The extent of the damage we cause to ourselves and others, in trying to relieve ourselves from our perceived suffering, can be minimized when we finally accept and realize that we cannot control others.
Sadly, most people will choose misery with a partner their limbic brain recognizes as familiar, over the less dramatic pleasure of a ‘nice’ relationship because the latter is unfamiliar.
For me, I’d rather pursue the latter. The healthy relationship, the loving, supportive relationship. What does this look like? I haven’t got a clue, but I do know what unhealthy feels like.
And if our limbic system is simply a collection of the familiar, then perhaps the real goal here is to simply disallow the unhealthy by walking away from it entirely, and surrounding myself with healthy relationships. Through this, slowly, the unhealthy images are replaced via prolonged contact with a caring, wise, responsive people. Over time, we develop new neural connections in our brain, not just changing the limbic system, but our neocortex as well.
How do you feel in the presence of your loved one? This will determine the degree to which you flourish.
Recently someone told me, “how could anyone love you now?” He was referencing the fact that I have two kids and have divorced twice.
Those words sat with me for a few weeks. Maybe he’s right. Who could possibly love someone like me?
For weeks I deeply and genuinely considered accepting that fact. For weeks I was ready to accept that I was not put on this earth to be truly loved by a man. I figured maybe my life purpose was to do great things alone, and that was completely fine. After all, I love myself! I really love who I am, where I am in life, and what I’ve accomplished. So what if no man could ever love me. Yeah, the thought made me feel a little lonely, but nevertheless I’d be fine. After all I’ve gone through, maybe I was being selfish or stupid to think life would be a little bit better, and definitely a lot more fun with a life partner… Maybe that’s the price I have to pay for all of my mistakes. I can accept that. Life is still pretty awesome.
And then it finally hit me: What he told me is not true. Maybe what he told me was actually something he was feeling about himself.
The truth is there is a little (and sometimes BIG) part of EVERYONE that feels unlovable or unworthy.
You giving your body and heart to someone who is incapable of love doesn’t make you unlovable. You mistakenly trusting people who have bad (or ZERO) good intentions toward you does NOT make you unlovable.
Does it make you naive? Perhaps.
Does it mean you suck at picking potential partners? Possibly, but that can be fixed.
Does it mean you made a few mistakes? Yeah, it does.
But it does NOT make you unlovable, and it definitely does NOT make you unworthy. And THAT’S where the difference lies.
Truly loving another person is hard, and the reason is because love takes tremendous courage. Love requires an open heart and mind, faith, patience, and a commitment to go back again and again to acting in a loving way, BEING LOVING, even when we don’t want to or feel like it. Even when shit gets a little scare and we aren’t sure. It means forgiving when we feel we’ve been wronged. It means fully owning and being accountable for our part of the problem. REAL LOVE is so, so very hard to actually do.
And the truth is that sometimes it takes quite a bit of having your heart broken, crushed into tiny pieces even, to fully grasp the awesomeness of this REAL LOVE, to genuinely appreciate what it means to LOVE and BE LOVED. The truth is that not a lot of people are ready or willing to experience REAL LOVE, at least not yet.
But you do. You get it.
And that’s why you continue to love.
So if you are reading this and have ever felt the way I did, please don’t believe it any longer. Don’t let those thoughts seep any further under your skin. Don’t let them anywhere near your heart, because it isn’t true. You are lovable. You are worthy. You are SO VERY worthy of love, because THAT IS WHO YOU ARE.
What is it that drives us to make a choice to follow one path or another? To commit to one thing but not another? We certainly don’t know what we are actually signing up for when we make that choice. Emotions change. Life changes. People change. Perhaps what we are going off of is an innate desire to find or feel purpose in our life.
We are born with some deep ingrained intention (which could be also seen as a “purpose”; i.e., “why am I here?”), which is likely developed by either what is fed to us as children, something we create on our own, or a mixture of the two. In most cases we don’t fully understand this “purpose” or “intention” until we’re older (some never understanding or even contemplating it).
