Category Archives: love

The absurdity of friends with benefits

B is a good friend and co-worker of mine. We walk every day during our work breaks and more often than not we spend our 15 minutes making obscene jokes and coming up with absurd “life is like” metaphors. For example, “Life is like a bump in the road. Everything is going fine and then BAM! And you’re freaking the fuck out, but really it’s nothing.” On a rare occasion, though, we actually have insightful and thought-provoking conversations and today was one of those days when I read an article about how awesome friends with benefits relationships are and it pissed me the fuck off. So thank you, B, for listening to my rant this morning and for challenging me to examine my own beliefs about the subject. Here it is, folks.

Friends with benefits – aka FWB – is not black and white. It occupies a gray area that extends beyond casual sex, yet lacks the explicit commitment of monogamy in a long-term, serious relationship.

A common misconception about FWB relationships is that it is usually with someone you barely know. In reality, though, the likelihood that this person is someone we know fairly well and with whom we share some level of emotional intimacy is high. It is not impossible to find success in a FWB relationship but it does require a separation between love and sex, which for many of us can be hard to sustain.

I don’t know what it is about us as a species that sharing our bodies with another person evokes a sense of ownership over them but undoubtedly most of us will experience a sense of jealousy when we see our FWB flirting and talking with other people or if we see someone else pursuing them. Yet, we also don’t feel like we have the “right” to be jealous given the sense of casualness and detachment a FWB relationship implies.

When we fully realize the other person isn’t bothered by us being with someone else and in fact may even encourage it, we can’t help but feel like they don’t care. Though s/he may try to convince you it doesn’t change the way they feel towards you or that you share something special together, their lackadaisical attitude makes us question if we are just a muse – a “placeholder” until something better comes along.

What is even more aggravating is the set of rules we must abide by. Do not fall in love. Do not introduce them to your friends or family. Be sure to go out with other people. Do not get jealous. Do not cuddle.

This is the absurdity of friends with benefits. We are human beings. We are not devoid of emotional attachments. Part of our attraction to someone is not just their appearance but their brains and their heart and their soul. They hold some sort of significance in our lives. It is foolish to think otherwise.

We can argue that any amount of genuine feelings for another human being is worth any future pain and disappointment we may feel but the only thing I see at the end of a friends with benefits relationship is hurt and the fact that I would inevitably resent and possibly even hate the other person.

Plus, that sort of arrangement – when one person starts to develop deeper feelings for the other – only serves to fuel our sense of inadequacy. What is it about me that makes me not good enough? Why doesn’t the person I am falling for find it worthy of their time to actually be with me? Am I that unlovable?

You are good enough. You are worthy. You are lovable. But if there is one absolute when it comes to relationships, it’s that no one will ever love you because you demand it. It must be given of their own free will.

We can justify sacrificing our desire for something more for the fun we are having now, but ask yourself if that fun is worth the emotional fallout in the end. If you have been in a friends with benefits relationship and found it unfulfilling after a certain period of time, did you not know in your gut that continuing that arrangement was the wrong thing to do?

I’ve asked myself if it is possible for the friendship to still be in tact even after the “benefits” are over. Depending on who you ask, some may say yes and others will say it is unrealistic. I don’t think either answer is wrong and I myself am not entirely sure where I stand on the subject. But I do know that we all deserve love and if the person you are falling for tells you they cannot – or do not want to – offer you what you ultimately desire, believe them. But do not fault them for that either.

From personal experience, I know it is difficult to change the circumstances of a friends with benefits relationship in order to preserve the actual friendship but be brave enough to do it anyways. In the end, really good friends who have sex – while it sounds ideal – is a lonely place to be.

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Filed under dating, friends, insight, love, relationships, sex

Too damaged to love?

It is difficult to look at someone who seemingly has it all on the outside and imagine they are damaged and broken on the inside. These are the people who expertly hide their realities; the ones who quietly suffer from life experiences of abandonment and disappointment from the most important relationships in their lives.

I find myself seeking these people out. I suppose it is because I find an odd beauty in something that seems so wrecked. Perhaps that is because I see a mirror image of myself in them.

