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Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

You sit down with and old friend you haven’t seen in years. As the two of you laugh, talk, and catch up on your lives, your friend says something you never expected them to. You learn something about them that changes your view of who they are, and you now perceive them differently. When the two of you part, memories of times with this friend flood your mind. Though now they feel different, based on this new information. You wonder if that’s a good thing or not.

Memories can be “tainted” by things you learn from friends. “Taint” in this case can be either good or bad.  For instance, you could come to get to know a friend better by learning something positive that’s happened to them recently that’s changed them. When you look back on the memories, the new knowledge gives you greater understanding of who they are in hindsight, and the great times become even better. You come to care for them more through your new understanding of the memories. Or, you can learn that someone isn’t who you thought they were, that they’ve done things you don’t agree with and you can’t come to reconcile that with who you previously perceived them to be. Thus, you search through the memories, now seeing the signs and wondering why you hadn’t seen this coming.

The thing is, there will always be times that we learn something about someone close to us that seems to taint the memories in a bad way. Every one of us has times in our lives we regret, and we’re scared to tell those we care about. Because we know that when we tell them, it’s going to change how they view us. But that doesn’t mean that the relationship will end.

We all have a choice in each of our relationships. We choose to continue pursuing a connection with that person or not. Often, this isn’t a conscious choice we make, but rather a choice made in the subconscious. However, when we learn something that drastically changes our perception of someone close to us, that choice is thrust into the conscious mind. We must decide whether or not to keep that relationship alive.

One thing we always have to keep in mind is that love is a choice. It’s more than a feeling. It’s a commitment to that person, regardless of whether they’re family, friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, fiance, or husband/wife. There will always be new things to learn about the people close to you, and they won’t always be good things. What keeps a relationship alive is continued commitment to one another by making the, sometimes very difficult, choice to continue to love them despite their flaws.

After all, they’ve made the choice to stick with us, right?

 

I know there is so much more that could be said on this topic, and that there are many different views and opinions out there. How do you see this choice working in your life?

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Something’s happened. Something big, and you have to talk to someone about it. You have to make a decision. You need advice, but of a specific kind. You scroll through a list of names in your mind, deciding. Which of your friends would be best to talk to about this particular issue? Who will help most in this situation?

These are questions we ask ourselves all the time, whether or not we’re conscious of it. When we’re dealing with something big, we eventually need to talk options over with a friend. We can internalize a lot of the struggle, but at some point we need an outside opinion. We want to be sure we’re getting the best and most level-headed opinion we can, so we’re careful about who we choose to talk with about it.

This is not a bad thing. You have a unique relationship with each and every person you know, and each one of those people will have a different perspective on whatever situation you need help with. As you get to know someone, you learn what areas of life they have great insight on, and from there you know what kinds of situations they’d be able to help you the most with. Sometimes, though, we go to the person we know the best, or the one we’ve known longer. When we’re dealing with a situation that’s important to us, we go to the people we trust the most because we’re more comfortable with them. We’re able to express ourselves better. We know we don’t have to hold back. And we know that those people will take the matter seriously and give us the best advice they can.

I must offer a disclaimer here, though. Just because we choose one friend to go to over another doesn’t mean that we don’t trust that other friend. And the same goes if one of our friends goes to someone else over us. We have to remember that there are lots of factors that go into a decision like that. We shouldn’t be hurt that they didn’t come to us, because there were reasons for that, and there’s no way for us to know what those were. Instead, we should be happy that our friend got good advice on the situation, whoever that advice ended up coming from.

Every relationship is different and is built on a different foundation. Every relationship will have a different structure and will include different things. And that’s the beauty of unique relationships.

 

Do you have certain friends you ask for advice over others? Share your thoughts or story in the comments!

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Fun and crazy expressions are always good for a laugh. As a reader, I’m very expressive, which can be entertaining for those in the room with me. But when it comes to personal struggles, I’m not very expressive at all. There are so many different expressions out there, and yet only a few make us worry. As a society that places a lot of value on outward appearance, we learn what faces to show to the world and which ones to keep hidden until we’re alone. We show these faces in many ways: through expressions, words, and body language.

But it’s often the expressions we never show, the words we never use, and the tiniest hints from our body language that show others what we’re truly feeling. And if we’re lucky, we’ll have those friends that we can show those faces. We’ll have friends who will pick up on the unspoken words and body language. We all want that kind of friend, because then we can share with them what we’re truly feeling. We don’t have to keep silent.

Yet there’s so much of the time we don’t know what’s really going on in a friend’s life until they decide to open up to us.

