June 30, 2012

The Good Guy/Bad Guy Debate

This was a very hard post to write; I don't have all of the answers to this issue, and not every situation is the same for each person. I am only discussing my thoughts based on my own feelings and experiences, and am not passing judgment or telling anyone what to do. Take it for what you will. 

Where have all the good guys gone?

This seems to be the million dollar question, especially among a lot of young women my age. You either get the ones who uphold the "there's someone out there for everyone" philosophy with stars in their eyes, or the ones that will adamantly insist that they've all gone extinct. Honestly, I've chosen to take both views with a grain of salt, because there is a much bigger picture than that. Instead of wondering why so many of them turn out to be jerks or flaky, maybe it's time to examine why we want to or do become involved with relationships in the first place.

It might have been having to watch a dear friend of mine cling to every man that paid attention to her, only to have have her heart broken a short time later. It might have been the lack of respect and heavy amount of dysfunction that I witnessed as I grew up. Or it might have been the ridiculous amount of Facebook postings indicating why someone's boyfriend was the best, and later on why the break up was so horrible. Either way, it made me really not like the idea of needing someone to complete me. I don't want to make a guy my "everything" and expect him to fill some sort of hole in my heart.

But why not?

Because I wouldn't want a man to view me in that kind of light, either. Sure, it's good to have someone that supports you and makes you want to be the best person that you can be. But there is a difference between that and completely putting your happiness on their shoulders. I have this saying that you should not look up at another person and idealize them, nor should you look down on a person and try to be perfect for them. You should both be looking at each other and be on the same page.

And that's why a lot of couples, or just the whole concept of true love in general, seems to be failing; we want the other person to meet every single one of our needs and to make us whole. We're choosing to give and receive love for all the wrong reasons.

Now let me be clear, that does not mean that anyone deserves to be lied to, cheated on, or abused in any way or form. But at what point does it no longer become only about the way a man is treating a woman, but also about the way a woman is allowing herself to be treated?

It just baffles me how we put so much faith in them, only to think the exact opposite once reality sets in. Don't get me wrong, a lot of guys are selfish and seem like they care more about their hormones than anything else. In fact, people have become really selfish in general because everyone wants their own sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. But if a girl constantly gets hurt every time she gets involved with someone, that might be an indication that she's simply picking the wrong ones. 

My biggest struggle  since I was a teenager has always been that I am way too nice. Whenever a guy wronged me in some way, I used to never bring it up out of fear of being confrontational and driving that person away. When a boy I just met would try to  emotionally or physically taking advantage of me, I pretended that it wasn't a big deal; I figured that I could at least give them a chance, and it probably wasn't a good idea to make them angry or cause a scene.

It took a few close calls for me to realize that there is a difference between being nice and allowing someone to treat you like crap. There is a difference between giving someone a chance and putting yourself in danger. And if the situation doesn't feel right, for whatever reason that may be, do whatever you have to do to get away from it. 

The biggest lesson I learned involved the importance of setting boundaries and even standards when it comes to the opposite sex. I'm not talking about a long list of every single quality you want a potential boyfriend or husband;. I mean four or five big items that could make or break the relationship. When I finally sat down and made my list, I felt more secure and confident. Not only did I gain a deeper sense of choosing not to be with just anybody, but I gained a deeper sense of what I deserve. 

And even though a guy may be good to you or have a strong sense of character, that doesn't mean you should date him. It's all about where you're at and whether the time is right for it to happen. Looking back on it, there were many times where I was not in a good place, and therefore it was probably best not to be getting involved with someone. Use good judgement when it comes to deciding whether or not you're ready, and surround yourself with people that can hold you accountable for your actions.

While it's easy to complain and wish that our culture wasn't so hyped on casual sex, I don't see the point in being overly negative about it. You cannot control another's actions or their choices, you can only control your own. Stop focusing on everyone else and concentrate on what is best for you. 

In my case, that is growing in my faith and learning how to be fulfilled and content with what I have. It has taken me a long time to fully understand this, but there really is so much more to life than who you come home to or who you go out with. While I may not have the standard definition of experience when it comes to  dating, I would rather wait for something that is meant to be, so that when it does happen, my heart is fully prepared and open to give and receive the kind of love that lasts. More so, the kind love that lasts for a lifetime.

