This is a story about a girl named Amy. Amy was an active soul. She filled her life with performance and achievements. She had degrees, publications, and merits. When there was no movement in her life, she felt stagnant. Stagnation brought with it, thoughts of worthlessness and feelings of self-doubt. No achievements meant no advancement in life.
One day after a long stretch at work, calculating her next advancement for a book she was writing, Amy sat on a bench at the park. She watched as ducks swam in the nearby pond, while mothers pushed strollers, and while an old man with a cane walked slowly along the walkway. As she sat and watched she listened to the chatter in her head, “get up and do something, don’t just sit there.” Her mind wandered with the consciousness she had created. Her inner voice was using the very measurements that she had constructed it to use. If she did not measure up to her expectations, she was not good enough. Amy was exhausted. She began to feel a tear roll down her cheek. The old man with the cane had quietly sat next to her on the bench.
“My dear,” he said, “Why do you cry?”
“Look,” said Amy, “The ducks have their friends and fun. The mothers have their love and commitment to another being. And I, I have nothing. My work does not bring me joy. My hope for the future is gone.”
“Goodness,” said the old man, in a quiet, sullen tone. He sat next to Amy with a calm smile on his face and watched as the mothers pushed their strollers and the ducks swam in the pond.
“Well,” said Amy, in frustration, “Don’t you have anything to say? I mean, I am sitting next to you crying, and you sat next to me! So you must have wanted to say something to the lonely girl on the bench.”
The old man maintained his posture simply looking up at Amy for a moment then back at the pond. She continued to talk. He remained calm and consistent. He gave her eye contact when she talked and looked toward the pond with wonder when she didn’t. (He recognized that if Amy measured herself on performance, it was how she measured others as well. He wasn’t much of a performer.) His breaths were tempered and consistent. He sat a long while with her.
“Well, it was nice to meet you Amy,” said the old man as he used his cane for momentum to stand up.
“What?” Amy said in anger, “You sit next to me and let me go on this whole time. But you give me nothing, no advice, no wisdom, and no reflection?”
“Amy, my dear,” said the old man, “Did you ever consider that each part of life or each relationship is not what you take from it, but what you give to it.”
Amy looked perplexed and walked off in confusion.
The old man slowly got back on the walkway and felt peace in his heart.
You see, on the other side of the pond away from the people walking, the ducks swimming, and Amy performing was a quiet place called: letting go. Right next to the place called : letting go is a place called: just being. These two places are not places we regularly visit in today’s busy society. It is a part of life that we never fully grasp. We walk away in confusion and frustration when we can not understanding something. In its very nature, just being, is not something that can be understood.
The concept of just being was foreign to Amy. She had lived a life filled with performance. She had difficulty sitting still and ran quite functionally on anxiety. She lacked acceptance in the pausing of life.
For some of us, the pauses in life makes us cringe. Not doing, or moving, or growing means that we are lacking. We don’t hesitate to take on the weight of the world as our own and to gain love of ourself only when we have performed. We blame others for not helping us. We worry about what still has to be done. We look at relationships for what we can take, not for what we can give to them.
The strange thing is, just being is not something that you can perform. The very nature of it exudes that. It is also not something that you can reduce or pull apart or intellectualize. You can not collect it, teach it, hide it, or even commit to it. It just is.
– Mohandas K. Gandhi
Gandhi was a wise man. The power of language and our thoughts will influence our feelings and actions. Think about it. Three things often go together; our actions, our feelings, and our thoughts. What you say or do has the power to dictate how you feel or think about something. Our mindset can influence our emotions. How cool is that? We can influence our emotions.
One of the greatest lessons I have learned and now teach, is that have influence in how we feel about things. That puts us in a better mindset for coping with struggles or maintaining successes.
Here are some quick tips to enlisting this new positive standard into your language.
