It has to be love

Wherever there is loss, there is unknown opportunity.

When we are in the midst of change it can be difficult to see the endless possibilities. The fear of the unknown can prevent us from enjoying the transformative period of change. We desperately want it to end and know how it turns out, instead of feeling excitement or even better, steadiness, for whatever is to come.

How many times has some change we have perceived as negative led to a decision or outcome that has greatly improved our lives. Even the most tragic events, can be seen in a positive light when we choose to shift our perception.

As my teacher says ‘magic is a shift in perception.’ And it really is. By changing our thoughts something that we might normally see as ‘bad’ can suddenly be ‘good.’

When one of the first people I ever loved ‘ghosted’ on me a few years ago, I was devastated. I didn’t want the relationship to end and missed him a lot. But looking back, had that not happened, I probably wouldn’t have thrown myself in to my yoga practice and ended up becoming a yoga teacher, which has transformed my life on every possible level – personal, interpersonal and spiritual. I can see now how I needed that experience to push me on to an entirely different path.

I once did an activity where I wrote to my former self and gave encouragement and advice knowing everything I knew from the future. It was mostly along the lines of ‘it will be ok.’

I saw that wherever I experienced loss, there was actually a great amount of opportunity. Breakups were opportunities to let in a more authentic love, to make me a more compassionate person when listening to friends’ experiences as well. Job loss was the first step to moving to Australia and building my life in a foreign country. The end of friendships, brought about deeper connections with other friends. My emotional breakdowns and screw-ups were opportunities for growth.

Even when my behavior has brought me in to dangerous situations, or my most traumatic experiences involving sexual assault have made me a more understanding and compassionate person. I wouldn’t change anything. I understand how people can fall extremely low, hit rock bottom and then re-build to be an even better version of themselves.

When we can begin to love ourselves for even the most painful things that have happened in our lives, than we can truly experience love. It deepens our capacity to love other people in a way that reading about something or ‘understanding’ something cannot.

When we awaken the feeling of love in our lives we are able to enter a more blissful state. We stop overreacting and begin to experience. Something as average as spilling your morning coffee has little effect on your mood and deeper personal calamities become opportunities.

You are able to approach all loss or change with equanimity, which is truly magical thing.

 

In Love with Love

So often the things we are experiencing or looking for externally are actually inside of us. When you are having conflict in a relationship with a friend, colleague, romantic partner or anyone, the best place to begin to look for a resolution is within yourself.

If for example you leave a job because you are unhappy, chances are the next job will also make you unhappy in a different way. It isn’t the job that is causing the unhappiness, it is your interpretation of the job and how you are acting and reacting to it. I’m not suggesting people stay in roles where they are being bullied and their mental health is being effected, but I do think that for many of us the moment we feel unhappiness, anger, resentment, fear – we look externally.

The only thing we have control over is ourselves, we can only change the way we interact with the world.

If a romantic relationship ends we often say, well he/she has XYZ wrong with them, but very rarely do we look at how we were behaving in that relationship, were we being our best and most authentic self – and if we were – is that good enough or is there something we need to work on?

I love the idea of love. I want to be madly in love with a romantic partner. Not just a love for the sake of attachment, but in love with someone who is open to loving and being loved deeply.

I’ve looked for it for years, analysed it and rejected inadequate versions of it.

I’ve falsified it, grasped for it, and fought for it.

I’ve felt it, fleetingly, deeply, with melancholy and sometimes disgust.

It always seems to leave.

I’ve realized recently that this isn’t true. It actually never left, but was also never something I had to go searching for – because in reality it was inside me the whole time.

I noticed this intensely this past week celebrating my birthday. I have been surrounded by amazing, loving and compassionate friends. I’ve felt so grateful to have so many wonderful people in my life. People who inspire me, uplift me, help me feel secure and challenge me when I need to be challenged.

It made me realize that I actually have those qualities too. As one of my teachers always says, we attract who we are not what we want. This applies to partners, but it is also definitely true of our friends.

