Natural Life Sweeteners: Tolerance, Momentum, and Clearheadedness

It’s so easy to lose sight of what makes life sweet. It’s so easy to latch onto what’s not going right. It’s not always easy to see through the fog, but there are simple ingredients, like tolerance, momentum, and clearheadedness, that can bring us back, bring us back to a sweeter life.

In The Chocolate Cake Sutra (HarperOne, 2008), Geri Larkin looks at eight ingredients that add sweetness to life –  joy, extreme ethics, tolerance, a capacity to keep going, clearheadedness, a penchant for surprise, adventuring, and Yoda’s wisdom. In my last post, I shared how joy and extreme ethics are sweetening my life. Here I’ll look at the role of tolerance, momentum (a capacity to keep going), and clearheadedness.

Tolerance.  Tolerance is an ongoing practice. On a daily basis, I am put to the test — we all are. Everyday we interact with people who don’t see things the way we do. Tolerance is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, giving someone the benefit of the doubt, having patience with others and yourself, and being open to others’ opinions. With tolerance, sometimes, unlikely friendships bloom. I realize that I am lucky –I have had opportunities to develop tolerance and patience.  I’ve lived in three different countries, worked with people from diverse backgrounds, befriended my opposites, and  hugged those that have let me down. It’s not easy or simple, it can be challenging, but eventually we see that it is those cracks, and our letting go, that lets the light in.

Tolerance and patience are lightening my load,  softening my edges, and making my world more livable.

Momentum (a capacity to keep going). This is simply essential for life, sweet or not. When I moved back to the west, I felt like I was going backwards in my life. Thailand had the best of my twenties, and Canada would be my uncertain thirties. Although I had lost my alien status when I left Bangkok, it found me as soon as I landed in my hometown. No job, no place to call my own, unfamiliar friends, and familiar family, were just the beginning of my culture shock. My momentum was that of a snail. Four years later, I have a job, a place to call my own, new friends, and a smaller family. My momentum is not that of a rabbit, but a cautious cat, one that has been deceived a few times, but is still moving towards her goals.

Instead of moving backwards, I’m moving forward with deeper connections, creative ambitions, and more perseverance. When my momentum is waning and I question my capacity to keep going, I remind myself that nothing is permanent, and that I am blessed with a new beginning……even if I didn’t ask for it!

Clearheadedness. This comes with the clearing of the fog. This comes when we start seeing what is right in front of us, what is working ….and maybe what isn’t working. Larkin describes it as “the lifting of a headache that we didn’t even know we had.” Clearheadedness is like the clarity that we get from practicing tolerance and extreme ethics. Sometimes it sneaks up on us when we least expect it. As I was walking home today, admiring the ducks and turtles sunbathing in Autumn, it struck me that I can live out the best of my thirties in the place where I was born. I realized that I do have supportive friends and family here, and that I am moving forward, even if sometimes it’s at a snail’s pace. Everything is okay.

Wouldn’t it be great to always be clearheaded, and to remember that joy is in the present moment, and that tolerance is lighter than judgement?

*****

Slowly but surely, my life is becoming sweeter. Just tonight I was surprised with a beautiful bouquet from my special someone. If that’s not sweet, I don’t know what is.

flowers

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Natural Life Sweeteners: Joy and Extreme Ethics

The Chocolate Cake Sutra: Ingredients for a Sweet LifeI’m guilty — I judge books by their covers. A few months ago, when I was browsing through a used bookstore, I stumbled upon Geri Larkin’s The Chocolate Cake Sutra: Ingredients for a Sweet Life (HarperOne, 2008). I’m a fan of anything chocolate, so I bought the book.

Just like chocolate, The Chocolate Cake Sutra doesn’t disappoint. As a chocolate lover and management consultant turned Buddhist nun, Larkin draws on Buddhist dharma and personal anecdotes to offer up a simple recipe for a sweet life. The ingredients are all within our reach, and in each chapter she delves into each one — joy, extreme ethics, tolerance, a capacity to keep going, clearheadedness, a penchant for surprise, adventuring, and Yoda’s wisdom. You don’t have to be Buddhist or religious to get it — it’s baked in such a way that just makes sense. If you want to know just how it’s baked, you’ll have to read the book, but if you want to know how some of these ingredients have sweetened my life, read on.

Joy. Joy begins with a simple awareness, a simple quietness, a simple gratefulness. I’ve realized that it can only begin once I’ve let go of my worries, and am just in the present moment. If you know me, you know that I like to analyse things to death, and am usually living in the past or the future. I have a monkey mind, my thoughts swing from branch to branch, and rarely stop to admire the rainbows. However, I am aware of my monkey ways, and am now stopping to marvel at the ducks and turtles sunbathing together. And I’ve always known that my joy isn’t really about me — it’s about generosity. When I am present, I can be generous. Perhaps, this is why I’ve been volunteering since I was 15 years old.

