I used to think intimate relationships were all about romance. I had watched enough Disney movies and chick flicks, swooning over the guy who constantly dotes on the girl. It seemed dreamy to be in a partnership where "we always get along" and that seemed so very possible based on the movies and fairy tales. Disagreements were a sign of failure, because couples who always got along were the happiest... right?
Well, actually, there's no such thing.
Sure, in the beginning of many relationships, there is a period of time where the waters between you and your partner feel like they're sparkling, when you're so enraptured in the newness of this person, so enamored with the way you feel in their company, that a significant disagreement seems almost impossible.
Arguments have no room here. This time is meant for feeling what it's like to fly together -- because later on, if you stick with it, you'll need to know that this sense of flying is possible. You'll need that early state of ecstasy to keep you rooted in doing the work that long term intimate partnerships are meant to offer.
The truth is, relationships are always mirroring back to us precisely the work we need to do in order to grow spiritually. While companionship is certainly a jewel of committed partnership, the big gift it offers is the deep and brilliant beauty it can illuminate within us. Relationships are the core of life; they present us with the greatest opportunity for spiritual and emotional growth, and for joy.
All my life I've been observing relationships. My own, my friends', my parents'. Real relationships, not the kind in movies. I've watched what makes them thrive, I've watched what deteriorates them, I've watched how people tolerate mediocrity even when their insides are screaming out for something more fulfilling. I've watched the courage that it takes to let them take each partner to a higher level of being.
I've felt suffocated in my own partnership, feeling I'd done everything in my capacity to rise to the occasion and "do the work," finally choosing to end the relationship because it had milked everything out of me. It had served its purpose; it was time to move on. Staying would only be an attempt to force something to work that wasn't working. And damn, I took good notes that time around. One of the notes was that I could only do my own work; I couldn't do somebody else's.
What's become clear now is that if we are to rise to the occasion as a species devoted to advancing our potential spiritually, we have a stellar tool in relationships. (Here's a recent talk on Oprah by Marianne Williamson called The Spiritual Purpose of Relationships.)
Whether you are:
Then, I want to say that all the love in the world is "on your side." The key factor here is your desire. If you are ready to see a shift, even if it involves stepping out of your comfort zone -- and it likely will -- then it is simply a matter of knowing what's true for you, honoring it in word and action, and inviting your partner to step into this place with you.
For me, the rigorous personal and spiritual work of intimate partnership has required stellar support, both from friends and family members, and from mentors and a coach. I have able to stretch myself spiritually only because I've asked for and received help from others who care for me.
Energetic applause goes to anyone doing "the work" of intimate partnership. It is far from easy, and everything you do helps to make this a world with more skillfulness and compassion between people.
P.S. Walt Disney has contributed a lot to the world of family entertainment, but Disney films have not been so good at presenting a guidebook for real life relationships.
Today while putting my almost 3-year-old daughter Beam down for her nap, she seemed pensive. So I asked, "How are you feeling?" She answered, "Good."
"Good? OK, I'm glad," I told her. And then I got one of those this-is-such-a-precious-moment feelings and I decided to ask her, "What are you grateful for?"
"Mama Rose's heart," she said. Thump.
Eight months ago in a very tender Mama Bear moment, I found Mama Rose and her tiny home-based child-care space, RootRock Artgarden, in gorgeous rural western Sonoma County. Beam was ready for more variety in her life, and I was ready for a few more hours to myself every week. That's when Mama Rose showed up. Today as I write this, Beam is at Mama Rose's house for her final regular day of child care there as we are ready to transition into a setting that won't involve a drive. And as I listen to my inner wisdom, the instinctual voice of self-love within me, it feels very important to write about this transition. Other mamas can benefit. Other humans can benefit. It is helpful to be reminded of the power of trust.
Even in -- or after -- trauma.
For many people, sending your child to day care isn't a big deal. It's just what you do. It can actually be a huge relief. For others, it's a big deal but it's still what you do. You don't not do it. For me, not doing day care was quite a possibility. Because it's hard to trust after trauma.
In March of 2013, while I was in an energetically ripped-wide-open state two hours after Beam was born in our bedroom, our midwife noticed she wasn't breathing right and called an ambulance. Within minutes, I was dressed, my front door roughly flung wide open, and into my sacred, candle-lit, this space belongs to a goddess sanctuary of powerful primal birth-giving stomped loud, dirty, heavy fireman's boots. My sacred, shoe-free space (we don't wear shoes in our house) went from dim, primal sanctuary into a violated wound that I wouldn't heal for years.
