Category Archives: Differences

Searching For Light

Favourite books I read as a kid were stories about ancient civilizations. Stories about humans of far away lands with rich cultures and heritages. That being said, I did not hear the words racism or slavery spoken until we moved to Canada from former Yugoslavia in 1993. I was almost 12. In an immigrant family household, survival was the main priority (we were refugees for over a year as a result of war prior to the big move across the ocean). As a 12 year old girl, I was figuring out who I was while at the same time learning about the society we were now living in. We moved to a diverse and multicultural neighbourhood and it was reflected in the students of the middle school and then high school I attended. In fact, I was a minority amongst students in a high school of just over 700 who attended, and looking back on it, I was blessed. I learned about the richness of different cultures from around the world and experienced beauty, intelligence, creativity and friendship of human beings who were mostly not white. I also felt like I was amongst my people – people who were new immigrants or first generation Canadians, people who were trying their best to study and set themselves up for some sort of a stable future, like I was.

We are shaping our tomorrows by the choices we make today. And we are accountable for those choices.

Fast forward to 2020. I am a healthcare worker who works in an inner city trauma health centre, on the frontlines of a pandemic. It is mid-June and the last time I hugged a human being was mid-March. With the exception of my brother who I’ve seen in person three times from a six feet distance, the humans I regularly interact with at work and the essential workers at the grocery stores and market I see weekly, I’ve only spoken to my friends and family via text, phone or video call. At work, I wear a mask at all times except when on break. We are advised to social distance with one another, and I wear full PPE (gloves, gown, mask, face shield, bouffant) when in contact with any patient for their exam. I’m dehydrated often and I’ve had many breakouts as a result of wearing a face mask for long stretches of time. I developed contact dermatitis on my forearms from a hand sanitizer with a high alcohol content. I am constantly tired and find it difficult to catch my breath at times (I’m basically rebreathing my own carbon dioxide for seven hours a day, five days a week). I’ve been swabbed twice for COVID19 and was negative both times, thankfully. (In case you’ve not experienced it, it feels like someone is trying to tickle your brain for five seconds.) As a healthcare worker, I am at high risk for contracting COVID19 as I come in direct contact with patients who are being tested for or are positive for the virus, yet the current Ontario government did NOT include my profession in the pandemic pay. As a healthcare worker I feel a social responsibility to be very diligent in practicing social distancing outside of my home, for I could be an asymptomatic transmitter of the virus OR I could contract the virus and then spread it to sick patients or coworkers. I feel exhausted, spent, segregated, excluded and undervalued, and I am starting to experience what I can only describe as mild depression, as I experience frequent periods where I cry often for no reason, have very little energy or motivation to do anything on weekends except rest and sleep, and often feel as if I am searching for something to grab hold of and pull myself up and out of this. This is how I feel as a result of three months of new work and social norms, three months of no human contact other than what I disclosed, three months of no hugs, three months of coming home from work exhausted and every night carrying out full decontamination and cleansing (includes shower and hair washing, placing clothing I wore that day into the washing machine for laundering, disinfecting my phone, washing my glasses etc). This is my personal experience, only if you speak to other frontline healthcare professionals, you may hear a similar story. I know because I’ve heard them.

In the midst of a pandemic, our society is highlighting injustices and societal conducts which need to be abolished and changed. Root causes of injustice began over 400 years ago and evolved into what can only be described today as institutional racism. Let’s explore a few examples, shall we?

Do you know who Kalif Browder is? Kalif is a black boy who spent more than half of THREE YEARS in solitary confinement at Rikers Island Prison without a trial after an arrest at sixteen years of age for allegedly stealing a backpack. He became depressed, felt isolated, anxious and paranoid after he was released. Can you even imagine his experience? Neither can I. (I haven’t hugged a human being in THREE MONTHS while free to move around and I am feeling depressed.) As a result of the trauma he endured in prison and unable to cope, some time after his release Kalif transitioned by suicide. My heart aches for the injustice this young soul endured. And this is just one story of a young black male getting arrested and placed in prison for an alleged crime, in this case robbery of a backpack. Why is a TEENAGER in PRISON and in SOLITARY CONFINEMENT over a backpack? (The Kalif Browder Story is playing on Netflix.)

Have you heard of Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Korey Wise and Raymond Santana Jr? In 1989, these young black boys were wrongfully accused, convicted, incarcerated and almost 20 years later exonerated, of rape and assault of a white woman in NYC Central Park. All five teenagers were sixteen years of age or younger (!) at the time of the incident. Korey Wise‘s story is especially heartbreaking – he was tried as an adult because he was 16 years old and as a result, he was sent to Rikers Island Prison, served the longest sentence and spent time in solitary confinement. Can YOU imagine going to prison as a CHILD for a crime you did not commit? (You can watch When They See Us on Netflix to learn more.)

Have you heard the name George Floyd? Breonna Taylor? Eric Garner? Trayvon Martin? Tamir Rice? Ahmaud Arbery? Philando Castile? Sandra Bland? Michael Brown? Emmett Till? These are human beings, and are just few of the souls who are no longer with us, as a result of violence by police or citizens who they encountered for the first time the day they died. Human beings who died because they have black skin.

If you found yourself exhausted when you read the paragraph about my experience of being a healthcare worker during a pandemic over a period of three months, I would think that human beings born black are exhausted from the grief, anger, and sadness of the aforementioned (and not mentioned) injustices and tragedies black people, communities they live(d) in, and their families have sustained throughout history AND in the three months we’ve been under lockdown and isolation during this pandemic. A universal truth is that we are shaping our tomorrows by the choices we make today. And we are accountable for those choices.

BLACK LIVES MATTER.