Everyday we have the opportunity to be generous with our time, our thoughts, our promises, our money…. It’s so simple to spread joy, and to experience it as well. It’s as easy as smiling at a stranger, or calling that special someone just because.

Extreme Ethics.  Extreme ethics aren’t so extreme. Most of us live our lives following a moral compass that points to honesty, non-harming, compassion, and basic goodness. I know that as long as I follow this compass I will never be led astray. Here, I do want to mention what Larkin has to say about ethics –“…it is tough to be ethical, to do what is right, in an era that doesn’t seem to reward it.” Being ethical is a practice, and she carries on by identifying the five “resistant ogres” –desire, ill will, laziness, worry, and self-doubt — that impede our practice. Overcoming these ogres isn’t always easy, but it’s most definitely worth it.

Our moments of great clarity, and accomplishment are closely linked with our practice of extreme ethics; we are filled with a feeling of strength and capability.  Recently, I stopped drinking alcohol. I’ve always been a social drinker, and have also gone through periods of not drinking, and justifying this behaviour to drinkers (especially when I was younger). In a way, giving up social drinking was an act of rebellion. It was me not caring what anyone thought anymore. Turning down wine in Italy, and drinking soda with the teenagers was liberating. I’ve been reconnecting with my true nature, and seeing things more clearly. More and more, I am witnessing the beauty and strength of those who hold extreme ethics, and I’m inspired to keep practicing my own.

More and more, I am seeing the connection between joy and extreme ethics, and adding these natural sweeteners to my life.

*****

Tolerance, a capacity to keep going, and clearheadedness  are also the sweeteners of my life, especially since I moved back to the west. Next time, I’ll delve into these, and share some more.

What brings sweetness to your life?

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An open letter to my travel companions

http://www.flickr.com/photos/87806373@N04/8750558278

Montmartre – Travelling through Europe photo by Paul D’Ambra

There are some things you need to know before you decide to takeoff with me. If you’ve been fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to travel with me, you’ll know that it’s rarely a smooth journey, but always a worthwhile one. So, to all those who dare to travel with me in the future, this letter is for you.

*****

Dear Travel Buddy,

We need to talk. We’re leaving this comfortable place, and venturing into the unknown. I cannot predict the future, but I do know myself. So, here is a list of things you should know about me.

1. I need alone time.

This is an introvert thing — I need time to recharge my batteries. I’ll need at least an hour a day to reflect on my surroundings. If I seem to be sitting out on the balcony for a long time, don’t worry — I’m not going to jump. If I wander off in a museum, don’t worry — I will return. I just need a little ‘me’ time.

2. If something doesn’t seem right, I will speak up.

Did you know that in Port Angeles the taxis not only charge by the mileage, but also by the person? Yes, it surprised me too, and I told the taxi driver that I thought it was weird. Nothing changed — we still had to pay more, but at least he knew that I thought it was funny business.  So, if something seems off, I’ll let you know.

3. If I’ve had less than seven hours of sleep, don’t expect to have an intelligent conversation with me the next day.

I love my sleep and if I’m short on it, you’ll know it. I’ll be in a haze, and a little cranky. It’ll take me even longer than usual to make a decision.  However, if you can put up with that, and make some wise executive decisions, I’ll spend a few nights dancing until the morning.

4. I like a good deal.

Most of my traveling (and living) has been in Asia, so it’s no surprise that I like a good bargain. I’m prepared to haggle and walk away empty-handed if I feel the deal isn’t fair. If we’re in a situation where bargaining is prohibited, I’ll be disappointed, and go for the cheapest option. (Man, I sound cheap! On occasion, I have been known to splurge and indulge.)

5. I am patient, and kicking up a fuss isn’t my style.

 I don’t mind waiting –Living in Thailand as a naturally punctual person taught me that mai pen lai (nevermind) is often the best attitude to adopt when situations are out of your control. Also, mishaps make for great stories!

If you get my order wrong, arrive late (or not at all), or provide me with inaccurate information, I will most likely give you the benefit of the doubt. We all make mistakes–we’re human, and unforeseen circumstances are a part of life.

6. I’m a sound sleeper.

Don’t worry about waking me up or being a quiet mouse when you return from a night out. If I am tired, nothing will disturb me. And I mean NOTHING. The one and only time I stayed in a hostel, my friend reported the next day that she was woken in the early morning by some guy puking a couple metres from our bunk! I was shocked and grossed out, but thankful that I slept through the whole thing!

If you snore or come in late, I’ll still be sleeping like a log, and the only way to wake me is to give me a good shake!

7. It takes me a while to make a decision.

And this is when I’ve had adequate sleep. It’s a Libra thing –I like to weigh the pros and cons before making a plan. I’m also verily easy-going, so sometimes it is best to take the reins, if this process seems never ending.

