10 HABITS THAT RUIN RELATIONSHIPS

Failure to think of yourself as one part of a whole may lead to your partner feeling as if they don’t matter.

“We become what we repeatedly do.” ― Sean Covey

1. INTERRUPTING: interrupting your partner demonstrates that you are NOT listening. 

How can you listen well if you aren’t letting your partner finish their thought? Wait for them to finish speaking – take a deep breath – and then respond.

2. TIT FOR TAT: You do it so, why can’t I?

Two wrongs don’t make a right, do they? When your partner is attempting to discuss something that is troublesome and we point out that they do it too, we are triggering a spiral escalator that often ends up in a place no one wanted to go. If you partner is attempting to address something that is problematic for them, hear it through – resolve it – and then bring up your own issue. Remember, one thing at a time.

3. LACK OF APPRECIATION: Who cares?

Over time, we typically learn to ‘expect’ and fail to acknowledge the effort that people put into daily living. Does your husband always have his check deposited into a joint account to pay bills? Be appreciative! Does your wife transport the kids from one activity to another day after day? Be grateful! Gratitude is free! And there are hundreds of ways to express it so make it a daily habit to find something that you can appreciate in your significant other.

4. TOO MANY ASSUMPTIONS: Don’t be a mind reader.

Over time we learn to make assumptions based on prior history. If Tim always like his mother’s meatloaf, it doesn’t mean that he wants it every Sunday. If Mary didn’t want flowers when you were on a tight budget, it doesn’t mean she wouldn’t like them occasionally now that things are better financially.  We tend to generalize our knowledge without checking in with our partner to validate what we think is true. Even if there is no doubt in your mind – from time to time it is important to ASK and VERIFY.

5. “YOU….” STATEMENTS. Playing the blame game.

Whenever anyone hears a sentence that begins with ‘YOU’… they are going to call up defenses. We tend to start sentences with “you… “instead of sharing what is happening for us by using “I” statements.  Expressing oneself by accusing another person for what is wrong or frustrating is rarely a solid communication skill. Change “why don’t you ever help?” to “It’s important to me that we share the responsibility”.

6. FORGETTING THAT YOU ARE A “WE”; Failure to consider your partner

Too many times I hear partners in crisis mode talk from the perspective of ME instead of WE. It is ‘my’ child instead of ‘our’ child, or ‘my house’ instead of ‘our house’.  Failure to think of yourself as one part of a whole may lead to your partner feeling as if they don’t matter.

7. FAILURE TO PRIORITIZE TIME TOGETHER: How do you spend your time?

Yes, our lives are busy. Raising a family, working, and taking care of a home are all time-consuming activities but when you make a commitment to share your life with one another, it means dedicating at least some attention to growing that relationship. Think of your relationship as a plant – if you don’t’ water it a little every week – it WILL die.

8. CRITICISM: Focus on mistakes.

Constructive criticism can be helpful but frequently pointing out mistakes will erode even the most fortified self-esteem over time. “That shirt is too wrinkled.”, “How could you forget to pay that bill?”, “Seriously, you’re doing that now?” If you must point out something erroneous – use love and compassion. “Sweetheart, can I iron your shirt for you?”, “Don’t worry babe, I’ll sit down and go through the bills to make sure everything is on time.”, “Honey, can we do that later?”

9. COMPLACENCY: Failure to compliment.

Think about how easily we hand out compliments when we first meet someone… “You look nice.”, “I love your beard”, “You work so hard.”, etcetera. Let’s face it… we all enjoy compliments and whomever is dishing them out the most consistently will get our attention. Make sure it is YOU.

10. DISTRACTION: Failure to be attentive.

Even if you are home a lot, don’t say much, and share household duties it’s possible to starve your relationship from true emotional connection. We are constantly connected to the world via the internet on our phones, tablets, laptops, and the television. When we can’t disconnect our attention from the outside world and direct it specifically to the people we love, we are failing to nurture the emotional vibe that keeps us wanting to be with one another. It doesn’t have to be dramatic to be effective; hold hands while you watch a TV showed of shared interest, look at one another while you describe your day, have a dedicated ‘no phone zone’ like your family room or bedroom.

This is by no means, an exhaustive list but eliminating these ten habits will most definitely provide a healthier environment for a positive and supportive relationship.