I named this blog A Rainbow In The Clouds after seeing Dr Maya Angelou speak in Toronto in 2011. She opened by sharing a folk song: “when it look like the sun wouldn’t shine anymore, God put a rainbow in the clouds”, eliciting the possibility of hope. Hope, which I seemed to have allowed to slip from my grasp, or was it taken? I’m not sure, but I want it back. Hope of light shining through is what will carry all of us through this time in history. As will the courage to keep going. Do you have hope and courage? Are you contributing to equality, inclusion, healing of your Self? I have learned that when you want something with your whole heart, the universe conspires to help you achieve it. (Paraphrased from The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho.)

My spiritual director encouraged me to revisit a book I have read, Man’s Search for Meaning written by Viktor E. Frankl, a psychiatrist who was imprisoned in a Nazi death camp as a Jewish man in WWII. I opened the book to a random page and started reading. There I found light:

“…intensification of inner life helped the prisoner find a refuge from the emptiness, desolation and spiritual poverty of his existence…”

“As the inner life of the prisoner tended to become more intense, he also experienced the beauty of art and nature as never before. Under their influence he sometimes even forgot his own frightful circumstances.”

“…I sensed my spirit piercing through the enveloping gloom. I felt it transcend that hopeless, meaningless world, and from somewhere I heard a victorious “Yes” in answer to my question of the existence of an ultimate purpose. At that moment a light was lit in a distant farmhouse, ….and the light shineth in the darkness.”

And I remembered my own inner light, and the inner light which shines in EVERY human being, irrelevant of their creed, skin colour, religion, sex, gender. That inner light is the grace, courage and strength which is accessible for each of us to learn, grow, evolve, elevate and do better. Then I recalled a spiritual teaching which was taught by all great teachers, and introduced to me by Caroline Myss – What’s in one, is in the whole. That means that the need for AND the unravelling of past societal structures which are shown to us through news media and social media, are happening within each of us. Human beings are angry at the injustices black human beings have endured throughout history and in present time! Would you not be angry if you saw a human being murdered, asking for mercy, while handcuffed on the ground with someone’s knee on his neck, and MERCY not being granted?! (Caroline explains this eloquently in this video.)

I don’t know what it’s like to be of a different skin colour other than the one I was born with. I’m perceived by society we live in to be a white woman. I understand that comes with privilege. I also can only extrapolate a little bit of the feelings from my experience of THREE MONTHS working in healthcare during a pandemic, (mainly feeling segregated, isolated, exhausted, not seen as equal by the government, because of my work,) into what I imagine is a life long emotional space for many experiencing Earth school as a human being with black skin. Again, I don’t claim to know this for sure, I am only grasping the feelings expressed by those who have this experience, what is felt by the collective and my own limited understanding. Remember this Oprah show?

Although I don’t have the experience of being in Earth school with black skin, I KNOW that black people are not being treated the same as white people. I KNOW that more black people live in poverty than white people. I KNOW that more black people die as a result of racial prejudices and violence than white people. Those are heavy truths. Also, I am not an appointed government official who can better fund our healthcare system and put laws, policies, and people in places to abolish institutional racism. But I have something in me, which every human has, that NO ONE can touch. That is my own inner space, my own personal power. I can use mine to elevate, learn, transform and impact change in the relationships around me, which will reach all corners of the globe (think how a virus did that). I can educate myself and use my VOTE as a voice, for ultimately that IS the loudest voice. I can stay connected to my inner space, move with integrity, be loving, compassionate, move in light. And so can you. Remember, standing in light does not mean not standing up for what you believe in. Rather, stand in your light in a way that brings change, draws justice, and creates a society where a human being can go outside feeling safe to do so, no matter their race, sex, creed, religion, gender. A human being is a human being. Bring your humanness to light.

All my love,

T


A Great Story

Blessed are those who see their Self reflected in the eyes of another. Even more blessed are those who truly see each other.

– T.

IMG_0232

Cusco, Peru 2017. Photo © of T.Nikic

THE MEETING

She doesn’t go to bars and she’s never been to this one. The bar she has entered is filled with magic. She’s failed to connect with the acquaintance she’s spending the evening with, so she orders a magic potion to drink. No sugar added.

He had been at a party with his best friend who was visiting him. He doesn’t remember how it happened, but he ended up sitting on a stool at the bar next to her. Neither of them knew how long they’d been there when he turned to her and asked, “Have you read about this magic?” At that exact moment they entered into a creative space of infinite possibilities where they could go anywhere that night together.

When she walked away from him she wondered if she met HIM. The next day when he asked to see her again, she wanted to tell him that she wasn’t ready, that it was too soon. But she didn’t. “How could I not be ready?” she wondered, “I’ve been waiting to meet someone like him my entire life”. Instead, she continued the dance of texting and late night phone calls, and pushed him away, slowly at first, but it turned into a cruel ordeal soon thereafter.

THE GREETING

Fast-forward about six months. They’ve not spoken nor seen each other. Perhaps they remained curious, but no contact was made. She travels to a far away land to heal, for she thinks that the reason she pushed him away is deep, and she needs help to do so. She drinks a healing potion three times. The first time she drinks it, she releases all that has been holding her back her entire life. The second time she drinks it, he comes to her, joyful and smiling, wanting to be with her. Happily, they embrace for a long time. She tells him she has to finish her work but that she will return to him. Reluctantly, he leaves her. The third time she drinks the potion, she becomes a bird and flies to the mountain peak. It becomes official then – she has healed and is ready for the next elevation.

THE DREAM

When she returns home, she reaches out to him. His reply suggests that he is unsure or uninterested. She doesn’t push. He visits her in a dream a few weeks later. They are together but there are many people watching them. One of the walls of the room of their bedroom is actually a stage. There is a play going on and he seems interested in watching it. She feels love because they are doing something together. She wakes up feeling hopeful.

