Taking time to reflect on the quality of relationships
THIS MONTH IS MY BIRTHDAY MONTH, AND, as tends to happen, I find myself spending more time than usual in reflection. Birthdays have a way of encouraging that, don’t they?
Much like at New Year’s, I feel a sense of moving onward, with an evaluation of what’s gone before and a gradual but unmistakable shift toward my intentions for what’s ahead. I fully agree with George Bernard Shaw’s belief that “Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself.” And perhaps there’s no better time to ponder the fascinating, complex creation that is you than at your birthday.
I also agree with the ol’ Will Rogers sentiment: “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there!” And this leads me to reflect upon relationships. Perhaps one of the most important and valued aspects of being human is found in the quality of our relationships. From our sig others and family relationships to our good friendships, mild acquaintances and co-workers, relationships form the living, evolving fabric of our lives.
They reflect back to us who we are, and how we think of ourselves. I regularly remind people I work with how important it is to surround ourselves with the relationships that bring happiness, show concern, and leave room for who we are and who we are not. A basic self-esteem philosophy is this: if you feel good about yourself, respect and care for yourself, then the people who are close to you will reflect that. On the other hand, if your long-term self-worth is suffering, then you’ll tend to surround yourself with people who reflect that—treating you with a lack of care or consideration. In other words, we teach others how to treat us based upon how we feel about ourselves. If we feel we are deserving of good stuff—relationships included—then that’s what we attract.
As I ponder relationships, I am aware of their organic-ness, and how we can’t “just sit there” when it comes to the health of these involvements, even when they’re “on the right track.” They really do require tending. Perhaps you can relate: Take a moment to think about the relationships in your own life. Some are probably rolling along beautifully, providing just what fills you—be that love, or someone to confide in, a pal to have fun with or family members to walk through life with. Some, perhaps, have a few snags, some wrinkles that need ironing out. These may concern you, but you know that when the timing’s right, you’ll talk out your issues and get back on track. And others may be a mess: painful or toxic, perhaps marked by anger or resentment, sadness or confusion.
The good news is that everything changes, eventually. And if you wish to fully participate in creating yourself, there are always new ways to discover what is required of you in order to keep your relationships healthy and happy. If you’re open to them, the lessons for finding, creating and maintaining fulfilling relationships are, I believe, all around you. They may come from conversations with a counselor or spiritual advisor. They may be found in some wonderful book you’re reading, or by watching what brings joy to a child’s face, or in hearing the wisdom of an elder.
Or they may come from your dogs.
While pondering the state of the relationships in my own life, I realize that one of the most joy-filled long-term relationships I have is the one with my goofy, sweet, unconditionally loving Boston Terrier, Betty Lou (who just had a birthday herself, on Valentine’s Day no less...can you stand it?). We have a new relationship in the household as well: a rescue puppy who’s a lively mix of Boston and who-knows-what. (Some of you might remember reading about this pair in a recent Shrink Rap, “Mindful Is As Mindful Does.”)
Anyway, they both offer up plenty of love lessons. And right as my birthday approaches, what better gift than to be reminded of what we can learn from these wonderful creatures about keeping healthy, long-term relationships alive? So here’s what the Universe sent my way:
Ten Valuable Things Dogs Can Teach Us About Relationships:
1. Forgive mistakes.
2. Make everyday special.
3. Show love in big and small ways.
4. Be loyal.
5. Give each other some space.
6. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not.
7. Avoid biting when growling will do.
8 .Trust your instincts.
9 .When loved ones come home, always greet them.
10. Things don’t matter; time together does.
And as it happens, this month’s healing retreat at my wellness center, Well Nest, is about the connectedness of us all. It’s happening Saturday, March 8. Visit the website or email me for more info and to register.
Until next time, from dog whisperer Cesar Millan: “Start by becoming a pack leader in your own world and healing your own world, and the effects will ripple.”