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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

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: 52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 29: A Fatherless World

8 Jun

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 29: A Fatherless World.

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Absent Fathers: On the advent of Father’s Day next week, I have been thinking about this topic of fathers. It has often been my observation throughout my lifetime, and again, more recently, that many of the men in my life (not all), have had what they have described as fatherless experiences. This is not to suggest that they were all orphaned (although this was sometimes the case); rather, they expressed knowingly being forgotten or overlooked in their fathers’ lives and feeling something that I would describe as an “absent father syndrome”. From the time that I started dating through to sharing significant relationships with men; and, as well, my ongoing male collegial, teacher-student or friendships have given me reason to pause and reflect on the importance of the role of fathers in the lives of sons. I am also intimately aware of the impact of the father-son relationship on my own son’s life and his subsequent relationships with other people.

Distractions of the Father: Over the last few generations, and perhaps very prominently in my own generation, the roles of men have been in flux. They have had to really consider the competitive, fast-paced and demanding world around them, and to discover how to be successful within it. The ego-driven distractions that tempt them in their professional and personal lives, in my opinion, have posed as obstacles, pulling them away from having healthy intimate and responsible relationships with the people around them. Where the world has become obsessed by money, materialism, pop culture, technology and, in some cases, addictions, young boys have grown into adult males that have not had time to really adapt to the world that is constantly changing its expectations of them.

Because the men of the past hundred years have been busy being pioneers, going to war, building new lives, providing for their families, rising out of poverty, carrying on family businesses, making a name for themselves, dying young in their struggles, or other, they have not always been available to mentor the younger generation of men beneath them. As a result, each generation of men have not always had significant male role models on which to form their own strong and healthy identities, nor have they had substantial rites of passages that have helped them to establish where they are at in their journey into maturity. Therefore, many men have not truly been taught by other men how to have responsible and successful relationships. With the changing roles of men and women in society, marital relationships have also changed, and again, children are sometimes disconnected from having full-time relationships with their fathers.

My Son’s Mentorship: Since the time my son was very little, he has always watched men carefully, perhaps because he is trying to figure out who he is; what it means to be a man in the world, and who he should best emulate as he tries on different male identities in his coming of age. It has always been fascinating to me to watch him watch men, and assess them for their various strengths and weaknesses. He has had a quick eye, and is quick to point out any flaws of my dates. Fortunately, through his family, education, sports and music, he was put in contact with some very strong and generous men who took him under their wing and made the time to mentor him in some very important ways.

One of his most significant male relationships that he was able to count on throughout his lifetime and into the present is the one with my father. His “Poppa” (grandfather) was the one who was always there for him, regularly and reliably, and would take the time to show him how to “be” in the world. From a young age, my father took the time to teach Andrew things, attend his special events, and to be emotionally and physically available where Andrew would call him for virtually everything. Their time together had a profound impact on how Andrew operated in the world with strong morals and principles. It is now of particular joy to me when I know they are playing chess or pool together and enjoying the privilege of being men together now that my son is almost twenty-two years of age.

Interestingly, my father was fostered out, along with all of his siblings (who were adopted out across Canada) due to family difficulties and extreme poverty as a new Irish immigrant family on the bald headed prairies. He was raised by a hard-working (and busy) foster father who took time to show him how to work on cars and take care of the family. His biological father returned into his life in his later teenaged years, and then he was also reacquainted with all of his siblings. By this point, he had met his wife (my mother), and had determined that the most important thing for him to do in light of his difficult upbringing, was not to replicate any of the mistakes of his family of origin, but rather, to become a dedicated father himself. I imagine that he was a bit disappointed that he did not have a son, but he never let both of his daughters know this. Instead, he made a point of connecting with us regularly and always being their for us when we needed him. He made the choice to be the man that he knew we would need as a father. However, later in life, he clearly made his grandson the apple of his eye.

Father’s Day: I suppose that my conclusion in all of these observations about men and mentorship is that being a good father is a choice. Despite some of the gaps of mentorship that men may have experienced in their own lives, they have the opportunity to turn around and raise their sons differently. They can be the fathers that they may not have had, or wished that they had experienced in their own lives. They can model other ways of being and break the cycles of the fatherless world. For many of us, good fathers have made a difference in our lives, and we have been fortunate enough to know them. We have benefitted from their time and attention. For my son, I know that he always makes a point of remembering his grandfather on Father’s Day (along with his own father) because he knows that fatherhood is about mentorship, love and the dedicated time that is spent helping him to be a better man.

I would like to say how much I admire all of the men out there who are taking the time to be incredible fathers (you know who you are) and are doing their very best to raise their sons to be good men themselves.

Happy Father’s Day!

“When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry.”

