Tuesday, December 23, 2008

All I Really Want

After a false start or two, I've dived back into the dating pool. It's a bit like a job interview in many ways, trying to constantly sell yourself and close the deal. Lots of networking going on as well. Perhaps I should have letters of reference from my exes? I can only imagine what they would say! Good times!

On the other hand, I sense in myself a deep desire for happily ever after. Pick the best one and settle down cuz Lord knows I'm not gettin' any younger. Plus I'm lonely. And I'm not that great at playing "the swinging single" role. With this drive to decide, I have to wonder, am I settling down or just settling?

So in the spirit of Christmas "wish-lists" I've decided to make one of what I'm looking for in a partner, perhaps employing The Secret, to give me some clarity on the matter. Keep in mind they are in no particular order of importance and only a few of them are deal-breakers.

*a mature man: By mature I mean both age and experience. Not someone in university. Not someone "just out." Someone who knows the work it takes to be in a successful relationship.

*a healthy guy:In good shape. No smoking, drugs. Drinking isn't his life or the only way he can have fun.

*a spiritual soul: Someone who is in tune with the unseen, unexplained. Church is a big part of my life and has always been. Ideally I would like to share that with my mate.

*a familyman/the marrying kind: I've decided that the next time I get engaged, I want to be proposed to. I want someone to promise to care about my well-being through the ups and the downs. And children- I know how huge that is and how I would lose the lifestyle I now enjoy immensely. So why would I want kids? I'm not sure if my reasons (it would complete me, would be rewarding, would be contributing to my world) are altogether good ones. They all seem to be ego-centered. I like the idea of adoption because it's less about my needs and more about filling a need in society.
Also this person is going to have to be able to fit into my crazy family somehow. As I told a friend the other day- one doesn't just marry one's partner but the partner's family as well. For better or worse, those in-laws are a fact of life.

*a stable guy: I like the idea of equals, maybe not in salary but at least in self-sufficiency. I want the dichotomy where we take care of each other but could stand on our own if need be.

*a trustworthy person: This means monogamy. No that's not monotony as many would have you believe! I have come to understand the reason behind monogamy. When one is confined to single partner, there's greater attachment. It also creates security in the relationship. It really is less about sex than I thought. My partner should be someone who cherishes and values me and what we have so much that sex with someone else wouldn't be worth the risk of jeopardizing the relationship.

*attractive/chemistry: this is a toughie. Sometimes you just know. It's not so much physical, although that's part of it but also spiritual/personality. You just click.

*and last but not least love. Really that's probably the one that trumps the rest and matters most of all.

Merry Christmas everyone! I know the season's about giving not receiving but I do hope you get a little of what you wanted!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mr. Big Stuff- Who Do You Think You Are?

The other day I was at the gym working out when I was approached by someone from the YMCA staff. This had never happened before and has never happened since. The man had a Russian accent and combined with my iPod, it was necessary for me to say “Excuse me?’ He repeated the question “Are. you. feeling. it?” He seemed to be a pompous ass so I just said “um....SURE. I am FEELING it.” “Really?” he asked. “Yeah.” “Well if you want some help, let me know.” His manner was so condescending and patronizing I reacted defensively.

Thinking about this experience later I found my reaction so strange. Here was someone trying to help me and I got defensive. Why was that? It was because he hurt my ego. Not only could he have changed his approach to accommodate my ego but I should have been aware of my defensive reaction. This stranger’s opinion of me was not me!

Later I was writing a big long email to a friend who was going through a breakup at roughly the same time I was. In it I had all this advice about how she needed to change her thinking and reactions to others, blah, blah, blah. At the end, I read it over and realized I sounded like a conceited arsehole. Not the friend I was trying to be. My intentions were good but my methods were coming from this ego-centered place.

So lately I’ve been reflecting on my ego. Many times we do things out of concern or care and have the very best of intentions but still it feeds our ego when it comes right down to it. Recently I made a phone call on behalf of my ex who was having difficulty understanding someone’s accent. They told him there was a problem with his rental application but he didn’t understand what that problem was. So he asked me to help him. Because his situation was confidential, the woman refused to talk to me. Not only did I find her manner extremely brusque but I became upset to the point where I was literally shaking. I was trying to do something good. And she wouldn’t LET me! Again, my ego had completely taken over. I needed to defend it. Not only was my reaction to her unhelpful, but I had personalized a situation that had nothing to do with me!