1. Say goodbye to words like can’t, don’t, and shouldn’t.
2. Be cautious with always, never, all and none (extreme words make us feel defeated).
3. Use Self-Affirmations (I am good the way I am, I am happy, I am successful).
4. Eliminate self-loathing. Try to give yourself grace. When we feel poorly or have poor feelings about ourselves it leaks into other aspects of our lives. Notice what is going on with yourself but try not to judge it. I often tell people to use the word, just. This is just a setback. I am just working through something. When you take away the power of words, you take away the power they have over you, your thoughts, and your feelings.
5. Take non-judgmental stances. The more we critics others, the harder it is to have positive words. When we take negative stances on things, ideas, or people it rises our emotions for worse. Criticism is for worse. When we take a positive or neutral stance it is for better. Inspire and encourage others, listening and be non-judgemental.
6. Reconnect with yourself. We live in a busy, beautiful world. It is important to find clarity in your heart and mind to practice a positive mindset and incorporate them as a part of your life.
Gandhi was a wise man, and he was also a practicing man. You have to practice and incorporate ways to be mindful in your every day life. The power of positive takes practice and patience. You have the power to inspire and influence.
This story is about a girl named Mary. Mary is my friend. Mary is currently single, but going on dates. Now Mary and I have known one another for over two decades. She and I have traveled to the depths of the dating world together and been single to sulk our relationship losses. We’ve watched every chic flick on how to be good at being a strong but super cool, chill girl. (Come, on!) Every woman in the world is trying to be a good wife, partner, girlfriend, dating person, or single chic. And being “good” is so subjective.
Then we are given dating advice in Cosmopolitan, or told to be rude by outlandish books; Why Men Love Bitches. All the information becomes conflicting and overwhelming. We are inundated with friends opinions and strangers judgements. We are overthinking, over-trying, and overdoing.
So, lets get back to Mary’s story. She had been single before and in other relationships before. Ones that worked and ones that didn’t. Ones that ended cordially with a hand shake and ones that ended tragically with cheating. She has played the field, given up dating to pursue a career and come back around again. Before she began dating again she saw a counselor. She worked on some fears, then after another year, she got back out there. She was not active in pursuing men, but she was attracting good and decent men who wanted to take her out. She was confident, happy, and fun. She had her contagious energy back that she had before her heartbreak. But it took Mary time to get there. Before that she laid on the couch with me and cried, she asked for hugs and she figured out what she wanted. She rediscovered who she was.
Then something happened. Mary met someone. She met someone she really liked. She was overwhelmed by trying to remember the rules to dating because she actually liked this guy. She thought about texting in 3 days instead of hours; how to keep him interested; when to introduce him to her friends; when he should meet her family; was she actually ready for a real relationship; what if he rejected her; what if she needed to have multiple people to date at the same time while not making him jealous, while keeping him interested, while trying to stand on her head while sitting in a chair and juggling 4 balls in the air while playing guitar and making dinner for 12 people…….. Mary was having overwhelming feelings and emotions of doubt. She just had to remember, it’s going to be ok. She had to remember what she wanted and not digress to the conflicting information. She had to calm her fears, anxieties, and doubt.
She had to go back and remember what she had learned. She learned that just because she grew from an experience that she could not control future situations and that there was no promise she wouldn’t be hurt again. She had to let go of her need to control and she had to be vulnerable. My point is……we ebb and flow in all stages of dating and relationships. Relax. Breath. Stop trying to figure it out and enjoy the journey.
Why does it all have to be so complicated? We get so much conflicting information from so many avenues and it keeps us from developing our genuine selves. It prolongs the confusion and chaos. Mary has no idea how to be single. She has no idea how to date or how to be in a relationship. Not the “right way”, at least, whatever that means. But who does? We are all sort of the blind leading the blind. This is messy stuff. This is complicated stuff. We have to give ourselves room to breath and grow. We are making it up as we go, learning from the past, and taking notes for the future. There is no right way to date or right way to be single. The best you can hope for is good and supportive friends that hang in there with you along the way. My point is……Relax. Breath. Stop trying to figure it out and enjoy the journey, single or not.
