What is Family, Anyway?

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As I write this blog post I am currently sitting on a plane that is taking me away from one home and towards another.  Every year at Thanksgiving I make the aeriel trek home in order to eat some delicious food, see my family, and eat more delicious food.  I am never disappointed.

Despite the fact that I love my life in California, I am particularly morose this year as I journey back towards the land of sun and sand.  Being together with everyone has reminded me how much we all have grown up (and how much we haven’t) and has made me realize how much I miss out on when I don’t get to see my siblings for a year at a time.

And yet, even with that year of time between being together in person, I experienced nothing but complete settledness.  Even with every single one of us branching out and living lives so completely different from one another, the moment we are back in our childhood house we immediately fall into our relationships with ease.

For those of you who are also able to experience this, how lucky are we?  We are able to grow and expand and experience and fall and succeed yet still have a place of safety and ease on which to land and take a break from everything in our regular lives.

The dictionary definition of family is “all the descendants of a common ancestor”.  However, this succinct phrasing cannot encompass the true meaning of family; having individuals in your life that you simultaneously love, can’t stand, and every other emotion in-between but overall, can’t imagine your life without.  Family means…everything.

FAMILY means acceptance.  There are five total children in my immediate clan, and two of them are married (hint: it’s not me).  Whoever walks into the door of my parents’ house opens a Pandora’s box of personality types, backgrounds, strengths, and issues.  I love so many things about every single person in this eclectic circle, and every single person has a particular way that they can Drive. Me. Up. A. Wall.

Yet, because of the bonds shared since womb-hood, I cannot imagine cutting any of them out of my life.  No matter how annoying, stupid, or irresponsible any of them can be, I accept them whole-heartedly.

The great and unbelievable thing about this is, is it is true in reverse.  I know 100% that I do and say things that drive my family nuts or rub them the wrong way.  There is no possible way to avoid doing so after 28 years of being around the same people.  However, I know that no matter what I say or do short of cold-blooded murder, I will never be cast outside of the fold.  And there is absolutely no better feeling than that.

FAMILY means constructive criticism.  While family may accept your imperfections, they are not averse to putting in their two cents when they feel necessary.  Yet in opposition to most criticism thrown around in the world, these thought-provoking comments or conversations spring out of a place of deep love and desire for the best for whoever is receiving the notes.

This Thanksgiving, I had finally gotten fed up with one of my siblings and had snapped a curt retort.  My grandma simply stated “cool it, you” as she walked past.  Straightforward, short, to the point, yet it completely shook me out of my annoyance and made me realize that my vitriol was not necessary.  Sometimes a simple reminder from people who love you regardless is just the thing you need to change a negative attitude or a habit.

FAMILY means safety.  The reason that I am able to fly so far from the nest of my youth is because I know without the slightest shadow of a doubt that I can always, 100%, rely on my family if I were to need help in any way.  Even with all of the pulls on their attention, if I were to ever get so desperate as to need a place to stay, I would have one.  If I ever need to vent and not worry about sounding like a Negative Nancy, I can call on any number of ears and take advantage.

Anything and everything that might crop up in life does not seem like a big obstacle because I have access to an incredible network of strong individuals that will do anything in their power to make sure that I am ok.  This knowledge is a powerful antidote to any fear or hesitation I might feel over any roadblock I may face.

FAMILY means abnormal normality.  My dad has been known to make up short bizarre songs on the spot.  My brother decides to speak in random accents at unforeseen times.  My sister loves to reference anything I do wrong in her eyes as the act of an “uncultured swine”.  We 100% bust out the Disney songs when we ride in the car, and my voice is usually the loudest one.

All of these quirky, random, non-normal aspects of every single person in the inner circle makes my family, family.  Every single family in the world has their weird, zany, creative, off-the-wall, embarrassing habits that they would rather the outside world not know.  I say, however, that we should embrace that weirdness as OURS.  There is a distinct sense of pride in ownership, and your family deserves that pride as much as your car or your house.

As a teacher, I am privy to the heartbreaking reality that my family situation is rare.  There are too many children and adults that go through life without the love, acceptance, criticism, and sense of belonging that they need in order to thrive.

