The Invitation By Oriah Mountain Dreamer
It doesn't interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart's longing.
It doesn't interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn't interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon...
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life's betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.
I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.
I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.
It doesn't interest me
if the story you are telling me
I want to know if you can
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.
I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
It doesn't interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.
It doesn't interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
and not shrink back.
It doesn't interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.
I want to know
if you can be alone
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.
One of my favourite poems about authenticity and intimacy. Happy reading!
It’s baaaaaack! Valentine’s Day is upon us! Love is in the air again!
I don’t know about you but my inbox has been replete with cupids, candy, flowers and sexy lingerie ads ever since Xmas ended…‘tis yet another season for the urge to splurge, I believe- another opportunity to demonstrate our feelings for each other! However, this time the stakes seem higher as the spotlight shines on romance, love, and desire.
And, although joyfully anticipated by many couples as the official romantic holiday of the year, for many others February 14 is frowned upon as the commercialization of love or worse- the dreaded, socially-imposed scheduled day of pressure and disappointment- even heartbreak, loneliness and rejection. Either way, whether we celebrate it or denounce it, Valentine’s Day indelibly reminds us of love, relationships, passion, and, if partnered… our connection.
Or lack of.
Personally, I think few things in life are more important than enriching our relationships. I also think V-day can serve as a good reminder to re-evaluate -even remedy- our love partnerships, as in give our relationships a critical thinking over. Why? Because happy and healthy relationships are not self-sustaining and require continued effort. How? Mostly through gratitude and good communication, as in conversation.
Roses are Red,
Violets are Blue,
True Love Begins With
Sharing What’s Important to YOU!
Conversations can actually help us stay on track, navigate challenges and reconnect with each other more consciously. In fact, when put to regular practice, holding conversations can pull us out of routine, ruts and complacency and even help refine and bring back creativity and curiosity to our couple life.
Heartened by a new way of being
I often encourage my couples to begin their conversations by taking a sentimental snapshot of their relationship…you know, as in reflecting on the good times of our past. “Remember when…” is a great segue into a loving conversation. Or, if feeling stuck in your relationship, taking a look at how your relationship has changed by contemplating with your partner, “We’ve been stuck. I’ve noticed it and I think you have, too. We’re in a rut and I’m wondering how we got here”. The fact is that we all do have a history together, and if we take the time to remind ourselves of the journey, especially the happy times, we stand to increase our intimacy and work on our weak spots together, too. Intimacy is like a true knowing of both self and other. I think most of us want to experience this type of bond with our loved one.
So this year, instead of following the crowd, how about you skip the roses and chocolate, and make the day about your couple connection, as in talking and listening kindly to each other in conversation. It can be a sweet start to a rich dialogue and can lead to a whole new discovery about who you each are, what you long for and even help you make a heart-felt connection.
Perhaps this Valentine’s day, follow your heart, and get reacquainted instead.
*a romantic dinner for two becomes dinner for four, with feelings of closeness snuffed out by accompanying smartphone buzzes, chimes and check-ins on social media
*an overworked professional -and parent- is made to be available at all times, tethered to their digital gadgets, often bringing work home and on vacation, much to their own detriment and family life
*a teenager breaks up over a text message, avoiding taking proper responsibility for the relationship: removed from coping with heartache which is an essential part of being human and healthy communication
*a mother interrupts her playing children just to take a family selfie in hope of getting several ‘likes” from her Facebook friends
*a husband habitually turns himself “off” from his wife in bed by turning “on” his tablet instead
There’s a term for these type of encounters and it’s called: technoference. Moreover, these concerns add to the growing body of psychological research exploring the overuse and reliance on technology, especially how it is interfering with our daily lives and relationships. In my line of work, it’s one of the hot-button issues facing couples today. In fact, phubbing -or the repeated act of ignoring or snubbing someone by looking at your phone instead of paying attention to the person you’re with- has become the latest phenomenon in couple conflict and communication.
