quickly decided to go on a walk by the ocean, and I noticed that we were literally tripping over ourselves to talk about what we liked to do; and the types of experiences we hoped to have in our lives.  We did not talk about our personal lives (families, ex’s or anything really intimate).   It was an immense relief not to be interrogated by someone about personal matters that I preferred left to a later time.

The topic of travelling quickly identified itself as a priority to us.  I had done more than him, but he was keen about it.  He had lived a few places around the world because his father had been in the military, and liked being centered in a home base on the island.  I had lived in one solitary city all of my life, and had travelled to escape the monotony of living in one city for my whole life.  However, we both agreed that as we approached turning 50 (although he was quick to remind me that he was 10 months behind me from doing so) that we had to start putting some other priorities ahead of work and family.  It was quickly apparent that we were the responsible types, used to taking care of other people–the stable, yet predictable backbone of society that had the potential of propping up others instead of ourselves.

At one point on my dating site, I had simply asked, “Who is interested in travelling the world?”  I had a couple of responses, but none that were very serious about the idea.  Most men wanted to travel the world (and never had), and those who had travelled the world were somewhere else in the world at this time living a nomadic experience far beyond my reach.  This fellow seemed tenuous about life changes, but keen to reconsider a life plan where he was presently working in Fort McMurray to frugally save and help support his family.  I presented to him early on in our walk, the fact that at some point soon, I intended to quit work and travel the world.  He did not baulk at my candid admission which I usually used to scare men who lacked any sense of wonder and adventure, away.  However, in his own even-tempered way, he considered my question, and he seemed interested.

See You Around Sometime:  However, just when I though the date had gone well, he dropped me off at the car, and left me with the words, “I had a great time.  Give me a call if you would like to do something outdoors.  I hope to see you around sometime.”  I smiled, and thought to myself, “Like hell…”  I have never been interested in passive men lacking initiative, and especially a man who would choose to leave me to ask him out on a second date after one that I felt had gone very well.  I smiled and said, “See you around sometime,” and walked away.  As I drove home, I thought to myself glibly, “Well, you win some and you lose some.”

The next day I got a text.  He invited me out for a date for dinner.  A text, I pondered, was not the best way to be asked anyone out, especially me, but it was a start.  I contemplated the demise of our social norms as texting in sound-bytes in incomplete sentences and poor spelling or grammar was quickly becoming the new social reality.  I had grown up in a face-to-face age.  However, I decided that I would meet him again because I had enjoyed our first date.

Oh, by the way…:  Somewhere between a walk on Goose Spit in the Comox Harbour and our date for dinner at the Atlas Cafe, I knew that something magical was happening to us.  We talked about very innocuous things–in fact, we talked a lot about nothing at all.  We spent most of our evening talking about places we had been and food that we liked to cook.  I liked the simplicity of the encounter, and his good humor in response to most topics.  He was witty, and made me feel interesting.  The conversation was easy, and it was pretty apparent that we shared some similarities that we marveled at each time something came up that we had in common exclaiming, “Me too!” numerous times throughout the evening.  It was obvious that we had good connection.

He drove me home, and kept his hands nervously on the steering wheel as we said our good nights.  I asked for a hug, and we awkwardly exchanged ones in the confines of his sports car.  He mentioned just as I was leaving, “Oh, by the way, I will be away for three weeks with work.”  Long distance was not something that I had met with success in my life.  In fact, no one I knew had ever found it very easy.  I was alarmed that I had the good fortune of meeting someone so special, but would be yanked away from building this connection any further for almost a month.

I smiled.  I said good-bye, and made a decision to answer God.

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Forty-Eight: What Happens When God Answers?

10 Jun

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Getting Bossy with God:  Elizabeth Gilbert references in her book entitled Eat, Pray, Love this idea of petitioning God for what we want. Earlier this year, I made a very deliberate request to have certain things happen to me in order for me to be the best that I could be for myself and everyone around me.  It felt a bit like bargaining with God and saying, “Look God, I have been waiting for a long time to find, accomplish or experience certain things in my life, and I am determined to make this happen.  Your help is required, and I hope that you will ‘step up’ and help make it happen.  If you do, I can fulfill my dreams and be in a place of greater abundance to help others as well”.  It was not a typical experience to negotiate with God as a conservative Protestant who was always a little bit shy to ask the universe for anything knowing that I am better off than most people around the world.