Even been dating someone and you are not sure if he (or she) is into you?
We begin a relationship where our partner seems like our knight in shining armor; they listen to us about our bad day and they send flowers just to make us smile. You have that goofy smile that you can’t get rid of and you talk about them to all your friends.
Then something changes; your partner doesn’t go out of their way to do the little things they did in the beginning. They lose interest when you discuss something that is bothering you. You may have experienced this before, where the relationship changed. Unfortunately, the relationship was probably always like this. It’s time to stop pulling those petals off the flower with, he loves me, he loves me not…. It’s time to take control of the situation. Trying to understand or fix the current dating situation will likely not work and the red flags will always be present, but here is what you can do:
Self-Care. Get some exercise, good sleep, and eat nutritious meals. The emotional rollercoaster will calm down if you feel physically good.
Positive Affirmations. This experience may have you feeling less than great. Listen to positive affirmations, pick up an inspiring book, or talk to helpful friends. You need to feel good mentally as well.
You Have a Choice. You get to choose who you date. That is the best part. This can also be the hardest part. Our past experiences draw us to certain people, but our future doesn’t have to be the same.
Your Realization. If you are feeling inconsistencies with your dating partner, it is likely that they are feeling the same way. For whatever reason one or both of you are just not into the relationship. You have the realization, then you move on.
I Love Me. If the person you are dating doesn’t show up when you need them emotionally or physically, remember – you love you. Be your biggest fan and surround yourself with friends who love you and remind you how awesome you are.
Don’t Stop Dating. The unrequited love may have left a damper on your ego. However, sitting on your couch in your sweat pants is not going to help that ego dry any quicker. Get back into dating and find someone who is consistent in the way they treat you. You should never have to wonder if someone likes you.
A Message from the Author:
I am a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern located in Huntington Beach, CA. I am supervised by Jeffrey Kullmann (L.C.S.W. LCS 13661).
I believe in helping others to develop happiness and grow emotional strength. I work with individuals and couples to navigate life goals and relationships.
Please visit: www.lauriekcounseling.com to get more information or schedule a counseling appointment.
-Laurie Kjelstrom, M.A.
Finding peace is about exploring the world around us. It is about engaging in social relationships. It is about taking care of ourselves physically and mentally. It is a constant exploration of our world, our motivations, and our attachments. Here are some tips to begin that exploration:
- Understand that some people or things are not for you. Some people cause us harm. They hurt our feelings or don’t agree with our value system. Trenton Shelton said “Just because someone starts with you, doesn’t mean that they are going to finish with you.”
- Maintain Balance. When life gets overwhelming, you have to take a step back and check in with your mind, body, and spirit. Ask yourself what your motivation is for your actions. Explore where your uncomfortable stress may come from and find ways to lessen it.
- Find joy in the little things. Look for the good in people. Look for the joy in the little things. If you are looking for what is wrong in a person or thing, you will find it. Look with exploration and not judgement.
- Cultivate love. Build secure relationships and be willing to give. Stay through the uncomfortable parts and increase the happy memories. Leave any expectations at the door.
- Don’t hide from hurt. Don’t hide from your emotions. Allow yourself to feel them and then allow them to float on. We have to grieve before we can move forward appropriately.
- Play. You can not fully enjoy freedom until you have established discipline. This discipline helps us maintain healthy relationships, take care of ourselves physically and mentally, and to have clarity in our character. When you balance discipline and play, you will be on the right path to finding peace.
Remember to find peace it is important to take care of our body and mind. Finding peace is about learning how to maintain our emotional states and engage in the care we need to give to ourselves and others.
Breakups are some of the hardest trials in life; they test our ability to cope with loss and stress. They are emotionally difficult. Trying not to sound too objective, I understand from experience what it is like to go through a breakup. It is hard to see any bright side at the time of the loss of a relationship, but this bad experience will lead to better experiences in the future. Until then try these ideas to cope with a breakup:
- Fake letters. Keep a journal or write out letters to your ex. Write as many letters as it takes or type up fake emails. These can release every emotion you have and express exactly what you feel without hurting anyone directly. It also keeps the person from responding because if broke up with the person, it is likely that the person was not responding to your needs in a constructive way. You don’t need a response to get the emotional release.