8. I am particular.

As much as I don’t like to kick up a fuss, I am particular. I like things to be in there place (and dust-free) even in a hotel room. It may be a good idea to claim your own night table and counter space, so that I’m not tempted to organize your books, brochures, passport, etc. and arrange your toiletries in a neat and tidy (obsessive) fashion!

 

I think that’s all you need to know for now.  If you are still brave enough to travel with me, let’s go!

LOL (Lots of Love),

Your patient friend & travel companion….xo

 

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Going offline: the aftermath

Nothing’s been published, but I’ve been writing. There’s this post I’ve been working on, but I just can’t get it right. I’ve mapped it out in my head, but tackling it seems so daunting. It’s coming along, piece by piece, but it’s nowhere near ready to be shared. However, it is a post I’d like to get up….soon. For now, this is me freestyling.beach

*****

Perhaps, some of you would like an update to my last post, Going offline: dating and connecting. How successful have I been at finding love the old fashioned way? Have I really given technology the finger, and been enjoying the organic approach to dating? Well, let me start with the day after I published my last blog post.

To be honest, I was a little nervous about putting that one out there, since I knew that my date would be reading it. I wondered if I should have given him a heads up before publishing it. How is he going to react? Have I overstepped some invisible boundary? The next morning I pushed those thoughts out of my head, met a friend for coffee and then went down to the ocean to study Italian. At 11:30am my phone whistled:

Good  morning, Amy :). I don’t know how many times I’ve read your latest blog, you’ve made my day! Xoxo

I let out a sigh of relief, a smile crossed my face, and I fired back a text. This exchange went on for a few minutes……and then nothing. I tried to focus on studying Italian, my class was that night, but really my mind was elsewhere. Then my phone rang, and he magically appeared. I was shocked that my writing had the power to make him stop mid-laundry cycle, forgo his walking cast, and almost miss his physio appointment, just so that he could come see me. In his car, between kisses, he told me he never knew that I’d had butterflies the first time we ran into each other at the beach.  (I think he’s beginning to realize that there will be more surprises along the way, and that I don’t always speak my mind. So far, he doesn’t seem to mind, and his inklings are usually right. Since he reads my posts, he knows the art of connecting with an introvert.) He was so taken by the post that he actually shared it with his friends — while his friends are sharing photos of their girlfriends, he’s sharing my writing. As an introverted blogger, this makes my heart melt.

So, back to giving technology the finger…. I have come to the conclusion that it is somewhat impossible. Since our organic meeting, texting has been our primary way to connect when we’re not together, whether it be to setup a date or just let the other know that they’re in our thoughts. We’re also guilty of exchanging the occasional Facebook message. However, I am much more disconnected technology-wise now than I have been in the past. When we’re both going about our own lives that is what we are doing — we’re fully present wherever we are, whether it be together or apart.

Although technology is playing a part in my dating life, it’s not the primary focus. We don’t text for hours on end, and when we have something to say we pick up the phone or find some way to meet up. When we’re together our phones stay out of sight unless we have a burning question for Google. When we’re together we talk about what’s on our minds, we ask the bigger questions, we listen to what’s being said….and sometimes what’s not, we sit with the silences, we go out on dates, we give each other space, we find joy in mundane activities, we surprise each other. Our relationship is growing organically, it’s not following any script, and we’re navigating the grey areas together with our eyes wide open.

I could write more on what has transpired since we’ve reconnected, but I’ll leave our story here. It’s a story for the two of us to savour. All I’ll tell you is that our Friday coffee outings and walks to the beach are continuing — they’ve become our little ritual.

*****

In the days to come, I will sit with my writing, and develop my next post. I’ll come up with something less self-absorbed and more about finding balance and sweetness in life. It’ll appeal to a wider audience — I promise you that.

cherryBlossoms

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Going offline: dating and connecting

It’s no secret; I’ve spent time floating around OKCupid and swimming through Plenty of Fish. I’ve gone on decaffeinated coffee dates and endured meager dinners that have always left me wanting more. It wasn’t their fault. No one was to blame — we just weren’t on the same page.

A couple months ago, I decided I was done with the online dating world. I was getting tired of going through messages, and searching for some kind of connection. And it felt so liberating to delete my profiles. I was giving technology the finger. I was saying goodbye to those algorithms and telling those cupids to take a hike. I was taking my dating life back into my own hands. I felt so empowered — I was going to find love the old fashioned way! No, I don’t think that’s what I was doing — I was just disconnecting.

*****

Sometimes you need to disconnect so that you can reconnect. I was taking the long way home on a pleasantly warm day, just soaking up the lovely ocean and mountains in the distance, appreciating the touch of the sun, and looking forward to a Friday night of dancing, when I saw him. I didn’t want to interrupt his conversation, but when our eyes met and he flashed his smile, and those familiar butterflies began to stir, I was happy that he welcomed my interruption. It had been almost a year; he thought I’d be in Thailand, and I thought he’d still be with his girlfriend. We were both wrong. So, after a couple hours of catching up we decided we would do it again — we’d connect on Facebook. After all, we were Facebook friends, whatever that meant. So much for giving technology the finger!

