An email from a boyfriend to me (2010):
You said that some days I try to tear you down and some days I'm really supportive. You said that I'm always looking for you to fail. The fact of the matter is we don't belong together. Nobody I know would have given you a chance, or if they had they would have used and abused you. I work really hard to build up your entire values system from scratch and try to share with you how I see an incredible relationship works. Not just an average relationship, but an absolutely incredible one. Very few women ever get the opportunity to be with a guy who will do so much for them or work so hard for them and love children and be capable of committing to them and avoiding strip clubs and other stuff like that. You are in a position many women would kill for. And you came into it with an incredible amount of baggage and with a history of making horrible and destructive decisions. You have one of the worst records with guys. I'm not looking for you to fail, or hoping you will fail. I want to succeed with you. But the fact of the matter is my risk analysis came up RED! I'm putting myself in an incredibly vulnerable position with someone who's history tells me they will fail epically. But I'm putting my heart under a guillotine anyway. Don't you think it would make sense to react strongly to signs that the blade was going to fall?
It really hurt when you got mad at me for being frustrated with having to raise you. You are like a child in so many ways and I am the father you never had in a lot of ways. That's not how a relationship is supposed to be. I felt horribly taken for granted so I explained to you in no uncertain terms why it is that I feel hurt on a daily basis and why I see you did not prepare for this relationship. It's like I have built up a relationship dowry of millions of dollars and all you have an IOU. That sucks. But I work really hard to make it work. To try to see just the good in you that I know is there and become numb to the past. I am not an emotional person but in 30 minutes last night you completely turned my emotions upside down.
You dug your way into a dirty fucking little cave of pain and disgusting things and I am the only person who ever tried to help you. And last night you got mad at me for being frustrated about the fact that my woman was in that cave in the first place. But I stay! I stay here with you and hold your hand. I want to leave all of that behind and show you how happy and great the rest of the world is. I want you to bury your head in my arms and we will leave the place you made. I know what you have done. I know things about you nobody else does and I know how disgusting and horrible your life has been. I always wanted a virgin and a happy shiny life. But I won't leave you and I want you and I want you to be happy. It sucks not just being taken for granted but being attacked for having an emotional response to doing what I do for you. I don't get anything out of this. You don't pay me. I have never asked you for anything. I've never used you for anything I just give to you endlessly. I give you time and caring and love and all those things you have never done anything to earn.
I hate saying that. I hate that it is the way that it is. I wanted a perfect happy little relationship but I can't have that with you. I have worked so hard to do the right thing. And last night I felt like you were attacking me for that. That sucks. But I won't give up. I won't leave. Not without you. I want you and I want to have a fantastic relationship with you and I have prepared for it and I work hard for it every day.
Maya Angelou once said “When someone shows you who they are, believe them”. I have heard Oprah add “the first time” to the end of this quote indicating that sometimes we take too long in the Believing phase. At the beginning of my relationship with Travis that lasted two years, he communicated concerns that he had about my situation – about the unchanging situation of me being a divorced single mom whose ex-husband had visitation rights. At the end of my relationship with Travis, his concerns had not changed and he took some time to write some closing thoughts. Regarding his efforts in the relationship, he always felt like he was doing too much, more than his best. Really he did his best and at the end of it all, love remained on the sidelines. It never played. “I care about you a lot and always wanted to make you happy. I tried very hard to do so until the point where I realized that I could not emotionally do so without great cost to myself… the situation wouldn’t change so I found myself revisiting the same hurtful emotions….I didn’t leave you. Bhakti, it’s not like that, I was forced out because I couldn’t bear to stay. I think those are two very different things. It’s not my fault that things are the way they are and I wish that it were not so. I know that you made some extreme changes in your life after we met and I am very proud of you for that. I feel bad that you did so much to change and I couldn’t meet you from my side. To my credit, though, I did give up a lot of hopes and expectations and left a number of desires and expectations behind, which was very difficult for me. I just cannot go one more step, I need to be able to have an unimpeded future, and then I think I can forget the past. But it is so hard to forget when it’s still in the present”, he said.
Over two years of a committed relationship with Travis, he was hesitant to call me his girlfriend and never said he loved me. He never accepted me as a divorced single mom whose ex-husband had visitation rights. He always thought that my son’s future was bound for failure. The present was always clouded by the thoughts of a worst case scenario future. I cannot help but look back and think that Travis missed out on the present and on love. Love is not selfish. Love is about meeting someone in the middle. It is about not living in the past, enjoying the present and looking forward to the future. I always wondered why it was so hard for my boyfriends to utter the I love you phrase. I spent many days doing so much to change. I do not regret that because it has shaped the woman I am today. The change was good. I am thankful that they did not utter I love you because I would have wrongfully assumed that they were also doing so much to change. In some of these cases, I was good enough but the timing was not right. In other cases I was not good enough in their eyes and the timing did not matter. When timing and acceptance both align, then something special is revealed.
I learned something else from this relationship – Travis knew when to walk away. Though we all hate giving up, we should recognize the moments when something is in fact dead and make the choice to not let the situation control us. Sometimes space and time gives us a chance to remove the rose colored glasses and see things clearly. When something is dead, just leave it. In time, you will know whether you have made the right decision.
The name Travis is a fictional name used in substitute of the real name.
I went to a Santana concert recently with a friend. Santana said “Your mind is a magnet. You do not attract what you need or what you want; you attract who you are.” I immediately felt a sense of gratitude for the friend that had so graciously invited me to the concert and began to reflect on the rest of my friends and professional associates. The phrase “you are the company you keep” kept playing in my mind. You can change friends as you transition from childhood to adulthood. As I have grown older, the company I have kept has either evolved or changed. Are we the company we keep? Who are we?
