Man! I feel like a….well…Man!

After my first date with D, I knew there was something unique about how we connected. We’ve been texting for over a week before we met in person and in hindsight this certainly worked to our advantage. We communicated almost daily through text, but in ways that helped us get to know each other better before meeting in person. I remember saying to myself how communicating with her via text felt very simple and natural. In some ways, it felt like she was already a friend of mine for years.

Our first date in person was on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon along the Quay. What I initially intended was to go for a walk, but we quickly decided to simply sit down on the patio for drinks at the restaurant we were standing in front of. After an hour into our date, drinks became a meal and we continued chatting for another couple of hours. I sat there not only mesmerized by how physically attractive D was, but intrigued by her life and how uniquely different it was from my own. In recent years, I was always drawn to women with a similar past as mine; difficult childhood, struggles with mental health and a somewhat broken family relationship. As a result, those relationships were always missing an emotional connection that I have longed for. Intimacy with them was non-existent and I often felt anxiety in my body whenever I spent time with them (warning signs that something wasn’t right). There was a push-and-pull feeling where I’m drawn in, then pushed away, leaving me with doubt in myself. Yet I held onto those relationships, feeding into my own anxious attachment style. Cognitively, I knew it wasn’t healthy for me, but as someone who doesn’t like giving up, I made the most of my time with them until the relationships died a slow death and served their time. However, I always managed to learn something more about myself from those experiences allowing me to grow as an individual.

As I learned more about D, it was an instant realization that something in me had shifted. My attraction to deprivation was no longer there because I was filled with an attraction for inspiration. There was something warm, safe and secure with D. Yet, there was something wildly exciting, new and refreshing at the same time.

After our date ended, on my drive home, I kept saying to myself, I want to see her again. The work that I’ve done over the years was finally paying off. Something in me shifted subconsciously and I found myself very attracted to a very secure woman.

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Stock Image by Andrea Piacquadio

I feel like a true modern man being with her

  • Not only do I feel a sense of inspiration being with D (because she encourages the pursuit of my goals), but she sometimes even takes interest to do them with me (ie cooking lessons, travel and learning to become more present).
  • As mentioned in a previous blog, finding a partner who accepts and understands me has been challenging. It’s either been one or the other and though there’s been many great moments in those relationships that I’m forever grateful for, being both accepted and understood for my past opens a new experience for me. I’ve never felt this liberated before and it feels like a big weight has been lifted.
  • Early on, D has somehow managed to make it easy for me to be my true self and express my emotions freely. I’m able to share my feelings of joy, sadness, vulnerability and fears with her without feeling judged. She’s never seen my emotions as a weakness whereas in relationships past, I needed to suppress a lot of my feelings because it wasn’t perceived as manly.

I still need to do a check in on my Self-Love meter

  • It’s crucial to me that I continue to do the work with my inner child because I never want to go down that path of my former self, fueled by self-doubt and insecurities. Inner child meditations, reading and journaling are a few tools I continue to do. Practicing gratitude and abundance thinking also allows me to welcome things as they are, instead of trying to control the outcomes.
  • Knowing that my strengths revolve around my emotional capabilities, I need to continue to welcome that part of me which I previously rejected. Forgiving myself of past mistakes and for neglecting my honest self is also crucial to filling my self-love meter. It’s not possible for me to love someone else, if I’m unable to love myself first and that was a piece I never grasped in my past. In addition, knowing that I’m deserving and worthy of a healthy relationship puts me in better position for something more lasting and meaningful.

Dad time

  • Spending quality time with my son, watching and playing basketball together is one of my favorite pastimes that I must continue to do. My relationship with D emphasizes how important it is to be involved with our respective kids because that’s who we are as well. One of D’s most attractive qualities is seeing her around her kids. I find it very sexy and beautiful that she’s a loving and involved mom to her kids and this makes her an even more complete person.
  • I met D’s kids several weeks ago and in them, I was able to see so much of D. I’m compelled to want to be with her kids and to get to know them more. I’m drawn to the idea that I can someday be a healthy part of their lives as well which is why I’m meeting with my counsellor to learn how I can do this. I’m also excited to learn how to integrate my son and work towards a balanced family life together.

