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Photo by Flickr user: wolfsoul.

Photo by Flickr user: wolfsoul.

As I see it, there is an epidemic occurring in our society; it is an epidemic of people being terrified to be alone and as a result remaining stuck in the wrong relationships. Sadly, I see examples of this around me on a daily basis. And unfortunately I see far more examples of that than of the opposite. Should it be any surprise, then, that 50% of marriages end in divorce? It isn’t to me.

One of the benefits to growing older is that as you experience [and learn] more, and as you observe more, you are [hopefully] much more clearly able to see when a relationship is right…and when it is wrong.

If the 20s were the decade of friends getting married, the 30s have proven to be the decade of friends getting divorced. I think it was around the age of 35 when I noticed that what had once been the “summer wedding season” had instead turned into the “summer divorce season.” And all of the couples that I saw in my 20s and thought to myself “those two are so wrong for each other!”, those couples have in my 30s ended up divorced: almost without fail.

Image by Flickr user: donkeyhotey.

Image by Flickr user: donkeyhotey.

Conversely, I’m sure we’ve all seen the couples that when you look at them, you think to yourself “Yes, that is how love is supposed to look!” and it is just so obvious that the pair are so in love; they show mutual respect, admiration, and affection; and they show it over years, regardless of the passage of time. Such couples reveal such a beautiful, powerful energetic connection, and they complement each other so well, truly embodying the spirit of yin and yang. They are simply a joy and an inspiration to be around. I am grateful that growing up I had a friend whose parents exemplified this for me, even after 25 years of marriage. So even from a young age, I knew what love could look like. And today I am so grateful to have even a small handful of such couples in my life, for they remind me over and over again of the kind of love that I want in my life and why I choose to not settle for any less than that.

And I am by no means under the illusion that a relationship should be easy all the time, nor am I espousing that. I am the first to know that love can be messy and that it takes real work to keep a relationship intact. But what I can say, from experience and from keen observation, is that the right relationship should be much easier than the wrong one. And if the relationship is a constant uphill battle, a constant struggle, then it’s not the right one. We can choose to have something better, more easeful.

Unfortunately, for every one of the couples that exemplify what love can be, I have known twice as many couples who exemplify the opposite of that. I have known the couples who fight all the time and who you just dread to be around. I have known the couples where it’s just so obvious to an outside observer that one of the people is in love, but not the other. I have known the couples where the woman is so desperate to get married and make babies, that she ignores all of the signs that scream that he is not the proverbial “one.” I have known the couples that break up and get back together, over and over again (Oh wait, that was me!). I have known the couples where one partner wants to have kids and the other does not, and they stay together for years, one partner clinging onto hope that the other will change their mind.

I have known the couples that are simply tolerating each other, out of some sort of misguided sense of obligation, rather than showing or feeling anything resembling love. I have known couples where the man only got married because of pressure (or even an ultimatum!) from the woman. I have been in the weddings where you are biting your tongue as the bride walks down the aisle, because you just know with every fiber of your being that they are making a mistake (incidentally I’ve been in three such weddings, and ALL have ended (happily) in divorce). Heck, I have even known multiple couples who themselves admit that they knew it was a mistake, but they walked down the aisle anyway. I have seen people engaged in extramarital affairs and in circumstances that are far too “complicated” to be “right,” people who are clinging to the unhealthiest of situations in a desperate attempt to find happiness.

And when I speak of such couples, I do so with deep empathy and understanding, for I too have lived through my own version of the “wrong” relationship. And I know that these souls are on the same powerful journey of growth and learning on which I reluctantly found myself (that is if they are open to such growth and learning). I spent years with the wrong person, trying to convince myself that it was right. I have always said that one of the cruelest aspects of life is that we have the ability to fall in love with the wrong person. Frankly, it’s brutal and there are few things more painful than star-crossed lovers. And I know how difficult, how painful, and how seemingly “impossible” it can be to extricate ourselves from the wrong relationships; I know all too well how paralyzed we can become, how stuck we can get. I know the feeling of having the constant pit in your stomach and of your head trying to rationalize that it’s caused by something else, when deep down in your heart, you know the real reason but don’t want to admit it.

I have also learned that love is not enough, and that of equal importance are timing and compatibility. You can love someone with every fiber of your being, with every breath of air in your body, but if it’s not right, if they are not the right match for you, it won’t matter. Of this I personally know all too well.

