All posts by seekingmybalance

The Awakening

I am in Flores, Guatemala, writing as the birds awaken and most humans are still asleep. I’ve been doing this every morning and feeling quite like the author of Eat, Pray, Love – 2 years too late. (For those of you who have not heard of that book, it’s about a woman who gets divorced and goes on a spiritual journey by traveling to three countries and processing her divorce.)

I realize in this process that I haven’t given myself a chance to breathe. In the last two years, I’ve been running and doing and hiking and falling in love, but in all of that, I haven’t breathed enough. I haven’t let myself take the time to watch the sunrise without thinking about the next thing I’m doing. I haven’t let myself write all the things in my head, too busy with everything else happening around me.

Since I’ve had no computer to work here, I’ve had no other option in my free time but to do what I most need – writing while others in my group wake up, swim in the lake in the mornings, read and take a siesta in the afternoon at the peak of heat in the day, and have long talks about life and things with C as we experience a new place that doesn’t feel very different from any other place in so many ways.

What I mean is that after traveling so much, I realize that all places are so similar, even in their differences. Sure, I saw some Mayan ruins here and woke up to howler monkeys the other morning – a unique experience for me – and yet, the people here are just people and in their own language, still speak mine (in nonverbals at least), the animals here are just animals, and the beauty here is just…beauty. Don’t get me wrong; I know that I am lucky to experience the diverseness and freedom in my life that I have and do. I chose this. But I guess, as I move around, the more I want to stay put. I realize there are some things you just can’t get by running, some things you can only receive and achieve by staying put and making roots. I suppose it takes a lot of time away to fully appreciate the sights and sounds and people you can see every day.

Namaste ❤
N

What is home?

What is home? 

Home is a word and an idea I’ve been trying to nail down for a while. When I left D, I think my idea of home was all wrapped up in him being with me in it. I think *he* felt like home to me – or had for a while.

When I didn’t have him, I had no place (or person) to call mine for a number of years besides my car and then my van – which never felt like home. 

I did have a one month period with an airbnb guest house and I remember the first night taking a shower and being so happy that I had a random naked dance party with myself jumping on the bed. That place felt like home – maybe because it was mine (even temporarily), maybe because it was tucked away in this hidden space no one could find and I felt safe.

We seek that as kids too – a place that we can be alone with ourselves without the burden of others’ expectations of us. I remember walking in on L and T in their home one time. They were both lying on the floor on their backs with their heads underneath a hexagonal table. T was emotional and I asked what was going on. He said “Oh, I’m just remembering how I used to imagine so many worlds under this table. And feeling how safe it felt under here back then – and now I’m letting people share it with me.” We spent hours brainstorming about how we could paint scenes underneath this table now and make it again a space for our thoughts and fantasies. 

I was jealous he had such a place – I never did as a kid. And maybe that is partly why I so crave that now. 

Someone told me on the beginning of my journey that home wasn’t where my home or stuff was – it was a place inside of me where I fully accepted myself and then let people in. It was profound for me and I still think of it a lot. 

Similarly, when I moved into my van without a home base, I wrote A and said “I have no home.” I was terrified. His response was, “You do.” And shared his address with me. I cried when I read that – at the time, we hardly knew each other and had only met in person once thus far.

After a couple years, I believe both are correct – to an extent. I think we do have to have home within ourselves *and* a physical place we know others accept us too (that doesn’t necessarily need to be where you are physically most of the time).
I live in a community house now with A and C and A’s kids half the time. It is a place of love and acceptance, cuddles and support, food and warm hearts. Everyone is welcome. We host cuddle parties and dance house gatherings. We talk a lot. We cry together. We have so many guests and hammocks and a space outside to talk throughout the night. Despite the fact that I’ve been traveling this month with all of the people of the community house, I’ve missed our space together and the dog and…home.

Colorado has also always felt like home too even though it’s only been my residence for a couple of years now. It feels free, secluded, full of adventure and accepting people who give no fucks about society expectations.

I realized that as far as making a home inside of me – that for a time, I needed to close the door fully and completely and stop chasing after others’ validation of me. But maybe…maybe now it is time to open that door again – not to seek validation, but to let people in to see all the work I’ve done inside (the drywalling, the doors, the foundation), to be welcomed into a place where we can work on the decorating together.

I want to make a home for the homeless. And sometimes that homeless person is me.