Keeping balance

  • Amid all this, D and I encourage each other to maintain a healthy social life outside of each other. It’s nice to know that she has a healthy connection with her peers and colleagues, as do I. Pursuing our own interests and supporting each other’s goals and career endeavours is also something I feel we’re giving each other. Though I can’t wait to spend my next breathing moment together with D, I also know how healthy it is for the relationship to balance it off with our sense of individuality.
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Jason Lee, Author of Living with the Cat: the 9 Biggest Reasons why Your Life Sucks!

 

 

Small Steps

Small steps, Jason is what a former mentor and CEO once said to me when I was feeling frustrated from a series of failed test trials at work. I never forgot that even though the words are so simple, it resonated deeply in me coming from someone who leaned on me for the success of the project and had complete faith in my efforts.

Every now and again those words pop up in my head especially when I reflect on how far I’ve come as a man over these last 5 years (and change). Not only am I talking about my mental health, but as a dad, friend and much more. I struggled before with managing my anger. I was the guy who cursed in traffic, worried anxiously over little things beyond my control such as the weather and other people’s decisions, and was fragile when it came to my self-esteem.

Anything worth pursuing takes time. When I think about how wonderful it’s been being with D, I don’t think about the immediate chemistry I felt on our first date. Instead, I think about my journey of personal development that brought me to her. My relationship with my son also didn’t happen overnight. It’s taken years of understanding him and learning how I can become a more patient father. I also took the time to learn about his passions as well, one of which is basketball. I learned how to play and sat down to watch games on TV with him for years to get to the space where I am today with him. And whenever I feel a little blue, I have a wealth of resources to better cope, rather than drive blindly and white knuckling my way through problems. This took years for me to accumulate my ever-growing list of resources.

What do small steps look like?

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Photo by Valeriia Miller

Patience

I remember when I was in my state of depression, I wanted time to speed up so I can get over feeling down. What I realized was that my depression was real and I needed to acknowledge it and give it the time it deserved. I learned that our feelings of highs and lows are much like waves and the best thing we can do with our feelings is to be present and ride them through, knowing that the feelings will subside and balance will be restored. I also found journaling helped tremendously. When I felt really blue, I’d document my thoughts along with the time and manually tracked my feelings throughout the day. This helped me visualize when I’d get windows of positive energy, restoring hope and motivation for me.

Planting Seeds

D recently explained to me that in order to get to a place of motivation, there’s steps prior to that. We don’t get from zero to feeling motivated overnight. There’s a critical step of contemplation. Contemplation is the spark or idea you get that gets you thinking, is this possible? Can I do this? Would it be a good fit for me? To get to that contemplation step, we need to remain open to new ideas; whether it’s a link someone sent us, or an article you recently read or learned about, we need to plant the seeds. If you can’t muster enough energy to plant seeds for yourself, allow others who care about you to give you ideas. Sooner or later, one of the ideas will resonate and get you contemplating about the possibilities. But just brace yourself for the feelings of motivation that will soon follow!

Permission to Explore

I grew up learning that I had to stick with just one option when it came to deciding upon a career. Like many, I was only 18 years old when that big life decision was forced upon me: What career path will I take? It’s ludicrous to think that at only 18, I was going to decide what my 40+ year career would potentially look like. Whether you’re 18 or 48, I’ve learned that it’s important to give myself permission to try different things in life, afterall I’m not committed to pursue everything I try. And for the things I do enjoy, I can then decide if I want to make that commitment. If we don’t allow ourselves to explore different ventures in life, we’ll never know what our true passions are. We can be so funneled to believe life has to follow a straight road. Embrace the offroad, have fun and explore!

Reflection

After a certain point, it’s always a good idea to look back to see how far you’ve come. Much like this blog, we want to be able to give ourselves the pat on the back. I sometimes read my old journals (and even my old blogs…yikes!) and smile knowing how far I’ve progressed in my journey. Much like running a marathon, it’s always about my personal best. I measure my success against no other than with myself. When you look back at your journey, it doesn’t take much to appreciate how far you’ve come. Maybe there’s a new friend you made, or a new skill you acquired. Maybe you did something different this past year instead of following the same routine. Maybe you lost a job and learned to polish up your resume. Maybe you lost a member of your family and in turn, built a closer connection with another family member. There’s always a silver lining to everything you go through if you choose to look for it, and not fall victim to your past. When I reflect on my life, I grew up in a home of abuse, anger and family violence. You’d think I’d be homeless, in jail or dealing with my own family strife, right? Instead, because of the strife I faced, I became an author over the years and share my story to inspire hope in others. Truth is, I became a better dad and man as a result of my past struggles.