However, I had been waiting 49 years for one very important thing in my life–a relationship with someone special–a champion.  I wanted a relationship in this new and wonderful place where I had dared to start a new life on Vancouver Island.  People were starting to worry about me being alone, saying things like, “There is no perfect person out there, and you might have to lower your standards.”  I always shook my head and responded quite confidently, and convincingly (even to myself) that I knew what I was looking for.  I would find it, and when I met him, I would know it.

One of my friends asked me, “What if you had to wait until your next life time to meet someone?  What if you are not intended to meet this person now or any time soon?”  I replied pretty definitively, “No, I am not prepared to wait on this one, nor die in order to experience another lifetime to do so.  I am going to get bossy with God and say exactly what I want, and when I want it.”  The deal that I had made explicitly with God was this:  Meeting someone special to share a life with would need to happen before I turned 50 years old.  This relationship would need to be a good fit, and so much so that I would feel very “wowwed” by this person.  The “wow” factor was something very important to me.

She continued to debate the matter, “You don’t need to have someone in your life.  When you are ready to really love yourself, you will not need anyone else, or you will attract someone to you who loves you just for you.”   Of course she is correct.  This is absolutely the case.  I have spent many years learning how to love and respect myself on many levels and for many personal and professional outcomes, not just finding a partner.  However, I felt ready.  In fact, I was liking myself so much that I was starting to choose my own company instead of going out with people on dates on the off-chance that they didn’t have crazy deal-breaking habits that I could not overlook (smoking dope, lying, being married, being a workaholic, posting naked pictures online, cheating, anger management issues, addictions, etc.)

And then one day…just when I was pretty close to closing down my online dating site (as it always seemed a bit more like viewing America-Canada’s Most Wanted than a perfect life mate), I got a message.  He commented on my profile picture that happened to be a picture of me in the exact same setting as his profile picture on the top of Mt. Maxwell on Saltspring Island.  We were posed similarly, and had the same gorgeous Gulf Island view behind us.  I was in a practical mode of thinking at that point, to meet over coffee.  My observation in the cyber dating world was that there is a serious “failure to launch in the real world” phenomenon of emailing and texting, and I was not interested in this type of protracted dating process with little outcome.  Given some recent dating encounters that I had experienced since I had moved here, a couple of which had gotten my hopes up about, I did not want to invest too much energy and hope into something until I investigated the situation first hand.

We efficiently negotiated our early morning meeting time and place like a business deal in a quick phone call.  It felt like a business transaction.  You can tell a lot about someone by their ability to engage in a phone call.  He was polite, responded to my questions, and asked me a bit about myself.  I had been used to phone conversations where I either had to carry the entire interaction, or had to sit listening in a zoned out state of utter disengagement.  Instead, this gentleman had phone call etiquette figured out, and I liked him immediately.  I reminded him that I would prefer to meet him in person instead of walking in the woods alone with a stranger, which was his original suggestion.  I joked that I might be an axe murderer, and it might be in his best interests to meet me in a public place.  He agreed.  We met for breakfast in downtown Courtenay.

At First Glance:  It did not take long for me to know that I would love this man.  Not only did we like the same food, but we loved to hike.  We quickly decided to go on a walk by the ocean, and I noticed that we were literally tripping over ourselves to talk about what we liked to do; and the types of experiences we hoped to have in our lives.  We did not talk about our personal lives (families, ex’s or anything really intimate).   It was an immense relief not to be interrogated by someone about personal matters that I preferred left to a later time.

The topic of travelling quickly identified itself as a priority to us.  I had done more than him, but he was keen about it.  He had lived a few places around the world because his father had been in the military, and liked being centered in a home base on the island.  I had lived in one solitary city all of my life, and had travelled to escape the monotony of living in one city for my whole life.  However, we both agreed that as we approached turning 50 (although he was quick to remind me that he was 10 months behind me from doing so) that we had to start putting some other priorities ahead of work and family.  It was quickly apparent that we were the responsible types, used to taking care of other people–the stable, yet predictable backbone of society that had the potential of propping up others instead of ourselves.

