On Being Bold: Bold Moves March

I’ve mentioned the beauty of being present and mindful, but I haven’t mentioned the beauty of being bold.   This is an important category to explore, especially for single ladies who are dating around at present like myself.

My friend Haley and I discussed her plan with a friend to act on “Bold Moves February,” but there’s something about cold weather and a lack of alliteration that made that less-than-appealing.  However, we both decided that Bold Moves March would be our thing, and as March is now over I thought I would report on our success.

The intent of Bold Moves March (BMM) was for us, as single ladies, to put ourselves “out there” in a way that would allow us to meet friends and acquaintances in a more efficient and interesting manner than usual.  The results of BMM for me were: meeting a good study buddy/friend connection to a whole additional group of friends with whom to spend time, meeting a man-friend with whom I had an amazing time but who, unfortunately, moved temporarily to Argentina, and spending a lot of time with the aforementioned Haley and building a wonderful friendship with her.

Every attitude worth cultivating requires practice and strengthening.  Building frugality muscles requires discipline and dedication, and the same goes for boldness muscles.   Walking up to an unknown person in a crowded bar can be difficult, but mastering this skill will make you more comfortable approaching someone in a tame coffee shop situation.  Becoming bold requires effort and risk, but results in increasing your ability to meet people and strike up meaningful conversations in unlikely scenarios.  Here are a couple of things I have learned from BMM: the vast majority of the time, when you approach someone new to start a conversation, they will be receptive to your effort and will relish the opportunity to get to know you.  In situations where this is not the case, you will have a sense of bravery and will feel stronger for the attempt despite any small rejection.

My mindfulness practice has allowed me to contemplate the ever-changing nature of everything.  I’m specifically aware of the transient nature of the wonderful relationships I’ve formed so far in graduate school.  Many of these people will move away, and even if they don’t, our relationships after graduation are likely to change significantly.  I’ve been overcome with acceptance of this fact, but have noted that it is difficult to meet people in Minneapolis without some sort of group membership.  Boldness can help ease the fear of changing relationship dynamics.  When you are bold, you know that you can meet people in all situations, and you can be brave and intrepid on your own.

Despite the end of the beautifully alliterative Bold Moves March, as we parted ways on our bikes tonight Haley and I yelled at each other “Bolder Moves April!” and “Boldest Moves May!”  I hope to continue my boldness indefinitely, and to strengthen my boldness muscle to a point where I feel no shyness talking to any strangers anywhere.

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The Beauty of Breaking Up

Everyone always talks about how hard it is to break up.  It is hard.  However, every time I’ve broken up with someone, while being awash in sadness and melancholy regret, I’ve also felt a strong pulse of hope and excitement about the possibility of dating someone new in the future.  There is a lot of sadness in breaking up, but a lot of hope too for new relationships, new friendships, and a renewed relationship with yourself.

I may not be very experienced in sustaining relationships but I’ve certainly had experience breaking up.  The vast majority of the relationships and dating experiences I’ve been involved in have ended at my own say-so, not necessarily because I did not like that person anymore, but instead because I knew they couldn’t enter into the type of relationship I want.  This may be the result of them not being nurturing or attentive enough, not sharing my core views of the world, or simply not desiring the same sort of relationship that I do.  Whatever the cause, breaking up is difficult and emotionally draining, but in these situations staying with that person would be much more harmful over time as the incompatibility grates on your spirit.

When you have only dated one person, or never experienced a major break up, the prospect of such an event occurring is a threat to be avoided.  You can get stuck in dating situations if only for the reason that both parties are too afraid of the pain of a break up.  How many times have you heard someone say, “I can’t believe I dated that person for so long,” or, “We should have broken up months ago?”  These are after-the-fact acknowledgements that a couple dragged their feet in breaking up.  All of the time spent prolonging a dying relationship is time not spent healing, growing, learning to be one with yourself, and meeting new people.

Experiencing break ups makes you much more able to let go of attachments in dating situations.  After a painful break up, you realize that you’re strong and you can heal.  I’ve found that a lot of strength comes from knowing that I can break up with someone whenever I need to and this eliminates the fear of a relationship going dead without ending.  This makes starting new relationships less stressful.  You understand that it may well end, but that you’re prepared for that possibility, and you are able to be present and enjoy that person’s company to determine whether there is a fit.  You are less likely to project your own expectations on someone else and instead can learn about who they really are and then determine whether you’d like to continue seeing them.

Another fear I used to harbor was one that a relationship would end and I would be inconsolably sad.  Break ups helped me learn that emotional pain can be overcome and that the presence of such pain gives you a greater appreciation for the small joys in life.  It also helps you not fear that pain in the future and appreciate present happiness more.  One Marion Keyes quote I’ve loved for a long time states, “When happiness makes a guest appearance in one’s life, it’s important to make the most of it.  It may not stay around for long and when it has gone wouldn’t it be terrible to think that all the time one could have been happy was wasted worrying about when that happiness would be taken away?”