If you are negative, insecure and petty, you will be surrounded by people who are similar and can justify these behaviours and actions through your relationship with them.

But if you are kind, friendly and giving you will find yourself surrounded by people who share those characteristics and values.

Recently when I’ve had conflict arise in my life I try to think about how I’m interpreting the situation and what I’m bringing to the table. If someone yells at you and you yell back. You are essentially being taken over by the actions of the other person. You are reacting to them and allowing them to control your emotions. If someone yells at you, however, and you choose to continue to approach them in a calm/compassionate/loving way, it doesn’t matter if they continue to yell or not. You continue to be yourself and come from a more authentic place. You shouldn’t remain in an aggressive, negative situation like the one I’m describing, but you also shouldn’t let other people’s actions be a reflection of who you are.

So, I’ve recently retired my quest for love. There is no more longing for something that seems just out of reach, because actually the love I have wanted has always been a part of me and the more I express it to my friends, family and even strangers – the more connected and loved I feel.

We are able to be happy, loved and have everything we want when we are able to really accept that we are creating it with every choice and every interaction we have.

Let’s never see eachother again – the digital dump

It’s so easy to erase people from our lives. 

When relationships end, both romantic and friendly. We go through the digital and physical steps of permanently removing them from our lives. 

Step 1) Delete their number

Step 2) Erase any photos, screenshots of conversations and any memes still on your phone that were shared between you.

Step 3) Block on all social media!

Step 4) Throw out any artifacts or remnants of dates you’ve been on or anything you’ve done together.

Step 5) Now get over it. 

I wonder how many times this has worked as a means for getting over someone? I mean really worked.

Yes, it removes them from your immediate surroundings and prevents them from popping up in places you don’t want to see them.

But even with all the texts removed and photos deleted, they will still end up in our minds from time to time.

I was seeing someone casually for nine months and I remember periodically going through my phone and deleting photos related to that person in preparation for the day we no longer were spending time together. I was pre-empting the end and getting rid of anything that might accidentally remind me, in the future, that I was no longer with this person. 

I’ve been dating someone for a couple of months now, a person who was likely only meant to be a rebound from the longer term casual situation that just ended for me. 

Last night I got the somewhat standard text. 

It’s been fun, you’re amazing, let’s never see each other again. 

I did all the digital deletion steps. Drank too much at dinner. Then came home and threw out the gift I had for him. 

I sent him a message back, which will likely never get answered because he feels he has done his part and ended things and can go off and never have to think of me again. 

And just like that, this man I’ve known for the past few months is gone. 

We didn’t date long enough to have too many memories together, friends in common, or any other parts of our lives intertwined. 

And there are so many more out there. I know because I’m talking to at least three on a dating app.

That’s how it works now. We can replace people so easily and quickly move on to the next. I imagine before dating apps when we had to meet people in real life, that people tried harder. I wonder if that’s true. What about when people couldn’t just send one message and disappear forever? What was it like when we had to sit down, even with people we only recently met and explain how we felt and why we never wanted to see them again?

I’m sure it’s not that I’ve missed out on some magical age of dating. I’m enough of a day dreamer to see all the flaws of the old dating world, but I’m not willing to accept this new one as the best representation of our species. 

I do wonder if the world wasn’t constantly advertised at us, would I be so replaceable?

If we weren’t constantly given the message of ‘out with the old, in with the new’, would things be different? 

I really don’t believe the reason I was given for my most recent digital dump. I think he really liked me. I think he didn’t want a relationship, but mostly because I think he wanted to have all the options. 

When we have so many beautiful intelligent women in the world, it makes it easier to let one go, but that’s what happens in the world we live in now. We scratch the surface of getting to know people. We see what photos they think advertise them at their best, decide if they’re fun enough, and then when we begin moving past the surface and things are more personal, we high tail it outta there. 

