Life is a bit overwhelming right now.
More to come on that, and other musings, soon.
Hope you are well.
I love, love.
From that warm, soft feeling of being truly home, to that passionate kiss, to that mutual understanding between people who just care about one another so darn much. And by the way, I’m not just talking the love between romantic partners, but also that between long-time friends, family members, and well, even between animals and humans (sigh, how I love animals).
Love will probably remain one of the most sought after, enigmatic, misunderstood and revered emotions/experiences, but those qualities only seem to make it more fascinating.
Anyway, I could go on and on describing love and the many facets it can take, but I’ve been sensing something different about love lately, particularly with respect to the impending Valentine’s holiday.
I’m an utter romantic. I’ve written Dan a multitude of love letters (sometimes love poems or love cartoons, even), I feel warm and gushy when I watch the scene in the gazebo between the Captain and Maria in the Sound of Music where they finally confess their feelings to each other (Julie Andrews and Christoper Plummer version), I shower affection on my closest friends, and I’ve been known to get lost in Wordsworth, a languid waltz, and of course, my own daydreams.
However, with all that being said, I’m coming to realize that I was raised to associate love with gift giving. Not exactly the idea of buying someone’s affection, but definitely the idea that physical items = an expression of emotion.
This idea is likely somewhat cultural. We’re all familiar with mass marketing and consumerism and how the Walgreens down the street starts setting up the Christmas merchandise days after Halloween. We’re bombarded with images of opulence in Entertainment News, and it seems like engagement rings are growing by the karats these days. But beyond the American interpretation of gift giving, my family also communicates emotion through objects – in fact I think I received at least one piece of jewelry to mark almost every life event (i.e., first communion, graduation, etc.) I’ve gone through.
So when I met Dan, I became a bit confused. “Spending time with you,” he said, “is the greatest gift, and that’s all I ever want.”
Hmm, this through me for a loop. He was saying and expressing the things I’d always longed to hear from a partner, but for some reason my brain could…not…compute. Time? Experiences? These are gifts in and of themselves? But what about that handmade watch or that specially tailored suit? Aren’t those gifts?
And I wondered if maybe it was a test or a trick. Maybe he was just being nice and doing the whole “oh you shouldn’t have” while thinking “I’m so glad she did.”
Plus, it wasn’t an issue of cost – I could afford to get him nice things from time to time, and I really enjoyed seeing something in a store and thinking “I bet Dan would like this” and picking it up for him on a whim. I felt like I was both expressing how I felt about him, communicating that I thought of him, but also, I was fulfilling a need (buying him something he might like to have but wouldn’t buy, or providing a can opener because his old one was really rusty, etc.).
But he kept saying “I just want to spend time with you,” and the “gifts” I was giving him, were piling up in my living room.
And thus began countless conversations between us on the topic of material “stuff.”
Initially this led me to investigate Gary Chapman’s Love Languages. At first I simply thought that Dan and I were just communicating on different wavelengths – I was a “gift giver” he was a “quality timer.”
But not exactly, because when we’ve been separated for periods of time (when I was traveling, or our work schedules limited us to seeing each other only on weekends, etc.), I’d feel myself going crazy with the lack of quality time. And, I realized that I wasn’t craving gifts from him, either. Don’t get me wrong, Dan often brings me food that he knows I’ll enjoy (often desserts, which are delicious), or will even pick me up something more utilitarian, and I have appreciated every “thing” he has given me, but what I most wanted, too, was not brownies and a container of dishwasher soap, but time with him.
I found that I also valued quality time across the other significant relationships in my life. I remembered disagreements with my parents over them wanting to buy me expensive Christmas gifts, while I just wanted some of my Mom’s delightful Christmas cookies. I realized how having in person conversations with my closest friends, many of whom no longer live in geographic proximity, has brought me so much joy – because I leave each of those encounters feeling filled to the brim with love and understanding.
And I reflected more on my own relationship to material items. In the last seven years, I have moved nine times – with more than half of those moves being across state-lines, and even across the country. In looking around my apartment and office, I have really whittled down my personal possessions, and on countless occasions I’ve found myself perusing the shelves at Target thinking “that’s a great (insert household item or piece of furniture or keepsake) but I just don’t need it, and I definitely don’t want to move it.” I even began taking digital photos of memorabilia (ticket stubs, airline tickets, brochures, etc.) so that I could compile all my mementos on my hard drive in an effort to eliminate the piles of accumulated trinkets in my life. But even there, the memorabilia was about remembering experiences and events. And who am I kidding, I constantly photograph everything from a sushi dinner at a restaurant to Dan walking along a hiking trail.
