Life and what’s become of it

It’s 11 a.m. and I’m sitting on the hood of my car watching a bison scratch its head on a broken tree branch. He stares at me with dull eyes. Everything feels surreal. I’m in Denver Colorado of all random places to be in this world. This is where I was sent to. You know I don’t like smoking or the way it makes me feel but I gave it a try because anything is preferable to being sober on a day like this. Drinking alone sounds absolutely horrible. Today is the day of your funeral. And while I tried to be there, circumstances out of my control have kept me out. I’ve spoken with your mother and your brother and your friends. Your mother told me she talked to you yesterday  and told you I would be there soon, but she would let you know now that I tried. This comforts me and in return I’ve told her that I would give anything to be there but the words ring cheap. I really did try my best. I can’t say that there’s any more that I could have done in order to say goodbye to you in person. But you’re thousands of miles away and I’m here at this Wildlife Refuge because I couldn’t think of anywhere else to go.

Eventually I climb down off of my hood and I take a walk on a trail.  It is a perfect sunny day and it’s a 2-mile trail and it goes by some trees and a lake and I pretend that you’re there with me holding my hand and I talk to you. And I tell you the things that I have not said to you while you were in this life with me. And I hope and pray that you can hear them because I need you to hear them. But sometimes I’m too realistic for my own good and doubt gnaws at me from the darkest places. Doubt that tells me that since I didn’t take the chance to say these things to you while you breathe air now you’ll never know them because you can’t hear them and my talking is in vain. But I have to follow through with this anyway because the way that you left cuts a person to their core with guilt and questions and with sharp memories and even sharper scenarios that will never occur. Because they can’t occur. Because death is so very final and you can never go back and you can never try again.

On my walk I talk to you and I realize how stupid I have been and how selfish I am currently being in trying to tell you these things when I had all the chances in the world to tell you them before and this is what I’m thinking out on this walk instead of thinking of you and the Darkness that you were in and all the things that you will miss in life and never have. That you won’t ride your bike again, that you won’t be married , that you won’t have children, you’ll never get to see what new career path would have blossomed for you, you won’t watch your brother become the successful man he’s growing into, you can’t be there for your parents now when they are old and they need your care. But my selfish thoughts cycle back and I continue telling you what I have to tell you. That all these thoughts and feelings are sinking me and I miss you terribly.

In life you told me that I had motivated you. That you wouldn’t be where you were without me. You would say to me “it’s always been you Emily”. Your last message to me told me that the happiest moments in your life were with me and when I think of this it stabs me in the heart because I don’t deserve that from you. I don’t deserve that and I still don’t and I never will. Because it took this happening for me to realize what a beautiful gift I had in you.

And now that you are gone you have left me with an even greater gift. More than anything I could have ever done for you. You have shown me what love is. That it is choosing to see the positives in a person. There’s so much that we had been through but you made the choice to see only the good while I chose to see the negative. Your love was complete and it was selfless and all-encompassing. It was patient and calm and completely untainted by jealousy or insecurity. You have shown me what a man truly is and can be. You’ve shown me how very stupid I have been, mistaking less than this for real when real was what had been staring me in the face all these years.

Sometimes now in an instant, in the time it takes me to blink my eyes, I uncover a memory of you that I had previously forgotten. Laughing while we dip behind the trees in the night in Hyde Park and joke about vampires. Sitting in your car changing clothes so we could do more photos for your photography class. Painting your wall in your rented bedroom chocolate brown which I talked you into. Taking walks holding hands in our old neighborhood. That white and grey t-shirt you had on one time that I wrapped my arms around your waist. The way you smelled. Your voice. Your noises. Your laugh. They will forever haunt me and I welcome it. Because it will be a reminder to look at myself the way that you looked at me. And to love myself the way that you loved me. And to never accept less from anyone else.

You were a gift to me and until now I was too blind to know this. It’s always been you you used to say. Well love it will always be you now. And if I’m lucky I’ll meet you again in the next life. Keep my heart until then.

On All-Consuming Love

A coffee shop conversation turned into love and our history of it. That love can be simple or complicated or infuriating, all depending on the dynamic of you and the person that you love. Each of us had an fanatical love in our past. The kind in which the person you love can do no wrong. That, in your eyes, everything about them is the best that there is, from the color of their hair to the sound of their voice. I’m not talking possessive love. I’m talking obsessive, all-encompassing, all-consuming love.