William Shakespeare

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week 29: A Fatherless World

8 Jun

IMG_4114

Absent Fathers: On the advent of Father’s Day next week, I have been thinking about this topic of fathers. It has often been my observation throughout my lifetime, and again, more recently, that many of the men in my life (not all), have had what they have described as fatherless experiences. This is not to suggest that they were all orphaned (although this was sometimes the case); rather, they expressed knowingly being forgotten or overlooked in their fathers’ lives and feeling something that I would describe as an “absent father syndrome”. From the time that I started dating through to sharing significant relationships with men; and, as well, my ongoing male collegial, teacher-student or friendships have given me reason to pause and reflect on the importance of the role of fathers in the lives of sons. I am also intimately aware of the impact of the father-son relationship on my own son’s life and his subsequent relationships with other people.

Distractions of the Father: Over the last few generations, and perhaps very prominently in my own generation, the roles of men have been in flux. They have had to really consider the competitive, fast-paced and demanding world around them, and to discover how to be successful within it. The ego-driven distractions that tempt them in their professional and personal lives, in my opinion, have posed as obstacles, pulling them away from having healthy intimate and responsible relationships with the people around them. Where the world has become obsessed by money, materialism, pop culture, technology and, in some cases, addictions, young boys have grown into adult males that have not had time to really adapt to the world that is constantly changing its expectations of them.

Because the men of the past hundred years have been busy being pioneers, going to war, building new lives, providing for their families, rising out of poverty, carrying on family businesses, making a name for themselves, dying young in their struggles, or other, they have not always been available to mentor the younger generation of men beneath them. As a result, each generation of men have not always had significant male role models on which to form their own strong and healthy identities, nor have they had substantial rites of passages that have helped them to establish where they are at in their journey into maturity. Therefore, many men have not truly been taught by other men how to have responsible and successful relationships. With the changing roles of men and women in society, marital relationships have also changed, and again, children are sometimes disconnected from having full-time relationships with their fathers.

My Son’s Mentorship: Since the time my son was very little, he has always watched men carefully, perhaps because he is trying to figure out who he is; what it means to be a man in the world, and who he should best emulate as he tries on different male identities in his coming of age. It has always been fascinating to me to watch him watch men, and assess them for their various strengths and weaknesses. He has had a quick eye, and is quick to point out any flaws of my dates. Fortunately, through his family, education, sports and music, he was put in contact with some very strong and generous men who took him under their wing and made the time to mentor him in some very important ways.

One of his most significant male relationships that he was able to count on throughout his lifetime and into the present is the one with my father. His “Poppa” (grandfather) was the one who was always there for him, regularly and reliably, and would take the time to show him how to “be” in the world. From a young age, my father took the time to teach Andrew things, attend his special events, and to be emotionally and physically available where Andrew would call him for virtually everything. Their time together had a profound impact on how Andrew operated in the world with strong morals and principles. It is now of particular joy to me when I know they are playing chess or pool together and enjoying the privilege of being men together now that my son is almost twenty-two years of age.

Interestingly, my father was fostered out, along with all of his siblings (who were adopted out across Canada) due to family difficulties and extreme poverty as a new Irish immigrant family on the bald headed prairies. He was raised by a hard-working (and busy) foster father who took time to show him how to work on cars and take care of the family. His biological father returned into his life in his later teenaged years, and then he was also reacquainted with all of his siblings. By this point, he had met his wife (my mother), and had determined that the most important thing for him to do in light of his difficult upbringing, was not to replicate any of the mistakes of his family of origin, but rather, to become a dedicated father himself. I imagine that he was a bit disappointed that he did not have a son, but he never let both of his daughters know this. Instead, he made a point of connecting with us regularly and always being their for us when we needed him. He made the choice to be the man that he knew we would need as a father. However, later in life, he clearly made his grandson the apple of his eye.

Father’s Day: I suppose that my conclusion in all of these observations about men and mentorship is that being a good father is a choice. Despite some of the gaps of mentorship that men may have experienced in their own lives, they have the opportunity to turn around and raise their sons differently. They can be the fathers that they may not have had, or wished that they had experienced in their own lives. They can model other ways of being and break the cycles of the fatherless world. For many of us, good fathers have made a difference in our lives, and we have been fortunate enough to know them. We have benefitted from their time and attention. For my son, I know that he always makes a point of remembering his grandfather on Father’s Day (along with his own father) because he knows that fatherhood is about mentorship, love and the dedicated time that is spent helping him to be a better man.

I would like to say how much I admire all of the men out there who are taking the time to be incredible fathers (you know who you are) and are doing their very best to raise their sons to be good men themselves.

Happy Father’s Day!

“When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry.”

William Shakespeare