Nevertheless our actions are guided by these, whether they be conscious or subconscious. But somehow, in our darkest moments, our intentions/innate and individually defined purpose(s) sneaks back into our mind and reminds us who we are, and to hold strong and move forward, or else we will be violating our ‘agreement’ to our purpose in life. It serves as a motivation in life and an internal compass when we’ve lost our way. Some people refer to it as our “internal GPS”.
And that’s where struggle and suffering comes in. That’s where maturity comes in. Until we see life as it really is (shit doesn’t always work out in our favor, things don’t go according to plan, and sometimes we gotta jump ship and give up), BOTH the great and the devastatingly disappointing pieces of life must be accepted, or we won’t be able to fully mature. And when things go south, there’s that miraculous reappearance of our “internal GPS”. As humans we are constantly going off course from our “path”. Did you know planes are off course 90% of the time?! They just keep correcting according to the GPS. And so do humans. We just don’t realize we have this internal GPS that’s guiding us. Those who are more aware and in tune with their internal GPS tend to self-correct frequently and very quickly. Those who are not as aware tend to take a bit more time (and unfortunately some end up crashing, having to put themselves back together and trying over again).
Getting in touch with our internal GPS is risky, scary, and quite challenging. It means sacrificing temporary moments of pleasure or pleasantness for a longer, and much more delayed gratification. And in that time of sacrifice, we know nothing. Will it work out? Will we fail? Will our partner cheat on us, or lie to us, or die on us? Is this a good investment? Will I lose my job? Will I get cancer? We never know. One thing we have to remember is that our purpose is never fulfilled. Goals can be fulfilled, but our purpose isn’t. Because that is our lifeline. If I were to tell you my intention is “to be the best version of myself” in all times, I could also tell you that I fail majority of the time, and that I can’t say “I did it!” 6 months down the road, or even 20 years down the road. It’s a constant battle that guides me, my choices, and how I life my life daily.
That’s where faith comes in. Following our internal GPS requires devotion; not to a person or thing, or even an idea, but to something bigger than ourselves. A faith that when we continue to follow our path, we will find what we are looking for. And this is the beauty of life. Balancing our reality of being human with our hopes, dreams, and desire to fulfill our “purpose” while we are alive here on Earth. We balance it all, taking care of ourselves along the way. Balance…
It is extremely challenging to remember in times of strife to “let go”. It’s difficult because oftentimes we don’t catch ourselves in the moment trying to control things. Leaving our lives and will to an unknown (some call it a higher purpose or “god”) can feel like throwing away or abandoning all our hopes and dreams. But by practicing the art of letting go, we later learn that rather than destroying our identity or what we believe is important to us, letting go is more like simply letting go of our attachment to the outcomes. We still have dreams. We still ambitions. We still have desires. And we should.
But after a while, we come to understand that the process of “letting go” isn’t something we just “do.” It’s something we experience and apply daily in all aspects of our life. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s hard. It can’t be rushed, pushed, or forced. But it can, for certain, begin, after we take that first step. And then the second. And then the third. And keep walking forward. Step by step. Day by day. We move forward courageously as we are not used to letting go of our perceived control over life.
It meant trusting. Just like knowing the feeling of warmth by experiencing cold, we must learn trust by experiencing deceit. Sometimes life’s greatest blessings are life’s toughest lessons and without them we would not be where we are, who we are, or have what we have.
“Letting go” to me, meant trusting that life isn’t happening to me, but for me, and that it’s ok to let go of the desire to only feel “warm”, and just allow it to be cold sometimes.
We come to trust and believe in something bigger than ourselves and that whatever that is, it knows exactly what we need in order to get to where we need to be, and we acknowledge and accept that even though sometimes we think we know better, the fact is that we don’t. We make mistakes. We are all human.
We come to understand that our strongest moments are not when we are fighting against that which simply is, but when we learn to find peace in the midst of it all. Looking back, we see courage and resiliency.