THE FULFILLMENT

It’s been over five months since her healed self returned home and reached out to him. No contact and yet he visits her in yet another dream. In this dream, they are sitting around a dining room table, outside in a green garden with many flowers on a warm, sunny day. It feels like late spring. The people sitting around the table feel like her family, and he is sitting with her and laughing with them. He serves her breakfast – farmer’s market butter and honey spread lovingly on a piece of bread made with love. She never told him that was her favourite breakfast growing up. She is moved to tears. He smiles at her and she wakes up. Oh, the grace, blessings, love, she feels on a soul level when she opens her eyes that morning – he said goodbye to her so lovingly. She sends a sincere prayer of gratitude to him.

HER LESSON

His presence in her physical life was very short, yet he graced her with love that transcended the senses and reached her soul. He inspired her to heal. She learned that life is about allowing, not holding on. She is now flying.

The meeting of their souls was planned long before they saw each other, but their meeting started a new chapter in her life. A life of conscious commitment, to her Self, to honour her soul on every level, in every way, each and every moment, for the rest of her life.

The fairytale is over.


A PERSPECTIVE ON FEAR

    FUNK 2 THE RIGHT | T.Nikic 2016 | Oils on canvas.

By T. Nikic

It is not something you’re born with, but something you learn. And you do not learn it because you need to learn it or because you learn it from a happy situation. Often times, fear is laced within a scar that is hidden. People hide their scars when they think it makes them less attractive or less beautiful. It’s the same thing with fear. People internalize their fears and don’t talk about them because they think it makes them less attractive or less beautiful.

 

Some people are aware of their fears and have made a lifelong commitment to facing them. Others have allowed their fears to guide them in life. Never risking too much, playing it ‘safe’. Only going so far within relationships and with people whom they meet. But those who have made a commitment to facing their fears often don’t realize that they have a fear until someone, whom they do not know very well, triggers it.

 

Triggers of fear can be very random, overwhelming and surprising. How one addresses and deals with these triggers is a choice. But because people who have made a commitment to face their fears in life have often internalized their battle, they only really know how to go within themselves and try to deal with it internally. Alone. It’s not that they do not want to connect with others, but they feel shame and remorse that that fear exists, and feel that they will no longer be attractive to another if they see it.

 

The thing of it is, fear can sometimes be like a gust of wind, bringing with it everything great and everything not so great that was surrounding you and the person who triggered the fear. It could be the most beautiful connection, your ideal in fact, and you want to enter that space with the other person, but fear is just blowing this strong current at you, creating a small tornado-like storm around your being. You have no clue on how to stop it or calm it down enough to maintain the connection with the other person.

 

In many ways, you feel crippled. Stunned. You think to yourself, “I just met the most incredible person. Someone I’ve been hoping to meet. And here they are, ready and willing to explore this connection with me, but I’m so scared.” My fear questions everything, “Is this real? Are they real? You’ve not been here before; you think you can actually do this? They will see you’re scarred and then they will walk away, don’t you forget that.”

 

You do not want to push people away, but because you allow your fear to take you into your Self, you aren’t able to nurture the connection you discovered with the other person. And they do not know you well enough to know if you’re still there and interested, or if you’re pulling away. They do not have a good reason to stand the fear storm with you, because you haven’t given them enough to go on.

 

As you’re trying to sort through your fear, your surroundings become foggy and you can no longer maintain eye contact with them. You want to ask them to be patient with you, to wait for you, and maybe even hold your hand, but you think that that’s way too much to ask from someone you don’t know very well. You feel them slowly pulling away. Shutting down. Shutting you out. You hate seeing the change in the energy between the two of you, but the fear has gotten really strong at this point. It has exhausted you and you’re falling. A thick fog has formed around you and you have no way of seeing past it. There is nothing for you to do except to try to minimize the pain of the fall by curling up into yourself, completely looking away from the person you wanted to let in.

 

After some time, you wake up and realize that you’ve managed to survive and exhaust your fear. Sure, the fear storm has scattered all the shame and remorse on the ground surrounding you, but you do not reach for them. The scar your fear was interlaced with is completely exposed, but that doesn’t make you feel less beautiful anymore. You realize that the fog has cleared. It’s not sunny but it’s calm. You look around, trying to locate the footprints of the person you wanted to let in, but the fear storm was so strong that it has erased them. You start to panic and begin thinking of how to get ahold of them, how to reach them. You have no signal on your phone. There is an old payphone but the cord has been cut. You try walking down this path and that path, but they’re all dead ends.

 

You make your way back to the space you first met them, the road of brave souls, and you sit there, alone, with the hope that they might come back for you and give you another chance. You’re there for only a short while, because you realize that it’s not about going back, but moving forward. If you cross paths again, you’ll have to show your scars and tell them those stories. Otherwise that fear you broke free of, will win. And fear will always win…. if you let it.


Blue, not true.

Photo © T.Nikic 2016

Photo © T.Nikic 2016

“FEED YOURSELF.” – Mike D.

I heard those words a few weeks ago and they truly were the most poetic thing I had heard that day. In the context of the conversation to which they were offered, perhaps it was a reference to food, but they resonated much deeper. See, in all things we choose to do, the people we interact with, the time we spend doing things which make us happy, the foods with which we nourish our bodies, I recognize that we do in fact feed ourselves on different levels. Spiritual, mental, emotional, physical states of being are deeply interconnected, in my experience and opinion. It’s not so much that one aspect of our being feeds the other, it’s that all feed and depend on each other for its wellbeing. It’s deep, right?

