Being healthy means having a life that is rich and fulfilling.
One of the tools to achieving this is whole, fresh, colorful and nutrient-rich foods to feed your body so it can be strong and clear enough to hold your good ideas and your wicked sense of humor.
Your relationships should also be whole, fresh, colorful and nutrient rich.
You need love like you need oxygen. It’s fundamental.
Good relationships are a breath of fresh air. Toxic relationships will suck the life right out of you. Choosing wisely and knowing when to make changes in relationships that are no longer serving you is an integral life skill.
Using some of the prompt questions from Katie Den Ouden’s Skinny Dip Society Blog Tour (which I’m proud to say this post is a part of), I cobbled together a little self-interview about one of my most favorite topics: Relationships.
What do you wish women would talk about more?
I really wish women would spend more time talking about ideas and less time talking about each other. I don’t mean the valuable support and advice of friends around their other relationships, but the recreational dismantling of other women – so much less of that.
I wish women would feel more comfortable celebrating their successes, instead of feeling like they have to diminish them and play small to be likeable. Shame-enabling (encouraging and exchanging negative self-talk) as a way of connecting is actually vicious and a disservice to all of us.
I wish women would talk more about the grief and loss – in addition to the rewards of being a mother. We really need an authentic conversation about failure in order to successfully imagine what raising our kids as a village might actually look like.
Last, but definitely not least, I wish women would spend more time talking openly about healthy money practices instead of encouraging overcompensation-style overspending. I love seeing women supporting the financial security of other women. Financial independence increases our ability to help others and raises the impact of our voices and our choices.
How do you create female friendships with depth, understanding, laughter and vulnerability?
I used drugs and alcohol as my primary coping tools from my very early teens until my mid-twenties. One of the first things I remember realizing in my new sobriety was that I had very few women friends, and when I did meet women, I rarely thought they liked me. I was so shy and socially awkward. It was shocking to realize that I didn’t know how to connect with people at all without consuming and sharing mind-altering substances with them. While it might be fleeting, there is an instant connectivity when you’re cutting lines on the back of a toilet tank at a bar. It turns out actual relationships, based on substance rather than substances, take time and an incremental investment of energy.
So, I am proud to say, that I learned to cultivate my female friendships from scratch. I learned to identify women I respect and admire and be brave enough to pursue them as friends. You know, ask the to coffee, things like that. Like all things that matter, it can be trial and error. Some of the relationships have been unsuccessful and ended with varying degrees of sadness and resentments. But, most have been successful and I now count my many female friendships, especially my few closest ones, as one of my most valuable assets.
I imagine us gathered together as we age, laughing till we pee (obviously there will be loads more inadvertent peeing then), still seeing each other as the most beautiful creatures alive and getting together regularly for yet another stab at love. Sometimes this fantasy of mine includes a Grey Gardens-type scenario where we say everything with unnecessary dramatic flourish, wear turbans and forgo all of our landscaping responsibilities.
How do you feed your soul while you are in a romantic relationship?
This is such an important question so I included it even though it’s a tough one. Intimacy has long been an area of such tender weakness for me. I don’t talk much about it out of privacy for my past partners, but also my shame. I have overcome so many obstacles to find health and success, but romantic love was relegated to a very unavailable place of deep embarrassment and regrettable decisions. It was the part of me that still made me feel broken and failing.
Fortunately, or maybe just stubborn and rebelliously, I have refused to give up on love; even if the love I want is one I have never witnessed – mutual respect, admiration, stability, hilarity and trust. Holding this truth has required raising my standards, not incrementally, but in wide leaps. Raising the bar – not just on what I want in a respectable partner – but the standards of my self-respect within the relationship. Relationships are valuable mirrors, opportunities to soften our edges, to see a different perspective, to expand your family and build the scaffolding that holds together a life.
I’m pretty tickled to report that the work has paid off. I don’t want to say too much because it’s still new-ish and so sweetly just mine. All mine. But I will say this: I was right to be stubborn.
How do you maintain your relationships with time constraints? Careers? Kids?
It’s hard. So hard. I have to say “no” most of the time to be a parent and keep my business running without me getting crushed under massive overwhelm. I work long hours, I home school. I need a lot of sleep. I need a lot of time alone. Without those last two things I’m socially useless even if I do get out. I hate that I can’t be present at all of the things I get invited to, and all of the cool things my friends do. But I am a much better friend and mother when I’m stable and relaxed. So I choose things carefully, I get my sleep and alone time and I maintain my relationships with long-wave rhythms. We stay in touch with technology and an understanding that sometimes, walking the planet together is comfort enough. If we need each other, reaching out is always an option and it will be like no time has passed. And then, sometimes I just have to shut it all down and go out for laughs and hanging out. Whether that takes a walk to happy hour or a plane ticket for a long overdue face-to-face. Maintenance just has to look different at different times. But what can be consistent is the refusal to give up.
What was your bravest relationship moment?
Every moment of every relationship I have ever had – every single one – has felt like the bravest moment ever.
Being vulnerable in front of another human is no joke.
In fact, sometimes my Grey Gardens fantasy gets overturned by my Twin Peaks fantasy in which I move into some dive motel in a non-descript town and trade in my car for an old truck. In this scenario, I always get a job, and eventually own, the local diner, working long hours as an aging, but still attractive enigma in a flattering vintage diner dress. While no one in the town knows my story or ever manages to crack my tough emotional shell, I know everything about the lives of my customer’s and can remember their orders like Rainman remembers it’s time for Wapner.
Apparently, in this fantasy, I have also never smoked pot. Ahem.
How do you deal with the not so pretty parts of your life?
It depends. I tend towards over sharing when I’m uncomfortable in person and under sharing on social media in a way that skews perception towards me spending a lot more time being rad than I spend underneath blankets. All of that makes a great case for being selective about who I spend time with and doing the things I know I have to do to stay sane. Food, movement, creativity, kid and friend stuff. I’m best when I’m careful and comfortable in person. I’m best when I’m brave online. Moderation in all things is a lifelong practice for me.
Ultimately, I am a devout believer in story. By utilizing humor and empathy, story has the power to turn the not so pretty parts of ourselves into compassion. Articulation allows stuck energy to move and dissipates shame.
Story reminds us that we are human and perfect in our messiness.
Story reminds us we aren’t alone.
Stories don’t have to be told or written, they can be photographed, painted, sculpted or transmitted through music.
Everyone has a story. Everyone has a voice.
In addition to being brave and risking it all for love, valuing yourself enough to be around the best of friends in the best of situations, I would encourage you to practice sharing your stories with people you trust. And, if you are into it, sharing selectively with wider audiences.
The not so pretty stories are always the most interesting. They are always the most powerful. They are the stories that always end up weaving the fabric of the deepest, most sustainable love.
Joining Katie Den Ouden’s Skinny Dip Blog Tour was a no-brainer. I adore Katie’s work, and the group of women she has brought together is such a lovely powerhouse of tenaciously playful voices. I’m giddy to be a part of this crew.
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Even better, hang out for the whole tour. Click on the image below to see every post as it’s published and get information on Katie’s 21-day Skinny Dip Society Challenge. She’s darling and brilliant. Trust.