Trust Issues

I’ve been having trust issues. Actually, I’ve had them all my life. But they are always in flux and lately, it’s been bad. I have many reasons for my distrust, but to me, it seems excessive, especially when it comes to people I love. I mean, yes, I was blindsided by a husband who’d been cheating on me for years (and I only found that extent out in the last couple of months) and he betrayed my trust in big ways by manipulating and abusing me. But…I’ve gone to therapists for this issue many times with no success – and that was before him. And my ability to trust people when they’ve proven they are trustworthy is still extremely low.

Today, a friend posted an animated link to game theory and trust. I will share it here because it’s just so amazing: http://ncase.me/trust/

It shows a couple of big things I hadn’t considered at all, one of which is: It’s totally *rational* to be distrusting in the situations I’ve been in! Not crazy, not horrible, just…totally entirely logical. And – that there are solutions. And…biggest of all…I’m already doing them!

With animation, they show that different strategies “win” more or less over other strategies in the short run and the long run. And that when the game changes, the level of trust also changes. We mostly all play in a zero sum game in this world – I “win” a boyfriend, which means you lose the ability to “have” that same boyfriend. I “win” the lottery, which means you now lose the opportunity to win that money. Etc.

Additionally, they show that with not enough repeat interactions, the strategy of always cheating is actually more in your favor. But over time with enough interactions with a specific person, copying what they are doing wins you more (ex: they cheat once, you should cheat the rest of the time too). HOWEVER, the huge hindrance to this strategy is miscommunication. How about if someone looks like they cheated, but in reality there were other things at play that you didn’t see and didn’t ask about? Then you continue to cheat them when in fact they never cheated you – it was just miscommunication or something else similar.

So the resulting lesson is that when there is a little bit of miscommunication, it pays to be *more forgiving.*

OHBOY. That brought up ALL THE THINGS in me.

I’ve realized recently that a lot of things people have “done” to me that I feel or felt are justified for distrusting may have actually not been deception at all, but felt like deception to me. I was just comparing them to their word – their very true word at the time. And since their word, things had changed which had not even had the opportunity to be communicated at all to me.

In other words, I’ve been assuming all people since D work under D’s premise – of knowing truths that are relevant to me and explicitly omitting or lying about them. Bigger yet, I’ve worked under my own premise of assuming people cannot possibly be telling the truth to themselves or me. And that it would be impossible to gain enough trust with anyone to believe them in the things they say regarding me. Under the premises of that game, no one will win – including me (and especially in the long run per the game).

The solutions per this animation say: ” Build relationships. Find win-wins. Communicate clearly.” Additionally: “In the short run, the game defines the players. But in the long run, it’s us players who define the game.” This latter sentence really hit close to home. I’ve treated the long run as the short run for too long. Since D, I’ve tried to build trust in the short run, assuming the long run will have the same properties. And I’ve created a game that no one can possibly win. Trust won’t be formed because I won’t allow it, because I don’t believe it exists. And in the process, I’m creating a lose-lose situation, especially with my closest people.

Additionally, I’m inspired by the first solutions of building relationships, communicating clearly, and finding win-wins, which I think I have done and continue to do in numerous ways in my life in general. Changing the game is something *I* can do – and so can you.

Food for thought.

Anatomy of A Relationship – Shall I Stay Or Shall I Go?

I was listening the other day to an ex partner telling me about why he believed another partner of his recently broke up with him. He described them as essentially not seeing enough fun to balance out the work needed to be done in the relationship with him. It got me thinking about what really causes people to leave relationships – Was there a last straw? What are the straws leading up to it? Is it a simple reason? Or more complex? What makes us stay for as long as we do? What changes (or doesn’t) to make us walk?

I remember someone describing to me that ultimately, we stay in relationships that have more positives that outweigh the negatives. That sounds like such a simple answer, but for me, it’s always been so much more complex. For me, the positives and negatives are so entertwined and the relationship as a whole is hard to break into parts of pros and cons. And yet, I did just that when trying to decide to leave D. For at least six months, I had an ongoing pros and cons list and though I had so many more on the cons side than the pros, I still couldn’t walk out the door. I even started ranking them and giving them points based on how much they mattered to me. Still, the cons were heavier. Still, I stayed. My head could tell me the answer all day long, but what seemed to conquer my head was my heart and all the emotions tied up in those 11 years – including a lot of my own shit that had been wrapped up in my marriage. Like codependency and fears of abandonment, replacement, and being alone.

D and I had many straws leading up to a culmination of one moment that revealed months of lies and deceit. Apparently, that was my breaking point. Above all else, I needed to know that what I was being told was the truth my partner knew. And it wasn’t. It took me all of an hour to walk out that door. While packing, I bawled and screamed and bit myself and cussed and just didn’t even care. Nothing could hurt me in that moment more than the realization that I had been married to a liar and a thief.

