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.

 

 

 

Pressing Reset

Last July (2015) I quit my job, gave away everything I owned, and moved to England. The plan was to work in my friends sandwich shop and travel Europe as much as possible. I hadn’t been able to find a job using my degree, was stuck in the same industry I had worked in for the last 6 years throughout college, hated the city I lived in, and was just generally disenchanted. You know when you find yourself not wanting to go out and do anything… you’re too tired, overworked, not happy, bored with your surroundings, just not excited about the day. Well.. that was me. It wasn’t overnight. Just a kind of gradual slide. But either way, life is far, far too short for that.

I started this blog in 2014 specifically to write about those travels (I actually started it the year before when I left for the first time to travel in Europe, the entire month of August) and I’ve noticed that I haven’t really done that. It’s instead become an outlet for some thoughts and feelings. Traveling really is the best for solidifying thoughts and getting to know yourself. So this has become a study in openness, gathering my thoughts, and in writing publicly/online. Which is fantastic, but while looking through old journals the other night I realized there was a lot I had forgotten about in the day-to-day of my past traveling that I would have liked to write about or remember better. I even had to list out all the places I’d actually been to now, since many happened only in the last couple years. For remembrance sake, here goes:

  • England (Hull, Leeds, Manchester, London, York)
  • Netherlands (Amsterdam)
  • Belgium (Brussels)
  • France (Amiens, Paris, Bordeaux, Nice, Marseilles, Montpelier)
  • Spain (Barcelona)
  • Italy (Rome, Lamezia, San Nicola Arcella, Praia a Mare, Civita, Calopezzati)
  • Greece (Corfu)
  • Scotland (Aberdeen, Edinburgh)
  • Haiti (Labadee)
  • Bahamas (Nassau)
  • Mexico (Tijuana, Nuevo Progreso)
  • Canada (Windsor)
  • Hawaii (Waimea Bay, yes still US but a world away..)

On Monday I leave for my last big trip before I get back to the daily grind. I’ll be in Iceland for ten days. It’s going to be an amazing trip and I’m going to do my best to write about all of it, the big stuff to the mundane. Maybe just a daily log. It’s so easy to forget the minor details, and for me those are the best parts. The discussion you had with a new friend over wine, the quick stop you made in between major places to take an amazing photo, the weather on the day you visited your favorite church/ruin/park.

To wrap this up, through a random series of events, I’m now living in Washington DC. It’s been an amazing journey. I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I really want from this life. After Iceland, I’m ending the chapter on my six solid months of travels but beginning a new one in a new place with a new career. I made a choice all those months ago to be happy and let go of anything negative, anything weighing me down. And while I know that going to that type of extreme is not for everyone, I think that people do hold onto a lot just for the sake of comfort. Not just material things but toxic relationships, unrewarding jobs, unhealthy locations. You can let go. You need less than you think you do. And when you have less you make space for better… positive people, happy thoughts, a better job, a fantastic relationship. Press reset and see what happens.

To my Younger Self

This post could also be titled “What I have Learned” and is really just an amalgamation of the life lessons I’ve discovered in the last ten years or so. I do wish I had known some of these things when I was younger, at least come to these conclusions a bit sooner, but I honestly do believe in learning things the hard way. I believe in trial and error and life experiences and drinking it all in. Regret is a waste of time and the way you frame the circumstances that life throws at you makes all the difference as to what you learn (or don’t learn). So that being said… Here’s are some truths I’ve recognized throughout the years:

  1. Being angry is an absolute waste of time and energy. Forgiving doesn’t mean you have to forget, but move on. Do not ruminate on how you’ve been hurt or who has caused it. It all just makes you stronger anyway.
  2. Young and pretty only gets you so far and it doesn’t last forever. So start building work ethic and making contacts. Take things seriously in whatever silly college side-job you are working. Always take pride in what you are doing and do your best no matter what it is. I don’t care if it’s mopping floors. Do it well.
  3. If someone treats you poorly and you’ve done nothing to them, let it be. It is a reflection of what is inside them and not of you. Do your best to not take it personally. In the same vein, be respectful even when others are disrespectful towards you. Let them make themselves look bad.
  4. Don’t trust everyone. Just because you are authentic and have good intentions does not mean that everyone else does.
  5. It is okay, in fact wonderful, to be different. It is a gift. Not a nightmare. Be proud of who you are and cut out the negative self talk. It will waste years of potential growth.
  6. You are and you become who you surround yourself with. Their standards of behavior become your own. Invite into your life only people you admire, respect, and aspire to be similar to.
  7. Get involved in something. In anything. Find your passion, find a group with the same passion. Run with it.
  8. Write more. Read more. This will be what saves you.
  9. There is a camaraderie and support that comes only from your girlfriends. Find good ones and hold onto them no matter what. Be a good friend and be a good listener. Be there for them and they will be there for you, in so many ways.
  10. Don’t act on impulse or emotion. Check your temper. Regret can come from 1 second of losing control. Dignity is absolutely everything.
  11. Treat people well. Accept them for who they are. Don’t judge, don’t criticize, and don’t harm. Actions and words have consequences. Each person is a product of a conglomerate of experiences and circumstances that are different from your own. Understanding this is the first step in your own personal path to tolerance, compassion, and understanding. To treat people badly is to harm your own personal development.