 

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My March on Washington

There were more signs about Love and Peace and Hope than there was anything else.

A few days ago my daughter, who lives in Baltimore, called and asked me to make history with her by attending the Women’s March in Washington, DC. It meant that I would get up at 5 am, drive a couple of hours – walk all day in massive crowds – and then, tired… drive all the way home. Of course, I said “yes” – not because I was that invested in the march but because when your daughter ‘wants’ to spend the day with you… a day she will remember for the rest of her life… is there any other answer??

I say that I wasn’t all that invested in ‘the march’ mostly because I am not an overt activist. I have always chosen to change the world in ways that improved my little corner… working in my child’s school, raising money for the PTA, volunteering in my community, etc… I’ve not used my voice for anything on a national scale outside of casting my vote and so this was a first for me. I did not wear a pink hat – mostly because I didn’t have one – but even more so because I’m not a fan of the ‘p’ word and the hats were called p**** hats and even those the intention/message was important I didn’t want to promote the use of ‘that’ word. We didn’t carry signs because Sara was going to capture images and I was the photographer assistant; we needed our hands.

Getting to Washington proved to be a challenge and yet for Sara and I, the perfection of the mistakes and uncertainty made the adventure that much more memorable. This was the plan… I would pick her up in Baltimore, we would drive to the Halethorpe MARC station and catch the train to DC. We picked that location because the large downtown train station in Baltimore didn’t have the greatest parking. Well…. When we got to there we couldn’t find the entrance to the massive parking lot. It was a shame because it was practically empty. We weren’t the only challenged ones, the street parking was filling up fast and we saw people flowing into the station. One local resident, standing out on his lawn with a cup of steaming coffee (which I desperately wanted but was afraid to drink because I knew porta potties were my only option) let us know – in no uncertain terms – that we could (should) be parking there.

We were at the station in plenty of time to catch the 7:40 train but as we arrived, a woman in an official looking yellow safety vest was making the announcement that the train from Baltimore would NOT be stopping as it was completely full. It had filled in Baltimore. Crap. We should have gone to Penn station. The next train wasn’t for another hour… Saturday schedule. (MARC apparently has a good reason for not adding lots of extra trains for this historical event.)  She informed us that our best bet would be to drive south to the Greenbelt Metro station and take the DC Metro to one of the Washington Mall stops.

Sara and I took a minute to berate ourselves for just not going downtown in the first place and for a hot minute we thought about waiting for the northbound train – taking it back up to Baltimore and then coming south again… remember, I hadn’t had much coffee – which is the fuel for clear, rational thought. We opted for the southern option and headed down toward Greenbelt. It was an uneventful forty mile drive but the traffic was definitely building as we got closer to the city and there were an extraordinary number of busses on the freeway. When we got to the exit for the Metro station, it was blocked by a police car and there was a massive LED sign letting us know that the parking lot was full. Now, Sara had been telling me all along about how big this parking lot was “like a football stadium” she had said and so I was bowled over when we saw that it was full… As we drove by we could see what looked like THOUSANDS of people standing in line, presumably waiting to board the Metro. Holy cow, now what??

We went to the Marriott to get some coffee and use the facilities. There were lots of women there, many in pink hats and we asked a couple how they were getting downtown. “the hotel has a shuttle over to the Metro station” they said. We quickly described what we saw as we drove by just minutes ago, and then commented that it may be better to Uber down and get as close as possible. The two women we spoke to were quick to join forces with us and while we took care of nature’s calling – they arranged for a Lyft driver. It was going to cost much less per person than had we taken the train!

Our driver was awesome! SHE was happy to be making some extra money that day and even more so to be helping out in the way that she was able in the formation of such a historical event. We guided her into town, around traffic and she got us all the way into Union Station with very little delay. It was such fun talking to her and meeting our new friends (who were from Salt Lake City, Utah). We were counting our blessings at how the whole thing turned out… here we were without riding a train and/or standing in a line. As we got out of her car we were immediately swept up by the sea of people coming out of the train station, making their way over toward the Capitol building and it was both overwhelming and incredibly exciting to feel the energy of what it is to UNITE.

