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Real Connection – Relationship Reality

“Life delights in life.”  — William Blake

How do we connect with other people?  Do we rely on conflict, suffering, manipulation, gossip or one-up-man ship?  Do we create relationships that can be controlled safely and then call that “reality?”

Real connection requires two people, both wanting to be in the relationship, to approach each other as equals.  A good relationship brings us happiness, growth and a satisfying feeling of closeness.  We can be ourselves, without adjusting our beliefs or behavior to please the other person or to keep up the relationship.  The moment we abandon our equality, we have a power struggle, not a relationship.

Previously, the only connections we made were between us and a hunger and an appetite that was never filled.  Once we began our process of personal growth we began to enjoy the real connections with people; the true joy that comes with giving and receiving.


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Those Few Special Friendships

 

“A friend is a gift you give yourself.”  — Robert Louis Stevenson

More.  Some of us have come to believe that more means better.  But there are some things where less is more, and one of them is a close friendship.  The truth is, we don’t have many special friends, and that is exactly what makes them special.

Between such friends, there is a bond of understanding, honesty, acceptance and love that is valued even more over time.  Trusted friends offer us the opportunity to learn to be intimate and to let ourselves be known as we truly are, time and time again.  From that mutual sharing, we receive what we need.  We can take certain risks, secure in the knowledge that the friendship will endure the test. With our special friends, we don’t have to worry about being perfect because we’re loved for who we are; the way we are.  These friendships possess an innate freedom.

Special friendships can be platonic or romantic. It doesn’t matter. Through good times and bad, we begin to sense a divine triangle of growth and love between ourselves, our special friends and our connection with the Universe.

To my close friends, Trish, Andrea, Scott, Kevin and Gregg, “Thank you for accepting “me” as me. The five of you were the special friendships I had in my mind when writing this blog.”

 


How to Get to Forgiveness

One is, as One is.


“One is as one is, and the love that can’t encompass both is a poor sort of love.”  — Marya Mannes

I have struggled to find the way to forgive myself and others.  Forgiving isn’t easy.  Writing this blog isn’t easy.  I am carrying so much resentment and hurt around with me.  In fact, when I’ve been deeply hurt or victimized by someone else, I may feel I can’t forgive. Yet, for my peace of mind and to let go, I may finally try.  It’s been suggested by a close friend that forgiveness is easier under certain conditions: a positive connection with the person we want to forgive, a deep relationship with the Universe, and lots of time.

Forgiveness is often preceded by grieving fully; we must first heal from the harm that was done to us. Through the honesty, power and wisdom gained through personal growth we are gently led through the process of forgiving ourselves and others. Many of us have also experienced the Universe’s unconditional forgiveness which gives us a model.  I acknowledge my responsibility for my actions, I let go of resentment, I grieve, and, finally, I forgive.

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See That Storm Just Ahead? Confronting Issues

 

“Maybe you can’t see the storm that lies just ahead. But I can. Believe me, it’s there.”

Confronting issues openly and honestly can be difficult. Many, like me are afraid of the reaction they’ll get from the person they are confronting. With that fear firmly embedded in one’s psyche, looking the other way and acting like the problem isn’t there becomes the easy way out. Or so it seems. Looking the other way really doesn’t make matters easier at all. In fact, it makes them worse. Problems often just don’t go away without some action.

I haven’t faced some very big issues and challenges that have been in my life for too long now. But I see clearly that I can’t let these problems linger. In my situation the problems have grown and the result is more and more hurt to me. I feel fear of the reaction I expect to receive. My fears I know after giving it long thought are grounded in reality and not based on my imagination. To get myself beyond this fear, I will have to have the necessary support around me to protect me. With my support in place I will face my problems. I must remember that storms don’t last forever. Eventually the sun does shine again, and life was nourished by the rains. I will come out of this a better person.

 

In Love v. Being “In Love”

Loving v. Being in Love”

Someone said to me this morning that he believes it to be true, that people can be in love, but not “in” love. Now this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this belief stated. So, I wanted to venture off to do some research of my own on this “Loving versus “Being in Love” concept. I would have said being in love is the single most wonderful and important thing. It’s an arbiter of chemistry. However, I have found that like some, it may be argued that being in love is a short-lived sensation that is not sustainable. Perhaps loving and respecting someone are more important.

Being in love is short-lived:

At times I wonder if the sensation of being in love is a chemical imprinting phenomenon perhaps even exclusive to heterosexuals. The coveting, jealousy and exclusiveness might stem from the nature driven side of sex for reproduction; the desire to perpetuate ones offspring at the exclusion of competitors.

