Romeo and Juliet

Real Love

I try to stay away from sensationalized headlines, but recently I clicked on a talk called “Why you will marry the wrong person.” Thankfully the talk turned out to be more substance that I expected. It was in fact a very poignant look at relationships.

Feelings

By chance, a recent Netflix binge was a show called, “Virgin River.” This Hallmark-inspired soap opera focused almost wholly on feelings. In fact, the characters talk about hardly anything expect their emotions and how they feel. Every decision they make, all of their focus is on their emotions, and their desire for others to understand, fix, or change how they feel. Throughout the show the characters move from love to hate to jealously and are steered blindly by their feelings. It became funny because the characters’ answer to every problem was “I love you.” Yet never did they really supply a reason why they love the other person. It was like saying “I love you” explained every fault and fixed every issue.

In contrast, Alain de Botton recommends in his YouTube speech that we do not follow are feelings. He says that our feelings and instincts can not be trusted because they are based in what is familiar. What is familiar is how our first love, our parents, made us feel. Did our parents get divorced when we were young? Then being around people who will probably leave is familiar and comfortable. Trusting our feelings gets us in trouble, because it draws us to repeat the same issues again and again.  

Romeo and Juliet
Michigan Shakespeare Festival

Love

The Virgin River cast is all about the act of being loved. They focus on the receiving of flowers, attention, and special gifts. They expect their admirers to intuit and respond to their innermost wants and needs, without having to express those needs at all. It is the old belief that if you really loved me, you would know and do exactly what I need.

To love someone is very different than receiving love. To love someone, we accept them warts and all. Everyone is a mix of good and bad. To truly love someone, it is not only an admiration of their good qualities, but compassionate acceptance of their whole self.

Vulnerability

To rule our feelings and truly receive and give real love, we need to be vulnerable. Consciously or unconsciously many of us play games in our relationships, mostly because we are terrified to be truly vulnerable. Instead, we play games to try to get what we need. Instead of saying I need you, we micromanage others trying to make them act how we wish. Out of fear of rejection, we may become distant so we can not be hurt; therefore creating the rift in the relationship out of fear that there may be a rift in the relationship. Instead of saying what we need, we try to manipulate others to give us what we need. This usually backfires.

To be in an authentic relationship, we need to share our truth openly and honestly holding space for our partner to do the same. This may mean accepting things about others we may not fully like. It may mean accepting feedback from our partner as constructive criticism and not attack.

Who are you in relationships? Are you the Virgin River character or Disney princess who believes the fact of love will make everything right? Or are you a vulnerable realist who sees people for who they are and uses compassion and boundaries to create honest, loving relationships?

Being Your Own Worst Enemy

This year I have been soaking up as much as Brené Brown and her research as possible. Here is a great talk she gave at a design conference which delves deeply into fear, and to me, the call to have the courage to be 100% me and to be 100% in my life.

When I was in graduate school at Roosevelt University, a favorite class of mine was on Organizational Development. One day we were given an exercise to prioritize a list of twenty or so steps we would take to start a fire or some sort of survival task. First, we did the exercise on our own. Next, we decided the sequence as a group. After receiving the proper sequence, the professors asked for a show of hands for everyone who had more correct responses as a group rather than as an individual. Most of the class raised their hands. Truth was, the exercise was supposed to show how as a group we all perform better than as individuals. To prove their point, the instructors had everyone raise their hand who did better as an individual than in the group. I was the only one who raised her hand. The professors were shocked. I don’t think they ever had anyone do better on their own before. The reason I tell this story is not to show how smart I am, but to show the biggest challenge in my life – self-confidence and being able to speak my voice. I did better on my own, because I couldn’t voice my opinions in the group.

Photo by Felix Koutchinski on Unsplash

This incident is just one of many throughout my life where I can show unequivocally that I hold myself back. I discount my ideas. I bow to others. I am afraid to speak my truth. I don’t voice my needs because I don’t want to insult or hurt others. The end result is that I have not lived fully, unabashedly; I have not made the most of opportunities that came my way. As a friend said recently, “It really, really is the bald-faced truth that we are our worst, if not only, enemies.” I know I have been for decades. 

In this video, Brené touches on the importance of having clear values and, importantly, living by those values. If we do not know our values, the choices we make in our lives are not tied to our goals and what we deem important. On the other hand, if we have values but do not act upon them, we are not living fully, honestly, intentionally.

In the second half of my life, I am committed to fully living the values I have defined in the first half of my life. I am striving for vulnerability, compassion, healthy boundaries, and living without hesitation. Instead of looking back at my previous choices (which I can’t change anyway), I am instead – not focused on the future – but focused on this moment. In this moment, am I doing my best to be vulnerable? Am I living openly and honestly?  Am I being compassionate, understanding, and accepting?  Am I creating healthy boundaries to protect myself while I am supporting others? Am I living fully, without hesitation?

It ain’t easy. I ain’t consistent. And it is worth it. I am learning to make new choices – and receive new, better results. I am grateful for the path I took when I was younger. I am grateful to have the courage to look at my past and learn from it. And I am so grateful to have the courage and support to fully live by my values, to the best of my ability, today.