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Photo by Sara Kantner

There were all kinds of signs. Some were anti-Trump, many were pro-women’s choice, some were specifically for equality. I’ve read that the crowd in Washington, DC is estimated to have been over six hundred thousand. I never had a vantage point that allowed me to view the entire mall area. In fact, most of the time we were simply in a sea of moving people – and for part of that time it was – quite literally – full on, packed, body to body, people. We accidentally got ourselves over by the main stage – behind the American Indian Museum – in a hive of human beings that were so tightly packed together I finally understood the mechanism that activates panic in claustrophobic’s. Not for me. We spent an hour moving ourselves across the mall to the northwest side. After four hours of standing, walking, and watching… we started the march toward the Washington Memorial. When we got a chance to look across town – down the side streets, it was apparent that people had overflowed from the mall onto Constitution and Pennsylvania avenues. They filled Madison, Jefferson, and Independence… all moving west toward the Monument and President’s park. By then… I was over the crowding. I was cold… the weather report had not fulfilled its promise to reach 55 degrees… and I was sore from not sitting for more than five hours. It was time to find coffee… food… and warmth!

We kept moving until we found a street with moving traffic… hailed a cab and went to meet my youngest brother for an early supper.

It was amazing.

It was heartwarming.

It was breathtaking.

It was enlightening.

It was empowering.

It was more, too.

Sara began her day by intending to visually document the March from the perspective of mothers and daughters – motivated in part by her presence there with me. Certainly, one of the most inspiring parts of the March for me was how many children were there. THEY are the future of this country and they were experiencing firsthand how to respectfully demonstrate – how to use their voices. There were NOT just mothers and daughters… there were fathers and sons… entire families. These children were learning how to disagree in a loving spirit… I saw it with my own eyes. There were more signs about Love and Peace and Hope than there was anything else.

Yesterday inspired me, it was impossible to leave Washington without an imprint of that experience on my soul but it was more than that. We were not alone in that city… if you are connected you already know that many millions of people marched in over 30 countries and in every single state. How inspirational is it that people across the world came together unilaterally in support of simple humanity?? Literally…. Across the entire world. My deepest hope is that we all continue to use that spark as only the ignition of continued support for global human dignities.

This March was NOT about the American president. It was about HOPE that the Universal progress we’ve made regarding basic human integrity’s will be sustained and promoted throughout the world; at least THAT is why I marched. THAT is the lesson I hope those children took home and THAT is what I will continue to promote if only in my own little corner of the world.

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Feeding My Spirit

Of course, whenever something ‘bad’ happens, we are inclined to ask the question “why?”

One of the things I do to feed my spirit is read. Actually, I listen. My eyes have changed so much as I have aged that reading a book for too long of a period is hard on them and I’ve fallen in love with ‘listening’ to books. I listen while I walk, at the gym, while I drive… Sometimes I just put my headphones in and listen to a few minutes for a pump-me-up if I am in the middle of something inspirational.

Right now, I am reading Gary Zukov’s Seat of the Soul. It’s been out for twenty-five years and he was one of Oprah’s most interviewed guests so it’s not new but I never read it before. It’s another one of those books that when I am finished listening, I will have to buy a print version and sit down with a highlighter. It is a ‘night stand’ book – one of those books that you keep on your nightstand and read parts of when you are stuck or wanting a bit of a reminder about life.

It’s a little hard to follow sometimes because he talks a LOT about five sensory versus multisensory people and I think maybe you have to be in a place where you are open minded about the nonphysical ideology.

I find it fascinating that I am reading it now – that it wasn’t on my radar during other periods of my life when reading was how I gathered information and expanded my awareness. It’s also really interesting to me that it validates all the other stuff I have read. Remember my thoughts about coincidence?

“You cannot find your soul with your mind, you must use your heart. You must know what you are feeling. If you don’t know what you are feeling, you will create unconsciously.”~ Gary Zukav

I really like how he separates the idea of our ‘soul’ and our ‘personality’… in fact – I may use that with clients because I think it’s an easy concept to understand. I typically speak about heart and ego (Eckhart Tolle) but I like the ‘personality’ element. Our personality – the part of ourselves that we allow people to see – is where we live most of the time and its where all the stuff we don’t want exists (i.e., fear).

