Category Archives: Following your dreams
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.
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.
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 on 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.
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.
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. 😉
A vivid memory from my last visit with my baka (grandmother) in Bosnia a few years back:
I was sitting with my baka and her sister, and they were talking about their ascensions. The selection of clothes for their burial was complete long ago, and the clothes were pressed and ready. The selection of their bodies’ resting places at the cemetery were already chosen, bought and paid for, complete with the incomplete story that comes after the “-” on their, you guessed it, chosen, bought and completely paid-for, tombstones. Even their funerals will be of no real financial burden to their families as they have already been paid for in advance.
I sat there taken-aback, listening to them speak so matter-of-factly about their future bodily farewell. The acceptance of, preparedness for, and the peace made with, their eventual deaths did not make me feel morbid or depressed. I mean, yes, there was a moment or two when I felt that they’ve put themselves on a countdown of sorts, but if anything, they made me love life and living, even more. Is it not incredible that in living one has accepted the fact that death is a part of it?
The way we ‘go’ affects those whom we leave behind more. The age at which we ‘leave’ makes a difference too. The age and state of those who remain ‘after’ adds to the light and the tragedy of our ‘departure’. And what does it all truly mean to me?
It is always a bit of a strange day when it starts with a funeral. It was set for 10am, my ideal time of awakening on a Saturday. Because it was in Fort Erie, and because I had to meet my parents close to their home, I was up by 6 and out of my house by 7:05am. Dressed in black, because ‘that’s what you’re supposed to wear to a funeral’, it made me even more tired, but who am I to complain? It wasn’t my mother, sister, wife, aunt, daughter, friend, a cancer fighter whose body expired at the age of 47. Yet, I felt tired.
The absence of radio or music during the almost two-hour drive there was fitting, I suppose. There wasn’t the intent of being morbid or sad, as one would expect a mood in such circumstances to be. My parents and I simply talked to each other at times, and at other times drove in silence. Perhaps that’s a sign of true comfort with another – the ability to sit in silence with them. I was fully awake the entire drive there.
The church service, in my perception, was hopeful and light, if that even makes sense, in such circumstances. Her eulogy, delivered by two beautiful women, her nieces, was funny and celebratory of her life. I felt it was lovely that they also read excerpts from Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman poem. Tears were shed but I was fully there. Although the burial itself was private, almost 50 cars saw her off in the funeral procession. Imagine being loved that much.
Perhaps what stayed with me the most was the little reception, after the service and the burial, where those who attended, gathered. There were about five large collages of pictures put together by her family, of different times in her life. And what it reminded us all, is that she lived. I did not cry after that but I did share a few long hugs with others, her family members and relatives. Perhaps the emotional imprint of the morning hit me on the drive home. Without radio or music, I fell asleep.
What is the rational thing to do after a funeral? Probably spend time with your family. And I did…after I went to the gym.
It could have been my need to reenergize or to encourage the movement of blood through my body after a few hour drive, that triumphed my lack of motivation in light of the morning’s events to go to the gym. But I did. A quick, hard workout, and a hot shower, does wonders for cleansing the spirit and the body of emotional buildup. At least for me it does.
I had made some french macarons the day before, to share with my family Saturday afternoon. Made with love, and loved by all – from my 2 and 5-year-old nieces, to my parents – the macarons were served with tea or coffee alongside the animated classic 101 Dalmatians; a story which reminds us of how far those who love us will go in order to fight for us, to protect us, to save us when we are unable to do so for ourselves, it brought things full circle for me.
We rely on our parents to care for us when we are born, until we are old enough to care for ourselves, and eventually they get older and then, we often have to care for them. Not everyone thinks to, or has the means to be prepared for death, the way my baka and her sister have. And that is something that may only come with a certain age, perhaps. However, how we ‘go’, is not something we are able to decide and prepare for ahead of time. Perhaps not all of us will get a chance to say ‘goodbye’ to those we love in the bodies they are in, in this life. Perhaps it will be sudden and we will be unprepared. But if we find our Self in a situation where the loved one who ascends has fought a battle of any sickness, and we were able to say ‘goodbye’, then there is hope. There is hope not that their ‘departure’ will necessarily be lighter, but that our life after they’re ‘gone’, is.
We cannot go back in time and change anything, but in moving forward, a moment at a time, we gain peace with respect to our past, if we so choose to make that effort. Once a body expires, we aren’t able to physically show or express our feelings, thoughts, emotions towards that being. And that knowledge should not hold us, but the memories of the moments we had shared with the being who ‘left’, should lift us. Because they lived, and we shared space and time with them. Because we loved them and they loved us. Because they, nor you, are their/your body. Because energy cannot be created or destroyed, it simply changes forms. Because we still have life and a responsibility to live it and explore, love, share, laugh, dance, travel, write, paint, imagine, cook, listen, taste, breathe, listen to our intuition and follow our dreams. Because our human experience is unique. Because you are free.
I spoke with my baka the following day and we talked about the ‘ascension’ of the human being whose funeral I attended. She told me that she cried too. She said “there are too many young people dying today”. Perhaps she’s right – there are too many young people dying today. But what stayed with me are these words I once heard:
“I guess the main lesson would be to love even when you don’t ‘feel like it'”. ~Lenny Kravitz