June 24, 2012

Stream of Consciousness: Summer Changes

Coming home has always been a double-edged sword, particularly this time around. I got out of a bad living situation and have learned to treasure the time that I get to spend with my family. Thus far, I have wonderful memories of memorial day weekend, my grandparents fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration, and Father's day. I love taking trips to the grocery story with my Mom (Ok, anything involving shopping, really). I love seeing movies and getting coffee afterward. I love being able to catch up with friends that I haven't seen or even talked to in a long time.

This time around, I'm more aware and I'm comfortable with that awareness. It used to be that whenever school let out for the summer, I would constantly become anxious and frustrated; there was this big hype of "summertime and the living is easy!" This romanticized notion that everybody was always doing something and hanging out together. For the longest time, I felt  a little jealous and left out.

But recently, I had a conversation with someone over the phone, where we were basically talking about how our schedules either consisted of work or school. Sometimes both. And it dawned on me that as you get older, summer isn't really "summer" anymore. Sure, they still have their days of chilling out and having fun, but it's more about work and/or doing something in terms of your future career. It's bittersweet, but it is also part of life.

Oddly enough, I no longer fear being by myself for long periods of time. Not to say that I've become anti-social; rather, I'm learning how to appreciate my alone time and not see it as a bad thing. I'm getting to know myself more through journaling, and learning how to make time to pray and connect with God. It's especially nice because I struggled with finding that time during the semi-chaotic months of living up at school. But more importantly, I'm learning how to step away from all that craziness and center myself each day. 

However, being home has always been emotional; I come back to circumstances that to this day have not been exactly resolved, nor have I found any peace from it. And that's the toughest part: being able to find contentment in where I'm at, in the midst of what can be confusing and down right painful

I do miss school; I miss the independence and being able to go where I want, on my own time. I miss the closeness and community with being there; Bible Studies, movie nights, random adventures. I miss going out with my friends. Most of all, I miss the emotional intimacy. 

A couple of nights ago, I had a dream that seemed completely out of the blue. I was sitting in a car and while texting a friend, I said "I just need you to hold me right now." Silly as it may be, that's all I remember. 

Is it strange to easily remember how it felt to have a certain person put their arms around you? Not exactly in regards to the way that this person made me feel, but quite literally, the memory of their touch. But that's for another time and another topic. 

I'm at a point where I'm not looking too far back, and I'm not looking to far forward. I'm trying to make the most of right here and right now; I don't want to wait for a crisis or some kind of dangerous wake up call to start enjoying the simple things. 

Things might change, but you never know what kind of blessings those changes will bring.

June 20, 2012

Simplicity: Thoughts Vs. Actions

I hear it a lot: how simplicity is often defined by our choosing to get rid of stuff that we don't need, whether it be material possessions, toxic relationships, and so on. But after I wrote my last post, I began to wonder if it was more than just about creating distance or elimination. While getting rid of unnecessary clutter is a good thing, I've realized that it's not always the answer to peace or contentment. Maybe, just maybe, the true complications that we deal with have more to do with our minds and ways of thinking, rather than just what triggers those thoughts. 

In other words, living simply isn't about getting rid of your problems; it's about choosing to look at the situation in a different way, along with how you choose to handle it.

I will say that it is not something that is easy for me to do; growing up, I had this nasty habit of overreacting and reading way too much into things. I believed that letting go meant completely forgetting, and I didn't know if I could, or even if I wanted to do that. And even now, I still struggle with not getting caught up in crap, as well as fighting constant negativity. 

But lately, I've realized that I don't want to wait for a personal crisis or tragedy to happen in order to fully appreciate what truly matters. Life can be crazy, confusing, and down-right messy...but that doesn't mean that it isn't beautiful. 

So the question one may ask is, what does simple thinking involve? 

To me, simplicity is the following: 

Finding beauty in even the smallest of things, and writing down at least five things that you're grateful for in each day.

Not going through all the "what-ifs" when making a decision; instead, pray about it or go with your instincts. Either way, there comes a point where you really have to just do it. 

Choosing to forgive, regardless if you have received an apology or not; it doesn't mean that what that person did was justified, rather it means that you're allowing yourself to move on

Knowing that you don't have to have it all figured out, and being open to change. 

Laughing at yourself

Telling someone that you care

Having a face to face conversation, even thought it would be easier to just text or call them

Allowing yourself not to be controlled by ridiculous standards of beauty or being good enough

Recognizing what you can control and what you can't

Accepting that there are days when you're going to feel sad, angry and confused about one thing or another. But at the same time, you don't allow yourself to wallow in it day in and day out. 

