Thursday, 31 October 2013

My Best Friend – Part 1

In the last 12 months I think I have had more moments of heart-wrenching, depressed, tear-filled, mind-numbing, desperate loneliness than ever before. Moments of burrowing under the covers and distracting with Netflix. Moments of starvation for lack of motivation to shop, cook, or talk to roommates in the kitchen; and because at least hunger was a different feeling. Moments of gorging on a bag of potato chips or brownies and ice cream because eating something was better than eating nothing. Moments of not reaching out to anyone because there wasn't really anything more to say. Moments of calling a friend who sat at the other end of the phone while I cried too hard to say anything anyway. Moments of desiring warm arms to wrap around me, with soft reassuring whispers in my ear. Moments of craving isolation to console myself the best way anyone could.

Amongst these I have also had many moments of laughter, fun, and love. But this isn't about those moments... at least not yet.

This is about learning to be my own best friend when I needed one most:

When I realized that, as much as I am an advocate for reaching out to others for support and talking through your feelings, I myself have a hard time doing so. Partly because I got used to being the one everyone came to and I didn't want to burden them with my stuff on top of their own. But I also realized that, likely due to past experiences, I have a difficult time trusting that my friends will be there in my time of need. So I suppressed a lot of my own stuff for awhile. Until I learned to be my own best friend. Writing out my feelings, fears, anxieties, and dreams in a journal or a song.

When one of my friends told me years ago that she thought it was a mistake to move away from most of my family and friends after some of those anxieties were fed and dreams shattered by the end of a relationship. But I knew that they would get over it long before my life felt normal again. And I couldn't be there to watch that happen; to wait until they had time and energy to sit through my rehashing of the story; to slowly pull away from the girl who struggled to smile and dream again. So I moved away, embracing new scenery and experiences, meeting new people. And learned to be my own best friend. Writing out my feelings, fears, anxieties and dreams in a journal or a song.

When - as a woman who has actually been, and enjoyed being, single and on my own more often than not - I didn't know what to do with the quiet desperation to be in a relationship that crept into the core of my being. Watching most of my friends find, thrive, and even fight through romantic relationships. Serving couples at the restaurant celebrating anniversaries or just date night, holding hands across the table. Knowing it's not all wine and roses, but wanting my turn to be served none-the-less. Yet, not wanting to be that girl, stifling the desire by escaping into my singleness. Re-discovering my enjoyment in being single, even when it's a struggle. Facing the question of who I was and who I wanted to be. All while learning to be my own best friend. Writing out my feelings, fears, anxieties and dreams in a journal or a blog.

The thing is, “ the end of the day I had to learn to be my own best friend...” can be a saddening thought. How lonely does it sound that “...there's going to be days where no-one is going to be there for me but myself”?

But it can also be an empowering message!

To be your own best friend means that you know yourself well – you know what you like and what you need. You know how to console and support yourself, and when to do so. You know what will make you cry and what will make you laugh, and when to indulge in either or both. To be your own best friend means that you are willing and able to sit with yourself through the hard times and to celebrate the good times.

To be your own best friend means that you love yourself.

Learning to be my own best friend has been - and continues to be - a difficult yet wonderful journey to know and love myself!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Sometimes almost falling hurts too

It's not up to you how you fall. It's up to you how far you let yourself fall,
and how long it takes you to get back up and stand on your own two feet.
- Sr. Tac Jeffrey Mitchell  

With umbrella in one hand and 2 grocery bags in the other, I slipped on a small hill during my walk home. Arms flailed, spine contorted and jarred, face suspended in fear of the possible bruise and wet pants, but never actually landed on my ass, kind of slip. Jolted out of the swirling anxious thoughts that had been filling my head, I straightened myself. Smiled and tossed a “slippery when wet” joke at the passer-by who slowed enough to ask if I was okay. Fixed my turned-up umbrella. And continued on my way.

Ok Universe, I thought, you pulled me out of my own head and got my attention. What is it you want me to notice from this?

I know that I am someone who often over-thinks and over-analyzes. The thing is it can be all too easy to get caught up in your own head – be it with anxious thoughts, or day dreams. We miss or ignore the warning signs of the rain, the wet pavement, the inclined road; the instinctual hesitancy of our feet, our gut, our heart: all saying “Be careful. Go slow... Go, but go slow.”

So sometimes we fall. And the bruised bones hurt, the bruised ego hurts, even when there is a lesson to be learned and appreciated in the aftermath.

Sometimes though, we only almost fall. But that can hurt too, jarring the body, jarring the ego.

As I was jolted awake to the slippery ground beneath me and scrambled to find solid footing, survival became the only important thought.
As I steadied my breathing and smiled at a concerned stranger, relief flooded my head.
As I shook off the hurt and collected myself, confidence in strength and stability returned to my thinking.
As I continued on my journey and asked the Universe for the lesson to be learned and appreciated in the aftermath, I looked around at my present surroundings and realized that actually, despite the rain and a bruised ego, I was exactly where I wanted to be and I was doing alright.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Boy/Girl Friends: How to be friends with the opposite-sex

“But I don't miss them as boyfriends. I miss them as friends. You can't be friends with guys at our age. 
Either they're married and their wives don't want you to hang out with them; or they're trying to sleep with you!”

Growing up as the only girl with 3 brothers and having 2 male cousins close in age who lived near by, I was often surrounded by boys at home. I think I over-compensated by seeking only girl friends at school! As I got older I found that, perhaps not surprisingly, I tended to collect “older brother” type friends wherever I went. Yet it wasn't really until my later university days and beyond that I truly began to recognize the value of opposite-sex friendships.