“The human emotional system can be broken down into roughly two elements: fear and love. Love is of the soul. Fear is of the personality.” ~ Gary Zukov

Did you read my post the other day about being right?? Today, I heard this:

“A power struggle collapses when you withdraw your energy from it. Power struggles become uninteresting to you when you change your intention from winning to learning about yourself.” ~ Gary Zukav & Linda Francis

And those of you who have been reading for a while may remember my ‘Soul Theory’… and the thoughts I have about spirituality and reincarnation…

“You may seek companionship and warmth, for example, but if your unconscious intention is to keep people at a distance, the experiences of separation and pain will surface again and again until you come to understand that you, yourself, are creating them. Eventually, you will choose to create harmony and love. You will choose to draw to you the highest frequency currents that each situation has to offer. Eventually, you will come to understand that love heals everything, and love is all there is. The journey may take many lifetimes, but you will complete it. It is impossible not to complete it. It is not a question of if but of when. Every situation that you create serves this purpose. Every experience that you encounter serves this purpose.” ~Gary Zukov

Of course, whenever something ‘bad’ happens, we are inclined to ask the question “why?” It’s in that question that I often lean on my beliefs that there is value in each experience but I still find myself looking for an immediate answer. I recall Dr. Brian Weiss’s work in Messages from the Masters where they too state “Love is all there is” … echoing Jesus and Gandhi. Perhaps then, the lesson in EVERYTHING is searching for how to love more. And… maybe sometimes, the love we are needing to learn is how to love ourselves!

I know some really phenomenal people who exhibit love wherever they go but are terribly self-critical. And maybe it’s just that we need to be reminded because we fall back into old self-destructive habits.

In a conversation this morning, I was talking about how hard it is to be consistent with the things that we know. Harlan and I are both challenged in this regard. He loves his ice cream and cookies (albeit they are cardboard, oatmeal nut, healthy kind of cookies) but we know that sugar isn’t good for him. He goes in and out of periods where he commits to avoiding sugar and then slowly it creeps back in until he notices that there is little to no thought about the amount of sugar he consumes.

I am the same with my dieting. I know – beyond doubt and especially the older I get that I have to limit my calorie intake. When I do… I like my body and it likes me – when I don’t … we both get to the point where we are hating on one another constantly (my body and me). Why do we allow ourselves to forget what we know? Why do we slip?

It must be like being on vacation with your family. While there, when the only thing to focus on is having fun with the people you love, everything is wonderful – you all feel connected and close. Then we come home – where there is work, responsibility, and commitment. The loving connections we experienced on vacation seemingly disappear into the wind because we aren’t great at placing our attention on everything all at once. In fact, we only have a certain amount of attention to give… could this be as simple as prioritizing the places we put our focus?

I know, I know … I think it myself – “what can I possibly give up”, “where do I find the time to add another ‘practice’ to my life?” I am the Queen of multi-tasking an honor that is shared by a gazillion of us… we try and make ‘everything’ a priority. That’s why we drop stuff.

Zukov’s book is about “intention” and I am excited to get through the rest as I believe this very question is addressed and now… perfectly ordained by the great Universe… is the time that I need (perhaps am open to) hearing how can be accomplished. I invite you to read with me and we can ‘discuss’ it in the comments or on Facebook… or I can share as I go along. What is your heart saying?

“An intention is a quality of consciousness that you bring to an action.” ~ Gary Zukov

 

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A Little Christmas Love

May the light of love shine in everything you are and do!

“Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves”. ~Eric Sevareid

I celebrate Christmas and would like to wish you a very, merry Christmas if you also celebrate that holiday. If you are, or recently have celebrated another important holiday in your home then allow me to wish you “Happy Holidays”.

I am going to take a break from posting ~ perhaps not from writing but I am imagining the focus for all of us to be on our families, our hearts, and our spirits… not on what I have to say today or tomorrow.

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love!”~Hamilton Wright Mabie

I’d like to leave you with a few thoughts, though. Christmas, of course, is the celebration of Christ’s birth and for me… the presence of Jesus Christ on this planet was God’s gift of knowledge. The energy of the Universe providing an example of what each of us has the capacity to achieve if we allow ourselves to tap into the love that is innate and woven into the fiber of our cells. What perfection might exist if we only ever utilize love in our thoughts and interactions?

My promise to myself is to practice this today and tomorrow as best as I can and I would like to encourage you to join me. May I remind you to practice in ALL areas of your life. Beginning by looking in the mirror… “Good morning (self) – I love you” or “Good morning (self), you are the embodiment of love”.