As I walked home after our chance meeting, I decided it was in his ball park to initiate the next time. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how I felt — I just knew that it was nice to reconnect. Almost a week went by before his Facebook message arrived:

Hi Amy. We should hang out after you finish work. What do you say?

Hmmm…..I began to analyze his simple message. Was this a friendly hang out or was there some underlying interest? After all, he was surprised by my age and that I was still single. Okay, let me clarify. He thought I looked younger, and was too cute to be single (my own interpretation). Either way, I was looking forward to getting together, so I agreed to a replay.

This time we met at a coffee shop first, and I was late, running on Thai time. He was waiting patiently, and when I approached he put his phone down and gave me a smile that melted any guilt I had about not showing up on time. After we talked about our week, he grabbed a hot cocoa and the crutch from his car, then we made our way down to the water. This time we had our backs to the ocean and began to peel away the surface layers, flirting playfully, and  enjoying one another’s company. When it was time to part, we agreed — same place, same time, next week.

Even though I felt some sparks, I kept my feelings in check. Whatever was taking place, I was just going to soak it in, like the touch of the sun. When the third Friday came around, I was only five minutes late, and greeted with a hug that seemed to fit just so. As we ordered our drinks, he casually disclosed that he used to have a crush on me. A crush? I thought those had ended in high school. Although I remembered the first time we met and how he’d made me nervous with his beauty, and then how I’d just spend time at the office to hear his stories (even if they were about his girlfriend), I kept this to myself until I could see the mountains in the distance. This time as we sat on the bench and looked out to the sea, we were contemplating a real date and navigating the grey areas. 

Date night rolled around sooner that our Friday coffee outings, and I spent more time primping than usual. I was looking good, smelling good, and feeling good, when he showed up right on the dot. Driving the wrong way down a one-way, fumbling with chopsticks over sashimi, making fun of our overly eager waiter, and losing my heel on the way to the comedy show were all part of a wonderful night that was just getting started. I’m not sure I would have been able to enjoy all that with an online date, but this was someone I knew, we shared a context. And this was a guy that wasn’t afraid to tell a woman he had a crush on her. This was a guy that made a point to take me out on a real date and asked me to wear a dress for it, too. This was a guy who noticed the effort I put into getting ready, and held the door open for me, and paid the bill without even fidgeting.  It didn’t matter that the comedians weren’t very funny, and some of them were downright offensive, because we were there together, sipping on our water.

When all the laughs stopped, we didn’t want the night to end, but we didn’t want to play pool either.  How about going for hot cocoa? It was odd being at our coffee shop right before closing. It was a perfect night for stargazing with a warm drink. So, we drove up to a scenic viewpoint, opened the sunroof, and breathed in the fresh air. We shared stories about our homes and families, our insecurities, our passions, and when my mind would wander, he would bring me back to the present. Then he asked me. I usually don’t like to be asked, but this time it was sweet.

My date: Can I kiss you?

Me: Aw, you shouldn’t ask. (I can’t believe he’s asking me. The last time a guy asked I was 16. Wow, I kinda feel like a teenager again. Can’t remember feeling this nervous or excited about a kiss!) Well, are you going to take off your hat?

My date: No, I was thinking I would just poke you with it. 

We laughed, and then he took off his hat. He leaned across the passenger’s seat, we met half-way, and our lips touched. It was one of those kisses that makes your whole body tingle. It was a kiss with no hesitation behind it –a kiss that says I want you, but I’m going to settle for this hot lip-locking session for right now. It was the kind of kiss that you don’t want to end, and even though you keep trying to leave, you just can’t part.

*****

Our first date ended at 2am, and we’ve managed to break that record since. I’m not sure where we are heading, but it has been magical. There is this connection that I haven’t felt in a long, long time. For me, it took disconnecting to find this, whatever it is.  I found it without an internet connection, and have to say there is something beautiful about the organic approach to dating. And the best part is that this guy reads my blog posts.  Tomorrow is going to be an interesting day!

Beach.jpeg

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Writing practice: resisting the delete button

Recently, I’ve been inspired to write, but I haven’t been writing — I’ve been reading about writing in coffee shops, and dancing to Bachata remixes in my bachelor apartment.(Yes, I’ll do anything to procrastinate!) However, I think the combination of reading and dancing is loosening me up, so that I can write from a place where I’m not afraid to fall flat on my face.

I wasn’t sure what to read, but a writer/editor friend of mine had some great suggestions on her blog, commatology, in her fabulous post concerning writer’s block. Honestly, I’m not sure if that is my affliction, but I made a list of the books she recommended anyways. I was able to find Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Pantheon Books, 1994) by Anne Lamott, and Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (Shambahala, 1986) by Natalie Goldberg at the public library, and then stumbled upon Room to Write (Penguin/Putnam,1996) by Bonni Goldberg at a used bookstore. I’ve barely cracked Room to Write, but it’s filled with writing exercises, and quotes that I love. But have the courage to write whatever your dream is for yourself. -May Sarton; One writes to make a home for oneself, on paper, in time, in others’ minds. -Alfred Kazin; and A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something.Frank Capra, are just a few that are resonating with me.