Over the past 2 years I've re-explored this concept of male-female friendships through conversations with a few of the significant guys in my life. Whether it was an intimate relationship that was ending, a deeper interest that either wasn't shared or couldn't be explored for various reasons, a re-discovered or new acquaintance... when the topic of remaining friends, or being just friends came up I wondered aloud: 

“But what does that friendship look like? I mean, what do we do?”

I find myself, somewhat unfortunately, trying to keep most of my guy friends at a safe distance. This distance may vary depending on our history and/or how the friendship developed. Still I set boundaries for myself of when, where, what, and how often to hang out. 
Because I can be a little flirty... ok, I can be a lot flirty; and at times this has been mistaken for deeper interest than I intended. 
Because I'm protecting my own heart from developing ties that may leave me hurt. 
Because maybe we've been down that path before and it would be too easy to fall back into those familiar, comfortable habits of being together. 
Because I don't want anyone's partner – or prospective partner – to be uncomfortable. After all it's no secret that friendships between men and women can be wrought with sexual tension...

Sometimes I wonder if it's possible to de-sexualize these friendships between men and women, and what would those friendships be like if we could? Though someone pointed out when I wondered this aloud, that some of the flirty banter that happens in our friendships makes us feel good and is part of the fun. That girls do this with their girl friends as well as their guy friends; and I would argue that guys do so amongst each other, with some of their crude banter, too.

One thing I have learned over the years is that the key to my friendships with the opposite sex is honesty. Honesty about why I'm pursuing the friendship in the first place; what my feelings and expectations are; and how these may change over time. And asking the same from him. Because there is something valuable about opposite-sex friendships that just can't be gained from same-sex friendships. Something that has nothing to do with sex; and everything to do with the differences in perspective, types of support, interests, even hormones and intimacy. So I have challenged myself to be more upfront, open and honest in my friendships lately. 

Because frankly, I don't want to need a boyfriend in order to have a boy friend!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

forgotten what it feels like...

It's no surprise at all that in English (and I am told in other languages as well) we speak of “falling” in love. I think it is the only way to get there. None would go freely, if we knew ahead of time what love is going to ask of us... Have no doubt, though: great love is always a discovery, a revelation, a wonderful surprise, a falling into “something” much bigger and deeper that is literally beyond us and larger than us.
~ Rohr, Richard (2011).
Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.

Sometimes I think I've forgotten what it feels like... to be in love. To love someone, and allow yourself to be loved.
Maybe the later is actually the harder of the two.

I thought I knew – the smiles, the laughter, the butterflies, the comfort, the security and safety. Wanting to spend all your time together, and talk for hours. Cutting the conversation when you ran out of time, not because you ran out of things to say. Never running out of things to say. But savouring the silent moments together none-the-less. The first thought before light creeps through closed eyes. The last phone call of the day. Hurting, lifting, strengthening. Never feeling like you've had enough.

But all that seems to fade... eventually. And then what's left?

The quiet in the chaos, the constant hum in the calm.

Now, I think before I leap. I cry before I laugh. I block before I feel.
The space between me and someone else feels heavy, thick, solid.
I tell myself I won't settle for less; I'm waiting for that connection. I tell myself I'll know it when I see it, when feel it.
But when I think I feel it, it all falls apart. I push away the potential before it even shows itself. Or deny it even when it does. 

I don't know which is worse - wondering "what if I get hurt again", or wondering "what if I miss it next time, because I've forgotten what it feels like..."

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Re-invent yourself... or just open your eyes.

I had a psychic give me a free reading the other week. I didn't go looking for this, in fact I would rather not know what a psychic has to say about my future. I prefer the element of surprise and wonder. Nonetheless, it found me.

Despite what you may believe about psychics and their premonition-abilities, let me preface the rest of my words here with this: I tend to take this kind of thing with a grain of salt; as one possibility of how things may turn out if certain decisions are made and paths followed; but not necessarily the exact direction my life will go. The truth is, I have seen pictures in my mind's eye of what my life could look like – with a certain person as a partner, in one career/job or another, planting roots in a specific place or maintaining a certain transient freedom. Maybe most people have that sometimes. And I do get the feeling when I see these pictures that this is what would be, if I choose that path. I can't necessarily say I have had these thoughts, feelings, or pictures about a complete stranger... but who am I to say that someone else doesn't have that ability.

So this psychic told me the flashes and images he was getting; the premonitions he was having about my life. Among other things, he essentially said that I would be making some changes in who I was, where I was, and what I was doing. That I need to, in some ways, re-invent myself...

...all I could think was, “Again?”

This man's words made me feel disappointed. Tired.

I am not usually one to shy away from an opportunity for personal awareness and growth. Though change is often unsettling at first, there have been times in my life when I have welcomed it. But that's my point – I've already made changes in who I am, where I am, and what I'm doing. I have, in some ways, re-invented myself. Numerous times over! I have no doubt that, as life unfolds, there will be more changes. But the thought – right now – of needing to re-invent myself again is just... plain... tiring... I like my long hair (he suggested I change my hair-style sometime soon); I like my apartment and living in Peterborough (he said I will make a big move next year, that my mind is not in Ontario); for the most part, I like who I am right now (he really did use the phrase “re-invent yourself”).

He did also say that my work will come easy to me, when I let myself do it, and that I will be good at it. And he said that someday I will live by the water. So I guess there were some positive, encouraging, uplifting things in what he said!

I don't know how much of this man's words – if any – will ring true in the future. But maybe, at least for my experience, that's not even important right now. Maybe what's more important is the reminder that not all things in life will be positive, encouraging, or uplifting. Sometimes, it will be tiring, disappointing. But none-the-less important. And nothing will happen if I don't make a choice, follow a path, and open my eyes to who I am the direction my life is taking right now!