Ready to stop people-pleasing?

Then you’ll have to stop lying.

I think we’re all familiar with the concept of people-pleasing. But we seldom think of it as lying.

It’s lying–to the people you’re trying to please and to yourself. 

People-pleasing is spending an inordinate amount of time worrying about what other people think of you, so you try to get them to like you by doing what you think they want. You do this at your own expense and at the expense of what you really want. So you might feel resentful and frustrated when people don’t do the same or appreciate the sacrifices you’re making. 

You think you can control what other people’s opinions are of you. But think about that. You’re trying to control other people’s minds. 

Have you ever experienced someone who tried to control your opinion of them? What did you think of them? Maybe they came across as a little creepy or a little needy? One thing is for sure: they weren’t being who they really are because they thought they needed to be who you wanted them to be. Does this sound familiar?

The truth is, we can’t control what other people think even when we try to. They will always get to choose what they want to believe about us. And, what they believe is about them, not us. When we show up in a way that is authentic, we can see which people like us for us and not for the people-pleasing we have been doing.

This is part of why people-pleasing is lying. You’re either lying about who you are or what you want to do. You’re also trying to get approval from other people when your own self-approval is much more powerful and meaningful.   

To have our own self-approval means we have to start liking and enjoying ourselves more. 

And we have to start letting others think what they want about us. This is difficult for most of us if we have become dependent on other people to try and feel good.

The first step to enjoying ourselves and our life is basic. We have to like ourselves. This isn’t easy for most of us.

This doesn’t mean liking ourselves passively. This means actively choosing to like ourselves on purpose.

This looks like: 

  • Listening to what you want.
  • Telling the truth and saying no sometimes.
  • Knowing your dreams and desires.
  • Taking care of yourself for the long run.
  • Working on your behalf.

When we become connected to our own self-approval, we start spending less energy on seeking others’ approval.

Your turn: What if the only true way to enjoy being yourself is to actually be yourself? Not some version of yourself you think others will like. Are you willing to stop lying and start telling the truth? What can you start doing to enjoy even more who you authentically are? How can you start becoming more connected to your own self-approval?

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Why are you being so mean (to yourself)?

We can be so judgy.

Do you notice the thoughts you tell yourself? Especially when things don’t go the way you want them to? In a situation with your friend, where things don’t turn out the way they wanted, you’d likely be supportive. You might say, “There’s something better out there for you,” or “You’re so great, you’ll find another opportunity in no time,” or “You learned a lot from this to take to the next experience,” or “I’m so sorry you’re disappointed. How can I support you?”

In these situations with yourself when things don’t turn out the way you want, what are the words you say to yourself? What do you make that situation mean about you?

It can be easy to beat ourselves up after a perceived failure. Instead of focusing on the facts of what happened or what we learned from the experience, we tend to make what happened mean something about ourselves. This can look like thinking to yourself, “I knew I wasn’t good enough,” or “What’s wrong with me? There’s got to be something wrong with me,” or “I’ll never get it right–I’m such a failure,” or “I shouldn’t be feeling like this. Get over it!”

The words we say to ourselves can be pretty mean. So not only have we “failed” at the thing we wanted, we then proceed to beat ourselves up for it–and feel even worse. And we’re likely the only ones telling ourselves these mean things and making ourselves feel terrible about it.

Then we start to hide, play it safe, and protect ourselves from “failing” again. So we don’t even attempt to go after what we want. But we’re only trying to avoid the words we say to ourselves, which create feelings of defeat, disappointment, hurt, and shame.

If we think we’re trying to avoid the judgment of others, in reality, we can’t control what they think about us. Even if we “succeeded” at something, there are still some people who will judge us for succeeding as much as they might judge us for failing. (And are you sure you want those people in your life?)

So if we’re not really avoiding the judgment of others, whose judgment are we trying to avoid? It could be the mean thoughts we’re used to telling ourselves.

Once we’re aware of what we say to ourselves, we have the power to change what we say and choose to be kinder to ourselves.

