Independence or Lack of Commitment?

We are a relationship species; we feel supported when connected to others. We thrive in our emotional life when we can be comfortable in our vulnerability; when we can depend on the people in our life who are stable and consistent in their love and action.

And so why do some people struggle with commitment? Sometimes it comes in the form of subtle distancing – being evasive as to making plans,Β  making independent decisions while in the context of a relationship, avoiding answering text messages, pulling away when feeling stressed. Sometimes lack of commitment plays the bigger hand and the relationship stalls when it is time to move in together or marry.

In either case, a dissonance is created, as the person who lacks commitment also desires attachment. The very system that allows someone to be open in their vulnerability can also create a defensive stance. For the person who holds love at an arm’s length, they have learned that although desirable, love is not dependable.

Understanding attachment is one of the easiest ways of getting a handle on why we may choose “independence” or commitment. I place independence in italics, as we need to both provide and receive emotional anchors in our life to be individualized in our relationships. Tomorrow I will feature a wonderful book and resource on attachment that I just finished reading. I loved every bit of it! πŸ™‚

Photo credit:Β http://Photo by Ana Toma on Unsplash

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When Friends Become Family

Over the Canada Day weekend we spent some time at a cottage with friends. Beautiful weather, views of Georgian Bay, waterskiing and tubing (not for me…but I enjoyed the boat!), time spent relaxing and catching up, meals shared squished around a table, laughter and connection high on the priority list.

Kim is a high school friend, which means we are going on 30 plus years of friendship. From high school on, we have been challenged by living 4 hours apart. During university, we kept in contact by writing letters, and we have always made a consistent effort to make sure we had plans in the queue to get together. Sometimes that includes girls weekends, other times it is couple or family time. We both have had challenging times in our lives in which we were there for each other; the stability and consistency of friendship has strengthened our bond.

If anyone were to observe our children together (5 in total), they would assume they were cousins. Immediate hugs, full consumption of time spent in activity, automatic affection and laughter and an affinity towards each other that is protective and familial. The best way to describe it is that it is simply a feeling; one of wholeness and unconditional connection – that is when friends become family.

Photo credit: Me! The view from the cottage of Georgian Bay

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The Shelter of Others

There is something about this photo, captured on one of my walks, that fascinates me.

In looking more closely, there are a couple of elements of interest to this picture. Firstly, you will notice that an evergreen tree has begun to grow out of an old stump; what is decayed and slowly returning to the earth is providing nutrients to what began as a fragile seedling. This new tree is now tied to the history of the stump; much like we are tied to the history of our ancestors.

This small evergreen tree is also living in the shade of a birch tree; it is being protected from the harshness of the elements, allowing the evergreen tree to capture the right amount of rain and sun for optimal growth. Although close, the evergreen tree remains separate. This reminds me of our own growth, whether it be from childhood or simply in the journey of our lives; that although there is an inherent need to strive for autonomy, we do so best in the shade of others.

This photo is a lovely reminder to me that we grow in the shelter of our loved ones.

Photo credit: Me!

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Friendship Goes a Long Way

We have just come back from a lovely long weekend visiting friends in Upper Economy, Nova Scotia. It was time to reconnect and relax; enjoy the beautiful views of the Bay of Fundy, while taking in the local sights and sounds of typical Nova Scotia life.

The friends we visited are imports to Upper Economy and it has been two years since we have seen them last; they decided to move to the Bay of Fundy from our area when an opportunity presented itself to uproot and replant. It always amazes me how time moves so quickly; how moments move into days and days into months; and before you know it, years have begun passing. And so it was time – a seat sale later, we were booked to visit our good friends.

And as it usually happens, upon seeing them, it was like no time had passed. Hugs were squishy, smiles were plentiful and conversation flowed easily. Our walks along the Bay of Fundy were perhaps the highlight of our trip; just seeing the ocean feeds the comfort system. The time spent together truly was priceless; and the laughter – always the ultimate sign of deep and lasting friendship. Not to mention the tears at the airport, as once again, time passed too quickly and we were once again ready to board the plane to return home.

The moral of this little story? Get the seat sale; book the trip. Feed your soul 😊

Photo credit: Me, from the shores of the Bay of Fundy

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The Importance of Shared Experiences

As my sister and I continue to prepare our parent’s home to be sold, we have been blessed by the kindness of their neighbours. Since our mother’s passing in November, the driveway was shoveled after every snowfall, mail taken in, and offers of coffee when we were there working. As we near the day that the house will be placed on the market, we continue to be grateful for a kind word or a hug from the people that they had formed connections with in the past 15 years.

