Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Breakups: A new way to look at them

Hi all,

In our culture, we view any breakup (whether divorce or relationship ending) as a failure.  As the worst possible thing to happen.  As the ultimate loss.  As evidence of our, or our partner, being shitty.  In fact, someone must be to blame.  Its one persons fault at the least.  What went wrong?  We have to find out.  We need to figure out with whom, and where it went bad.

The problem with all of these mindsets though, is this: we view endings as a tragedy, as the ultimate failure. As unnatural and to be avoided at all costs.  As the worst possible outcome.  As something to be feared and potentially later regretted.  As very black and white.

Hence, why a lot of people stay in situations, relationships, jobs, etc, long past their expiration dates.

Here is the truth though: endings are a completely natural, normal, and even good aspect of human life.  They are a necessary stage on the pathway to further growth.  Endings help us to push through something that wasnt working so well, and to make room for the new and something which will be a far better fit (assuming we choose carefully the next venture in this vein).

Beginnings, growth, middles, and endings, all of this is a natural, normal, and positive part of life.  None of it can be avoided if one is living a truly honest, authentic life that entails frequent growth.  All of it, beginnings, middles, and endings, are part of living.

When we avoid pulling the trigger on an ending that we know is no longer working, isnt a good fit, is causing problems in our life, we remain stuck.  Stunted.  Spinning our wheels and essentially, frozen in place.  Endings, while often times anxiety provoking and deeply painful, are necessary closings in order to move on to the next chapter of our lives.

So, what if, instead of thinking of a break up as the ultimate failure and an awful thing, we thought of them reframed in the ways Ive described above?  A break up is a chapter closing.  A painful, very sad, though crucial one.  One that, if we allow it to, will pave the way and lead to things that are better for us.

And this refers to all manner of endings, from relational endings, to leaving a job, to moving to a new place, to pursuit of a particular passion.  There is a time for beginnings, growth, and yes, conclusions and endings.  A time for letting go and moving on.  For wrapping up this particular phase and graduating on to the next one.

One separate though related point (and this one is connected with relational endings).  Though our culture tells us this is how it "should be," it certainly isnt true that this is the case in all, and even the majority of circumstances.  What I am referring to is when a romantic relationship ends, and how we handle that change in what the relationship looks like.

The vast majority of people have grown up to believe and hold strongly to (and I believe this is a direct result of cultural conditioning), "if someone is my ex, they need to be axed from my life.  Thats it.  I cannot see or be around them anymore if we are no longer lovers.  So they are 100% gone from my life.  Done.  Nothing else is possible.  Its too hard."

For some exes, I believe this is a necessary and good thing.  Yes, there are many exes who cannot and should not be friends.  Basically, if your ex treated you generally pretty crappy (lying, cheating, manipulation, using and taking advantage of you, etc), why is this a person with whom you would want to surround yourself?  It shouldn't be.  If your ex was of poor character and/or treated you badly, in that case, yes, ax contact with them.  That would be the case of letting go and moving on to make room for something healthier and a better fit for you.

However.  If you ex is someone with whom you generally had a great relationship, and whom you felt treated generally great by.  If this is a person you like deeply in terms of their character, romantic relationship aside, all of this can be the makings and ingredients of what could grow into a rather beautiful friendship down the road.  A person whom you loved, and they loved you.  One of the people in your life who has probably known you quite emotionally deeply.  Who has seen your greatest strengths and most challenging weaknesses and struggles.  And someone with whom you greatly enjoy spending time.

I do not believe that is a person who, simply by means of no longer being romantic, needs to be or even should be axed from your life.  This is still an ending.  The romance is ending.  The relationship though, can transition into something else.

Yes, on the initial breakup, it may take some time apart to heal.  To get used to the idea of the romance having concluded and of this transitioning into something else.  There may be moments when seeing one another again could be emotionally challenging.  However, none of this challenge necessarily means it isnt worth it.  Facing and then growing through these challenging moments and transitions could very well lead to, as I said, an incredibly beautiful connection with this particular person.

In terms of general endings though, back to that topic.  There is a time in life, in fact many times, for endings.  There are going to be many, many times throughout each of our lives that invite and entail necessary conclusions.  