I know that I am screwed up and that I am damaged and broken from past relationships. Someone shattered my heart to pieces. My spirit was destroyed. There was a fundamental shift in my soul. After that experience I never thought I could open my heart to another. I was perfectly content to walk this earth alone. So when I met someone I found myself sharing a deep connection with it completely caught me off guard.

Sometimes, the emotions are so intense I feel the internal struggle of wanting to build an impenetrable wall and surrendering myself to genuine love. It is difficult to ask myself to be open to the possibility of loving someone again. It is even more difficult to ask another individual who is equally (or perhaps more so) damaged and broken to let themselves love me.

When we reach that point in a relationship, there are a myriad of thoughts running through our minds. If I couldn’t make it with the last person I dated, then who can I make it with? Am I the right person for them? Am I the right person for anyone? I know I will never be able to give them what they want and I never want to be the cause of hurt or disappointment in their lives.

It is unfortunate that we let our past experiences dictate the value we believe we can bring to a relationship. We do not desire to hurt someone else or disappoint them but that is an impossible expectation. No matter how hard we try to be the perfect version of ourselves we are bound to disappoint. Will we fail in our attempts at love? It’s possible, sure. Even likely. But if you continue to doubt your ability to be in a successful relationship and to give it your best effort you will never succeed.

I believe people come in and out of our lives at the right times. Whether it is to teach us something about ourselves or for us to help them heal. We cannot predict how it will turn out in the end. I know for me, though, that the relationship I am building now is exactly what I need at this moment in time, even if it is just to show me that I am capable of loving again.

The lesson I have learned in all this is that we are all damaged. There is not a human on this earth who has not hurt or has not felt pain. We don’t hurt in the same way, of course. I look at myself and the people I have met in my life. Some of the traumas they have experienced in their lives are hard to fathom. It is understandable why they feel broken. Why they feel like their presence in someone else’s life can only bring sorrow and disappointment. The danger, though, is in letting it dictate our future and in letting it close ourselves off to the possibility of finding a forever with someone. The only thing it really does is give us the permission we need to stay single.

We are given one life to live and if we can experience a minute of genuine, pure love – the kind of love without any expectation of something in return – then it is worth any amount of pain we may feel in the future.

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Filed under lessons learned, love, relationships, vulnerability

Dating organically

Have you ever found it challenging to let relationships evolve organically? It’s something I’ve struggled with recently and I think that is perhaps because of my prior relationship experience – when I spent nearly four years with someone only to never have them fully commit to me. Moving forward with my life, I’ve found that is something I’m not willing to compromise on. For anyone I date, my expectation is that both of us communicate what we want and are respectful of each other’s feelings. Somehow, though, I’ve come to equate feeling safe and secure in a relationship with a requirement that the other person profess a level of commitment to me early on instead of letting the relationship progress naturally. But I ask myself this: what is wrong with reveling in the status of your relationship exactly as it is? What is wrong with taking things slow? What is wrong with nurturing the connection you feel to this other person? Nothing Lindsay. Nothing at all. And perhaps that is exactly what you need to be focusing on right now – bonding, understanding each other (particularly your differences), and learning to communicate openly and without judgement. Aren’t these necessary qualities for any relationship to be successful in the long run?

I think this is a concept everyone, at some point, has probably struggled with. Particularly people in my generation because of the pervasive “hook up” culture we operate in, which gives us the permission to not commit and easily walk away. To combat that, we push and push and we try to force a pledge to one another before either of us, truthfully, are ready to take that next step. Men do this but I think women do it more.

If anything, I’m learning that letting love flow naturally is not the same thing as being passive. It doesn’t mean compromising your wants, values, and expectations/intentions. In fact, it requires reflection and self-awareness. In those moments of reflection, especially in recent weeks, I’ve realized how I react and the things I do have contributed to my disappointments and kept me from the love I desired.

In particular, I’m talking about assumptions and control. When the person you are dating says or does something to cause you to doubt or question the status of your relationship, it is easy to add your own meaning to his/her words and actions. You interpret those situations as what you think is going on instead of what is actually happening. I know for me this is likely due to all those fears I hold, of being vulnerable and open about my feelings.