This past weekend, we were invited to a traditional Ukranian meal by the neigbours that live across the street. My parents had always enjoyed the meal, typically served at Christmas, so it was without hesitation that we agreed to be spoiled with the promise of delicious food and good company.

The evening went beyond my expectation, as I was not prepared for how touched I would feel to hear the neighbour’s memories of who my parents were to them. To hear that my Dad would leave tomatoes on their doorstep, or how my Mom would come by with a warm apple pie, gave me some insight as to their relationships outside of family. I am grateful for the amount of time the neighbours put into preparing an unforgettable meal, and am thankful to have heard such kind words spoken about our parents.

Shared experiences become part of the richness of our memory bank, they help to reinforce the importance of connection; they feed our soul. When the opportunity comes your way to share an experience with someone, set aside your to-do list and say yes; it is time well spent. πŸ™‚

Photo credit:Β http://Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash

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5 Things I Learned from Online Dating

Ah, the online dating world! I can tell you that I came into it rather reluctantly as I was pretty sure that I was going to meet someone the old fashioned way. Ha! Two blind dates and then a 6 month lull convinced me I needed to bridge the waters of cyber-space dating. Being fairly introverted by nature, I had to gear myself up; I read a book about what to expect and then headed to my best friend’s house where we set up my profile over a glass (or two) of wine. It was a fun way to ease my mind and I felt a bit more prepared πŸ™‚

Here are the lessons I learned about online dating:

  1. Paid dating sites do some of the vetting for you. You are much less likely to get requests for threesomes and hookups on the paid dating sites. And hey, I figured if I was paying to be a part of a dating site, so were they πŸ™‚
  2. Chat for no more than a week without suggesting to meet. I quickly figured out that you could chat with someone for 3 weeks only for them to cancel the date on the day of because they “weren’t ready.” There really is no point in communicating with someone who shows that level of non-commitment right from the start.
  3. Suggest coffee as a first date instead of dinner. First off, you are in a much better position if the date is not going well to wrap things up earlier than sitting through a lengthy dinner; if the date is going well, nothing stops you from chatting for a couple of hours. Secondly, there is always the issue of who pays for the first date; coffee just makes it easier all around.
  4. Use your instincts. Pay attention to the red flags; if their profile said non-smoker and you can smell smoke when you meet them, heed that warning. I quickly learned that I could often tell on a first date if the person seemed compatible and I didn’t feel obligated to a second date when they asked and I would politely decline.
  5. Don’t take things personally. This is a tough one as we are more vulnerable when dating. But the reality is that in your online dating life, you will get ghosted (all communication stops), people go back to someone else they were dating, people end up still having feelings for their exes, people are dating when they are not ready to. All of the above is not about you. The online dating world just makes it easier for people to walk away without considering good manners.

And guess what? Online dating is how I met my partner – a wonderful, compatible and stable man who happened to live 15 minutes away; I most likely may never have met him otherwise. Online dating can work; gear up your confidence so that you can navigate and process as you go along, take breaks when you need to and have an open mind that there are people “just like you” out there. πŸ™‚

Photo credit:Β http://Photo by Wiktor Karkocha on Unsplash

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Crossing the Line

I was surprised when my oldest daughter, college age at the time, said to me “Mom, this is the first boyfriend I’ve had that doesn’t ask to look through my phone.” I felt both dumbfounded – and ticked at myself – how did she not know this was not the norm in a healthy relationship? I also felt sad for her, that her past relationships had been ones in which she was dealing with behaviours that cross the line into destructive and potentially abusive dating patterns.

Here are some warning signs:

  • checking your cell phone or email without your permission
  • mood swings
  • telling you what to do
  • being possessive of you
  • constantly putting you down, criticism
  • extreme jealousy or insecurity
  • explosive temper
  • falsely accusing you of things
  • physically hurting you in any way (this includes being pushy, and “playing” rough)
  • isolating you from family and friends
  • behaviour that is manipulative in nature

Print out this list and give it to your teenager. Tape it on the fridge if you are single and actively dating. Know the warning signs and don’t tell yourself that with time things will change. Don’t excuse the behaviour (he had a terrible childhood) or think that you are going to make a difference (if I just love him enough…..). People show you who they are early on. Believe them.Β 

Information for this post and a wonderful resource:

If you need help to escape an abusive relationship, here is the international directory of domestic violence agencies:Β

Photo credit:Β http://Photo by Jose Aragones on Unsplash

Friends Are Good for the Soul

I will say this until I am blue in the face – “Friends are the ultimate gift in self-care.”