If we avoid these endings, ducking out of their way, sweeping them under the rug, and living in denial, we cannot possibly make way for the new that so needs to come in.  Endings are crucial, as they make way for further growth.  They make space for things that will be better matches for us going forward.  Avoiding necessary endings keeps us stuck.  It halts our possibilities in life, keeps us in situations and relationships that are no longer to our best advantage and growth potential.

Acknowledging, facing, and acting in accordance with necessary endings leads us to our most joy and growth inducing relationships, jobs, and life situationsWe need endings.  Breaking up and/or walking away from something is, at the times it becomes what is needed, an important, normal, and even good chapter ending.

I highly recommend the book Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud. I absolutely loved this book.  While much of it is geared towards business, there is also much to be found within that applies to all of life.  Relationships, jobs, life phases, etc.  This books helps you identify when an ending might be necessary or not.  Even further, it helps identify, can you reasonably have hope?  Is there legitimate possibility for change in your particular situation?  If yes, how might you prompt it?  And if no, how to determine if an ending might be needed.

Also, if you are interested in reading a bit further on the topic, I wrote an article a few months ago titled "Necessary Leavings."  Its similar to the topic of this entry, but more in depth and expanded.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Couple Goals, and why they matter

My articles title is absolutely not in reference to the eyeroll inducing hashtag thats become commonplace as of late, splashed all over social media sites.  People frequently using such in trite ways, such as to showcase the size of an engagement ring, or to point to the physical attractiveness of a pair, or just plastered alongside photos of couples making out.  Making such a hashtag as "couple goals" rather ambiguous and shallow, to say the least.  

What exactly are those couple goals to which they are referring?  To look good in photos together and appear unrealistically elated in every image?  To showcase the apparently enviable great looks and supposed constant happiness of those within said photo?  Those dont seem the most fulfilling, authentic, nor the deepest of relational goals.  To look hot and appear perpetually gleeful?  Is this really what we feel must be displayed in order to prove to others that our relationship is a good one?

Of course, we all smile in photos.  And to be happy is the goal of most people.  However, just because two people are smiling in a photo does not necessarily mean the relationship is a happy or healthy one.  And with regards to my other questions above...allow me to explain further below what exactly are (or at least, should be) legit couple goals, and why they matter.  

Way cool couple goal.

Rather silly and shallow "couple goal."  Shopping, looking hot, and having lots of stuff.

Isnt whats far more important, as well as way more fulfilling and joy inducing, what the relationship is like emotionally?  On the inside, so to speak?  What exists between the couple intellectually, friendship wise, emotionally, communicationally, support and love wise?  As in, what are the makings of the relationship between the two people?  

How about having a relationship that entails a degree of sacrifice?  Honesty?  Consistent effort, romance, and surprise?  True commitment and the going out of ones way?  Adventure?  Trust?  Aren't these what should be the goals of a great relationship?  Why are we not showcasing these as couple goals?  (As opposed to showing off how hot, "happy," physically fit, rich, party animals, etc the two of you are- which is what many of the photos with regards to supposed "couple goals" display).

Now thats a couple goal.  57 years together, and still in love.

As you probably guessed by now, these are the types of goals to which I am referring.  Not looking hot or happy in photos (which of course in the case of many photos, the latter even being a flat out lie and misrepresentation.  Tons of couples who are not especially happy together and are very mismatched appear quite happy in photos).  Not showcasing how much money a man spent on a ring, as if thats evidence of his level of love or commitment to you (not even close.  The two are not synonymous with one another at all.  Instead, how he treats you as a whole within the relationship, thats what displays his love for you).  Not showcasing partially dressed couples in highly sexualized poses, nor couples displaying their ripped bodies, as though these are what makes a relationship truly great.  One with staying power, respect, and depth of feeling.  

Most of the photos that popped up when I googled the phrase "couple goals" were generally idiotic and displayed things that, to me, do not even remotely indicate what makes a relationship truly awesome or not.  Instead, the majority were people showing off.  Some of the images even flat out pornographic (this indicates couple goals?  Really?), and/or just showcasing silly, ambiguous things it was claimed should be enviable.

See the two photos just below.  Two of the actual results from Google showcasing "couple goals."  Yikes.  Apparently the bar is set quite low for the goals we have in our relationships.  The majority of results for the term showcase more of the same.