When we ‘feel’ love, we are more apt to share it. Stay focused today in love. Remember that if the people in your home love you, any derogatory interactions are probably a reflection of a negative emotion they are struggling with – not a statement about a degree of love they have for you.

“No Christmas gift is greater than the gift of love. Thank you for giving the best gift ever!” ~ unknown

I’d like to say thank you for all the love that I have received over the course of these last several months. Just this morning I received a text message thanking me for “the gift of these daily readings”. I cannot overstate how meaningful the encouragement and support has been to me. I hope you all feel the love I am sending to you in these words.

I’d like to share a few of the gifts that I will be rejoicing in this Christmas.

  • All three girls will be here to celebrate the day with us. As many of you can relate to, there is no better joy than the sounds of your family together.
  • Frank and Rosie will be Skyping with us Christmas morning and I am happy to share that they will be parents in a few months and I will have a new name! Mémé or Nan or Gran… I think we’ll let BabyK decide when he or she makes a connection. It’s the most precious gift to the family and I am quite grateful.
  • Additionally, we saw the Oncologist yesterday and H is doing great. It’s been a rough fall but a recent round of radiation has almost alleviated the intense pain he was having and the virus that has taken many of us down this season is also seeming to fizzle out. He is sleeping better and has more energy. His goal for the next several weeks is to begin rebuilding strength – it so quickly diminishes during the dual course of chemo and radiation. The doctor is encouraged by the most recent scan – the treatment is currently working the way that it is supposed to and we are dropping down to only one doctor visit a month instead of the every two weeks that we’ve been doing all year.
  • The greatest gifts are the love and prayers, good wishes, and hope that people send our direction. Please know they are being received with replicated love and gratitude.

“Christmas is most truly Christmas when we celebrate it by giving the light of love to those who need it most”.–Ruth Carter Stapleton

May the light of love shine in everything you are and do!

I’ll be back.

: )

Committment

We danced the night away taking great pleasure in our ‘little secret’ which was nothing more than a promise to one another but held tremendous regard in both of our hearts.

Continued from Fitting IN

“We must accept what comes to us at a given time, and not ask for more. But life is endless, so we never die; we were never really born. We just pass through different phases. There is no end. Humans have many dimensions. But time is not as we see time, but rather in lessons that are learned.” ― Brian L. Weiss

I hadn’t been skinny dipping in decades and my mind was reminding me of the extremely limited appreciation I had for my body image. I had four children and the evidence was everywhere. I stayed neck deep in water as I turned and looked back toward the beach to see Harlan’s reaction. I noticed he was just completing the removal of his own clothing and walked, a little more self-confident, into the water toward me.

The sensation of being naked, in the sun is not sexual. It is exhilarating – primal almost – there is a transcendent element perhaps in the way that sun and water come together on the totality of your body. We were there together, experiencing the cardinal thrill of just being two people entangled solely in nature at its finest. We dove under the water, splashed it at one another, and swam a bit. The intensity of the beauty of the beach and the water paled compared to the intensity of how we were looking at one another. I felt as if I could see into the innermost corner of his soul and I believed he could see mine. We moved toward one another and I wrapped my arms around him with an immediate desire to never let go.

When I stripped off my clothing, I apparently also abandoned the reserve that had allowed me to keep myself from going this deep – from acknowledging feelings this vivid and intense. I was back there – in that place of vulnerability where there is an unlocked door to the cavern of fear and to the one of hope. I had been inching my way there, noticing how our relationship was growing in respect and acceptance, noticing how great he was with the girls, how open he was to tolerating my ‘stuff’. I was instantly joyful and terrified that I might be blasted out of this position and yet I wasn’t moving away – I was present and intentional.

“I love you”, I said.

“I love you” he replied.

“I want to be with you always”, I say softly and lovingly. Previously, we had briefly talked about marriage and yet we both knew that it didn’t make sense financially and so we had taken it off the table. I didn’t need a piece of paper or a group of people to validate how I felt right then, about this man or how he felt about me. We knew what we had. We knew our intentions. We spoke them then.

“I promise to always be there for you, to respect you, and to listen.” He was watching me. “I promise to be authentic with you and to share myself completely as I am able.” The words had not been premeditated and were pouring from my heart. I continued. “I promise to support you and to learn from you”.

