Getting To Know You

May 17, 2007

This is the second post in a series “that will attempt to define relationships and how each of us, as men and women, have come to develop certain expectations when it comes to those relationships. We will look at the baggage we all carry, be it from the past or baggage that comes from certain expectations and assumptions about what the future holds.”

In our first post on relationships, Friends First, Friends Forever, we discussed platonic friendship and how that kind of friendship can enhance a close, intimate and physical relationship.

Of course, being a friend means a lot more than lending someone your car or helping them move across town. Those kind of of things are easy expressions of friendship. Lending someone a few possessions or a few hours is a nice thing to do, kind even, but that in no way is a measure of real friendship. The more profound aspects of friendship are more sublime, because those more sublime aspects of friendship are measured by how you give of yourself. In order to really give of yourself, you must really know yourself.

There are many people who recognize themselves in the mirror. They know how to look attractive to members of the opposite sex, or how to be charming, or how to be be a sparkling conversationalist. Many of those same people don’t have a clue as to who they really are. They think they are who they see in the mirror. They believe they are identifiable by their jobs, possessions, choice of music, books or political ideologies.

If you identify yourself by external ideas and trappings, chances are you have no idea who you are. If you have no idea who you are, you cannot possibly be a good friend, because you don’t have the capacity to give of a part of yourself you aren’t familiar with. You can’t have an intimate relationship with anyone else if you aren’t intimate with yourself.

The perceptions we have of ourselves, and how we project those perceptions, are not necessarily who we are. Sometimes those perceptions are self deluding and so far off the mark, they become toxic. ‘I am a failure. No one could possibly love me if they knew me. I chase love away,‘ are a few of those self deluding perceptions. There are many people who believe those perceptions- not because they reflect reality, but rather, because they reflect how little an individual might know him or herself.

All of us know loss, separation, hurt and failure. If we allow ourselves to be enslaved to those things, we are limit our possibilities. If we reflect back and say, “If only I had done this, I could have prevented that,” or “If only I had recognized the signs, I would have known,” we assign ourselves a power we do not have. We cannot control our world single handedly. We cannot change the events over which we had no control or we did not cause, or events in which others made the wrong choice. We are not all powerful. We have all been influenced by our past experiences, but those experiences are not the road map of our destiny. We choose that destiny more often than not.

To reflect back on events in the past and events and choices over which we had no control is to hobble the future. Imagine a walking around with a mirror in front of you, all the time. Imagine there were two small holes at eye level that let you see out just far enough so you would at least know in which direction you are headed.

If you don’t know who you are, it is inevitable that you will define yourself by what you see in the mirror and not by how others see you. The past too, is reflected back. With so much to look at, there isn’t much of a visible future.

Who you will be is reflected by the future choices you make. Who you will become will not be authored by others or by the opinions of others. If you believe that your life and existence are meaningful, life can be very rich indeed.

Our identity as individuals and within a collective, are determined by the choices we make. The choices we make says a lot about who we are , how we regard ourselves and where we are going. To attract the people we want and need in our lives, we need to be in close proximity to them, by virtue of the choices we make. That proximity is determined by the choices we make. For example, we can choose to surround ourselves with people who have a negative influence or we can choose to surround ourselves with people we admire, look up to and elevate us.

Healthy self esteem comes about as the result of great efforts in the expression of our humanity and acts of selflessness. Healthy people feel good about themselves because of the efforts and inclusiveness they extend toward others. Our efforts to do good are the direct result of choices we make. Real self esteem is reinforced with every act of selflessness. Our heroes and the people we look up to, all have that in common, too.

We wrote, in A World Without You In It,

…we suffer a kind of debilitating malaise- “Nothing I do or say really matters.” There is the belief that whether or not we contribute anything to the the world and those around us, the world would be no different. It is the ‘my vote doesn’t really count’ school of thought. No matter our efforts, nothing will ever really change.

If you truly believe that your efforts and contributions are meaningless, can you really know and have passion? What can you truly look forward to, what will truly excite you? To what can you truly be committed? Will you ever know that ‘fire in the belly’?

Of course, that way of thinking is skewed. You matter because you were born. For those of you that believe in God, man’s destiny is waiting to be written by virtue of your efforts and passions. For those of you that do not believe in God, the power and potential of man is in your hands. This means that your very existence is vital. You are indispensable to mankind.