So for those kids and grown-up kids, who is family, anyway, if it’s not blood?  Thankfully, we can still get all of these benefits from families that we build ourselves.  Actively seek out people that can offer this support to you, and make sure to offer it in return.

So, if you are in possession of this sense of family, cherish it.  If you are not, build it.  Life is better with our people, and I think we could all do a little bit more to make sure our people know how awesome they are.

Because honestly, without the bonds of family, what is life, anyway?

 

 

 

Reasons to Embrace Being Single

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Whenever cocktails and girlfriends (or even just the latter) are in the same room, the conversation almost invariable makes a stop on the subject of men, or more accurately, boys.  Specifically, bemoaning the fact that we can’t find any good ones, causing us to be subjected to singledom for eternity (or so it feels).

Couples holding hands seem to pop up everywhere we go.  Pictures of engagement rings fill our Facebook feeds.  Movies like “The Notebook” and shows like “The Bachelor” get shoved in our face.  Everything couple-related becomes glaring reminders of the missing piece in our lives.

Being in a relationship, the right relationship, is an amazing thing.  However, as amazing as a relationship is, we have to remember that there are some damn good things about being single, too.

You can do whatever you want.  This is the most obvious and most touted perk of singles everywhere.  But I feel like very rarely do people actually take advantage of this freedom.  Think about it.  There are truly no limits.

Take travel, for instance.  Do you want to go overseas and experience the exoticism of Asia?  You can!  You have no one else’s schedule to worry about, no one else’s budget, no one else’s preferences for the trip.  If you want to have a super high-end luxury week with spa pampering and endless cocktails by the pool, you can make that happen.  If you want a three week trek through the jungle sleeping in a tent with the native people, you can do that too without worrying about what someone else would want to choose.

Even on a smaller, daily scale, this luxury shouldn’t be taken lightly.  You can eat takeout for dinner if you want.  You can make a four course meal every night.  You can meet up with an old friend at a moment’s notice.  You can stay in bed all day or go out and socialize all night.  It’s truly 100% up to you.

Being single in your 20’s and 30’s is really the only time that you can actually take advantage of this fully.  There are no academic obligations of high school and college.  There are no work obligations that you didn’t fully choose if you have a career you love.  There are no stigmas attached to anything that you might enjoy, because you are now surrounded by adults and not asshole teenagers.

So many people waste singlehood on Netflix and sweatpants on the couch.  There is SO MUCH LIFE to live, and it’s ridiculous to skip out on it because you don’t have someone to experience it with yet.

You can discover yourself.  This is another cliched mantra of the single ones, but it is so true.  In the past, I have been guilty of taking on my boyfriend’s interests and letting my own slide.  However, this really was because I hadn’t solidified my own interests before I got into a serious relationship.

Now that I’ve been on my own for a while, I’ve tried tons of different things and discovered what I love and what I can do without.  Just because something hasn’t been a part of your life up until this point does not mean that it can’t become a part of your life now.  For example, I played no sports in high school (sadly).  Now, I play beach football, turf football, and kickball.  I absolutely love it, and while I am not at the level of athleticism I would prefer to be at, I am getting better with each game that I play.  Had I not ventured out of my comfort zone, I would have never discovered that I actually like to play sports.

So many people don’t try things because they either ‘think’ they won’t like it or because they are simply too snobby to give something new a try because, surprise surprise, they are going to suck at it at first.  We have to stop getting so caught up in being perfect at things all the time.  It is only when we allow ourselves to embrace the possibility of falling that we will be able fly.

You can build yourself.  When you don’t have someone else constantly in your space, you tend to have a lot of time to think–if you don’t crowd out these valuable hours with mindless TV and/or social media and/or other various wastes of time.  If you spend some quiet moments alone reflecting on yourself as a person, both in and out of a relationship, you may come across some things that you don’t like.

This is hard to take.  We all like to think that we are just a little bit more perfect than those around us and if anybody needs to change, it’s the other guy.  But admitting that you have things to work on is arguably more admirable than swimming in self-denial and staying the same, even if you are a decent person to start out with.

In my reflections lately, I’ve noticed that I am a pretty selfish conversation participant.  Whenever someone has something to say, I immediately try to relate to to something similar that has happened in my life.  Not that trying to relate and find common ground is necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes letting that person have their moment in the conversational sun is the more kind and less egotistical choice.  While this is just a small example of something that I feel I need to change personally, there are many other things that we could allow ourselves to get better at if we just acknowledged that some maintenance needs to take place.