And, when it comes to control, when we are uncertain about the future and what it holds we try to force things to happen in the manner in which we hope it will turn out in the end. But the more we try to force something and the more we try to control what is happening, the more things don’t work out exactly as we planned. I think this urge to control is often because of a lack of trust, even when that person has given us no reason not to trust them. For most of us, this is probably shaped by negative or traumatic experiences we’ve had in the past. But remember that who you are dating now is not the same person you used to date. You have to stop assuming (there’s that word again) they are. People do terrible, awful things all the time. And yes, there are bad people out there. But there are also a lot of good people. Nothing will happen if you don’t give the other person a chance to show you that.

In the end, falling in love will happen organically. It arises out of friendship. So be present and enjoy each other’s company. Everything will turn out exactly as it is supposed to.

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Filed under dating, expectations, love, relationships, self-awareness

Good riddance, 26!

I often put puzzles out on the filing cabinet that sits outside my office at work. I also have a white board hanging there, both of which I use as a means of engagement with my coworkers. Puzzles are fun for breaks and what I put on the white board varies by the day. Anything from “What are you grateful for today?” to “Goals for the week” to “Let’s play hangman!” It’s a fun way for me to foster a positive work environment and if you’ve ever worked in state government, you know we could use a little light-heartedness at the office.

I’ve had a running countdown in the corner of the white board since January, keeping my coworkers guessing for months what it could possibly mean. This week they finally figured it out. What was the countdown for? My 27th birthday, of course!

April 30 is a day I’ve been looking forward to pretty much since the day I turned 26. FINALLY, I get to kick my 26th year to the curb. Sianara, sucker! Good riddance! Adios! I most certainly will NOT miss you!

I started out 27 by spilling coffee all over my shirt but coworkers were quick to the rescue with tide-to-go pens and shout wipes (I should really start carrying those) so it turned around quite quickly. Everyone has made my birthday feel special – from sending flowers and cards to taking me out for lunch to sending me loving and thoughtful messages. But the best birthday present of all?! The birth of my nephew, Sawyer Dean. It is so cool to share a birthday with him!

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Even though 26 was a trying year and I’m happy I never have to live it again, I learned some not-so-bad things too.

What I Learned About Life
Everyone, everywhere basically wants the same things: to love and be loved in return; to be joyful and happy; to feel like we belong; to have a sense of purpose that is greater than ourselves; to feel validated; to have a sense of security; to have enough money to enjoy things beyond our basic needs.

It doesn’t matter where I am in the world or who I talk to, it seems like this is always what my conversations circle back around to. Early on in my twenties and up until this past year I was fairly ignorant about that. I thought that no one else could possibly understand what I felt or what I was going through or the things I desired. I was wrong. And at some level, in the back of my mind, I already knew this. But now, I know for sure.

What I Learned About Love
I’ve learned more than I ever wanted to about love in my 26th year. I couldn’t possibly list them all here but what sticks out to me the most is this: at 26 I realized people do things to each other all the time that are awful, disappointing, and devastating. The way I was treated and the things that happened to me at the hands of someone else were flat-out cruel and deeply traumatizing. I don’t know why what happened to me did. But it did. It happened. And even though it makes no sense to me and I don’t have the answers to all the “whys” I can at least acknowledge that despite its horror, it transformed me (and for the better).

Now, at 27, I realize people also do things to each other all the time that are beautiful, uplifting, and genuine.

What I Learned About Myself
Put simply: I am brave, courageous, strong, and willing to both challenge and question myself. I am worthy of good things happening to me.

What I Learned About Work
In December 2014 I accepted my dream job. Six months later I quit.

I am unwavering in the values and beliefs I hold about creating a positive work culture – it’s probably the number one thing I look for in an organization. When a leader does not share those same values and instead abuses their position of authority, it lights a fire so deep inside me. I didn’t know this about myself until I actually experienced it.

I was fortunate enough to work for someone who became like family in the 4 years prior to accepting this particular position. With affection, we called her Mama Bear because she was fierce and firm in protecting us. If you find yourself in a situation where your supervisor does not do this and instead treats you like less than a human being, please stand up for yourself. Their authority does not give them the right to abuse you or your coworkers. No job is worth creating unhappiness in your life.

What I Learned About Family and Friends
I’m quite honestly horrible at keeping in touch regularly with my friends and family. We may only talk every couple of months but if any of us are suffering or hurting there is no doubt we will come out of the woodwork in waves to lift each other up.