Message Communicated- Message Received
It seems everyone is staring at some kind of screen these days...and believe me the irony isn’t lost on me as I write this article. However, happy relationships- whether romantic or platonic- are all about authentic face-to-face connection. Fundamentally, we are social creatures whose lives depend on our connections to one another. Most of us are not aware that it’s the history of our meaningful interactions with one another which takes a hit each time we ask more from technology and less from each other. Nor do we realize that we starve our capacity for empathy...quite literally, as our brain becomes neurologically famished, no longer receiving signals required for relational responses and bonding. Human connection brings meaning and purpose into our lives. Significant relationships are not self-sustaining. They require uninterrupted time, shared experiences, affectionate touch, attention -as in the human “look them in the eyes” kind. Consistently choosing your phone over your partner sends the implicit message about what you value most. Do the math: the more time we spend with our gadgets, the less time we make for each other. Digital communications do not build deeper connections...people do.
So, it is in our best interest to set aside time where we unplug and connect with what really matters. It’s not about being anti-technology, it’s about being pro- conversation. Today, world-wide, we are webbed in technology, let’s just make sure we don’t feel like we’re worlds apart when it comes to our loving relationships.
originally published in Ya Magazine (Vol. 2, Issue 3)
For me, Christmastime heralds in a spirit of Joy, Hope and Togetherness. It's that time of the season where I just want to make everyone feel loved with homemade Mrs. Field's cookies and loads of Lindt chocolate, great gourmet-get-togethers and especially, sipping and sharing my new favourite wine. Not exactly a Rockwell-esque picture but let's just say that should a snow-storm arise in the forecast, I will be the first person to try and organize an old-fashioned, horse-drawn sleigh ride. Yeeha! "Oh what fun it is to ride..."
Family and friends are very important to me and reconnecting during the holidays even more so. But, I do things differently now. I used to stress by trying to find the imagination and time to pull off a decadent and festive celebration- usually à la Martha Stewart style. Yes, my nickname used to be Martha:-). Gratefully, those times are soooooo long gone! Today, the emphasis is less on the stress of the event-especially sweating about the small stuff- and more on the time we simply spend together. And, mercifully, we no longer exchange gifts. Do you know how hard it was to live up to making and outdoing oneself year after year with MS's handmade gifts? LOL! Today, I'd rather give the gift of "presence" and donate money and time to charity and good causes- especially to animal shelters or rescue groups- than exchange gifts. "All I Really Want For Christmas..."
Maybe I'm getting old and cynical. A true-blue bah humbug! But then again, maybe I'm just becoming more mindful and kinder to myself. I really don't know. What I do know is that I'm looking forward to the comforting rituals of taking nice long wooded-walks with Lotti, going x-country skiing, chatting up conversations by the fireplace with my husband and perhaps taking in a couple of films or playing a board game or two with family and friends. Simple Abundance. "It's the Most wonderful time of the Year..."
And, as we approach the new year, I know I will be spending some time in quiet gratitude and reflection, reviewing my challenges, difficulties, inspirations and successes, actively working on releasing resentments and any residues of negative emotions, in Hope of creating a life filled with even more Joy, purpose and passion...to go deep with all that I love and especially continue to teach about love, compassion and building stronger relationships ...so that we may all somehow aspire and aim to build even a better world Together.
Happy Holidays everyone ...wishing you the best of health and much love, always
Among other great skills required for life and love, I often teach my couples about the art of empathy. Empathy is a condition and skill of all functional interpersonal relationships. And, no, empathy is not about feeling sorry for someone. Rather, it is more about feeling with someone. Many of us frequently confuse empathy with sympathy. Think of it this way: empathy is about trying to step into someone else’s shoes, whereas sympathy is more about feeling sorry for someone else’s shoes:-). Ok, so maybe it’s not the best example, but I think you get the gist: empathy says, “I hear you and I want you to know that you aren’t alone….you can open up with me…I won’t judge you because even if I don’t know what you are going through, I am willing to show up”. Empathy is like the fundamental skillset for bringing compassion into life.
