Do Something About It

A while ago I came across an image online somewhere, possibly in my Facebook News Feed–a flowchart that really captured my fancy. A simple prescription for how to live your life. There are, of course, myriad ways to do that, but for the most part they’re all gradations of two fundamental alternatives: positive or negative. Ergo Abundance or Scarcity. Ergo Hope/Love or Fear.

There are many versions of this flowchart online–so many it’s virtually impossible to assign credit properly.

Original_Don't_Worry

The idea behind the flowchart is appealingly, elegantly simple: influence and affect the things you can and don’t sweat the rest. This resonated with me, so I printed out a couple of copies, putting one on my fridge, another on the wall behind my desk.

Over my adult life I’ve had the sense that we as individuals have much more control over the way our lives unfold than we think. That we’re not all on preordained tracks, playing out Destiny, Fate, or the like. We’re not passive characters in a play of someone or something else’s creation.

Without a doubt the biggest validation of this notion I’ve ever experienced is my relationship with my soulmate, Lien. It took me until my mid 40s, after a long marriage, newfound singledom, an almost-second marriage, and years of sporadic dating to define who and what I wanted in a woman. When I’d (finally!) done that, I believed with all my heart and every fiber of my being that she and I would meet and fall head over heels in love. Less than a year later that’s exactly what happened.

As a lifelong rational thinker, a subscriber to mainstream scientific consensus enamored by the irrefutability of logic, for the bulk of my life I didn’t have much use for mysticism and woo woo stuff. Although I didn’t have anything against it or against those who chose to believe in things I felt to be far fetched. To each their own. Live and let live, yo.

But then I met and fell utterly, completely in love with the woman I envisioned having in my life, and vice versa. That experience, so profound, cracked my mind wide open to thinking I’d honestly been indifferent to prior. There’s an old adage to the effect of “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” My experience had made me ready, and led me, if not so much to a specific teacher, to an overall school of thought.

Meeting with a friend and one-time professional colleague, who recently published a well-received Young Adult novel, I described for him the sensibility I was looking to realize with a book project of my own, a creative nonfiction work about relationships and love. (to be published next year) He suggested I check out a particular book he’d read, in which he felt that the author did a solid job approaching somewhat weighty/heady material in an engaging, generally breezy, witty, humorous way.

So I picked up a digital copy of the book and dove in. While I felt his assessment to be spot-on, I quickly found myself not so much analyzing the composition of the book but becoming increasingly enthralled by its subject matter. The book is by Pam Grout. The basic premise: we all have the power to actualize what it is we want in and for our lives. referenced another work on the subject, The Field by Lynn McTaggart, a somewhat more cut-and-dry, analytical yet wholly compelling exploration of the science behind the power of Intention. I devoured it, ravenously.

Both of these works validated and codified a sense I’d long considered but hadn’t fully owned. Up until the point when I’d read the books, I concurred that the flowchart above had it exactly right. These impactful books, however, made me look at the flowchart’s implied life philosophy through a different lens–the result being that it no longer felt like an axiomatic truism. Rather, something only half right.

Here’s my modification:

In my case it was romance that initially prompted me to espouse this disposition, to make it my modus operandi. I knew what and who I wanted in my life, and decided I wouldn’t compromise on that. I’d either have Everything…or I’d have nothing. I can’t convey strongly enough how important it is to inhabit, to own, to occupy the life philosophy implied by the above. Not only when it comes to romance and matters of the heart, but to life in general.

It was my complete belief that I’d be fortunate enough to experience and enjoy my Everything (and as a major component of that give her Everything, too) that led me to that very destination. My gut, or perhaps more accurately my heart, guided me. At the time I didn’t fully understand the intellectual underpinnings of what I was doing, but that didn’t matter: somehow I just knew I had to do it.

And the heartlifting, energizing, permasmile-inducing result of that determination is what retroactively engendered understanding of the process, as well as the awareness of and unwavering belief that you can always do something about it. That positive proactivity will shape your reality.