Each of us smiled patiently. He begins “And I promise to be there for you. To support you and help you whenever I can.” I see an intensity in his face that tells me he is speaking from his soul. “I promise to hold you and comfort you, to keep you safe.” My heart flutters. “I promise, to be honest at all times.”

I must admit that I am right now – writing the words that I believe we said to one another. We’ve often talked about the preciseness of what we remember hearing and saying that afternoon but I believe that we were both so caught up in the moment that all we specifically recall is the ‘essence’ of what was actually spoken. We acknowledge that we dedicated ourselves to one another in the water, in the buff, on the beach, with no one in attendance and it was probably the most romantic thing that has ever happened to either of us. We walked out of the water different than we had walked in.

We weren’t married, we weren’t legal, our union would never be officially acknowledged but we knew… we felt the strength of the emotional coupling that had taken place and we knew it to be a soulful bond. Perhaps – we would later comment – it was as natural as it was because it had happened before… perhaps in another lifetime and we were simply reuniting with one another. It was intimate, organic, and spontaneous. It was perfect.

Later that day we held hands and looked sheepishly at one another as my brother and his new wife committed themselves to one another on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean at sunset. Their union was beautiful and traditional and legal but no more intrinsic than the one we had self-officiated earlier in the day. We danced the night away taking great pleasure in our ‘little secret’ which was nothing more than a promise to one another but held tremendous regard in both of our hearts.

Leaving Puerto Rico was bittersweet. We knew we had a ton of obligations as soon as we returned home, Harlan would be opening his print shop and I would be starting my last year of classwork before I began an internship. We were full of hope and optimism for what our lives together would bring. It wasn’t perfect… we still couldn’t ‘live’ together but knew that there as a timer on that restriction. We knew that we still had much to learn about one another and more emotional bags to unpack. We realized that daily stressors would continue to challenge our coping skills. All we could do was find comfort in the idea that going forward – we would be doing it all together.

Harlan wasn’t setting quite the sail that he had anticipated. Instead of setting out down the Chesapeake Bay, he was setting up in a small Pennsylvania town. I was allowing myself one more shot at love in spite of all the resistance I had professed; swearing to give up on men. I had no idea what life had in store for me but I knew that in every experience I had to date – there was purpose and value. I was beginning to see myself in a new light – one where strength and love poured over me and into my spirit; where that energy drove me.

I found myself trusting that the Universe, God, was indeed on the same page as me although I realized that its demonstration of time was something that I still needed to reconcile. We used different clocks apparently. There was still so much to learn and I discovered an urgency and an affinity to seek it all.

Growing & Going Deeper

He was modest, so modest in fact that I didn’t know how to behave.

Continued from Choosing Love

“If you want to have the kind of relationship that your heart yearns for, you have to create it. You can’t depend on somebody else creating it for you.” ― Gary Zukav

I found it fascinating how easy it was to have a man in the house again. Harlan was there a lot because as a single mom, it wasn’t all that easy for me to just leave. Sara was not yet driving and so I was generally required to take someone, somewhere. Harlan lived about fifteen miles away from me and had a different sleeping schedule so the hours we could steal for any alone time to build upon the budding romance were few. Most of the time, we shared our time with my girls.

We did love to take our drives, though. We were both on a Starbucks kick back then and so to sneak in a block of ‘us’ time, we would hop in the car after dinner and run up to where it all started… our local Starbucks and take a long way home while we ran through our days. It was on those drives that we created a vision of our life together. He knew that I couldn’t get married or live with anyone as a restriction of my divorce agreement unless I wanted to forgo a significant amount of alimony and so we talked about how to navigate a close relationship but within stringent boundaries. I wanted him to wait for me but there was still seven years until I had any real freedom without financial strings. It was a lot to ask, I thought. He said he would take it one day at a time.

When I met Harlan he claimed that he was but a minute away from hopping on a sailboat and escaping the town where he had been raised. Some of the memories there were dark and haunting – worthy of burying and escaping. I didn’t want him to go anywhere and meeting me – loving me – put a huge wrench in his long-term plan. I worked diligently to help him renegotiate a vision of his future; one that included me.

His work as a Graphic Artist in a small print shop was just a ‘fill in’ job until his house sold – that was the only thing keeping him local to me. My entrepreneurial energies kicked into high gear when I realized that the community in which I lived was void of the kind of services he currently offered where he was employed. We began to build a blueprint for developing a retail business in the community where I lived so that he would be right around the corner. I figured that if he could make money and build a foundation here, the motivation to stay would be much stronger.