I’ve come to realize that much of my negativity stems from ego-related feelings. For example, situations where I feel I’ve been wronged. The feeling of injustice overwhelms any sort of rational thought and I become angry. I 'm compelled to share the story with all my friends, who, in turn feed my ego by sympathizing with me. I personalize the situation to such a degree that I adopt this identity of victim/martyr, when in fact that’s not the “real” essence of me at all, just a role I’m playing.

My ego isn’t me either. When someone criticizes me or I choose to take a comment too seriously, this is because my ego is threatened. Being aware of this, my reactions to the outside world have become more rational and measured. I never understood what Jesus was talking about when He saidWhoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it, because what profit will a person have if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?” After reading this Eckhart Tolle book, I suspect this has to do with our ego.

Another area where being "ego-aware" has helped me is in the transition I’ve been making from being part of a relationship to being single. We have had to divide our assets and possessions. Usually this is an area of conflict and it was so tempting to make it personal. But when I took a deep breath, focused on the present and then took my ego out of the equation, decision suddenly became clearer and impersonal. We both had the same goal. We were both on the same team (if you will). Reacting because of feelings of rejection, insecurity, unworthiness, jealousy wouldn’t help the situation. Besides, I was never really upset for the reason I initially thought I was upset. It's like that scene in "When Harry Met Sally" when Harry says that when couples break up they argue over the stupidest things like who gets the ugly coffee table. I love it when Marie (Carrie Fisher) turns to her partner and sweetly utters "I want you to know, that I will never want that wagon wheel coffee table."

So the question I'll leave you with today is a toughie. Ask yourself "Who Am I?" I have in the past indentified myself in a plethora of ways and yet none of these are the true essence of who I am. To quote Shakespeare, "A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet." When I admit that these labels are just that, and nothing more, then I am suddenly no better (or worse) than my fellow human beings.

Who am I? I think God was onto something when He just answered "I AM"

Monday, December 08, 2008

There's Only Now, There's Only Here

I’ve learned quite a lot from my weekly book club at MCCT. We worked our way, chapter by chapter, through Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth. It wasn’t an easy read and there have been many challenging and new ideas. I’ve learned that not only am I not my ego but neither am I my past or my future. Unless I make this choice. Who I am truly exists only in the present and that is what I like to think of as true faith. I say this because the antithesis of faith is not doubt (as some would have us believe) but rather fear and anxiety. These emotions can not exist in the present.

Fear and anxiety, as Jesus noted when He said to mediate on the lilies in the field and the birds of the air, only exist in the future or the past. "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Christ also modeled this focus on the present in His life. Note how he dealt with the present when he prayed “give us this day our daily bread.” The future is a conceptual place that we leave up to God to manage. (Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.) Also notice how he praised Mary (treasuring the moment) over Martha (worrying about the future).

As many of you know, I’ve been in Kansas with my family for the Thanksgiving holidays and I spent a great deal of time with both my nephew (almost a year old) and maternal grandmother. She’s not unlike a child these days due to Alzheimer’s disease. This time with them has made me reflect on how Jesus suggested we become “like little children” we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. ("I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.") As with everything else he said, this was meant to be taken metaphorically. My nephew and (now) my grandma mostly live in the present and it really changes how one operates. There is always a wonder, a surprise of first-time experiences.

Of course the advantage we as adults have over children is the gift of perspective. When my nephew is upset, it is the end of his world. He becomes very emotional. I could say my grandmother expresses her frustrations in much the same way. Then later, it’s all forgotten and they have moved on. Not only do we have the ability to judge life events through the filter of our experiences and perspective, but if we choose to be aware of our reactions, we can also choose to how to react.

Eckhart points out we only experience now, not future/past. Things only happen in the now. As the Bon Jovi song goes "It's my life, it's now or never." This is why physical activity, dancing and music are some of my favourite activities. To do them really well, one must be present. During my recent breakup, being present, dealing with the reality of what is (instead of what should be, or could of been or was) really made all the difference. We can learn from our past without obessing or focusing on it because it's a moot issue. And as far as the future goes, it doesn't exist beyond thought (which ironically can only be thought about in the present).

So I'm encouraging you on your day today to take time to "smell the roses." Meditate. Breathe. Experience the now. Listen with your whole being. Be present.