In our new world order we are constantly choosing surface level relationships. You might be reading this and think, no, not me, but I’d beg to differ. I’m sure we are all guilty of deciding that ‘she’s not not my kind of person’ or ‘he’s just a bit much.’ I hear myself and other women constantly saying the first line to justify not being friends with someone. In truth, everyone is a potential friend if we make an effort to connect with them in some way. 

I think the digital dump is hurtful because it’s the last contact you’ll have with this person and it’s an informal collection of meaningless words, much like this blog. It doesn’t matter what you write, it’s about intention and delivery. I would have felt so much better about this ending if I was allowed to have emotions about it, but sending a text takes away the opportunity to do this in any kind of meaningful way. 

Let me Mansplain a few things…

This week I had a few men remind me that even as a privileged white woman living in a developed country, our lives and cultures were still built around men. 

It all started on Monday. I went to see a psychiatrist as part of my mental health evaluation that I’ve been doing. Don’t worry, I’m not another ‘crazy’ woman who is going to get all her emotions all over you, I’m just very self aware and like to make sure I’m taking care of my physical as well as psychological health. 

My male doctor evaluated me, asking for all the real juicy details of my life, all standard protocol. 

He went on to tell me I had a traumatic life. 

I agreed there were ups and downs, but felt as though traumatic was an overstretch. He said, that it sounded traumatic to him. 

Later on I contradicted him on something to which he responded:

“Ok smarty-pants”

When in the history of never is it ok to refer to your psychiatric patient as a smarty-pants. 

Keep in mind that this was AFTER I told him that in my family I was told I was the pretty one and my sister was the smart one….

Are you all as outraged as I am? 

He knew about my “traumatic” relationship with men and STILL felt it appropriate to ultimately put me down using the same insult my father used on me years ago.

Slow clap now for the doctor of the year.

Great news is, it only cost me $400 to realize I was completely ripped off. 

I wonder how often he refers to his male patients as ‘smarty-pants’?

The rest of the week I battled man-spreaders on my new bus route to a yoga studio I’m frequenting now. 

Don’t worry, it’s fine, I’ll just shrink up in a hole and disappear so you can take up three seats and air your junk out, because let’s be honest, women should be standing on the bus, we don’t deserve seats.

I’ve dealt professionally with men who despise assertive women and I scared away a date when I suggested that marriage was not my thing and I felt long term relationships should be evaluated every few years to make sure both parties were still feeling fulfilled. 

To be honest, this is all pretty normal, I’m sure most women out there would agree. Everyday sexism that just slips by. Smile and wave ladies, no one has time for your individuality. 

I would say I had a great week despite all this, it was jam packed and full of love, especially when I got to sit next to other women on the bus!

Today however, I had a meltdown. A friend of a friend posted a photo of me on social media that I didn’t like. There are a lot of details I can’t really get in to, but the briefest summary is that I asked this person to take it down and said it made me uncomfortable because I didn’t like how I looked despite being unidentifiable. 

The male who took the photo, said no. He took the photo, it’s his, the end. 

Creative law is on his side, it is mostly his, but from the human side of it, it’s my body, presented in a way I dislike, shared publicly, and he wouldn’t budge. 

I’ve written before about how I’ve had an eating disorder since I was a pre teen. Now it’s mostly under control, but today it was triggered in the worst way possible.

For many people eating disorders are a way to have control in their tumultuous lives. When I feel really really anxious, I purge. 
This rarely occurs now, but it’s something that is always in the background as a coping mechanism. 

I’m proud to say that even though I saw this photo that I felt made me look fat and was extremely unflattering, I did not purge, but I did rage in my head (and a little out loud to my very nice boss who listened patiently). 

In a way I feel this person has taken away control over my body and the way I am represented digitally. He threw words at me about law and all I could think is, ‘this is me, you don’t own me, I don’t want this on the Internet, take it down!!!’

There was nothing I could do.

There was no compassion on his end.

I finally told him I had an eating disorder and it was a triggering photo for me. 

He never replied. 

And that’s how it is, isn’t it?

