Sunday, May 20, 2018

What Makes for a Rockin Relationship?

And when I say "Rocking Relationship," I mean healthy, generally really happy, a mutually satisfying, solid connection between two people.

(Important note:  While the article I am writing is primarily geared towards romantic relationships, much, if not all of this can apply to many other types of relationships with people in our lives).

(Other important note: each relationship between two people is very often a combination of both healthy behaviors/thought processes, as well as a few unhealthy ones.  I just read that very tidbit on an informational about relationships, and its one I agree with. 

This is because each and every one of us has both good and bad inside.  Each and every one of us can be healthy, as well as unhealthy at times.  All of us have great qualities/thought processes, as well as a few we are ever needing to work on and grow from.  This is not to say that a person should remain with a partner who is distinctly unhealthy, with a lot of problems or behaviors that cause damage to the relationship.  This is not to say you should remain with someone who doesnt have their life together, who behaves badly, or whose values are distinctly against your own.  Not at all.  

Instead, I point out the aspect that "each relationship between two people is very often a combination of both healthy behaviors, as well as some unhealthy ones," because this will help one not to see their relationship as so black and white.  Such as, if your partner makes a mistake, or has a bad moment, or struggles with one particular thing which isn't the healthiest, though it doesnt cause damage to your relationship, within these examples, this can still likely be a person worth staying with. 

That all of us have some "bad" or unhealthy things in us that are needed to be worked on.  And that as long as each person is actively doing so (that's the important distinction here), actively pursuing growth and improvement, that this is a potentially promising thing.  And that good relationships, those worth keeping around, are the ones that are healthy the majority of the time.  Those that are good and happy the vast majority of the time.  And those in which both people are blatantly pursuing growth and emotional health).

Now, without further ado, read on with regards to what makes for a rockin relationship!!





Openness. 
Sure, you don’t have to tell your partner every single thing/thought/feeling/occurrence in your life.  Everyone has some things that are just their own.  This is healthy, good, and normal. 

In general though, you should confide in and converse openly with your partner much, if not most of the time.  There should not be things you hide from them, which you know would be damning if they were to know.  And sadly, Ive heard of many couples who don’t tell their partner a wide berth of things, out of fear of their partners reaction or because they feel certain that their partner “wouldn’t understand.”  If this is the case, its likely there is something about the union that is a bit off.  Lacking in the full depth or openness it could have. 

Though also, PS. withholding information and truth from someone you love simply out of fearing them not liking it?  Not a reason to avoid honesty.  Sometimes we will do things that will piss off the people we love.  This is normal, its part of human relationships.  Not a reason to dodge disclosure.  If anything, that is cowardly and will prevent being as close with this person as you could be.  Know that sometimes, you might choose to tell them something that, in the nature of being honest, will upset them.  This is ok.  People who love each other and are close sometimes get pissed at each other.  They will not always like everything the other person does.  In fact, sometimes they will even be hurt by it.  This is part of close relationships.

However, being forthcoming and brave is one of the best ways to maintain and continue growing emotional closeness with someone you love, as well as to problem solve together and work through it.




Kindness. 
Sounds like a no brainer.  Shockingly enough though, there are LOADS of people out there, married or in long term committed partnerships (or, in shorterm ones too) who just aren’t that nice to their partner much of the time.  Who take advantage of their partner, talk down to them, are dismissive or disrespectful to their partner, are impatient or rude.  You name it. 

Of course, everyone has an occasional shitty moment.  But far too often, people write off frequent mistakes or mess ups as being “rare,” when really, they are occurring often (read: not occasional).  Kindness is of upmost importance for rockin relationships.



Growth.  
Yup.  This goes for each person individually, as well as relationships too. 
Ive witnessed a handful of relationships that kind of seem to just float along from day to day.  They've plateaued.  Rarely, if ever, challenging one another.  Both people living pretty routine existences.  The two of them not really seeking new opportunities nor learning, both personally, and as a couple.  They eat at the same places, do the same things day in and day out.  Their conversations have grown dull.  Assuming they already know all there is to know about this person (which is of course, always incorrect).  Their sex life is stale and uninspired.
These relationships?  These relationships are mediocre at best.  Kind of just puttering along, day after day, until one person grows so stifled, disinterested and resentful, that the relationship dies.  Often in these kinds of connections, the love sort of just sputters out.  There is nothing sparking it, giving the love cause to flourish and continue swirling ever upwards.  There is no draw (other than comfort and routine, a safety in their shared history- which is not a reason in and of itself to remain with someone) nor much real resonating power between these two people any longer. 