I really care about life events and adventures, but not because they are associated with a necklace or a dress. I care about them because I value people and our shared experiences. Clearly Dan had reached this conclusion well before me.
So with Valentine’s Day approaching (as well as the anniversary of our first date, whoot!), I asked Dan about gift giving and celebrating us.
He, not surprisingly, reiterated, “I just want to spend time with you.”
My initial thoughts, also not surprising, were, “but isn’t there something special I can get for you? Something that you’d really like to have but wouldn’t buy for yourself?” And in my head were visions of those handmade watches and tailored suits, surrounded by copious amounts of fruits and vegetables (Dan prefers fruits and veg to chocolates – that’s okay, more cocoa-y goodness for me!).
But he said, “no, not really.” He suggested a pair of dance shoes he’s been eying if I “really wanted to get him something.”
So I stepped back for a bit and I thought about it. I’d be happy to get Dan a pair of dance shoes, heck, I’d run to the store right now and pick them up so he could use them for our classes later tonight. But do dance shoes really communicate how I feel about Dan? How I feel about our relationship? Not really. Dan needs dance shoes, and I’m glad to help fulfill that need if I can, but I don’t want to mark yet another occasion with a physical item that doesn’t get at the heart of the matter (no pun intended), which is – how much I love, respect, and appreciate this man and our relationship. (By the way, I’m not saying that dance shoes can’t be an expression of love, it just doesn’t fit me/us in this circumstance.)
So this Valentine’s Day(/anniversary), I asked Dan if we could try a new restaurant for dinner (nothing too ostentatious, just good food), exchange cards, and hang out together. We’re going to give it a go. Afterall, I’m just me and while I could give him gold cufflinks and we could dine and dance in the Rainbow Room at the top of the GE building, which would all be fun, I’m excited not to have to worry about picking out the perfect gift and making sure my mascara doesn’t run into the Fillet Mignon at a fancy restaurant.
I’m just happy to be loved and in love.
Beyond Dan, I hope you all know how much I love and appreciate you, too.
To all the family and friends who have made my journey on this Earth more rewarding simply by their presence and the experiences and lessons we’ve learned together, thank you, and much love.
To all of you who read my musings regularly, semi-regularly, or once in a blue moon, thank you with love from the bottom of my heart.
A very Happy Valentine’s Day to you!
If you keep up with Technology and/or U.S. Business news, you’ll hear the latest stirrings about Facebook releasing an IPO.
This is interesting on a multitude of levels including (but not limited to) the following:
1) Facebook, possibly one of the more enigmatic private companies, will now be publicly traded.
Investors, and interested folk alike, can now access the previously private internal financial workings of Facebook. This allows for a real insider’s look at how the company operates and carries out its business.
2) Facebook represents the Millenial generation of Tech start-ups going big.
The Baby Boomers have Microsoft and Apple; the Generation Xers have Google (and arguably, LinkedIn and Twitter, and possibly Amazon-this depends on where you draw the generational divide and whether Amazon’s multimedia can rank it within the same genre), and the Millenials have Facebook. There has been a multitude of organizational behavior/organizational psychology research on how the generations behave at work, and view topics like work-life balance, leadership, organizational citizenship, etc., so my linkage of company to generation, is likely not unfounded – each of these companies has it’s legacy rooted in specific circumstantial factors, and is also a creation of an individual from a specific era in mankind’s history.
3) Facebook represents a shift in the social consciousness, and the story of a risk.
Social networking has become, possibly, one of the hottest trends across electronic mediums (by that I mean, electronic devices, as well as software, the Internet, etc.). Back in the 1960s, J.C.R. Licklider predicted that humans would one day use computers less as robotic calculators, and more as facilitators for interpersonal interaction and communication, and boy has his conjecture proven true. Humans love to communicate with one another, and if that communication can be brought about via email, or IM, SMS, MMS, video chat or social networking – it’s only a matter of time before such mediums become absorbed into social consciousness; into modern human existence. Facebook has brought socializing to our fingertips from any location: home, a bus, while traveling, in the classroom, etc. We now “meet” others online (sometimes even before we meet face to face), we “check in” at local restaurants and exercise classes, and we post and share photos, memories, commentary, and more.