The state of our world is a concern for myself and many others – the way that we hurt each other and the reasons with which we excuse hurting each other, is simply wrong. The words we speak and the acts we commit, make me think about what it is that we, as human beings, reflect in those behaviours. Are we actually saying that we truly hate another, or do we hate ourselves so much that we don’t have the capacity for acceptance or love of another? I do not think that I have an answer to that question that doesn’t require pages of discussion involving psychology, history, philosophy, spirituality, emotional and mental health, our societal norms and pressures, in the hopes of even touching on a plausible explanation, although I will say that I believe that our lack of love for our own Selves has been the root of much of the chaos reported on the internet, newspapers, radio and news channels as of late.

But in all the ways that we intentionally hurt another, we also mark others with scars. We may think that we don’t, but we do. And those scars affect not just the person who bears them, but all the people they interact with. How I understand scars is a reflection of my personal experience and knowledge, although it may resonate with you.

Scars are not erasable. They may look less noticeable with time, care and healing, but a scar will never be exactly like the space it inhabited. The scar will tug at certain parts of your being you’ve tried to put aside or forget, a memory often triggered unintentionally by a song, a word, a photo you come across, which brings back the feelings, ALL the feelings, interwoven in the scar. Maybe those feelings no longer take you on an emotional rollercoaster ride like they once did, but you still FEEL it. That’s hard for anyone to fully accept or make peace with – for the ones bearing the scar and the one seeing it, trying to understand it. Because you cannot possibly explain or articulate why that scar is there, who scarred you, why it still affects you although you’ve forgiven and let go, that doesn’t take both people there. And that scar could have many names – death, rape, verbal/physical/mental abuse, racism, sexism, murder… – all translating to one thing: p a i n . You may not acknowledge it as that, but it is how we, human beings, process it.

 

 

Photo © T.Nikic 2016

Photo © T.Nikic 2016

Be mindful of what you feed your Self with, what you feed others, and what you accept from others. Scars run deep.

 

Love,
T


true

Photo © T.Nikic 2015

Photo © T.Nikic 2015

 

 

Dearest,

 

I am not sure you are my dearest of them all, but I guess once upon a time, you were. I write you this from the heart of that space, reflected upon in the space and time I exist in now. It’s illuminated by wisdom and forgiveness, and oh so much growth. And peace. Beautiful peace. I do not know this for sure, but I think you may still be in search of it, in your own way.

 

I realize I’ve started this letter rather abrupt…

 

I hope that you are well. I hope that you are happy.

 

F*ck it, it doesn’t matter anymore, wishing you well. You’re going to portray what you think I want to see, not the truth, although I somehow always seemed to have been able to piece together your reality. The reality that you painted in numb strokes that only a fool would see emotionless. Your choice of colours was often a reflection of what you thought was how I’d want to see you. It seemed you’d forget that each hue had its base colour; one I picked out through the haze you layered it in. Darling, your attempts to escape into a world you wanted me to enter, was too small for us both and too empty for me to live in. The deeper you went into it, the more sure I was of my exit from you. I felt as if you had wrapped beautiful silk thread around me, which seemed warm and cozy at first, but then started to suffocate me. It took every ounce of strength I had in my mind, body, and spirit, to break through it and escape. You had wrapped me in your strokes and colours so tightly that I was not sure if any of it was real. All I could do was run as far and as fast away from you as possible until I was sure I was safe to rest and recover. It took a while it seems to regain my strength, and when I did I just kept moving forward without you. I scrubbed away any traces of your colours on my being and burned them the same way one burns old photos – there is no thought or emotion involved in knowing that you’re erasing history, you just do it and allow the wind to spread the ashes wherever it feels like. The thing of it is, sometimes, even if you burn the photos, some stay engrained in your memory, whether you want to remember or not….

 

Truth be told, I type this teary eyed. In my memory is a photograph of a breezy, starry summer night. We are sitting across from each other, eating popcorn and sharing stories. Our night is filled with laughter and tears, both sad and happy. The magic of the evening is interrupted only by the wind…or maybe the wind is what brought it? I recall the stories from that night, but there is where I allow them to rest. The wind seemed to have been in sync with our words, bringing ghosts from our past to the appropriate moments in our conversation. They added to the beauty and tragedy of it all. I recall the twinkle of the North Star because it was there that night, in your eyes, along with the truths I realized for the first time. These truths have stood the test of time.

 

The first is that we loved each other, truly, madly, deeply, with every unearthed bits of our souls. The warmth of that night encapsulates me.

 

The second is that I knew then that our love was only going to manifest a tragedy more profound than Shakespeare could have written, if we ever tried. No emotion evoked.

 

The third is one that I am able to see today and not before – it was real. Peace.

 

 

 

Sweet dreams,

T.


Confessions and Reflections of a Former (?) Passion Addict

I was not even aware that I was a passion addict until a few months ago. I was talking to someone in their 40s who had just come out of a very long relationship and was excited about their newfound excitement and passion of the relationship they was entering with someone else. They had mentioned how that was the one thing that all relationships tend to lose at some point and that they were glad that they are experiencing it again, but as an outsider, it seemed that things were moving rather quickly with this new person. However, I started thinking about all of my dating experiences from ages ago and realized that my main drive for getting into anything with anyone in the past has also really been one main thing – passion.

I can honestly say that, for a long while, chemistry, physical attraction, and excitement were the only things deciding if I was going to date someone. And when I say date, I use that term loosely. It was more like spending time with a guy (sharing a dinner, going dancing, etc) for a few weeks and then going “Next!”, leaving in search of someone else because I wanted sparks in my interactions with those of the opposite sex I was interested in. I mean it wasn’t that I was always dating someone and it’s not that I experienced that exciting chemistry with every guy I met (nor did I date everyone I met), but that’s what I was searching for.

Living like that – in constant search of experiencing excitement, passion and chemistry with another human being – it got me into some unhappy situations. And the best part? I hadn’t a clue as to how this could happen to me, again and again. Looking back on it now, I see so much immaturity in that young woman, but I can also see so much growth from all of that. It’s not that every experience was bad, it’s that none of them lasted. And how could they? None of those dating ‘relationships’ were based on substance or friendship or some sort of foundation one could potentially build an actual relationship on. They were all just based on…passion.

