Unconditional

This article called “Maybe You Don’t Know What Love Is” really made me think about the kinds of relationships I currently have in my life, and the kinds of relationships that I want. The author makes a distinction between “conditional” and “unconditional” relationships. Conditional relationships aren’t truly based in love; there’s a give and take that is inherently selfish, scared, and insecure. They’re kind of like the relationships you brag about: my girlfriend has a kickass job, my dad gives me whatever I want, my colleague is always there to help me. And while it’s not exactly wrong to sing the praises of those people in your life, you have to ask yourself: Are they in my life for this one reason, or because we genuinely love each other?

When I first read the article, I was worried because I wasn’t sure which of my relationships (family, friends, romantic, professional) would pass the test. Do I really care about these people? Do they really care about me?

Thankfully, my closest relationships seem to be unconditional rather than conditional. Unconditional relationships are based in truth, empathy, and patience. Basically, love at its core. When you are in an unconditional relationship, you and the other person care about each other. You’ve peeled back the layers of deceit and armour and see each other for who you really are. And you don’t run away. You stay. You help them, you care for them, you talk to them. You love them.

What I found to be interesting, though, is that what I had learned from networking and my professional experiences is that a lot of relationships are conditional, and are the norm. What is up with that? Is that why so many people don’t feel satisfied or happy with their jobs? Is that why there’s a lot of tension, gossiping, drama, and flat out hatred in my current workplace?

I think so. And it’s sad.

While I can’t necessarily change work culture, I can at least make sure that I’m aware of how I’m treating others – conditionally, or unconditionally.

2015 Again

It seems as though every social media website that you are a part of does a recap or annual report at the end of every December. WordPress just sent me my report, which was lovely and well put together. Facebook, on the other hand, just placed the photos that I’d posted that had the most likes. And most of those photos weren’t even of me or my loved ones, which was hilarious.

So, I’m going to do my own recap. It’s a bit of a “behind the scenes” post, since I didn’t really document these things here. Anyway, as promised, I’ve listed the highlights from this year – and there are a lot:

  • I shared this blog with my friends
  • I wrote blog posts every month this year
  • I got the push to do the above from Anita Wing Lee, my coach who had helped me so much with my career and mindset towards money, success, happiness, and fulfillment
  • I made more big purchases (such as the above) which have been worth it
  • Learned how to do EFT/tapping, meditate, and do an intuition reading
  • I had 3 jobs, all of which I at least really liked and helped me to grow
    • Between the first job this year and the unfulfilling job from 2014, the gap was around 4 months of unemployment and uncertainty
    • Between the first and second job this year was a nonexistent unemployment gap
    • Between the second and third (current) job this year was a 2 week unemployment gap – such a difference!
  • Did a lot of networking – calling, e-mailing, going to events
  • Volunteered for a great organization for 6 months and met wonderful people
  • Cooked dinner and did the laundry for my family for the first time
  • Watched Potted Potter, The Sound of Cracking Bones, Once, and Kinky Boots
  • Watched Good Will Hunting, The Fault in Our Stars, Ides of March, Big Hero 6, The Help, Midnight in Paris, Amélie, Into the Woods, The Artist, Romantics Anonymous, Django Unchained, the Star Wars series, Wet Hot American Summer, Jan Austen Book Club, Naruto: The Last, Age of Ultron for the first time
  • Watched Pitch Perfect 2, Inside Out, Mockingjay Part 2, and The Force Awakens in the theatre
  • Finished Parks and Recreation – 7 seasons of my favourite show. What an amazing workplace comedy that poked fun at politics but also emphasized the importance of being kind and working hard with people you love to do good
  • Watched Agent Carter, another great TV show which I will be following
  • Read some more books for the first time – not as much as last year, but still felt proud of myself
  • Ran my first running race – a 5k
  • Painted my nails and put on makeup more often, and overall made self-care more of a priority. This did wonders for my mental health and well-being
  • Discovered James Bay, an incredible musician
  • Continued with yoga, started running outside more often, and went to the chiropractor a few times
  • Went to High Park, Glen Rouge, and Algonquin Park for the first time – beautiful places where I discovered my love of hiking
  • Got home super late from a house party for the first time
  • Went to a cousin’s wedding and cried. (First time crying at a wedding!)
  • Actually dated!
  • Got signed Avatar: The Last Airbender comics
  • Happy and hopeful for my country’s leadership

So while Facebook didn’t really do a good job with capturing this year’s best moments, that’s okay. They can only do so much with the few photos I had posted. What matters is that 2015 was good to me, and I was in a good place in my life.

Here’s to an incredible 2016! ❤

Family Ties

I hardly ever write about my family here. Actually, I can’t remember the last time I paused to reflect and be thankful for these people in my life. It must have been last year, and even then it was probably when my grandpa had died. I thought of him recently, and it still astounds me that I still miss him and cry. I had thought that I was past this. And now that I see those words, I feel bad about being “past this,” whatever “this” is.

