How can we improve our relationship with the people around us?
We all desire happiness, love and intimacy. These are all normal human desires that keep us actively pursuing relationships.
But how do we get from a place of chasing to a place of already having?
It took me a while to get to a place of knowing what the true answer is to this question. For the better part of my adult life, I chased love. I felt a void in my life that I felt only someone else could fill.
It’s rather silly now that I think about it. I can’t believe that I even worried about it at all.
As I’m sitting here typing this bright and early on Saturday morning, sipping my coffee from my favorite mug, I’m reflecting on my evening last night at home with D, her kids and my son.
You see, it’s been awhile since I’ve had to play host at my apartment which is arguably a bit smaller than a suite at the Fairmont Hotel. Mind you, my apartment is much cozier and offers friendlier authentic service from yours truly, and that in itself is worth the price of admission! Pre-covid, I’d have friends over once in awhile for dinner. I’d prep the food usually, turn on some background music and play host to no more than three or four guests. But it’s been quite some time since I’ve done that and last night would be the first time I’d host D and her three beautiful kids for dinner. To me they were VIPs coming over and everything needed to be perfect.
I had planned this about three weeks ago because I’ve been dying to have her kids over with my son, altogether under one roof in Coquitlam, which is my neck of the woods. My son and I have lived here for about ten years and I’ve lived in this neighborhood for just over twenty. Simply put I’ve built my nest here. It’s where I purchased my first home, raised my son, made so many new friends, and watched the community grow bit by bit to what it is today; a landscape of greenery, mountains, trails and water.
What I suggested to D three weeks ago was this: We can first all go to a nearby park in Port Moody and spend a few hours there, head over to my apartment afterwards where my son and I would prepare dinner for everyone and play host to entertain.
This all sounded lovely until yesterday morning when my goodfriendAnxiety decided to show up unexpectedly.
What if it starts to rain in the afternoon and we’re not able to go to the park?
Will the parking lot be full if it’s sunny? Afterall t’s a very popular spot in Port Moody.
If it gets too sunny, my apartment gets uncomfortably hot. What will I do then?
What if my recipe for dinner doesn’t turn out? I’ve always enjoyed cooking for others who appreciate it, but I wonder if I’m biting off more than I can chew with six different things on the menu?
How long should we stay at the park til before heading over to the apartment? Will that give me enough time to prep dinner?
I want to be able to talk to D as well while cooking. Can I manage that? Will the kids all get along and not feel bored?
I’m still waiting for my follow up call from the doctor’s office for some blood work. I wonder if she has any updates for me.
I’ll be out of town next week for work and still need to prepare a lot of documents before Monday. Is there enough time to get it all in?
It meant a lot to me that D, her kids and my son had a positive experience last night which is why my anxiety crept in earlier that day.
Meditating throughout the day and grounding myself to the present, I realized there’s only so much I can do to control the outcome, and I simply needed to trust the Universe to take its course. With this mindset, my mind was open and allowed thoughts to flow in and out with much less impact on me than if I hadn’t had this self awareness. I reached several peaceful conclusions that helped me get on with my day unscathed:
Trust that D and her kids are very simple and loving people who just want to spend time together, regardless of the activities planned.
Trust my son would be a big help in the kitchen and also interact with everyone, knowing his personal development stock is on the rise.
Trust my cooking skills are more than sufficient to provide a lovely dinner for everyone.
Trust in myself that I am good enough and that I’ve got my back for whatever happens. In other words, remain confident that I’m worthy enough of this wonderful relationship with D.
Trust in my capabilities to manage my work based on my years of experience and not feel overwhelmed by all the sudden emails.
Anxiety is a perfectly normal emotion to feel. We feel it sometimes for a variety of reasons, but most often times in my experience, it’s self-inflicted. When I peel back the onion, the root of the issue is when I find myself thinking too far into the future, worrying about things beyond my control. When I focus on things I could only do in the present state, I feel relief and a greater sense of calm.
Finally, I also reached the conclusion that everything doesn’t have to be perfect. Sometimes the imperfections can make the most fondest memories. Striving for perfection can be merely an illusion and sometimes over-rated. It’s a carrot that we’ll never be able to reach. What we need to strive for is acceptance and gratitude. I used to say, the imperfections are what makes one perfect!
The evening turned out extremely memorable for me. The afternoon in the park was delightful and dinner with everyone was fabulous. I explained to my son afterwards, that I’ve never felt this sense of familial peace before and I’m so thankful to have shared that with him, D and her kids. More importantly, I look forward to building on this experience and creating even more wonderful memories together.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.