I’m not going to sit behind my computer and pretend as if passion isn’t important or that we don’t need to experience it. That would be the farthest thing from the truth. But what I’ve learned is that if you want to get into an actual relationship, you have to base it on something concrete with someone who has the same intentions and values. Passion just doesn’t seem to be that solid of a ‘thing’ to base a relationship on.

Social media has been interesting in people’s sharing of their own opinions on dating, the opposite sex, and relationships. From what I’ve seen (and unfollowed on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter), there are a lot of cynics out there who complain about ‘the selection’ of men or women ‘available’ to them. I have yet to see, however, any of these cynics take some responsibility for their own actions, intentions, and reflect on why they keep having the same experiences over and over again. I’m not saying I have it all figured out or that these people aren’t justified in having these opinions, however if the common denominator in all of these experiences is YOU, then it’s likely you have some work to do.

I feel a conscious shift amongst my peers which includes being more mindful of what we say, do and who we spend time with. I think much of that has to do with obtaining a more honest awareness of Self but I also think we’re becoming more mindful with our intentions. And that makes me hopeful – maybe our relationship experiences will become happier and much more fulfilling.

Many of us had been sold “the fairytale” of what a relationship should look like, by our society, movies, media, TV, however many of us are also coming out of it with a simple realization:

We create the experiences in our lives. That includes love, relationships, friendships, and yes, even passion. 

Love,

T


Maybe it’s just me….

I was in my first ‘relationship’ when I was eighteen years old. It was a late summer romance that lasted until about the following spring. He was a handsome, nice, hard-working guy who was close with his parents and did his best to balance full-time school work and a part-time job. During my holiday visit of him and his family, I vividly recall one interaction. We were out the night prior and got up late. His mom was home and we were discussing breakfast. I remember one minute he was looking at me like I was sunshine, smiling at me and then, just before he got up to grab something from the coffee table, he turned to his mom and said these seven life-changing words: “Show her how I like my eggs.” I am not sure what prompted him to say this and if he felt that in some weird way I would find it endearing, but something felt ‘off’ about that to my eighteen-year-old Self, who did not have the language to articulate or even understand how she truly felt. Perhaps then, this blog post was born, when I was eighteen years old.

 

A single woman living alone in a big metropolitan city, with a stable job, hobbies and close friends, in today’s day and age, is, frankly, common. It has not always been this way, as noted in the workforce composition/proportion of men vs women, in the last century. Perhaps it is somewhat of a recent trend, of say the last three or four decades, that women have gained the courage to be even more independent from their ‘home base’ where they were raised.

Of course, not every woman who completes school and/or secures a job which provides her financial independence, acts on it by leaving her parental home, solo. Be it for cultural reasons or to save money so that she can become a homeowner on her own, some independent women stay home and I pass no judgement on them. I, however, live alone in an apartment with a view of the lake, that is walking distance to work. Okay, my entire life is within a 15 minute walking radius. I’ve worked really hard over the years to make my world an oyster, and I am extremely grateful for it.

Perhaps due to my strong independence gains, I’ve become less tolerant for interactions with others, and notably men, which simply do not nurture MY personal growth, but often leave me feeling….kinda motherly. I’ll admit, I have that motherly, nurturing thing inside my Self that comes out naturally, whether I am aware of it or not. I’d like to think I’ve become more aware and mindful of it, but it’s hard to be someone you’re not. And I like me. Unfortunately, I think that attribute of mine has played a role in the kinds of men I’ve attracted over the years. I’m not saying ALL of them, but there have been a few interactions I’ve looked back on which somehow illicit a feeling of nauseating panic and…a shudder that seems to always be paired with an involuntary ‘Ugh!’. Some were good people, but it was my allowing of some of the interactions which took place, the length of time I stayed in IT, how much precious energy I expended on these men, which lead to these internal reactions of my Self. I’m going to share a few of these stories because, well, there are lessons in them for every man and woman. And also, I am not the same woman who went through those experiences so my shame has turned into forgiveness, wisdom and love for my Self. You may relate to some of these….be it as the guy or the girl.

 

 

Mott Haven, Bronx. August 1979. From The Faces in the Rubble, by David Gonzalez.

Mott Haven, Bronx. August 1979.
From The Faces in the Rubble, by David Gonzalez.
Confession: I posted this photograph because it represents what I’d love to experience: the two of us (the man I’ve yet to meet who will choose to be a part of US) dancing together, to a common beat…it’s one of my dreams. 😉

 

 

I’ll start with a choreographer who I met through a social network. He was charming, funny, sexy as hell, cool. We spent hours talking about life and seemed to have a lot in common in terms of our values and views of relationships. He had done a lot in his life already, as had I. He intrigued me. It was a long distance connection, and although based on previous personal experience I did not believe in long distance romance, I really liked this guy. He was exciting to me. He took an interest in me. He even flew countries on short notice to spend a few days with me, despite the fact that we had not spoken in almost a year at that point (back story: I had created a distance between us about six months into IT because of, let’s call it, a woman’s intuition). It felt like something too good to be true but I convinced my Self that this must be love. The time we spent together was magical and beautiful, but it felt to me that there existed a lack of something in his Self which he battled silently most of the time. And I found his silence to be loud and suspicious. A few months later, during our following, and ironically, last encounter, he acted out one of my deal breakers and made me end IT, for good. So at this point, this interaction had lasted over eighteen months and although I had learned so much from IT, I was exhausted. I had gone out of my way to welcome him with a home cooked meal anytime he made time to visit me. I allowed him to use my credit card to book his flight to come see me. I tried to please him and make him laugh because I wanted to see him happy. But he wasn’t. From the last time I had seen him, until he had paid me back for that flight, more than a few months had passed. And despite his emotional distance and unavailability, I wasn’t completely over this man at that point. It wasn’t that I felt he was the right guy for me – I had convinced my Self that he was. When I was finally over him, and this took a long while, I randomly came across a post on another social network (you never know who’s going to ‘like’ what, thereby showing up on your feed), of him and his girlfriend, dated around the same time he had flown out to see me. Suddenly, it all made sense. His distance. His moods. His unavailability. And I realized, I did not love this man. I just loved the excitement, I thought, he brought to my life.