Beyond making  cosmetic adjustments to our temple, we can also build on whole new sections.  I have always admired my sisters for being able to play guitar, and a couple months ago I drug out my old acoustic and vowed to spend more time playing.   That lasted for a little while, but it has since faded away as it is not a fully solidified part of me yet.  However, I know that if I really put my mind to it, I can achieve success in that arena, and I plan to make a more concerted effort to make it happen since this is something that I do actually want to add into my life.

Overall, being single is a chance to mold yourself into the person that your future partner will jump at the chance to be with.  So often we admire qualities in other people and desire them in our relationships, but forget we cannot expect roses if we are offering dandelions.

Embrace the freedom.  Embrace the challenge.  Embrace the endless opportunities.  Our years of singlehood will be far less than our years of partnership, so squeeze every last drop out of awesomeness from your solo ventures, and don’t be sad if it takes you a while to find The One.  In fact, take some time to be thankful that they haven’t materialized yet, because you just get a little longer to date yourself.  And lucky for you, you’ll always get the rose.

What you Need > What you Want

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Lately I’ve been feeling out of sorts and kind of lost in my life.  Rather than moving through my life with purpose, I have felt pulled around by whatever whim takes me at each moment, and it has started to become a real mental sticking point for me, with many minutes spent spiraling into different avenues of negative thoughts.

I thought it was simply the fact that I am still single at 28 years old, and therefore have wasted many a long hour wishing that a decent man would magically appear from the crowds of douchebags, fuckboys, and idiots that seem to make up the male population here in California.  Then, I imagined, I could finally feel fulfilled.

Yet last night, I indulged in the ultimate single girl pleasures: I sat around in pajamas with my girlfriends, drank wine, watched movies, and played amazingly hilarious rounds of Cranium and Trivia.  It was the best night of my life in recent memory.

You see, what I thought I wanted was what I saw other people in my life doing, and therefore I allowed my soul to become bereft and focused on all that I have lacking in my life.  In reality, what I need was just a simple human bond created from laughter and shenanigans, and right now that need is being filled by my amazing girlfriends.

If you focus on how your needs are being filled rather than how your wants are left lacking, you can find a whole other level of peace and contentment that will permeate your life and eventually lead to your wants becoming subtly sated.  So many times we fixate on how our wants are being supposedly ignored, and we can allow ourselves to totally torpedo how our needs are being amazingly fulfilled.

This can also go the other way.  There are times when we find our wants being granted with fervor.  You want a boyfriend?  Boom, exciting new man pops up.  You want a flashy looking job?  Boom, high-end salesman.  You want a active social life?  Boom, instant party every weekend.

Yet when all the dust from our want tornado settles, we find ourselves starving from lack of need fulfillment.  Perhaps that boyfriend doesn’t truly provide the love, support, and laughter we had imagined.  Maybe that flashy job is actually pretty thankless, and leads to long hours and stress-induced ulcers.  And that active social life could literally be the only thing that’s preventing you from finding out what you really enjoy doing in life as well as keeping you from getting to know yourself on a deeper level during times of solitude.

This concept can be seen even in the most basic necessities of life.  We can stuff our face with all our dietary wants yet leave our body nutritionally starving and yearning for more.  Our life needs to be balanced between the things that we want and the things that we need, yet so often we don’t see that if we satisfy our needs, those needs become our wants.

It is such a common concept, but our mind really does magnify what we focus on, and our momentum can carry us further than we ever thought possible in both a positive way and a negative way.  Like begats like, and if we are focusing on how our life is a pile of poo, the poo will expand and block the view of any other color but brown.  It’s something that we inherently know, but it is so easy to forget.

So instead of bemoaning how your wants are not being met, think about how your needs are being satisfied (or not).  Bring it back to the basics.  What foods do I eat that are good for me, leave me feeling awesome, and I actually enjoy?  Do I really actually enjoy the sick, over-sugared feeling after stuffing my face with a donut or do I love the crunch of roasted brussel sprouts AND feel amazing afterwords?  Do I leave moments with my friends feeling fulfilled and happy or am I fixated on the romantic relationship that I don’t have the entire time?  Do I leave my job every day feeling satisfied or do I race out of there like a bat out of hell every single day?