At one point on my dating site, I had simply asked, “Who is interested in travelling the world?”  I had a couple of responses, but none that were very serious about the idea.  Most men wanted to travel the world (and never had), and those who had travelled the world were somewhere else in the world at this time living a nomadic experience far beyond my reach.  This fellow seemed tenuous about life changes, but keen to reconsider a life plan where he was presently working in Fort McMurray to frugally save and help support his family.  I presented to him early on in our walk, the fact that at some point soon, I intended to quit work and travel the world.  He did not baulk at my candid admission which I usually used to scare men who lacked any sense of wonder and adventure, away.  However, in his own even-tempered way, he considered my question, and he seemed interested.

See You Around Sometime:  However, just when I though the date had gone well, he dropped me off at the car, and left me with the words, “I had a great time.  Give me a call if you would like to do something outdoors.  I hope to see you around sometime.”  I smiled, and thought to myself, “Like hell…”  I have never been interested in passive men lacking initiative, and especially a man who would choose to leave me to ask him out on a second date after one that I felt had gone very well.  I smiled and said, “See you around sometime,” and walked away.  As I drove home, I thought to myself glibly, “Well, you win some and you lose some.”

The next day I got a text.  He invited me out for a date for dinner.  A text, I pondered, was not the best way to be asked anyone out, especially me, but it was a start.  I contemplated the demise of our social norms as texting in sound-bytes in incomplete sentences and poor spelling or grammar was quickly becoming the new social reality.  I had grown up in a face-to-face age.  However, I decided that I would meet him again because I had enjoyed our first date.

Oh, by the way…:  Somewhere between a walk on Goose Spit in the Comox Harbour and our date for dinner at the Atlas Cafe, I knew that something magical was happening to us.  We talked about very innocuous things–in fact, we talked a lot about nothing at all.  We spent most of our evening talking about places we had been and food that we liked to cook.  I liked the simplicity of the encounter, and his good humor in response to most topics.  He was witty, and made me feel interesting.  The conversation was easy, and it was pretty apparent that we shared some similarities that we marveled at each time something came up that we had in common exclaiming, “Me too!” numerous times throughout the evening.  It was obvious that we had good connection.

He drove me home, and kept his hands nervously on the steering wheel as we said our good nights.  I asked for a hug, and we awkwardly exchanged ones in the confines of his sports car.  He mentioned just as I was leaving, “Oh, by the way, I will be away for three weeks with work.”  Long distance was not something that I had met with success in my life.  In fact, no one I knew had ever found it very easy.  I was alarmed that I had the good fortune of meeting someone so special, but would be yanked away from building this connection any further for almost a month.

I smiled.  I said good-bye, and made a decision to answer God.

Pressed: Fifty-Two Weeks Begin Now: Week Forty-Three: What Trouble Teaches Us

31 Oct

Fifty-Two Weeks Begin Now: Week Forty-Three: What Trouble Teaches Us.

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“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen

Nobody knows my sorrow

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen

Glory, Hallelujah”  Louis Armstrong (traditional)

Standing on the Edge:  I was on an airplane with few movie choices, and I stumbled across a thought-provoking one called A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby.  It is about these four unsensational, but depressed characters that find themselves up on top of the Topper Tower in London all looking down contemplating the jump.  They are embarrassed to be exposed to each other as they find themselves on the same humiliating journey looking down to the ground.  After some awkward conversation, they agree to put off their decision to jump for six weeks.  They decide that if they still feel the same way on Valentines day, that they will meet and resume the jump.  However, predictably in the interim, they find that by knowing that they are no longer alone, and by seeing each other through the mirrors that are vulnerably held in front of them by each other, they find other ways of seeing and then resolving their difficulties.