 

I’ll skip to the lawyer, because this IT was short-lived. We met on the train platform on a hot summer day. Tall, dark hair, and handsome, he threw me some cheesy line I found cute. I found his mannerism boyish yet mature at the same time. He seemed like the no-nonsense type, so I gave him my number. And I was right – he contacted me later that same day. We met and had a great date on yet another hot, sticky, summer day. Over the course of his courtship, we went to the movies, the beach, went on excursions, he wrote me poems, discussed the future, how we’d deal with our cultural differences, our individual family relationships…it seemed mature. The first red flag was his initial suggestion he cook dinner for me at my place on our second date and have a sleepover. I wasn’t feeling his self-invite and simply told him that it’s too soon for me and I will inform him when I feel comfortable with having him enter my home. Had he not brought it up again, I may have been able to work through it. But the third time he asked, over our sushi dinner date, if he can come over ‘just to sleep next to me while cuddling and nothing else’, I snapped. I told him that it’s not his place to keep inviting himself over, but for me to extend that invitation should I so choose. (Of course each time he had done so, a seed of doubt that was initially planted by his first self-invitation, grew.) I did not expect nor anticipate his actual reaction, but it had ended THAT. This intelligent lawyer who took on human rights cases pro bono and was very convincing of his belief in gender equality, sent me a slew of emotionally charged messages in one of which he stated that my ‘rejection’ of his self-invitation to MY home, made him ‘feel emasculated’. In that one sentence, he ended IT…although he didn’t see it that way. I clarified it for him politely initially, and ultimately silently.

 

Now, the lawyer wasn’t the only one who had extended a self-invitation to my home, but I found his reaction most honest. There was this one guy who I went out with on less than a handful of platonic ‘dates’, who, on top of extending a self-invitation to my home, that seems to always come with dinner (which, in retrospect, I think I would have financed in his case), also thought that it would be fair if he did his laundry while at my place. And when I pointed out that he was trying to take advantage of me, decided that it was ok for him to continue IT without an apology or an acknowledgement that he overstepped his boundary with me. It took a long while for him to stop sending me messages despite my lack of response. At one point, I was concerned that this one may turn out to be a stalker, but I was fortunate he didn’t. I think….

 

There was also the artist, who I felt was a soul mate. We had this incredible connection. He made time for me. We did things together. He professed his love to me. He taught me a lot. We had deep conversations about life and shared secretes with one another that we hadn’t told a soul prior. We discussed the future. He told his mother about me and brought me around his child, whom I loved. It wasn’t until I felt emotionally invested in IT, that I found out he had a substance abuse problem. I had cooked for him, and paid for most outing expenses, because that’s what you do when you care for someone, right?? Besides, he was pretty much a single parent, as he had his kid for most of the week, so I thought that was right… Except it rarely made sense. Looking back on it now, I realize that he was someone who was so lost in his self-denied substance abuse, that I almost lost my Self in IT. And in all the ways it seemed like L-O-V-E, at the core of IT was a slew of justifications for self-destructive behaviour that had hurt me. To this day, I’m not sure he fully understood that but I did not stick around to make sure he got it. (When someone compares their chosen substance of abusive consumption to what coffee does for other people, it raises a huge red flag. And, despite your repeatedly expressed concern that it sounds like a serious problem they need to deal with, they not only continue their use more heavily but attempt to feed you words to try to convince you otherwise, you stop banging your head against that wall. It only hurts you.)

 

The last one I’ll mention is the student who was actually really sweet. And he came into my life at a time when I was finally ready to end my almost five-year ‘singlehood’  stretch. When I met him, he had a job, ambition, he was going to school, and had interesting perspectives. He was there whenever I needed him and he did his best to play the role of a mature man despite our age gap (I was older). As time went on, he quit his job and started hanging out at my place a lot. (Towards the end of it, even when I was not home.) Initially, I understood it as his attempt to spend time with me, but he didn’t exactly contribute to my home financially or domestically, and I came to resent it. Our parting was amicable but I was a little surprised when he called me a few months later, confused about why I had ended it. While we were in IT, I was too frustrated and annoyed with the situation to clearly express my feelings but when he had called me I was able to articulate my stance clearly: he made me feel like I was his mother. In fact I remember this one argument we had towards the end of IT, when I was at my limit of tolerance for his lack of ambition and motivation, where he wanted to add his boxer shorts to my laundry load and I refused it. It made me feel like I was in IT with a child instead of an adult and it completely turned me off. I have zero romantic inclinations towards children….which is how I ended up feeling towards the end of IT with him, towards him. And that was THAT.

 

I take full responsibility for the decisions I had made during those interactions, for my reactions and choices of words (or lack thereof). I also took many lessons with me from each of those situations (which, by-the-way, are NOT in chronological order), and have applied those lessons to interactions with men I connected with thereafter. I find many of those situations humorous now. I mean how else do you look back at someone you just met extending a self-invitation to your place for a sleep over AND to do their laundry during their ‘visit’??