I spent a long time presenting one face to the world, which had little resemblance to who I was at home alone. In fact, I was a skilled magician creating an illusion where people only saw what I wanted them to see. When that mask came off I shouldn’t have been surprised to see how many people loved and cared about me. But I was. They are the most important in my life. I didn’t fully realize how much until I hit rock bottom. I have mad love for you guys!

What I Learned About Water Parks
Best way to celebrate your birthday. Ever.

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Filed under birthday, family, lessons learned, life lessons, love, photos, self-awareness, work

How to be more vulnerable in relationships

Warning: this post is really long.

Whew! It’s been a few weeks since writing in here but I’ve been knee-deep in finishing the last school paper I will ever write. Because guess what? I’m graduating with my Masters degree in THREE WEEKS (can I get a whoop whoop?!?). Obviously, words cannot describe how excited I am because it has been  such a struggle working full-time, attending school part-time, and dealing with the tumultuous and traumatizing events over the last year (well, really the past three years).

Having spent weeks in economics theory and how it can be applied to environmental science policy I definitely needed a reprieve because if I had to write one more thing about particulate matter emissions I was going to explode. So I took a break from all that and started working on something far more interesting to me. And that’s where the rest of this post comes in!

As some of you may know, a few months ago I was approached by Ambiance Matchmaking (based out of Chicago) to be a contributing writer on their blog on all things dating/relationships. I was pleasantly surprised because I hardly feel like an expert on the subject. I mean, I am the girl who is queen of first date fuck-ups. The worst being that I set up two first dates in one day (don’t do that). I got drunk on the first one and by the second one I was puking. You wouldn’t think I’d be asked out on a second date, but I was. So somehow my winning personality must have beat out the most embarrassing moment of my life. Or maybe they just pitied me. But I digress.

Last month my editor asked me to write an article on how to be vulnerable since many of her clients have mentioned they struggle with vulnerability in their relationships. It took me a month to write this because every time I sat down to do it my mind was blank. I’ve certainly taken a lot of opportunities to be vulnerable in the last couple of months but I’m definitely no Brene Brown. I struggle with being vulnerable so who am I to offer advice on the subject? Well, it turns out I actually did have something to say. After nearly a month it’s finally finished and will be posted to Ambiance Matchmaking’s dating blog (check it out!) sometime this week. Here’s a peek! 

In the exciting but sometimes disastrous world of dating I often ask myself why it’s so hard for me to be vulnerable in a relationship. I imagine most of you have asked yourself this same question too.

Sharing our vulnerabilities isn’t always easy to do, especially at the point when you and your partner decide to take casual dating to the next level. This stems largely out of fear. Fear that if we share the most authentic versions of ourselves – those things we keep hidden like our insecurities or the guilt, denial, and shame we may hold about what we’ve done to someone or what they did to us – then we will be rejected, judged, labeled, even misunderstood.

Out of this fear we tend to portray only the perfect parts of ourselves – the parts that make us fun, lively, and enjoyable to be around. But to truly be vulnerable means to reveal those parts of ourselves we keep hidden. Why don’t we do that?

Well, I imagine all of us can think back to a time in our past relationships when we bared our soul to someone we thought would protect our vulnerabilities and they didn’t. When we love with reckless abandon and fall into those kinds of people quickly and relentlessly they mess with those vulnerabilities. They find ways to abuse them and sometimes they abuse them in the most cruel of ways. We realize that rabid dogs can take human form.

In order to protect our hearts from future hurt we build walls so high that they are impenetrable. We wear a suit of armor as if our lives depended on it. We suppress the scary, beautiful, tender side of our love because the idea of letting someone else in – even for the right sort of person – seems impossible.

But despite how scary it is to open ourselves up to someone we still yearn for connection and intimacy. Intuitively, I think we all know that true emotional intimacy requires vulnerability and that to be vulnerable requires strength and courage and authenticity. It requires us to be brave. It requires us to stop suppressing our deepest vulnerabilities because without letting your guard down it’s very likely your relationship will fizzle out.

In reality sharing our deepest vulnerabilities is easier said than done. After all, our first instincts when we feel shame, hurt, indignation, or disappointment towards ourselves or our partner is to mask those feelings, likely because we fear that expressing any sort of negative emotion makes us weak.

