Saturday, January 14, 2017

Choice and Control

 Choice and control is a popular phrase in the modern animal training world. It is the forefront of training and is currently leading the way in progressive thinking and training techniques. It is also as true a statement for humans as positive reinforcement is. Human 'training' is no different from animal training, except we tend to call it relationships with our friends and family. Every interaction is teaching a response based upon a consequence or action. History is built, and to change patterns, people need to feel secure in their environment to yield the best successes.

For example, sometimes opening up to someone is easier when you can write down your words and send them. It feels safer...some people say it is the chicken way out. That you should have those conversations in person. It's true that most communication is in body language...but in this day and age, sometimes "hiding" behind our words and screens may be more than just hiding. It could be offering choice and control to the other person. If you know that they are shy, or could become nervous and uncomfortable, isn't it respectful to give them the option to read something, and then have an escape from it? And truly respecting someone enough to give them that space and never ask for anything...some times we can't help our feelings. And some people can hide from themselves and ignore what they feel, and live with the inevitable agony that comes from hiding part of yourself. I have found that instead of pretending feelings don't exist, that if you can accept them, and sure, sometimes that involves telling the object of your affection and being rejected (I can speak from experience that it's not the end of the world and it's not that bad to tell someone you love them and then to not hear the words back.), through this process you can grow and it's not torturous.

A good friend of mine confided in me a few years ago about an instance of this where someone confided via email to her that they loved her, had for years, and expected nothing from her, they just needed to tell her. Then, just a few days later, a follow up email was sent when there was no reply. It remarked how obviously she was uncomfortable and had made her choice, and that they would leave her alone. For the next few months, about once every few weeks, she would receive a text from this guy, saying that they missed her and hoped they could talk again soon and have things go back to how they used to be. She never replied.

He was her uncle by marriage. Understandably Amber was put off by this exchange, the age difference was about a decade (not remarkable in itself) but she had grown up with him as family and at times he was more of a father figure to her than anyone else. In an instance like this, I have a hard time saying that perhaps he should have suffered in silence, it is better to be open and honest about it, but in my opinion his approach was not from a place of "true love". There were requests, in a way there were 'demands', when she didn't reply he got upset. She told me that she had never realized what being betrayed by love felt like, she had been betrayed by men before, and by friends, but never by love. But that's how it felt.

Obviously she gave me permission to reference this emotional part of her past, she knew I was thinking of writing this book and thought that the lessons she learned through it could be helpful through my writing for someone else one day. It's hard to put yourself out there, even harder when you know you are risking a relationship with someone important to you. What do you do when you feel that connection drawing you in close to someone, and you know you'll wind up hurt? Because as confident as you are in your self worth, you know that they will never love you the way that you love them. You tell yourself you don't have a crush on them. When they pop into your thoughts, you imagine something else to replace the thoughts of them, maybe a large boulder rolling down a hill, maybe an eagle taking flight and soaring. Months later and that hasn't changed the way you feel, so you admit to yourself that you have a crush but you won't allow yourself to day dream about them. You'll allow a thought of them but you just let it drift into the wind when it comes into your brain. That fails, so you admit that you might love them.

Then you get to know them better than before, each day you talk you learn more about them as a person and you fall more in love. You take some time apart from them, knowing that they are in a different place, and they let you have the space, they don't even know what you're going through. It feels like it's worked until you see them one day, and you catch each other's eyes and the intensity of their gaze knocks the breath out of your lungs and you realize then and there that you will always choose them. You will always love them. Do you tell them? Do you continue to love them in silence? After a few years, the hope that exists in the deep crevices of our soul continue to pester us to say something...just put it out there. And once you do, it feels like a weight has been lifted. Even if they can never reciprocate, and will never feel the same.

But the second that you take offense to their silence, or ask for a reply, you take away their control. That's not love...that is selfishness. Insecurities are natural in all of us, and selfishness to an extent. But love, true love, is putting aside all of our faults and weaknesses and being there for them. Allowing them the ability to say nothing, or to walk away without feeling like they are being rude, these are options that they have through the power of a text. No awkward pauses in conversation, no sideways glances at the door looking for an exit, no uncomfortable squirming in their chair because they don't know what to say...perhaps emotions thorough a screen aren't the cowards way out...maybe they are the kindest thing we can do for another person.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Silence in the moment

When you find yourself sitting in the silence, and smiling at a memory, it could be argued that this is a wonderful thing. When the happiness that you feel fills you to the brim, and feels as if it starts at your toes and every ounce of your body, every atom that comprises your being, and every whisper of energy that makes up your soul is so incredibly overwhelmed with peace, and calm, and blissful joy...that is truly remarkable. Even more so when you're in the middle of a firestorm and you are able to draw upon this positive energy and light in your life.

Being a "good person" is something that I have tried to explain before in carpool debates with a good friend, Sven. As a phrase, it is very vague, and trying to describe what that looks like, isn't necessarily that simple. There are a lot of grey areas in life, and yes, in religion as well. It can be debated that it's simple and black and white; "you believe what I believe and you're a good Christian, you'll wind up in heaven." There are many differences between each religion, with essentially one similar concept; there is a power that is greater than us that gives us hope for peace in the afterlife.

I would be shocked if no one challenged me on that statement. Religion is so very complex and variable, and open for interpretation (even though the Ten Commandments were carved in stone, their existence is debatable, so yes, I don't think that anything is "certain". Whether you believe that Jesus was simply a man spreading good words and encouraging people to treat each other with respect and kindness, or if the Bible is true verbatim vs a collection of stories to illustrate philosophies and ideologies, or if you believe in the earth goddess and worship the sun...I believe that religions are a prism casting a myriad of truths with one similar point. Be good people.