Often times, people in these kinds of relationships aren't even conscious of the fact that they are actually pretty unsatisfied until something comes along that is distinctly the opposite.  Something that jars them out of this half sleep and flat lined relationship.
Thus, growth, continued perpetual growth, is a requisite of truly good, satisfying, happy and healthy relationships.  Resulting in the most fulfillment between the two people, as well as more passion and connectedness.
The remedies for perpetual growth in a relationship?  Endless. 

Read new books, both together and individually...then discuss them in depth.  Cook novel recipes together.  Experiment with food that is difficult to make.  Adventure to new places, both together as well as solo.  Read articles about different, intriguing, invigorating and fascinating ideas- talk about them with your partner.  Take up new hobbies on your own...this breathes life, not only into you as an individual, but your relationship as well.  Be racing towards a passion or goal other than just your partner...whether its running a marathon someday, publishing a book, opening your own cafe, growing braver and stronger within yourself, starting your own company, adopting a pet, publishing a scientific paper, planting your own garden, you name it.  This will also add attraction, depth, and passion to your union. 
Challenge each other where needed.  That's not to say be combative or argumentative.  Just that, instead of hiding from your partner and avoiding any upset, be courageous and understand that growth as well as problem solving can not occur where there is not openness and realness- which sometimes means there being disagreements or challenges to work through. 

Try something totally new, something that even scares both of you a little bit, together.  Do something slightly out of both your comfort zones, together.  Exercise together.  Grow something together.  Have one another's backs unyieldingly.  Write each other a love letter once a month, as heartfelt and honest as you dare, telling them something different each time.
You get the idea.  Grow, both alongside of, and together with your partner.  Seek this actively and intentionally.


Joy. Light.  Playfulness
A relationship should be both a source of growth, inspiration, companionship, and very importantly, a source of joy.  One of the main, very top points in having a relationship, is for the joy and light it should bring to your life.  

That is not to say that a relationship will never go through challenging phases or moments, and that during said phase(s), the relationship may be hard and require some healing or recalibrating.  In general though, a relationship should add immensely to your life, not take away from or load on distress.  If it does this regularly, it may no longer be a healthy relationship, or just not the right one for you.


To add a note on playfulness...supposedly, children laugh a couple hundred times per day, whereas the average adult laughs something like 10-15 times per day. 
Wow.  Talk about a sad disparity in that statistic.  Why do we lose our boundless joy, our silliness, sense of play and daring as we grow older?  And how sad is that?

Dare to play with your partner.  Let go of your pride, that fear over how you look to others (which ultimately is a semi self centered way of thinking anyway.  Rarely does anyone care nearly as much about what we are doing as they care about themselves.  Most people are too focused on and worried about themselves and how they look, to worry about you ;-)), and just have fun together.  Do something out of the box, totally laughter inducing, and fun.

Go to an arcade together, or an amusement park.  Play board games.  Invent a comedy routine together.  Send one another jokes.  Be goofy with each other.  Make one another laugh.  Dont take yourself so seriously.  Have a water fight, or better yet, a food fight.  Have a cooking competition.  Paint or draw together.  Wrestle.  Play Hide and Seek.  Make a scavenger hunt for your partner with an exciting prize at the end.  Compete in mini golf. 

The list goes on and on.






Being unafraid to disagree and challenge one another where needed. 
This is not to say being combative, abusive, difficult or dramatic are encourage able, healthy, or good.  Instead, I am referring to constructive conflict or disagreements that lead to understanding, problem solving, and growth.  There is a distinct difference. 

Put any two people together…you will have conflict.  This is part of close relationships.  The point though is: is it healthy, productive conflict?  If yes, this is generally a positive thing.  