Really, it all boils down to authenticity and actually, legitimately, 100% knowing ourselves.  If we take the time to sit quietly in true solitude for a while and really ponder what we like, when we feel good, and where we want to go, we would have a greater understanding of when something is a true need versus when something is a simple want.

We spend so much of our time focused outward that our external wants become the focus.  Bring it back.  Look inside.  Get in tune with the fluctuations of yourself and what really, truly, brings you joy.  Those springs of true happiness are what need to be nurtured, not chasing after the gushing waterfalls of other people’s lives that seem so much more enchanting than your tiny trickle.

Because here’s the thing…if that tiny spring is nurtured, eventually it picks up steam and those looking from the outside will only see the roaring waters of self-satisfaction.  Everyone has the capabilities of creating their own wondrous, rainbow-inducing, awe-inspiring waterfall.  And it starts with those legitimate needs becoming our focus and main source of fulfillment.

So take a step back from the whirlwind of thoughts and outside influences and take some time to get to know your truth.  Focus on meeting your needs, and in true domino effect, those stalwart needs will quench your wavering wants; eventually, you’ll wonder why you even yearned for some things in the first place when all along they were right in front of you.

Friendship: Life’s Greatest Gift

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The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.

-Hubert H. Humphrey

Yesterday was a terrible day at work.  Not only have I found myself panicking slightly over keeping up with three different grade levels, but I was publicly (via e-mail) chastised for reaching out to the staff (via e-mail) at my new school in order to introduce myself and hopefully establish some tentative connections.

If there is one thing that I cannot stand, it is illogical actions and reactions.  If I see the logic in something, even if I don’t like it, I have no problem acquiescing to that request.  However, to have my friendly gesture immediately squashed and frowned upon seemed to be the epitome of injustice, and I found myself in tears, huddled over my desk like a 12 year old who just got rejected by her first crush. (Note: Yes, I am aware I cry very easily-thanks Mom-something that I hate about myself but have come to accept).

Of course, being that I am at a new school with little to no shoulders to (literally) cry on, I contented myself with texting the whole saga to my friends from my other school, and was gratified by their responses brimming with outrage, support, and love.

There was no judgement for my hasty tears (even though there was plenty from myself).  There was no “Well maybe you should have thought about it first”.  There was no trite responses and quick changes of subject.  There was simply friendship.  And what put the cherry on top of the cake was the fact that one of my friends stopped by my school during Back to School Night that night simply to give me a hug and chit chat for a few minutes before jetting off to her date that night.

Reflecting on the whole shebang, I am still irked at what transpired (although I actually received more introductions and support because of that negative response than I believe I would have if none had been sent, so there was a silver lining).  However, I am so incredibly grateful to have made such amazing friends in my time here in California, and it made me appreciate anew how incredibly important real, true, deep friendship is.

We all have those friends that we see from time to time, and every encounter is filled with laughter and fun memories.  However, those aren’t the moments when friendships are made strong.  I have people that I could hang out with thousands of times who I would feel as close to day 40 as I did day 1.  Epic memories are great, but it’s those small, fleeting moments of interaction where your guard begins to fall where true friendship is forged.

True friendship is listening to your friend cry over anything that is upsetting her and offering not only an ear and a tissue but but advice, support, and a gentle outside perspective.

True friendship is going to your friend’s Mary Kay launch party even though you have no interest in their products and but plan to buy one anyways.

True friendship is grabbing your friend’s dry cleaning because he overslept and delivering it to her at work because you always give yourself extra time in the mornings and today, he needs that suit for his big presentation.

True friendship is telling your friend exactly what you think about those jeans and her butt (and helping find a new outfit if it’s bad).

Overall, true friendship is really about true love.  To borrow a phrase from the Bible, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

True love is simply operating at our highest capacity.  When we are with the people that are the ones we’ve chosen as our family, we WANT to be at our best, even when they accept us at our worst.  True friends bring out the amazing parts of us that we may not even know existed.

If you have real, pure support behind you, you can do anything.  Simple words of encouragement can do wonders when we are bogged down on our journey, and knowing someone is within shouting distance on their own trek through the jungle truly invigorates the soul on the nights that the journey gets rough.