As a female I want my body to fit an unrealistic standard to attract men and feel good about myself, whether consciously or subconsciously, and when I fall short of that perfect standard, there’s a man waiting to shove it in my face.

I know that I should love myself and it’s just a picture no one will really see, but now that we live in this digital world these situations will start to come up. 

I’m not just upset because I don’t look perfect, as my sister pointed out I look athletic and fine, but it’s the fact that I asked him to take it down and he couldn’t fathom why and wouldn’t release the control. 

I can’t imagine he would do that to a male friend but then again men may not have to conform to the same beauty standards (though that’s slowly changing), they would have been trained to negotiate better…plus bro culture and all that bullshit.

Why do I find it hard to trust men and open up and be myself dating?

Well maybe because even when I do open up and share insecurities about my body, they can’t even grasp the notion and disregard it as a silly thing that some smarty-pants girl is having a moment over.

Well guess what, I am having a moment. And my moment is going to report that doctor.

I’m going to confront man-spreaders on the bus (I do this almost every damn day).

I’m going to not follow-up with that half decent date from Tuesday because he’s just not open minded enough for me. I didn’t do anything wrong, he’s living in dark ages and I need someone emotionally intelligent enough to understand where I’m coming from.

And as for the man who took my photo and stole my image. He can have it, because now he lives in my mind as a symbol of why I need to continue to be an assertive, powerful, and intelligent woman…so I can avoid men like him who think they own the world. 

Not me, not my world. 

Unedited

I’ve been seeing a psychologist to help manage the anxiety I’ve been experiencing lately. One of the things she asked me was how often I am being authentic. I always thought of myself as a very authentic person, honest and up front, but after chatting for a while with her she pointed out that I’m delivering an edited version of myself. She suggested that I probably did this while dating, at work and even in friendships. It’s even something I do in my blog to not offend people. Saying things like ‘not everyone’ or ‘what I mean is.’

In reality most people are only delivering edited versions of themselves and in some cases people become those edited versions and that’s all there is to them. The surface level, shallowness that plagues our mainstream culture, is a reflection of people editing themselves for their facebook profiles, Instagram accounts, and snapchat stories. Everyone is the creative director of their own brand.

We present a filtered, upbeat, social façade and when we break that mould slightly and go off brand, other people react to that. They wonder where the happy perky girl is or that laid back easy-going guy. When we express anything beyond what we have sold ourselves as, our already conditioned culture reacts to this and people suddenly want a refund. However, there is no money back on love and friendships – but you can block and delete people from your various lists and really teach them a lesson, if they even notice one missing friend out of a 1,000.

When my psychologist told me to be more authentic, I wasn’t sure what to do. I’m so used to being the happy, fun, ready for anything party girl – that I was only half aware I was presenting – that I’m unsure how to present the other aspects of my personality. Culturally, it isn’t just social media which effects how we edit ourselves, it’s also historically an attribute most women take on. We have to be presentable to the world, always smiling and never expressing a negative emotion. As women, we can’t go off brand in more than one way.

Sometimes, when we do present a more serious side the opposite happens, people might assume you’re just a stick in the mud and want nothing to do with you until they know that you’re at their level. There’s so much FOMO and instant gratification, that when people have different interests or hold back in anyway, they isolate themselves.

There has to be a happy medium.

Of course there are all the caveats.

‘You just have to meet the right people at the right time.’

‘If you were meant to be friends/lovers it would just work and be easy.’

If we are all editing ourselves in order to get along with the greater majority and not offend people or appeal to a larger audience, then isn’t it hard to really get to know someone? Don’t we have to get through the ‘yay we can have fun together phase’ and then move on to the’ deep and meaningful’? What if we have become so convinced by the projection we are creating that we aren’t quite sure what is authentic and inauthentic? Is it bad to become those projections if they don’t actually make you a bad person?

I’m still struggling to determine exactly what the unedited version of me is. If you took away the things we wear and items we use to identify ourselves, what’s left? I’m so much more than a yoga mat using, reusable coffee cup carrying, iPhone holding, bleached blond. I’m also more than a bubbly, partying, spontaneous dancing, social butterfly.