I asked her if she would ever even want to love that way again, since I have been strongly of the mind that I would not want that again ever since it ended. And for both of us it ended badly. For both of us it was the type of love that rips you apart when it leaves you. I never wanted to feel that destroyed or that vulnerable again or that out of control. I’ve felt for many years now that that type of love is unsustainable and unhealthy and so, have not wished it upon myself.

I was surprised by her answer since her fanatical love had just ended. Not just because the answer was a concept I had never thought of but because I figured her wounds would be too fresh for a open minded response.

She said yes, that she would want to feel that way again. And her explanation made me change my mind.

Yes, she said. But only if it were reciprocated. The problem with both of our big past loves was that the love that we felt and gave was not returned to us. The relationships were extremely one-sided.

Had this conversation between the two of us occurred any sooner than it did it probably would not have had such an effect on me because I’ve been so sure that that type of love can only be one-sided. That that type of love is never reciprocated. From my life experience and from observing the experiences of those around me I must have, at some point, subconsciously come to the conclusion that someone always loves more… and the more that is is in direct correlation with less the other person cares. It seemed to me that maybe lukewarm mutual love had the best chance to become long-lasting.

How very jaded of me.

I will admit that the relationship I am currently in is still somewhat new. But it is in every way a difference experience than anything I’ve ever had before. The small thing I do to show that I care are reciprocated and appreciated. My feelings are taken into consideration. My needs are acknowledged and often put first. My hugs are returned, genuinely. Everything is different because everything is given back in a selfless and considerate way.

It is a strange feeling to no longer feel like I’m doing too much or being used or being generally under-appreciated. It’s a strange feeling to feel okay with being open and not holding back or playing the game. It’s akin to your very first love, the one you feel with no hesitation or expectation.

I had given up on all of this too early but it came to me when I stopped being fearful and resentful and jaded. It came from the most unexpected angle at the most unexpected time. I guess I do want all-consuming love. I’m ready for it. I want to give freely with no resentment. Not be taken advantage of.

What a novel idea… to care for someone madly, unselfishly, and have them actually care for you back in the same way.

 

 

 

Navigating Expectations

You’ve seen the quote and pictures on social media: “Expect nothing and you’ll never be disappointed”.

It often comes in the form of a self-serving & passive aggressive post towards a family member, coworker, or significant other; this has always turned me off and made me discount the sentiment. I am also of the mind that if you hold no expectations of yourself you’re not going to be able to reach many goals in life. Also, If you hold no expectations of the people in your life then you may accept treatment that your otherwise would not.

I think that some expectation is a reasonable product of having respect for yourself. However, after a discussion with a friend recently about some unreasonable expectations we have had in our careers and our love lives I’ve now began to began to wonder…

Just where exactly is the line between reasonable and unreasonable expectations? What is healthy and what is unhealthy? How do you expect enough without expecting too much?

It is possible to spend years beating yourself up about not being where you want to be career-wise or family-wise, or in your education. I know I’m definitely my own worst enemy when it comes to this. Despite the goals I’ve reached I never feel like I’m far enough; I feel like I could be doing better than I am. I don’t take the time to pat myself on the back and realize that I’ve done some very cool shit in my life. I have some pretty bad ass friends that have as well; amazing, strong beautiful women that have excelled in owning their own businesses, becoming doctors. They feel the same as I do. That they could and should be doing more, rather than just basking in the glory of their awesomeness.

My tendency to expect too much of myself bleeds over into my interpersonal relationships as well. I know I have expected too much from friends, family and relationships. I have at times expected people to give at the same level that I do, even when rationally I can understand that that is not their personality type or that their own personal “love language” is one that mine doesn’t so easily recognize. I know that I set myself (and them) up for failure when I think things should be a certain way in my head and when things don’t turn out that way. I have found myself upset in the past solely from expecting too much of someone, no fault of their own really. But again, what is expecting too little? Should someone just be happy with any kindness and ask for nothing else?

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Relationship propaganda, romantic movies and social media lead us to believe that our love should be our soul mate and they should fulfill all of our needs. Glossy magazine covers show us women who are outrageously successful, fit, run their own businesses, solve world hunger and write books on string theory, all while being mothers too! I do know that comparing yourself to these things or expecting these things is extremely unrealistic and detrimental. No one can reach your every expectation at all times, not even you. But I think that if you are realistic and honest enough with yourself and others then you can spend much less time being disappointed or sad and a lot more time just enjoying the ride.

