Two to Tango

It takes two to make a relationship.

I thought about that today. In order to have a relationship, there must be at least two parties at all times and when something changes in said relationship, both parties are considered to be responsible for said change. While I believe that to still be true, I’ve come to learn that it does not take two people in order to make one person act.

In a more specific scenario… In previous relationships and even in the beginning of this one, I always thought it was my fault that the other person didn’t want to do XYZ. That the other person wouldn’t love me enough because I could do this or that. That if the other person wanted to leave, cheat, lie, etc, it was because I was inadequate, that I had somehow caused him to do or act in a certain way.

But those are not true. Those thoughts are not true. While my behavior may affect another person, while my behavior may encourage someone to act a certain way, I am not making that person act. I am not making the decision for him to react, to behave, to do anything. If he cheats, lies, whatever, that is not on me. He chose to cheat. He chose to lie. He chose to act in a way that was detrimental to our growth.

So in the end, while it takes two to make a relationship, it doesn’t take two for someone to be an asshole. Or leave. Or do whatever else.

If there’s anything that I am learning in the course of my work, it’s that we must take control of our actions and our behaviors. We cannot expect someone else or the environment to change for us if we are unwilling to take a look within ourselves to make our own changes. There is always going to be an asshole out there and how we respond to that makes a difference.

TL;DR – You are not the cause of someone else’s bad behavior. They are.

Meaning

Who determines if your life has meaning?

Is it you? Does your impression on how you view your life make that determination? Should you do the things that matter the most to you, the things that make you happy? Because doing so would make you feel as if your life is worthwhile? If you are satisfied with what you have accomplished in your life, then your life has meaning?

Or does your life have meaning because others have found meaning in it? Does your life matter because someone else has been positively affected by your existence? That for whatever purpose you served on this mortal earth, just you being you made an impact in someone’s life?

What does it mean for your life to have meaning? What are we all searching for?

Grief

There are no words to describe it.

I went to a training for grief and loss two years ago. One of the things that I remembered is that these feelings can come from anything. When there is a loss, a loss of a life, a loss of a relationship, a loss of a stable life – everybody experiences grief. There are no “stages.” Everybody lives on a continuum that is forever changing. Nothing is constant and people will always go in and out of their feelings of happiness and sadness.

That is why I can say that there are no words to describe what grief is. Everybody, no matter how well connected to a person or how far removed, experiences it. The death of a community member, a celebrity, a friend, a family member… It doesn’t matter. Somebody somewhere is experiencing what that loss feels like. Whether the loss is expected or not, there’s no telling how someone can react.

Let’s just say that no matter how far removed, everybody feels something. I am feeling something. For everybody involved. Even the person who inflicted this pain.

Totally cliche, but life is short. Life is too short.

Change

People say one of the only constants (outside mathematics) in life is change. People will continue to change and be changed. The boy asked me the other day, after contemplating on the many years we had been together, “Have we changed?”

I would like to think that our experiences with one another and in our lives outside of one another have changed us, made us either better or worse than before. Sometimes it’s an experience we have that forever marks who we transform into. Sometimes it’s a relationship with another person that molds us into another being. Sometimes, it’s just the fact that you’ve eaten pizza rolls with a lack of exercise that forces you to change your life or change your clothes.

But when you have a relationship with someone, who changes? Is there a compromise? Can there be a compromise in which no one person “changes” who they are? I tell people that I’m quirky, I’m loud, I’m crass, and a lot of the things I do would probably be socially inappropriate. I know these things and I defend them because I have internalized these traits to be a part of who I am. If someone were to challenge me to do things differently, I’d have to think about what the purpose would be and really decide if I am modifying my actions and behavior for this person, or for the person I want to become. It’s not an easy task to distinguish between the two.

As I was typing this post, the entire stages of change went through my head. Also one of those social worker jokes.

“How many social workers does it take to change a light bulb?”
“Only if the light bulb wants to be changed.”

And in those cases, when the light bulb refuses to be changed, or isn’t ready to change, we back off. In the cases with whom I have relationships, I am realizing that I cannot do much if the other is not ready for change. However, I cannot be the only one that modifies myself if another is unwilling. Perhaps I am missing that value, perhaps there’s something that’s unclear and yet to be seen in the midst of this emotional fog. At the end of the day, this will still change me. For better or worse.