What I have found in my human journey filled with markedly exciting and successful highs, and some periodic difficulties, is that trouble can insidiously shape us in some pretty unnervingly long term ways if we allow it to happen.  Sometimes it takes someone to say, “Hey, actually the problem is not this way, or that way, or that big.  You are just seeing it that way.”  Each time we have a problem that we delicately avoid, shove under the carpet, or feel that we have successfully averted, we become more adept at avoiding looking life in the eye through fresh and resilient lenses.  More often, we spend a lot of solitary time trying to “…to rebuild [ourselves], piece by piece, with no instruction book, and no clue as to where all the important bits are supposed to go” (Hornby, 2014). As a result, after each little break in the glass, when we finally stand back and look out of our windows, we have a very distorted view of life out there.  Our “cognitive distortions”, ranging from “tunnel vision, all-or-nothing thinking, should and must statements, worse case scenario thinking through to personalization, overgeneralization” (Beck, 1995), and many more disfunctional thought patterns, begin to rule how we conceive of the world around us.

The Trick is to Pretend and Not Let It Happen Again:  What we learn as children when we fall down, burn ourselves, or have something painful happen, is that in the future, we steer clear from making the same mistakes again.  The whole goal of our human conditioning is to avoid pain at whatever costs.  However, as we get older, the maze of “avoiding life’s difficulties” becomes pretty complicated.  We get lost in it.  We lose other people while we or they are in it.  Then, we stay clear of all things because there might be some remote possibility that something awful that we experienced before, might jump out at us when we least expect it.  We deny.  We blame.  We hide.  We do not “cope” in the really profound ways that allow us to get back on the horse and keep riding onward. We know when we get triggered by past episodes.  Our bodies start to tense.  Our breathing gets faster.  Our muscles get ready to fight.  However, our brains turn off because our blood flow is relegated elsewhere in our state of flight and fear.  The majority of the population gets lost in this trigger trauma cycle.  No one likes going down these scary rabbit holes, so they are either hyper-vigilent to prevent any problems (doing everything right), or hypo-vigilent to respond to them (numbing out and apathy).

The Mind’s Eye:  What has dawned on me lately, as I live on my own and have to grapple with difficulties by myself, is that troubles are only as big as I choose to make them.  It took a few recent falls to see that I am going to continually fall as long as I “live”.  Now I need to learn how to fall, and not how to avoid falling.  I remember learning how to roll and fall on cross country skis.  It was something that was expected to happen when we skiied, and as a result, when we fell, we knew how, and didn’t think much of it.  The key is to get up and to look at what happened and learn from it.  However, it is very important to not take on crazy reactive behaviour because we take what happened to us too personally and own more of the responsibility than is ours to own.

What I am discovering about my own life is that my circle of influence is pretty small.  There is really very little that I can truly control in my life other than how I think about my experiences.  I can make some choices within the context of my home, my work, my society, my culture and the world; however, there is a randomness in the universe each and every day that I live out loud.  There is always going to be some asshole who is going to say his or her rude comments and be obstinate just because I have an idea that is new or different, or that he or she did not think about first.  There will always be some obstacle standing in the way of some outcome (not all) that I am trying to achieve.  There will always be some cost-benefit analysis that I will have to do to make my straight lines to happiness a bit loopier than I want them to be.

The key for me lately is to stand my ground:  What do I need?  What can I leave?  What matters?  What does not matter?  I need to be clear about these fundamental questions in the moment of each experience that I live so that if I am triggered, I can breathe and say, “I don’t need to address this right now or ever!”  That is a choice I can make each and every time I feel my defences kicking in, and I experience what I perceive to be trouble coming my way.

Trouble in Partnership:  What I am also learning lately as I date and discover with whom I am interested in being in partnership, is that people do not have to be similar in many ways, and sometimes not even all that perfectly compatible except in one way:  Do we know how to solve problems together?  If people can agree on how to see and solve trouble together, we have a better shot at a relationship than all of the fairy tales stories we grew up believing would be our romantic outcomes.