If you are lucky enough to have such friends, take a moment to pause and give thanks.  Treat your friends well, and show them the love and support that they always show you.

If you have yet to find such friends, take a moment and dissect what you offer as a person.  Are you willing to inconvenience yourself for friendship?  Are you ok with giving in order to receive?  Are you ever in a place where you let your authentic self shine?

Life is hard enough without having to go through it alone.  Thank god that we have the ability to create a network tight enough to withstand any storm.  Friendships are life’s emergency plan, and even though we will hopefully find our best friend and romantic partner all wrapped up into one, there is something pure about those solid friendships that don’t venture into the romantic territory yet are every bit as loving and committed as those we pledge our life to.

Friendship is the world’s greatest gift.  Treasure it.  Take care of it.  Give your own.  And always, always remember that a simple token given in love is worth more than all the riches in the world.

 

 

Why Tinder has Ruined Dating

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Last week I downloaded Tinder.  Last week I also deleted Tinder.

To be fair, the only reason I downloaded it in the first place was because I was fairly bored (aka being lazy) and all of my friends were merrily swiping away all around me.  It was a moment of weakness in which I was like “wellllllll ok, I’ll play”.

Just to be clear, I am not looking for men to sleep with; notches on a bedpost do NOT appeal to me.  I want to find a quality man that I am attracted to and who obviously shares those feelings in return and eventually build an amazing life with that person.  (But Hannah, why are you on Tinder then?  Yeah, Yeah, I know).  While I do not want to meet my future husband off Tinder, I also was curious to see what was out there because frankly, the dating pool in California majorly sucks.

With this goal in mind, the only thing I put in my profile was my height and the tagline “if you’re not ready to take me out on a legit date, don’t even bother.”   This, I thought to myself, should weed out any potential booty solicitations.

What I didn’t take into consideration, however, was the fact that I was supremely busy and didn’t actually have time to go on many dates.  And every message I got asked me when we were going to meet up for drinks, or coffee, or dinner.  It was overwhelming!  Yet also exciting-so many men who wanted to meet me?  Really?? Oh the possibilities!

The same sword that slays the dragon can also cut the hero, however.  The fact that there are so many options at your literal fingertips seems glorious at first, until you find yourself discarding this one or that one due to minor issues that you wouldn’t even have known about yet had you met them in real life.

The seemingly endless options that we have available at any moment has made us picky to the point of ridiculousness.  Why would I settle for THIS guy/girl who has 9/10 of my wants in a mate when I could just swipe a couple hours more and possible get a guy/girl with 10/10?

Choices are not the enemy, but they definitely make commitment harder and loyalty a treasure more precious than diamonds.  The endless option atmosphere that permeates almost every aspect of our lives, while amazing, is making us fickle and SO much more shallow.

This was made incredibly real to me when I went to fair by myself.  I had spent the day intermittently working and swiping, and had had several different conversations with eligible Tinderinians who fit my initial attractiveness criteria for swiping right (which means they were HOT…I have high standards.  #sorrynotsorry.).  At the fair, I ran into one of the guys running a booth and we struck up a conversation.

This guy was not my usual type.  Scrawny, blonde, a smoker, not unattractive but definitely not movie star status, and just over my height.  Yet for some reason, I found myself attracted to him more and more as we talked.  Our vibes just clicked.

We kept in contact, and each time I get a text, I am always excited.  Which completely weirds me out.  He is NOT someone I would have EVER pictured myself with, and I’m pretty sure that this won’t actually go anywhere, but just the fact that I wouldn’t be opposed to being taken on a date by someone I would have never, ever swiped right on is indicator enough that it’s time to take dating back offline.

Online dating has made us hyper critical of everyone else while simultaneously complaining that we can’t find a man or woman who loves us for who we really are.  We are quick to dismiss people we may actually be quite compatible with simply because they don’t fit what we have envisioned for ourselves or because we fear what other people might think or say.

Online dating has also made us scared to actually start something in real life.  I have been in so many situations where I had a great conversation with a dude only to have it end with a “see ya around!” rather than a “hey, let me get your number.”  Granted, some of those men might have just been friendly and/or already taken, but I get the feeling that the vast majority find it a lot easier to miss a match than to get shot down in person.

