“Life passed them by, fine whiskey and cigars,
They created their own story, a map to the stars.
And you are reading it loud for others to hear:
What truly matters is to hold someone dear.”
We enter this life without knowing and we love being surprised; that’s why some of us still believe in Santa Claus, right? But once we enter a relationship, we want to be given all guarantees, as if we are buying a Tiffany jewellery. I am not in favour of taking steps into the dark or walk blindfolded, but with little information that we know about each other when entering a relationship, we can’t expect to predict how the relationship will turn out. Be honest about where you are in life and openly share your expectations with your partner. I find this exercise useful not only at the beginning of the relationship, but while transitioning at every stage of it so as to ensure not necessarily alignment but understanding. Else, it will rather be about broken expectations than broken hearts. And, in order to shift the perspective from which you see heartbreaks, although at times our hearts take a break from one another, there are other times in which we give our hearts a break in order to reflect on what has been before moving to what will be.
The more I move forward in life, the more I feel that I have more memories that pile up. Unless I let go of some that do not longer serve, I cannot make room for surprises that life has in store for me. Once having done so, I no longer resist the old, but rather welcome the new. Easier said than done. So, what keeps us from doing it? On one hand, we might still be attached to some memories (either not enough time has passed or not enough distance has come in between). On another hand, we might still resist the change of no longer having that memory with us that yet we haven’t deliberately chosen to let go of. As a highly organised person, I must tell you that going with the flow is not the easiest thing for me either. I’d rather categorize memories, arrange them by colour or even name tag them. Yet, although my planning comes with creating opportunity, letting go of control and being in the flow comes with attracting opportunity. No matter the choice, opportunity is still there.
Letting go is the essence of mindfulness. First, ask yourself what are you afraid of losing. Start with the external things like possessions and appearance. Write down everything that you can think of. Next, make a list of the internal things you are afraid of losing. Examples are your reputation, status, and sense of belonging. Your fear of losing these things is probably one of the greatest sources of pain in your life. Consider how you can change your mental relationship to each of these things to enjoy and appreciate it from a space of non-attachment. In other words, enjoy it for the moment but accept that it will not always be there.
Let’s take belonging for example, which stands for identifying yourself as part of a group, while feeling secure to be your authentic-self around its members. Groups can range from family, to friends to co-workers. Although the sense of belonging is subjective, it can be cultivated through different means, such as: creating high quality interactions, creating connections with good intentions at heart, being clear on expectations. Once the sense of belonging is nurtured, it can spur productivity, boost confidence, increase engagement. On the other hand, should the sense of belonging be missing, one can feel left out, depressed, lonely. In the world wide web of relations, belonging is the driver from connection to contribution. Belonging is not necessarily about agreement, but rather about sharing differences while still feeling accepted.
And what a better set-up to do so other than a family? With the holiday season coming close, more of us start looking back at our families – those in which we were raised and those in which we grew. These can overlap or can be different from one another: the first can be the one in which we were taught the basics of childhood, while the second can be the one you learned the basics of adulthood. The first can be within the parameters defined by the society (nuclear or extended family as dictionaries call it), while the second can go beyond to include cohabitation, friendship, globalisation. Still, no matter in what kind of family you find yourself in, some of the traits that define a healthy family are: respect, support, care, presence, loyalty, calm, trust. What is family for me? Family is about letting go and still feeling safe. Family is about making no plans and that being the best day ever. Family is being loved unconditionally for just being.
While advancing our discussion from family relationships to romantic relationships, I shall start with a disclaimer: although there are a lot of guidelines, research and advice on this topic, none gives you a secret recipe to success as that is unique to each of us and adaptable to the relationships we are in. As we have little time, I’d pick a few relatable topics. The 1st is purpose: being unsure about belonging together, not necessarily matching each other’s feelings, and not being intentional in defining the relationship is wrong to begin with. The 2nd is understanding: what I find a good fit here is coming in the relationship as whole and aware selves, accepting your partner while inspiring them to grow together. Last but not least is conflict: navigating the bad while celebrating the good is as important as knowing how to argue, meaning identifying complaints rather than criticism and focus on the context of the fight rather than on the person you are fighting with.
The concept of happiness nowadays is declined from societal approval – that we have a certain body image, that we have a successful career, that we are in a perfect relationship, etc. Other people’s opinions are a show stopper from tapping into our real potential. But if so, why are we still interested in listening to them? There can be many reasons: being a people pleaser, playing it safe, scared of one’s true inner power. Still, while doing so, one becomes anxious, unproductive, fake. How can you then stop being FOPO? My personal opinion here is to develop a better self-awareness system, some sort of a compass of who you really are and what brings you joy. Also, another tip would be to make a list of people whose opinions would really matter to you: experts in a certain field you want to further develop in, people living a life you aspire towards, people who know how to spell your name right.
With this in mind, I shall let you reflect on a question at your own time:
“What would you DO (or who would you BE) if opinions of others would not bother you?”.