Empathy by Proxy
Empathy can be an equation between two but often seem like an interaction of one. That’s because empathy can be both a state of mind and a character trait. Nonetheless, empathy needs to be genuine: it cannot be faked. We need to first be aware and understand our own feelings so that we may truly tune into our partner’s feelings. Empathy has no room for judgement, and always makes space for humility…..especially during difficult times. Yes, we need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable with our own sense of brokenness (or what I call emotional raw spots) before we can ever genuinely begin to turn toward our partner and learn to appreciate their own so-called humanness. As I often say to my couples, “Empathy -like marriage- is never for the faint of heart”. :-)
“Empathy is a choice. And it’s a vulnerable choice, because in order to connect with you I have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling.” Brené Brown
Empathy requires exposure of our private world of fears, failures, anxieties and uncertainties. It’s risky business. But, putting yourself “out there” is not a sign of weakness. Instead, it’s like building a foundation of support for your partner: so that they, too, can open up when life becomes messy and imperfect…and still feel like they are home or on solid ground-with you. In the end, it’s about being able to see a little of yourself in each other.
An Effort of Give & Take
I think it’s important to know that Empathy (and what you are attempting to achieve between the both of you) has as much to do with understanding as with dialogue. Giving or showing empathy is the effort made toward understanding another’s circumstances, even though we cannot fathom exactly what they may be feeling or going through. It has more to do with knowing the vulnerable experience of offering connection and presence, as in, “You’re not alone, I have also struggled”…even if you do not share the exact same point of reference. On the receiving end of empathy, we are offered the experience of acceptance and the knowledge of empowerment, or the courage and strength it takes to be vulnerable and feel less alone in our experiences when we choose to reach out. As you can see, there can be no empathy without vulnerability.
Here are some examples of how to show empathy:
And here are some other helpful tips for improving your skills:
Lastly, here is a beautifully animated short video that really sends the message home!
Parents agree that raising children in a loving home is important. Yet, what children witness at home is even more significant. Affection between parents such as cuddling, hand-holding, hugging, and kissing not only lets kids feel more safe and secure, but it also teaches children that family and marriage are about love- which can ultimately help prepare kids for their own future romantic relationships. So much about parenting is modeling, after all.
So why is it that most parents report showing less affection-and intimate time- with each other than they did before they had children?
Today we marry for love and expect marriage to satisfy both our personal and social needs.
We want to be best friends, equal partners and lovers, to boot! However, we also live in a child- centric society, where “the more you do for your children, the ‘better’ you are as a parent”. Parents today are so busy shaping the next generation that everything else takes a back seat, including time for themselves and their partners. Planning activities and prioritizing fun often gets lost on the adults -with after-school sports, dance lessons, music classes, and so on. But, so does the energy, once you factor in careers, household chores, bills and even attending to the family dog:-). On their long list of to-do’s, it’s no wonder parenting couples frequently find themselves finishing last and gasping for air!
“Children need parents who have strong connections: both sexual and emotional. It gives them a confident space in which to grow”. Esther Perel
The magic formula for keeping passion alive in a partnership may be broad and complex but perhaps a good place to begin is to think like a child and take the time to play. We are all born with an innate sense of joy and play. It’s our life force. Play generates optimism, offers novelty and vitality, too. Because children take risks and prioritize play, they are creative, imaginative, and feel alive! In adulthood, as in marriage, it is purely a choice to experience pleasure and have fun. So go ahead, ask your partner if they can come out to play?
Seeing love and sex today are at the centre of marriage, couple preservation is even more important than ever before. Without it, family life won’t thrive, let alone survive. Children regularly need to see their parents having fun together, being affectionate and playful. The willingness to show affection in front of children and carve out some time together alone- lets kids know that the couple relationship- and consequently, their own environment- is both precious and secure. It can be a mutual growth process for both parents and children alike.