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Jason Lee, Author of Living with the Cat – the 9 Biggest Reasons Why Your Life Sucks!

 

A Message for Men on Healing

My life is in constant evolution.

When I look back even a mere 5 years ago, I could never imagine I’d become the man I am today; more positive, more spiritual, more present.

I attribute much of this to the healing process. I must admit, in my 20’s and most of my 30’s, the word healing was not in my vocabulary. In fact, I probably sneered or was smug to anyone who dared to venture and use those words, my healing journey.

I had a bruised ego during those decades, often putting myself on a pedestal, believing I was invincible and always right. Now well into my 40’s I look back at that man and cringe, but most of all forgive him for what he was unaware of. That’s the power of healing. It allows us to grow, much like a tree, branching in all directions, exploring all possibilities upward.

Healing is a word we sometimes use loosely without much thought to its profound power and value. Externally, we are constantly healing, replacing dead skin cells and old hair follicles. Internally, healing takes place in a different way. It requires a lot more self awareness and motivation.

As a man, I understand this topic is difficult for many men to digest. Healing takes place when there’s vulnerability and that often puts men in an uncomfortable position. I’ve lived this truth when I was married a lifetime ago. Many of our disagreements resulted in a similar pattern which involved my inability to listen, validate and hear my ex’s thoughts and feelings. I had to be right and there was no grey area in this. The problem stemmed from an unhealed man. I took any feedback from her as a statement of attack, when in truth, it wasn’t at all. I took it personally and if I had dug deeper, I would have known that my feelings of being attacked stemmed from a deeper feeling of inadequacy and worth.

Presently, I find myself far more balanced than ever before, after doing years of work with self awareness and self-worth with therapists. I realized a long time ago, we’re all on a healing journey, regardless of age. And regardless of what life experiences you had or did not have, we are all subject to feeling inadequate and less worthy at some point in our lives, whereby internal healing needs to take place.

A husband who stubbornly refuses to address their marital struggles is in a much needed place of healing. Unable to be vulnerable and face his feelings is in fact the marker that there’s a deeper wound that he may or may not be aware of. Maybe he feels afraid that he’s failed as a husband. Maybe he feels scared that he’s not good enough. Maybe he’s afraid of his wife leaving him. Maybe he’s afraid of what he may unravel about his subconscious. These are all normal feelings to have, but until men bravely address these, we will continue to bury our problems and run the risk of severing intimacy with our partners.

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Image from Pixabay

There’s so many resources out there that can help us heal and grow. And there’s a lot of subtle ways we can heal without it feeling too foreign and invasive. Quietly meditating in our own space, talking about our feelings with a trusted friend (or counsellor), or writing about our thoughts in a journal are some basic ways we can promote healing. Healing doesn’t have to mean going on a week long retreat at a haven or a conference for Healing Your Life.

Small steps is what a mentor used to say to me. Get into practice of taking small steps bit by bit, day by day and you’ll discover yourself in a happier space over time. In addition, welcome new ideas to grow, without judging them. I started out (what seemed like a lifetime ago) by openly attending an 8 week long anger management workshop for men, in tandem with a ton of reading on understanding my life. They were small steps for me. Then, I worked with therapists for years (and still do), followed by workshops on a variety of different healing models and changing unhealthy subconscious belief systems. Today, I’m learning about the Universal Law of Attraction, Manifestations and understanding that My Life is what I make it out to be. This opened doors for me to learn a bit about Reiki healing and to anything else that I openly allow into my space. As you can see, my healing journey has evolved immensely and will continue to do so. The result is that I’m in a healthier space than ever before, which is extremely exciting and long overdue.

Jason

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Living with the Cat, the 9 Biggest Reasons Why Your Life Sucks!

 

 

 

Inspirations for Mental Health

I suddenly woke up at 2am this morning.

To be precise, my clock read 2:14am.

I woke up, sharp as a tack.

I fell asleep around 9:30pm, and the previous night, well, let’s just say I would hardly call what I did as sleep.