We may even fear how our partners will react. Maybe they’ll think I’m needy. Maybe they won’t want to date me anymore. And if they don’t want to date me because of these vulnerabilities then who will?

In all honesty (and for the sake of being vulnerable with my audience) I will tell you these things may very well happen.

Being vulnerable in a relationship will not always mean your significant other will share the same sentiments. If you open your heart to them and they view it as a weakness or they belittle your feelings or they refuse to show you their heart in return, you are with the wrong person.

In fact, run. Because despite our fantasies of being the rescuer – the one that finally changes them – they will not change. Even knowing this we may very well find ourselves staying, which probably stems from our fears. In return we become trapped in emotional turmoil. We become the source of destructive habits. Our happiness wanes and we unnecessarily suffer.

The truth is that the only people we can truly change is ourselves. We can choose to be someone who expresses their love. We can choose not to close ourselves off. We can choose to love ourselves despite our faults. We can choose to walk away from someone who abuses our vulnerabilities.

In that same regard, be kind and walk away if your partner shares their heart with you and exposes their deepest vulnerabilities yet you deny them the same sort of consideration. Do not exploit their vulnerabilities or make them feel small or judge them for sharing who they truly are. Because if you do, then you are not the right person for them.

Despite the rationality of this advice, I will admit that I am no expert in actually being vulnerable. In fact, I am more likely to sabotage a relationship than I am to be the one that puts myself out there. Certainly this stems from three years of emotional abuse from someone I loved – someone who I desperately wanted to love me back. It also stems from my fear of rejection and the stigma I hold about having a mental illness (although I hate admitting that because I am also an advocate for mental health). Yet in the last year I have been determined to practice being vulnerable despite how damaged I feel. And I’ve found endless opportunities to do so.

The obvious question then is if you see an opportunity to be vulnerable, how do you do it? Although I admitted to not being an expert, I will share what I’ve learned and what has worked for me since taking those opportunities. I hope these tips will help you too.

 

Love all of you
I am very open to sharing my personal journey of dealing with bipolar disorder to strangers, friends, and family, although I sometimes find myself attempting to hide that part of my life to someone I like or want to date. Inevitably, though, it is a part of who I am and until I was diagnosed, educated myself about bipolar disorder, and started attending support groups, I didn’t understand why I acted the way I did. I couldn’t help but be angry and irritable a lot of the time. I spent more time depressed and crying than I did being happy. There were moments when I was reckless and did things that were destructive to my life.

It was difficult to accept my illness at first and I drowned myself in denial, guilt, and shame, but when I resolved to sharing my story it helped me realize I was not alone – that many people had similar experiences and what I felt wasn’t abnormal.

After publishing my stories, many people reached out to me sharing their own. They talked about how sharing mine inspired them to be open about their own struggles. They realized they too could be a vehicle for change, fighting the stigma associated with having a mental illness.

Despite how absolutely terrifying it was to be brutally honest about my breakdown and the time I spent in a psychiatric ward, I am stronger because of it. Seeing these strangers and my family and friends love me unconditionally and offer up compassion allowed me to begin creating a space where I accepted that part of me. I am actually grateful to have gone through such tumultuous and traumatizing events leading up to my diagnosis because those experiences finally revealed my true self. And I love my true self.

By creating space for self-love in my life it meant there was less space for fear. When we stand in that space of love we reach self-acceptance. This is where the true power of vulnerability lies because when we accept ourselves – faults and all – we pave a path to finding true happiness.

 

Be willing to try, even if you fail
Those suits of armor we wear are hard to take off. While there is no magical pill for the hurt and pain we – or others – may feel or have felt, we inevitably survive it. Our lives do go on. By practicing vulnerability, we open ourselves up to finding the right sort of person (even if you come across rabid dogs along the way).

Although we may ultimately fail in our attempt at being vulnerable we can recognize where we were successful and where we made mistakes. We can carry those lessons with us into future relationships and ultimately become better versions of ourselves. Really, the only important thing is that you try because that in and of itself is the very definition of being vulnerable. Maybe you didn’t shred your suit of armor to pieces but I bet that just trying resulted in a helmet or glove coming off. Baby steps, my friends.

