We come from different countries, different cultures, and different families. I’m Chinese/Australian, and she’s Indian, both living in the USA.
It creates profound challenges, opportunities, conflicts and solutions. There is great comfort in what we know and have done before, and while it pleases the senses, the true joy in life is to be exposed to things we don’t know, we haven’t tasted, and are a bit uncertain. It’s with the exploration of new territory and the exposure of what once lived in darkness, that we find new meaning. We find new ideas. We find depth that we never thought existed, and courage we didn’t know we had.
If we allow ourselves to submit to loving and accepting ourselves, in order to accommodate others, we can transform hate into love, distrust in acceptance, homogenization into individuality, and intimidation into confidence. If we define ourselves by other people’s opinions, we become merely hollow products of our environment. It doesn’t mean it will come simply, easily or in a tidy linear fashion though. It’s messy; broken; fragmented. And there’s never enough napkins to keep it orderly.
My relationship with myself has been the hardest, most challenging, and most terrifying thing I’ve done in my life. More than my businesses, more than any other person, and more than what anyone else could impose onto me.
I’ve loved myself, hated myself, doubted myself, and talked myself in and out of more situations that I can remember. I’ve abdicated, delegated, and repossessed myself, to accept responsibility for my own life, and exercise my only true freedom – choice.
It’s a noisy place behind closed eyes. Like the duck on the pond, it would be easy to assume that a calm disposition equals inactivity and indifference.
When I open up my soul to another person, I have always been eager to share, include and invite people into my world. I’ve often naively given the benefit of the doubt, and trusted strangers with parts of me that most would reserve for no-one. Needless to say, it hasn’t always worked out well.
Other times however, I’ve developed some of the deepest and most meaningful experiences and friendships that have shaped and refined me. I took some things on board, only to change my mind later. I rejected some things only to quietly adopt these when I realized my zealous disregard.
Building a life with someone is the second hardest thing I’ve ever done. In some ways it’s easier than working on yourself, because you can take a break or create space. Other times, it’s much harder because you can’t control it, or or choose the outcome, especially when they won’t go away. On top of all this, you quietly hope and require that the other side is doing the same thing, and that their commitment to the team is just as strong as yours.
At some point, building a life with someone else may become the hardest thing of all, particularly when you realize that while there will always be the choice to walk away, that in order to do so, one would be actively cutting off a significant piece of themselves. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes it will disable you.
I’m on this winding trail with my traveling companion, Shruthi.
We have our fun times, we have our fights. We are amazingly connected, then abruptly disconnected. We are deeply together, and then we find ourselves alone. We agree, until we’re disagreeing. There is a deep love between us, even when trading barbs of frustration.
Most people cannot stomach this kind of relationship for they believe that a flatter line without fluctuation or threats equates to a better life. Those who have dispensed advice tend to think we are searching for permission to stay or go; a simple, binary answer. To our frustration, we try to explain that it’s not about life or death, but finding the language and perspective in order to better understand one another.
To me, the flat line where things are simply binary, is a safe and boring life. It’s not wrong, but it’s not for me. Some people I’ve met consider a great relationship as one filled with all wine and cheese by a nice flat pond. I’m more of a melting ice cream on a hot day at the beach kind of guy. Ponds are nice, but the drama of the ocean is what inspires me. Melting ice cream is stressful, but it’s way more fun.
We are all moving targets, changing our stances, and trying to find who we are as individuals, in a changing world, while building connections with others who are just as fluid. We are sold simplified love stories filled with symbols, characters, and artifacts. We go forth with a Disney definition of what love is, expecting Princes and Princesses, forever looking outward, putting our fates into the hands of others. Disney didn’t factor a job, family, bills, health conditions, car accidents, or sleep deprivation. It didn’t factor a lack of self-awareness.
I too had stories of love and relationships that I sought to fulfill. Definitions of what the perfect partner or relationship would look like. These ideas became beliefs, standards and expectations. I definitely champion being selective, but not based on symbols and face-value evidence, but rather the driving values of what makes somebody wake up every day and do what they do. Knowing who you are is more important than ever today, because bullshit and lies is at an all time high.
I’m not talking attributes mistaken as values such as ‘honesty’ or ‘being happy’ or ‘must be good with my family’, but deep-seated personal values. What drives them in all that they do? What are they tireless and incessant with, regardless of company, money, resources or time? What will eventually kill them because it matters so much?
As every day and week passes, Shruthi and I ride the highs and lows of two people colliding, trying to form a family, while living as strong individuals. We have plenty of wins, but we’d be lying if we said there weren’t losses too.
What’s made this relationship the one worth fighting for is that despite there being plenty of easy ways to walk away because it got a little hard, we both push through the tears and gritted teeth. Even when there’s the exit-game button right there, we both turn back around for another round.
Perhaps it’s stubbornness on both our parts, or perhaps it’s bloody-mindedness and a commitment to our belief that we can make it work in time. I like to think it’s a bit of both, and the fact that despite our very different approaches to things, we are united in the common value that we don’t give up on family and those we love, even and especially when it’s hard.
Relationships – as least to me – aren’t just about good times and laughs and symbols. It’s about growth and dealing with change and uncertainty. Facing challenges, being very uncomfortable at times, and yet finding the grit to stand up again and keeping working at it. It’s the hardest kind of fear to confront, because it’s imposed by ourselves.
It’s been a tough week, and today is her birthday.
I hope she has a great day despite of it. What I admire most is that when she gets taken down, she cries and sticks her head under the pillow for a while. She inevitably comes back out though, dusts herself off, and keeps trying with a smile on her face. You won’t keep her down for long.
She’s my favorite person even though she infuriates the crap out of me at times. Who then makes me blissfully happy, while pushing me beyond my limit, forcing me to stop and re-evaluate things. We spend countless hours clarifying our communication, and debating what the other is trying to say. It’s taken years for us to find passage on various subjects, and others we are still yet to work out.
It’s hard work – work that most people would never bother doing or think worth enduring. But it’s because of this, that I have great hope. It’s with our relationship that we are able to help others beyond us, learn, grow, and expand their lives. For if we can’t push ourselves to understand one another, then what are we here for?
Shruthi is the one who keeps showing up and loving me with a smile and an open heart even when everyone else has gone home because I’ve overloaded them or worn them out. She’s the one who has my back, even when she wants to put my head in the toilet.
It’s not comfortable at all. It’s the second hardest road I’ve taken, that will only likely get steeper at times. I anticipate more tears and frustration, but also know there will be wonder and awe as well.
Neither of us are in love with the freeway. Even if she doesn’t admit it, we like the hills because the view is better, and with snacks in our pockets and the courage to keep going, I know that together we will conquer it.
Happy birthday Shruthi. I hope you have a great day.