I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships lately. Platonic, intimate, acquaintances and everything in between. The nature of them, how they affect our well-being, our health, our mindset and how, despite sometimes wishing they weren’t, they are integral to our joy and fulfillment during this lifetime. So, as I usually do with things I think about intensely, I decided to write about it.
Being an NTP, you’d think my job description ended at food, but what I’ve found over the years is that food is rarely the place of conclusion. In fact, it’s usually the commencement, the place where it all starts and continues to unfold into a deeper understanding of what health really means.
To me, health means being able to wake up in the morning satisfied and eager. Happy and content with your life and where it’s heading. Receptive and open to contrast as a learning tool, but not afraid and fearful of its presence in your life. Health means alignment between your body, mind and soul and a feeling of connection to a greater collective than you can concretely wrap your head around.
Can all of that be accomplished with food? I think not. Which is why I feel it necessary for us to take a holistic approach to our wellness and address all the conditions of our lives, including our loved ones – our loathed ones – and ones we don’t give much thought to, but who still exist in our awareness.
Whether we like it or not, relationships are central to our existence and we are in a “relationship” with everyone we meet. To demonstrate my point, according to the dictionary definition, relationships are defined as such:
“the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.”
In other words, while we often save the word *relationship for our intimate and romantic ones, we are related and connected to everything and everyone we come into contact with, making relationships a very, very large and undeniable part of our experience. If I go to the grocery store to pick up food, I’m in a relationship of some sort with every person and item there. Now, the intensity of that relationship may vary, I may hardly notice some people while choosing to speak to others, but nonetheless, the relationship exists. From a purely objective standpoint, with this many relationships making their way into our daily experience, wouldn’t it make sense to ensure they are mostly positive?
But we don’t do that. We tend to think of relationships as passive. As though the people and encounters in our lives are exerted upon us and our only job is to consume them. To receive them and react to them. If we are “lucky and blessed” we’re surrounded by people who make our lives better, and if we are “unlucky and cursed” we will be surrounded by those we consider idiots or people who make our lives miserable.
And this is wherein the problem lies...
What most people fail to understand is that the quality of our relationships exists in direct proportion to who we ARE in our own lives. In other words, your relationships are a direct reflection of YOU.
With that in mind, do you like what you see looking back?
Upon learning this harsh, eye-opening truth, I remember balking a bit. I was more of the mindset that people were more hassle than they were worth. For the most part, I found that people were self-serving, annoying, dumb, lazy, mean, and uninteresting. I had time for a few select (read: “important”) people in my life, and even they were often the source of much of my pain. Particularly when it came to my romantic relationships. No matter how hard they may have been trying, I was consistently disappointed with their lack of attention, love and adoration, expecting an inordinate amount of devotion and connection that I myself was unwilling and unable to give in return.
So, you can imagine my surprise, and disbelief, when I found out that all of those relationships – the ones that caused me so much headache and the ones for which I longed to be more meaningful and deep – were a product my doing.
I’m not suggesting that we can manipulate our relationships to fit our ideals, but what I am saying is that if we want meaningful, loving, interesting, expanding, open, communicative relationships, we must first show up as those qualities in our own lives. Borrowing from religion, we call this a faith of sorts. The premise that I must first become that which I want to be and look for what I want to cultivate within myself without having seen proof of it in others. Because the universal forces which bring us together are interesting that way. If my frequency is more irritable than compassionate, more angry than loving, more negative than positive, by definition it will be difficult, if not impossible, to match up with anyone embodying those qualities.
Sometimes this is hard, especially when it means looking at old patterns and ways of showing up and choosing new ones. I remember specifically wanting more authentic, open and vulnerable relationships, until I realized what they would require of me. More authenticity and vulnerability. Unfortunately (or not), relationships are never one-sided, meaning that you will most likely have to become uncomfortable for a period of time while you learn to navigate new ways of being, communicating and interacting. Which is why most of us fail to make changes and then blame others for not being what we needed them to be.
When I was on the road to those more meaningful relationships, I had to dive deep into what I considered hot water and it was, at times, terrifying. It didn’t stop me, but sometimes my heart would race so fast I thought I would die and I had multiple vulnerability hangovers, as shame researcher Brene Brown affectionately calls them. I was wobbly and shaky and unsure of myself most of the time, but little by little I saw people opening up around me in ways I couldn’t have imagined before. Not only strangers, but friends and family I’d known my entire life. People I thought couldn’t possibly share my love for this work or whom I thought were content to stay where they were started joining me on my journey. We talked and laughed and cried – sometimes we pushed back on each other, but ultimately the more responsibility I took for massaging and nurturing my relationships, the more they blossomed before my eyes into something that felt real. That felt like mine.
While that’s simply one example of the way it could unfold, the overarching theme is this:
Get clear on what you’d like from your relationships and then work to become that person.
Your relationships will rise or fall to the level of your expectation and creation. They are not dead, but vitally alive and pulsing with possibility. Not outside of yourself, but in. And arguably, existing in a world where you feel enlivened, supported, loved, seen and connected is one that’s fantastic for your health. Next time you find yourself frustrated, disappointed or disillusioned with the people in your life, ask yourself how you can show up differently to the scene and see how it changes the landscape.
Until next time,