The difficulty is that there are not many problem solvers who want to sit in the eye of the storm either independently or interdependently and “take it on”.  We are in a wounded world of avoiders, defenders, and fair weather seekers.  It is not easy to find that special someone who is well-versed in the matters of handling difficulties with a level head and heart.  Many of us look, connect, sense a little trouble, and move onward.  In established relationships, some are healthy teams of trouble shooters, but many marriages are filled with land mines and danger zones that are delicately side-stepped to stay “happy” together.

Stay Awake:  I encourage all of us to really look at all of the things that scare us–the people, places, things, experiences, memories, and ideas.  Sometimes they are hard to conjure up as we have become desensitized.  Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know until someone points it out to us.  However, when we are ready, it helps to get raw and vulnerable and find out what frightens us, why it hurts us, and then start examining how to address it each and every time it happens… because it will happen over and over again until the day we die.  It means responding, and not reacting.  As well, when we are awake to it, we can stop asking everyone around us to walk on eggshells to avoid hurting us, and start getting a bit stronger about dealing with what real life experiences have the potential of giving us both good and bad.  It puts us in charge of our own life experiences and what we believe about it.

Let’s stand away from the edge so that we don’t feel as if we are on this dangerous precipice each and every time trouble arises with the fear of falling over.  Better yet, let’s make sure that there never comes a time that we feel the need to jump off.

The self is a mystery. In our efforts to pin it down or make it safe, we dissociate ourselves from our complete experience of whatever it is or is not” (Mark Epstein, The Trauma of Everyday Life).

Pressed: 52 Weeks Being Now: Week Forty: Silent Knowledge

12 Aug

52 Weeks Being Now: Week Forty: Silent Knowledge.

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Stopping to Listen: Every so often we get caught up in the inertia of our lives and in the words and actions that precipitate what we believe to be the “truth”. We are so busy trying to figure out what the truth means, that we lose the essential point of why we are trying to learn it in the first place. We want to experience joy. We want to experience love. We believe that the absolute truth will allow us some sense of security in knowing our goodness and that of those around us. Then, and only then, can we experience true joy and love. However, the truth is only a story that we tell ourselves, or that we allow others to interpret of us:

“I am only one half of the message; you are the other half. I am responsible for what I say, but I am not responsible for what you understand. You are responsible for what you understand; you are responsible for whatever you do with what you hear in your head, because you are the one who gives the meaning to every word that you hear” (Ruiz, 2010, p. 104).

Usually, we listen to the words of those we hope are telling us the truth. We watch their actions. We try to align their words and actions so as to have them make testaments of what we need to believe to be true. However, in the end, it is all a story. It is a perspective, and what truly matters is what is beneath the story. “The truth is silent. It’s something you you just know; it’s something that you can feel without words and it’s called silent knowledge” (Ruiz, 2010, p. 110). I refer to it as intuition.

Quiet Communication: Intuition is sometimes fed by little clues. If we really listen, we hear someone’s character by subtler things found in between the words and actions. These sometimes imperceptible details become magnificent, in particular when we are at odds with ourselves and each other. Compassionate details matter most in moments of difficulty. For example: the sound of the patient breath; a loving look; our tears wiped; a patient tone; loving eye-contact; arms open; whispering tones of gratitude; no rushing; quiet rest; the benefit of the doubt; a hug; a loving presence; strong persistence; a belligerent belief in our internal goodness despite the proof in the moment of something less; a hummed melody; pure stillness; compassionate space and intimacy; staying awake; a caress; a touch on furrowed brow; a knowing look; and never ever feeling ignored. All are quiet forms of love that are somewhere between or beyond words and action.

When we show this quiet love, we believe in ourselves more. This silent belief in our own goodness are the roots that we grow into the ground around us. These are the roots of disciplined empathy which I like to call integrity. These roots give ourselves and people confidence in us, even when the wind blows.

Although you are a talisman protecting a treasure,
you are also the mine.
Open your hidden eyes
and come to the root of the root of your Self.
(Rumi, Root of the Root)

When we are quietly strong this way, we and the people around us always know that we only tremble a bit in the storms, or when we are tired. Regardless, we remain standing, and continue to grow upward into the sunlight. There is a tacet understanding that unless we are forcibly chopped down, or burned, our goodness is intrinsic and constant. We do not tire from being this way because it is a good way to be, but it takes effort. We see no limitations to it because we understand that “the mind that perceives the limitation is the limitation” (Buddha).