Your turn: What if there’s no such thing as failing, only winning or learning? How would you talk to yourself then? What thoughts about yourself could you have that are a little kinder? What if you talked to yourself and supported yourself the way you’d support a friend or even a kid-version of yourself who’s learning something new? What would you say to yourself then? And how would your relationship with yourself change?

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Why you’re behaving that way

Our feelings fuel us.

Everything we do in our life is because we want to feel a certain way. Everything we want in our life is because of a feeling–the feeling that we think we’ll have in getting it or the feeling we think we’ll avoid in not getting it. This is really good to know. 

And if we know that our feelings are caused by our thoughts and that what we do in our life is in order to feel better, wouldn’t it be important to know what you’re thinking? 

We’ve already talked about circumstances, which are the facts that happen in our lives and which we usually don’t have control over. We’ve also talked about how we think about those circumstances creates our feelings. It’s not the circumstances that create our feelings.

Our feelings are also important because they drive all of our actions. Feelings are the fuel for our actions. So when someone asks me, “Why am I not taking action?” It’s because of the way they feel. Or if they’re taking an action they don’t want to be taking, it’s because of the way they feel. So our feelings are driving our actions. And then our actions are always going to create the results we get–sometimes they’re results we want or results we don’t want in our life. Our actions create our results.

But our actions stem from our feelings and our feelings come from our thoughts. So if we want different results, ultimately, we need to think different thoughts.

So sometimes the reason why we don’t take a certain action is to avoid a feeling we think will happen after taking that action. This can look like declining a big opportunity because we’re feeling doubt and thinking something along the lines of, “I might fail and I don’t want to feel the dejection of failure.” 

Other times, we feel a certain way and because we feel that way, we either take or don’t take action. This can look like feeling nervous because we’re thinking, “I don’t want to look stupid in front of everyone,” so we don’t offer our opinion in a meeting. Or we feel hurt because we’re thinking, “He should want to spend more time with me,” which causes us to disconnect from our partner, which is an action that doesn’t serve us or our relationships–it’s actually the opposite of what we want here.

When we have results in our lives that we don’t want, it’s good to be aware that it’s our actions that are creating them. And where do our actions come from? The way we’re feeling. And where does the way we’re feeling come from? The way we’re thinking about our circumstances. 

To create different results, we need to think different thoughts.

Your turn: What feelings are fueling your actions? What actions are you taking when you experience those feelings? And what results are your actions creating for you? Do you like the results you’re getting?

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Stop giving your power away

You’re in charge of how you feel

Last week we talked about how to process and allow painful emotions. It’s easy to think that external circumstances like other people, things, outcomes, and events, cause us to feel a certain way. What really causes us to feel a certain way is how we think about those external circumstances. 

Do you know why circumstances don’t cause our feelings? Because two different people could experience the exact same circumstance, but depending on how each of them thinks about the circumstance, their thoughts will create their feelings. So it’s not the circumstance. It’s the thoughts.

For example, one person gets cut off while driving. She could immediately get angry and vengeful and try to cut that other person off because she’s thinking, “This person is a jerk! How dare he do that to me. I’ll show him!” And sometimes this anger can start a spiral of negative thoughts and emotions for the rest of the day.

Another person who gets cut off while driving could feel some annoyance but then get over it easily because he’s thinking, “Yikes! I know how it feels to be in a rush like that and I’ve done that type of thing before without meaning to.” Some initial annoyance, but pretty quickly letting it go and not letting it ruin his day.

Same circumstance, but different thoughts, which create different feelings–and ultimately, different results. 

When we let other people have so much control over our feelings, we’re giving our power away to them. We’re saying, “How you’re behaving/what you’re saying/what’s happening ‘out there’ is determining how I feel, so I have no control over my feelings.”

But we do have control. That control is in our thoughts. Our thoughts are where our power lies.

Most of the time, we make other people’s words and actions mean something about us and we think we have to protect ourselves from something, protect our egos. 

For example, when a colleague offers another way of doing something than what we suggested, we might get defensive because we might think, “He doesn’t respect my opinion.” Then we may feel angry and defensive because we made it mean something about ourselves–usually something related to “I’m not good enough.” Then we proceed to act in a certain way that deteriorates our relationship with that colleague. 