Praying/letting go,  instead of worrying

Being present and living in the moment

As I said before, it's a work in progress, and I don't always succeed at it. But it's definitely helping me mature and ultimately helping me to make the most out of what I have. 

June 13, 2012

When You Miss Someone

A while back, I had to let go of two people that meant the world to me. I didn't do it voluntarily or because I wanted to, but because it was too hard to keep putting effort into relationships that had become incredibly one-sided. And at the time, I was also dealing with a lot of stuff at the time, and if I was going to overcome it, I had to stop focusing my energy on what I was no longer in control of.

I have found that letting go definitely takes the stress level down a notch or two, and you're no longer wondering about what to do about the situation, because it's no longer in your hands. At the same time, the heart is a very different story. In my heart, I miss them more than anything. Sometimes it comes in the form of dreams where I wake up wondering, "now what in the world was that all about?" Other instances, I'm reminded of a song or a particular moment that we had. 

And in that moment, instead of getting lost in sadness or anger, I choose to thank God for the time that I was given with them. That's not to say that I don't ever get upset or angry; I do have days and nights where I cry, because in a way it's like a death; not necessarily the death of the relationship, but the death of what used to be, and the death of what once was familiar. 

I also experience anger, although it's nothing all consuming. I just wish that they had been able to be honest with me, especially if I was doing or saying something that had bothered or hurt them. I spent a lot of time being vulnerable with them, talking about things that I wouldn't dare tell anyone else. It's heartbreaking, knowing how all I tried to do was be a friend and be supportive. To accept them exactly as they are. To not judge or point fingers. 

I wonder if I still matter to either of them, after all this time? I wonder if our relationship still matters. 

But I think that in retrospect, very little of it was about me. They each had their own struggles and issues, and I was caught in the middle of all of it because of how close we were. 

And time a part from someone you love and care about can be a good thing; sometimes you both need time to grow up and mature a little bit more. Personally, I had to learn that I can't always take care of someone, or be there for them the way that I want to. I can't expect them to have the answers for everything, or to be the answer to something. 

As hard as it is, I try not to talk about it very much with anyone else. Everyone has a different perception when it comes to something like this, and they won't always deal with it in the same way I do. And constantly discussing it won't change what has happened.

I've been asked why I still care, especially when I express that some part of me still hurts. Truthfully, I don't have much of an explanation for it, other than when I invest my time in a person, it's one hundred percent or more. Most of the friends that I am extremely close to have almost become like family. That, and I don't believe in hatred, because it just doesn't do any good. 

What I do believe in is forgiveness. I forgave both of them a long time ago, but I know now that it takes more than one time to actually feel it. I won't pretend that I'm not willing to let them back into my life, but I am not going to get on my knees and beg and plead for it. They have to be willing to meet me halfway. 

And I would love to be able to sit down and have an honest to goodness conversation about it, but I am not going to force it to happen. Sometimes people have to be in a certain place in order to do that, and right now they might not be there. I don't know for sure. 

What I do know is that all I can do is keep going. When I get frustrated or tempted to ask "why?" I ask God  for peace, and that He will take care of them in the way that I can't. I pray for them; not for an apology or  but that they may one day find healing and get themselves together. That maybe one day, God willing, we can be in each other's lives again.

However, I have come to accept the fact that I will never be able to completely forget them. Having someone always mean a lot to you doesn't mean that you're holding out for them, or that you're living in the past, at least from my point of view. It means they taught you something: whether it be how to open your heart, what's healthy and what isn't healthy, and how to let go of the uncontrollable.

 But most of all, they showed me the capacity to love, to care, and to forgive. They will always have a special place in my heart, and that's what matters the most.

June 09, 2012

Stream Of Consciousness: Distractions And Blessings

I have been done with school for  a little over a month now. Out the outside, it may not look like I have a whole lot going on, since I'm not working during the summer, and my psychology class is online. But trust me when I say that I've been keeping pretty busy, and for the most part, it feels incredibly good. 

This week, however, was full of many distractions. Throughout it, I felt this incredible amount of anger; anger toward people that I have very little to no respect for, and found myself wanting to say "I don't care" in the most un-lady like way possible (you can imagine what that is, right?). I was so tired of being pushed around and being demanded to do things that I was in no way obligated to do. I desperately wanted to show them that I wasn't going to stand for it anymore. 