So why is it that so many people stay together for all the wrong reasons? Why are people so afraid to be alone? Fear. Society. Expectations. As I’ve observed people and relationships over the years, it has become clear that so many people are terrified of being alone; terrified of ending up alone, and of dying alone. I once shared this fear, so it is one I relate to and understand well. And as I already said, I understand how it feels to be stuck with the wrong person, and in the wrong relationship, for all of the wrong reasons. I have been there and I am fortunate that my partner had the guts to release me from it, as I’m not sure I ever would have had the courage on my own; for I too was living in fear.

Society tells us that we are meant to follow a very specific formula for life: college, career, love, marriage, and babies… only in that order! We do not even realize how brainwashed we have been as a society. And what society teaches us, our friends and families only reinforce. Everyone has an opinion about what we should be doing. When we see our friends getting married and having kids, we feel even more pressure to be doing the same. If we do not follow that formula, our parents disapprove, people think there is something wrong with us. We all have the aunt who asks, “So when are you going to get married?” There is so much pressure to conform, to fulfill the expectations of society.

I spent the first half of my 30s gripped in sadness and despair, because I too felt that I had to fulfill that formula, and it just wasn’t working out for me. I found myself 32 (and then 33, 34, 35…), single, and childless and that had never been the plan. I should have had three kids by that age. For all of my life I had planned to get married and raise a family. And I am such a passionate, open-hearted woman with so much love to give; how could I not be finding a beautiful soul to complement my heart?

Well, if life has taught me one thing, it’s that the most difficult times are the most valuable and that by walking through each one of them, there are invaluable lessons to learn. I had to walk through an extremely dark time of loneliness, of being completely on my own, for years, before I could come to understand the importance and value of being happy on our own. It was only by walking through my own darkness that I was able to find the light, and in doing so I realized that the light comes from within. The true joy, the absolute bliss is only to be found within us, never outside of us.

And if there’s one universal truth, it’s this: Before you can ever be happy with someone else, you must first be happy with yourself.

And I have not only made full peace with the fact that I am now 38, single, and childless, but I have fully embraced it and the truth is that I have never lived more happily, more vibrantly, more fulfilled. I love my life and there is nothing missing. I now could care less about having children (If you’d told me 10 years ago that I’d be saying that now, I’d have thought you were c-c-c-crazy!) Does this mean I am cynical and do not believe that true love exists? Not at all. I have the gift of having experienced it with my own heart, so I know it’s out there. And if I happen to find it, well great, because that would just be the cherry on top of an already wonderful life. But I know it’s not necessary for my happiness. I know I already am, and will continue to be, happy and fulfilled no matter what comes into my life.

The moment we release the expectation that we can only complete ourselves with another, the moment we can release the idea that we have to adhere to society’s mold, is the moment we find freedom. And in freedom, we can find true happiness.

Photo by Flickr user Chema Escarcega.

Photo by Flickr user Chema Escarcega.

It’s funny, I suspect that many of my friends might pity me for being alone, for not yet having had the “fortune” of getting married and having children. But what they may not realize is that I choose to be single. I could easily have been in relationships over the years, but I knew they would be with the wrong person, and I have no interest in getting myself embroiled in something wrong, when instead I can be keeping myself open for something right.

And I’m happy to say that I have absolutely learned the valuable lesson that it is far better to be single than to be with the wrong person.

So, yes, some people may feel sorry for me that I am alone. But the irony of that is that when I look around me and observe so many unhappy, dissatisfied relationships and I see so many people who are stuck, all I can think to myself is, “Thank God I’m single!”

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grief (n.)= keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret.

Grief is a funny thing. Our society teaches us to avoid it at all costs, and yet it is part of the natural cycle of life. We will all experience it in our lives, that is if we have a pulse. And we will all experience it in different ways, different times and in varying degrees. Some of us will suffer the horrific grief from the loss of a child, others will suffer the heart-breaking grief from the loss of a love or spouse, and still others will suffer profound grief from the loss of a pet. That is just to name a few losses which we may face over a lifetime.  It doesn’t matter what the source, but life pretty much guarantees it: the grief will come, and for a time it will be debilitating. And what is for certain is that there is no way to measure the level of one’s grief. Nobody can say “my grief is more intense than yours” or vice versa. There is no scale of 1-5 that allows for an objective measurement and comparison. For each person, grief is different, and it is their own. One can try to empathize with someone who is grieving, from having been through their own grief, but at the end of the day nobody else can truly put themselves in your shoes. Your grief is yours and yours alone.

