Let’s CREATE Our Relationships!

For most relationships outside of child/parent, there is absolutely nothing inherent about these relationships. We fall into norms of society, sure, but relationships are full of assumptions and expectations that do us no good.

This is why it’s incumbent upon us to CREATE our relationships, to decide what they are and what they are not and I believe this is the new and very exciting frontier in relationships. This goes for all areas of relationships, from what our shared goals are to fidelity to sexuality, to whom we will be for each other.

We’ve outgrown our roles, we live in a new world of gender equality (it’s here, even if it’s not complete by a long shot), of sexual relations being completely chosen by the participants, of all kinds of alternatives to what used to be that are increasingly out and in the open every day.

Empower yourself to create your relationships. Do not settle for old roles, old assumptions. We’re not built for them any longer. What we’re built for is exploration, finding what we truly want, respecting each others’ journey, growing and being grateful that we are living in this time of great opportunity.

Robin Williams and Depression’s Beacon For Us

Robin

I’ve been vacillating between crying and on the verge of tears since I heard Robin Williams died.  Things happen in life and you run these things through your own particular filters. They take on a life intertwined with yours, because once they happen, the rest of their existence is completely subjective, completely in how they occur to you.

How his death has occurred to me is as such a sad reminder of how hard we are all trying. Trying to be loved, trying to surround ourselves with happiness so we don’t face our own demons all of the time, trying so hard not to get hurt.

We’re never more safe to be with than when we are laughing, but it’s as if laughter has died for a few days, as if I’m learning that laughter will never be enough, no matter how wonderful it is, no matter how much I admire and love people who make me laugh and think and feel. My uncle Joel comes to mind, my very own Judd Hirsch character from Ordinary People or Sean Maguire from Good Will Hunting complete with sweater, beard, pipe and tweed jacket, great wisdom and a fantastic sense of humor. He has no idea how much I love and admire him, how him just being alive comforts me!

We’re really all trying. We seem so dangerous to each other and so vulnerable, that our facades, our acts seem so necessary, but we’re all so much the same beneath them, all trying. When someone yells at me, argues with me or looks at me funny, they’re really not trying to hurt me, that’s not their primary goal. They are trying to stave off their own pain and anticipation of pain.  I see it in my sons’ anger so clearly (their tool of choice for staving off pain). They’re beautiful little souls trying to protect themselves and I’m so sorry that they know from pain, that their life of trying has begun.

Accomplishment, laughter, success are sometimes just what they are, but so often they are what we are using to stave off the pain and the fear of the next hurt that’s coming, which is why their effect never lasts. We are still fooled by each others facades, because we are primarily operating as evaluators, on guard, protecting our vulnerable hearts.

I can get very frustrated with the impact of depression on relationships, but when more clear-headed, it occurs like a beacon. We are missing the point. It is truly the blind leading the blind, as we lead each other into these lives of trying, when all we really need to do, all we are and we are in denial of, is love. I think everyone I’ve ever known with depression or biploar disorder has known this so much better than I have, buried in the necessity of my own protection. All it takes is for us to see that it is here, everywhere and stop putting so much stock in each others facades. Imagine living in a world where the illusion that we are not surrounded by love went away.

Easy to say, challenging to do when the tide of this is in the early days of turning and there is so much in the world telling us that fear and hate and danger are everywhere, but if we choose it, it is ours.

Happy Anniversary

rings

I have been in awe of my 13th anniversary with my wife Rosanna all day. Blown away by what it takes for two people to create a marriage that I am so proud of. Not because it looks perfect, because it doesn’t, but because it’s been such a challenge despite both of us loving each other so much.

(My) Marriage has not been easy. We throw ourselves into it knowing so little about what it’s going to be like and what it will take to incorporate all of the changes in life. Kids, mortgage, finances, being close or near to your family, the growing stakes in your careers, simply just trying not to be an a#@h&%* all of the time because this life isn’t easy. It is such a daunting endeavor.

But all of these things fashioned me into a new person, a version of myself that I needed to become, that I am proud to be. If it wasn’t for the challenges and for being with Rosanna, someone I respect, love and admire as much as I do, someone who has always made me want to learn how to be a better man, whose heart has always been so perfect to me, if it wasn’t for our vows and our commitment to not just stay together, but to figure out how to keep our hearts open to each other despite life happening, despite being changing people, despite it being hard sometimes even in the midst of so many blessings and sometimes despite ourselves, I wouldn’t have become the person I am today. I credit my marriage, above all else, as being the structure for me to really grow up (and I’m still doing it).