Probably close to ten years ago, my dear friend Robert Morgan Fisher, an immensely talented Narrative Engineer whose wheelhouse includes fiction and non-fiction, songwriting (and performing), and screenwriting, gave me this page from a New Yorker desktop calendar. It’s occupied front-and-center real estate on my fridge since the day he gave it to me.

All Good!

When you fully own the conviction that you can always proactively do something about “it,” whatever “it” happens to be, the idea expressed in this simple, uplifting image resonates even more deeply.

Your turn…

 

Everything or Nothing

Romantic relationships come in infinite forms, comprised of a multiplicity of attributes, including but hardly limited to degrees of emotional intimacy, love, friendship, trust, physical intimacy, loyalty, sexual attraction, respect, shared interests, common goals, honesty, fun, and many more.

Regardless of the specific ingredients, the overall spectrum of the quality of relationships, from bad to good, goes from unhealthy/dysfunctional–of which there are also myriad varieties–to True Love, that most rarified, desired, vaunted form of romantic connectedness that joins two people in a way that simultaneously blurs the line between them yet bolsters them individually, that only gets more exciting, deeper, and more heartlifting, more amazing over time. And while there are varying degrees of being in a romantic relationship there are really only two possible statuses: in one or not in one.

Toothbrushes

If you believe that True Love is not only possible, but possible for you–if it’s something you want insist on having in your life, then there’s only one route to take: Everything or Nothing. Defining what and who you want as your ideal romantic partner and refusing to compromise is the only way to get to Everything. Concepts like “enough” or “good enough” need not apply, as they won’t get you there. Equally important: knowing who you are and being willing to offer Everything fearlessly and authentically.

There’s long been a movement out there in the Self-Actualization universe revolving around the concept of learning to want what you have. Outside of the one relationship scenario where this strategy makes sense, namely the case of not having previously grasped that what/who you have actually does represent your Everything, so you come to the realization that you actually already do have exactly what you want, actively accepting less is a surefire pathway to disappointment. Granted, it may take years, even decades, for the realization that your relationship isn’t an Everything relationship to set in, but given how brief our time is, is spending any more of it than necessary in a relationship that you know is somehow lacking really the best approach? (this topic will be further explored in an upcoming post)  I suppose that depends on your priorities and your sense of what you deserve.

My pathway to my relationship Everything is an interesting and circuitous one. It involved a late start with respect to sex (virginity lost junior year of college), a first love that led to marriage, then parenthood quickly followed by divorce. Then a near-miss with marriage to the wrong woman. Followed by a more-than-five-year period of dating and not dating, that chunk of time most notable for my having only at the very end of it defined who it is that I want as a romantic partner. Sometimes I look back in amazement that I dated sporadically for over five years without having defined who and what I wanted in terms of a woman and a relationship!

In retrospect it’s absolutely no surprise to me that I didn’t find my relationship Everything until after I–duh!–defined it. Then, probably about six months later, a woman walked into my life who embodied it to a tee. She and I now reflect on the two chance encounters that set in motion our eventual togetherness, how strong and heartlifting our connection was from the very beginning. Strong enough to power us through complicated and at times trying circumstances. As I write this post we’ve been together for eighteen months, and our connection continues to grow and deepen, our excitement about being with each other, our wonder, sense of awe, and gratitude about having found each other, continues to go only one way: up. And that’s the only way it will go, forever. About that neither of us have any doubt.

