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~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #133
Maybe you’ve had a few or many past failed relationships. Perhaps you are currently single or married or in a relationship at the moment, but maybe it just doesn’t feel as though you know how to make it stronger, healthier, but there is some part of you that knows it is possible. Even if you aren’t in a relationship, you understand that it is a healthy relationship you seek because at the moment, life is grand on your own and far better than being in a dysfunctional partnership.
As you reflect on the past, remember this: You gave love, you were hopeful, you did your best with what you knew at the time. Let go. And forgive yourself.
“Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it.”
As I look back on my own past that contains a handful of relationships, all of which were unique and different, and began and ended for different reasons, I know I am a different person now, I know that I have learned much more to be a far better partner, but also to be a far better, and more content individual whether I am in a relationship or not. I know now, but I didn’t then because I didn’t know either what I needed or where to find the knowledge I sought. I either had models that were dysfunctional and I didn’t recognize it or I didn’t have a deeper understanding of what I was modeling my life after. Most importantly, I was still growing and discovering myself, and thankfully, that journey has never ceased.
Why am I thankful that the journey has continued? Because it has finally lead me to resources, valuable and worthwhile resources to understand what I was lacking when it came to being someone who was indeed ready to be in a healthy relationship. And this is what I have discovered.
1. Explore what interests you
In episode #131, the philosopher Bertrand Russell’s approach to happiness was discussed in detail and at the top of the list of 38 ways to attain happiness was the idea of exploring what interests you. The key is sincerity of interest and the other component is to have more than just a few interests. For if one falls through or wanes, you have other interests which can fill the gaps and ease the loss in your daily routine of doing what you love and enjoy.
To put all of our time and interest into one basket of interest is to put a tremendous amount of pressure on that focus in our lives. Often that focus is a relationship, and while tending to and investing in a relationship that brings us much joy is a worthwhile interest, it shouldn’t be the only interest we have. Pursue your love of the French language, pursue your love of cooking, your itch to travel, working in the yard, caring for a pet, time in your art studio, anything that you are naturally drawn to and build a wealthy life of interests that fill your schedule without weighing you down.
2. Investigate and explore your barriers to healthy relationships
“The good news is that every morning we have the choice; not to be controlled by circumstances nor our past but by purposely designing our day, hence our lives better. Not to react to life but to respond with love.” ― Bernard Kelvin Clive
The work behind the scenes that nobody sees, the internal work, is the work that will reap awesome, lasting benefits enabling you to see and experience lasting growth from which you can continue to build on to build the strong and healthy relationships you want but perhaps didn’t know how to attain because you kept getting in your own way unconsciously due to either buried fears, insecurities, a past history that played a negative thought track that prevented you from seeing the amazing possibilities you were presented with.
Investing in ourselves by scheduling time with a counselor or an expert in the field in which we know we need to grow is an investment in a quality way of life that will not only equip you to attain true contentment but you will be demonstrating that to the world around you and providing an environment and a model of how to live well.
3. Learn how to communicate effectively
Some of us as children were able to observe healthy and effective communication habits. The most powerful communication that is often hard to see modeled is when two individuals disagree. How do they express how they are feeling, feel respected without attacking and move forward? If we haven’t seen this modeled in our own lives, it is up to each of us to learn, and thankfully, the information on this topic is abundant.
Ultimately, in order to communicate well, we must know what we want to say and why we want to say it. And in order to understand the “why”, which is actually a difficult truth to unearth, we must get to know ourselves. It sounds odd perhaps, but we need to understand why we are angry in particular moments; we need to understand why we are fearful; why we get defensive; why we get jealous, and look within ourselves to understand our unconscious reactions before we speak and do damage unnecessarily.
On the flip-side, we must not cower into ourselves and become passive. There will never be a healthy relationship that involves a passive individual if the relationship wants to grow stronger. We must communicate without attacking, express how we feel, be able to objectively observe our emotions, and listen with intent to learn and understand more deeply. Click here for a more in-depth post on each of these and more tips to effective communication.
4. Cultivate a healthy, strong social life
Our social worlds are often tied to our interests as well as our work, and as discussed in episode #36, while they take time to build, the gift is you feel free to be yourself and thus your social life becomes a place of enjoyment, pleasure, respite and an integral piece to your contented life. With a clear list of people to let go of (of which there on nine) and six people to welcome into your life, the episode reveals that it is who is in your life that will help alleviate your stress and you theirs as well as allowing them and you to be truly free to be yourself that will enhance all arenas of your life.