But our cultural norms don’t make it easy to project this outwards. Unless I can get “sapiosexual, harmonium playing, sometimes introverted” printed on a t-shirt, it’s difficult to be show all aspects of ourselves in our narrowly defined mainstream culture.

I think in Sydney it can be more difficult. Surrounded by expats and a laid back drinking culture, it’s easy to get caught up in the ‘vacation everyday’ mentality. Where for every beautiful finely groomed woman and buff surfer dude, there’s 1000000+ more, partnerships and connections can seem frivolous. Why settle down with a partner or friend and get to know their intimate quirks and the parts of their personality that clash with you and challenge you, when you can turn them in for the newest model?

I love afternoon drinks on the beach, but I also like when my friends come over and we write anonymous love letters and leave them around Newtown.

I like dancing and taking shots, but I also like staying in to read in bed.

I like documenting fun parts of my life on Instagram, but I don’t want to be solely defined by images I have carefully selected. I want to have the opportunity to be the imperfect parts too and for that to be ok. I don’t want to pass people over because there’s a new edition ready and I certainly don’t want to be seen as replaceable. We are all responsible for this mainstream culture because we buy in to it and allow it to influence our lives and so only we can really change it.

As my teachers at Jivamukti Yoga say ‘be the change.’

And hopefully by being the change we can all get a little closer to authenticity.

The Real S-Town

I think one of the most relatable things about the podcast S-town, is that most of us probably feel that in our lives we have been let down, by other people, our communities and our families. A lot of the attributes that the main character John laments about are things that we can all see in some form in our lives and often in our places of origin.

This is my origin story.

It all took place on a little known street in Jersey City, NJ. Growing up there were six other houses on my block and up until the age of seven, no one very close to my age. There were a few slightly older boys, but they had very little interest in playing ponies and barbies with me. I can’t fathom why not.

My older sister and I had the luxury of getting to play in a wide open street. There was no traffic and even the odd car driving down the block was cause for excitement. Even though we were living in a busy inner city, we were isolated on a street that still housed a paint factory and two different trucking garages that rarely had activity and were ultimately just junkyards. 

I remember sneaking in to the junkyards and climbing over bits of trucks and cars, every crunch or thud would send us screaming back across the street to the safety of our homes. People often came to our street to dump kittens, cats and dogs. This meant that besides the animals living in our house, there were a number of creatures we cared for on the streets. We spent a large portion of my childhood taming and homing stray animals.

My sister remembers loving our neighbourhood. She liked being able to play freely in the street and ride our bikes without care. I remember feeling isolated, missing out on walking to friends’ homes and playdates that didn’t require a twenty minute drive. 
There was something that I did get from growing up in a deserted end of Jersey City, and that is a very active imagination. There’s a lot that you can do in neighbourhood where abandoned things outnumber people. Exploration. Discovery. Uncovering. 

I knew however that I lived in a real S-town. My parents told me as much, especially my dad. As a police officer he saw a lot of horrible things happen and he would speak about the injustices at length. He still does. 

He felt let down and disenfranchised by the world he was living in. John from S-town reminds me a lot of him. While my dad wasn’t building mazes and hiding gold, he was often tinkering in his basement, which was a maze in its own right.

I would wander down through the rows of antiques and found objects and imagine where they came from. Old things are quite easy to romanticize. I would find an old picture frame with lots of embellishment and a tarnished picture behind the glass and through much persuasion I would be allowed to bring the rare object up to my room (my mom preferred they stay in the basement). My dad would sit in his chair and uncover things. It was like he was constantly going through old memories, some of them his, some he wished were his.

In reality, Jersey City was not a shit-town, places are only shit if you let them be. It had a lot of hidden opportunity and diversity and gave me a unique collection of experiences, which I identify with a lot. Each of us has our own set from wherever our childhoods unfolded. Even my sister and I have different versions of a similar story.