When my wife tells the world that she loves me more than ever, after 13 years – and for those of you who saw us at the beginning, you know that first act was tough to follow because we were so in love – you could never know just how much that means to me, how grateful I am for what it takes and what we’ve been willing to do to make that so. I’m proud of us.

I love you Rosie, more than ever. Happy Anniversary.

The Outrage Cycle

outrageOutrage is a byproduct of being diseased with fear, anger and pain. It permeates our minds and bodies and looks to infect others, exacting the same cost to them that we are suffering with. This disease creates delusions, judgments, gross generalizations and a rabid hunt for evidence that proves the outrage right. No matter what, whether we are offending others or recruiting others with our outrage, we are serving the disease more than the cause we are championing. We are spreading outrage. We are infecting with fear. Sadly, we are creating more sadness, pain and violence. It is a terrible cycle. Look and you will see this. It is likely how we became outraged in the first place, being infected by the outrage of others.

I hope I’ve been through enough outrages in my life and paid enough of a price to not be fooled by them any longer. All of my outrage did little but put me in the middle of more outrage, often much more than I could handle.

To all those outraged, I send love and understanding for the pain you are going through. It’s terrible to be as upset as you are. I trust you that your outrage is for a good reason and I understand that sometimes it seems like there is no other way.

I promise, outrage is optional and it’s just not very effective for anything other than creating more outrage. It couldn’t be more effective at doing that.

The only thing we can do with outrage that is in line with our hearts and intentions for a world of peace and understanding is to feel it. To feel the pain of tragedy, of injustice, of unfair dealing. You are exquisitely human. Love, however difficult it seems, that you are sensitive to the pain of knowing something that you see happening is not in line with our better selves, that we function in this miraculous way. Then, if you are still called to a cause, go do something, take committed action for your cause and leave the against and the outrage behind.

Think, for a second, what if those we were “against” could do this too?

Be the first one. Spread that.

How Death Can Be Inspiring

Today, The Relationship Circle is proud to introduce you to fellow life coach Brett Avelin. Brett is a warrior for love and healing and we are glad to have his voice here to share with you. You can learn more about Brett and his coaching practice here.

unnamed

Death is inspiring. There, I said it.
What, you say!?! Inspiring? Yes, inspiring.

Is there emotion in it? Yes.
Is there pain or grief or sense of loss in it? You bet.
So what does it inspire then?
A deep look at life and how we are living.

Death of someone close to us makes us reflect on what is truly valuable in our relationship to people, time and things.
It also inspires us to make changes that we would not have been moved to do otherwise.
Death inspires us to prioritize what really matters to us.

One of the reasons death inspires me is that it is such a great reminder of the impermanence of all things and relative unimportance of most things.

When I was a young boy riding reluctantly on a schoolbus and feeling scared and alone I was suddenly calmed and soothed by the idea that all this in front of me will pass sooner or later. I was able to accept my current circumstance better because of that thought.

Death is a face smacker.
It’s a wake up call in the highest order.
It allows very little pansy footing around what we actually dealing with here on planet delusion where we spend a lot of our time.

Planet delusion is absorbed in the day to day doings.
It keeps us on the surface talking about bubble gum things.

Inspiration arises naturally after the crap we have downloaded into our mind that clogs the central operating system has been cleared, deleted, or set aside.

To further expand on the possibilities that death can have us ponder I have listed below the five most common regrets from the book The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying, by Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse in Australia who routinely asked her patients about their regrets.

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

How often have we all made choices that were based on someone else’s expectation or idea versus listening and trusting our own? Look at your relationship, your work, where you live and see if those are your actual choices or are you there because of someone else’s ideas about what’s best for you. Some will quickly defend this idea and say we would all be selfish clods if we lived how we actually wanted. Are we all really that afraid of our natural self and how it expresses? The closer we can come to living the life that is true for us, the happier we will be.

