I'm not sure what was in the air today, but for some reason while walking around the Health and Wellness Expo in Bristol, Connecticut, I kept finding myself deep in conversations with people on the topic of love. Maybe it was the rain drawing out the good vibes, working its negative-ion magic, or maybe it was my frizzy, unwashed hair that had everybody eager to lend me relationship advice. Whatever the reason for the flood of romance talk, I was open and happy to engage.
The first woman I spoke with was a psychic named Athena Silver. To be fair, I did pay for a tarot card reading and I did ask her to pull from the deck about relationships, but even after she read me my cards, our conversation about love continued. I opened up to her about my past damaging relationships and about my two-year journey (so far) of self-discovery and singlehood--a journey she respected but also questioned. She wondered if I might be afraid. She wondered if I might be stuck in the past. I felt a little vulnerable by these questions. I like to view myself as a warrior--a tough lover who gets up from heart-break, dusts herself off, and moves steadily on--but Athena pointed out something soft under my armor. She pointed out a space where I could open up further and invite in more love. She pointed out a place where I could practice more gratitude.
"The past should not be a reason to not live in the future."
I watched as her wise words floated in the air and then I wrote down her suggestions for dipping back into the past in order to move forward stronger and wiser (which no doubt I've got down), but also still open to love. Here is her method for integrating past relationships, even the worst kind, for you to try in your spare time as well:
Step 1: Make a list of past relationships. These could be romantic relationships or relationships between friends and family members. Whatever area calls most desperately for healing.
Step 2: For each relationship, ask yourself, "What did I learn? What did they teach me?"
Step 3: Thank them for the wisdom and knowledge you have gained from the time spent with them. Maybe you learned more about yourself. Maybe you learned more about relationships--what you want, what you don't want--or maybe you learned more about people and the world in general. Whatever you gained from the relationship, be grateful.
Step 4: Let them go. Let the past go.
Shortly after leaving Athena's booth, I bumped into a woman named Terra who was also walking around the Expo. For whatever reason, we hit it off immediately, which led us to discuss the importance of connection and comfortability in relationships. I think we've all tolerated a relationship or two (or a dozen) where we feel like we can't be ourselves. We start to act different, get nervous, tense, and take part in activities we wouldn't normally all for the sake of appearing like a good match for another. Why do we do that? Why do we squeeze, twist, and contort ourselves to fit into a relationship that deep down we don't even enjoy? Why do we feel the need to change when there are people out there (like Terra) who we immediately and naturally blend well with?
While Athena opened my eyes to the past, Terra opened my eyes back up to the present, reminding me how important it is for every person to spend some time alone to truly understand oneself. Without space to find self-love, self-knowledge, and self-comfortability, how can a person ever establish their own true shape? Before I became single, back in the days when I used to relationship-hop, I was like an amoeba, attaching myself to anyone who would love me, becoming whatever they desired. I bent my likes and ignored my dislikes in order to fit in to someone else's puzzle, but always after some time, my true self would cry out in pain. In a relationship, when one person is in pain, both people are in pain. Two uncertain halves don't make a whole. Terra believes every person needs to grow whole first on their own. She also believes a healthy relationship is one where the two wholes can continue to grow together.
All this Terra talk reminded me of one of my all-time favorite songs, "Not the Doctor" by Alanis Morissette, when Alanis says, "I don't want to be your other half. I believe that one and one make two." Actually, Athena reminded me of an Alanis Morissette song too--one called "Unsent" that is all about wishing ex-lovers the best and seeing the silver lining in each.
I guess today was just an Alanis Morissette and relationship-saturated kind of day.