What if instead we thought, “He could be offering a more efficient way to do it. Let’s see if it can work”? That thought will create a totally different feeling. We didn’t make our colleague’s words/actions mean anything about ourselves. We didn’t take it personally or need to defend ourselves. This other thought might create the feeling of “curiosity” or “openness,” which leads us to collaborate with that colleague in a cooperative way. 

Two different outcomes because of two different thoughts–but the circumstances were the same.  Starting to see a pattern? 😉

When we take responsibility for our feelings, we stop giving our power away to other people and situations. We are in charge of how we think and feel. 

When we take responsibility for our feelings, we are in emotional adulthood instead of emotional childhood.

More about emotional adulthood and childhood next week!

Your turn: What are you making someone’s words or actions mean about yourself? What if their words or actions don’t have to mean anything about you? Are you open to becoming more aware of the thoughts you’re thinking and how they’re creating your feelings? What are the three most frequent emotions you feel during a typical day? What are the thoughts creating those emotions? 

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You: Empowering and Disempowering Questions 

When we ask ourselves questions, our brains love to go to work to find the answers. When we ask ourselves disempowering questions, our brain will likely find disempowering answers. When we ask ourselves more empowering, curious, open questions, our brains will likely find options that feel more empowering or productive. 

What are three disempowering questions that you find yourself asking?

What are some more empowering questions you could ask yourself?

Below are some examples of disempowering (sound familiar?) and empowering questions:

Disempowering

Why do I keep doing this?

Why did I have to make that mistake?

Why isn’t he calling me back?

Why is this so hard?

Why can’t I get it right?

What’s wrong with me?

Why am I so messed up?

Empowering

How is this working for me?

What if this was all happening perfectly?

What if it’s okay that this is hard?

What would this look like if it was easy?

What am I learning from this?

How do I want to show up in this situation?

What’s right with me?

Who do I want to be?

Let me know if you’ve been asking yourself disempowering questions and are struggling to find more empowering questions to ask instead. We’ll work it out together!

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Nyeen Nyeen Has the Last Word

As a child I loved being dropped off at Nyeen Nyeen’s house on weekday mornings, with the sun shining brightly on the moss green carpets. The smell of toasting bread, butter, and syrup streamed out of the warm kitchen and Sesame Street called from the TV. “Sunny day, chasing the clouds away…” For a preschooler, these were all the comforts I needed.

The atmosphere that Nyeen Nyeen, my paternal grandmother, and Yeh Yeh, my paternal grandfather, created for my siblings and me was a respite from the rest of the world. There, we were carefree and catered to, with our sofa pillow forts, a backyard filled with insects to investigate and capture, and all the TV and snacks we wanted.  I can only remember one time when Nyeen Nyeen got so angry with me that she threatened to hit me with her wood-spined feather duster. I had drawn all over the hallway walls with a pencil and only escaped the feather duster by slipping under her bed and hiding where she couldn’t reach me.

But her life was more than childcare. Nyeen Nyeen endured a harsh childhood, and a tough immigrant’s life. She survived—indeed thrived—through strength, strong will, and determination. Everyone in my family inherited her survival skills because she provided such a steadfast example throughout our lives. Nyeen Nyeen became a binding force for our family.

She was born Bowe Kane Gee in 1919 in Toisan, China, in the villages of the Guangdong Province. She obtained a 6th grade education, which was common for girls at that time. However, she was fond of studying on her own, and throughout the years, she read Chinese classics and memorized Chinese poems, which she was still able to recite into her 90’s. She lived through the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s, when war and famine spread across China. Because she experienced lack, uncertainty, and death, she hated to see anything wasted. We had to clean our plates at every meal—eat every grain of rice.

She married Kwok Poy Yee at the age of 16 in 1935, but was separated from him for over ten years during World War II while he was in the U.S. Navy. He was able to bring her to the United States in 1947 as a war bride, and they settled in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Nyeen Nyeen had to adjust quickly to both a new city and motherhood. She gave birth to daughters in consecutive years starting in 1947, 1948, then 1949, and to a son in 1952.