Additionally, online dating has made open sexuality permissible.  If the initial messages aren’t sexual from the start, its becoming more and more acceptable to introduce sex as a topic on the first date.  I went out for drink with one guy, my age, from Tinder last week, and by the end of the first cocktail he mentioned that (R rating alert) he wished I was sitting on his face.  I had known him for less than 12 hours and he felt that this was an acceptable addition to the conversation.

This is contrasted to a date that I had on Saturday night with a guy who was older than me by 7+ years.  He checked about my dietary restrictions, made reservations at a vegan friendly restaurant, and bought tickets to a show that I’ve wanted to see for forever.  There may have only been 7 or 8 years between those two men (and I met them both on Tinder), but there was a world of difference in how I felt about how I was treated.

So what’s the solution?  How can we balance all the amazing things this new generation has to offer with all of the pitfalls that come along with it?

Honestly, it comes down to you, the individual.  You decide how you will view the world, and you decide what you’re going to accept and what you’re going to reject.  It may take more work and more time, but you WILL find someone who has decided on the same values.

When you find someone who gets you, truly gets you, it doesn’t matter how many matches you made or how many right swipes you may be losing out on.  All that matters, truly, is how THEY make you feel and how much you elevate each other to become your best selves.  And that, friends, is the best match you could ever make.

 

 

 

Dear Men: Court Me like This

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Once again, surprise surprise, my thoughts have turned towards relationships.  One of these days I’ll be able to shake it off like Taylor Swift and mull over some other profound thoughts, but for now, my mind is stuck on love.

Specifically, I’ve been thinking about what I as a woman have the right to expect out of a courtship and eventual relationship.  So many times we get used to being treated poorly and we think that this is normal, and then something happens that makes us go Oh!  So THIS is what being treated like a lady feels like!

The standards for dating, in my eyes, have been playing a game of limbo for years: how low can you go?  How low can you go?  And yet when you try to stick to a higher principle, it can seem discouraging because that immediately shrinks the eligible bachelor pool down to 1.5 men in the nearest 100 mile radius.  Yet I have decided that when I am ready for another go-around on the roller-coaster of romance, I will not settle for less than I deserve.

So what, exactly, do I feel that I (and all women) are entitled to?

Women deserve to be courted.  And yes, I mean courted in the old-fashioned sense.  Women warrant feeling like the man wants to pursue them and is willing to put in extra effort to make that known.  This means paying for things, that extra text to make sure she gets home safe, making sure to compliment her on her outfit/makeup, and overall making her feel like she is wanted.

In most social settings, you can really tell who likes you and wants to potentially date you versus someone who just wants a piece of ass.  This was made abundantly clear to me yesterday when I had one guy at one bar approach me and start a nice conversation, then offer to buy both me AND my friend a drink.  At the next place, I had a guy talk and flirt with me for hours without offering anything.

In the current hook-up culture that we have going on, being courted is rare.  Yet if a guy really wants to get a quality girl, he has to put in the time and effort that it takes to make that bid for her affection.  Trust me guys, it’s worth it.

Women deserve to know where they stand.  I have seen endless amounts of memes where the woman is freaking out because her man hasn’t texted her back in days and she has no idea if he still likes her or not.  If a man truly wants to seriously date a woman, he needs to make his intentions crystal clear.

Speaking from experience, not knowing how someone feels about you for weeks or months on end is a shitty feeling.  I am all about being busy chasing your own dreams, however, busyness is something that can be communicated.  If a man likes a woman but simply is strapped for time, that needs to be something that is addressed.  Quality women will have things going on on their own and will more than likely be just as busy.  However, days without communication can be misinterpreted if they aren’t given the proper heads up.

Women deserve to keep their bodies to themselves.  I am all about an amorous sack session, but that should not be expected right away.  As a woman, sex is a powerful bonding experience, and it should not be viewed as normal to give that privilege away cheaply.  If a man is seriously interested in a woman, he might hate the thought of waiting, but he will do it without making her feel pressured because he respects her and wants more than just the cookie.

