Grief is one of those things that can be complicated. While I’ve never sought formal training in being a grief coach or a grief therapist, it’s something that I’ve experienced in my years of practice. I’ve worked in hospice settings and in many hospitals where anticipatory grieving and grieving after a loved one has passed happened frequently. But there’s a significant level of less understanding for people who have lost a pet. Pet (especially dogs) are extensions of our families. My dog Sam was with me from high school all the way up until I finished my doctorate. He was a companion, pain in the butt, loyal friend, and a good listener. He didn’t have any safety awareness and tended to run up to cars instead of away. While he was brave in biting bigger dogs, his 13lb body shook from fear when there was a thunderstorm close by. He hated to have his paws touched but loved to find an empty lap to jump on and sleep. Overall, he was fairly mellow and didn’t have the explosive constant energy that was indicative of his breed. He usually slept through the night but on some occasions he wanted to go out every hour on the hour. Even after a year of him being gone I still miss him but I appreciate all the memories that I have of him. If there’s a doggie heaven I hope we’ll meet again.
I’ve always been somewhat of a hopeless romantic. I love the idea of a grand gesture for the holiday where someone declares their undying love and affection. This year has been pretty low key but also better than previous years. I spent quality time with my significant other without the hassle of trying to outdo anyone or prove that the actions of one day are an indication of the level of commitment of both partners. I saw a slew of v-day posts on social media and this year I was particularly annoyed with the amount of meaningless advice that attached women posted and addressed directly to “single women.” The “wait and see” approach to finding a significant other is outdated and is rarely ever effective. One thing that I’ve learned is the importance of letting go of comparisons to other relationships. Everyone is different and there’s not a “one size fits all” approach to relationships. It’s important to build your relationship the way that you and your partner want it. Create your own personal definition of fidelity and commitment through discussion with your partner and be ok with the fact that it may look different than other relationships. There’s too much at stake to not be honest with yourself about what you want and what you expect from a partner.
This weekend has been one that has brought a myriad of emotions with it. It was the one year anniversary of my dog passing away and I woke up this morning to the news of the passing of a basketball great that unexpected and took the whole world by surprise. I remember watching his games growing up and feeling inspired by the work ethic that he displayed. His success was a product of hard work and also being a team player. He was loved and respected by millions but the gap that he and his daughter left in their immediate family will never be filled. It’s one of the things that’s just hard to wrap your head around. Life is so short and times like this remind you to hug your loved ones just a bit harder.
For the longest time I considered myself to be terminally single. Nothing and I do mean nothing actually worked out. There were a whole lot of frogs, the most recent being an older retired guy who didn’t want to talk about anything other than the cars that he was restoring. While I like old school cars, I felt my brain cells dying after the first half hour lecture about the kind of parts that he was ordering. Needless to say, it was great motivation to proceed with the plan to relocate out of the area. I knew that I needed to do something different and so I did. An opportunity to explore relationship possibilities just randomly landed in my lap and I took the chance. The end results have been that I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process and it’s given me the opportunity to finally see what it’s like to have a significant other. It’s been a major learning curve and also outside of my comfort zone but I wouldn’t change it for anything. I’m settling down and the idea of finally putting down some roots doesn’t feel as paralyzing and confining as it used to.
There’s a lot that’s been going on and lately I’ve been thinking about the importance of compatibility in a romantic context. I’ve always been someone that hated the small talk part of getting to know someone. I’d rather ask deep personal questions that one should never ask on a first date that tend to illicit an awkward reaction. One of the most important compatibility aspects is the fact that both partners have shared outcomes. While they may not share the same favorite color or food, their values and life goals are compatible. They are on the same page about monogamy (or the lack of it), life philosophy, and other important big picture stuff. It gives them something to bond over and talk about because they’re on the same page and they see similar things in the future. Having increased positive interactions can help them in dealing with the everyday relationship stresses. It’s not always glamorous, but compatibility on a deep level works wonders for relationships success.
Sometimes I think that it’s easier to process through writing than it is through speaking. There’s the opportunity to delete, revise and edit in the writing process and talking out loud doesn’t come with those same privileges. I remember either hearing or reading somewhere about Reason, Season, and Lifetime people and I’ve noticed a similar phenomenon in my own life. It’s fairly easy to meet seasonal people. You cross paths with them while doing routine activities like going to work or attending a class. Being in a familiar place again has been eye opening and also challenging in a way that I had not anticipated. There’s something to be said about feeling the push and pull of relationships that seem to hover between the Reason and Lifetime. It’s one of those grey areas that can be a bit anxiety provoking because you don’t quite know what the outcome will be. There can be emotions that catch you off guard because the process is full of surprises along with disappointments. While you may have a preference, there’s not guarantee that the cards will play out the way that you want them to. The process isn’t linear because relationships and emotions aren’t linear and they rarely fit into a nice neat little box. The perfect solution in your head is at odds with the conflicting emotions in your heart. There is no easy answer because the questions are too complex. It’s almost like making a house out of cards and wondering which card will crumble the whole deck. One thing that I can appreciate is that the process makes you take an honest inventory of yourself in the context of relationships. Time can often be the deciding factor of which category the relationships will land in.
I can appreciate constructive criticism. It’s one of those things that can be difficult to hear but also very necessary. I don’t always want to be told what I’m doing wrong but I know that I want to improve so sometimes correction has to happen. I recently had a conversation that triggered a paradigm shift for me. It was an extremely rare occurrence but I have continued to feel the ripple effect of what I learned. Life is rarely fair–even though we want it to be. My dating life (or lack thereof) is proof of that fact. It’s interesting how often I’ve been told to keep my standards high and that settling will end in pain and heartbreak. Standards give us a way to quickly eliminate possible options because we think/know that it would never make us happy. However, there are plenty of women holding out for a significant other because they have yet to meet one that meets their standards. They are well rounded, intelligent and have it together. And yet they crawl into bed every night alone with their standards intact. Standards aren’t the best to cuddle with. Let’s be honest. There has to be a way to circumvent this unfortunate circumstance in my life before it continues on for another decade. Enter my recent conversation where I was told point blank that I needed to change. That I had to do something that put me ahead of everyone else because personality wasn’t enough. And the truth is that it’s not really fair, however, it’s reality right now. There’s a proverbial fork in the road. I can (figuratively) die on the hill of my standards or I can make some changes and adjust my mindset. Either way is hard but only one option gives a legitimate possibility of getting what I want. So it’s time to make some changes.