You’re probably wondering why I’m even bothering sharing these stories on such a public platform, right? I see a lot of my old self in so many single, independent folks. And it’s not that they’re bad or interacting with bad people, it’s just that they’ve not fully understood or come to grips with THEIR self-worth. A person who understands and has complete knowledge of what they bring-to-the-table in any type of relationship – be it professional, friendship, platonic or non-platonic interaction – has developed an ability to not only listen to their intuition, but honour it and stand in his/her own integrity.

While recalling aforementioned stories, I remember my old Self; a generous young woman with a big heart, lacking a sense of her Self-Worth, with an underdeveloped emotional maturity, and a shortage of courage to uphold her Self-Love. I’ve not changed my Self, my integrity, honesty, transparency of who I am and what I stand for, but I have grown up. Everything I identified as something I lacked (such as emotional maturity) which I also want in a partner, I worked on developing in my Self. Sure, it took time and without a doubt there is always room for growth and improvement, but this has enabled me to make decisions with respect to my interactions with other people, much easier. It has also allowed me to articulate how I truly feel with not just a lack of fear, but mature confidence. And I’m feeling good (Nina Simone voice). 😀

I’d like to honour my eighteen-year-old Self with these important words:

I like MY eggs mostly two ways – sunny-side up or soft-boiled. 😉

Love,

T


The Allowance of Change

Photo © T.Nikic 2012

Photo © T.Nikic 2012

 

Happy New Year!!! As we enter this “newness”, perhaps we can entertain the idea of change. At 3am on January 1st, 2015, I had decided that then would be a great time to talk about it, so I posted a video and shared my thoughts. You can watch the entire thing here but here are a few thoughts from my brain to err your electronic computing device you’re reading this post on… 😀

 

We want things to change around us, in our life, our relationships, but we don’t allow or embrace for change of others or of our own Self, for that to truly happen. There is an interconnectedness between cause and effect; between who we are and the state of our lives. There is no way that something can change without something else being affected. But we have to be open to it. To allow it. To embrace it. In others, in our life, in ourSelves.

 

“I feel I change my mind all the time. And I sort of feel that’s your responsibility as a person, as a human being – to constantly be updating your positions on as many things as possible. And if you don’t contradict yourself on a regular basis, then you’re not thinking.” ― Malcolm Gladwell

 

There is something to be said about committing to a project or making a decision and staying true to it in its absolutism until we see it come to fruition or full resolution, however, when it comes to ideas, perception, thoughts…an absolutism ‘state’ does not allow for growth or even learning. We are HUMAN BEINGS. Being human does not equate to perfection or ideal or right or wrong. We are in a constant state of change – from our physical to our emotional states – we are not static. Even when we are absolutely still, there is movement of molecules and atoms in our bodies which we cannot even feel, but it happens. I have taken note of the fact that for many human beings, we get comfortable in being a certain way, in our routines, in thinking a certain way, in our perspectives. However, this form of existence, as comfortable as it is (and it is comfortable because it’s familiar), does not allow for certain lessons to be learned, for a growth (on mental, emotional, spiritual levels), which is necessary for LIVING. And I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with this nor am I passing judgement, but I am concerned if we aren’t receptive to hearing someone else’s point of view or idea and we aren’t thinking about it before we make any decision if we’re going to accept it, or reject it, or break it up into bits which seem “right” or “wrong” to us.

 

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”― Aristotle, Metaphysics

It is also a concern of mine that, generally speaking, we group people as “good” or “bad” depending on how we’ve interacted with them. I know I’ve been guilty of this in the past. But the truth is, people’s actions and reactions are a reflection of their emotional, mental, sometimes spiritual states (and their level of stress), that they are in at that exact moment in time. We are all capable of making poor decisions. In fact, mistakes are the seeds of great life lessons for many of us. But we cannot apply an absolutism to a person for we, as human beings, truly are too complex for that. As beings with a capacity for sensory stimulation, we are also affected by whatever we are stimulated by visually, mentally, etc., which DOES affect our thoughts, beliefs, reasons, and such. There has to be room for us to say “there walks someone who made a poor decision but they’re still a human being”.

 

“I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes – it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘Well, if I’d known better I’d have done better,’ that’s all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, ‘I’m sorry,’ and then you say to yourself, ‘I’m sorry.’ If we all hold on to the mistake, we can’t see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can’t see what we’re capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others, but in the end the real forgiveness is in one’s own self… The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don’t have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach.” ― Maya Angelou

(NOTE: Of course, I do not condone actions, thoughts, and intentions which hurt people – physically, mentally, emotionally – EVER. But the history of the world has marked perhaps a few hundred, and if we’re being generous we’ll say a thousand, names of people who have done despicable things to other human beings on a large-scale, in all of the history of humans. It was counted that there have been 108  BILLION humans who have walked on Earth, and 7 billion exist today. If you do the math, most humanity is not all that bad. And even the ones who intentionally hurt other people have had a few good thoughts or ideas, I’m sure. For we each have the capacity to do good or bad. Therefore it is a matter of choice. )

I’d like to end this post by extending a big thank you to every single person, in my life, who has made allowance for my own change, for your support, has added altitude to my own flight. Namaste.

Love,

T


Vulnerability…Recovered

A page from my journal entry:

“Dec 1st, 2014

I spoke with my sister this evening and I recalled a memory my mom shared with me, of me, when I was a child. My mom described me as this little girl who just did not want to go into the sandbox with the other kids, to play and get dirty, but would instead cross my hands behind my back and observe the other kids playing. It’s an image that parallels a lot of the struggle I experienced as an adolescent, a young woman and an adult in my friendships and relationships with others. I was the observer who didn’t really feel that I BELONGED anywhere, and instead observed others and their interactions, but was somewhat scared of being ‘known’ so I simply kept my true self hidden from others. It wasn’t until recently that I thought about displacement as a result of war (I am from former Yugoslavia, the region of Bosnia), and what that truly did for my spirit, understanding of self and others, my lack of the sense of belonging anywhere, and its effect on any relationship I attempted to participate in, that it dawned on me… THE one thing I thought I wanted, truly wanted, was the one thing I was truly afraid of – BEING LOVED.