Now, social networking/ social media, was not purely Facebook-induced. We all remember the MySpace, Friendster… I even had a Bolt account, back in the day. What Facebook, and its recent IPO, represents though, is the growing power of social networking in modern life.
And while I could write and reflect on social media and social networking for hours, what I really want to talk about is the second portion of # 3 up above: the story of a risk.
We’ve heard Zuckerberg’s accounting of how the founding of Facebook occurred, and that has been augmented by the Facebook movie that came out last year, as well as countless interviews with other influential individuals involved in the process.
What’s most amazing to me about Facebook, though, is that it required Zuckerberg and his colleagues/co-founders to willingly take on enormous risk. Like some of his predecessors (i.e., Gates), Zuckerberg decided to leave college, move across country, and put all of his energy, resources and time into an idea.
Think about that. It’s pretty amazing actually. Granted I could mention Edison, Graham Bell, Einstein, lots of prolific folks who took giant risks all in pursuit of furthering an idea they had. But how often do folks like that come along in life? Not too often.
I’m not writing in order to wax poetic on the great thinkers, inventors, and extraordinaires – do I admire them? Absolutely. But that’s not the point I’m trying to make here.
What I’m trying to say is that every now and then someone takes a giant leap of faith, a huge risk, and they create something incredible. What I wonder is, how do they do that?
I’m struggling with this idea right now, the idea of taking risks. At the point of life transition that I’m in, I’m faced with many decisions:
– what kind of relationships I want to have
– what career to pursue (either for awhile or longer term)
– what lifestyle I want to have
And probably others, but those are the major categories that my thoughts tend to fall into these days.
The thing is, throughout my life (and I’m a Millenial here – in case any of you are wondering, or think my experiences could in fact be influenced by generational variables), I’ve been rewarded for being “right,” not for “taking risks.”
Case in point: gold stars for good grades (doing my homework and assignments correct and on time), praise for working well with others, comments on executing a dance step accurately…etc.etc.
But no: gold stars for writing a report on complex topics or in a creative way (i.e., as a poem), praise for trying to teach others – even if unsuccessful, comments on improvised steps….etc.etc.
Now, I’m not going to argue that folks should be commended for all kinds of risk taking – some risks can be a bit foolish or bring about more harm than good (i.e., driving too fast on a wet road, investing in a historically unprofitable venture, sending lots of soldiers into completely uncharted terrain with no game plan, etc.) – I’m merely suggesting that if I, as a child, were encouraged to try things where making mistakes, or even outright failure, was a viable outcome, and then taught that sometimes failure and mistakes can be just as valuable as “getting it right” – I might have a completely different outlook and set of behaviors as an adult.
The things that freak the crap out of me right now (i.e., failure, shame, being misunderstood, repudiation), might still freak me out, but maybe on a much smaller scale – if I’d been taught that mistakes were totally valid results; if I was encouraged to go for something even if I could fail.
On the flip side, I’m not saying one should encourage another person to pursue something they’ll 110% fail at doing (for instance, don’t encourage me to solve 10 calculus equations in 20 minutes as an ego-boost; I will feel completely demoralized- or furthermore, if someone really doesn’t have any scientific aptitude don’t encourage them to pursue Medicine or Zoology). We all have our gifts, the things we’re accomplished at or naturally talented at, and that’s wonderful because it makes us unique.
But, we can all be encouraged to push ourselves, to take the “road not taken” (i.e., path less traveled) as Robert Frost says, even if that road might lead us to a few ditches, forks, or otherwise confusing turns that we’re just not sure how to handle (or if we can handle them) at first glance. Because you know what? I can fail, I can fall flat on my butt with lots of shame, ridicule and taunting, and learn something – or I can be right and correct with gold stars and accolades, but always wonder “what if”…what if I’d chosen the road not taken?
I want to be more comfortable with instability, indecision and change in my life. It’s difficult – I’m a perfectionist, a careful, meditative planner, and above all, I want to execute it all with precision and grace. That’s a really tall order, and it might just prevent me from following my own intuition and creating my own Facebook – a project from an idea that I believed in; a project that I could nurture or not, but knew that to nurture would require great risk and deviation from the straight and narrow.