My article is here to hopefully reframe and spark further consideration for what we apparently view as "couple goals."  Folks, I think we can do better.  A lot better.  Lets step it up a notch, or several.

Lets begin showcasing and promoting couple goals that are actually worthwhile.  The ones that both point to indicators of what makes a truly wonderful relationship, as well as that elicit and invite in further growth together.  Deepening the relationship you two already share.  Couple goals that evoke challenge, newness, and excitement between the two of you.  Couple goals that ignite new interests and which create awe, joy, and long term fulfillment.  These are the couple goals of which I am talking.

So, how exactly does one do this?  Create goals in their relationship that both bring you two closer, elicit further growth and excitement in your relationship, as well as are truly fulfilling?

First off, why are you with this person?  Why did you choose them with whom to be in a relationship?  

Many people respond to such a question with thoughts such as, "I was just really attracted to them," or "they are super hot," or "we have fun together," or "we have great sex."  These are superficial and aren't especially deep nor compelling reasons for being with the person you have chosen.  Of course, its all well and good to be attracted to your partner, to have great sex, and that you have great fun in their company.  These are important.  But.  There must be much more as to why you are in love with this person.  

Because, looks fade, and sex eventually (once one grows older) dwindles.  Sex and attraction are most certainly parts of the equation, and important ones.  Sex is one of the aspects of a relationship that keeps the couple emotionally close and connected.  Its something sacred and special between the two of you.  An immensely intimate bonding.  But there must be much more as to why you love this person, and with potent potential for major staying powerWhat about this persons character and soul sets you alight?  This is something you should be able to answer.  What makes them different and special, to you?

To add significant focus and meaning with regards to your relationship, consider creating a context for it.  Sounds strange, right?  I found this concept in one of the best relationship books Ive ever read, "The Soulmate Experience: a practical guide to creating extraordinary relationships," by Mali Apple

What is a context?  And how does having this make your relationship better?

A context is a statement of what you intend to offer your relationship.  

By pointing you toward higher possibilities, your context will be your guide not only when your relationship is feeling healthy and strong, but also when you are facing your greatest challenges.  

A context will nourish and support your relationship, as it adapts to changing circumstances and expands in new directions.

So much of the time, we go into a romantic relationship without fully knowing why.  Sure, we are attracted to and love spending time within their company, as well as whenever around them we tend towards feeling great about ourselves.  But then what?

When asked, many people say they want a relationship for intimacy or companionship.  For others, it may be about being part of a family.  But all too often, being in a relationship is about how it makes you feel good.  Many of us approach a relationship with mindsets and thinking such as, "my other half," or imagining that being with someone will "finally fill the emotional hole in my life."  

This is a semi misguided way of thinking about our relationship, and here is why.

If you really want to create a soulmate experience with your love, its essential to examine the reasons why you are in a relationship or looking for one in the first place.  Rather than focusing on what you want from a relationship, its important to turn your attention towards what you can offer it.

Thats one part of considering how to create a solid foundation with your partner and thus, guiding you towards truly fulfilling couple goals.

Next, what sorts of couple goals might be those that truly add to my relationship, making it deeper, emotionally closer, happier, healthier, and more exciting?

An awesome couple goal and accomplishment.

Ill give you some examples, though of course, the goals for each couple will be completely and totally different.  As said goals will depend entirely on the personal interests, life desires, and personalities of the people in that relationship.

To offer some ideas though:

Build your own house together

Saving up for a year or two, then quitting your jobs (or taking a sabbatical) and traveling the world together for 8 months- one year.

Raising animals together.  (Yes, dogs, cats, horses, all of these will do just fine ;-), if you cant finagle raising tigers).

Having and raising a child together.

Compiling and publishing a cookbook together.

Running an official race (5k, or other) in all 50 states together.

Backpacking through Europe together for a few weeks at once.

Opening/owning a Bed and Breakfast someday together.

Skiing several of the tallest and/or most scenic peaks in the world.

Opening your own café/bakery together.

Starting your own book club together, or writing club, or running club, or dinner party club...you get the idea.  Invite a few others to join and host this every month.

Purchasing and having your own farm (as well as, raising animals on said farm).

Living in another country together for one year.

Going to culinary school together.

Purchasing a little lakeside cottage together.

Opening up your own art gallery together and filling it with your own creations for sale.