If we are really listening, we do not question the internal goodness of ourselves and others because it is just there, sometimes covered up by confusing words, and complicated actions and the assumptions that we draw from both. However, if we are really listening, we hear each other in deeper timbres. We know intuitively of the pain and the love that resides deeper inside of us and those around us. We ask different questions. We appreciate the power of the pregnant pause when we respond, not react. We step forward into the wind, not backwards. We sing inwards, rather than shout outwards. We pull forwards rather than push away.

Don’t go away, come near.
Don’t be faithless, be faithful.
Find the antidote in the venom.
Come to the root of the root of your Self.
(Rumi, Root of the Root)

In other words, when we are rooted, we stay. We stay present. We stay connected. This staying is the silent knowledge of our spiritual love as compassionate people in all of our complexities.

“Human beings are millions of things in one day.”
― Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down

Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Seven: Getting High and Staying High

3 Aug

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Seven: Getting High and Staying High.

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Getting High: Everyone wants to get high–metaphorically, literally, spiritually, through drugs and alcohol, artistically, sexually, or other. What is interesting to me is that most people don’t know what “getting high” actually means. As well, we don’t understand the following:

-We don’t know why we want to get high so badly
-We don’t know how to get high in safe, healthy, or relevant ways
-Once we are high, we are not always sure how to really appreciate it

As well, most people who do get high, want to replicate it over and over again in exactly the same way. We think that if we just re-do the same steps, in the same way, that the same outcome will result. However, the nature of any ecstatic experience is that usually we cannot re-formulate it through mere repetition. Each time, some different variable comes into play that requires the need to be attentive, creative and intentional so that there can be new unique and wonderful outcomes.

Of course, this takes effort. People who do not want to make the effort usually end up taking drugs; resorting to simulations on a computer; or need some other extrinsic catalyst to jump start them into the sublime.

Hot Air: An example of getting high for me was a hot air balloon trip in Capadocia, Turkey (see pictures below). The last time that I had taken a balloon ride prior to this adventure, was in Calgary, Alberta a decade previously. It had been a less than thrilling experience on a cold morning with a grumpy husband who wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the whole early morning escapade. As well, as we ascended into the air, our little son was waving up at us with a worried expression, wondering if his parents would disappear into the clouds and never come down again. (Because of his alarm, my father took it upon himself to follow our balloon by driving through the city underneath it to the safe landing spot, reassuring his grandson all the while). As a result, I remember the whole balloon ride as a feeling of mixed emotions about why I was doing such a far-fetched thing in the first place without my son, and with my, now, ex-husband.

As a result, when the suggestion to go up in the air with complete strangers in a foreign country, came about, I wasn’t sure that I would find the experience to be anything more than this botched attempt at getting high in the same way the first time around. While the crew began the launching process in the pre-historic landscape of this famous Turkish desert valley, the sunlight was just starting to appear on the horizon. In the darkness, the blasts of the burner flame sounded like hungry dragons, as they heated the air through the balloon mouths. Once they were air buoyant, we jumped into the balloon basket. We were all a bit nervous as the box swayed sideways before launching, but finally the ground crew released the balloon into the pilot’s capable hands.

Magic in the Ascent: As we ascended, magic began to unfold all around me. This balloon ride was different. I was surrounded by a few fellow travellers who were as equally interested in being “mesmerized” as I was by the ascent. Their enthusiasm was contagious. The desert landscape below filled with miles upon miles of wind burrowed rock formations (which we call hoodoos in Canada) was absolutely breathtaking.

As well, the Turkish balloon companies did not, at this time, have any regulations about how high they could actually fly. I had been told in my first balloon flight about the Canadian guidelines because of the dangers of flying too close to the sun, and other elevation precautions. In Turkey, words like “guidelines” or “precautions” never came up. He seemed more interested in sharing with us what we would see, not what might go wrong. All the while, we just kept getting higher and higher. At one point, when I looked down, I realized that I was “high”–very very high. Any fear or trepidation about heights was something that I should have thought about before the trip because here I was…up in the clouds. I breathed in the height. I kept my eye on the beauty, and I revered in the experience. All of it was simply too beautiful for fear to step in and ruin it for me.