Sex is amazing.  Yet if you were to compare sex just for sex versus actual lovemaking with someone you care about and are connected to on a deeper level, lovemaking will win every time.  You get all the heated passion PLUS a deep level of trust and intimacy that cannot be found stumbling home with some random from the bar.

I am all about women having the freedom to enjoy whatever they want whenever they want with whomever they want.  However, once you’re ready to pursue something real, it’s worth it to hold out; those who want ALL of you will wait, those who don’t, won’t.

Women deserve to feel beautiful.  I don’t care if you are a solid 4 or a 10+; no matter where you fall in the stereotypical beauty scale, the man you are with should make every effort to make sure that you feel like a million bucks.  No woman will ever get tired of hearing “WOW” when she steps out the door or a low whistle when you bend over to grab your purse from the floor.

Feeling beautiful is so much more than feeling like your guy loves your body or your face.  Feeling beautiful is feeling completely seen by someone else, and knowing that they like the view.  Feeling beautiful encompasses a woman’s whole being, and a man who truly wants to pursue the whole woman will gladly make that known.

Women deserve effort.  This is my last point because I know that sometimes, the things that I mention above are hard for guys.  Some guys don’t make a lot of money.  Some guys would rather choke than say what they actually feel.  Some guys are awkward and have no idea how to interact with a woman properly.  No on is perfect.  However, no matter how far away a guy is from a streamlined dating machine, if they want a woman bad enough, they will put in the effort.

This effort might come in the form of planning out an entire date of free things.  Cost-effective, yet the time it takes to think everything through is work.  Effort might come in the form of someone who hates words mustering up the courage to simply state “I like you”.  Effort also always comes in the form of communication; no matter what your hangups, quality women are infinitely able to work with them if they are made clear and attempts are strongly made to work through them.

Overall, the goal of courtship is to see whether or not this is someone with whom you can build a quality, lasting bond.  If there is no effort put in to obtain this partnership, than there will more than likely be no effort to maintain the connection.  A relationship with a good person is a privilege for both men and women, and its benefits will correlate with the value placed upon it.

So men: if you aren’t ready for a real relationship, don’t try to add notches on your bedpost with women who are.  And if you do want to try to win the love of a real woman, do it right.  Court her like she is a lady of old and you are her knight in shining armor; when a woman feels desired, respected, and safe, there is nothing that she will not do for you.  Put in the work to earn it, and the ROI will be more than you could have dreamed.

 

Quilting Happiness

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Recently I had a conversation with someone where they helplessly said “I don’t know…I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I’m just not happy with anything in my life.”  Hearing that broke my heart; living unhappily is such a terrible existence.  And yet, so many people live the majority of their lives in a permanent state of misery.

Sometimes, this misery becomes so ingrained that it doesn’t even feel like misery.  I had no idea that I was living such a wretched existence until I separated from my ex-husband and felt little inklings of happiness stretch like tentative rays of sunshine after a storm.  While I certainly knew I wasn’t ecstatic, I had no idea how bad that life really was while I was in it.

In this moment, if you were to ask me if I was happy with my life, I would unequivocally answer “yes.”  This may seem strange if you know my present circumstances: recently laid off, freshly single, one million minor crisis’ happening at work on a daily basis.  And yet, overall, I am joyful.

This got me thinking: WHY am I so happy?  What is it that I, or anyone with a constantly positive state of mind, do or don’t do that contributes to this feeling of joyful contentment?  After some contemplation, I settled on several key factors:

Have a reliable, positive, and multi-leveled network.  This is such a big component because we as humans are wired to interact with others.  However, you cannot have all surface acquaintances or all deep bosom buddies; our connections need to be varied.  I have a couple of extremely close friends, several good friends, and lots and lots of positive shallower connections.  Going through my recent breakup, I lost one of the major keystone connections in my life, and had he been all that I had, I would have been completely at a loss.  However, with the help of my close and good friends as well as my continued positive interactions with everyone else, I have been able to stay afloat and keep my spirits up.

Putting in the time and effort to create and maintain these relationships may seem like a burden, but I firmly believe that if you do not have quality relationships in your life, it is impossible to be truly happy.  However, these relationships must be reciprocal; you cannot simply mooch off of someone else, and you should never allow someone to mooch off of you.  When both parties put in the same level of effort, that is when this piece of happiness falls into place.