I sat up on my bed filled with inspiration. These moments don’t happen very often, where I hear the song Sweet Disposition by the Temper Trap coursing through my veins, and suddenly filled with ideas.

What ideas you ask?

Allow me to back up a bit.

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Image by: Jane Pham

After publishing Living with the Cat, the 9 Biggest Reasons Why Your Life Sucks! this past October, I did a couple of speaking events, promoting the book and talking about shifting the mindset on how we view mental health. With self-deprocating humor, the book is a personal account of my experiences with depression, anxiety and anger. If we can’t learn to laugh at ourselves, we’ll perpetually be trapped in a vicious cycle of blame, resentment and anger. Since publishing it, my focus has been sharing much of my personal lived experiences with depression, anxiety and anger, or what I consider the 3 banes for the better part of my adult life. The power of sharing ones story of experiences and recovery is profound because we suddenly realize we’re human, and mental health struggles is prevalent in (dare i say) everyone at some point in our lives. This brings hope, inspiration and ideas to our struggles. It also validates our own experiences. Why else do we read other people’s blogs and watch Youtube videos on recovery from depression and anxiety?

So, by sharing my story through my book and speaking events, I’ve managed to inspire so many people, from old friends to people I’ve never met before. This moves my heart, filling it with joy to contribute to a greater good beyond myself. It’s also cathartic for me, plus it keeps me accountable for those who are familiar with my history of anger, abuse and a toxic belief system. This continues to be my personal ongoing goal, which is to help others realize they’re not alone, plus, to share the powerful message that men can share their feelings as well. Growing up as an emotional child, I was often beat by family members for being too sensitive, too emotional and too vocal with my feelings. As an adult, I have the power, gift and responsibility to break that mould and be my honest self, one who isn’t afraid to talk about his feelings.

Inspiration strikes sometimes when we least expect it. It can come from any direction and could be a chain reaction of events that sparked the ideas. D has truly become a welcomed addition in my life, and the other day she sent me some links to some community mental health resources. I browsed through the links without thinking much into it, until this morning.

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Image by: Lum3n

 

I rose from my bed, picked up my journal and began scribbling down ideas on what I want to do next to promote mental health awareness. Like storyboarding, I built pages of concept ideas that I can do with my voice as a mental health advocate. Throughout my journey, I’ve always felt what I’ve gone through as a gift and responsibility to the mental health community. Thus, I began scripting and stacking more ideas ontop each other idea I had at 2:30am.

What are my ideas?

Well, without spilling the beans too much, let’s just say there’s so many mediums I can use to raise mental health awareness, and speaking about it has always been most rewarding for me. However, the Piscean and Enneagram 4 in me wants to do something more creatively. But in the words from Shakespeare’s Henry V, let this acceptance take.

In other words, let’s just leave it as this and stay tuned.

(the Postscript)

By the time my wrist was sore from writing down my ideas, the clock was reading 4:30am and I just felt compelled to blog. In a matter of hours, I’ll be playing basketball with my son and his friends, yet I’m filled with energy and enthusiasm. I’m excited to see him as it’s been a week since he came over and I love talking about life and personal growth with him, plus the odd trash talk when we take to the courts. I’m also excited to share my ideas with D who’s been an attraction of inspiration to me. I was bursting with enthusiasm and wanted to message her, but resisted the temptation given it was 2 in the morning. I’ve never felt this compatible with a partner before in the early stages of dating, and I feel whole about myself. Best part is, she’s brilliant, emotionally available and she’s got a passion for life.

As I sit in my livingroom with a cup of coffee in hand and my cat sitting beside me, I can see the sun rising.

I’m just going to enjoy this moment.

Jason Lee
Jason Lee, Author of Living with the Cat, the 9 Biggest Reasons Why Your Life Sucks!

 

 

 

 

A Dad’s Journal on Life

“I spent my entire life playing it safe, just to avoid being exactly where I am right now.” – Jonathan Tropper from the 2014 movie This is Where I Leave You.

I used to do exactly just that. I played it safe: I graduated, got a job, met a woman, got married, bought a home, had a kid. Things were supposed to turn out exactly how its pictured in the movies, right? A happy yet predictable ending of everlasting smiles against a backdrop of a glowing sunset.

Truth is, it’s not often things turn out the way we plan. And if they did where’s the fun in that? By fun, I mean new learnings, growth, spontaneity and unexpected outcomes. And to me, that’s the reward.

