October 23, 2012

Tips from a Gentleman: All About Boundaries.

Love Life Logic for the Humans on Earth.

Okay boys and girls, get ready for a grab-bag of questions and rapid-fire answers. First thought, best thought all the way today.

First: here is your recommended soundtrack.

And before we dive in, I want to say congratulations to my friend Tunde, who is recently engaged to the most perfect person for her…Tunde!

She bought herself a loud bronze ring, is throwing a legit engagement party at Shine (DJ dance party and all), and is going around telling friends and family about this amazing person she’s with, how this person lights up her life and supports her in living her highest potential.

I think it’s brilliant. Too often I forget to be my own greatest advocate. If I expect to authentically love my life, then first and foremost, I need cooperation and unanimous enthusiasm from within. So let’s go body, get cozy with soul and mind; you’re driving, so pay attention. Okay then, we’re off.

Q: Should I bring my boyfriend home for Thanksgiving?

If you have to ask, then no, probably not.

A snippet of this writer’s family (I am the small blonde person).

For example, my special lady is invited to my family’s autumn food gathering this year. She may come, or may not, but it’s not too big a deal. I want her there of course, but all my hopes and dreams are not pinned on it, nor am I stressed about whether she’ll like my family and vice versa. It would just be fun.

It is perhaps a rare situation, but illustrates the point that if you’re already nervous about it, then maybe wait. If it feels like too much, don’t push it. If you’re super gung-ho and make it happen, great. If it’s happening naturally, as a matter of course, terrific. Otherwise, I wouldn’t worry about it. Just go enjoy your family.

Q: Why do men watch sports?

The underlying issue of inquiry here is clearly Dong Culture. Dongs have been vocal in the comments of this column, and their demand for recognition is justified.

Now, I hear you saying: “What’s the big deal? It’s just team sports….” and my response is: “Just”?

I advise you not to underestimate the true camaraderie that is cultivated through participation in and gatherings around team sports. Michael Jordan spoke of basketball as “a teacher of life,” and I feel that has been true of my experiences as an athlete too.

Sports distill the full spectrum of potential life experience, invoking leadership, teamwork, preparation, performance and perseverance, the ability to overcome (seemingly unfair) obstacles, to know grace in defeat, to show nobility when victorious.

Good old-fashioned male bonding is more important now than ever. There is a consistent onslaught of emasculation available out there, as everyone adjusts to the profound ramifications of true gender equality as it unfolds. The trend of the historical cycle in which we are living shows a rise in feminine power. We, as men, need to hold space for that, but it’s challenging to be perfectly strong and yet also always softening.

Men’s groups, sports teams, golf courses, the dojo, bowling leagues or a local pub on Sunday are all valid forums to cultivate the connections that build community. The thriving masculine aspect creates a framework, sets a foundation in place so the feminine is safe to fill the space with color and dance. This is the natural state of things, and duality is fascinating.

Just remember that women are struggling with their masculinity the same way men are integrating their feminine selves.

So let the dongs gather. It’s good for our collective health. But then come and join us, because what James Brown said.

Photo: Paul Downey

Q: How do I deal with a man who “runs hot and cold” when I can’t cut them completely out of your life? (In reference to this link.)

One possibility the author poses is:

Some hot and cold men may just not be ready for a fully committed relationship. He may like you a lot but be unable to decide if you’re “The One.” His ambivalence will bring out his hot and cold behavior since he is so indecisive.

From where I sit now, it seems I can see how maybe yes, I’ve done that to people in the past. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.

In my case, it hasn’t been a power thing, more of sincere confusion tipping the precarious balance between forthrightness of emotional disclosure and the intermediate-but-ultimately-doomed comfort of not saying anything to rock the boat.

The lesson, as always: “If it’s not Yes, then it’s no.”

If you reach the point where you are no longer comfortable coasting along, tolerating his indecision because it enables yours, and you need to ask a Yes-or-No question, then that is going to be an intense exchange. Too many of these conversations become unbearable and nature takes its course.