The Love of My Life, Lien, and I are living proof that it’s possible to have your relationship Everything. If you’re not in a relationship and feel the beck and call of True Love, sensing in your heart that it’s out there for you, the first step is to define who you are, and the next is to define who and what you want, what you deserve, romantically speaking. Then think about the latter (who/what) nonstop. Visualize it, dream it, manifest it. And trust that it will happen. Your unwavering conviction and certainty will ensure that it does. Then be willing to give Everything, knowing that it’s the contentedness and bliss associated with that–the giving–that will create the environment for your partner to do the same, each of you offering your unique gifts in a selfless, fearless way, without expectation of any return or reciprocation. It’s this that nourishes True Love, that allows it to be ever expanding, ever deepening,

If you’re in a relationship and have come to the realization that your partner and the situation do not represent an Everything dynamic, and never will, you have to decide whether or not following your heart, pursuing and realizing Everything, will ultimately be the rising tide that lifts all proverbial boats (like your responsibility to your kid/s, for example).

Basically, reduced to its essence, it becomes a choice between hope and fear. How do you want to live your life? You can fear that your decisions will have negative ramifications for you and those you love, or fully believe, to the deepest part of your core, that hope, specifically the hope for penultimate Love, will lead you to exactly that, and touch every part of your life in amazing ways.

To me, it’s a no brainer. And it’s that positivity, that unwavering certainty that Everything is possible, that compels me to write about what I’ve been lucky enough to experience, hoping that doing so might in some way help others realize their Everything.

image source:  debretts.com

Discussing Past Relationships

While we all have the desire to be attractive to the opposite sex (those of us who are heterosexual, that is), and for members of the opposite sex to know that we are, in fact, attractive to their kind, be sensitive to how the words you’re using to describe your exes, what about them appealed to you, how you felt about them, etc. may be received by your partner.

As a guy, clearly it’s an ego stroke (self-applied) for a drop-dead-gorgeous woman you’re dating to register the fact that you were previously involved with another attractive woman (or women). On one level this can be a positive, even productive bit of knowledge, since to a certain extent it can be validating of her attraction to you. But don’t overdo it. Also—and it hopefully goes without saying—specific mentions of sex you had in the past could turn into a minefield you may find yourself trapped in for a while.

At a certain point in time in the development of a relationship characterized by True Love, any topic can be discussed openly, productively and in a way that further fortifies your connectedness, but even in cases of True Love, the establishment of a safe, loving, accepting, honest environment wherein both parties are at liberty to discuss anything typically doesn’t happen overnight.

image via savorhomeblog.com

image via savorhomeblog.com

Does this imply that you should plead the 5th if asked about past relationships? Absolutely not. Just be mindful of the possibility that, although it’s not entirely rational and is typically sub/unconscious, a woman you’re getting serious about may—understandably, as she is, after all, a complex emotional being—on some levels want to believe that she’s the only woman who’s ever mattered to you, whom you’ve loved, etc.

Additionally, the more praiseworthy you are of your exes, in whatever regard, the greater the chance that she will wonder about the sincerity of your praise for her in those areas…or your lack of praise in those areas. Or whether your attention might be diverted by someone else who’s strong in those areas.

Likewise, we guys can be susceptible to these perfectly natural feelings and insecurities. After all, we want to be special, to stand head and shoulders above those who came before us and be so perfect for our prospective soulmate that there’s no chance she’d ever be open to the temptations of another guy.

But I submit to you that wishing your beloved had never loved anyone before she loved you, or that she never had sex before you, or climaxed with another guy—or a boundless number of other actions/thoughts/feelings that are important to you—is entirely and utterly counterproductive.

While I’m not saying you should run out and have a tee shirt made emblazoned with “Ask me about the love of my life’s ‘pre-me’ orgies!” the reality is that it is precisely her individual experiences, and yours, that brought you together so powerfully. Had one thing been different for her, or for you, or even had they happened in a different order, it’s probable that you wouldn’t have connected the way you did.

Think about that for a moment.

So rather than harbor any negative feelings or insecurities about her past, you should (privately—no tee shirts!) be thankful for and genuinely celebrate it. And while the reverse also obviously applies, again, use good judgment and sensitivity when covering this type of potentially loaded ground, especially when your relationship is “early days.”