The stabbing point was when the fireman turned to me and said, referring to my midwife, 'You're lucky she's here."
I'm lucky she's here?!?! Oh, the words I have been holding in an angry corner of my heart for that man.
Dear Fireman, luck had nothing to do with having her there. No, it was actually quite deliberate. There were actually four highly trained birth supporters at my home that night, two of whom have a combined 40 years in supporting both healthy and high risk births. If you had any idea what it takes to be a woman with the courage to choose an all natural home birth, that comment would have never come out of your mouth. So next time you meet a woman who has just done the most powerful thing a human can do, try this instead:
(With your words, like a prayer, in a grounded whisper of reverence...) Ma'am, Goddess, is there a midwife here supporting your awe-inspiringly breathtaking process of giving birth?
Let's be clear that firemen and women can be very helpful. This man was not helpful. The paramedics in the ambulance and the medical staff at the hospital, on the other hand, were gracious and seemed to actually respect a woman who'd just given birth. Take note, Dear Fireman. Your militarized, adolescent-masculine aggression is NOT welcome in my house or my space EVER again.
But trauma subsides, if we deal with it.
It's now almost three years later and as I look back, this trauma sat under my skin for the whole year after Beam was born, and the whole next year, and into the next until one day, I finally saw over the horizon and realized, WOW, I've been trying live with trauma. As in, go on in life without healing the wound. And that 'aint gonna work. I'm not gonna thrive unless I heal it.
So my path is laid. Those wounds are seeing the light now. I'm looking at them and doing the work it takes to heal them.
And as for Beam, even though it was very hard for me to "let her go" from my side when I still felt so wounded, there was never a day when I worried about her being in day care. My Mama Bear Heart and Instinct led me with precision and certainty into Mama Rose's care. Beam formed deep new friendships, learned Puppet Theater, played in a tree fort next to a raspberry patch, and spent two mornings a week, for months, exploring a playful, artful life away from Mama's side.
My outrageously confident, healthy and delightful daughter and I are ending one phase and entering another -- with her father, my husband, who has played a huge role in supporting us through all of this.
Even with unhealed trauma, we can trust. We can lean into the love of others and discover something deeply beautiful.
I am grateful for Mama Rose's heart.
It's a very simple question: Are you ready to have a spectacular year in 2016?
If you answered yes, and you meant it, then you are halfway there. You have decided. To de-cide is to kill off all options but the one you have chosen. Good work choosing to have a spectacular year. Now it's time to walk your talk.
There are endless ways to support yourself in walking your talk, endless ways to put action and momentum behind your decision to have a spectacular year that is launched with a wide-open sense of freedom -- because you chose it.
This is my invitation for you to join me in using the triple potent power of forgiveness, self-love and letter writing to lead you into a sense of freedom in the new year.
Commit to self-love.
Forgive others and yourself.
Write a letter to put it into action.
I will start my new year free of resentment, distaste and other harsh toxins that will readily deplete my sense of freedom if I do not let them go. This past year has given me the opportunity to learn from strong disagreements in friendships, with family and in my marriage. I will take the powerful learning with me and leave the blocks -- the toxic thoughts and judgments -- behind so they do not dilute my power.
And I will do this work alongside others who want this sense of freedom too.
You do not need to have ever written a letter in your life. The best letters I've ever read come from a place of not-thinking, where the heart is turned ON and the brain in your head is turned off. Thinking with the brain in your heart, those letters are fine jewels.
Is there something you did that you’re not proud of and want to move beyond?
An upset friendship that you’d like to see return to a more harmonious space?
Were there charged conversations that left you feeling resentful, toxic or uncertain?Family situations where conflict surfaced that you want to let go of?
Without releasing unhelpful thoughts from your space, you enter each moment with them in your energetic pockets, and they block your power to create. Freedom is your natural birthright. Yet you have to claim it, honor it and walk the talk for it to walk beside you.
Making a decision based on self-love, from a place of self-worth, is POWERFUL.
Forgiveness is POWERFUL.
Writing things down is POWERFUL.
Letter writing -- the act of writing, in conscious relationship -- is POWERFUL.
Can't wait to dance with you in the new year~
Jessica Rios, Founder of Leaning into Light, is a lifelong letter writer, a mother, freelance consultant and eternal fan of Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street. This deeply personal blog and our recorded talks and workshops are devoted to one of her great passions: illuminating the beauty of the human spirit.