*Deep Breath* I’m trying to build up the courage…to take a risk…to take risks…to move forward.
If you have any insight to share on your own journey/ risk taking/ courage – please share.
Thanks for reading,
I’m a stranger to my mind –
Neural pathways unfamiliar
I think I’m thinking,
but its quiet, a shapeless cotton,
from ear to ear.
What to do
feels like a you.
Bring me back
to the path of least resistance
the true force of existence,
Create songs of theory
truths of feeling
oh the memories.
Let me think.
I’m a stranger to my body –
I make to move
but it’s an anvil, mechanical,
from toe to shoulder blade.
What to do
feels like a you.
Bring me back
to the path of least resistance
the true force of existence,
Create steps with direction
sweat of passion
oh the pleasure.
Let me live.
Travel has a way of allowing for lots of personal reflection. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I enjoy it so much.
At any rate, travel is also the reason why things here have been rather quiet, of late.
Just a quick update (then onto the topic at hand):
- Dan and I went to Houston in mid-February for America’s Classic, a West Coast Swing conference/competition. (Did you attend?) I enjoyed a few workshops, and Dan was able to take advantage of workshops and social dancing. He also competed in their Jack and Jill event, and although he might not have placed where he wanted to, I was immensely proud of him. It’s wonderful to see him able to dance in a competition when just a few months ago, he was hesitant to dance in public. The weekend away was also an opportunity for some bonding time. However, with my crazy work schedule (I had to work remotely for the first day of the conference), and the fact that neither of us got a decent night’s sleep (dance conferences appear to be set up where most of the activity is at night), we also had a few intense conversations and short tempers. It was worthwhile though – we needed some uninterrupted time to talk through some things.
- Immediately after Houston, I left for Anchorage with my boss for a week. We conducted focus groups for a client. Anchorage was unique – it had a very frontier feel to it, but was also quaint and beautiful in a way. My memories are flooded with the constant sensation of bitter cold (for most of our time there, the temperatures were between -15 to 0 degrees F), and delicious seafood (I had amazing calamari, halibut and rockfish). I also enjoyed having access to a heated pool – those of you with back issues take note: heated pools = heaven.
- And then a few days after returning from Anchorage (oh did I mention it would’ve been a day or so shorter, except we got stuck trying to fly out through Seattle due to their massive snow storm that week), I packed my bags and headed back to NYC for my lawsuit. It was a quick trip, and surprisingly NYC was mild for this time of year (50s F and rainy), but I was able to reconnect with Yang, and Stacey, two of my dearest friends, and purchase some well-made ballroom dance shoes which I hadn’t been able to find in Austin.
So, there’s been quite a bit of travel in my life recently, and I’m thankful for it for many reasons, such as:
1) because I love traveling and
2) because (as I mentioned above) travel always seems to provide the ideal venue for self reflection/contemplation
A few months back I was perusing the shelves of a Half Price Books nearby (a favorite hangout, by the way), and came across a book called The Power of Purpose: Creating Meaning in your Life and Work by Richard Leider. I’m a regular reader of the pop-psych/self-help genre (surprising, I know), but usually I avoid any publication with the mention of life purpose, 3, 4, or 10 traits to success, or the like. It seems gimicky to me, and furthermore, “purpose” and “success” appear so broad.
Well, this time, I took a second look, and bought The Power of Purpose.
It joined the (ever-growing) pile of books by my bed and has actually been on a handful of trips with me in the last few months. I pack it alongside a novel with the idea that maybe I’ll thumb through it. Maybe.
On my trip to NYC I knew I’d have time to myself on the flights and in the hotel room each night, and I decided to really make an effort towards investigating The Power of Purpose. I’m so glad I did.
Leider is a counselor/life-coach and uses the book as a medium for demonstrating how to find your own life purpose through the telling of how other individuals found theirs. I have yet to finish the book, but I read the first few sections and there was an idea that really struck me:
But not pure hedonistic pleasure; the idea that happiness is a self-project.
This idea did not grasp me right away but became very clear the day after I returned from NYC.
Here is the gist: Leider discusses how often times individuals feel “purpose-less” because they are waiting for life to hand them, or show them, what they are “supposed” to be doing; what their “calling is.” He argues that such an approach is not only passive, but unlikely to lead one to what they seek. Instead, he posits the idea that individuals must take back the responsibility of “discovering” their purpose – of actively pushing themselves towards new experiences, opportunities and risks, in order to remain true to themselves and ultimately live out their purpose.