Everyone has different ways of coping with their grief: some will turn to therapy and others will turn to prayer, and some to both. I fall somewhere in the middle: I turn inward to meditation. What is clear is that not all methods of coping with grief will work for all people, and it is important for each of us to find the path that works best for us. While I’ve always been hopeful about its effects, and despite various attempts, therapy has never made any meaningful impact on me. But meditation has. By going deep within, calming the inner turmoil and mind chatter, and through lots of practice, I have found ways that I can literally raise my consciousness above the turmoil, where I can look down at it from above, objectively. Of course meditation is not a magic bullet. It takes consistent practice and considerable commitment. And it too is not for everyone. But what I do know for sure is that nobody can say to you, “This is how you should be handling your grief.” Nobody has had the exact same experiences that you have had, and therefore nobody, no matter how empathetic or well-intentioned they may be, can truly know what is best for you. Nor do they have the right to tell you so. When it comes to deciding how best to handle your own grief, you are the only person who can make that decision.

There is no formula for how long it will or should take someone to get over grief. I’ve heard it said that to get over a love relationship, it should take you 1/2 of the time that you were together. According to whom?? Based on what??? That would falsely assume that all people are the same, and that everyone feels the same level of emotions, and that every relationship is the exact same level of love and intensity, which of course couldn’t be farther from the truth. We are dealing with human beings, not algebra! We are all unique. For some it could take weeks to grieve, for others years, and still for some it will become a lifelong struggle. I know that anyone who has lost a child will tell you that it is a loss you never get over; instead one has to learn how to live WITH it and incorporate it into a new reality, no matter how gut-wrenching. But I also know that you don’t have to have lost a child in order to feel that level of grief. There are other types of losses that can be just as intense for people. We’ve all heard of the phrase, “She died of a broken heart.” That phrase didn’t appear out of nowhere and it doesn’t just happen in the movies. Sadly, it can and does happen.

The most important element in the process of overcoming grief is simply time. But there is no way to predict the amount of time, and it is also the nature of grief that it can and will come in waves. One can be feeling fine for months or even years, and then suddenly out of the blue a reminder comes pounding in like a wave, and drags them into the undertow: it could be an Anniversary date, a song, a photograph, there are a million little things that could trigger a wave of grief to wash over you. And when that happens the best thing that the grieving person can do is try to “ride the wave”, knowing that it is a temporary storm in the sea of life and that this wave too will pass. The only way out is through.

How many of you have been told, “You need to get over it. It’s been too long.”? Every time I hear someone say that I want to spit, and I am reminded of how impatient and lacking empathy human beings can truly be. Of course people mean well when they say that, but by doing so they are belittling the loss that you have lived through and they are not respecting the grief process that YOU are living. The grief process is yours and yours alone. If anyone tries to tell you that, and it hurts or angers you, don’t fret. Step back and know that you are standing in your own process and be true to yourself: do what you need to do for yourself and do not be concerned with what anybody else thinks of you. At the end of the day you are your own best friend, and you know better than anyone what your own spirit needs.

I am often shocked by how few people want to deal with one’s grief, how afraid of it people tend to be. From writing in this community, I have met several other writers who are dealing with their own deep grief, and I’ve seen a reoccurring theme: they’ve all had friends and family who have pulled away from them, and in some cases permanently, because the friends or family were too uncomfortable and unequipped emotionally to deal with the other person’s grief. This is a sad statement; because of course when one is grieving that is when one needs their friends and family the most. But I have learned this same lesson in my own life, multiple times. Some people simply don’t have the emotional bandwidth, sensitivity, patience or level of empathy necessary to handle someone else’s grief. If everyone had that ability, then everyone would be a Priest, a Nun …or at the very least a grief counselor!

But most importantly it is a stark misconception to think that grief is bad and that we should in any way try to rush through it, push it aside or numb ourselves to it. Sadly so many people do this: they try to avoid the pain of a lost love by jumping into the next love; they push the devastating emotions down and try to pretend that they don’t exist, which sadly will often lead to the manifestation of disease; and others will try to drown out the pain with drugs and alcohol. None of these escape mechanisms will work. To quote Ovid,

“Suppressed grief suffocates, it rages within the breast, and is forced to multiply its strength.”