Live in Self is about being present and aware. Walk with me through a short mental exercise.
Examine you and your circle. Keep things honest here. You are doing this alone, and there is no need to lie to yourself.
If you do not like the answers to the questions, think about whether a change of scenery would be of benefit to you. When someone is doing something bad, people often recommend rehabilitation. In rehabilitation, one’s scenery is changed. If one isn’t serious about the change, they leave rehab and return to their old routines. You have to want the change.
Norman Vince Peale said “Change your thoughts and you change your world.” Do not underestimate the role that your company plays in your thoughts and ultimately your success. Bad company can paralyze your present and crumble your future. You cannot have high expectations for your life and low consideration for your company. Not sure of the character of a person, look at his friends. This is what many employers do when evaluating prospective employees. To some extent, your friends define and influence who you are and where you are going.
You choose your company. There is a mutual acceptance of who we surround ourselves with and in some instances, both people are on different levels. Think of someone you really admire and then take notice of their inner circle. You are either elevating your friends or causing their decline. You friends are either elevating you or causing your decline.
CHOOSE to surround yourself with people who believe in you, people who think, people who have vision, people who motivate you, inspire you, and push you in a positive direction. You choose!
Finally, be the person you want to meet. If you are friends with people who represent a desired end state for you, it is in your best interest to demonstrate positive and upward evolution lest they think you are not worth their company.
It is very important to have a personal safe haven to go to from time to time. What is a personal safe haven? It is a place of refuge and comfort where you can go to reflect, to be renewed, to find peace, to let down your guard, to be calm, to find solitude. This can be a physical or mental place. Your safe haven can be anything you need it to be.
As you are considering what your safe haven might be, perform self-discovery with regard to what feeds your soul and what speaks to you.
Some examples of personal safe havens are:
• looking at a picture of a place that you enjoy
• touching a physical object that promotes positive thoughts
• listening to a song
• going to a meditation room
When you feel like the world is coming crashing in around you or when you just feel out of balance, retreat to your safe haven for 5-10 minutes. Refocus, reprioritize, and find your center. Then return to life.
If you go into any home décor store, you can usually find décor with the phrase Keep Calm and Carry On. Keep Calm and Carry On was the phrase on a motivational poster produced by the British government in 1939 after the start of WWII for the purpose of raising the morale of the British public in the aftermath of predicted mass air attacks on major cities. While the poster was never put on public display, it is now is a popular phrase displayed in many homes.
Sometimes I go to my personal safe haven to keep calm and carry on.
I was on a plane once during the evening and had the opportunity to see a beautiful sunset on takeoff. My first instinct when I see something I like or something that is beautiful is to grab my phone and take a picture. What are my children going to do with a picture of a sunset?
I am not sure there is a use for it, but nonetheless I look at a lot of life through the phone screen. I have over 10,000 cell phone photos on my computer. As I write this, I can hear you gasping.
When I saw the sunset, I pulled up the phone and tried a few shots but I couldn’t get any that looked like what I was actually seeing. Then I had an ah-ha moment.
I have recently been trying to learn ways to live in the present, and this was the perfect opportunity. Technology was causing me to miss the moment. The sunset was most beautiful through my own eyes and if I continued looking at it through my phone screen, I would miss out altogether.
I put my phone down and chose to be fully present in that moment. I chose to live! I savored the sunset with my own two eyes.
What opportunities have you had lately to live in the present?
You do not have to wait until January 1st to make resolutions. Any time of the year is a great time to make goals. Let us get started!
1) THINK AT THE MOUNTAIN TOP: Begin by finding a quiet place to sit and reflect with pen and paper in hand. Think about changes you would like to make in your life. Take notes as you think in the areas of physical, mental, spiritual, and social fitness. Start with large “10,000 foot” goals.
2) GET TO GROUND LEVEL: Break down the “10,000 foot” goals into smaller actions. Focus your actions on forming and establishing habits and behaviors that will serve you for a lifetime. Choose your goals and actions wisely – make sure they are things you can stick with and factor in variety and breaks. Ensure each goal has a time-activated plan associated with it.
3) LET OTHERS KNOW: Discuss your list with your loved ones. This can be a child, a friend, a spouse, a parent or a co-worker. Let them know you would appreciate their encouragement along the way.
4) ACCOUNTABILITY: Select a trustworthy reliable friend(s) and ask them if they will be your accountability partner and mentor. This will help you stay focused on your goal.
5) VISIBILITY: Print a small copy of your list and keep it in your wallet or purse. Email a copy to yourself and post a copy in a visible place in the house that you visit often. Write your action steps in your daily planner, calendar, or schedule.
6) START NOW: Start following the plan immediately. Focus on the process and take each step one at a time.
7) NO BLAME ALLOWED: Look beyond “I cannot”. Focus on “I can…” and “I am”. Do not allow yourself to blame other people or circumstances for not carrying out your steps – Identify your self-defeating behaviors and deal with them instead or continuing to do them.
8) REWARD YOURSELF: Pencil in rewards in your planner as well for when you complete steps or accomplish goals.
9) RECOMMIT: From time to time, you might fall off track with your resolution. I like this one! – Use the next Monday as the day to recommit to your goals. Allow yourself a weekly chance to get back on track with your goals.
Ms. Bhakti Mary
I am an optimistic, positive, generous and driven author who is passionate about self-improvement.
The essence of who you are does not lie in the past. What matters is what you are willing to do NOW. You are the presence.