When we are able to find peace in the moment, it gives us clarity into the situation, the people we are dealing with, and who we are and how we want to respond. It gives us strength to hold off on impulsive reactions that we may later regret, and guides us into making decisions we know we can live with. Sometimes “to let go” is something big like entirely letting go of the situation or relationship, and sometimes it is simply putting ourselves in a “time out” while we calm down and open ourselves up to a higher power or “divine guidance” or “intuition” or whatever you want to call it.
When we are able to calm our mind, body, and spirit, it helps us “see” what is going on without any of our default filters (e.g., anger, sadness, insecurity, etc.). By letting go of our need to control things and people, we find something we never expected: that we are in good hands- always have been and always will be. We are surrounded by supporting, loving people. We have the tools and resources we need to get through this.
We reconnect with ourselves and our heart. We come to understand that our heart, like any muscle, can only get stronger through exercise. It is normal to find ourselves tired of exercising our minds, hearts, and bodies, because it requires quite a bit of effort, consciousness/mindfulness, and a little bit of being uncomfortable. It’s ok to rest sometimes. But exercise, we know, is the only way to get the results we want (a better body, a better mind, or a better heart). So we bravely continue exercising our heart, which can sometimes feel like tension. We know tension all the time is not good, but no tension at all is also bad for us. In order to have strong hearts and minds and bodies, a good balance is all we need. When we start to understand that (and don’t let ourselves fall into one extreme or another) in a sense we are beginning the process of “letting go.”
When we let go, we find a sense of calmness, which in turn makes us better prepared to make decisions that will positively help us through sticky spots, rather than “shoot from the hip”. When we make well-informed and aware decisions, disappointments affect our inner peace much less. But when we get ourselves to this place of calm, we begin to truly feel like the captain of our own ship again.
There is nothing more easy than to lean in to our partner during our moments of joy and bask in the glorious feelings of LOVE. But in a moment of conflict, we are left feeling distant, disconnected, disappointed, and often bitter. To be able to lean into those moments is a skill that takes practice, but the result is a strengthening of our own personal resiliency, the resiliency of our relationship, and an increase in our understanding of real LOVE, and an increase in our capacity to love deeper.
To run away from that precious moment is to run away from an opportunity to exercise our heart muscles and learn how to love better.
What if in those moments, with all the strength and courage we can manage to muster, we lean in and BE loving instead of pull back? What does LOVE look and feel like in those moments?
In those moments, treat the conflict as an opportunity to open space in our heart to really hold our loved one in all their entirety, allowing them to be with us in all of their flaws, mistakes, and disappointing behavior. Rather than punish them for disappointing us, and rather than try to “fix” them, or change them, or prove our point, or make them wrong and us right, what if we just opened our heart up a little more and allowed our Love to simply be who they are in that moment?
To be vulnerable in front of our Love in that moment, we fear we will be hurt. We put our guard up and get on the defensive. We justify our behavior or belief and make them wrong and ourselves right. We demand they see things our way. Yet ironically our loved one is deeply desiring, “if only my partner could see things my way…”
What if instead of armoring up to defend ourselves, our opinions, or our desired outcome, we spent all that energy remembering the Love we have for this person? In that moment of remembering Love, our hearts and minds open, and often open just enough to allow our Loved one to also feel safe enough to put their shield down as well. That is when the magic happens.
What we often mistakenly believe in those moments (and what crushes our opportunity to lean in to Love) is that just because we open our hearts and mind and lean in toward our loved one, doesn’t mean we can’t still acknowledge our own pain and disappointment in our loved one’s behavior. We blindly think that if we let our partner be right, then it will mean we are wrong or that our pain is not real or justified. We can still be justified and feel the very real pain we are feeling, and STILL respond in a loving way that brings us together rather than pull us apart.
We want to trust that our loves will not disappoint us, but the fact is we can only trust that our partners will always show up exactly as who they are: both wonderful and flawed. This is the nature and beauty of having someone share their life with us. We too bring both our wonderful and flawed selves to the relationship.