But D and I are not the point or the question I’m trying to answer. That story has been repeated too many times already. What I’m curious about is, having watched myself and others break up, what is the thing that starts the process of ending and what actually sparks the official end? I often see the downward spiral – where it begins, how it escalates, and when it ends. The ending often takes months or years. People convince themselves they can talk through it, someone or both can change, and they wait…they talk until their face is blue…and they wait…and then…usually…nothing happens. The carcass of a relationship is still there – they are still going through the motions, still doing the day to day, but there is nothing left to build. Trust is gone. Hope dwindles. Eventually, at long last, the recognition of a death (of the relationship) dawns on one or both of them.

A good friend of mine recently asked me if I thought her relationship was doomed given recent escalation of discussions. I asked her if she wanted full honesty and she said yes. I told her, “I think he’s already gone, love.” I felt a horrible pain in my chest seeing her drawn face in response and slow nod. But I’ve see a change in her since. An acceptance. A choice to move on with herself in spite of what happens. I can’t answer what the conclusion will be, but I believe she will be better off either way by finding the strength inside her. That strength is where decisions generally come from – to keep holding on or to walk away. And to know you’ll be okay whatever the outcome.

The tipping point is my curiosity. What makes people look at all the past years of a relationship and up until the moment of walking away, keep thinking the balance is worth staying for? And when is it “enough” to leave? There is a book about this to help in making this decision. It’s called “Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay” and I read it when I was considering leaving D. What struck me about it was that even someone giving me justification for it being bad “enough” to leave was not enough to make me want to leave.

So it can’t be as simple as fun v not fun…right? There are so many things to stay for in a relationship that have nothing to do with fun, but might still be positive. Shared intimacy, shared memories, day to day tasks performed together, etc etc. And so many things that are positive that may also be kind of negative too. Relationships are hard. They push at our deepest darkest buttons and give us opportunities for growth and change. They also give us opportunities for hurt. That hurt can be transformed into positives – for you and the person catalyzing those transformations. Some people challenge me in ways that feel negative, but in the end they are positive for me.

Additionally, people are ever in flux. Sometimes, we aren’t sure if a person is going through something that is temporarily harming the relationship or if it’s a more permanent change. We might be able to live with something like depression temporarily, for instance, but not if it’s a more permanent state in our partner, especially when our partner makes no effort to change. We all have lines at which something is no longer working for us *and* at which it’s bad “enough” to end the commitment we may have made with another.

I also believe we all have different ideas and expectations around what “commitment” even looks like. Some people seem to believe that a longer relationship timespan inherently means they are “committed,” when others might believe that hard times in relationships are assumed and the commitment aspect is the feeling of wanting to stay and work things out as much as is feasible. To some, marriage is forever no matter what and to others marriage is a legal document that can just as easily be renegotiated with another document.

Last but not least, these lines of where and why we end a relationship seem to sometimes be grey and wispy until the moment that it isn’t. Until we hit a wall that is definably an end point, something we imagine can never be worked past. Suddenly, it might feel crystal clear after years of hmming and hawwing. They don’t seem to be predictable, but you know it when you’ve gotten there.

These are only some of the factors I can think of in making a decision to end a relationship or stay. That’s not including kids, costs of leaving, etc. Which to me indicates fun is the least of the considerations. Long-term relationships are not always fun. But they can be immensely rewarding, fulfilling, loving, intimate, connected, stable, and growth-inspiring. If fun is the only variable in your algorithm….are you doing it wrong?

There is No Script

The thing I’m realizing most about life these days is: There is no script. None.

We’d all like to think there is. It makes us feel good to think we know what it is. It makes us feel safe to know where we are on “the path” with its clear milestones. We can mark our trajectory and see we are making “progress.”

But then…when something goes awry and we are no longer on a clear place on the “path,” what do we do? We think we did something wrong, that’s we’ve gone backwards or regressed somehow. In the beginning, it’s effing scary and the first inclination is to figure out a last ditch effort to getting back to the path. Then, we realize the path fucked us. Fuck the path! Then, the struggle becomes more real when we realize what it will take to take an entirely different uncharted road. Eventually, we have faith that our way of being is no one else’s and our future is not predictable and that’s okay – even preferable (and freeing).