 

Vulnerability isn’t just about you
When we suffer we turn to those we care about seeking comfort and understanding. We expect them to be there for us. But ask yourself this: are you willing to be with someone who is suffering? Are you willing to be compassionate and kind and understanding towards them despite how uncomfortable it may make you feel? When someone exposes their vulnerabilities to you, you can practice being vulnerable just by sharing their emotional space. You can listen to them, feel their emotions without judgement, and offer up compassion whether you can relate to the situation or not. By doing all that you help them create their own space for love and self-acceptance. It is humbling and inspiring to witness that kind of transformation.

 

Say what you really feel
In my last relationship I learned quickly not to share any of my feelings because what came afterwards was blame, yelling, and the threat of “well maybe we shouldn’t be together.” I became afraid of speaking my mind because I was afraid I would say the wrong thing. I valued how he felt and what his needs were so much that I stopped considering my own.

I imagine many of us have, at some point in our lives, fallen into this trap and that we’ve let it impact how we communicate in the relationships that followed. When hiding what you really feel becomes a habit it can be difficult to break. But being vulnerable means being truthful. It means honoring what you feel, what the other person feels, and being brave enough to address those circumstances together. If you’re scared, say so. If you’re hurt or angry because you felt they were inconsiderate, say so. Don’t hide your emotions. You have every right to feel what you are feeling.

I myself have struggled with doing this and I’ve ruined some relationships along the way, which I deeply regret. But I’ve made significant strides and now I’m so much more open about how I feel that people probably want me to stop sharing. Don’t stop sharing.

Vulnerability has so much to offer and although it opens us up to rejection and pain and hurt it will be worth it (maybe not right away, but eventually) because without vulnerability we cannot distinguish the wrong person from the right person, just like we would never know good until we’ve known bad.

I don’t believe there is any right way to be vulnerable and what works for me may not work for you. But I do have faith you will succeed in however you approach your journey and I wish you all the joy and happiness that comes with taking such a giant leap of faith because you definitely deserve it.

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Filed under advice, Ambiance Matchmaking, authenticity, bipolar II, compassion, fear, lessons learned, love, relationships, self-love, vulnerability

The pursuit of love and finding power in vulnerability

I wanted to switch gears from writing about mental health to share some thoughts on the pursuit of love and finding power in vulnerability.

A friend and I have been talking about this subject for a few weeks so when I woke up last Saturday morning to a Facebook newsfeed full of anti-Valentine’s Day statuses (ones like, “This holiday is stupid!” and “It sucks to be single!” and “Valentine’s Day is an overrated holiday invented by Hallmark”) I got kind of irritated.

On a day meant for celebrating love we instead find ourselves focusing on how much we hate it. Behind all that cynicism, though, is an expression of our desire for love. When we find it we are boastful and happy. When we lose it we are devastated and full of despair. When we are single we begrudge others who have it.

I find this topic intriguing because it seems as if we base the existence of love in our lives upon some public display of attachment. An attachment built on wanting, clinging, neediness, lust, and self-interest – none of which are true expressions of love.

Moreover, we believe love is limited to our romantic relationships. We fail to acknowledge that love exists in other aspects of our lives. It exists in our relationships with our family and friends. It exists in our social relationships with co-workers. It even exists in our daily interactions with strangers.

It isn’t surprising we maintain such a limited view of love though. Just like we’ve learned how to tie our shoes or ride a bike or cook a meal, we’ve learned that love will eventually “find” us. This kind of mentality sets us up for failure because it leaves love to chance. Love is thus confined and limited from flourishing in our lives. Really, there are so many ways to love and to be loved in return. So why not pursue all kinds of love instead of waiting for it to manifest in our lives in the form of romanticism?

You may ask, though, what exactly does it mean to pursue love? To pursue love means to act with intention and purposefulness. It means to love for the sake of loving, with no expectation of something in return. It means to be vulnerable, which, by the way, I’ve learned is not synonymous with weakness. Vulnerability implies having the courage to be yourself and to accept others exactly as they are and exactly where they are in their lives –  both emotionally and mentally.

Everyday we face an opportunity to practice being vulnerable: calling a friend who’s been admitted to the psychiatric unit, telling someone you like them, admitting you made a mistake at work, or asking someone for help. The opportunity exists, we just have to decide if we’ll take it.