Sometimes, we are our best when we surround ourself with people that believe in us, raises us up, encourage us and love us. A soul mate has the ability to bring out the best in us as well; sometimes simply by existing and becoming known to us. Whether they live 2,500 miles away, or 10 miles down the road but emotionally might as well be on the moon, if we are open to who they are (to our souls), the possibilities are endless. The whispers and strands of etherealness that make up our souls merge through the tiniest of connections and we find ourselves striving to become better through that connection. Even if we don't realize what is happening, we look back in our lives and see that over the course of time we are more patient, more generous, kinder to those around us who need it the most. Maybe we spend more time in nature and find something to connect to, furthering that growth of our soul, bringing it a small step closer to its full potential. Or maybe we start to give others the benefit of the doubt and have a more positive view on the world around us; instead of immediately turning to something negative or sinister we see the action as simply "being", and we let it go.

It's a bit out there, but I believe that through finding the connections with those around us we find the heaven on earth that exists, and in doing so we pave the path for our soul for this life and the next.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Mirrors at NEI

What sounds like a cryptic chapter title is really a deep insight that I stumbled upon in December. It's a bit of a...philosophical view on relationships...and can be a bit difficult to explain but I'm going to try because I feel like it's important.
It was easiest to see this "mirror concept" in Florida because we were working with baby macaws. "Baby" is about 8-10 months old and fully flighted adult size macaws. However they had never been trained or worked in husbandry or show settings, they were fresh slates. I often heard people remark that they received a bird that was perfect for them, or just the bird that they needed to improve their training. What I saw was so much deeper than that.

Each bird, in this explanation let's stretch imagination and call them souls, is a mirror reflection of the soul training them. And the best way to improve ourselves and grow is to evaluate our truest form. So a soul that has a more frenetic energy might receive a trainee that mimics that, subconsciously most likely. And a frenetic energy trainee macaw might move super quick and constantly be looking for the next cue or the next part of the conversation. And an unpracticed trainer might not be able to keep quite the same pace and therefore wind up labeling the bird as "high energy" or "super fast".

On the flip side, a more casual and slower paced soul might be reflected with a "slow" bird that seemingly takes forever to decide to do the cue or continue the conversation. It might be said that it'll take a bit more to "keep him in the game". The incredible thing that I witnessed over the course of five days was the eventual balance that took place between the souls, and the frenetic energies were soothed and smoothed out a little as the confidence grew, and the slower pace gained momentum through repetition and confidence.

I believe that this concept applies to every soul that we encounter, and sometimes the older the soul or the more experience that soul has had can lead to a clouded mirror, or maybe stained glass in some cases. With time and patience, and sometimes some elbow grease to really get through the grime that life can build up, there's always a mirror underneath. And even through the grime it can reflect back to you. In terms of being the trainer for an animal that "you needed because of where you were in life", I think that's very true but in a way that the animal helps you face yourself. You don't become a better person, trainer, or soul because of another being, you become better because of yourself. And by facing a mirror, your flaws are shown and you are able to work through those and soften the rough edges, or become more observant, or more gentle.

This exact same concept works with people, too. Nothing is 100% in life but the  majority of the time I think it applies. We attract souls similar to ours throughout life, sometimes the souls are ones we have known before and sometimes they are new to us; but each one teaches us something about ourselves and if we are open to it, we have the ability to grow through every interaction.

Sometimes in life we meet someone that we click with right away, sometimes it takes a little time and then the more we get to know them the more we realize we've always known them. If I've learned anything in life so far, it's that you can't know what is going to happen in life and while that is no secret, sometimes in life you feel like you know where you are and what you're doing. And then, out of left field, you find yourself in love with your best friend and you don't understand how it happened. Was it in the way they understood you better than you understood yourself, even in your darkest moments? Or how your heart always jumped to them when something happened and you needed comforting? It's in these moments when life seemingly stands still and spins rapidly out of control. When you both look up and catch each other's eyes and what you see is something so intense it takes your breath away and leaves you standing there seeing no one else in the room and wanting to drown in their gaze. It leaves you shaken to the core and unsure of where it came from-how did this person, who once was simply someone to share an inside joke with, become someone that left you breathless and weak in the knees with a simple look. Not even a kiss. A look.

And the same people that can leave you breathless can also calm your soul in the next instant. A hike through the woods, or a walk around a crowded city, it doesn't make a difference because you feel the same sense of peace in their vicinity and it's a feeling like nothing else. When this type of love comes into your life, it isn't always meant to stay. Or to be returned. While that might sound pessimistic or disappointing, both dilemma's present incredible learning opportunities and a chance to grow stronger. There truly is a positive to every negative and always two sides to every piece of paper, no matter how thin it seems. Perhaps that first love taught you how to love, and gave you the strength to be ready for the next love, that was meant to help the other person more than yourself.

Love is unselfish, true love to me is defined as loving someone enough to let them go, to see them blemished and flawed and still find them to be the most beautiful soul, and to accept them for everything that they are and that they aren't. Even if that "aren't" means that they are not your significant other. I'm not advertising for elopement with another person's spouse, I'm saying that it's possible to be truly in love with someone that you aren't meant to spend your nights with. Sometimes you are given a glimpse into what life with them would be like, and then it is taken away from you. Then many years later it reenters your life in a way you didn't expect but you are both better people for the time you spent apart. Every heartache that you felt in their absence taught you self love, and how to be ok alone, and through that you are able to love more fully.