It’s easy to see the bad in things. My dad often focused on all the things going wrong in JC. We do this in all parts of our lives. The bad things burden us and weigh us down, but my sister has the right idea, she sees all the good parts of our origin story. 

The empty streets for play and the isolation that really cultivated our imaginations and helped make us creative adults. 

The real shit-town is the one we build in our minds where we are eternally the victims of the stories we pigeon hole ourselves in to. The good thing is, we can change our minds about it at any time.

A Very Un-Funny Story

I went camping with some friends recently and caught myself doing something I didn’t really like. In fact it took one of my friends pointing it out for me to realize how the way I was speaking was possibly influencing how other people were seeing me and more importantly, how I was seeing myself.

I was telling a failed dating story, one where ultimately the person hurt my feelings and I ended up in tears. I can’t remember which story it was exactly. It might have been the time someone broke up with me via text while I was at brunch with my friend and we spent an hour in the café while I cried (that was awkward)…or maybe it was the time that one of the guys I was dating dumped me over the phone and told me he had only dated me because “I was hot and he wanted to keep fucking me”…regardless of the story I ended it by laughing at my own misery. One of my friends called me on this and told me I shouldn’t laugh, that how they treated me wasn’t nice and I shouldn’t laugh at my past self for having invested in that person.

I can see that it’s something I’ve done a lot recently. I share stories about how badly I’ve felt I was treated by men and laugh it off, while subconsciously looking for pity and trying to demonstrate that it doesn’t really affect me…which only makes it more evident how much it does affect me.

I’ve never thought of myself as someone who has wanted pity, I’ve always thought that sharing stories about breakups is a good way to relate to people and can explain why you act a certain way in relationships, but when you are telling the same story over and over, the punchline gets less funny when it’s actually you.

I’ve been telling these stories over the past few years not to get people to tell me I’m wonderful and that the guys were missing out, but because I wanted to not care any more about them and I thought if I laughed at them that they wouldn’t affect me so much anymore, but instead that means that I’ve been laughing at myself, my choice in men, and the end of both good and bad relationships. How can I realistically start a partnership with someone when all the people I’ve previously dated are the jokes of a very un-funny story?

I heard someone say recently about conflicts that they have a way to reducing people and pigeon holing them. Well, my relationship stories have the same effect. They turn my romantic partners in to caricatures and they ultimately make me look foolish.

For example, the guy who texted me at the café and ended things, who I later make fun of in the story because of his performance in bed, he was actually a really nice guy. He didn’t treat me badly, but he was interested in someone else, so he just didn’t want to date me. That shouldn’t be a reason to make him in to a villain. He just wasn’t that in to me. I know I certainly don’t want to be a villain in the stories of the men I’m also just not that in to. It’s hard to break-up with people and while there might be better ways, people are only capable of doing their own best at any given time.

And the guy who dumped me over the phone and told me he dated me cause he just wanted to fuck me…well he probably could have phrased it better….but the sex was good …its actually all we had going for us…in the end we weren’t really a great match and I’m glad he had the balls to end it when I was incapable of doing it.

I don’t want to tell stories where I am the victim, because I’m not. Playing the victim in the stories we tell ourselves and others in regards to relationships, friendships, and even at work, takes away our power. We feel like things are happening to us and around us and that we don’t have a role in the chaos, when we do.

I keep unconsciously telling myself through my own re-telling of these stories, that I’m not good enough, that everyone will eventually dump me, and that once I am dumped the history of that relationship is fodder for a camping story in a few months’ time.

We have to be careful of the stories we tell ourselves, they have a way of creeping in and shaping how we see ourselves. Once we have a view of who we think we are, it’s hard to break that and we tend to bring our own perception of ourselves in to our interactions with other people.

I don’t have to be someone who gets dumped via a text message by men I met online dating. I can be someone who has dated a lot of different, interesting, attractive, and intelligent men. Period. Full stop.

There’s no caveat of just not having found the right one yet. I have found many great men and enjoyed knowing them all. That’s a much better story.