For more help about how to restore or keep passion alive while parenting, please book a private session or see Marriage Interrupted- www.letstalkaboutlove.ca
this article was originally written for YA Magazine-March 2017
A very dear friend of mine passed away recently. Before cancer devoured her, I had the opportunity to tell her how much she had meant to me all these years. She was a lovely woman who embodied endless energy, and was always heralded for her huge heart. It was because of her, both as a breeder and friend, my life became blessed with the gift of knowing the most majestic breed of dog as well as understanding unconditional love.
I don’t know how to begin my letter to you other than to say how much you mean to me.
I remember when we first met at the vet’s all those years ago- you with Xander and Xoee, me with my three cats. Let’s just say it was Love at First Sight:-) Love- for the most beautiful breed of dog I was yet to adopt, and love for a friendship with you and Pat I would forever hold in my heart. I know I never told you this before, Kiki, but you have always reminded me of my own mom. This was always so special to me because in knowing you, I somehow stayed connected to her, too. Although my mom was much older, she had the same European flair as you. Not to mention the same smiling eyes and dry sense of humour, too. Her love of dogs, flowers, gardening and books; her “no-nonsense“ and “waste-not” approach to life… oh my Kiki, I’m certain had you known one another, you would have been good friends, too.
Kiki, thank you for always saying such kind things about my work with couples. I also want you to know something. It is because of YOU that today I know and teach “Unconditional Love”. Yes, you! When Jethro and ElleMae came into my life, little did I realize that I began a journey of building better and more unconditionally, loving relationships with both family and friends. You may laugh, but I believe their purpose was to help me cultivate and understand compassion. I always tell my couples that, unlike humans, dogs never worry or hold a grudge about what happened yesterday. They actually remind us that we need connection on a daily basis. I tell you, Kiki, those furry kissin’-cousins taught me through their wags and wiggles that no matter how stressful life can be, there is always time for a cuddle, walk or a giggle. And talk about Loyalty and Undivided Attention! Today, I can literally walk through the front door a hundred times, and Lotti is always so happy to see me!!! I continue to tell my couples, “If you want lessons in Love, don't look up to a married couple for a role model, simply look down. We have much to learn from them because Dogs Get It”.:-) So….from my very full heart, Kiki, I thank you for my “therapy” dogs. They have helped me and others heal in so many ways.
Over the years I have always enjoyed receiving emails and photographs from you. They were often the highlight of my day. From your extended family of Bernese folk and furry kids- to your very own precious family of Pat, Tim, Cornelia, Matthew, and Alexander- I have always loved the way you proudly posted updates on everyone’s antics and achievements. One of my all-time favourite pics is one where you’re driving a tractor and Pat’s drinking a margarita while petting a cat!! It’s really the essence of you (and also of Pat:-). In my eyes, you were forever the dynamo with the steely determination to get things done! A great role model for sure! I think the only thing I never saw you do is ride a polo pony!!!
Kiki, as much as I don’t want words to fail me now, I hope by writing you I haven’t done anything to upset you, either. Like I said, I just want you to know how much you have touched my life. I know I can’t take away your pain or find a cure for this damn disease, however, I truly hope you find some comfort in this letter. I’ve never done well with goodbyes. So, I’d rather say Thank You…thank you, Kiki, for honouring us with your life, thank you for being such a dear friend to both Dick and I, for deeply enriching our lives, and especially for giving us the gift of knowing unwavering love through the heartfelt bond of canine companionship. Priceless.
Love you forever, Lydia, Dick & Lotti ox
At the heart of every marriage is conflict. No two people are ever going to agree on everything. Actually, a relationship without conflict would not be able to move forward. Facing obstacles and overcoming them together is part of healthy and happy married life. Along with growth and change, however, there will always be complaints, disagreements, compromises, new challenges and responsibilities with each partner making mistakes that may hurt the other. Normal!
But did you know that it’s what you are doing when you aren’t fighting which can make all the difference in the world- not to mention in your words -when you do fight?
Research consistently shows that couples who regularly maintain their friendship -alongside fondness and fun- actually repair the bumps and bruises of their relationship battles much better than most. Yes, how well a couple connects when conflict is not part of the conversation is what can ultimately protect and preserve a loving relationship.