Lamott writes about ‘shitty first drafts’ and ‘perfectionism’ –Allowing myself to expose a shitty first of anything is nearly impossible because I strive for perfectionism. (However, I’m learning to let go, and letting myself be the follower on the dance floor.) Her words made me realize that it’s okay to write really crappy stuff, and that I need to stand up to my ‘oppressor,’ the perfectionist within. The parallels she draws between writing and life are beautiful, funny and bang on! And Goldberg (the Natalie one), also highlights the correlations between life and writing, and the importance of practicing and composting.

Tonight when I sat down, I decided to just let the words pour out. I’m practicing. I told myself I was just going to let it happen — I wasn’t going to listen to my inner critic, I was going to resist the urge to hit ‘delete’. Prepare yourself — what follows might be a really shitty blog post. It’s all me, uncensored.

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“It’s been a long time since I’ve sat myself down to write. There always seems to be something more pressing — the dishes, the laundry, a run, a chat with a friend, an overdue email. It needs to stop — I’m not going to let my voice dry up, even if I’m not sure what I’m saying has any relevance. What’s that sound? Oh yes…..the eggs are boiling — better tend to that….maybe I’ll just turn them off and come back here to write. Wait….okay, they are simmering.

My inner voice has been talking a lot of shit these days. You’re not a writer. Everything that comes out is so constipated. You’re just on the surface. Reach deeper. You need to read more before you can get anything out. Do you think anyone is really interested in that? That doesn’t sound right. Yawn……you’re putting me to sleep. It’s so loud in my head; I want to scream SHUT UP!!! Okay, I did it. Now what?

Silence….just keep your fingers moving. Whatever comes out, comes out. And now I will be deleting all this, but at least I am writing. I’ll give myself ten more minutes to come up with something witty, something that I can use to hook you in. What I have been learning is that I’m not alone. Even great writers think they can’t write….sometimes. They sit down with loud voices in their heads, and write crap….sometimes a lot of it. This makes me feel better.

And I know that I can write. Inside me I know there is this honest, somewhat naive voice, that has fresh things to say. Stuff that might make you laugh….or cry….or go hmmmm….or think really?! Yes, it’s inside. They’re my stories. We all have them. It’s just finding the right notes to strum, the right moves to make, the right stuff will come to you, but first you need to silence that inner critic that says you can’t.

The other day I found out that my mom reads my blog. That made me smile because I know I don’t share enough with her. This can be a way for her to get to know me better. But what got me was that the thing she remembered was how I said I was going to blog everyday in February and then I didn’t. It’s my shortcomings that she remembers. Me, too. I still beat myself up for that one. What was so hard about blogging everyday for one month? And February only had 28 days? Why couldn’t I do it? I couldn’t do it because I love the delete button too much and I’m a perfectionist. Or at least, I try to be. When I notice a mistake….usually my own….I cringe. I need to get over that.

Anne Lamott says allow yourself to write shitty stuff. You will write a shitty draft. So, my blog posts are my shitty drafts…..at least the first time I publish them. Sometimes I read over old posts and then I go in and make changes. Sometimes I’m so tempted to just delete them. But then I think, just let it be. This is you….flaws and all. And who is really reading it?! If they can’t deal with the flaws, they will move on. Sorta like life and those you let come close to you. If they see your flaws…..those parts that need some polishing….those parts we try to hide…..and they still want to get to know you, then they’ll stick around.

Okay…..it’s been over ten minutes. Time to wrap this up or should I keep going on this tangent. Not really sure where it’s going, but the words are still coming.

Maybe what makes us really wonderful are those flaws. I think so.I look for those flaws. I don’t like shiny, sculpted things….they seem too unattainable. a fantasy. I don’t like fantasies. It has to be believable. I have to feel like I can connect. Connecting  is important to me; it’s what keeps me going. as an introvert, maybe this is strange….I guess I like to do it on my own terms, but either way I want to feel a closeness. I want to relate. we all want to relate and see ourselves reflected in someone else’s eyes. It’s this connection that says I see you, I know you, I hear you. We all want to be heard; we all have an inner desire to be heard — to live our stories, to share our lives, and to be known. Sometimes I don’t share. Is it the only child syndrome? I’m not sure, but i like to be on my own, I like to have the freedom to do my own thing, I like my own space. sometimes it’s lonely, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes i want to be loud. I want to be able to talk to anyone. I look at my extrovert friends with green eyes; i wonder what it’s like to be in their shoes. To always know the right thing to say? To never appear awkward. To never be at a loss for words. “

So, that was it. That was about 15 minutes of non-stop chatter on the keyboard. I’m not going to leave you with any promises. Maybe I will try one of the exercises from Room to Write next time or maybe a reader (if you stuck it out till the end) will give me a topic. Hint, hint….let me know what you think. I want to connect.