But then I thought of Hatfields & McCoys, the movie that recently aired in a three part special on the history channel. I won't give away the story, but it's about a feud that basically starts over something so incredibly small, and then just escalates from there; back and forth and back and forth. No one knows when to stop. And I've only watched up to part 2, so I right now I don't know what exactly happens. 

And then on top of that, I read something on a popular blog that I read, relating  to the essence of time, and what one does with it. It was beautiful, and a little toward the middle of the week, I mentally threw up my hands and told myself that I didn't want to fight anymore. They could have the money. They could think what they want. It wasn't worth trying to prove that I was right, especially to people that most likely weren't (and aren't) going to change. And I didn't want my summer to be defined by it. 

While there are moments where I think about, and feel the anger creeping back in, I keep reminding myself that it's over and done with. I'm in a different place now, and all I can do is keep moving forward. 

On a more positive note, I have started writing a little bit each and every day, and am aiming to get published either by the end of the summer or when the next school year starts. My class is going well, aside from the fact that it's a boatload of reading. I began volunteering at my local library and will be doing so at least once a week from here on out. I'm exercising, and plan on trying to go to both a cardio kickboxing and a zumba class. 

It doesn't look like much, but in my heart, I know that I'm right where I'm supposed to be.

June 05, 2012

Awareness: "Should" Vs. Me

I have always known that my life hasn't been the most conventional. When I was a baby, I didn't start crawling until my little brother (a year younger than I) came home from the hospital. I didn't start walking properly until he too, started walking. But those were just two things relating to my physical capabilities. For the last two decades, I have accomplished and achieved goals and dreams a little behind schedule. I knew why, in terms of both physical and emotional reasons. However, I didn't want to openly admit it to anyone else unless it was necessary, because I feared being accused of self-pity or acting like I was better than everyone else around me.

When I went away to school, the one thing I looked forward to the most was being able to get away from all that: the expectations, the looks, the endless questions, and the overall feeling of being under a microscope. What I didn't realize at the time was that this new phase of my life would present it's own set of challenges.

Experiencing modern day college and university culture, the issue was no longer just about what I was supposed to do, but who I was supposed to be. From women's magazines to encountering every day people, I was somehow given the message that the next four years (and my twenties in general) was the time to "run around, do what you want, and be free." That can and does tend to cover a number of aspects, from relationships to having a career. And even though I was skeptical about it, I thought "hey, everyone else is doing it, so why can't I?"

So I went out and experimented; thankfully, it was nothing insanely dangerous and I never wound up getting seriously hurt. Yet eventually, I began to realize that there were some things that I was just not comfortable with, particularly relating to guys. Over time I began to ask myself if those actions genuinely reflected my character.

And it took a while; I didn't start gaining a whole lot of self-awareness until I started my sophomore year. It wasn't like a light bulb going off in my head or anything of that nature. It was a process that took a lot of time and a lot of courage.

I believe that there is such a thing as self-discovery. Yet, it doesn't always have to be about taking all these unnecessary risks; most of the time, it might just be a matter of being able to stop and be honest regarding not only who you are, but what you want in life.

There was a time this year where I confided in a friend about a fear of mine; that I would end up getting myself into serious trouble because I was (and still am) incredibly naive about a variety of things. She looked at me and said, "I don't think you have to worry all that much. You're very intuitive and very of aware. I think you'll know when to take a chance and when to walk away."

Hearing those words definitely changed my attitude. I am a very strong believer in intuition, especially in times where there isn't a whole lot of time to pray about what you should do in the situation. If something in your gut is telling you that whatever you're doing is dangerous or wrong, by all means get the heck away from it!

The second big step was learning how to tune out the "this is what you should be doing" kind of talk, whether it be from myself, my peers, or some sort of media/cultural outlet. We all have different callings and different paths to take. We're not all destined to take these big steps (marriage, careers, children, etc.) all at the same time. A lot of things do happen for a reason, and timing definitely plays a big role in that. So instead of asking why, perhaps a better mindset would be to remember that you're right where you're meant to be, and that you will eventually go where you are meant to go.