If you are so blessed to have someone choose to share their life with you, cherish it.
The decision to love.
What is love? I get asked that a lot. Even now I don’t have an answer. But what I do know is that the decision to actually choose love over that which is not love, is not an easy one.
Day in and day out we are faced with endless opportunities to choose Love.
We see it in the moment our children come running for a hug but we are rushing out the door, late for a meeting. We see it in the moment our partner passive aggressively complains about something we’ve said or done, again, about that petty thing we are so sick and tired of hearing about. We see it in the moment we check out at the grocery line and could have spoken to the cashier, but just wanted to pay and go home. We see it on our long commutes home when someone else is trying to merge and we’d rather speed up so as not to “lose our place in line”. We see it in the meals we cook for our loved ones and the potential conversations at the dinner table. We even see it in the moments we look at ourselves in the mirror and judge what we see as not good enough. What are we choosing in those moments? Are we choosing Love?
There are other unexpected places we find opportunities to love. Sometimes we see it when our loved ones decide to leave us. Sometimes we even see it when we find ourselves in a situation in which we must decide to stay or go. We can find love in the most painful moments, when we know we must let them go.
Yes… love can feel amazing at times… but sometimes love hurts as well…
Opportunities to chose Real Love are around us, every second, and every moment of our lives.
While I can’t for sure say what Real Love is, I can say for sure when I’m choosing to love and when I’m choosing “something else”.
So… if I’m not choosing love, what am I choosing?
Maybe that will bring us closer to understanding what LOVE is.
My answer to the question “what is love?”, is simply: “the decision to choose that which is loving, over, and over, and over again. Never give up on choosing Love. Never give up on Love.
The more we choose Love, the more we know it; the more we really start to feel it; the more it becomes who we are; and yes, finally, we look around and realize we are surrounded in Love.
“Life is like stepping onto a boat which is about to sail out to sea and sink.”
– Shunryu Suzuki
Relationships are a part of life, and in this case, they are no different. No matter what type of relationship we are in, the relationship is destined to end. It may end in death or breakup, but surely it will end. We will eventually lose everyone we hold dear to us, and everyone that holds us dear will eventually lose us as well. This is life. We embark on these relationship journeys and whether we go into it knowing this reality or lie to ourselves thinking differently, the pain of that loss is the same. The hurt, the anguish, and the grief is all the same.
After my most recent loss, the thought occurred to me that maybe I should just live alone for the rest of my life. I spent quite a bit of time alone and came to realize I actually enjoyed it very much. But during this time alone, I also came to realize that the benefits of being in any relationship (family, friends, or romantic) far outweigh the benefits of being alone.
In relationships, we are constantly introduced and reintroduced to ourselves. Our loved ones act as mirrors and show us the glorious and the not-so-glorious sides of ourselves. Our loved ones remind us of how amazing and lovable we are. In an act of love, we can also change our not-so-glorious parts that tend to cause our loved ones pain. Sometimes our loved ones simply accept those parts of us as well.
But the ultimate benefit, I believe, that comes from being in a relationship is that we learn how to love, forgive, and be forgiven; something that is extremely difficult to do without another human being. We learn how to look beyond ourselves and our ego. We are able to reflect on the things that we have done and learn and grow, because we love those around us and cherish their presence. We strive to be better parents, friends, children, workers, and siblings. We do this because we cherish the presence of others, even if their presence can come at the cost of us having to give up some of our bad habits to make our loved ones feel a little better sometimes, and they do the same for us.
Life, and all the relationships we are in, are boats set out to sail and destined to sink. Sometimes the boats have lots of holes in them and sink very quickly. Some have minimal holes and last for quite a long time. Some seem to be sinking quickly but are patched up mid-sail only to extend the remaining time allotted for the trip.
But whatever boat you end up getting into, I strongly believe that, be it a short or a long ride, if you must pack anything, keep your baggage light, and only bring joy with you, and treat every moment as your last, because you never know when it actually will be.