Some of the high had to do with the pilot. I trusted him. He spoke confidently about the height. He seemed credible and capable handling the balloon. He pointed out what would be happening before, during and after the trip so that we were at ease. He had a certain “enthusiasm” (coming from the word “entheos”, which in Latin means “of the Gods”) that awakened me to what I could expect. However, I was confident that everyone in the basket would see and experience something very different from each other. The flight was also gilded in gold for me because of my openness to trying it–again. I was a different person this time around. I had the capacity to get high, and I appreciated the joy of doing so in a way that I had never experienced before. I was high on my new status in life. I was free.

Staying High: What amazes me about the whole experience is that the balloon ride was not the real crux of the experience for me. The rush was my willingness to embrace all aspects of the experience. I was doing something that other people had done a thousand times, but for me, it was as if no one had ever done this before. How could the universe be this wonderful? Why was I so fortunate? What would I see, and remember from the experience? For the duration of the trip, I was out of body. In memory of it, I find it surreal to consider how magnificent the view was, and I am still high in the recollection. I was in another world. I was on another planet. I was flying high. And what is most important to realize about this existential height experience was that there were no drugs required, then, during the flight, and now, in the remembrance of it (although I am sure the adrenaline rush released a bit of dopamine). This was flying high for real, inside and out.

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Pressed: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Five: There is Something About Roberts

22 Jul

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirty-Five: There is Something About Roberts.

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Roberts Abound: It is with some trepidation that I confide a phenomenon in my life that revolves around the many Roberts that I have met as friends or dated. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and at the risk of sounding like a Robert stalker, or a delusional Robert reporter, I was told recently by a friend that perhaps I should share my interesting Robert journey and see what people think. It is an interesting tale.

The Tale of Roberts: From eighteen years of age on, I have had the good fortune of knowing many Roberts. I have been single most of my life, so I have had some periods throughout it where I have been dating and not in a significant relationship. Until recently, it had not really dawned on me how many “Roberts” I have known. Just to clarify, I have never actually sought out, nor asked out a Robert. Instead, they seem to find me…on trips, in stores, at sporting events, at special events, etc. For example, when travelling to Italy, I met a Roberto. I also was friends with a Robert from Australia for years. Very recently, I was asked out by yet another Robert. It finally dawned on me that something supernatural about Roberts was unfolding. I sat down and made the connection. In some ways, it felt embarrassing to know that I had overlooked this very glaring phenomenon for so long. What was it about Roberts?

Robert the Recent: Recently, I have been writing a novel with the main character named Robert. It seemed natural to choose this name as a protagonist seeing that this male name kept popping up over the past thirty years of my life. The choice was unconscious until I had my recent epiphany. The irony is that shortly after I started writing this novel, another Robert, or “Rob” entered my life. He tried a couple of times to get my attention. It was then that I started connecting the dots. Again, what was it about Roberts? I shared with him my interesting background with his name, and he was intrigued (and likely taken aback a bit) by the unusual circumstances. (Had the situations been reversed and he told me the same about Shelley’s, I think I might not have responded with as much grace).

Behind the Name: I wonder if perhaps, my last name “Robinson” has anything to do with it in some sort of magical or spiritual way. Robin is a derivative of the name Robert, and thus, “the son of Robin” could be the same type of equivalent to Robert. Another possibility is the sheer popularity of the name. In the United States, the name Robert is ranked as number 62 on the popularity scale. The name itself is from the Germanic name Hrodebert meaning “bright fame”, derived from the Germanic elements hrod “fame” and beraht “bright”. It is true that all of the Roberts that I have met have been nice men, and interesting to be around–gentlemen.

The Universe Conspiring: What I wonder is why the universe is conspiring to have me meet Roberts. Or, am I supposed to have learned something from Roberts and then move on?  Perhaps I am to stay clear of Roberts.  It is just an interesting anecdote worth sharing.  

Cheers!