Recently I was chatting with a close friend via the Internet and I was told of some deep, internal struggles in my friend’s heart. I was slightly surprised, because while we’ve often had serious conversations, the bulk of our interaction involves banter and light-hearted conversation. But this friend and I also happen to be in the same group chat, and my friend’s happy and excited responses to the group contrasted drastically to our one-on-one conversation. Seeing both ends of the spectrum at the same time like that really hit me. It made me think of the many faces we each hold, and how we pull out the “correct” face for the situation.

How many of us hide what we’re truly feeling from the majority of the world–including those who care about us? Especially via the Internet, it’s so easy to hide what we’re truly feeling. It’s simple to type a happy sentence, even if we’re falling apart inside. I’ve done that, too. I still do.

Yet when we do express our true feelings and things we’re struggling with, we apologize for it, for being a burden. But our friends should never feel that they’re inconveniencing us by telling us these kinds of things. The only way for us to get through life is to help each other out. We must help carry each others’ burdens. If we confide in someone, then we must also be willing to let them confide in us.

 

We can hide what we’re going through, but only for so long. We must learn to be unapologetic in sharing with the people who want to know. In order to survive, we all need this.

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I pause at the fringe, looking ahead to the brown and green. Phone slides into the pocket of my bag, and I’m ready to go. I hoist the bag on my shoulder and step into the wood proper. The pavement falls away behind me, and with every step, so do the sounds of civilization. Instead of the slight crunch of loose stones on the pavement, I hear the scrape of dirt, the crackle of dry leaves, and the snap of twigs with every step. Birdsong and the slight buzz of many insects fall on my ears as the whine of cars along a busy road and the chatter from crowds of people fall away. A breeze through the trees adds the shush of leaves brushing against one another and the creak of tall boughs. Plops and scurrying feet in the underbrush attest to squirrels and other critters. And I settle into myself, allowing my thoughts to fill the quiet space in front of me. Here, in this space, I reclaim who I am.

 

We’ve talked a lot about relationships, but so far we’ve talked about relationships with other people. But one of the most important relationships you will ever have is the relationship you have with yourself. This relationship dictates how you view and interact with the world, and it directs your part in relationships with others. But, like all relationships, it takes time to develop a good relationship with yourself. You have to take time to spend with yourself.

When you spend quality time with other people and work to build those relationships, you don’t do so by sitting on your device while in the room with the other person. In the same way, you need to put down the devices and disconnect from the world of social media in order to truly develop a relationship with yourself. From personal experience, I recommend getting out of the house, away from civilization and the temptation to check social media and use those devices.

For me, nature is a great place to relax. The calm and stillness fills me up and I’m able to tap into that inner part of me that I often lose when I’m surrounded by the noise and bustle of everyday life. The woods are my haven when I need to get away and rediscover myself. But you don’t need to go to the woods as I do. Find the place in nature that works best for you–you could go to a deserted stretch of beach, a canyon, a valley, a plain. Go wherever works for you, but make sure to unplug from the Internet and your devices. After all, when you don’t have all of that information flowing into you, you’re able to discover what you already have inside.

You can discover yourself.

 

What’s your preferred place for getting away and rediscovering yourself? Share in the comments below!

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Flight is one of those technological feats that still amazes me. I don’t get to fly often, but when I do I love to look out the window and watch the world below shrink and change. The earth’s topography becomes apparent and the clouds are a new kind of sea. As you fly high above the earth and among the clouds, it can seem that you’re hardly moving although you’re travelling at much faster speeds than the toy cars below.

Relationships can be similar to a flight spent watching out the window. There will be times when it seems as though a relationship has stalled, isn’t moving forward, or deepening as quickly as we’d expect. It’s hard to remember sometimes, but deep relationships are not instantaneous. They’re built over time. Sometimes they deepen quicker than we realize, and other times we realize just how quickly they’re deepening. It depends solely on the two people in the relationship and your perception of it.

On a flight, looking out a window can reveal three degrees of thickness within the clouds–the thin, nearly-transparent layer that allows glimpses of the earth below; the smooth, semi-opaque, semi-transparent white; and the completely opaque, fluffy peaks of hand-whipped cream. We all have these three degrees of thickness within us, whether as clouds or walls or something else. The degrees will vary from person to person, as will how careful we are about which layers of ourselves we allow others to see.

The thin, nearly-transparent layer of clouds are the parts of who you are that you show right away. It’s usually not a lot, but it gives those you’re meeting for the first time or don’t know well that first taste of your personality. They’re hints of that true person deep inside you. Through these layers, glimpses of the roots of who you are can be seen, though never clearly. The roots of who we are permeate our lives, and others are able to catch glimpses of that, like glimpsing the earth through the clouds on a flight.