In our society, the traditional heterosexual marriage model is the only socially supported model for establishing and maintaining long-term sexual and affectional relationships among gays and lesbians. This model has never been really appropriate or functional for same sex relationships. Although many same-sex couples still try to adapt the marriage model in one form or another, most now avoid relationships that completely conform to it in favor of relationships in which roles are not so rigidly formulated by gender role stereotypes.

Naturally, this movement away from the marriage pattern, along with the realities of same-gender relationships, makes for differences between gay and non-gay partnerships. There are also differences between kinds of relationship characteristics typical of gay male and lesbian couples because of differences between genders and the ways men and women are socialized. These differences create different problems and raise different issues. In spite of these differences, however, there are some general relationship issues that are common to both gay and non-gay couples.

Same-sex relationships are similar to opposite-sex relationships in that they are both built on love, mutual caring, and trust, communication is an essential element to the continuing success of the relationship, and both must negotiate roles, rules, and expectations. One of the biggest differences between gay and non-gay relationships, however, is that same-sex relationships lack roles models.

This may sound unromantic but I think questioning the basis for behavior is at times important to evolve either into or beyond a state. All that you say resonates to be sure, yet too often have I seen madly passionate in-love individual’s burn out of their passions. “Quick to light, quickly to burn” I believe the old adage goes… And with it yes- the pain and fear…

Be assured I am not at all questioning our desire to feel in love; we all have this aspiration. I question only for myself, since my partner has communicated to me on several occasions that this kind of passion has changed for me and with it the feeling of being in love. I agree love and respect – are a given. Now rapture for someone must extend to a sense of great potential for that person as an individual and as a partner. Coveting and jealousy have evolved into deep feelings of contentment of knowing that you are watchful of and watched by someone. I can’t quite approximate the sensation with language but I am aware of the rare quality of a person from whom I seek to give and receive that type of attention; their vision and affection becomes integral to one’s evolution, not simply supportive of it. I recall the time when my last partner and I met, and those weeks and months in the beginning of our relationship that he and I were unable to make even simple eye contact with one another because the rapture, the overwhelming brilliance and joy seemed blinding. We could not look at each other without seeing a future- and yet, has that feeling not lasted? Was it meant to? Are all states of “being in love” eventually replaced by a deep mutual love, respect, affection, and (if lucky) persistent attraction.

Being in love is foundational:

Without a doubt, love and respect are centrally important. Without respect and trust you have nothing, maybe just some hormones.

However, there’s something Freud called ‘the over-valuation of the love object,’ and I think that’s essential. That’s the phenomenon of believing your love object is incredibly special, even if rationally you know that all people are imperfect. Your beloved’s eyes shine brighter, their remarks are cleverer, their smile is truer, their insights are more insightful, their comfort more comforting – generally that the world is a better place simply because they, apart from all others, are in it. Your life is a better and finer thing because that person is sharing it with you.

You have to feel that no substitute is possible because of the ineffable uniqueness and specialness of your loved one. And that feeling of eminence is partly delusional, and partly based on the lock-and-key-like fit of two unique yet compatible personalities coming together as they deepen their mutual understanding over time. To me, that set of feelings is “being-in-love,” and I believe no relationship can survive without. Without that feeling, you’re constantly aware that the world is full of adequate substitutes. I also believe that this sort of being-in-love is not short-lived but foundational, even if it goes through fluctuations and phases.

Love, however, is by comparison a relatively non-relational way of caring for someone: it means that you care about and are committed to someone else’s happiness and well-being around equally to your own, and are willing to put in work toward achieving that. This sort of love is altruistic and relatively selfless but it doesn’t draw you to someone and make you want to inhabit a private or exclusive sphere. That love you could have for a mother and a brother and humanity in general. It’s non-possessory. Does that make it a ‘better’ sort of love, higher, more virtuous? Perhaps, but also more tepid & impersonal, and lacking in any compelling sense of why you give love and effort to one person and not another.

In-love love is exclusionary, jealous, protective, devoted, involved, inspiring, and covetous (among other things). The flip side of being in love is the potential for real hurt and loss. And nearly everyone becomes more loss-averse and risk averse over time, as well as – more detrimentally – more self-protective and resilient. There are benefits, yet it means one build walls on all sides. So over time there’s a gap between one’s conceptual view of being-in-love and one’s ability to do it – or, really, to allow it.

The fact that it becomes harder or rarer doesn’t make it less real or less important.