The most obvious way I did this was after divorcing, but my career has also gone that way. I lost my job – the stable 40-hour-a-week soul-sucking, but wallet-padding job. The stable job my parents always wanted for me. The first inclination was to run to find another full-time job. But then I leaped. I said “Wait a second. Breathe. You’re okay right now. And you have the best opportunity ever to try to actually step off this cliff and figure out a different way. The full-time job thing will always be there if you want it at some point. But please try a different path. It’ll be okay.”

It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. And there were many moments of looking for contract work that I wanted so badly to find a full-time job (I even did apply for a couple)….and then I made a promise to myself that I would see this through. I would step into the door fully and close it behind me and sit in the present and in the fear and ambiguity, not halfway in ready to run out the doorway for the next full-time stability I could find.

I did the very same in relationships. I diversified – feeling unsafe with trusting in one person, putting all my emotional eggs in one basket. I ran from the “path” because the path fucked me royally. And then…I began moving back towards wanting a deeper connection, something more solid and “predictable.” Even now, my current situation is very monogamish-looking from the outside. And many moments, I want to fall back into the illusion of safety, the illusion of the “path”: aka “real” monogamy. I want to put a label on it, define it, tie it with a bow. I want to stop *working* at this thing called a relationship (as though you do in whatever structure relationship you have) and my brain full of fears and insecurities of being replaced, abandoned, alone. I want to expand into the illusionary *knowing* of what this and the future looks like. And then there is this other part of me – the part that desperately wants (for him and I) freedom and love and to expand into *me* and the *present* with everything I’ve got. They are at odds and constantly wage war inside of me.

The war may wage forever. I believe there is something deeply engrained in all of us that wants a set path and also wants to forge our own. We want to know that when we forge our own, there is still a possibility for going back to the safety of what people have given us to believe – even if we no longer believe it. That is what is so interesting observing in me – the very specific lack of belief that there is such a thing as security at all and yet wanting security so very badly. In the today version of Nikki, if my current romantic partner asked me to marry him, I’d have multiple very polar reactions: Well, one would be confusion because both of us have stated never wanting to be married again and technically he’s not even divorced officially yet. Another would be “What the fuck is marriage? Why do we need a legal paper to bind us together?” I would feel stuck…and on the other hand comforted. While also believing the paper means nothing.

In fact, A and I have talked about marriage. Not actually about doing it. But that there was this feeling in both of us that we should be proposing to each other – to show how committed we are. Because we realized we have no language in our society besides a vow and rings and a ceremony to show that we care a fuck-ton about a human being and want to be around them for…as long as is healthy. Not till death do us part. Not as a ball and chain. Not as a promise for forever.

And oddly enough, even writing that puts a lump in my throat. Because there is still a part of me that wants the statement of “forever” even if nothing in me believes there is such a thing. A part of me that wants the manifestation of the script. A part of me that wants to talk about growing old and gray with someone without the other part of me screaming “I call BS!”

How does one reconcile the desire to feel safe in the future with knowing the truth that change is the only constant (and kind of liking that story too)?

Online Intimacy Discussion 2

To all of you who read this blog religiously, I want to invite you to an online discussion about intimacy, communication, and consent.
I’ve noticed that seeking intimacy is one of the largest sources of shame in humans and I’d like to help change that – even in a small way. I think the main way we can change is by discussing it together openly, honestly, and without judgment.
Please join me for this talk at 7PM MT on tomorrow Wed July 12, 2017 here ($5-15 suggested donation):

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/communication-consent-and-intimacy-talk-2-tickets-35482694695

Hope to see you there!

❤ N

Seeking Support to Spread the Love

If you’ve been reading along, you’ve likely been noticing my focus on intimacy lately – discussing cuddling sessions, bringing up intimacy discussions online (the second of which is happening on July 12 at 7PM MT), and stepping away a bit from my counseling career in certain ways (and towards it in others). This is because for the first time in my life, I want to plunge headlong into something that is by far not stable or a sure bet but what I’m passionate about. For the first time, I actually want to put effort into making the world better in as direct a way as I possibly can given my skills.

I’ve made a proposal for this that you can find below (or click here) and I’m starting on it as you read this. Some of these focuses/changes will impact this blog and some will be integrating other parts of my life into the blog and from my blog into other parts of my life.

Some changes you will find in the near future may include but may not be limited to:

  • Audio podcast links of written blog posts
  • New and improved layout
  • More frequent posts (yay!)
  • More discussion about intimacy, communication, and consent

If you like the sound of this and are enjoying and appreciate what you read here as well as value my overarching goal of making this world a more open, honest, loving place, please please please donate to my efforts below. Everything helps!

https://www.gofundme.com/cuddlesforhumanity

❤ Namaste