Lack of money and resources were issues for a new immigrant family that grew so quickly. During her Chinatown years, she mustered her strong will and determination to build survival strategies. She converted to Christianity out of gratitude to earlier arrivals who were slightly more established in Chinatown. These women saw Nyeen Nyeen’s struggle and reached out to help with what little they had. Converting to their new religion was her way of repaying their kindness. Her strong will and determination also sparked her entrepreneurial spirit. She worked as a seamstress and took English classes, and then she encouraged her husband to purchase businesses, which she ran: a laundromat, then a grocery store, and eventually a sewing factory, all within a 20-year period. Her husband, who worked at the Navy Shipyard since 1951, helped with the businesses at the end of his workday. They both put in long hours, and their kids helped out after school when they were old enough. Because of their collective efforts, they never struggled to put food on the table after the early years.

By the time I was born in 1980, Nyeen Nyeen had retired and Yeh Yeh would retire soon after. They cared for me and my siblings while my parents both worked full-time. At that time, Nyeen Nyeen’s hair was still almost all black with short curls. She had a robust figure with a solid bone structure, not fragile and small. I was always able to run to her and grab a strong hand, sit on a generous lap, or be folded into a bosomy embrace.

Nyeen Nyeen taught me how to write some Chinese characters, and I can understand a good amount of conversational Cantonese and Toisanese (our village dialect) from hearing her speak. And speak she did, quite often and loudly, telling stories, singing church songs, and talking about God. When she converted, she took on the role of “good Christian” like another job. She wanted everyone to convert and go to church, but her self-righteous tactics only pushed family members further away from organized religion. When I was small, she sang songs in her high falsetto about God, talking to me about how good He was, while I sat in her lap having my hair woven into a fishtail braid. She pulled hard, using a comb that felt sharp on my soft scalp, and applied baby oil to secure any stray strands.

As I got older, I saw her interactions with my family members could be quite judgmental and critical. She let others know exactly what she thought and felt, often to her own detriment because she pushed her own children to explode in anger, yelling back in order to defend themselves or prove her wrong. Why, they asked themselves silently, had they been given a mother who constantly tried their patience, complained, attacked their character, and questioned their decisions?

If Nyeen Nyeen was stressed out or overly worried about something, she imposed the burden onto others, calling my father or one of her other children, and immediately unloading her concerns without pause, for minutes at a time. She only hung up when she was done speaking and her burden felt reduced. The listener stayed on the line out of respect, while feeling bludgeoned and defeated, reluctant to experience it again, yet knowing a recurrence was inevitable.

Once, after Friday night dinner at her house, a shouting match began between Nyeen Nyeen and my father. Though not uncommon, this one reached a level of emotional violence that frightened me. I was nine years old, watching TV and trying to ignore the angry voices. My mother stayed out of it; she never got in the middle of their arguments. Finally my father stormed out of the kitchen and down the stairs. Then I heard Nyeen Nyeen crying. This was different from other times. I peered into the kitchen to see her at the table, her face in her hands as she sobbed. It was the first time I’d seen her vulnerability. Her hurt seeped into me. I went to her and put my arm around her shoulders to comfort her. She sobbed in Toisanese, “You’re the only one that cares about me. Everyone else just yells at me.” I felt like her protector and her only hope—it was a burden that I was willing to carry. I even felt a little indignant at my father, blaming him for unfairly causing her pain. Thinking back, I’m sure both of them were unfair to each other. Most likely Nyeen Nyeen even started it all, but none of that entered my head at the time.

Everyone who has known and loved Nyeen Nyeen has been greatly irritated, hurt, and frustrated at some point by her demands or criticisms. Yet they returned to her out of respect or obligation—some sense that they owed her a debt. They loved this woman who made it so difficult for them to do so. She battered people with her need to take care of others in the way she felt was correct, inundated them with her opinions, her values, her sense of what was right and wrong.