One of the things people say about me is that I am a ‘doer’. When I get a thought in my head, it often leads to manifestation. Sometimes, it gets ‘almost there’ and other times it gets there and fizzles but most of the time, the things I try at least get started; and I’ve started a lot of things! This wasn’t my first array into building a business so I used all of the accumulated acumens to lay out our options.

The Universe heard me and I knew God was helping when the necessary components came perfectly into play. We found a location – it came with an apartment – but it had to be converted into retail space. Harlan had a year of recent experience (and a lifetime before that) of reconstruction and so we bought a building and began our first joint project. In reality, it was the second one… the first construction project we engaged in together was building a shoe rack for the laundry room at my house. It was a shoe cubby actually and held more than twenty pairs of shoes which are nothing when there are four females in one house. It was still early in our relationship and frankly, I was on my best behavior. If the shoe rack wasn’t perfect – no biggie… it was in my laundry room.

This project was a little bigger… we had to gut a residence down to the studs, tear out walls, put in beams, construct a forty foot ramp, include a handicap accessible bathroom and shore the flooring up to fit commercial building codes. It wasn’t an initiative for the faint of heart. All the while, I was still a single mom and a full-time grad student. “No problem,” Harlan says… “I’ve got two months of income set aside and I’ll do all the work”. Our budget was strict and we began the end of June with a deadline of August 25. We were all traveling to Puerto Rico for my little brother’s wedding over Labor Day and needed to open for business – to start making money – as soon as we got back.

This is the kind of thing people who have known and loved one another for decades don’t’ attempt for lack of temperamental discipline. We had only known one another for six months and our naiveté may have been our saving grace. We learned a lot about each other in that two months. We learned that we sometimes speak a different language. We learned that we are both always attempting to help. We learned that we have defenses and triggers.

Harlan and I are well into middle age at this point – each with histories rich in disappointment, rejection, and betrayal of some kind. Each experience having left a scar and a story. The end result is an array of defense mechanisms that become exposed at the most interesting times. We learned that I am a perfectionist (cough, cough, sigh) and we learned that he is too – in a different way and with different things. I could take a shoe and pound in a nail – as long as the nail goes into the wood. He, needed just the right hammer – the one designed for that type of nail – before pounding could begin. And saws… there are so many kinds of saws! Just give me a damn blade!

We sat on the front porch a time or two ironing out a misunderstanding, attempting to reconcile how we each felt and trying desperately hard not to repeat mistakes from relationships past. We mustered respect in our disagreements in a way that had never existed in my man/woman interactions before – it was so refreshing and enlightening to see and experience a difference of opinion that didn’t end up being a confrontation and all out fight. We learned that the way we use common language is sometimes different – our words have different meanings and we learned to navigate the differences.

As we continued to learn from one another – not just construction tidbits but also how to trust one another’s judgement and value our experience, we developed more and more emotional intimacy – our friendship grew in and around the love that we had proclaimed to feel toward one another. We easily laughed with each other and continuously found topics to fill our conversations. At the end of each day we were tired and spent but found energy to cuddle as we drifted off to sleep.

Harlan was a kind of man that was new to me. He was modest, so modest in fact that I didn’t know how to behave. He didn’t seem to have the same kind of ‘expectations’ that others had in my life… going to bed and cuddling didn’t need to lead to anything else. I literally was able to enjoy the experience of feeling his arms wrapped around me and know that I was loved even though we just laid there – drifting off to sleep – we were together and it was nice. My love grew deeper.

Choosing Love

I picked up the phone to call him, just to remind him that I was excited to think about what lay ahead for us.

Continued from Falling

“The love that you withhold is the pain that you carry lifetime after lifetime.” ― Alex Collier

After Harlan told me he had been treated for melanoma I was a bit heartbroken. I didn’t want to go through that again, I couldn’t imagine setting myself up for loss one.more.time. I struggled to find some peace with the idea of letting him go – before he ‘really’ got under my skin and into my heart. I felt disappointed and a little defeated because I had finally met someone worth allowing myself to fall in love again and he is telling me that he had thought he was going to die a few years prior.