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Introverts are worth it

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He’s an onion. I just wish I’d started peeling back the layers sooner. She looked up from her tea with a smile, and I knew it was those layers that she found captivating and frustrating. It’s those layers, those many reasons, that make introverts worth it.

*****

1. We are more than what meets the eye.

“What you see is what you get. I’m an open book,” said no introvert ever. Our book is firmly shut, some of our pages stick together, and we’ve been dogeared. Don’t pass us up though; we’ve got a plethora of interests and stories galore. We aren’t that shy girl or that nerdy guy — we’re enthralled with our own world, but we’re eager to learn new things, too. And because we have patience we strive to be really good at something or to develop an array of hobbies.

Have you ever just met someone and felt like you’ve known them forever? That won’t happen with us. We’ll continue to surprise you.

2. We are amazing listeners.

Unless we are hearing impaired, you’ll never have to repeat yourself. We may not always give you the response you want or respond immediately, but your words will never go unheard. We’ll take it all in –the tone in your voice, your body language, the words you choose, even the way you hesitate. Most introverts are able to focus, so if you’ve got their attention, you’ve got all of it. And some of us are even good at giving thoughtful advice. Be patient with this; we usually need to let stories marinate before we can articulate our own take on the dilemma.

Need someone to listen without passing judgement? You can always count on us.

3. We are highly perceptive.

When you take a step back you can see more clearly. Introverts are on the periphery consuming the whole picture — we’re the ones with the x-ray glasses seeing the truth and deception in everything including ourselves. We don’t take things at face value — we don’t buy into ‘what you see is what you get’ — there’s usually a lot more….or sometimes a lot less. We pick up on slight nuances, shifty eyes, genuine smiles, and all the little things that go unnoticed when you’re in the thick of it.

Wondering if there’s something strange about that guy? Ask us.

4. We are the voice of reason  little voice that has nuggets of wisdom.

That’s too bold of a statement — the voice of reason! We may have a little voice and not say a whole lot, but when we do speak, take note. Since we’ve spent so much time rehearsing in our head, it’s likely that what comes out is something to reflect upon. Maybe it will make you look at things in a different light or give you a new idea. We don’t like to waste our breath, so you’ll likely find some nuggets of wisdom is our exhalation.

Do you want some honest insight? We’ll offer some up, but you’ll have to be patient.

5. We are curious creatures. 

We are curious about ourselves and others. Self-reflection is something that we do a lot of — introverts are always having loud conversations in their heads. We’re also fascinated by others and feel quite comfortable interrogating someone who piques our interest. We like to dissect situations and figure out the whats and whys. If we think it would be fun to try something new, like scuba diving, we’ll research it before jumping in. If we’re planning a trip, we’ll spend hours pouring over guide books, try to learn the language, and cook up some exotic cuisine.

Are you looking for a partner in crime? Let’s be curious together.

*****

So, you see, introverts really are worth it. Even though we are onions that sometimes make you cry with grueling one-sided conversations, awkward silences, solo parties, and guessing games, you’ll want to keep peeling away to discover our many layers. And you know what? Introverts know that extroverts are worth it, too — they balance us out, they introduce us to new worlds, and they spark our curiosity.

CuriousGeorge

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The art of connecting with an introvert

introvert

I never know what he’s thinking. Why can’t he just talk to me? His idea of a fun Friday night is playing guitar for three hours by himself. He’s at home, and I’m out at a dinner party. I feel like I’m pulling teeth trying to get him to open up. We’ve been together over 5 years, so why is it so hard for him to share with me? Over green tea and a chocolate cookie, my friend vented her frustrations and confusion. Being an introvert myself, I thought I could shed some light on the art of connecting with an introvert.

1. Be Patient. We’re not open books.

I told my friend this and she looked at me as if I were crazy.  Yes, after 5 years you still need to be patient. Introverts don’t openly divulge information or talk about their feelings. We need to be gently coaxed out of our shells. And even once we feel comfortable with you, we often don’t see the need in sharing with you. Sometimes we assume that you should just know what’s going on in our head. Other times, verbally articulating our feelings is nearly impossible. We do want to connect, but it just takes us a little longer to overcome our inner dialogue that worries about being judged and misunderstood.

Be patient, learn to be okay with silence, peel back the layers, and read between the lines.

2. Don’t take it personally when we don’t want to go out with you.

Please don’t make us feel guilty when we don’t want to go to that party with you. When we think of a party, we think of awkward conversations with strangers. If you drag us there against our will, we’re going to be miserable and so are you. Attending large social gatherings can be extremely exhausting — it’s like spending the whole day at an amusement park. Sometimes it’s a great adrenaline rush, but when it’s all over we need time to recharge.