Conclusion
As I get more experienced I find myself willing to compromise less and less. I know what works for me and even more so what does not. As for love, I have never been as hurt as when I have been in love. Similarly, I have never unintentionally hurt someone as much as when that person was in love with me and I was not (despite wanting to be). For that, I cannot apologize enough. Despite my outward rationality and coldness, I am a romantic at heart. And, as an eternal optimist, I continue to believe in the archetypal importance of being in love.

 

On Friendship

 

 

Friendship is a strong and habitual inclination in two persons to promote the good and happiness of one another” – Eustace Budgell

A friend of mine recently passed on to me one of his most important beliefs about relationships:

“The person with the greater need comes first. This means there are times I will consciously choose to set aside my own needs, feelings, or concerns because someone else’s need is greater. If I visit a friend in the hospital, it isn’t the time to go on and on about how I’ve accepted a new job and am moving across the country”.

I know that the more I progress through my own personal growth work, the more I’ll develop relationships to turn to for support. And, of course, I have the best resource of all – myself. My ability to guide, support and nurture myself increases without my being aware of it.

The self-centeredness and selfishness I possessed as the “old Mark”, before beginning work on myself begins to disappear. I don’t always have to vie for attention or have my way. I can decide to put someone else first, not out of martyrdom, but out of respect and love.

When in doubt, I will remember that the one with the greater need comes first!


Feeling is the Inner Life

Expression is the Outer Life

I’ve realized that there’s a difference between my ability to feel, my ability to express my feelings, and my ability to let go.  I know there are many painful emotions I learned to suppress when I was young, particularly anger or sadness.  Other emotions might be difficult to feel because they are connected to past pain.

Yet there’s no letting go, no moving on, until I stop trying to avoid feelings such as sorrow, anger, rage or despair.  I have found the way to begin working through difficult feelings is to reach out to people with a phone call, email, or blog comment.  Other ways I have found to help are writing (blogging or journaling); having a good cry, or plan a healing ritual which can be as simple as taking a couple of days alone, just to think.  For some of us, turning to our Higher Power, as we know it provides the spiritual help and nourishment we need.

The release that will come as a result of expressing our feelings will help to ease the pain.  It’s not realistic to release all the pain from our past all at once, but we can begin by letting go of a little piece today.

The Gift of Friends

"A little help from my friends..."

“And when I see you happy, well, it sets my heart free.  I’d like to be as good a friend to you as you are to me.”  — Joni Mitchell

Friends are one of the greatest gifts and they come as a result of a life that’s sane and manageable.  It takes time and energy to make and keep good friends, but the rewards are worth it.  To these most special people we can gladly give our honesty, our fidelity, our trust, and our unconditional acceptance.

As friendship grows, we find ourselves more able to understand our friend’s needs.  Is there a child to be watched or perhaps a kitchen that could really use a cleaning?  Can we listen emphatically, without judging, to whatever a friend is going through?  When a friend is sick, are we ready to help out?  Can we put aside our needs because a friend’s need is greater at the moment than our own?

Through our efforts toward personal growth, we build the skills it takes to be a good friend, we can let go and let our friendships develop naturally.  Then, we will be able to trust the bond of love between our friends and us.

Saving Yourself

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark.  The real tragedy is when men are afraid of the light. —  Plato

FORGIVE THE PAST!

LIVE EACH DAY FULLY!

BE EAGER FOR TOMORROW!

“Forgive the past by releasing the pain; it will only hurt you and others. Live each day fully by forgiving the past and looking forward to tomorrow; you can’t change yesterday or tomorrow without changing your actions today. Look forward to tomorrow by building and sharing you love to help you meet your goals.”

LEARN TO LOVE YOURSELF BEFORE YOU CAN LOVE OTHERS!


Indifference and Apathy: Disease of the Spirit

mask-of-indifference

“The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of inhumanity.”  — George Bernard Shaw

Hate is the other side of love and shows at least energy and passion.  Probably most of us feel surges of hate at some time or another,  especially toward those we love the most.  We can deal with this if we realize that these moments will pass and be forgiven.

But indifference and apathy can become a disease of the spirit so pervasive that their darkness envelops everything.  Then life is stifled and throttled at the root.  If we don’t value the people around us,  they will feel our lack of caring as striking at the heart of their humanity.  If we have no time for life, then life and those close to us will drift away from us.

The world is a place of splendor and love.  We can connect with it if we reach out beyond self-concern and replace indifference and apathy with the energy of living and loving.