This weekend’s hike was initially supposed to be a return to Shenandoah to a mountain, but at the last minute due to some possible afternoon thunderstorms and the distance to travel there, Maria and I decided to return to Patapsco Valley State Park instead. We met at 6:30 in the morning at the Landing Road entrance, where we had hiked in January on sheets of ice. We set out with an idea in mind of the route we were going to take, but ended up getting a little lost, and added an extra little loop to our big loop and ended up hiking almost 9 miles with an elevation gain of 1,114 feet. Physically the hike was easy, but I had a lot on my mind so our conversation went deeper. As part of our ecotherapy we found a word of the hike, ineffable, and then we used it as much as possible. Meriam-Webster defines ineffable as “incapable of being expressed in words” and “not to be uttered; taboo.” Our conversation centered around relationships we have with others, and the way in which we interact with people. A few weeks ago, the app Costar said we had to “understand the difference between the abstract interest in the well-being of other people and true empathy.” That concept has been on my mind lately, as a few of my friendships have deteriorated lately, some by my own volition, and others not so much.
Dr. Brené Brown’s Ted Talk on intimacy (linked here) is a powerful, and yet highly enjoyable, speech about those who feel they are worthy of connection with others. Her research has led her to conclude that those people all have four traits in common. First they have courage, and Dr. Brown explains that she is talking about the original meaning of the word, from the Latin cor, or heart, those who “tell the story of who they are with their whole heart and who have the courage to be imperfect.” The second trait is compassion, which includes being kind to yourself first, then others. Connection is the third, that their connections are authentic organically as a result of authenticity. And the last commonality is the ability to be vulnerable. Okay, easy enough, right? The more time I spend in nature, not only hiking, but paddle boarding and trips to the beach, the more I keep coming back to affirmation that the work I put in on myself has its benefits to others. I spent hours on Assateague Island this week watching my boys play in the ocean, and I was overwhelmed by gratitude, despite the setbacks I had this week.
Gratitude begets more to be grateful for. My life coach recommended gratitude journaling and meditations when I first went to see her. I took her advice and began meditating three years ago, and one in particular has helped me through some difficult times, especially when I didn’t want to lean in on friends. It has been one of the tools I have used when I feel lost and out of control. Jonathan Lehmann’s “Morning Meditation” (available on the Insight Timer app) includes seven affirmations. I find that these are also a good guide to not only “sparking magic” in my day, but also serves as a guide for friendship:
I make plans, but I remain flexible and open to the surprises that life has in store for me.
I can be flaky, so this one is my go-to excuse for when I change my mind. It can also have benefits, such as a change of location for a hike that cuts the amount of time I had to be in a car down by several hours. The worst thing I can do is to guilt someone into doing something with me, that creates resentment and guilt and all these negative emotions. If someone changes their mind, so be it.
I cultivate patience and by doing so I also cultivate self-confidence.
Sitting back and waiting for what you want is difficult, but in doing so I have become more present to what is in front of me. Maria talked about a situation where she didn’t push for what she wanted in a relationship. She had the confidence to see what happened, and she discovered that she got what she needed out of the relationship, which is not what she had originally thought she wanted.
I welcome the opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone and I do not let myself be guided by fear.
Fuck fear. Seriously, this is my achilles heel and when I feel fear I still sometimes reach out, rather than retreating in and standing tall. I know I have great friends, and family and if I am truly in danger, I have people who will be there in no time, but the knee jerk reaction is a hard habit to break.
I love myself unconditionally because it’s essential to my happiness. I love the person that I am and I do not need other people’s approval to love myself fully.
This comes back to Dr. Brené Brown’s research on the common traits of those who feel they are worthy of connection/love. We need to love from a place of vulnerability, which she says is the core of shame and fear, but also the birthplace of joy, creativity and love. Start with being vulnerable with yourself first. Ask the questions you avoid, and answer yourself honestly.
I am going to drink water, eat fruit and vegetables, walk, take the stairs, exercise – today I am giving love to my body.
Wonderful things happen when you find others who support a health journey, many of my easiest friendships center around physical activities. There is a level of vulnerability that comes naturally when you workout/explore/adventure with someone else.
I give everywhere I go – even if only a smile or compliment – listening is the best gift I can give to those around me.
Give without an outcome in mind, don’t ask for nor expect reciprocity when giving. If someone doesn’t reciprocate, it’s time to find another friend. Listening to others with empathy is important to maintain friendships. Rather than giving a silver lining “oh that sucks’ or “it will get better,” go down that hole with them.
I try to be impeccable with my word and speak only to spread positivity, it is counterproductive to my happiness to speak against myself or against others.
Be truthful. Don’t say yes to something you absolutely don’t want to do just to please someone. There have been times when I have begrudgingly said yes and really appreciated the fact I had in hindsight. Other times my gut of guts has screamed no and I have done so anyway, and it’s been a disaster in the end.
One of my closest relationships is with my cell phone. That iPhone goes with me everywhere (ok it is part of my diabetic care), but it is the last thing I touch before I go to sleep, and the first thing I reach for in the morning. Between social media and our proclivity to numb negative emotions with an easy fix, what has that done to how we treat one another, and ourselves? “With intriguing accuracy, sociologists and psychologists have delineated the forces that attract and bind friends to each other, beginning with the transition from acquaintanceship to friendship. They’ve traced the patterns of intimacy that emerge between friends and deduced the once ineffable “something” that elevates a friend to the vaunted status of ‘best.’ These interactions are minute but profound; they are the dark matter of friendship” (“Friendship: The Laws of Attraction” Psychology Today). Go get lost friends, I highly recommend ecotherapy with others. You may just find you come home to a more authentic self, and the friendships that fall aside, and those that come in strong are all a part of that growth.