In my own life I’ve found I fear vulnerability because I fear rejection and authenticity. That if I truly show who I am and take my cloak of self-protective armor off it will have the opposite effect of what I hope for: that opening my heart to another will in turn make them want to open their heart to me. Recognizing this has marked a pivotal moment in my life because I am trying to un-learn what my brain has been hard-wired to do.

In all of my relationships I’ve spent more time hiding the truth than speaking it. And as a result my relationships suffered. I suffered. Last year was the hardest year of my life. It left me in crippling despair and led to a humiliating and devastating emotional breakdown. But the grace in that experience is it has made me more comfortable in the presence of vulnerability. I’ve found that vulnerability really is the safest place to be: there are no pretenses and no hiding, just truthfulness and authenticity.

To quote Brene Brown, “Show me a man who can listen to a woman and not try to fix her problem but rather just listen to her and be there for her, show me a woman who can sit with a man who shares this vulnerability and still love him the way he is, and I’ll show you a man and woman who are courageous and have done their work.” While Brown is speaking specifically to romantic love, the premise and underlying lesson is relevant to all of our relationships: that the vulnerability we try desperately to avoid is actually the key to having a successful relationship.

So pursue love; don’t wait for it to find you. Find power in your ability to be vulnerable because the more open and loving you are the more loveable you become.

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Filed under authenticity, intention, love, purposefulness, quotes, rejection, relationships, self-awareness, vulnerability

Thoughts on anger

I read a line in one of my self-prescribed self-help/do-good books this weekend that made me pause. For the most part, I loved the book because it was about embracing your messy, fucked-up life but there was one chapter in particular that talked about forgiveness, saying we must always forgive because “Forgiveness helps quiet the anger.”

What gave me pause wasn’t that we should aim for forgiveness so much as it was the idea we should quiet any negative emotions we feel for fear of how others will perceive us. Anger is not meant to be quieted, it is meant to be expressed in whatever safe and healthy medium that we identify with. For me, I choose to express my anger through writing and running because both activities leave me feeling empty of hate instead of consumed by it. For others, anger is expressed through painting or even smashing plates on the sidewalk (Liz can attest to how much fun this actually is). Whatever medium you identify with, expressing your anger is far better than stifling it.

I think back to the day I found myself curled up in a ball on the hardwood floor of my parent’s bedroom sobbing and gasping for air. I kept telling myself the best thing to do was to forgive and let go. The reason I didn’t – couldn’t – do that is because I was not capable of forgiveness at that point in time. As much as I would have liked to say I forgive you and I wish you happiness and love because I have loved you so much, I just couldn’t. I still can’t. Why? Because that’s not actually how I feel. In fact, at the risk of sounding maniacal, this is what I really feel: I hope he loses all his money because he prizes stance and stature more than anyone else I know. I hope he gets divorced as quickly as he got engaged and married. I hope his new wife cheats on him and gets pregnant by someone else (because he did that to me twice and I would really love for him to know how that feels). I also really hope he ends up unhappy and alone and the sooner that happens, the better. I am not ashamed to say I feel any of this because this is HONESTLY where I’m at.

The point of sharing this is to illustrate that we can only hope to reach forgiveness by going through all of the other emotions we feel, not around them. Whether its depression, anger, hate and bitterness or just plain hurt feelings, we are so often taught to quickly release those emotions as soon as we feel them because they’re exhausting and they consume our energy. Yes, they are all of these things, but I can honestly say that quieting those emotions and jumping to forgiveness before you are ready to do so does not get you past the visceral pain you feel right now – it only prolongs it. To forgive someone before you actually feel it in your bones is not forgiveness. It is something else entirely. We must endure the ugly side of hurt even if it brings out the most un-redeeming qualities.

I believe the idea that we must always forgive (and well before we are ready to) creates an undue pressure and hardship on our hearts. I also believe it is not necessary to forgive in order to let go. It is only necessary that you first be kind to yourself and second that you love yourself more than anybody else could. The only way to do both is to honor what you feel by going through your journey, not around it. To promise to show up every single day and embrace the ugly side of hurt. To express the emotions that rise up because otherwise (like me) you spend years forcing yourself not to feel. You really only need reach acceptance in order to let go. Quieting the anger is not an option but releasing it is.

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