He had said the only treatment he had was excision of the mole… no radiation or chemotherapy. One would think that it couldn’t have been too serious and yet, a cancer diagnosis is terrifying no matter the circumstances. Every time I thought I could overcome my fear, the memories of my step dad’s journey with melanoma crowded my vision and then I could see myself again as a widow sitting in the front row of a funeral service. I just couldn’t do it.

I picked up the phone and called my Aunt. We had been close since I had settled my grandparent’s estate and she was like-minded in spiritual philosophies so it was easy to talk with her most of the time about this existential stuff. I needed to think out loud and bounce my thoughts off of someone.

“I met this guy”, I started telling her the story of Harlan and our instant connection. I shared with her, the prophecy from my mountain trip and gave her a general description of how things had transpired so far. I told her about his melanoma and how scared I was to take the risk of loving him.

“So, let me get this straight”, she said. “You are going to throw away the opportunity to love a person whom you are describing as a ‘soulmate’ because he MIGHT die?”. She sounded incredulous. “I thought you believed that everything happened for a reason”. She was challenging me.

I recalled an evening she and I were sitting on the porch at my grandparent’s farm in Northeastern Pennsylvania overlooking the amazing acreage there in the Blue Mountain region. The beauty of it was always intense, no matter the time of year. It was one of those places where you sit and observe the perfection of God’s work, of creation. It is one of those places where the paragon of color, texture, and shape are apparent. We were sitting there talking, taking a break from the emotional aspects of our losses; she of having lost a sister and her parents and me – my mom and grandparents. It was a lot to process. The conversation had turned metaphysical. We talked about the lack of coincidence, cosmic design, divine intervention, universal intent… all of the things that inspire me deeply…

Suddenly it was clear. If I believe that everything happens for a reason, then I had to deduct that

THIS moment

In its intention

Is perfect.

That meant – every moment of my life – each one… in its overall intention for the rest of my  life was perfectly designed.

The intensity of the meaning of that realization took me by surprise. Whether it was God, the Universe, Mother Earth … it didn’t matter – each moment of my life was moving me toward the next… perfectly. It was a concept that we both internalized and committed to memory – feeling quite satisfied that we had discovered something so profound.

She was reminding me of that now as I questioned the value and or the validity of meeting Harlan, of falling in love with him. She reminded me that there are never any guarantees. She asked me if I would have married Rocky even if I knew that our time together would have been short. I knew I would have – those short three and a half years were precious to me and had produced Frank… I would never have given that up. She asked me if I would have married Hubby even if I knew the outcome and as much as I wanted to say a resounding ‘no’ – I knew that the girls were a product of that union and nothing on earth would have me regret those blessings. I wouldn’t change anything about my life.

She asked me to think about whether I was willing to reject even a day of love, of being loved, the experience of the joy that being in love brings for the sake of safety. So, “in other words, she said, “you would rather feel nothing – no pain, no joy, than to feel love and potential pain??”

Hmmm…

I didn’t ‘want’ to feel ‘nothing’ but I was afraid. I was afraid of the pain that loving someone -and losing them- entailed. I was terrified of the darkness that ensues when love ends. The idea of experiencing that again panicked me but then again, the idea of never loving again wasn’t what I wanted either. Crap. Shit. What do I do now?

I appreciated the phone call even if it didn’t solidify a decision to end my budding romance. Rather, it did just the opposite I was more clear on the emotions that I experienced when he told me about the melanoma. I realized that when I noticed the potential for emotional pain, my response was to shut down, turn, and run away. That’s normal, right? Who ‘wants’ to feel pain? I understood then that the ‘fight or flight’ response we instinctively use wasn’t only for our physical protection – it was for our emotional protection as well. In our efforts to preserve our emotional integrity, we avoided or fought back emotionally.

My desire to run away from Harlan in case he died was an instinct to avoid the pain of losing him. The mature adult part of my brain that held on to rational thinking knew that there were no guarantees even if he had never known the word melanoma; after all… Rocky believed he would live to be one hundred years old. Nope, no guarantees at all. With very little conscious thought from that point on, I allowed myself to love.

I picked up the phone to call him, just to remind him that I was excited to think about what lay ahead for us. I looked forward with a little apprehension but less fear by knowing that right now… here… in THIS moment I was choosing love. At some point, I noticed that I always choose love.