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Photo credit: Simon Matzinger

But to get to all that, there’s a little something called hardships. Yes, the speedbumps, the strife, the detours that have us taking the gravelly road instead. Of course, none of this was planned by all means. It just happened. There’s no good, there’s no bad. There’s just is.

I’ve been a single dad for a good portion of my adult life, for just over seventeen years to be precise. Sure, there’s been relationships within those seventeen years, but not without broken hearts and hardships as well. After the divorce, I invested my life to be the best Dad I could for my son, never regretting, never wincing at the challenge of being emotionally available to him. I solemnly promised myself I would never father him the way I was fathered by my own dad. My dad struggled with his own internal pain, and often times took it out on me in the form of physical abuse. It wasn’t easy for me to come to terms with this, but over the years whilst working with therapists (and homework alike), I’ve managed to find a place of true acceptance. I love my dad, despite all that happened and he most certainly did the best he knew how to. Rest his soul.

When I made the promise of being the best dad I could, I took my vow seriously and still do! Naturally, I stumbled along the way from time to time, being a dad who was impatient, selfish and angry, mirroring many similarities to my own father. However, I always managed to ground myself and reflect after I faltered, hoping I wouldn’t repeat the same mistakes by trying to identify any recurring patterns. By self reflection, I mean working with counsellors, meditating, journaling, and doing the work.

I created this life for myself and wouldn’t have it any other way. I didn’t always feel this way of course, especially during the times of strife. I struggled as an ex husband and as a dad, but instead of sitting in a chair, creating my own Universe of resentment, disdain and blame, I chose a path of dedication and commitment for the wellbeing of my son. Admitedlly, child support payments and tight budgeting for the last seventeen years hasn’t been easy at all, but it was necessary for me to learn truths about myself. He’s my love, my responsibilty and it’s been my honor to support his needs and it was the least I could do for him. I took a lot of pride and honor being his dad. It was real pleasure and joy being the parent attending all his school plays and bake sales, making him lunch, looking after him when he got the flu, helping him with his homework and art projects, arranging and taking him to playdates and birthday parties in order to keep him social, taking him on vacations whenever I saved enough money, picking him up from school, planning his birthday parties emailing all the moms to RSVP and saving enough to book his favorite place at Crash Crawley’s. As I reflect back, I’m grateful I had the opportunity to do all these things for him. Those were moments I will never be able re-live again with him and I’m so glad I did. I wonder if I didn’t end up divorcing, would I have been as dedicated and possibly missed out on those glorious moments with him? When I compare the challenges vs the rewards, the scale tips to the side of rewards by far. I got so much joy from being an emotionally available dad and building a relationship with him. And when he struggled immensely with his depression and anxiety, I felt his pain and my heart ached with each day that he suffered. Those years were by far the most challenging, but without my grown sense of empathy and compassion, our little family would have struggled even more, thus I believe things happen for reasons. If we learn from our mistakes and take the necessary steps to be the better husband, better boyfriend, better dad, we can equip ourselves with tools to manage hardships a lot better.

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Being a single parent wasn’t easy as many of you can attest to. Often times self-care takes a back seat to the needs of our kids, forcing our own mental health to sometimes teeter between just being alright and not so well today. So let’s take a mental health minute to honor all the single dads and moms out there. I marvel at what all the other single parents do for their kids, leaving so little room for themselves. I only have one child, and so many of you out there have two, three or even more to raise. I applaud you all for your strength, heart and love you bring each day to your kids. Just remember that we can’t always be perfect and we will make mistakes from time to time. Let’s cut ourselves some slack and practice the art of forgiveness, shall we? Even though we sometimes stumble as parents, we have to remember that there’s something to always learn. Whenever I hear my inner critic, I like to say to myself, Don’t judge me by my past. I don’t live there anymore.

With each day that I work towards a greater sense of equanimity, I can’t help but smile at what I have in front of me. I have a fabulous life and blessed with not only the joys of having a son, but also a lovely home, fresh air, great people in my life whom I’d admire and a World waiting for me to explore. Did I plan for all this? Not at all. I simply just welcomed that this is my life, and I love it.

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Jason Lee, Author of Living with the Cat, the 9 Biggest Reasons Why Your Life Sucks!