It’s All About that Base
Friendship is at the core of commitment, respect and trust. As my all-time favourite marriage educator, John Gottman PhD says: “Couples with deep intentional friendships have mutual respect and enjoyment of each other’s company. They tend to know each other intimately – they are well versed in each other’s likes, dislikes, personality quirks, hopes and dreams. They have an abiding regard for each other and express this fondness not just in the big ways but also in little ways, day in and day out.” Most importantly, because of these positive efforts made through their daily connection, couples automatically create a common bond, which naturally buffers their stress and helps sustain soothing love between them…even during the worst of times. By default, it’s their goodwill and shared history together which allows them to give each other the benefit of the doubt, communicate and repair rifts together, offering them an emotional safety net, especially when needed most.
Maintaining a healthy partnership takes time, energy, and commitment. But, building that base is important. Keeping the following in mind can help you stay on the right track:
1. In a digital world where shiny screens and silent communication seem to be replacing face to face human emotions, Pay More Attention To One Another! Put away the phones and reconnect the old-fashioned way!
2. Create Rituals with Each Other that have special meanings. What did you used to enjoy doing together? Coffee in the morning? Glass of wine or walk at the end of the day? Or, perhaps create something new?
3. Storytelling can allow for more mutual self-disclosure and connection. Go down memory lane together. Talk about your childhood. Get to know each other again. Emotional intimacy can help a relationship grow.
4. Say Thank You. These two words often get taken for granted but are so vital in helping us feel loved and appreciated.
5. Break out of your routine. Book a play date together. Keep it interesting and fun.
(originally published for Young Authors Magazine Sept 2016)
From Harvard to High School to Home
For over twenty years now, my mission has been to help people get more passionate about love and their relationships. I actually teach couples and individuals about life, love, family, sex and relationships. I offer couples new insights and skills so that they may improve the communication and connection between them. Ultimately, my goal is to help people add more value to their lives.
Bill Gates once said, “Teaching is About Relationships”. He meant that good teachers build relationships with their students. I couldn’t agree more. When I think about all the great teachers I’ve ever had, they were more than just experts in their field, they were kind and friendly, patient and sympathetic. They stood out from the rest. They often made learning interesting and fun. They were also caring, supportive and believed in you. We may not have had a label for it back then, but today we know this as Emotional Intelligence (EI) or EQ.
EQ is a measure of how aware you are about yourself and your relationships. It involves recognizing, managing and effectively communicating how you feel while responding appropriately to others. It’s about knowing how to find words to express vulnerable emotions such as affection, anger, fear, guilt, sadness and shame as much as it is to be able to deal with stress, listen with compassion and cope with conflict and change. No small task but the nice part is these skills can be learned!
I always teach my couples that the most important relationship in any family is the marital one-that the best gift parents can ever give their children is to love each other. Loving each other means knowing how to keep the partnership on track: from repairing rifts together to choosing to spend time together. Loving isn’t just about the words, it’s showing it through everyday actions and behaviours.
Children automatically learn from their parents, so if the parents’ marriage is healthy and happy, chances are children will emulate the same for their own. After all, parents are teachers, too.
The compulsory R- Relationships
Although Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic are important to academic achievement, research shows that no amount of book smarts will ever make up for the lack of communication and social skills required of our relationships and especially living a balanced life. In fact, for almost 80 years now, an ongoing longitudinal study out of Harvard has consistently demonstrated that the strength of relationships with partners, family, friends and community are the most valuable predictors of true happiness. Forget fame or fortune, income or IQ. What matters most in life is the quality of our Relationships. Yes, the consensus among psychological research is that emotional intelligence not only adds greater value to both career and relationship competence, but becomes generalized across other domains of life, too. No wonder parents most always want for their children what they want for themselves: happiness and well-being!
Healthy relationships are necessary for success at school, work, home, in raising kids and everyday life. We should all do our part studying up on this other kind of smart!
Hi, I'm Lydia- a modern-day warrior of the heart with a mission to reconcile the mystery and mastery of Love.