I am making it a point to lessen the unreasonable expectations I’ve had a tendency of setting, of  both myself and of others. Sometimes all you can do is appreciate the now, appreciate your wonderful self, and appreciate people for who they are no matter their actions.

But I will never expect nothing at all.

 

 

 

 

 

On Materialism.

I’ve always had a interest in Eastern philosophy (at the risk of sounding eye-rollingly New-Agey) because what it teaches really resonates with my beliefs. One of those particular beliefs is that the attachment to material things (well, attachment in general, but that’s another post) brings unhappiness.

Now, I love a new pair of heels as much as the next girl. I obsessively buy lip gloss and I do own a car. I’m not a monk and I don’t preach trying out homelessness or renouncing everything you own. However I do have something to say about attachment to these items. I also have something to say about always needing more and more in order to be “happy” and impress others. I am writing about this as a person who just gave away roughly 95% of everything I own, sublet my apartment, and moved to another country with only what small amount I had in savings. So there’s my credentials. Really you could call me an expert… I’m kidding. Sort of.

Cue the scientific part of my discussion:

A Harvard study asked people if they would rather make 50,000 a year if everyone around them was making 25,000 (option A), or if they would rather make 100,000 a year if everyone around them was making 250,000 (option B). Same living conditions, same neighborhood, same prices for goods in both scenarios. The majority of participants actually chose option A. It was more important to be the one making more income than everyone else, even at the expense of 50,000 a year. That’s 50,000 dollars less a year to spend on anything you want, just to be top dog.

We’re some greedy assholes, us humans. But we aren’t the only ones.

Take another study from Emory University. This one is almost comical. Capuchin monkeys were all given cucumber slices as a reward for performing an action. All the monkeys were more than happy to accept and chow down on these. But when grapes were thrown into the mix, a much tastier item, the cucumber-rewarded monkeys would no longer accept their prize. They threw them on the ground or turned their backs on the researchers.

Lets think about this.

As people we are so concerned about status that we would take a 50% cut to our income in order to attain it. Also, evolutionary it seems that we are hard-wired to be unhappy if those around us have bigger & better (even if that comes in the form of a grape). So I do understand the idea behind materialism. I understand the people that get lost in debt to own a house bigger than their neighbors. I understand the guy at the club with the fancy sports car that makes him so broke he lives with his parents. I get it. Status.

But are these people really happy? Does attaining what you want settle the matter and then you are satisfied? Or do people end up wanting the next model, the biggest house on the street, the even more expensive car? Most often they do. Its a vicious cycle. There’s only a small amount of time in which that thing you bought will bring you happiness and then you return to whatever baseline you were at before. This has been researched and documented time and again.

There is a reason why Denmark and Switzerland rank as the happiest countries on the world happiness report index (and the US at number 15, coming in behind Mexico). These countries live a more egalitarian lifestyle. The income discrepancy between the rich and the poor is not as vast a canyon as it is in the United States. Their monkeys are all eating cucumbers. They’re content. (They also offer excellent medical care to their citizens and people tend to live in expanded social structures that offer support and companionship… but that’s a point for another day).

The fact of the matter is, beyond the basics, you do not need stuff to be happy. In fact it’s the very stuff you obsess about that is bringing you unhappiness. You have no idea the relief I felt when I liquidated all of my things. I didn’t sell them. I gave them away to people that really needed them. Couches, tables, shoes, cookware, appliances, whatever… and it felt great. All I really kept wondering is “WHY and HOW in the hell did I accumulate so much stuff?” I can now fit everything I own into a couple suitcases. It’s fantastic.

I now have the freedom to go where I want to go. I spend my money not on accumulating things but on seeing the world. It’s sad to me when people tell me that they can’t travel because they have to work so much. And they only work so much in order to pay for the stupid shit they have that they can’t take with them when they die. And they live an entire life like that. Work, bills, work, bills. Higher bills, more work. We get so wrapped up in these things. Maybe your goal is not to see the world. That’s fine. Work less – by owing less – and just spend your time with your friends and family because it’s also been documented time and again that that is what really brings happiness to the human mind.

Materialism is not an easy thing to overcome. Minimalism is not an easy thing to wrap your head around. Like I said before, it’s programmed into our very nature. But as long as you (and your family) have a roof over your head, food to eat and some clothes to wear I’d say you are doing better than millions of other people. Everything else is just a bonus. How about thinking of that next time you need to feel a status boost? Not so fun right?