Her family had to stand their ground with her, stand up to her crushing, stubborn, accusing ways. Was nothing good enough for this woman? Interacting with her built personal strength, growth, determination, and in the long-term, patience. Somehow, forgiveness, or a willingness to look past a fight and try to understand her perspective, made way for reconciliation—or, simple resignation. It wasn’t worth it to argue with her. Later in our lives, my relatives began to realize that Nyeen Nyeen’s behavior arose from love and good intentions, and that learning to be patient with Nyeen Nyeen taught them patience with life.

As I got older, I too felt conflicting feelings about her. I always looked forward to seeing her and remembered her with adoration and respect. But when I was with her, her critical remarks immediately grated on me. “You’re not married yet. I want to see you married before I die. You know I don’t have many more years left on Earth.” Sometimes she said that I was too fat—while piling my plate with food. The next time, she’d say I was too skinny and piled my plate with food. My annoyance made me distance myself. Seeing this, my father reminded me that Nyeen Nyeen showed her love through food. Making sure we had enough to eat was a remnant of her past experience with famine. I wanted to snap back at Dad, “You should think of that the next time she shows her love for you and you get angry!” But of course, I didn’t.

As the matriarch of the family, Nyeen Nyeen could be bitter and biting but she could be generous, as well. She helped sponsor her relatives from China to the U.S. several times in her life and provided support while they adjusted to being here. And in her later years when she had enough abundance to do so, she shared her generosity by treating family and friends to meals at restaurants, always over-ordering food so that we could all take home leftovers.

Later in life, she dealt with major health crises, and the losses of her husband, her most supportive daughter, and many friends. I watched her repose at our family gatherings, dressed like many Chinese women of her generation in a polyester patterned blouse, a purple knit vest with gold buttons down the front, and navy blue crepe pants.  She sat silent in an armchair observing everyone around her chattering in English. I couldn’t tell if she felt lonely and left out or content and happy. Did she feel defeated by old age, or was she gratified to be surrounded by her little kingdom—family members happy, full, and present. These were the people she helped raise, the ones with her blood running through their veins, and their loved ones.

Whenever I had the chance to see Nyeen Nyeen in her last years, her face lit up with what seemed to be joy and pride. She greeted me with her signature laugh and a loud “Hi hon-ney!” I loved feeling like I was five years old again, running into her strong arms for a bosomy embrace.

At her funeral service in December 2013, a priest read her eulogy and praised her strong Christian values. Then he introduced a small surprise in the program, an older Chinese gentleman who was a congregation member from Nyeen Nyeen’s church. He read a list of our names, followed by Nyeen Nyeen’s last words to us, urging us to convert to Christianity so that our souls could be saved and we could reunite with her in Heaven. I gasped in surprise, feeling incredulous at Nyeen Nyeen’s last attempt to push her influence on us, even as she lay still and cold in her shiny, plush coffin. Then pride and recognition flooded me and I laughed out loud—Nyeen Nyeen had the last word after all! How right it was, how like her, to do something like this.

Nyeen Nyeen was part of my life for so long—she was my last living grandparent, living until she was 94 and I was 33. I miss her presence and hearing her voice speak in Toisanese. I miss the matriarch of our family, the one who imprinted herself on us, the one with the long memory of those she loved, the one who had the largest and most trying presence of us all, the one whose hurts and fears and weaknesses died with her, yet whose strength, determination, and will live on in us. And I feel her blood flowing through me when life metes out its harsh lessons and I have no choice but to move forward, as she would have done. Hers was a soul that I needed to know in my life, that I am lucky to have been nurtured by, in order to grow and proceed—to hone my survival skills—through this life in which she helped pave the way. I will never know another woman like her.

My Learnings – 2010s

I get emails from Marie Forleo because I signed up for her B-School program back in 2015. She is fun and passionate and teaches valuable stuff to entrepreneurs.

At the end of 2019, she had a series of videos about reflecting on the past decade: what you’re proud of and why, what you learned and why those lessons are important, and what you want your future self to know.

The exercises serve as a reflection on how far we’ve come and can guide us into the next decade with clarity.

I enjoyed reflecting and I felt empowered, encouraged, and enlivened because this exercise met my needs for appreciation, understanding, growth, and celebration. I’d like to share my “lessons learned” part of the exercise.