In watching my father in his last phase of life he was clearly living a life based on choice versus should or have to. Did everybody cheer for him and love that? Not necessarily. Was he living from what was true for him and happier for it? Absolutely as I see it.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

Ware reported that she heard this from almost every single one of her male patients. All of the striving men out there for the big kill. All the hours, all the years putting in overtime for the hope of a better life or the golden retirement concept. Does it ever really pay off? Do you ever really get ‘there’?
I have made the choice since I was young to value time more than money. Some of this was born out of fear, but most of it comes from what is actually true for me.
Our time is precious here. How are you spending it?
With a few conscious changes your relationship to time can be a much more enjoyable one.
Are you spending your years toiling, striving, and grinding away?
Is it hard to you to figure out another way?
This area is something I wrote about a few weeks ago and is so pervasive today.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Feelings are what we live for, period.
Everything we want and everything we look to avoid is secretly driven by how we anticipate we will feel by doing so.
Expressing our feelings does not mean we are a hot mess walking around on two legs. It means having the courage to access and express how we are feeling. Living in a culture that lacks an emotional vocabulary let alone fluency makes us all feel like crazy people inside as we try to navigate a hidden world on the inside while appearing ‘ok’ on the outside.
What feelings do you have bottled up that are wanted to be expressed or simply felt?
This is an area where it is especially helpful to have a trusted ally because we can be so blind and disconnected from our bodies.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Staying in touch with the people we FEEL (there’s that word again) connected to in life is a primary way of support that aspect that we are all going for. The trap in this is that we all tend to rely on these connections too much and lose the chance to claim our life on our own terms.
Is staying in touch with friends important to you? If so are you doing it? The years they do pass.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Notice the work ‘let’ here.
Happiness and inspiration are here for the allowing.
We don’t create happiness, it is here naturally when we let ourselves settle in to the situation that is in front of us.
There is ALWAYS something for our mind to be upset, worried, or treating as a problem. Even on all inclusive vacations you will see families squabbling away. You will always find something wrong, even in paradise.
I am allowing myself to be happy in regards to my dad’s passing because there are so many reasons that it was the right time for him to go.
Can you let yourself be happier?
Where could you allow yourself to be happier?

Live Large, this is your life.
Brett

Respect Relationships

holdinghandsMarriage and intimate relationships are extraordinarily challenging.
We are given few tools, if any.
We have few extraordinary examples of success.
We have almost no culture of feedback, evaluation and improvement like most institutions have.
We have love, we have attraction, we have expectations and we have hope and that’s about 5% of what you need to be successful.
Forgive yourself.
Forgive them.
Respect the nature of this endeavor.
You can give yourself and others the understanding that you have a lot to learn, that we’ve barely scratched the surface, whether we’ve been practicing for a year or 20.
You deserve a lot of credit for even trying.

Feelings (woah, woah, woah)

indexThe greatest tyrants of this world are not people.

They are feelings.

Feelings always win. Feelings are relentless.

If the feelings we relate to as negative don’t attach themselves to some action of destruction that you actually execute – of the competition, of your rival, of those we perceive that have hurt, disappointed or threatened us – they wage a war inside and win, because you are now the one trying to hold them back.

They steal your health, your vitality, your joy, your freedom, your life. Can you feel it right now as you read this?

This even happens with “positive” feelings. Joy and love not felt fully fight with us inside as well. We cut off those feelings all the time, fearful of feeling too good. Our fear of being hurt (again) comes up and often cuts them off. They want to happen, too. Can you feel the cut short love, joy and happiness inside of you?

You must be a worthy companion of your feelings and the feelings of others. They just want to be felt fully. They have a purpose, to flow freely and you can master them, you just need to be aware of their primary purpose and facilitate it. You absolutely do not need to attach any actions that hurt others to facilitate feelings. You just need to let them express themselves all the way to their end.

This is worth spending as much time and practice on as possible. Journal, put it into your workouts, vent to a trusted partner, scream into the pillow, break something you can afford to break, have a good cry, doodle the feelings, purposely put yourself in front of art that has you feel things. And understand that this is what other people need too and just let them have their feelings more often without correction. Try to keep from making agreements and taking words too seriously that are coming from emotion. Try to keep from fixing the person because you are uncomfortable with the feeling they are having. Try to keep from judging the person by the feeling. Their tyrants are running the show and will not be stopped! If they finish, the person will probably come back pretty soon

Small, But Not Too Small

blackholeI was watching Cosmos last Sunday. At a certain point, we were traveling towards the center of a black hole (called a dark star today), where gravity is so great that nothing, not even light can escape it’s pull, it was suggested that entire universes could possibly be found within the center of a black hole, that our universe could conceivably be within a black hole. At that moment I felt so small I got scared. It was a jolt.

I looked over at Demetrius and found myself relieved that he was asleep. I wanted to protect him from feeling as small as I felt.