Stop spending so much time on buying and start spending time on living. Have stuff but don’t become attached to it and for the love of God do not become a slave to it. If you’re willing to work yourself into the ground for a new car, maybe you should consider readjusting your priorities. If you spend so many hours in the office that you become an asshole and your family hates you, ask yourself if it’s really worth it. Don’t put off enjoying yourself in the future because the future is not guaranteed. You have one beautiful and fleeting life. Nothing else matters than fully living it.

A Decade of This.

I live for vibrant nights with comfortable friends.
I have learned that nature and a good book can cure anything.
I know that life is a marvelous and strange thing.
I really do believe that if you are a good person then good things come.
I think that self-growth is the only real purpose in life.
Lets argue philosophy.
Lets learn each other.
There is a meaning to everything.
We are never meant to know it.
But entangled we can come just one inch closer.

I have no time for frivolity.
I can be obsessive
Sensitive
Naive
I can also be too smart for my own good.
I have a tendency to cut and run.
It’s all I’ve ever known
And nowhere ever feels like home.
I’m aggravatingly curious
Sometimes blatantly self-destructive.
I don’t know what I’m looking for
But I know I won’t ever stop.

I forgive as quickly as I lose my temper.
I constantly second guess myself.
I waver between loving and loathing humanity.
I’m either going to love you too much
Or not at all.
I get shy sometimes.
I also get crazy.
I believe there is beauty in madness.
And so much to be learned in sadness.
But I’m thankful for every moment I’ve been alive
And all those who have molded me along the way
Even the fleeting ones
Because yes, I’m hard to get close to.
I’m constantly being reminded of that.
If things are worth anything they take time.
I’m tired of apologizing for who I am.

I’m just not going to do it anymore.

Remember Not to Forget

“I forgot how much I loved you” he said after we hadn’t spoke in months.

And for just the most fleeting moment… It made me feel relief… or happiness? Redemption?

And then just confused. Is this bullshit or it is a genuine human realization? Can you forget how much you love someone?

When I was with him I forgot to love myself. I forgot how much I love to read. How much I love spending an entire night watching a horror movie by myself while anxiously (and un-self consciously) shoving popcorn into my face. I love thinking. And making bland food for one because that’s what I like and I’m not trying to please anyone else. I miss walking around the mall for 2 hours and buying nothing or too much and having no one to call to tell where I am and when I’ll be back. I forgot how I do love to work out, just not when I’m forced to go on someone else’s schedule. And that I love drinking wine and playing Lana Del Rey at midnight and feeling sexy on my own terms in no makeup and with no one asking me to come to bed or come watch TV or turn the music down. I forgot that I love doing all these things, all these things that make me happy and make me feel whole. So if you can forget the things that make you happy, what makes people any different?

I read a quote the other day this girl posted on Facebook. It said “People tend to say that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Truth is, you knew what you had. You just thought you would never lose it”. I don’t know if it’s original or a cut-and-paste quote, but it did make me think about relationships and appreciation. It’s a pretty common theme. It cuts across the ages. Boy under appreciates girl. Girl gets sad. Girl leaves and/or finds someone else. Boy realizes “what he had” and tries to get her back. Or vice versa, lets not gender stereotype. Well, why do we do this? Why do we take people for granted that we love? The people that we need in our lives? It’s the people we love that keep our lives happy and meaningful, but it’s these very same people that the daily grind of life often causes us to emotionally ignore the most.

I’ve always said it is the little things that count. And it is those little things that you do for someone that you are in love with. Because I believe that to be in love is to find happiness in someone else’s happiness. Not to lose yourself, but to feel energized by their smile because you caused it. If you are in love with someone you bring them their favorite candy bar from the gas station because you saw it and you thought of them. But somewhere along the line these things seem to go away. You get used to that person being around and instead you think about washing your car or your day at work while you look at that candy bar at the gas station, and then you walk away empty handed. It is this, this complacency, that eats away at something good. Eats away at it until it’s no longer recognizable.

Relationships take work. So many people make it to that comfortable stage and forget that another person is there that chose to walk through life with them (emphasis on choice here…), and that’s a shame. Because sometimes, whether you think you’ll never lose someone or you “forget how much” how you love them, they stop caring. And often, no amount of self-realization or renewed appreciation will bring them back to you at that point. Just remember the little things.