Exercise.  As much as we like to deny the hard science of how our minds work, putting in some sweat equity on a daily basis is a serious piece of the happiness puzzle.  Although starting a workout is pretty much the worst thing ever, finishing it is one of the best feelings in the world.  Your endorphin’s are kicking, and anything that negatively effected you throughout the day simply fades away into a haze of “ahhhhhh that was awesome”.

And lets face it, it’s hard to be happy when you don’t like what you see in the mirror.  Presenting the best version of ourselves physically primes us to be the best version of ourselves mentally.  It’s difficult to be miserable when you reach for something and notice a little baby bicep flexing as you bring it back.  Hard work is hard freakin’ work, but it seriously boosts your mood to see results.

Work towards something specific.  Throughout my entire life, I have always had something to work towards.  First, it was my degree.  Then it was finding a job.  Then it was my Masters.  Now, I am working on getting my real estate license and have plans for an admin credential and possibly a life coach certification within the next ten years.  The point is, I am never resting on my laurels.

If you are working towards a specific goal, it is obvious if you have achieved it or not.  And working to get that accomplishment tucked under your belt gives you a sense of purpose, which contributes to happiness.  If you know you are on the road to achievement, you feel excited about getting up each day and have the gumption to persevere through the rocky patches.

Actively seek improvement.  I am constantly looking for ways to make myself a better person and teacher.  If I hear of an awesome teaching strategy, I try to implement it in my classroom.  Outside the confines of my work, I am constantly reading all different types of books and online articles as well as listening to podcasts on various topics.  I love getting into deep conversations about the world.  All in all, I am always trying to be better than I was before.

Truly desiring to make yourself better requires a humble acceptance of yourself as you are right now.  However, acceptance does not mean stagnation.  Just because you have accepted that you have slid into the ditch does not mean that you stay in the ditch.  Seeing yourself grow and looking back to see how much you’ve changed for the better is a big piece of long-term happiness.

Love the majority of your day.  There are very few parts of my day that I dislike.  I love breakfast.  I love jamming to my tunes as I drive to work.  I love getting organized for the day.  I love interacting with my students.  I (usually) love the gym.  I love writing blog posts.   I’m ok with learning new real estate things (although I’m not going to lie, I’ll be pumped when it’s over).  The only things that I truly hate about my day are when I have some students act like a-holes, or when something goes awry that I did not forsee (usually traffic-traffic puts me in a TERRIBLE mood).

If you genuinely LIKE/LOVE 80% or more of your day, it is highly unlikely that you will be unhappy.  So many people tie themselves to jobs, people, or circumstances that they hate, and then wonder why they are miserable.  If you find yourself unhappy with something, make moves to change it.  Money, “security”, and comfort are NOT worth a constant state of misery.

Be ok with YOU.  You have to be ok with who you are as a person before you can truly settle into a state of contentment with your life.  I recently went through a period of time where I thought that my career goals and life aspirations were not good enough because I saw other people passionately pursuing other things that seemed ‘better’ or that might bring in more money.  My happiness severely diminished during that time.  When I mentally slapped myself and replanted my foot firmly on the soil of MY dreams, my joy returned.

You are a unique person.  It is impossible to accomplish the exact same thing that someone else has accomplished, so it is silly to even try.  You know what gives you joy, you know how you want to live your life, and you know what gives you a sense of purpose.  When you fully embrace what YOU want, not what the yoga masters, hardcore businessmen, or spiritual gurus tell you to want, THEN you can embrace your personal happiness.

Overall, your happiness is like an old, hand-pieced multicolored quilt that has been in your family for generations.  It blankets everything.  It is handmade.  No one else has one just like it.  Sometimes, a square or two might come loose, but if it’s a quality quilt, those squares aren’t completely lost and there are still enough squares to cover up with until the damage gets repaired.

If you find that you are unhappy with your life, take stock of all of the pieces.  Magnify those squares that give you joy.  Mend the squares that let in the draft.  Sometimes, an entire square might have to be replaced, and that’s ok.  Happiness IS something that you have complete control over, no matter how much we lie to ourselves and argue that we do not.  Take charge now; in the end, our money will be spent or given away and our possessions will break or change hands.  It is only the intangible-our relationships, our integrity, and our happiness-that we will get to keep for all time.