I was afraid of being loved.

Why? Well I did not love or like mySelf for a long time, which is a starting place for reflection. But when I looked into it deeper, I realized that: 1. being loved means that someone is making a ‘commitment’ to me which they may not be able to maintain consistently; and 2. that would involve vulnerability on my end, and on that person’s end, and I simply wasn’t comfortable with it. That basic human essence – birthplace of creativity, love, nurturing and mindful relationships, a true display of courage – was very uncomfortable for me.

Why was it uncomfortable? Why is being vulnerable so scary? Because you put your true Self in the spotlight, on display and it may not be everyone’s ‘cup of tea’, so you open your Self up to criticism, rejection, ridicule… Except when you decide to face your fear, be vulnerable in showing who you really are, you find that people respect you more and are more accepting OF you. And that’s love.

So I’m stepping forth on my intentions of building mindful, respectful, nurturing, loving relationships, and allowing mySelf to simply BE ME, my true self, in all situations and people I encounter.

That does not mean that everyone deserves, or will be given, a backstage pass to my life, but it does mean that the right people will be invited to know ME.”

In order to get a hug, you must give a hug…

Love, T


A Song Broken Down…

Any form of art we create, has its own life, which is carried by those who receive it with any of their senses. Its life lies in connection with a memory, feelings, a recognition of, and a relation to past experience(s) of the person who is engaging with it, be it via visual or auditory (or taste etc) stimulation. We are human beings. What makes us truly human, in my opinion, is our ability to FEEL. Emotions, feelings, are part of our human experience.

Photo ©T.Nikic, 2012
Photo ©T.Nikic, 2012

A very important side note: Our souls don’t ‘feel’. Our souls are a distinct energy which allows us to develop a spiritual awareness during our human experience. We are able to ‘recognize’ souls we’ve met in a previous life or those souls we are inherently connected to (i.e. soul mates). But our souls, even at the moment of recognition of another, do not have the experience of FEELING. However, our humanity does. Our souls simply experience an elevation of the vibrational frequency of their energy at this time. That’s something we as humans can FEEL as part of our human experience, but our souls just have an energy ex/change. That is all.

Why am I talking about art, souls and the ability to feel as part of our human experience?? Because of a song I just stumbled upon. Yes, it’s that deep. Why am I going to the extreme of writing a blog post about it? Because it matters and because I recognize our human tendencies of getting caught up in emotions which can subsequently lead to an emotional roller coaster ride. Remember Adele’s Someone Like You? Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You? Or even bits of Rihanna’s Stay ft. Mikky Ekko? If experienced in a misinterpretation, rather in a state of being that is in an uncentered emotional turmoil, those songs could lead to a prolonging of (or the creation of) an attachment to a feeling which is fleeting, as all feelings are. ALL FEELINGS ARE FLEETING. This song, to me, is a more mature, aware, grownup, male version. Oh you’re wondering what song I’m talking about? Read on, please. 🙂

When I first listened to it, I found the song, like parts of the aforementioned songs, ego based, because initially I felt that it was written from a space where there was an attachment to a person/feeling (as the songs above were). However, after watching the video, and listening to the song on repeat for a few hours, just reflecting and connecting to it, I realized that (or interpreted that) this piece of art was rooted in honesty. I felt that it wasn’t a song about longing for a lost love but a realization that one missed out on the experience of love because he did not allow himself to be vulnerable. He realized too late that his fears and ego prevented him from experiencing LOVE, because he was scared, for whatever reason, and now he is in this melancholy, not regretful, but a very mindful state of awareness: TO EXPERIENCE LOVE, WE MUST BE VULNERABLE WITH ANOTHER, AND OVERCOME OUR FEARS.

In relationships with another, irrelevant of the intensity of the connection, we have to be emotionally naked in order to truly experience LOVE, with another. After all, in order to receive a hug, we must give a hug. The difficulty for some lies in showing love, but more often than that, it lies in difficulty in receiving love, of ‘allowing’ another to love us. The reasons for this can be complex and are often rooted in our childhood ‘misinterpretation’ of love. But it basically boils down to feeling unworthy of someone loving us. That’s a painful and damaging lie we carry with us, unknowingly sometimes. This song, as simple as the lyrics are, describes that realization, of the fact that he did not experience that closeness with her because he couldn’t go there with her, on an emotional level. His ego led him to think that she’d come running back to him, but she found happiness with someone who wasn’t scared to go THERE – to be open, and honest, and vulnerable on an emotional, spiritual and mental level. He held on to that ‘ego thought’ until he realized that the reason it didn’t work out between them, was because of his fears and ego holding him back from that soul baring nakedness, that is needed to experience such closeness with another human being. He is grieving the death of his fears, as he realizes that those fears are what was ‘killing’ him, his spirit, and his ability to experience LOVE, with another.

I have shared my breakdown of this song because I wanted to remind all of us that in order to experience LOVE with another, we MUST not just be vulnerable and courageous enough to love another, but also be vulnerable and courageous in allowing another to love us. I wrote this because I want to see people engaged in mindful, loving, and emotionally fulfilling relationships, myself included. Of course there is more to relationships than this – they take work. But imagine if we based them on, and built them in a sacred space of honesty, vulnerability, and soul baring nakedness? I bet there’d be more happy people walking around…

Love liberates. Love doesn’t bind. Love liberates.

And no, it will not eradicate powerful art. If anything, it may feed and fuel the creation of more art, that’s even more touching and powerful.

Oh and about the song that inspired this post? Click here to hear it.

Peace and love,

T


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