What notes will you choose to play in the symphony of life? Will you add to the music, or will your efforts be lacking, resulting in a hollowness?

Many people have had the great misfortune of growing up in less than ideal, or even dysfunctional families. There is no question that many of us, in one form or another, carry a certain amount of ‘baggage.’ That truth begs another question: “Is my worth based on whether or not I was valued at home by my immediate family, is it based on my achievements, or, do I matter because I exist?”

The almost universal knee jerk reaction is, “Of course I matter! My family, friends and community value and love me!”

Now, ask yourself again, that initial question- would it make a difference if you were never born? Would those around you be poorer for not knowing you?

In fact, you do matter. Not because of your wealth or looks, or productivity or great ideas. You matter because you were born- and because of the potential contributions you might make in that symphony of life. In fact, there are those notes that only you can play. You are irreplaceable. Just ask those people who love you and care for you. It is incumbent upon you to contribute to their lives and their well being. That in fact, is the greatest of destinies- to transform and make better, those around you. If you can do that, you will have changed lives, forever.

Once you understand those truths, that you know that you and what you contribute are essential to the wellbeing of others, the passion and fire cannot be extinguished.

There is much tragedy and suffering in this world. If every person understood that they matter, their lives matter and the notes they play matter, they would come to understand that they are indispensable and of great value.

People who believe and know they matter are capable of great things.

The search for meaning is a call for an audit of our attitudes, biases, values, hopes and dreams. That ‘inner audit’ has to be done in the context of our relationships with others, how we see ourselves and even our own closely held beliefs. Our existence as we and others relate to it, is really no more than a manifestation of our inner selves. Virtually every problem we face is the conflict between our ‘inner’ and ‘outer,’ or manifested, selves. Reality is the expression on canvas of our ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ selves.

Your friends know who you are. Ask them to be honest and to highlight the good and not so good. You can’t fix a leaky roof if you don’t where the leak is.

Who you are is about more than a personality inventory. As we have noted, you are what what you share of yourself. Are you handy around the house? Are you generous with your time in helping others? Are you a good cook? Being a friend is not just about being there and being relatively passive until called upon. Being a friend, a really good friend, is about being involved and anticipating how to be meaningful to another. Being a friend is a lot like being an attentive lover, only clothed. if you can’t be a friend with your pants on, you aren’t really all that in the bedroom. Sexual attraction emerges from the real intimacy and insights of real friendship.

Lots of people have dismissed the idea of friendship as a necessary ingredient for a successful romantic relationship. What those people usually have in common is a track record of failed relationships. Some people just have a hard time learning and accepting the lessons that more times than not, keeping one’s pants on for a little why longer is usually a good idea. Sex is not a substitute for real intimacy, nor is at shortcut that brings people closer together. Sex without real intimacy (and not hoped for intimacy) is a mechanical exercise that is designed to be physically pleasurable (hopefully). That’s it. If that is all you want, more power to you. Just don’t be surprised when down the road, you run into someone who doesn’t think like you. There are a lot of people who don’t believe that having sex is like shaking hands. Sexual needs are not the same as emotional needs.

Even if you don’t fully buy into the idea, pretend you do and give it a try. Actions and behaviors change people As a rule, no one has ever wished they had jumped into the sack earlier. If the subject of sex comes up (and it will!), change the topic. “Tell me a bit more about you,” is the perfect segue into a conversation that can only enhance a friendship. If it doesn’t, the handwriting is on the wall as far as that relationship goes.

None of this is to say that sex is not an integral part of a relationship. Clearly, it is. Nevertheless, sexual availability is not the same as sex within the confines of a loving relationship. There are distinct differences. Pleasure is not as profound as joy and being spent is not the same as feeling sated and fulfilled. The mechanics are the same, but the satisfaction derived from the relationships are very different.

When nature- that is, a deep seated need that humans have to truly bond with one another in an emotionally intimate way, is not allowed to take it’s course, the physical intimacy will be found lacking and hollow.

Tomorrow, we will discuss the steps to take that can and will make a difference in developing a healthy relationship. Time to tilt the odds in your favor.

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