When you give us guilt-free time on our own, you’ll get the best of us when we do connect.

3. Take an interest in our solo hobbies.

The stereotype is true. Introverts are somewhat nerdy; they like to read, write, crochet, go on solo runs, play musical instruments alone, and watch movies. I’m not suggesting you take up these hobbies and do them together. Most introverts would be annoyed if you did.

Ask us to recommend a book or movie, take a peek at our blog, and just let us know that you appreciate the beautiful nerd in us.

4. Give us acknowledgement and show us you care in subtle ways.

Grand displays of affection and acknowledgement make us want to curl up into a little ball. Most of the time, introverts don’t like being in the spotlight. Never call an introvert up on stage without warning her first – she’ll never forgive you. Never kiss an introvert in public – he’ll quietly hold it against you. What introverts do like are letters and thank you cards. They’ll treasure these and read them until they’re memorized, so don’t say generic things. As for the special introvert in your life, love notes, home-cooked dinners, playing footsies under the table, and mixed CDs will let them know that you care.

When introverts feel cared about they’re more likely to open up and share with you.   

5. Ask questions, but not too many.

Introverts like questions. We’re usually the ones asking them to avoid talking about ourselves. We hate the ‘tell me about yourself’ interlude on dates — it’s not even a question. However, we like to be heard and we’ll answer your questions — just don’t make us feel like we’re being interrogated. The more we feel interrogated, the shorter our answers will become. When you have a conversation with an introvert, it will often feel one-sided. However, if you get into a debate about an issue we are passionate about, watch out. We’ll talk the issue to death until you see it from our perspective.

Don’t overload an introvert with trivial questions, if you want to get them talking.

*****

The art of connecting with an introvert isn’t easy. I won’t lie; you’re in for quite a ride. Headaches, confusion, and mixed signals are par for the course, but I promise you that you’re in for a whole lot of surprises, too. It takes patience to really get to know an introvert, but it is worth it for so many reasons. Check back soon to find out what those reasons are. (Sorry, that’s the introvert coming out in me.)

introvert-goldfish

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Listen up, ladies: 6 tips for playing nice online

It’s time to play nice online and land a date. You’ve been attracting guys that just aren’t your type and some complete weirdos, too. You’re tempted to take your profile down and just forget about dating. Well, before you do that take a look at how you present yourself online. With the help of a couple real OKCupid men, I’ve come up with 6 tips for playing nice online.

1. Stop posting pictures of you and your friends.

Yes, we know that you go to the ladies’ room in herds, but online you have to stand out on your own. If you’re a social butterfly, write about that in your profile. No proof is necessary at this stage. A picture with too many beautiful women/men will distract your prospective matches — you want them to just focus on you.

If you were to apply for a job, would you staple your friends’ resumes with yours?

2. No more duckfaces, obvious selfies, or photoshopped pictures. Post actual pictures of yourself.

These pictures are going to have him ignoring the text of your profile. Expect to get some one-liners along the lines of “Funny face” “Hot stuff” or “Are you fo’ real?” And then there are many men that won’t even take the time to write a message because they’ll think you’re fake or immature.

Be real and post actual photos of yourself. No one wants to be duped by a fake profile.

3. Don’t be too modest or mysterious.

Modesty is an attractive quality, but online you have to play up your strengths. You’ve got a lot of competition out there — stand out. What are you proud of? What makes you unique? What are your ambitions? Don’t lay everything out on the table, but don’t be mysterious. Mysterious isn’t always sexy.

If you’re having trouble writing about yourself, ask a close friend to help you out.

4. Make the first move.

This is your opportunity to take charge and make the first move. You don’t have to wait for a guy to message you. If you come across an interesting guy, send him a message. Tell him why his profile stood out for you– I’m sure he’ll appreciate it and return the favour. There are no guarantees that he will respond, but I’m sure you’ll live with the rejection. Men have been coping with it for years.  And there are plenty of fish out there — find a new one!

5. Stop with the long lists. 

Lists are for grocery shopping not online dating sites. Write in full sentences — good grammar is sexy and it shows that you’ve actually put some thought into your profile. And when it comes to the ‘you should send me a message if….’ section, keep it brief and to the point. It’s okay to have a few deal breakers, just don’t be a ball breaker.

6. If you don’t want to meet him offline, stop messaging him.

If you both have an understanding that your communication is going to stay online or distance prohibits you two from meeting, carry on as email (maybe phone) pals. However, if you live in the same city it’s likely that the guy will want to meet you in the flesh. If you don’t have the same desire, stop messaging him or tell him that you don’t feel a connection. Don’t be the ‘nice girl’ and string the guy along. You’re wasting his time and yours.

