Wednesday, 23 April 2014

That Moment of Humanness

"Sometimes, you have to take a leap of faith. 
The trust part comes later."
~ Man of Steel, 2013


I have never really been much of a dater. Rather it seemed like I found myself in relationships that grew out of friendships or intense connections on meeting. No real intentional pursuing occurred, we were just... together. And that was the context for getting to know one another.

So after ending my last more serious relationship I decided I wanted to date – to be taken out; to be wined and dined; to slow the process of getting to know someone before adding the label of relationship to it. Well let me say it has been an interesting 2 years of occasional dating. Of learning and growing. Of loneliness and adventure. Of intrigue and disappointment.

I found my inner cynic and bruised heart often led the way, holding the walls pretty tight and high in most cases. Not letting anyone in too deep, not letting myself out too far. My standards and expectations impossibly set. Looking for that one person who will be able to see through brick and mortar; who will bring out the sledge hammer; who will patiently yet insistently challenge me to open up a window – convincing me that love is possible; that love is worthwhile; that love is beautiful...

Impossibly high standards and expectations.

It's a funny thing that happens when the lonely, bruised heart encounters someone of intrigue. Someone who maybe uses a pick axe rather than a sledge hammer to coax a crack in the walls to peer through. Someone who seems at first glance and from a distance to offer a view of love that is beautiful. But in those moments of initial excitement I think it is sometimes too easy to forget that this one too is only human. That at some point this one too is bound to do something that disappoints; that hurts; that causes pause, doubt, question, and left-over mortar to repair the cracks.

Sometimes I found myself waiting with mortar already in hand, for that moment of humanness to appear. To be able to point the finger and say, “See? I told you this would happen again.”

...But in those moments of initial excitement I think it is too easy to forget that I too am only human. That at some point I too am bound to do something that disappoints; that hurts; that causes pause, doubt, question, and maybe even left-over mortar to repair the cracks. For I am not the only one who builds protective walls...

I remember standing in a public place one day not so long ago listening to a friend talk about waiting for that moment of humanness to appear. And I asked her, can you accept the fact that one day it will? Can you accept the fact that one day he will disappoint; hurt; cause pause, doubt and question? Can you accept that this is very likely inevitable at some point in the relationship, no matter how long or short? But that does not mean he does not care. That does not mean the relationship is over.

A by-stander over heard this moment of insight that I do not know the origins of, and softly murmured “Wow, that's deep. This girl's good!” My friend smiled and said, “Yeah, she is!”

Here is yet another moment where I need to start taking my own advice. To lower my expectations to the level of my own humanness, allowing for this in others. Allowing for the beauty that is human fallibility – the grace, acceptance, forgiveness, and love that can be found in the disappointment; the hurt; the pause, doubt, and question. The learning, growth, and deeper connection that can be found – whether with the self and/or with each other; whether the relationship survives or not.

If I can accept that disappointment, hurt, pause, doubt and question are a part of relationships – are a part of life – though hopefully not in the same measure as joy, success, intrigue, connection, confidence, and love... If I can accept that none of those things are a guarantee for the failure nor success of a relationship – of life – then in some ways they all become less scary of a risk to take and more of the growth and excitement and beauty that is the journey of love, of relationships – of life.

Friday, 18 April 2014


“Instruction does much, but encouragement everything."
~ Johann Wolfgang von Geothe

I gotta be honest, I have felt a little down and discouraged this week... following a pretty great weekend, the comparison only felt more drastic.

Frustrated with particular aspects of my current situation, I reached out to a friend for some words of encouragement. I know she meant well; I know she was trying to be supportive; I know if I go back and read her words again in a day or two I will likely receive them differently. But in that moment... it wasn't really what I was looking for.

Another friend asked me the other day, if I thought people truly want to hear the truth; or if they just want to hear what they want to hear.

He's probably right. In that moment, I wanted to hear what I wanted to hear. And that was this: Keep going! You can do it! I know it's tough, but push through! It will all be worth it someday! This is temporary pain for longer-term gain! I believe in you!

Because even though most of the time I can give myself those messages, sometimes it helps to hear them from someone else.

Sometimes I think we don't hear enough of those messages in our day to day life. Or at least I don't think we hear enough of the true encouragement and affirmations for our strengths and successes (because I would argue it's true that there are people who have received the “you are special” message to an extreme, and as a result perhaps have a slightly distorted view of their own abilities and capabilities...) An instructor for a course I took a year ago called it SAD: Severe Affirmation Deficit (not to be confused with Seasonal Affective Disorder...) He challenged us to find opportunities in our daily lives to offer affirmations to the people we encounter – whether it is a family member at home, a friend at work, the barista who makes your morning coffee, or a stranger walking down the street.

I wondered why it sometimes sounded and felt easier to offer a random affirmation to the barista or stranger then to my own family members and friends...