Wow – did I need to hear that. My life’s purpose is completely mine to discover and create. And, it’s also my responsibility.
I wrote an earlier posting on shame and victimology, and another topic I could add to that category would be blame. Although you may disagree, I would argue that all three of those concepts revolve around the self as central to the associated feeling:
Shame = self humiliation, self foolishness, self disgrace
Victimology = being a victim (may or may not be self imposed)
Blame = assigning responsibility for something to another (or to the self, but if to another – one can be doing so to aggrandize the self)
And as I wrote about in said post, I’m really great at being self-centered in my feelings of shame, victimology, and yes, blame. I can wear negativity like a (seemingly warm) blanket.
Likewise, in the last few months I have been keenly focused on how the external world has “failed” to provide me with what I needed. Some examples:
– my personal injury lawsuit continues to be a drain/drag on me vs. settling quickly so that I can move forward
– I’m at a professional crossroads in general, and the world has not clearly indicated what path I should follow next
– my familial relationships are lacking in depth, and yet I keep seeking change in my relatives to fit my own idea of closeness
– my friends and boyfriend sometimes misunderstand my actions or intentions and I feel let down
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m generally not a passive person. I am very goal-oriented and take action towards what I want. However, here’s the rub – for some reason, I kept thinking that the external world was supposed to show me what I wanted; the external world was somehow (in my mind) responsible for my life purpose, and likewise, my happiness (although note: I don’t necessarily consider happiness and purpose one in the same, it’s just that lately, I’ve been searching for both simultaneously).
You know what’s great about making the outside world responsible for my happiness and purpose? I can blame “the world” when I’m unhappy or feeling aimless. I can take my discontent, my disappointment, my discomfort, and I can deliberately disassociate it with myself by putting the onus of it on everyone and everything else.
But here’s the thing about entrusting personal happiness and fulfillment to the outside –
The inside suffers, a lot.
1) Because the internal self becomes a self-obsessive pity party. I’d have days, weeks, where I was always feeling bad. Physically, mentally, emotionally bad, bad, bad. All I wanted to do was eat chocolate and watch movies all day. And when my internal self, my spirit, is essentially dragging itself from point A to point B every day, it doesn’t have the energy to do much else but be sad.
2) Because the internal self gave up autonomy and authenticity. When I choose (either consciously or subconsciously) to put the onus of my own happiness and purpose on something else (i.e., my job, my family, etc.), I then lose the ability to have a say in what goes on, and I thus lose the ability to discover happiness both within myself and through the journey to greater personal growth and development.
And beyond suffering internally, happiness, and/or purpose, is often not found when placed in the hands of others.
Because my needs and definition of happiness and purpose can vary greatly from what others perceive them to be.
Anyway, I don’t feel like I’m now an expert on self-happiness, or finding one’s life purpose, I just feel so much freer now that I’ve been able to start to let go of expecting others to do what I should have been doing for myself all along.
As much as I love Dan, my close friends, my family, my mentors – as much as I respect my bosses, and my teachers – as much as I entrust the things I can’t control to fate and the universe, none of them can (nor should) be responsible for my happiness and purpose.
If I’m unsatisfied, I can be disappointed, or sad, or upset – but I need to change it.
That is both empowering (I can be the mistress of my emotional state!) and overwhelming (man, discovering self-happiness and purpose can take work!).
So here goes nothing…
Tonight I’m packing my intellectual, emotional and spiritual bags for a new kind of journey. I’m going to go out there and re-discover myself, and along the way I’m going to do my best to determine a purpose, and ensure my own happiness. I’m going to start by thinking about the things that please and/or captivate me (a few initial thoughts: writing, reading, time with Dan and my closest friends, traveling, dancing, swimming, feeling healthy, seeing others smile, copious amounts of chocolate), and then try to think about how to integrate more of those into my life purely through my own behavior and actions (maybe…try to write weekly, plan another trip, try to make it to yoga more than once a week, spend more time with Dan).
This is just the beginning. It’s going to be challenging, with streams to ford, boulders to climb, and naysayers to neutralize, but it’ll be worth it.
And more importantly, for better or worse, it’ll be mine.
Thanks for reading,