In Japan we have a tradition at the end of the year where we do a major cleaning! 🧽 🧼 🧹 It’s called ōsōji (大掃除), it’s my favorite holiday and it feels sooooo good!! And this weekend is that weekend!!
But to modernize my effort, I’ve decided to clean not just my house, but my phone 📱 and all social networking apps/sites, removing people who I didn’t know, people I haven’t talked to for 10+ years, and people who I see out but never speak to (and they never speak to me).
Then I deleted every single text, call history, and voicemail. I went through all my email and deleted all the mail that had no significance to me. Went through google docs and google drive and deleted insignificant stuff. Deleted pics on my phone. LOTS of pics (mostly of food…)
But hear me out… I didn’t do it because I’m mad or depressed. I did it because, like cleaning the house, sometimes we gotta take some time to clean our soul as well. What and who was I holding onto in my life and why? Was I living intentionally or just living passively? Was I accumulating junk or precious jewels?
I saw that I was holding on to hopes, I was holding onto dead and painful memories, and I was holding onto “what if’s” and “maybe’s”. I was holding onto pretentious friendships with people who say we’re friends but they don’t give a f* about me. Which is totally fine, but why am I holding space for any of that in my life?
It’s time to start over. Completely. For 2019, I’m going in with a big open heart and open mind, but I’m not living passively anymore.
There’s a theory- well, it’s actually a “law” (The Law of Thermodynamics, to be precise)- that claims energy can neither be created nor destroyed. The basic idea is that energy can only be transferred or transformed from one thing to another.
You’re probably thinking “WTH does this have to do with my legacy?“. Well, assuming this “law” is true, this means that the energy in and around us is always there. There isn’t ever a time or place with “no energy”. The energy is either neutral (conserved), positive, or negative. I’m definitely not a physicist, and for all I know what I’m saying is total nonsense… but if I’m happy I’m emitting positive energy. If I’m pissed, I am emitting negative energy. And there are sometimes when I’m just not happy or pissed, but I’m just kinda “there” (i.e., “neutral”).
When I’m mad, my “energy” or “vibes” tend to pour over into others around me. People can sense my mood. When I’m full of joy, people tend to reap the benefits of my joyful mood. We have the potential power to take our “energy” and affect those around us in a positive or negative way.
And THIS is where your legacy comes into play.
In thinking about our short time here on Earth, we don’t have a lot to leave behind. I know some people may think that living until 100 seems like a long time, but it really isn’t. We are born, we go through this awkward phase of learning how to walk, talk, and get along with others, and for most of us, we actually die still trying (or not trying…who knows…)
But the point is, in this short time, the only thing we think we leave behind is the memory of who we are and what we contributed to the world while we were alive, but memories can only go so far. On the other hand, if energy can neither be created nor destroyed, then what happens with our energy when we’re gone?
All the times we bestowed grace and love on those that carried negative energy… all those times, instead of adding to the fire of hate, we diluted the flames with kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and love (all of these towards ourselves and others)…
Feeling horrible sometimes is inevitable. Loss and pain (physical or emotional) is inevitable in life and it’s only natural to feel what we feel. But I don’t think that our feelings are “the energy”. The energy that is transferred and transformed by us and through us is in how we respond and process those feelings.
The key is not to turn off our humanness, our feelings, emotions, but rather take a step back, maybe even take a few breaths (or more) and really consider what kind of energy we are putting out there.
Even if we do nothing, energy, by the law of nature, will naturally spread out. It’s like a hot pot that has been removed from the stove: eventually it’s going to cool down. The energy spreads out of the pot and into the air.
So here I am thinking, we have 3 choices: we spew out negative energy, positive energy, or somehow try to find a way to conserve our energy or at least keep it neutral, because it’s here to stay, and it’s indestructible.
This, I believe, is where your legacy is. It can’t be seen with our eyes, and sometimes it isn’t directly or automatically felt, but if the law is true, I believe we are always leaving our mark and establishing an unforgettable legacy.
Make it a good one.