5. Actively pursue your dreams
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt
Let go of the have-tos and must-dos of the lives we see modeled around us whether by family members, the media or community and/or national institutions and instead dive into your dream. Perhaps your dream requires you to work on the weekends or each night after work a few hours. Maybe your dream prevents you from celebrating when Friday evening arrives, but enables you to come alive when you immerse yourself in the pursuit. Trust your dreams, not the fears that are thrown at you by the outside world that you are not doing what you should be doing.
People are intrigued and appreciative of those who have the courage to tap into something and pursue it doggedly. Not everyone will understand, but those who respect it and admire it will be people with whom you will connect with. And you, in pursuing your dreams will find a contentment that at first will be hard to describe to anyone who is simply following a path that everyone else is one, but then you will learn it is the only way to be truly alive and authentically you.
6. Cultivate self-compassion
When we look within ourselves for compassion, we give ourselves permission to be imperfect. We begin to recognize that we must first be kind to ourselves in order for others to know that is how we deserve to be treated. Yes, some will be kind anyway, as it is their way, and a very good way indeed, but for those who may attempt to push our boundaries, we recognize the attempt and can keep them out of our lives unable to do harm.
Often we are the harshest critics in our lives, as discussed in episode #122, but the belief that doing so is the best path to success is false. In fact, it is quite detrimental. Rather, being self-compassionate reveals a higher emotional intelligence as we are able to have a broad perspective on our circumstances and move on rather than get bogged down in self-criticism.
And when we are the cheerleaders of our own lives, when we are not the bully in our own heads, we look less to the outside world to build us up and are able to build healthier relationships as we can take care of our own emotional needs.
7. Become comfortable with validating yourself
If we do not first validate ourselves, approve of the life and the decisions we make within our lives, we will be constantly running around seeking approval from others, dependent upon it, desperate for acceptance, and we will only be harming ourselves, never able to find true contentment. As shared in a post in 2011, “You can succeed if nobody else believes it, but you will never succeed if you don’t believe in yourself.” But why do many of us fall into the trap of first asking if we should do something and instead simply trusting what we know will fulfill us, what we know will bring pure joy, what we know will make us happy? We want to bond with others, we want love, we want to feel love. This is human. But what it does is bonds us with people who we may not want to bond with.
Wouldn’t you rather bond with someone who was fascinated with your decision after the fact? After you had made the big decision to pursue that dream which may have appeared ridiculous to some, but made complete sense to you? Wouldn’t you want an authentic connection?
Yes, it is scary to refrain from seeking validation from others, especially from our parents, peers and those we may have been (or currently are) in relationships with, but when we forget about the power of our own self-approval, we limit the quality of life we could be living.
8. Build a life you love living on your own
“Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough.” ― Emily Dickinson
Cultivating a simply luxurious life centers around the premise of building something that is congruent with your authentic and most true self, letting go of building the life you think you should and upon incorporating the former rather than the latter approach, the quality way of living you seek will materialize.
A funny thing happened over the weekend. As I mentioned in a previous This & That post, I have been contemplating picking out a significantly smaller tree for my house this holiday season. Well, I in fact did just that, and as I look around my smaller house (nearly 1000 sq feet smaller than what I had lived in previously) after having decorated the tree, having added a few decorations to the tabletops (I found mistletoe!) and having hung the stockings for the boys (my dogs – Norman and Oscar) and myself, I still had energy and more money than previous seasons in my checking account for holiday expenditures.
When we begin to truly listen to what works for us, rather than gravitate toward what we’ve done, what has been done, what we’ve seen, what we know, we begin to curate a life that is in alignment with our values. We begin to curate a life that enables us to live and pursuit what we love and thus become enlivened from within. We are the gardeners of a rich and more fulfilling life, if only we will listen to ourselves.
When it comes to relationships, we will undoubtedly be involved in many different types, all having the gift of teaching us something about ourselves and the world. But when it comes to lasting relationships, relationships that will endure, however, keeping in mind that nothing is infinite, we multiply the happiness quotient for not only ourselves no matter what we may be doing but also for those we love.
~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~Under the Tuscan Sun: 20th Anniversary Edition by Frances Mayes, (paperback copy) (e-book edition)
~Visit Frances Mayes blog and website here.
~tour the house that was seen in the movie (which was remodeled in 2006) here. Frances Mayes house was not the set for the movie.