Prioritizing your love to the highest regard
Other things will ever be perpetually competing for your attention.  Their faces may change, but there will be constant, consistent competition for your focus, affection, thoughts, time, even love.  To be a truly phenomenal partner, as well as to have an emotionally deep/close relationship to your love, you need to consistently keep your partner as a very top priority.  This isn't something that will just happen.  You will have to make choices actively to make it so.

This can mean, and fairly often, having to say no to others, even when its difficult.  And as a result, this can sometimes mean upsetting others in your doing so.  When we draw lines and exercise boundaries, people close to us can get upset about it and feel slighted.  This is normal.  However, part of having good boundaries means that, while you dont want to hurt anyone intentionally, understanding that this isn't your problem.  That you cannot possibly live your life pleasing everyone.  This is impossible, and attempting to do so will only result in much stress, disappointment for both you and others, and never really living for yourself.  You must be able to say no and draw lines where needed, even if/when it upsets others.  People with strong boundaries have happier lives and better relationships.  

A
ctively choosing to prioritize your partner is the key way though, to protecting both your love, as well as the connection to your partner.  In having solid boundaries of your own and being willing to draw lines with others when needed, as well as making sacrifices when the moment demands such.  This will help protect your relationship like the treasure it is.  Keeping your relationship strong, present, and flourishing.  


This may be the most important quote of this whole entry.

Relevant and worthwhile side note: The quote above was actually talked about in depth, within a book I just finished last week.  "Changes That Heal: Four Steps to a Happier, Healthy You" by Dr. Henry Cloud.  They talk about this exact concept.  How so many people avoid this knowledge and considering of such a truth, and instead, tend to take their partner for granted in their preferring to avoid and dismiss what is actually the reality that, at any moment, this person can be lost or exit our life. 

In Catch 22 fashion though, this very behavior and thought process actually often leads to their losing this person.  

Whereas instead, if they kept that awareness front and center in their mind regularly (that at any moment, we can lose our partner, or the relationship can end), one might cherish their partner much more, making far more obvious their love and cherishing of this person, and as a result, less likely to lose them.  To maintain and keep love, you must prize it above all else, protect, cherish, and treasure it.  This requires both word, and action.  


So, that's all she wrote with regards to what makes for a Rockin Relationship.  There are of course, other very important facets that make a relationship healthy, good, and worthwhile. 

These include:

--Honest and constructive communication
--Focused and effortful listening
--Emotional maturity

--Loyalty
--Taking care of ones individual physical and emotional health (because when you aren't healthy and dont take care of yourself, you will not be your best self to those around you and thus, not as emotionally present nor as mentally able to be a good partner). 
--Trust is essential. 
--Respect is essential. 

With regards to
the list given in the blog entry above, I decided to write about a few of the less often highlighted though equally as important aspects that make up a great relationship.








Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Part Two: Returning Home After Living Abroad

Hi all,

I was asked a few months ago by a reader to please post more articles on the transition of having returned home after living abroad.  What this experience has been like, both emotionally and literally, as well as ways of adjusting to and dealing with it, reintegrating if you will.


Real quick, before I delve into this articles topic...

--(For Part One of this same article, written just a couple weeks after my initial return stateside, you can read that entry here).

--(Also, how the initial decision was made...I wrote this a few months prior to returning to the USA, whilst still in Europe).


So, on with the details, continuing from my Part One article (written months ago).  Since my last entry....what its been like over the last, going on 10 months, of readjusting to life in the United States (after having lived in Europe for 4 years):

You will find yourself comparing things, not necessarily "better versus worse," instead though, making frequent remarks and comparisons with regards to life in the country you just left, versus life in the country to which you have just returned.  What you will learn via these comparisons: anywhere you live will have awesome aspects, and challenging/illogical/upsetting parts to its culture.  Some have more positives than negatives, just like other places will have more negatives than positives.  In general though, most places have a mixture of both.  You will realize thus that wherever you live, there will be things you will lament and long for from the other place.




The life you left behind, after just a few months back in your home culture, will begin to feel like a dream.  Almost as though it never happened, or if it did, as though it was a whole lifetime ago.  It will feel like so short, too short, as though it rushed by and was over in the blink of an eye.