*****

Online dating comes with its own set of rules. Be real (as much as you can online) and expect the same in return. There are some great guys out there…..and some creeps, too. Watch out for those profiles that are filled with cliches (long walks along the beach) and airbrushed pictures (guys who say they’re 35, but look 20). Never feel obligated to reply, even to an apparently normal guy who enjoys bike riding, and has a receding hairline. The beauty of online dating is that you’re in the driver’s seat and you can control the speed.

Happy dating!

friends

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Listen up, fellas: 7 tips for improving your online game

I’m not talking about FIFA or online poker — I’m talking about online dating. In real life you’ve got game, but are you effectively communicating that online? Do you ever wonder why the ladies aren’t sending you messages or replying to yours? And maybe they are responding, but you’ve yet to meet offline. It’s a stalemate. So how do you make the next move? Surely, you’re interested in improving your online game and venturing into the real world of dating. Here are 7 tips to help you get there!

1. Read her profile before you message her. 

Most women won’t respond to “hey, what’s up?” “How are you?” “Sweet smile” or “Are you having a good week so far?” The last line gets a half point for ending in a question mark and being over three words, but it’s still going to that special place……the trash.

So, the good news is that you don’t have to write an essay or memorize her profile because there are no tests at this stage in the game. You just have to read it. What did you like about her profile? Tell her. What didn’t you get? Ask her to clarify. How are you similar? Share with her.

2. Don’t insult her taste in music, TV shows or anything else she lists as her favourites.

So, you’ve read her profile and notice that she likes Ally McBeal. You get brownie points for reading her profile, but then your opening line is “Someone actually likes Ally McBeal?” Maybe you meant this as a joke, but it’s too early in the game and online jokes often get lost, especially when you forget to use winky faces. It’s never good to offend someone right off the bat. If you don’t share the same favourites, comment on what she’s really good at or how she spends her Friday nights.

3. Don’t post half-nude pictures.

If you are on the hunt for a booty call, please go ahead and post your topless pictures — it’s only fair that you are upfront about your offer. However, I’ll assume that you want something more, so leave something to the imagination. I don’t want to see a selfie in front of the bathroom mirror or you hiking a mountain topless. Remember women tend to read more than stare. (And the staring I do is at your eyes and lips!)

4. Don’t post pictures of your children.

True story: I confronted a guy online about posting pictures of his child on his dating profile. Well, it wasn’t really a confrontation–it went something like this: why is your child in your profile picture? It seems to be a trend among online dads looking for love, etc., and I don’t get it. Would you care to enlighten me?  His response was this: the one in front of the airplane I recall putting up but only because it was one of the only recent ones I had. Not that I would avoid putting a picture of my son up it wasn’t really intentional…….Finally that’s totally fine if you don’t think we would mesh. I will find a topless picture of me in the bathroom and post it :P.  In hindsight I should probably post other pictures of my kid he is definitely a Gerber baby but you can’t really see him in the recent one. Maybe I’m just a dorky proud dad.

What?! He didn’t even think about the fact that his child was in the picture. Don’t get me wrong — I think it’s great that men are showing up and playing active roles in their children’s lives, but I don’t think they should ‘use’ their children to attract a mate. And children’s right to privacy should be respected; did your children give you the right to post their pictures on a dating website? I think not.

I don’t see anything wrong with mentioning that you have children and that they light up your world, just don’t post their pictures. Puppies are okay.

5. Be authentic.

Be yourself. If you have a quirky sense of humour, let it be known. If you really don’t like camping and outdoor sports, just say it. If you’re not completely happy with your life, admit it. Most women want to date a real guy, quirks and all. Perfect is boring — you’re not perfect, so don’t pretend. By being authentic you’re opening yourself up to a real connection.

6. Ask her out on a real date.

Don’t let the messaging go on for too long. After two or three exchanges, it’s safe to ask her out. If she rejects your offer, then maybe you misinterpreted her ‘lols’ and emoticons. It’s likely she will accept because after all she’s on a dating site. So what next?  No coffee! I know a coffee date seems like the next logical step and it is……so don’t do it. Take her on a real date. Do you remember when first dates were dinner? It wasn’t that long ago. Now there are so many other options, too. Ice cream, live music, art gallery, Karaoke, Pottery class……

*****

So, number 7 isn’t going to help you with your online game, but it is going to save all interested parties some time.

7. If you don’t have time, take your profile down.

I seem to encounter these guys that just don’t have time to date. With their wonderful profiles, I’m conned into contacting them. Then after a couple offline dates they tell me that dating is a low priority and that they need to focus on school, work, etc. If you’re not sure dating is what you want to be doing right now, don’t put yourself out there on a dating website. Maybe you’re not ready to date, maybe you like the idea of dating, or maybe you really don’t have the time. It does take a lot of time……searching, figuring out what to say, writing it, sending it, responding, organizing a date, meeting up, following up, and planning another date.

Sometimes it’s best to take your game offline…..take up dancing, join a Meetup group, learn a new language, or just show up. You never know who you might meet.  

date

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