Values

This past week has given me a great challenge to identify and solidify my values. Some people are really great with their morals and convictions but then something else comes along. Sometimes, what becomes really difficult is to choose between two very different opportunities. I was given that option this week and through a lot of introspection, reflection, and processing with others, I came to several conclusions.

One, I love comfort and while change can be exciting and worthwhile, sometimes, it’s okay to want to stay in some place comfortable.

Because two, even if it is comfortable, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t opportunities for growth and challenges. They can be found anywhere and to be in a space where those options are unlimited is amazing.

Three, quality people are hard to find. Quality people who get your quirky jokes, have a love for cats, and support you and your growth, are hard to find.

Four, I judge myself and project on others way more than I should.

Five, it’s important to figure out what my values are because that will determine how motivated I shall be.

Six, asking for advice is not as scary as it sounds, even from people who you may not think to ask.

There are probably more, but that’s a pretty good list for now. And it’s quite possible that my values may change in a few years. Things happen and that can always shift my perspective on life. But for now, this is the one I’m working with and I’m pretty happy with that.

The Old You

I have been thinking about this for a while. When people go through difficult times, sometimes they want to go back to their “old selves.” For example, sometimes an event can change people, for better or for worse. When it’s for the worse, a lot of folks say they want to go back to the way they used to be. Except, I don’t think that’s possible.

Hear me out and hopefully this will make sense. No one can ever go back to an old self after such an event because the old self only existed because there was never such an event to begin with. We are forever changed by the things that happen in our lives and it can never go back to the way it was.

So we have to create a new version of ourselves. We can grab pieces of our “old” self to incorporate in the new one and it will never be the same. We can only hope that for whatever purpose these events had in our lives that we are able to grow from them and change, hopefully, for the better.

Everyday will be a new you. Everyday you will have learned something new and you can choose what you want to do with that knowledge.

Home

I got to talking with an acquaintance a few days ago. He regaled us with stories about his life and travels. He started in the UK, but moved to Japan for work when his son was still really young. Now, his work has taken him to the States and his family will be joining him. He had intended to return to the UK, but I suppose he’s realizing now it may not happen as quickly or at all.

Yesterday, I took a drive out to the college town. While I did not revisit many places, or any places of true significance, it felt really comforting to return to a familiar (shopping) area. I began to think about how I felt during the years I spent in college and how much has changed since I left and also, how my definition of “home” has evolved.

When I was a child, I had only known one home and it belonged in the apartment complex. Very abruptly, I had to start new, start in an unfamiliar area, with unfamiliar people and communities. I constantly yearned to return to my previous home, my friends, my neighborhood, the surroundings I knew, but I couldn’t. I was stuck for four years and during my teenage years of angst, hormones, and overly dramatic emotions, I never felt like it was home. I felt as if something had always been missing and couldn’t be fulfilled.

College had eventually become my new home. I felt comfortable. I felt safe. I felt as if I had everything I had needed and felt fulfilled. As I graduated and moved back into the previous house (aka parents’ house), I felt like I was going backwards. It didn’t feel like home again. I had to watch my actions and what I wanted to do. I couldn’t be me; I couldn’t do things as freely as I would have wished.

As I begin my transition to leave the “nest,” I begin to think about where my new “home” should be. To which area do I want to move? What do I call and what will I define as home? Will it be defined by geographical locations? The surrounding community? The proximity of the people I hold near and dear to my heart? Or will it be the sense of parental freedom? The ability to be free of housemates and be myself without judgment or fear?

What is a home?

What Do You Want?

Maybe in different cultures, this question is always asked, but at least in the one I’ve grown up in, this is something that’s been ingrained into everything that I do. Do something you love. Do something you want. If you don’t like it, are you at least working towards something that will get you to what you want in the end?

I have been grappling with this question for quite some time now and it’s been a very difficult process. While I may know some of the things I want, I know that I am also impressionable. If you tell me your opinion about a movie, show, etc, I will be biased by your reviews and it will become harder for me to create my own.

This also works in the same way in my life. While I believe that I want one thing, so many other people are telling me that things need to go another way and I start to doubt myself, I start to doubt whether or not what I had truly wanted was something I wanted for myself, or something that I made myself believe I wanted.

It’s hard to fully put into words, but that’s how it feels for me. Maybe it’s all in my own learning process – I need to be able to separate the other voices and try to hone into mine, without judgment, without fear, without doubt. My gut can tell me what I want and if I start to allow the other influences to muddle that up, everything gets muddled. At my core, I know what is right for me and that’s what I have to do. This is for me. This is mine. I have to own myself.