It will be lonely at times.  You will have (likely) just left an entire life you built in another country.  This will include a solid social life, a job, having had somewhere to live, etc.  All of this will be wiped out, and need to be built from scratch again in wherever you have just moved back to.  While I have close friends in both locations (within where I just moved back to in the US, as well as back in Germany), they were more closely contained back in Germany.  I had a bustling, lively, large handful of close friends, all of whom lived within 15 minutes of me.  I saw a different friend almost every day of the week after work, following by gym, and then lots of cooking, baking and food blogging on weekends, the week concluded by a several hours long solo writing session at my favorite cafe every Sunday.  I took day trips often on weekends, throughout Germany.  And once every 3 months or so, went on an entire adventure to a totally different country.  My life there was bustling, happening, exciting.  Here, living in New Hampshire, its slowed down quite a bit in comparison.  This is neither bad nor good.  It has just taken some adjusting to.




You will find yourself hurt and saddened at times, when people with whom you have remained close to and in touch with during the time you were away, are not all those you reconnect with as deep or as fast as you might have hoped/imagined.  Some of these people, you will reconnect with instantly, as you both hoped and assumed.  Your friendship picking right up where you left off.  With others though, you will not click back into place quite as quick as you assumed, and this will be tough to accept, as well as disappointing.



Important takeaway here though, from the point just above.  In the time you were away in another country, you built an entire other life.  The people whom you left back at home?  They too have been building on their lives as well, in the time you have been away.  This doesnt mean that you cannot click back into place with many of them, and be close to these people again too on your returning home.  Of course you can.  My point instead, is this:  Assume that on returning home, you are not coming back to the life you left.  That would be both boring, as well as a regression, and would refute the point of having left in a monumental way.  It would also imply that time somehow stops.  Unfortunately in certain moments, this is impossible ;-).  And thus, life continued on without you.

You left to adventure, and to grow.  To have new experiences and to build another life during this chapter away.  Therefore, assume your coming home is another entirely new chapter.  You may be coming back to a place of which you are familiar, and where you do have some loved ones there, as well as a few good friends still around who are available and interested in reconnection.  That is a great and beautiful thing!  It will help immensely with your reintegrating, having those supports and familiar connections. 

But.  You are largely going to be building an entirely new life and experiencing another brand new chapter, even though its in a place you know to which you are returning.  And this, my friends, is an awesome thing, ripe with possibility and thrill.  If you can choose to look at your return in such a way, not only will it soften the blow when not everyone resumes closeness with you as quickly as you may have hoped, it will also help temper expectations and thus, lessen disappointment for you when things do not go quite how you hoped in some ways.  As well as, pushing you towards creating new experiences and pursuing new friendships on your return, in remembering that you are not sliding back into a previous life you left, but instead, creating a brand new one once again.




My #1 discovery though thus far has been this: things are not going to go the way you planned.  And this will be both deeply disheartening/frustrating/distressing, as well as awe inspiring and wildly beautiful.

I had a whole plan mapped out.  Return to the US.  Have a job secured down in Boston within a month, two tops.  Find an apartment.  Begin building my life there (via gym membership, starting my own meetup group, continued blogging, sign up for writing classes, you get the idea), and maybe find a romantic relationship that seems promising some 6-8 months later.  None of this played out in the way I laid out mentally, nor anticipated.  In most ways, that has been the most awesome of surprises.

Recently, I was working for several weeks on a prominent campaign in New Hampshire involving our attempting to amend the state constitution to secure protections and equal rights for victims of crime. This was, hands down, the most thrilling, meaningful, exciting, as well as challenging job I have ever had thus far in my life.  Life changing, without question.  This work was so many things for me.  Inspiring, in moments it was scary, suspenseful, laden with meaning, stressful at times, exciting, and even fun.  I will carry it with me for the rest of me life, this short but power laden life experience.  More than worth it, coming home, for this experience.


My colleagues and I put up all these flags ourselves, by hand.  There were four of us.  We put up 2,637 flags on the State House lawn in Concord, NH.  Damn, was this a powerful moment for me.  Heart rending, deeply moving, awesome.