It’ll probably take more time for me to let the impact that my grandpa had left on me truly sink in. And honestly, I know that I need to take more time to think about why he’s had such an impact on me. Maybe it’s because he was one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. Maybe it’s because I thought that I would see him again and wasn’t give the opportunity. Maybe it’s these things and more, just like he and everybody else in this world is more than the sum of their parts.

It’s just days away from the anniversary of his death. I still haven’t decided what I’ll do on that day, other than listening to James Taylor’s Fire and Rain. (I haven’t listened to that song since the day my grandpa had died. I haven’t been able to bring myself to listen to it since.) I know I’ll be working, but other than that, I want to honour him in some way. Do I find a quiet spot in a forest or park and reflect on the times we’ve shared together? Or do I want to go through photos and videos? Or do I want to just spend time with my family?

The third one I’ve found helps the most. It’s kind of a distraction in that we won’t talk about him 100% of the time, but it’s also therapeutic because I’m surrounded by people who are going through the exact same thing as me. And quite recently, we’ve heard that more family members have passed away. Each time I hear the news, I always reflect on how fragile life is and that we should be focusing on sharing as much of ourselves with each other as possible. Each time I hear the news, I end up sharing in the grief that my other family members are feeling, whether I’m communicating with them or not. (I’ve realized recently that I take on the emotions of other people, whether I feel the same way or not. I think that’s why I can get emotionally exhausted from being around a lot of people.)

And so it just amazes me how I can feel so connected with my family in this way. I can’t express myself in words (or am too scared to do so for some reason) in front of them, but I am grateful for everything they do for me.

Mothering

I more often than not feel like a mother. While I don’t have any biological or adopted children (although I have a sponsored child care of an international charity), I work with children in a daycare setting and I like to bring people together in order for them to bond and to make sure they’re doing fine. I’ve been told that I’m the parent of my friend group, and I have to agree. It’s like I have an innate obligation to feel responsible for the well-being of others (which is why I like to write about things that will help others and why I’m in the non-profit sector). And while that sounds great in theory, I have to wonder what that means for the people in my life.

Am I striking a good enough balance between positively influencing others and being responsible for my own actions? Am I keeping my side of the street clean while showing others how they can do that for their side? It can be hard.

I remember feeling stressed about planning group outings with friends, and feeling stressed in general when it came to work that was for others. Is it a mom thing to say that I care too much? I wouldn’t know, and I don’t want to assume anything since I’m not a “real” mom. I do feel like my own mother would say the same thing, and I know that she has definitely experienced what I just described. But take that and multiple it several times over the past 20+ years.

This kind of balance is pretty critical when you care about being the best person you can be, influencing others to be the best they can be, and acting in such a way that people not only like you but adore you. I think that all three are possible, but not without making sacrifices. And sacrifice is something that all parents would know about. But it’s something that’s still somewhat foreign to me. I still feel a little too selfish, a little too self-involved, to feel that way. I know that parents can and should take time to practice self-care, but they have that high level of obligation and responsibility towards their families – and it makes me wonder how they do it. You can’t help but admire parents who want the best for their children and do whatever they can to make their children’s lives better than theirs. That’s exactly what mine did.

I do want to have my own child(ren) one day, but I know that day won’t come for a while. In the meantime, I can try my best to practice that balance between self-care and self-sacrifice.

The Management of Grief

HP_OotP_excerpt

The above is an excerpt from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black, had just died. Quite understandably, Harry goes into an emotional spiral and through the stages of grief.

I didn’t truly know what that kind of grief felt like until last year when my grandfather died. It was July 31st, which is ironically Harry Potter’s birthday. I, too, went through the stages of grief like Harry did and like everybody else has done. I was in shock – I actually went into shock (I remember shivering under a blanket and struggling to breathe), I was in denial, I was confused, I was angry, I tried to bargain, and I sobbed and howled in despair. I remember thinking about the above scene when I went through this, as well as another scene where Harry isolated himself from everyone and wished that the world would lose its colour so that everyone and everything would match what was going on inside him. He wanted to project his inner turmoil onto the world so that others would understand.

I felt the same way.

The sun was too bright, food was unnecessary, and nothing else mattered.

There were only two things that helped me get out of that: time, and people. The death of a loved one is the number one stressful, emotional, and life-altering event that we experience. But life goes on for us. At the same time, it’s unfair and helpful. You need to force yourself back into the daily routine. It gets you out of your head and interacting with others. Talking to other people is a normal part of life, and although it’s painful for you to share with others this death, it certainly helps, too. People empathize, they show compassion, they give you space, and they just get it. This kind of things affects everyone, and so there is no judgment or condescension. Why would there be? We all suffer, and we don’t want to make it worse for anyone.

It took me somewhere between a week and, well, now, to accept my grandfather’s death and be at peace knowing that he is at peace. I’ve still cried about it every now and then, but it’s become a part of me like confessing to my fifth-grade crush. Both have caused emotional scarring, but now they are not at the centre of my life. They have shaped me, but they do not define me.

Everybody has scars. We can hide them, present them, heal them, and accept them. Probably all four at some point, too. I just hope that we don’t become too busy, tending to our own scars, that we ignore everybody else’s.