Interesting instinct, right? Let’s look deeper.

Feeling small is part of the human experience. Our fear mechanism, that something can threaten us, helps keep our fleshy, vulnerable bodies alive. In some ways it creates an arrogance, that we are important enough to keep living. And then when you think of it, this mechanism going wild is the root of why we don’t get along very well, too. This self-importance. The idea that what I want, see, think, feel is most important right now, the source of conflict.

So, overall, it seems like we need to feel small, that it’s integral on an unconscious level. But not too small. Too small creates a whole other set of problems. Existential fear. We desperately need order to our lives if we become aware of how insignificant we are and how being subject to forces indifferent to us create our whole existence. This is what creates the desperate need for god and the drive to create science, the need to congregate in groups for security, to create our parents as omniscient, to focus on the threat of the “other” (it makes us feel more secure to have good and bad, right and wrong). If we had no order to things, nothing that makes sense controlling how things go, it becomes impossible to keep the illusion of our importance going.

This importance thing isn’t seeming all that important anymore, just a fear-based construct. I’m going to peek inside this insignificance more, allow it. It seems way closer to truth than the order I’ve been assuming that I live under. This is not to say that I’m just going to drop everything and forget order, but it seems valuable to see the strings that keep this thing held together, so we don’t need to limit ourselves to their constraints.

Does this bring up anything for you?

You Are Not Your Behavior (and neither is he/she)

I don’t remember where I first heard that, but when I did it started a powerful process of forgiveness and understanding that is still ongoing. At a certain point, when we are ready, we can finally see that the things we did that got us scolded, corrected, that bent others out of shape was not who we were and we ultimately were not being scolded, just our behavior, but neither us or the scolder could likely see that at the time. We can start looking objectively and releasing ourselves to the world from behind our common and habitual behaviors.

Our behavior so often meets others at their behavior. But because we run our lives without this distinction between our behavior and ourselves, we build narrow relationships, whole systems of punishment and ideas of identity that balance on this faulty evaluation.

People become related to and labeled as drug addicts, womanizers, criminals, self-centered, lazy, etc.. The person becomes synonymous with our mental or cognitive illnesses or issues as well. We are not very good at seeing the person behind the behavior, because we don’t want that behavior present in our lives, it makes us uncomfortable or threatens us. The best way to keep it out is to slap the label on and then fight the behavior or avoid it altogether. It’s also the best way to perpetuate the behavior, because that person’s sense of disconnection from others grows. For all of us who got the idea stuck in our heads that we were bad kids, do you remember how that label affected you? How it still might?

We defend our behavior as ourselves. Our parents did when we built up the umbrage to question them on their ways. Do you remember what it was like when you were in full swing of being critical of your parents? How right you were, how uncomfortable it was to see them keep doing or saying that thing? It may still drive you bananas. Their behavior was not them either. More often than not, their love for you met their fear for your safety and well being and that is just rarely a pretty place to come from and so largely misunderstood. The fear comes through most of all and we are impacted on a visceral level. We are either seduced or repulsed by each other’s fear. You have long-standing issues with them or other people in your life, but are you any more willing to disengage from your own behaviors and look objectively at whether they really work for you, your commitments and your relationships?

It’s a rare person who is willing to have their behavior questioned, rarer still to find someone willing to question their own without it being part of some old self-flagellation ritual (the bad kid). No one is really up for looking when it hits a place where the hurt that birthed these behaviors was so bad, so clear to the person either consciously or unconsciously (the hurt and the automatic behavior coming up without us even noticing it). The reaction, defending will always show up loudly and clearly. It takes powerful practice to keep going after self-defense kicks in and just look, without stopping from feeling made wrong or dominated.

See your heart open when you notice your pull to judge someone and you just allow that to pass and try to get present to the person. We’re judging all the time. You can try this on line for coffee, riding the subway, sitting down for a meeting, looking at photos of people you’ve heard of on magazines or the web, when your caller ID pops up and you know who’s calling. All of their behaviors that helped you form this judgment, all of the ways it worked or didn’t work with you and your reactions has us staying at this level of engagement with others, with ourselves. It scuttles the possibility of freedom from behaviors that reinforce pain, fear, disconnection, lack of intimacy, acts of violence. It keeps us chained to fear, to avoiding discomfort and to self-defense.

The stress benefits alone from not getting caught up in judgments and reactions is worth it. Try it and get back to me. It takes practice.

From love,
Gregg