- Body pillow. If you are used to cuddling or sleeping next to someone, the actual object can have a significant impact on your emotional well-being. Tricking your brain with the physical can help with the emotional. Snuggle up to a pillow or two and give your brain those feel good chemicals it is used to.
- Avoid alcohol and mind-altering substances. Having a clear mind is important in getting over difficult emotional struggles. A clear mind can lessen the duration of pain. This is a good time for you to get a clear head and make clear choices.
- Surround yourself with positive people. Your friends and family are great people to reach out to. Familiar and positive people can help you push through a difficult time. Don’t isolate and reach out to your loved ones often.
- Stay occupied. Keep yourself busy. You will have time later to work through all the emotions; sitting and ruminating about a bad situation will not help you start the healing process.
- Mini-Vacation. Take a short trip and go with a friend. Clear your head and break away from the situation before coming back to begin the coping process.
The coffee shop rocks some stellar music this morning. 1901 by Phoenix blasts through the speakers as I sit in the back corner watching the locals swing through and converse around the shop. The Sit and Stay Café houses a bookshelf where patrons can exchange reading material. There are piles of old books and ironic literature. “Tears of the Giraffe” stands out as I turn to the lady next to me and she calls out, “Excuse me?” She asks me if I know which coffee is the best? I look up from The Orange County Register and lean slightly forward to suggest the one on the far right. After she fills her mug, she swings back to her seat and we begin to engage in conversation. She is a delightful older woman with a southern accent and bright blue eyes. She tells me that she is from Texas and visiting her daughter and son-in-law here in sunny California. She talks about seeing her grandchildren and how excited she is to spend time with them. I smile back, ask questions, and express admiration for the exchange that took place. I get back to my breakfast sandwich and black coffee as I sift through the newspaper. I watch as two young girls take a photo and discuss uploading it to Instagram. This leads me to immediately think of hashtags, which leads me to think of texting. Then, I am reminded of a time when passing notes was cool. In school when you wanted to elicit the attention of a friend or chat, you had to pass a note. I recall intricate folding and the rush of passing it so the teacher wouldn’t see. A thrill in its own right.
A friend and I reminisced about dial-up the other day. She recalled her parents having to get two phone lines because you could not use the internet and be on the phone at the same time. There was a time when we still had to be patient. The lady in the coffee shop was in her 60s, nearly 30 years older than me and these girls were probably around 15, so about half the age gap. I feel slightly removed from social engagement via app. What happen to conversing in the coffee shop or asking a stranger a question or engaging in a conversation? I will tell you what happen. #facebook #instagram #snapchap #socialmedia. All of this seems to be causing something more than just a lack of communication. It causes a lack of thrill, a lack of adrenaline, and a lack of excitement. We are tagging photos and selfies everywhere we go. We want to project happiness without truly understanding what it takes to grasp it. There is no grace for messes. We are gaining more control and causing more anxiety in a world where letting go and learning how to handle change are very important. We online date as a result of the downfall of present and personal communication. We become neurotic. We become impatient. The lyrics of 1901 still play. “Watch them build up a material tower. Think it’s not going to stay anyway. Think it’s overrated.” The dynamics of human relationships have not changed much in those 45 years from the teens I see to the older woman I speak with, but so much has changed in our means of communication.
I am proposing that ten years ago, we knew how to balance lack of control in life and bounce back from change. Are we creating a generation so in control that the slightest change will cause fear? We used to have to wait for a boy or girl to write back or tell the friend if they liked us back; rejection built character. Now we swipe to the left and the fear of rejection is gone. Lack of fear or other human emotions causes us to gain more control. The more control we think we have, the less we actually do. Anxieties and fears have to be dealt with. In order to be dealt with, they have to be created.