The list of possibilities can go on, and on, and on.

I suggest making an overall list of couple goals for the time being.  Maybe 5-10 goals you have right now as a couple, that set both of your hearts alight and are things both of you want to strive for making/experiencing/building/achieving together.  Then commit to doing say, 3-5 of them in the next year.  Once the year is over, reassess the goals you have remaining on the list.

Your remaining goals may have changed.  Maybe some can be crossed off from the list, and some new goals added.  Then, for the coming year again, select 3-5 goals to complete within that year.  And so on.

Each year, take a look at your master list of couple goals, reassess (crossing off, and adding where need be), and then select 3-5 to complete together in the coming year.

Couple goals, not the silly images with this hashtag slapped on that its become trendy to do as of late, but thoughtful, growth inducting, novel, and enriching goals shared as a couple, these can add major meaning, excitement, and be a source of added commitment between the two of you.  Couple goals matter because they act as a guiding star and strong bond between the two of you and within your relationship.  They help clarify were you want to go together, hand in hand.

Its of course, crucial to continue growing as an individual as well throughout your life.  To have your own goals, pursuits, passions, friends, and joys.  Thats not to be ignored simply by means of not being mentioned in here.  However, couple goals are a ways of adding meaningful weight to your relationship.

They're a surefire way to keep your relationship exciting, novel, ever growing and shifting.  Here's to truly enviable and awesome couple goals in the making ;-)

Click here to read my full article on how to create a context for your relationship.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Coolest Cold Weather Things to Do

Hi all,

With temperatures winding down, the indoors beckons more.  Leaves forming that crunchy surface underfoot.  Vibrant colors splashed across the trees.  Plaid scarves and tall boots abound.  Cozy cafes invite.  Warm drinks entice.  All the while, I know some of us tend to feel our activity ideas and opportunities seeming to narrow as the weather grows brisk, with less incentive to be outside and thus, more challenged with fun things to do.
Look no further, and worry no more.  Ive got you covered.

Places in Boston to cozy up with a book and/or great conversation
1.  The Thinking Cup
2.  Crema
3.  Jaho
4.  Darwins Ltd (both of them)
5.  Tatte
6.  South End Buttery


Darwins Ltd.

Darwins Ltd.

Charming cafes in Frankfurt, Germany
1.  Sugar Mama
2.  Café Crumble
3.  Café Maingold
4.  Iimori
5.  Bitter und Zart

Café Maingold

Café Maingold

Bitter und Zart

One of my many afternoons spent at Sugar Mama <3
Click here to read the majorly read review I wrote (loaded with photos) of Sugar Mama Café. 

Sugar Mama

Café Crumble
And here to read my full review of Café Crumble. 

Café Crumble

New Hampshire locales to explore
1. Mt. Kearsarge
2. Newmarket, New Hampshire
3. Portsmouth, New Hampshire
4. Concord, New Hampshire

Mt. Kearsarge

Portsmouth, NH

Portsmouth, NH

Newmarket, NH

Newmarket, NH

Newmarket, NH

Concord, NH

Concord, NH

Comfort foods for fall
1.  Macaroni and cheese
2.  Lasagna.  Try my paleo version, for all the homey, comforting deliciousness but without the grains/gluten and explosion of calories.
3.  Pancakes.  Obviously.
4.  Grilled cheese and tomato soup
5.  Chicken Pot Pie
6.  Casseroles

Find the recipe for this Paleo Lasagna here.  SO delish, SO homey and yum.

Snag the recipe for these grain free, lactose free, and sugar free, fluffy and sweet pancakes here.

Here is how to make these pumpkin lavender pancakes.  One of my favorite recipes.

Pumpkin oat buckwheat pancakes.  Mmmmm.

Top notch TV shows
1.  Friday Night Lights.  Quintessential autumn TV show.  Pretty sure it won something like 11 Emmy awards.
2.  Six Feet Under.  Another award winner and majorly gripping watch.
3.  The Wire.  Best show ever made.  Enough said.

Rad reads for colder weather afternoons (and evenings) spent indoors
1.  The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
2.  Big Stone Gap series by Adriana Trigiani
3.  The Night Circus by Erin Mortensen
4.  White Oleander by Janet Finch
5.  The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
6.  Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
7.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
8.  The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King
9.  Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
10.  We are Water by Wally Lamb

Here is a review I wrote of the Goldfinch back on first reading it.