The smooth, semi-opaque, semi-transparent white clouds usually sit lower in the sky. When we start to trust someone, we allow them to see this layer of ourselves. At this point, we are starting to trust that new friend with who we are, beginning to open up to them. It’s just enough of a taste that we can make a better decision on who to pull closer and who to keep at an arm’s length. At this point, we learn who is accepting of who we are and who might be skeptical or likely to use those things against us.

The opaque, fluffy peaks are the highest and thickest walls we build. We use these walls to keep most people from glimpsing who we truly are, keeping them at bay because we don’t know for sure we can trust them. We all have layers upon layers of these walls, building up as the peaks of the fluffy clouds do. One cluster of these walls we use to hide our deepest secrets, keeping them tucked away. Only a very select, privileged few get to see beyond these walls, to the heart of our fears.

Yet like a flight, like watching those clouds drift slowly by, relationships take time to develop and deepen. We must continue through regardless of the pace it seems things are going, because things we can’t see are always happening under the surface. We must take the time to get to know another person. The patience and time spent will be rewarded when you finally see the true person behind the mask. But relationships are not always smooth. They will hit some turbulence. You must expect both that and a little trouble throughout the flight, although these should not be long-winded. If you endure, it is truly all worth it in the end.

 

Yes, the world may tilt out of shape, may become first closer and then farther away or even disappear altogether, but beneath the trouble and those layers of clouds is something truly beautiful to behold and explore.

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Part 2 of my Communications Series. You can find Part 1 here.

In my last post, I touched on the feeling of being the only one to reach out. Often, I feel I’m the only one reaching out to others, trying to make plans ahead of time. And because of this, I not only start to doubt my friends and whether or not they want to hang out with me, but I start to doubt myself.

As I’m thinking about hanging out with a specific friend or group of friends, I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that I’m the only one that reaches out. In and of itself, this isn’t necessarily a trap. The trap is the thinking that follows this initial thought: the thoughts that you’re the only one being intentional, that you’re the only one who wants to plan to do things.

And more pessimism evolves from there. Personally, I start to wonder why my friends want to hang out with me. I start to wonder if I’m not enough of something for them to contact me. I start to feel I’m not as important to them as I thought.

I’ve recently had a bout with this line of thinking, and I didn’t combat it well. I let it get the best of me. But I’ve learned from it, too. I’ve learned that being the one to reach out and make the plans isn’t a bad thing. I’ve learned that people think differently, that different personalities and worldviews contribute to either reaching out or not.

And I’ve learned that this line of thinking should never deter me from reaching out to those friends and trying to make plans, even if the plans are just to meet up for a meal or coffee. That no matter how many thoughts like that creep into my mind, I needn’t let them get the best of me.

As people who desire relationships, we need to reach out to those around us, to those we care about. But we shouldn’t be dismayed and hurt if others don’t reach out to us as well. Perhaps reaching out is our way of being intentional, but not theirs. Perhaps theirs is being present in the moments you’re together, in the times you spend with one another.

We shouldn’t be afraid to express ourselves and our desire to spend time with another person in the ways we do and know best. Maybe that’s reaching out, maybe that’s spending time, and maybe it’s something different altogether. The best way to avoid any blame-games with close friends is to bring up the idea and discuss it.

Grow closer to one another by finding what each other see as being intentional, and learn how each other view the world. This helps avoid hurt and raises awareness between friends.

When I brought this up with a close friend, I learned that he doesn’t view the world the same way I do; that he sees sitting in class together, though we aren’t talking, as time together. And it is. But for me, it’s not intentional time together, not enough to continue building a relationship on. And I let the pessimistic thoughts get the best of me. I let them tell me I wasn’t good enough, that he wasn’t invested in our relationship, that I wasn’t important.

But those thoughts were very wrong, and he told me as much. With our differing worldviews and personalities, we saw different things, and he wasn’t aware that any inaction on his part was hurting me. After sitting down and discussing it, I’m going to try to remember that differing personalities doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. And he’s going to do his best to remember my views, as well.

But it doesn’t mean I should stop reaching out to make plans, with him or with others.

 

What do you think? Have you ever experienced anything similar to this? How do you view reaching out to others? What does “being intentional” mean to you? Don’t be afraid to discuss it with a friend, share below, or ask questions of me. 🙂

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It doesn’t matter where you go, what you watch, or what you read. Inevitably, there is some sort of relationship involved. That relationship could be with another person, with yourself, or with God, but there is always at least one relationship involved in life and stories.

Every writer needs to know the relationships between the characters in the story, and many times aspects of those relationships are taken from the author’s life, whether consciously or unconsciously.

