Thursday, May 9, 2013
What do I believe? How did I come to believe what it is that I believe? Does what I believe empower me? At some point, most of us have considered the first question, but have never stopped to ask ourselves the second or the third. Perhaps we should.
You see, when it comes down to it, the fact is that most of our beliefs have been established based on what others have taught us. The rest? Well, the rest is a hodge-podge of conclusions that we’ve arrived at based on life experience; some good, some bad. There are some beliefs that are so deeply ingrained in us that we are willing to fight, or even die for them. Others, while they may not be as sacred, are still familiar. They are what we know to be “true”, but what should we do when our “truth” does not serve us?
Recently, I found myself sitting in casual observation of all the brouhaha surrounding Jada Pinkett Smith and the allegations that she shares an open marriage with her husband, actor Will Smith. Whether open or closed, I had formed no real opinion about their relationship. It was none of my business and therefore required no debate, argument, or editorial on my part. At least that was how I felt up until Jada released a statement in response to the uproar. Then, I sat up and took notice.
"Do we believe loving someone means owning them? Do we believe that ownership is the reason someone should 'behave'? Do we believe that all the expectations, conditions, and underlying threats of 'you better act right or else' keep one honest and true?...”
"Should we be married to individuals who can not be responsible for themselves and their families within their freedom? Should we be in relationships with individuals who we can not entrust to their own values, integrity, and LOVE...for us???"
When I read Jada’s statement, I felt a strong urge to rise to my feet and give her a standing ovation. It was out there. She said it-the thing that most of us don’t want to acknowledge. And I give her credit for being wise enough to recognize and speak the truth: believing that we can somehow control, threaten or guilt someone into honesty or fidelity is a delusion. In fact, believing that we should have to says even more about us than it does about the person that we are involved with. Ultimately, we must take responsibility for our own choices and we must allow others the freedom to do the same. And within that context, it really doesn’t matter how we choose to define our relationship. What matters is the quality of our experience. What matters is whether or not we are in a relationship that honors us.
Now, I’m sure that there are many who do not agree with Jada’s views on marriage or how she chooses to define her relationship (hence all the tongue-wagging). What do I believe? I believe that marriage is just like everything else in life-meant to show us who we are, not to create a false sense of security for ourselves. I believe that if we are in a relationship where we cannot trust ourselves and our partner enough to love freely and openly, then we are out of place. I believe that relationships help to expose all of our little insecurities so that we might be healed, not for us to make our partner responsible for managing our anxieties.
In the end, what each of us believes about marriage and relationships is a personal choice. If our beliefs empower us and allow us to grow, then we are in integrity with ourselves. But if they do not, we should find the courage to change them. So, what do you believe?
Thursday, April 18, 2013
A single friend of mine recently shared an experience in which a well-meaning sister friend and a family member barraged her with questions about getting married and having children. One is married, and both are new moms, so I suppose they felt that it was their duty to stage an intervention in order to save her from a bleak future of spinsterhood. They went all in- telling her that it’s time for her to make a move and that she’s getting older and she’s going to regret not getting married and having children. Blah, blah, blah. Although she was able to handle this conversation with grace, she was actually a bit confused by the sudden barrage of questions and accusations cleverly disguised as concern. She had never expressed dissatisfaction with her personal life, so she was more than a bit curious as to why they would want her to feel anxious and fearful about her choices. Something just didn’t feel right. This wasn’t about love or sisterhood. This was clearly about something else.
It’s always been a theory of mine that it’s best to be wary of those who insist that you join their club (whatever that club might be). As the saying goes, “there is safety in numbers” and many seek to increase membership in order to increase their own comfort. They want their choices to be affirmed. They want to be “right.”
And what is that they want to be right about? In this case, it is the story that in order for a woman to have it all, she must have a husband and/or children and without them, something is missing. But is that really so? The truth is that many of us have never given any real thought to it. We have simply accepted it as fact. And although we may create wonderful and fulfilling lives for ourselves, there is still the underlying belief that our single life is simply the “make do” stage or a prerequisite to the life we really want live.
Holding this belief as being absolutely true has caused many of us to pursue a path in life that does not honor us. Particularly as it relates to marriage and family, many of us are more enthralled with the idea of it than we actually are with the reality. We strive to get there, lest we be left on the sidelines feeling like the little kid who was chosen last for the kickball team. But once we join the game, we might just realize that it isn’t necessarily the one that we want to play.
Of course, some of us are very clear about what we want. Marriage and family might be a deliberate choice for us and not a decision based on what others think we “should” do. But, there are some us who could really benefit from being more honest; honest about what really brings us joy, what really makes us feel good, and how we really imagine our lives to be if we could be bold enough to live in our own truths. We might be surprised at what we discover-that there are many possibilities for a life well-lived, and that there is more than one way for a woman to have it all.
“What’s left for you to do with your life?” they asked my friend. Her response made me smile. “I see myself onstage speaking and motivating women. I see myself in the company of a man that I enjoy. I see my life as being full and happy.”
Well, that sounds good to me.
- Angie G.
Friday, February 22, 2013
What’s all of this talk about “real” relationships? As women, we tend to spend a great deal of time on this subject. We measure potential mates against the standard of what we have determined a real relationship to be, and we are quick to express our frustration at the fact that there seems to be a shortage of potential suitors that meet our qualifications. Most of us are certain that we know what a real relationship is, but do we really? We might be a little confused. Or slightly misguided, maybe.
Perhaps our biggest error is buying into the notion that such a thing actually exists. For the most part, our perception of what constitutes a “real” relationship is determined by some arbitrary list of standards that generally includes, at a minimum, “quality”, intention, reciprocity, stability and feelings of unconditional love and emotional security. But what if those things, when they show up, are merely by-products of, and not the purpose of the relationship? And what if that seemingly pervasive sense of frustration that we are experiencing on the relationship front isn’t really about the so-called quality of the people we meet, the much talked about shortage of “good” men, or even the result of a bad economy? What if the issue isn’t about anything external to us? What if our frustration is solely a result of our own unmanaged expectations and belief in fairytales?
I am not suggesting that we should not desire kindness, support, consideration and warm, fuzzy feelings from our relationships, but when we focus only on the by-products, we miss the purpose. Somewhere, somehow, many of us got lost in the story that a “real” relationship, as we have come to define it, is not only a goal, but a requirement. Anything less is considered to be settling; and we may even sexy that up by calling it “compromise.” But whatever we choose to call it, there appears to be an underlying belief that we are missing out on something that we are entitled to. It is that belief that prevents us from taking our relationship experiences as they come and limits our ability to learn and grow from them.
The simple truth is that ALL relationships are “real” relationships. And all relationships, whether we determine them to be good or bad, provide an opportunity for us to be greater. They provide insight into our very being and are merely the mirrors that reflect on us our own majesty, as well as our own fears and insecurities. Our relationships can be no better or worse that who we are choosing to be at any given time. You can’t get any more real than that.