For the Moment.

I was asked once, a very long time ago, by a person special to me… What are you running from? I’ve thought about that question so many times in the years since and wondered if it was a valid one; if I was/have been running from something or if I have instead been just searching for something during all this haphazard travel and in all these spontaneous moments. All these times that I have finally gotten somewhat comfortable in life and then flung myself as far out of my comfort zone as possible… What if anything am I looking for? What is my cause for this innate drive to explore the new and unexplored?

I thought of this post and the things I wanted to write while driving down a rain-soaked highway in Maryland (yet another couple-month stopover in my constant journey). There has never been a time during a long distance drive, watching the white divider lines on the highway blink by, that I have felt anything but a sense of calm contentedness… of life, promise, and possibility. Watching those lines on that drive brought me to this.

I believe that the journey itself is what I live for. Those calming in-between moments of travel from point A to point B. There is an exciting “anything-could-happen” and “I-could-go-anywhere” ambiance to it all. I get the same feeling in wide open spaces, times when I am truly alone, when I have the ability to stop in the night warm desert and sleep under the stars, basking in the freedom of my own mobility. I can stay. I can go. I can do whatever I like.

I have a special love of the new destination but have come to realize that it is on the path itself when I feel the most content. I could drive across this beautiful country again and again. I could fly to every country, take every train, decipher every road map and bus system in the world and I would still want more. I can think when I travel. I find solace in the simplistic act of it. The single task at hand that it offers me. I feel close to my own God, my own thoughts, my own brand of sleepy existentialism.

There is so much beauty and meaning in the journey, so much promise, that when I am deprived of it I lose my inspiration and start to lose myself. Some people find their comfort in stability. I find it in the in-between. I cannot yet comment on why this is, I just know that it has always been this way for me for as long as I can remember. Call it the product of a chaotic background. Call it inborn curiosity. Call it an interminable optimism that just around the corner is something profound. Call it a result of all these things. I have even, in part, chalked this unstoppable drive to explore up to Sagittarian wanderlust. I have met others of the same sign that are much like me, and with each passing year I am less apt to believe in coincidence.

So it has taken me years to be able to answer the question that I was asked so many years ago… but I think at this point I can say, as confidently as I can in knowing myself at this point in my life, I’m not running from anything. I’m not running to anything. I’m just living the only way that feels right to me and the only way that I know: For the moment. For promise. For the journey.

 

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.

Getting it the Fuck Together.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything of substance and forethought. It’s been a long time since I’ve even signed into this blog. I think it’s finally time to return to this outlet. I’m really not sure why I left in the first place. I’ve spent the last year distracting myself from thought and self growth for reasons of which I’m not clear. I didn’t know where I was going in life so I went outside of myself rather than deal with it. Desperately seeking beauty in the words and actions of others when what I really needed to do was seek reality and solace in my own. Lately that lack of involvement with myself has been manifesting itself in some some not so beautiful ways. I’ve pushed away some people I care very much about. I’ve silenced my inner dialogue.

I’ve lost a grip on the higher purpose I used to feel. I’ve accomplished so many goals yet feel like I’ve not accomplished nearly enough. Not whatever it was I was created to do. It’s left me feeling apathetic and confused. Every human being needs a higher purpose (just ask Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning… In fact, I beg you to. You’ll be reading it along with me).

The trick in our modern age complete with its overwhelming choices is finding out just what your purpose is. For some people it comes with religion, sometimes with education, career, with having children, with achieving something no one ever has. Sometimes unfortunately it even manifests itself in uglier ways, in hatred or warfare. For me, well.. I once thought it was education and learning the world. Now I’m not so sure.

The most challenging task in this life is figuring out what drives you, finding it inside of yourself. Your self-contained destiny. Because that is all up to you and only you. This is my new goal. I’ve begun today.