In my last post, I reviewed Kelley Armstrong’s Sea of Shadows, from her Age of Legends trilogy. In an email interview, she answered a few questions regarding the relationships within this trilogy, specifically the first book.

http://www.kelleyarmstrong.com/images/Kelley_Armstrong_5-lrg.jpg

Photo credit: Kathryn Hollinrake. kelleyarmstrong.com

“Relationships are a huge part of any novel for me,” she wrote. “They might actually be the part that interests me most because it impacts so many other aspects of the plot.”

I’ve always been intrigued by the characters of stories, and I’ve loved the relationships that are formed, whether I root for them or not. It’s something I’ve always looked at in stories, and I’ve always found them to be the most intriguing aspect of a story.

In Sea of Shadows, the plot focuses on twin sisters Moria and Ashyn as they travel to the Imperial City of the empire. They are forced to leave their home on the edge of the Forest of the Dead. They each travel with other companions, but are separated. (For a lengthier summary see my last post here or Goodreads here.)

How much should relationships impact the overall story? “I had the primary relationship of the twin sisters,” Armstrong said, “and I wanted to explore how that changes as they near adulthood. It’s such a close bond, and yet one that will change, as they prepare to lead independent lives, away from the family home. The plot of the book let me accelerate that process.”

Armstrong, like many writers, incorporated some of her own life into the relationships in Sea of Shadows. “I would take my own relationship with pets or my experiences seeing twins and then add the fictional ‘what if.’” Two of the “what if’s” she asked were: “What if your dog/cat was supernaturally bonded to you?” and “What if, as a twin, you grew up in a world where you’d never been apart?”

Writers often take their own experiences and find ways to express them, and for fantasy writers sometimes that means taking life experiences and incorporating them through fantasy elements. By doing this, authors can better connect their readers to the fantasy world, as there are familiar aspects involved. By incorporating small aspects of life, authors let readers bring their own ideas and experiences to the story.

The next hurdle for authors is in how to show the relationships within the confines of the story’s plot. Both dialogue and action are important. Armstrong says, “Dialogue is the easy way—show how they interact in conversation.” However, she thinks showing a relationship through action is stronger. “It’s the old adage about actions speaking louder than words.” She likes to take it a bit farther. “It’s also very telling if a character says one thing but does something very different, and I often play with that. Trust the actions, not the words!”

The story doesn’t end after Sea of Shadows; it continues on with Empire of Night, the second installment of the trilogy, and then with Forest of Ruin, to be released in 2016. Even as a writer myself, I haven’t yet had a story that’s warranted more than one book. It’s fascinated me how well characters’ relationships can both change and stay the same over a multi-novel story.

Armstrong wrote that it can be difficult to maintain relationships throughout a multi-novel story. “I think the hardest part is maintaining the right balance of focus on each relationship, as new relationships form and the old remain (and remain important).”

Not only does Armstrong maintain human relationships with five main characters throughout the trilogy, but she also adds Moria and Ashyn’s “bond beasts,” which she characterizes as “a pet relationship in overdrive.” She includes the sisters’ relationship as it grows and changes, the friendships they make, potential romances between characters, and each characters’ relationship with the bond beasts, as the sisters’ bond beasts are with them the majority of the time.

How does one keep track of so many relationships throughout all of the plot that has to carry through three or more novels? “I actually tracked all of those in charts,” Armstrong said, “to be sure that I wasn’t focusing too much on one relationship at the expense of others.”

That sounds a lot like real life to me, aspects of which, as I said above, many authors want to include in their stories. Not only does the author need to maintain a balance in those relationships, but the characters themselves may have to balance relationships throughout the story. Which is yet another thing for the author to keep track of while in the process of writing.

As is fairly usual for an aspiring writer interviewing an established author, my last question for Armstrong was if she had any tips for portraying character relationships. “Deep relationships should be complex,” she said. “They are in real life. We might have simplistic relationships with acquaintances, but it’s very different with deep or long-term relationships. When drafting relationships, look for points where two characters are in sync but also for where they conflict.”

That’s some good advice. As far as I’ve found, no relationship is all sunshine and roses. Nor is a relationship all fighting and contention. There has to be a balance of both, as there usually is in real life. People’s interests conflict and cause tension in a relationship, and characters should be the same. “It’s those points of conflict that will really add to your interactions, but you need the “in-sync” points too—endless bickering between characters is as boring as no conflict at all.”

 

What do you think? As a reader, how do you prefer to see relationships portrayed? What are some of your favorites?

Writers, how do you prefer to portray relationships, and why? Do you use a model of some kind? Leave your comments and ideas below!

 

Find out more about Kelley Armstrong on her website or blog. The Age of Legends trilogy can be found on Amazon.

 

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