My living with my mom over what is coming up on nearly a year, while not my ideal (in the sense that I would have preferred as well as imagined being down in Boston months ago, with my own place, an exciting job, and a growing, bustling social life), has resulted in so much growth between us.  Our relationship, for the majority of my life, has been a complicated, tumultuous, challenging one.  At many times and on numerous occasions, its been beautiful.  Loving.  Supportive.  Positive.  And wonderful.  And during just as many other times, its been devastating.  She is both my greatest heartbreak, as well as one of the great loves of my life. 

Living together, while I know in some ways not being either of our preference, has changed our relationship in powerful, poignant ways.  So many joyous moments together, such fun, heart to heart conversations, and getting to know each other as people on such deeper levels.  This experience of living together, its been life changing, I feel confident to say, for the both of us.






And finally, while I decided on dabbling in some dating soon thereafter my return (mostly for fun and to push my comfort zone, as I am not much of a dater), I didn't entertain the idea of finding a relationship that had much staying power for at least 6 months post coming home from Europe, probably more even.  Yet, nearly one month post my return to the US to the day, I met Maxx.  The man I have since fallen very much for.  (Funny because on our first date, my initial thoughts were, eh this probably isnt going to work...but isnt that often the way of it?  Much of the time, the people we least expect are the ones who end up being the "big ones"). 

Maxx adds joy and light to my life in so many noteworthy ways.  He is someone with whom I have experienced personal growth.  A person in whose company I feel both cozy, at home, as well as excited and enamored.  We have such fun together.  He is a beautiful person, inside and out.  Loyal, gentle hearted, thoughtful, ambitious, wildly intelligent, incredibly talented in more than one regard, creative, loving.  I am lucky to know him.






And thus.  In conclusion, returning home from abroad has entailed much surprise along the way.  Many moments, even phases, where I felt disheartened and anxious about things not going as I had planned (prime example, it took me SEVEN months of being back here to find a job.  I applied to easily 130 jobs, taking at least an hour per cover letter, sinking my heart, time, and efforts into this totally.  Coming up empty handed for months on end, really starting to grate on me.  Tugging heavily at the sides of my heart and enthusiasm). 

And yet, all the while, I felt a continual undercurrent of awe and joy.  In all the awesome unexpected growths that occurred, both within me as well as in some key people close to me which I was observing.  In the unanticipated people and things that have come into my life, and marvelous opportunities that have crossed my path.  Knowing that, even while there were moments of much emotional difficulty and challenge, that all the while, this was exactly where I was meant to be.

That's not to say the door is closed on Europe forever.  No way.  That door will always be open, even if just a smidge, in my heart for me.  Under the right circumstances, I would return and live there again.  I so love it, numerous aspects of both the culture over there, as well as the life I single handedly built.  For now though, this is where I am supposed to be.  And thus far, its been a monumental, profound chapter of my life as its unfolding.

Trust in the universe, that it doesnt make mistakes.  That everything which happens to us is exactly what is meant to be happening in that very moment, all of it guiding each of us to exactly where and whom we are supposed to eventually be.


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

11 Things Im Loving Right Now

Here it is, folks.  The 11 things I am loving right now.  Hope you find some fun ideas in here too :-D

1.  Small seaside towns.  To name a few...Newburyport, Plymouth, and Rockport, MA.  Also, Marquette, Michigan, though it isn't seaside ;-) its lakeside.  But that's my childhood right there. 

Back to the seaside towns though.  To me, these charming, waterside, quaint little spots are the epitome of New England atmosphere.  They feel romantic, and as though time ceases to matter when wandering one of these cities for the day.  A timetable, becoming irrelevant.  Instead, getting lost in the relaxation of the day, the scenery, and the romance of it all.

Rockport, MA

Rockport, MA

Rockport

Newburyport, MA

Newburyport, MA

Newburyport, MA

Childhood summers at Lake Superior <3.  This is me and my brother, Spencer.

My family at "camp" right on Lake Superior.  One of our many summers spent there together.

Me and Spencer at the lake :-D


2.  This book: The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr.  I wasnt sure what to expect with this book.  I read her memoir, The Liars Club, touted as being one of the best ever written.  While I did find it excellent, I dont agree its one of the best.  To me, the best are "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed, "The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls, and "Just Kids" by Patti Smith.  But this one was up there- I would give it something like a 7 out of 10.  What's jawdroppingly phenomenal about Karr?  Her prose.  Just...wow. 