Everything happens FOR me
This idea resonated deeply with me when I first heard it, maybe around 2014 or so. It’s a reminder that even when “undesirable” things happen, it’s because I’m going to learn from that experience in some way, I’m going to grow from it, and expand my perspective through the process. Even the physical pain I’ve experienced on a monthly basis in the past, I believe happened FOR me so that I could really understand and embody what it means to take care of myself, to set boundaries, to accept what is, to relax into a challenging/uncomfortable situation and be with it, to have patience, to reflect and go within, to reach out and ask for help, and to value my body and its abilities even more when it’s not in pain. I have learned so much through the experience of the past monthly physical pain–even though it was so hard to be in it at times and I had to miss out on doing things I wanted to do. There are lessons even from that.

A definition of suffering = voluntary participation in events, situations, and circumstances that disempower you
Again, when I first heard this (from Iyanla Vanzant via Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations podcast, just this past August) it hit me hard as an empowering reminder that I can choose something else. I can choose not to participate, I do not have to stand there and be disempowered and suffer. Maybe it is more about emotional suffering than physical suffering, though emotions do create a physical response in the body. I went through a lot of emotional suffering in the past because I allowed myself to participate in disempowering situations, to give my power all away to someone else.

I am responsible for how I feel; I let everyone else off the hook
Another reminder (from Abraham via Esther Hicks) that I can choose, that I have a choice of feeling bad or feeling something else, that I have a choice to allow myself to stay in a bad feeling state or situation or choose to shift towards a better feeling state. This is a challenge sometimes and it’s a continual practice that I consciously engage in. It’s not easy but I believe it’s worth it in order to show up for myself and align my vibration with who I really am.

Listening to, honoring, and acknowledging my body; self-care in many forms
Without the freedom to move in my body, my world becomes much more limited, contracted, and it’s hard to keep a hopeful outlook on life. I know this feeling so well. Because of it, I have deeply embodied the learning and practice of checking in with my body to really listen to it and honor it and understand it. Creating some space for dialogue and language to support myself in this. And acceptance and self-empathy for when I’m not able to do what I want to do. This is a continual practice because I still find that I push myself too hard sometimes–my will wants to drag my body along behind it. But I ask it, “What can I do to help?” “How are you feeling?” “What do you need?” And I acknowledge it when I know I’ve pushed it a bit–or even when I haven’t. When I feel good, I acknowledge and thank it for the good feeling: “Yay, we did it! Thank you for supporting me in this.”

Be curious
This is so helpful in learning and to ask questions without the fear of being seen as “stupid” or thinking that we need to know everything or to be “right,” which the mind chatter has a way of scaring us into thinking. Curiosity is so important in the process of expanding yourself, to see what you’re capable of, to see what works and what doesn’t, to move forward with less fear. And it’s fun to be curious. 🙂

Have fun, be joyful
Life is supposed to be fun! Another teaching by Abraham. We are here for who knows how long or for what purpose, but doesn’t it feel good to enjoy yourself and have fun while we ARE here? The fact that we ARE here is a miracle and we get to be in our body which we can move, think, have freedom and independence, and to taste, touch, hear, see, smell is such a privilege. I am so grateful for all of my senses because they allow me to experience the world and my life fully.

Savor what feels good; celebrate
Again with the fun and joy. My teacher, David Ross formerly of the World School and currently at Andrew University, ingrains this into his students–and it’s a fun practice. Savor what feels good because it feels good to savor! And to be able to remember that good feeling in my body for a longer period of time, to be able to create and maintain that good feeling again whenever I want. Celebrate even the smallest victory. It’s a way to enjoy life even more.

I am taking these lessons into my next decade of life, continuously and consciously practicing them, and I’m sure I’ll learn even more along the way. Life is a continual process of growth and evolution, if we allow it to be. And I am allowing it! 🙂

Run Away, Run

“we will drive until the moon balloons
to just past perfect for a night like this”

– From “God and When My Mother Passes” by Denise Benavides

In silver armor we step on the gas
pedal through universes,
for the special occasion when soul mates
with soul, entwining, finding
crevices to fill, the emptiness
so long suffered through.

