I was lying awake last night and thinking about the many people in my life. Their faces, personalities, how they move in and out of my life and I began to realize RELATIONSHIPS ARE HARD!!!

I have the skills to participate with individuals with varying intensities; I’ve been working on this for years. But I began to think about what it takes to navigate each relationship and the specific nuances that occur in each one.

I think about the basics, communication, connection/interest, compassion, love, time, energy, empathy, enjoyment, and investment to name some. Working with these simple concepts, for me, create the basis of each relationship. And yet as I look deeper at each person I realize I have a whole other bag of goodies that seems to come into play.

You see there are these wonderful things called “my baggage”. It’s this grouping of emotional components that I bring with me based on past experiences. In this life, and others, if you are so inclined to believe in past lives, which I do. Also running a close second are these annoying expectations, realistic or not that seem to want to have a voice in each relationship.

Let me talk first about expectations. I have come to understand through my emotional work, it is best to approach each experience, relationships included, with no expectations. If you are able to do this it eliminates the feeling of disappointment and disillusionment, allowing for the avenue of joy. For me to enter into relationships with no expectations has been a difficult and complicated walk. How do I give and expect to receive nothing in return? Does this mean I am ignoring my needs, desires, wants?

I guess I had to come to a place where I was willing to give, from my heart, from my desire, with no need for a response. It was giving from a place of love instead of a place of need. Often times in the past I have seen myself give so that I could get my needs met. I would say, “I love you” just so I could hear it back. Give a hug so I could feel a hug. I would be showing love to feel loved. Connecting so I could feel connected.

Entering without expectations began to mean to me that I would extend myself and give when I was willing to receive nothing back. This is hard!!! I have grown enough emotionally to truly want to show someone love or kindness without feeling as though I needed something in return, and still I have come to understand how I must also fill my needs.

I have been able to recognize, when I want to give to get, it is important for me to first fill my soul. There are many ways I have learned and continue to learn to do this for myself. A TV show, a walk, exercise, a movie, a bath, a nap and many more ways fill me so I can give without expecting something back in return.

And still I have learned I need. Sometimes I need a hug, a reassuring conversation, someone to tell me I’m pretty. I believe in those moments it is my responsibility to myself and the other person to acknowledge it is MY need. “I am needing a hug, can I have one?” It allows me to be emotionally present and vulnerable with another person, fostering connection, compassion and love. It also allows for someone to determine if they want to give. Just because I have a need doesn’t mean one individual is responsible for meeting it. Here is an example. I learned to not ask my ex-boyfriend to hear my emotional concerns during a major sporting event. It either needed to wait or I found someone who could be present with me in that moment. You see if I expected him to put aside what he was doing because of my immediate need to talk, I knew I would be disappointed. It set us both up, and I was the one putting us in that position to fail. I began to realize I loved me enough and him enough that I wanted us both to be successful. I could ask if we could talk later or simply find someone else to listen.

On a similar note, I’m not going to ask my friend who has no interest in sports to be excited or even enjoy going to a sporting event with me. I have tried this and have been frustrated because she wanted to talk fashion and movies and I wanted to watch the game. It’s learning to match people and needs together so relationships can work at their best.

So now the heavy load…. BAGGAGE. It seems there is a dance between expectations and baggage. Kind of a comes first, chicken/egg, expectation/baggage sort of thing. As I stated earlier, our baggage is what we carry around from past experiences that have left an emotional imprint. We have the opportunity, through our relationships and experiences, to lighten or add to our load. I see people pass through my life and can feel an emotional response, sometimes superficially and sometimes deeper. Each passing allows me to face a past emotional experience that has left hurt, sadness, anger or any other emotion but love.

These emotional experiences we carry with us, from our children, parents, friends, teachers, partners continue to impact our present day relationships. I have recently come face to face with a feeling of not being good enough. I’m not sure where it originated, and for me it isn’t important. I know that I want to be willing to process that feeling that radiates, consciously or subconsciously, through friendships, work, partners, children, everywhere. You see, I don’t seem to unpack my baggage. What is in my bag travels with me into each experience. The component that varies is what specific individuals bring to light for me.

In this light I have the opportunity to face the emotion and attempt to heal so I don’t have to keep revisiting this issue in destructive or perhaps ways that are not as successful. Literally taking out the “clothes” that just don’t fit any longer. I want to have happy, mutually beneficial, respectful, giving, loving relationships. I can have these wonderful connections as long as I am responsible for me, my needs and approaching people with love. I am grateful for the people that come into my life and provide me the chance to take a closer look at myself and acknowledge where I need to heal. It is a gift, because I want to learn and understand myself. It’s sometimes very hard, very painful, and very sad. I also know and have experienced pure joy, exuberance and love in many of my relationships. The difficulty that can accompany spending time with people, getting to know them, allowing them to know me, is worth the lessons and the love.

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