I have thought about this SAD off and on since that course. I have tried to not only offer encouragement and affirmations, but to create space for people to come up with their own; for themselves. And so in my frustration, disappointment and discouragement yesterday I tried – emphasis on the tried, because I can't say it was completely successful but at least I keep trying – to come up with my own affirmations and encouragement. I asked myself, What went well today? What is better today then yesterday? I figured if I can come up with even just one thing, well... that's better than nothing!

Even though yesterday's frustrations are still present, today is a little better already. Because last night I took some time to cuddle with my cat. Because today I took some time write again. And if one things is better than nothing, well than two is better than one!

Saturday, 12 April 2014

The Significance of Chairs

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. 
The superior teacher demonstrates. 
The great teacher inspires.
~ William Arthur Ward 

The fun thing about getting older is finding younger people to mentor
~ Mike May


Every once and awhile I like to visit a place or people that were important, meaningful or significant to me at one time in my life. It acts as a reflection of who I used to be, allows me to reconnect with some core part of myself, and reminds me how far I've really come. Last week I had the chance to do that – visiting a space that was formative during my later teenage years.

I was greeted through the door with smiles and hugs, and immediately invited to have a seat for a quick catch-up chat. It felt weirdly familiar to be sitting in that chair again... a chair I remember spending hours in over the span of 3 years. Lamenting, as teenagers do, over the trials and tribulations of life as I knew it. So grateful even then to have the informal listening ears and words of wisdom sitting across the way.

One of these mentors commented about how the chair kept re-filling over the 15 years since I regularly warmed the seat. Different people, but the same issues. I am not surprised, rather thrilled to know that I was a part of it in the beginning; and that so many have benefited in similar ways since!

I further reflected how both chairs have revolved in some ways, with new mentors and significant people filling the opposite chair in different spaces and places as I've moved forward. Different people, but perhaps the same offering of help to fulfil a desire for a place to belong. The same issues at their core.

This short visit was refreshing and fulfilling in all the ways I had wanted it to be. But as I am now beginning a career where chairs are an important piece of the decor, it got me thinking about the significance of them. What they represent, who sits in them, and the roles we play depending on which chair we are in. For as much as I have found important mentors to sit across from, I also know I have switched chairs and played the mentor role at times. I know in some ways, I am likely to do so again.

I remember the night I found the chairs that now fill my office – the first real physical manifestation of my practice and thus their first significance. My friend and I each sat in one, laughing as we both commented that they were firm but comfortable; offering support yet enough space to curl up in. The perfect combination for a counselling office! I often wonder who will fill those chairs? Will the root issues be the same through different people? Will my role be the same each time, or will it adapt with the changing faces and stories? Will I feel comfortable and fill the chair sufficiently enough?

I hope I never stop finding chairs to sit in – opposite interesting and meaningful mentors or those in need of one. I hope that, while finding my place in these new chairs, I will remember all the people who have sat across from me in the past. And I hope the wisdom, support and inspiration I have found in and through them will continue to follow me; offering reflections of who I used to be, reconnections with some core part of myself, and reminders of how far I've really come!

Friday, 4 April 2014

A phone is just a phone is (not) just a phone....

I love when we are talking on the phone 
and being able to tell when you're smiling, 
it makes me smile. 
And when I know you are smiling because of me, 
it makes my whole world brighter.
~ Brianna Marie Guzik

I got a phone call from a good friend late last night. We chatted and laughed about work, boys, dreams, and life. Before I even realized it 2 hours had flown by!

When I had first answered the phone just after 11:30pm, she asked, “Are you mad?” I thought this a most absurd question – who would be mad at the phone call of a good friend? No matter the time.

Remember “way back when”, when cell phones were only really starting to be carried by everyone and texting wasn't even a thing? I miss those long conversations, chatting about the day; making plans for the weekend. I miss connecting with friends who lived at a distance, sharing the important stories and hoping to be able to visit each other soon. I miss the excited nerves of dialling a number and having that last phone call of the day with someone special...

I mean texting is nice too. It's typically quick and easy. It feels good to know someone is thinking about you during the day. But there is something about hearing a person's voice that makes you feel more connected. Not quite the same as seeing their face; but in the absence of that opportunity a closer second than a text. Especially for the important or intense conversations. For phone calls that mark new beginnings, and phone calls that end something; phone calls that bring good news or bad, laughter or tears, joy or challenge; and phone calls where few words are spoken but there is comfort in knowing the person on the other end is there none the less.

I had to laugh a few months ago when I was in the market for a new phone, at comments made about some of the “phones” out there and all the fancy non-phone-type things they can do. How this is the best product because it can do X; or this one because it can do Y. I remember wondering, which one is best if I just want to use it as a phone?

So I'm saying this here, that I want to start using my phone more – as an actual phone!

Oh, I will still use it to check Facebook and e-mail; to organize my daily life's schedule; to look something up on the internet when my computer is not available; to play games, listen to music, take pictures, and watch videos. I will continue to send out texts because sometimes they are quick and easy. And because I like letting people know that I'm thinking about them at random times during the day. But don't be surprised, good friends of mine from near & far, if one of those texts you receive is asking if you have time for a phone date. And feel free to ask me for one too.

Because basically, I miss hearing your voice!