Except that you say you are “unable to cut them completely out of your life,” which makes it tricky. Except I saw one of those Pictagrams on the Face the other day saying how “all the water in the ocean can’t sink a boat unless it gets inside.” This is easier said than done, but my best suggestion is to check your hull for leaks and start bailing.

The author firmly recommends dropping these men from your life immediately, and I generally agree. On some level, whether it’s commitment limbo or power games, the situation has drifted away from integrity. Conscious manipulation is anathema to a healthy relationship.

If you are not actively moving into the relationship, then you are either in retreat or at equilibrium, for that is the tri-fold nature of flow. Equilibrium is a beautiful, floating space. Everybody loves equilibrium, precisely because it is so precious and fleeting.

Photo: Frames-of-Mind

If not weightless—if, on the contrary, you are feeling quite weighed down by the whole situation—then there must be some sense in retreating. The tricky part is, some people are oceans, so you can safely dip a toe, and you might surf and swim as you please, but once you’re in over your head the ocean holds tremendous sway in determining how and when you next touch shore.

There are times when you will be happy to paddle out into the waves, but you know ocean is impartial—hot and cold—and might just as soon throw you for a few ecstatic rip-curls as whip up a storm and try to drown you.

So swim at your own risk. Personally, I like to watch the ocean, but keep a respectful distance. I’m a Midwestern kid, which is probably why I prefer to frolic in a secluded pond where a rope swings looms over lily padded water, so cool and still until splash!

It occurs to me that the core theme here is all about boundaries, of setting a boundary—or not—and managing the consequences. As it is, I have learned this lesson most clearly through business.

Once upon a time I went rushing into a situation and was so excited about the opportunity that I neglected to mention my own needs. I assumed that if I did everything possible to please the other party, then that would be reciprocated. This turns out not to be true, and as a result, I felt taken advantage of and developed unsafe levels of resentment. Once you’ve given ground until there’s nothing left to give, it can be a difficult task to reclaim your territory.

So now I am in the process of transitioning from one job to the next, and the new one is just as excellent of an opportunity as the one for which I was previously overzealous, but now I know better. I maintain composure, and establish mutual expectations from the very start, placing my needs on equal footing with what I can offer. This lays the groundwork for a stable, long-term relationship.The back and forth process of making a request and being heard creates space to move freely and with confidence, because the lines of communication are open. Whether or not a specific request is fulfilled is not the point. Both parties must retain the ability to say, No, but that can be done in a way that acknowledges the legitimacy of the initial request. Then you can work towards a mutually beneficial arrangement as equals, as opposed to polarizing as manipulator and pawn, or lure and sucker-fish.

These are crude terms, but I think the principles are appropriate for developing healthy relationship habits of any nature. (Healthy is here defined as habits that create sustainable happiness). This has been a profound process for me, excavating fundamental issues of self-worth and appreciation, investigating what true integrity looks like, and realizing what is necessary for my idea of success to find expression.

Photo: David Woo

I was recently asked to write two lists, naming the things in my life that I revere, and the people who support me in experiencing that which I revere. My answers started and ended with friends and family, with some grand, world-changing visions thrown in the mix for good measure.

It wasn’t until my partner for this exercise and I compared notes that I realized I’d completely left out half the equation. His first answers were “Me,” and “I do.” It’s a simple thing, but it never even occurred to me that I might revere my own being and be the first one to support myself in pursuing my goals.

Which brings us right back where we started, where I’m nervous to ask myself out on a date, much less ready to get engaged. So what have we learned?

No matter who or what you are in love with, be meticulous with your boundaries. Allow your carefully placed limitations to act as scaffolding for the heaven-high skyscraper that is your life.

Stand firm in knowing your own grandeur. People will admire you from afar and want to ride the elevator to sample your perspective. You can allow for that without compromising your own integrity, and indeed you had better, or else everyone involved will topple down with you.

Okay that’s all I’ve got for now. Send more questions!

In case you haven’t noticed, I am interactive, so please leave a comment or send an email to elephantgentleman at gmail dot com.

I will respond with something guaranteed to be at least 47 percent as witty as Siri.



Editor: Brianna Bemel

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