By trying to distract ourselves from grief, we are making a mistake. By trying to ignore the grief, we are not honoring the loss that we have experienced. We are also denying ourselves one of the most powerful opportunities for growth and learning that this earthly life affords us. Our darkest times are our most powerful teachers. The sage knows that to try to skip over such difficult times, is to deny himself of powerful learning and soul evolution. In the wise words of Marcel Proust,

“Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.”

There is no doubt that grief is painful, and in many cases, devastating and debilitating. I’m sure none of you will argue with that. It can change your life forever, and often against your will. That has certainly been the case in my life. And while it may get easier with time, it can still be something that we simply have to learn how to live with, as difficult as that may be. But even in that circumstance, if we can dig in deep and instead of running away and hiding from grief, if we can muster up the strength to walk through it and experience it, and allow ourselves to ride the wave, it has the power to transform us.

“Grief drives men into habits of serious reflection, sharpens the understanding, and softens the heart.”- John Adams

This post is dedicated to my friend Judy.

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Today I am faced with perhaps the most profound opportunity for growth that this life has yet afforded me. Today is the day that the man I have loved and trusted beyond all others, will marry another woman, the woman with whom he replaced me…instantly. Am I ok with this? This is an interesting question. I have been dreading this day for years, and while I was certain the answer to that question would have been a resounding “NO!”, I am pleasantly surprised and pleased to report that the actual answer is “I do not care.”

It is true that this man misled me, that he lied to me, and that he betrayed every promise he ever made to me. It is true that this man broke me, in the most profound sense of the word. And yet as I write this I am reminded that just the other day a dear friend of mine was telling me about a poem that she had written called “Broken Open,” a poem that described how we need to be broken open, so that we can more fully experience love and life. There is so much truth in that.

I am further reminded of the Tower card in Tarot. This is a card that on the surface is of utter destruction, of ruin, of falling down. The card itself depicts the collapse of a castle tower, falling into burning flames. And while this card is often feared and dreaded, it is actually a powerful card of transformation.  Although there are various interpretations, the central theme of what the Tower card actually represents is one’s life deconstructing itself, the falling away of that which doesn’t serve one. It represents the burning down to one’s core, and by that burning down to nothing but rubble, which equates to our true essence, that essence is then purified by the fire, allowing one to begin anew and rebuild one’s life, from a clean slate. And so I realize that my being broken by this man was part of a greater process, a process of removing the misaligned parts of my life. This was an experience, as painful and life-altering as it was, through which I needed to walk.

In 2008, while in the depths of my grief, I was in Sedona, Arizona, desperately seeking healing for this profound wound. I met with a healer there who said something to me that I will never forget. He told me that I had the cards of a “healer,” but that they were cards he seldom saw in someone of my young age, and rather were cards more typical of an 80-year old woman. He said to me, “Jeannie you have already lived through a lot in your life. This is for a reason. You are the wounded healer being healed. You are meant to walk through your own healing so that you may help others with theirs.” Chills came over me as he spoke those words, as nothing had ever rung so true for me. I knew I was on the path of the healer.

Now, three years later and after years of painstaking self-reflection, arduous emotional work and profound personal growth, my intuition and my higher guidance have guided me to become a writer, to share my stories from the heart in the hopes that they might help others. As I receive hundreds of emails and messages, from people of all ages, all over the world, telling me that my writing has brought them healing, I am humbled beyond any words. I am moved to my core knowing that I am on my destiny path, that I have been called to fulfill a higher purpose to help people.

And while what I went through with this man did break me to my core, while it ripped through me on a cellular level, I know that I can only owe him a debt of gratitude; for various reasons. If it were not for him, I would not have moved across the country to California, which is my true home; I would not have discovered Anusara yoga, which has changed my life; but the third reason why I owe him a debt of gratitude is the most meaningful: If his actions had not broken me to my core, I would not have lived through my “dark night of the soul,” I would not have had a powerful spiritual awakening and I would not be writing to you right now, from the seat of my destiny…

This post is dedicated to all of the beautiful souls who are suffering from broken hearts. May you embrace the pain, walk through it, and allow it to transform you.

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