This past weekend, I had my annual girls weekend with three of my high school friends.Β  Spanning 29 years of friendship and living in four different areas, we have, in connection, raised our children together. For us, this weekend away is about nourishing our comfort system. We eat good food, drink good wine, laugh until we cry, and create memories that are unique to that experience.

The setting was The Opinicon Resort in Chaffey’s Lock, Ontario for a ReTreat Yourself getaway. The 1950’s vibe to the place gave us a feeling of stepping back in time while the backdrop of nestled cabins tucked into rolling hills and the still calm of Opinicon Lake brought us the peaceful feeling we all need. We signed up for workshops, completed a little “amazing race” type challenge, sat outside our cute little cabin and soaked up the sun. The food was amazing, the dance was awesome, the surroundings were lovely. But most importantly, we caught up, we laughed, we connected.Β  Friends are the ultimate gift in self-care.Β 

Photo credit: Me!

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Habits for Kids that Lead to Growth

In an article entitled “Boundaries, Routines and Early Bedtimes: The 13 Powerful Habits That Raise Well-Adjusted Kids” by Lauren Tamm and featured on The Military Wife and Mom, Tamm writes about some essential practices that we can put into place to help our children become well adjusted. Although she spoke of the basics such as the importance of consistency through routine and making sure our little ones get enough sleep, I also appreciated some of the other featured habits including:

  • Being playful with our kids. “We don’t reserve much room in our lives for fun and games anymore. Our days are filled with stress, obligations and hard work, and without realizing it, we are more disconnected from our kids than ever. Play is the work of the child and to connect with our kids, we must play with our kids.”
  • Reading to and with our kids. β€œOne of the most important things parents can do, beyond keeping kids healthy and safe, is to read with them. That means starting when they are newborns and not even able to talk, and continuing well beyond the years that they can read by themselves. Study after study shows that early reading with children helps them learn to speak, interact, bond with parents and read early themselves, and reading with kids who already know how to read helps them feel close to caretakers, understand the world around them and be empathetic citizens of the world.” Β Amy Joyce, parenting writer
  • Slow moving days. (I love this one!) β€œI encourage parents to take some time to just watch their children, whether they are playing, doing homework, or eating a snack. Take a moment to drink them in. Remember and remind yourself how remarkable your children are. That pause alone, even if momentary, can drive a shift in the pace.” John Duffy, clinical psychologist
  • Experiences not things. (Read that one again!) “The best life experiences cost little to nothing, like a picnic in the park, blowing bubbles in the backyard, making chalk drawings on the sidewalk, or tossing a football around, but they all have one thing in common: you do them together. What kids really want in life is quality time spent with their parents.” – Sally White, parenting writer

Some really good stuff here; what I like most about these four in particular is they are about the time we spend with our children and the experiences ventured. πŸ™‚

To read the full article (well worth the read):Β

Photo credit:Β http://Photo by Picsea on Unsplash

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It’s All About Connection

I just got back from a special vacation; Mexican sunrises, the warm heat of the sun, turquoise waters, and lovely ocean breezes. But what made it truly special were the people I was with. After having lost our mom this past November, my sister and I decided to try and co-ordinate our families for a week to enjoy some time together; not an easy task but we did it. Together we:

  • experienced new things together and made some amazing memories. Seeing my nephew’s wife jump into the ocean to go snorkeling when she is afraid of open water, warmed my heart. Having the chef at the Japanese restaurant throw rice balls into our mouths was nothing short of a little embarrassing, but hey – we all had to do it! Learning to do the Bachata in the main plaza with some of my family members, priceless fun!
  • relaxed and recharged. You never really know how much you need it until you are sitting on a beach under a palm tree. We got to take in some sun, spend lazy afternoons reading, explored little Mexican villages, lounge around in the pool, linger after dinner listening to music. Being with great company only added to the flavour.
  • had a much needed chance to connect. Put 13 people together for a week and you can’t help but walk away with awesome moments of connection. Being able to get lots of cuddles in with my nephew’s 6 month old, walks on the beach with loved ones, family dinners together, dancing at the disco (well, for the young ones….we let them have that one crazy night together, haha!), time spent chatting, laughing, sometimes a few tears. All good; all important.

Family time is important no matter how you get it; being able to connect allows greater feelings of safety and security, allowing vulnerability to bring about courage and faith in your support system. Mom would have been proud πŸ™‚

Photo credit: Me!

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