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.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Square pegs don't fit in round holes, obvious right?

Square pegs don't fit in round holes, obvious right? 
It sounds simple and obvious, don't force something that doesn't fit. But we do it all of the time, even when we think we aren't. Even in cases that it doesn't seem applicable. Have you ever started seeing someone, and thought that they were fabulous; they said the right words, they were sweet and attentive, but then when you mention becoming more serious, they clam up? They all of a sudden show "their true colors" and you learn that you are but one in several dozen pretty blondes that they are focusing on for a distraction from their life?

You can't ever know what's really going on in someone's head, there's no veritaserum or spell you can cast to know when there is something more behind their words that they aren't saying, but you will never know the true measure of a person until their walls and their guard come down. And once that happens, it becomes remarkably easier to see through the bullshit and read between the lines. And once that barrier is gone-you can see them for the square peg that they are and you won't try to mash them into your round hole (absolutely no pun intended here). By going with the flow of life, and the ebb and flow of people, you can walk into situations and take them at face value for what they are; without the tumultuous heartache that comes from endearing disappointments and broken hearts. Unfortunately it takes a few broken hearts to get to that point sometimes.

What do you do when you see someone you love in pain and shutting you out? There's only so much pushing you can do to let them know that you're there, and sometimes even then they just retreat deeper into themselves. Even people that once could open up and feel comfortable can suddenly change, and while I have become used to some patterns like that in my life, it's still hard to see them going through hard times and not being able to be there for them like you want. But again with the round hole and square peg, maybe the best way to be there is to not. Forcing your thoughts onto them might make it worse simply because we need to learn to listen to hear, and not to speak or reply.

There are constantly opportunities to learn something new every day. One of my mentor's in life is Dr. Susan Friedman, she is a stunningly fantastic behavior analyst and an astonishingly captivating speaker. Her voice is soft but commands a presence that you lean forward and listen to. I've heard her speak on the same topics dozens of times, to the point where I can usually predict the next powerpoint slide or video that she'll use to illustrate her point, yet every time I find myself sitting on the edge of my seat, taking in every word she says and writing down pages of notes of things that she has helped me think of and break down.

One of the amazing things about listening to (and talking to) her is that she is excellent at being there in the moment with you and she is genuine in it. Through listening to her I have learned and grown more confident in my ability to better read people and to be a better person for them.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Hope sucks & life isn't fair, so take some risks

This was one of those eye opening experiences that I would never change and always be grateful for. What started as an intrigue for me turned into a "can I really get him if I try?", to giving me hope that I could truly like someone other than a lost love, to a lot of....anger and disappointment until I saw the truth as opposed to what he wanted me to see. Once you open yourself to seeing what is really there in front of you, disappointments fade away. You can walk into a situation with full awareness and mindfully walk through each moment, learning what is offered.

I have heard before, if you could change one thing in your past what would it be? I hate that question. In a way it's almost an insult, the person standing there being asked that is the way they are because of their past. If something is "wrong" with them and a change in the past is needed to heal a wound or smooth over a bump in their soul...why can't they be simply accepted as who they are at that moment and moving forward we are all always growing and smoothing over those rough edges? I know that this is a stretch of the imagination for the perception of a simple question...and not the intention of pretty much the entire world when they ask it, but it's something I have thought about a bit.

Allen is no different. If I had never pursued his attentions at the whiskey bar, the conversation of "if I was 30 years younger or you were older, you wouldn't be able to get rid of me." would never have happened, we wouldn't have spent the next two months talking daily, I never would have been introduced to some incredible shows (or David Copperfield), and while it would have saved me the pain of how it feels to have someone be ashamed of you, I wouldn't have learned how to be stronger on my own and even more proud of who I am. Leaving a bar under the pretense of leaving, only to double back and meet in a hotel room (and then to have a friend acknowledge with a cheeky good morning the next day) could be considered to be stupid after all of this, but there were no pretenses and just honesty up front now.

Strange to think that broken men and hurtful relationships can teach you to be a better communicator, but there are unique lessons to be learned in everything. And after being with an egotistical power-player with some serious insecurities, it teaches you the value of yourself.

Hope sucks & life isn't fair, so take some risks
Why is it that the majority of the time it is the man that initiates the relationship? Culturally more and more women take the lead and ask the guy out first, and a relationship is a mutual conversation of course...but why is it that women are the ones that tend to be braver with their honesty about how they feel and men are the ones that make bold moves or seem to decide if a couple is exclusive? One of the things that I have learned over the years is to take a risk, take a chance and be honest to yourself. You deserve that much, and so much more, the least you can do is truthfully and respectfully be true to yourself.

It's the scariest thing to tell someone how you feel. Walking up to a stranger in a bar and saying "I think you're beautiful, can I buy you a drink?" can be just as terrifying as "I love you"; in many cases the latter is enough to freeze you in your tracks before you open your mouth. Especially if it is to someone that you are close with, have known for awhile, and you're scared of ruining a friendship or of losing them. I won't give much advice in this book but one piece I will say is this: I'll never say don't be afraid to say I love you. Fear is natural. But don't let hesitation win, take that terrifying plunge and tell them. Even if it's your best friend and she's married and you know she is straight. Even if it's your best friend that you haven't seen in years, how can you know? Sometimes you just do.

I'm not saying tell someone you've gone out with twice that you love them...that sort of impetuous quick love can sometimes be a rush of feelings that are hard to discern lust from love. True love comes when you know yourself, when you love yourself and if you have a good relationship with someone, simply telling them "I love you" shouldn't break that. Because saying "I love you" is simple. They say that love is complicated, but it really isn't. It's a warm feeling of inclusion, of soothing each other's rough edges, of blissful happiness that even in the roughest of times you know they are there for you as much as you will always be there for them.

Back to people...I'm torn between introducing Vince or V to the story officially (and by story of course I mean this wonderful collage of anecdotes of my life and bits of philosophical wisdoms that I've accrued), or of touching on another friend that has impacted my life.

Natalie is one of those friends that comes into your life a bit like a hurricane but before you know it you're in the eye and it's calm and life makes sense. She's someone that has seen me at my worst and never left. From conversations that lasted hours into the night and closed down restaurants around us, to phone calls while we're stuck in traffic just because we needed to rage and bitch on the phone, to listening to the drama in each others' lives and empathizing when needed, and also threatening the life and limb of those that wounded us when required, we've been through a lot in just a few short years.

Initially (and this may be a surprise to her to learn) I wanted nothing to do with her and almost despised her a bit, because even though I no longer loved my ex, I certainly didn't want to see her flaunting herself on him. Luckily I got over that quickly and we bonded over...well honestly this is another first good conversation I don't recall. Perhaps she remembers how we became friends and I'll get a phone call after this reminding me of that! Nonetheless we became pretty quick friends and she is one of few people that I am comfortable with being hugged by. So much so that I believe my boss was taken aback one morning after a long hug was exchanged (with the reason being simply that she wanted to hug me).

While we might not have the same taste in music (head banging just isn't my style!) and different taste in men (sorry, Ryan Gosling & others who shall remain nameless ;-) ), its our differences that have created a strong bond of friendship and I adore her advice and words of encouragement. Whenever I need someone to tell me that I'm being ridiculous, or that I need to move on...I can count on her to tell me not just what I need to hear, but sometimes what I want to hear as well. Because there's nothing wrong in life with sometimes saying what is desired and not just needed.