So checking out her book, The Art of Memoir, I wasnt sure whether it would grip me or not.  It did, way more than I expected.  This isn't just for people who want to write about their lives.  Its a book for anyone who loves literature.  Mary Karr is one of the most talented writers in terms of her prose, for whom I have had the pleasure and awe of reading.  Also of this caliber in terms of how they write: Patti Smith, Anne Lamott, and in the fictional rhelm, Donna Tartt.



3.  Never thought I would utter these words, but ice cream.  For years, Ive been indifferent to it, nearly neutral.  If its around, sure, Ill eat it and enjoy, but its nothing I would ever seek out, nor say I like a lot, let alone claim to love.  Lately though, I find myself craving ice cream and even, dare I say it, loving some flavors of this warm weather tasty treat.  Who would've thought ;-)

A few favorite flavors/brands at the moment...





4.  Chefs Table on Netflix.  Maxx insisted I check out an episode of this show with him, remarking that one of the pastry chefs made him think of me, feeling sure I would love it.  Right he was.  Each episode showcases and focuses on one renowned chef, their story if you will, several of their signature dishes, and more in connection with their food story.  Its such a fun show.  A feast for the eyes ;-) and fascinating to hear about the trajectory of each person.

Here is a short trailer for the show, if you would like to take a gander.



5.  Bernese Mountain Dogs.  My favorite.  Ive wanted one of these for several years, and while its not on my radar to acquire one necessarily in the very near future, I would like one eventually.  Other breeds that make my heart flip flop: American Foxhound- love these guys, Labrador Retrievers, sometimes Border Collies, some Dachshund (the longish haired ones, so cute!), Alaskan Malamute, and Great Pyrenees.

Once I get my own place, at some point soon thereafter, I would love to adopt <3

Bernese Mountain Dog

American Foxhound

Alaskan Malamute

Great Pyrenees


6. 305 Fitness in Boston- specifically their dance class.  WHOA, is this fun.  I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys dancing in the slightest, and who also likes to move and keep fit.  This is a blast.  Granted, I quite literally nearly broke my ankle about 15 minutes into the 55 minute class, my ankle crunching, this resulting in my promptly collapsing to the floor (the first sports injury of my life), but regardless, this class is fantastic. 

$26 gets you two classes.  The entire time, you will have a huge smile on your face.  Everyone is laughing, smiling, having a grand old time.  Its a hard class, but a do-able one for people who are of average or above fitness level.
For more info, click here.



7.  Quotes, as always.  Yes, many quotes are trite, even inaccurate, some just downright silly or they miss the picture entirely.  Some are even flat out untrue. 
And then there are quotes that are inspiring, speak universal life truths, can change the way you think, move you, etc.  So yes, I love quotes.  A few I am especially loving right now:













8.  Cafe culture.  Man, I am missing this about Europe.  The Thinking Cup in Boston has become a spot in particular that, within the past several weeks, I have found myself going to a handful of times.  Really liking the lighting and vibe in there, as well as the succulent selection of sweets on display.  While they are a tad on the pricey side, this is a great spot to sit for some solo reading and writing, to meet a friend, or go on a date.





9. Bikram Yoga.  While this isn't something I do with regularity, Ive done it a couple times in the last month and, while it is a bit difficult in moments, overall I loved it.  For those who dont know, Bikram yoga is performed in a hot room, close to 100 degrees F.  Yes, you are saturated in sweat by the end, but somehow, you feel awesome.  Refreshed.  Lighter and energized.  I highly recommend trying it if you enjoy yoga but haven't tried this type.

A great place to check out, South Boston Yoga.



10. I am really loving nonfiction, character building, growth inducing, inspirational books right now.  A couple of excellent reads in this category that Ive read as of late, which I would highly recommend:






11.  Matcha Banana Bread.  Who knew, this stuff is the bomb diggity.  Moist, sweet, so yummy, yet easy to make, gluten free, lactose free, and low in sugar.  And PS. Did you know that Matcha is awesome for you?  Boosting stamina, increasing memory and concentration, helping to clear skin, and more.  Here is how to make it!