Lastly, I had to stop basing my worth on who accepted (or who didn't) and what I achieved. It doesn't help in any way at all. I know that I am worth it simply because I am a human being who has a lot to give, and a story to tell. Just because I may not have attained certain aspirations thus far doesn't mean that I'm a bad person, or that there is anything wrong with me. I don't think it requires a whole lot more explanation then that.

I'm humbled to say that I feel comfortable right where I'm at; it doesn't mean that I'm not making an effort to move forward or chase after my dreams, but I'm not beating myself up about it or making comparisons to others. There are days where I get frustrated and anxious and impatient,  but I try to remind myself that God knows what's best and that the best thing I can do is to just keep going.

It might not happen now, or for a very long time; but eventually, you will look back and begin to understand how and why various aspects of your life took the course that it did. But more importantly, you'll know that life is precious and that every moment, both good and bad, is worth appreciating.

June 01, 2012

What Every Girl Deserves: My Take On Pursuit

Reading over the post that I wrote on Friday, I've been getting the feeling that the quote in it might have been misinterpreted by some that read it. I probably should have been a little bit more specific, but I was going by what I had written down in my journal during the time that I had thought of it. I realize now that I probably should have been a little bit more specific so as not to give people the wrong idea.

When I said "fighting for someone" I didn't mean that a person should try to continue a relationship out of deep love for them, particularly when they know that that particularly causes more harm than good. I was speaking more in terms of the way a man would (and should) fight for a woman; the way a man should pursue her.

I have to say that I didn't really agree with that term when I was younger; I thought it was old-school, and being an independent person, scoffed at the idea of the guy doing everything. But deep down, it was more about insecurity.  When I was in high school, I convinced myself that if I wasn't the one to do the pursuing, it wouldn't  happen. I eventually realized that line of thinking was a total lie. I thought I was saving myself a lot of heartache, but it was the other way around.

Genuinely pursuing a lady isn't only important because of it's Biblical roots; regardless of the faith or culture she comes from, every woman, young and old, deserves to be sought after. When done for the right reasons and in the right way, it reassures her that a man wants to get to know her and take care of her. It will hopefully leave no doubt that he is interested in having a relationship with her. 

Of course, one could assume that no one does that anymore, because it often involves sweet and romantic gestures, and only those things exist in movies and romance novels, right? However, it's not just about how elaborate a guy can be, or how often he sends flowers and love letters. It can be as simple as being there to talk when she has a bad day or is going through a tough time. It's about being reliable and doing what he says he is going to do. He should have strong values and know how to stick to them, along with respecting her values as well.

And he definitely won't cop the whole "I'm not good enough for you" crap. He will stop at nothing to show a woman that he is everything she wants and more. 

That's not to say that a girl can't initiate the conversation when she spots someone whom she finds attractive. Ladies, there's no shame in introducing yourself or asking a question in order to break the ice; it shows that you're confident and definitely gives your self-esteem a boost. Just be careful of not falling into the trap of having to do everything. 

More so, if a guy is willing to go to the ends of the Earth to have you be a part of his life, acknowledge him and be grateful. Guys like to be shown love and respect too, but in different ways (as far as ways of loving goes, I'd recommend The Five Love Languages. It's extremely helpful for both singles and couples). 

On the other hand, if you don't feel like there's a spark there, be upfront and honest with him before things go any further. It's also easy to want to run because of past hurts or believing that what you've been given is too good to be true. The only advice I can give is that it might just be a risk that you have to take. 

I will caution against something that I find in a lot of relationship articles, specifically one pertaining to Christian relationships; that if a guy pursues you, it must automatically mean that he wants to know your heart and that he will cherish you. More so, it must mean that he is right for you. 

Unfortunately, I've found this not always to be the case. There are men out there that have gone after women with obsession, wanting only sex, or just being flat out creepy. As much as I want to give every guy a chance, I realize that a lot of them aren't always genuine about their intentions. I've learned the hard way of how important it is to trust my instincts, how to communicate or if I should communicate at all. 

What I know for sure is that being pursued for the sake of real love is a blessing; It is something to be cherished, taken slowly, and not taken lightly. I realize that our culture often goes against waiting for committed relationships, simply because "they don't exist anymore." But just because it hasn't happened yet, doesn't mean it won't ever happen. It will be at the right time, with the right person, and in the right way.

So let me rephrase that quote: 

"When a man really truly loves a woman, he won't run away from her or give any reason not to be with her. He'll fight for her with everything he has, because real love isn't manifested out of fear. And real love is something worth fighting for."