The most resounding reason for appreciating break ups is the possibility that they offer for personal growth.  When you end a relationship that’s not right for you, you prove that you really and truly love yourself.  You demonstrate that you love yourself more than you love anyone else and you will put your own needs before any desire for or attachment to being in a relationship.  You will put your own needs above the rapport you have with another person, no matter how much you love them.  The knowledge that you are willing to subject yourself to temporary pain and discomfort to pursue personal truth and self-love will make you more confident in yourself.  This confidence and self assurance will surely make you a more lovable person in both romantic and platonic situations.

Dating someone who does not nurture your true self is draining.  Much time is wasted spent worrying about whether your friend will change and whether they will ever appreciate you and treat you the way you’ve hoped to be treated.  It is important to voice our concerns and stand behind our truths.  Through this process we learn more about ourselves and learn how to love and appreciate ourselves, whether this ends the relationship or not.

I have a very distinct memory of taking the bus to break up with the only person I’ve ever loved.  The entire way there and the entire way back I listened to Silver Lining by Rilo Kiley and still believe that Jenny Lewis’s words aptly embody my message here, “I was your silver lining but now I’m gold.”  You can mean a lot to a person.  However, if there is not a fit, leaving the relationship to strike out on your own will be immeasurably difficult but will result in the sweetest of rewards.

The Book I Recommend to Everyone: If The Buddha Dated by Charlotte Kasl

You might be skeptically criticizing this book already. Yes, it is a dating/spiritual/self-help book and includes occasional requisite discussions of uncommon religions (like Quakerism and Sufism).  But it is so much more than that!  Charlotte Kasl brings a warm compassion to every reader of this book. She holds your hand and helps you peel away the masks you’ve created for yourself to get closer to true happiness.  This just so happens to be a good strategy for dating, but the book is quite applicable to other relationships and life in general.

I was introduced to this book by a good friend while studying abroad in Northern Ireland, and the concurrent reading of this small dating book made our friendship so much richer and more rewarding.  This is honestly the only book I will ever need when it comes to living life in a spiritually and emotionally healthy way; it is also the only book I’ll ever buy about dating.

Essentially this book discusses how to remain mindful and honest in dating situations.  This first requires you to examine past relationships and set yourself right.  It guides you toward understanding what you’re looking for in life and in relationships.  It teaches you how to be authentic, shedding the masks that conventional dating books and popular culture tell single people that they must don in order to be attractive potential partners.

The most important piece of this book for me has been her lessons on attachment and acceptance.  She discusses how attachment to an idea, a person, or a feeling will inevitably cause suffering.  However, if we live moment to moment, consciously grateful and aware of the lovely things in our lives, and able to welcome new things and let go of losses, we will suffer less.  Unhappiness and heartbreak will come into our lives, and if we aren’t so attached to being always happy, the presence of these feelings will not cause in us so much suffering.  She also advocates acceptance of whatever we’re feeling in the moment, and not judging ourselves for feeling afraid, or angry, or depressed.  Instead she says that certain feelings are cues for us to examine more closely.  We might think, “Interesting, I’m very angry about that, why is that?”

Kasl discusses that when you get wrapped up in thinking or in your thoughts, you might start thinking that your thoughts define reality.  You might think, “I need to keep this relationship.”  This causes you to alter your relationship with reality and with your partner.  We are adults, and do not need any one other person, and if this relationship were to end you would be sad but would eventually heal, and become stronger, and move on.  When we get wrapped up in thoughts like this we do not act in accordance with our authentic self and we may end up clinging to a relationship that is not right for us, simply because of a fear to be alone.

As I’ve been lately trying to be more mindful, through regular meditation and yoga practices, I’ve found some surprising benefits.  I’ve been more focused, productive, peaceful, and happy.  I’ve had a greater awareness of and appreciation for my surroundings and have been surprised by spontaneous bursts of happiness and gratitude.  I’ve only been practicing mindfulness for a short while and it has greatly enriched my life.  However, as a cautionary note: pursuing mindfulness for any goal can be an attachment in itself.

One part of this book that I particularly enjoy discusses how to be alone (which is discussed elsewhere, in poem form).  This part speaks to my heart:

“Sometimes we open our heart, date lots of people, and stay true to our path, yet no lover is forthcoming.  This tests our faith and our ability to accept what we are given…  There may be absolutely nothing wrong – no deep block, no problem, nothing you could have done differently.  It’s just not your time right now, for no particular reason.  Your path is to find acceptance, to be at peace with yourself.”

“Ultimately, life is about knowing who we are and being able to accept the inexplicable rhythm and pulse of our journeys.  We move from asking Why me? to reflecting on what befalls us.  We learn to say, This is my life right now.  What can I make of it?  What can I learn from it?  How can I feel joy? “