 Decadent desserts
1.  Pumpkin Donuts
2.  Pumpkin Cheesecake
3.  Chocolate Pudding
4.  Brownies
5.  Carrot Cake
6.  Sweet Potato Pie
7.  Chocolate Chip Cookies
8.  Chocolate Cake.  

The recipe for this gingersnap crust pumpkin cheesecake is here.

Raw Carrot Cake with Maple Mascarpone Frosting.  SO good.

Sweet Potato Pie with Brown Sugar Crust.  Mmmmm.  A very autumnal and Thanksgiving dish, if there ever was one.

This quinoa chocolate cake recipe is moist, decadent, fudgy, one of the best chocolate cakes Ive ever had.  However, it has zero grains/gluten, is low in sugar, and is lactose free.  Here's the recipe :-D

Activity ideas for autumn
1.  Hiking (Blue Hills is a nice area close to Boston.  Mt. Kearsarge, Mt. Major, and Mt. Monadnock are three great ones in New Hampshire).
2.  Exploring Salem, MA
3.  Leaf peeping
4.  Cooking competitions
5.  Haunted hayrides
6.  Holing up in a café and reading, writing, or chatting the afternoon away with a friend
7.  Heading to Heidelberg, Germany (an easy one hour shot from Frankfurt, and incredibly gorgeous).
8.  Dinner parties with friends.

Haunted Hayrides.

Heidelberg, Germany.

Bomb Diggity Boston Ideas
1.  Boston Museum of Science
2.  Museum of Fine Arts
3.  Take a cooking class at the Adult Center for Education (there is one in Cambridge and one in Boston center), so much fun!
4.  Brunch at any of the following: Fat Baby, Lincoln Tavern, Tatte, Little Donkey, all of these are delish.
5.  Go check out a phenomenal magic show in the city!  Maxx and I saw this together, and loved it.
6.  Barre in Harvard Square, and then Crema Cafe for something warm to drink/eat.
7.  Stand-up comedy is always great.  There are several spots in the city to see such.  Just Google and youll be met with a list of options.

Fat Baby- great for brunching.

Fat Baby brunch

Neat New Hampshire Stuff
1.  Granite State Candy Store in Concord.  To. Die. For. Sweets here :-D
2.  Some enticing eateries: Willows Plant Based Eatery, Sweet Green, Crust and Crumb Bakery, The Clean Take, and The Works (Bagel Works).
3.  White Park.  A nice place to take a walk, feed the ducks, or get silly on their expansive playground.  (This is one of the central sites of my childhood right here).
4.  Umami in Deerfield, New Hampshire (the town in which my mom lives).  The most charming of restaurants, housed in a redone barn.  Love this.
5.  Tuckers in Concord.  Mouthwatering breakfast food on offering here.
6.  Gibson's Bookstore in Concord.  A great spot for grabbing something sweet and finding a great read.

Desserts from Crust and Crumb.  They have the BEST flourless chocolate cake here, as well as amazing whoopie pies.

Food from Umami in Deerfield, NH

Umami, Deerfield, NH
White Park in Concord

White Park

Fun in Frankfurt, Germany
1.  Hugendubel Bookstore.  With a café for hunkering down, and a decent section of books in English, this is a great place for relaxing and reading.
2. The Library, just off the Zeil.  A HUGE English section on the bottom floor.  I could (and did) spend hours in here at a time.  Great place for a hushed, quiet atmosphere and an awesome reading selection.
3.  Its getting to be that time again...for Christmas markets!!!!  Not just in Frankfurt, but throughout the country.  Fun Fact: Germany is known for having the best Christmas markets in all of Europe.
4.  Good Times for Good People.  Loved going here once in a while for a drink.  Way cool atmosphere.
5.  Berger Strasse.  Really neat street, lined with funky boutiques, charming cafes, delicious food, and more.

Check out my complete list here of "Most Fantastic in Frankfurt" for the places I loved most.

Berger Strasse

Berger Strasse

Berger Strasse

Berger Strasse

Berger Strasse

Of course, this and the following two photos are Germany Christmas Markets <3

The one bar in Frankfurt I liked :-D

The bookstore I loved to peruse weekly.