The tarnished I/us that was, the polished me/we now who will be, future more perfect than past.

For a night like this the moon fulfills dreams,
moon beams lift us up to black sky beyond
stars blanketing an abyss,
millions and billions, we surpass them
all, shine brighter in each other’s arms where we fit,
no longer dry husks, empty, but supple bladders, full
to swollen, balloons are our red hearts
drifting side by side, red to bursting as fluids
mingle, life created, cell by cell, multiplying
like our prospects, our hopes and joys, despair
subsides, a submarine of loneliness sinks to the bottom of the sea,
like blood that is more leaden than water.

The ocean knows and carries us
across miles towards our new life together,
the one we almost ran from once,
too scared to fail, to hurt again
always again,
to be destroyed and damaged as so many times before
we set eyes on each other.

This night, we shed our silver armor, expose
our luminous love-woven skin, and speed in
to battle our debts together, settle into each other’s losses.

Start with…

Written on July 18, 2016

Even after all this, I still believe–at least, I feel like–I have all the time in the world.

This feeling comes from the freedom of being untethered, floating around like a balloon and going in whatever direction the wind takes me. No ties, no binds, no man, no children, the freedom in that is expansive. Yet feeling lost and lonely within that expanse becomes easy…

Inflates to a sort of nothingness where feeling alone, like being single will never end, no end in sight, reverberates and repeats, creating a hall of mirrors where you’re looking at yourself standing alone, all around you, you’re standing alone to infinity. And beyond.

The silence fills your ears, stuffs them with cotton and you’re under water in your aloneness. Your aloneness echoes all around you, the sound of nothing deafens you and you continue your stance, alone. In solitude, the silence thunders.

The twitters of birds outside your window become snatches of the only conversation you overhear, the gossip between people who have hung out too long or often with each other so that all they can talk about is other people’s lives. The cars passing by, their tires’ friction against the asphalt are whispers to you, muttered under one’s breath, that you just couldn’t catch.

Then suddenly–finally?–you are not alone any longer. You are part of a twosome. Bliss fills every moment for you, for a while, but the bliss eventually recedes and you are left with real life. Mundane, real life as part of a twosome. Problems to solve as part of a twosome, boredom to overcome, fights to resolve, conflicts, compromises, sometimes even sacrifice. And don’t say it: resentment. Deep despair as part of a twosome.

With whom are you willing to struggle? With whom are you willing to fight and make up? With whom are you willing to cry, to be ugly, to be fat, to deteriorate, to be at your worst, to be scared, to fail? To love and support and carry to safety.

To be with someone else means all this and worse–if it is at all worth it.

We have a dream of our soulmate and everything is perfect. But we wake up before real life appears because it’s the easier thing to do. Leave when it is perfect. That’s fear, cowardice. Stay even when it gets hard because you want it to get better. That’s love. Wanting to work through a challenge. That’s love. When you stop wanting to work, that’s no longer love. That’s giving up.

Wanting to stay is the most important thing. Feeling that it’s worth it to stay despite the cruelness of life. But both people must feel this way, not just one. One won’t work.

Sometimes staying isn’t glamorous or perfect, but it has to be right for both people. And love must still be present. Don’t leave because you feel too vulnerable. Leave if it’s not the right fit, though.

But to want to be in a relationship you have to embrace the ugliness of relationships. The mundane aspects along with the beautiful, blissful pieces. You have to be ready to fight and still want to be on the same team with each other.

When we think about love and relationships, we usually don’t think about the mundane aspects of them. We think about the excitement and electricity of those first pulsating feelings throbbing through the heat of our bodies when we are near the object of our desire.

We don’t think about the eventual laundry we’ll do together, the dishes, the cleaning, cooking, changing the sheets every three weeks. And maybe we shouldn’t think about all that right away, and rightfully so. But as mature adults, we must consider all of this, keep it in mind, maybe even imagine ourselves doing those things with the object of our current desire or infatuation.

This is mostly a reminder for myself and for anyone who has been told that maybe they’re “too picky.”