Recently, I moved in with my boyfriend. We have not been dating for years (or even a year), but it felt right for both of us and made sense... and so we proceeded forward with it about three weeks ago. Up until we moved in together, I was very proud of myself for how I was showing up in the relationship. In the past, I had a tendency to lose myself a little in relationships and not assert myself (or my beliefs, views, opinions) as much as I wanted to. In the past I was scared to fully show myself to someone and have them see me for everything... the good, the bad -- all of it. But in my current relationship, things just felt different (and were different) from the beginning. I wasn't afraid to be myself. In fact, I was more "me" when I first met him than I have felt in a long time. I was in a carefree, spirited place in my life and realized that I just wanted to be who I am and if he liked me or loved me, great. I wasn't attached to what he thought of me and, though I am relatively submissive by nature, I was assertive in the sense that I was not afraid to fully share myself with him. When he looked into my eyes, I knew that he saw me for who I am... all of it -- and I found no reason to hide. And as proud as I was of myself for finally showing up in a relationship the way I always wanted to, I also felt this tiny place of anxiety inside that made me wonder if things would ever change.
I haven't written a blog in almost five weeks. I have sat down and tried to write, but nothing authentic seemed to come out. Every time I tried to write it seemed like all of my insecurities would come flying forward and that would fully influence my writing. And so I would write in a way that would hide my true feelings so that my blogs sounded happier -- or more graceful. But then the other day, I received an email from one of my readers. I have never met this woman and likely never will... and yet it was the most open, raw, vulnerable and authentic email I have ever received. This woman, whoever she is, touched my heart so deeply in her writing. She shared how my blogs have helped her see herself in a different way -- and she thanked me for being the voice to say all (or some) of the things she was thinking or feeling. And so I took a look at some of my older blogs and realized that what made them so touching is that they're open and raw. Much like how I felt when I first met my boyfriend, a lot of my writing is me expressing myself, almost with reckless abandon, putting my heart and emotions and thoughts out there for the entire world to read. I wasn't afraid to be real and as a result, the vulnerability and ways that I touched other people were increased. I realized that for the past month or so, I have been trying so hard to hide myself. I have been trying to sound good or look a certain way instead of just getting quiet for a minute, going inside to see how I feel, and sharing in the authentic way that I know how to. I realized that I have been struggling with my own identity again. And it makes sense... a new relationship moving forward, still adjusting to living across the country -- and the list goes on. So much like I did when I first moved to Los Angeles, I am taking some time to reconnect with myself.
The truth is, though we all want to believe that in a relationship (even the very best, most communicative relationship), we will never "lose" ourselves or have a moment where we need to stop, breathe, and check in with our own identity. I love my boyfriend, deeply. I love our little life we are creating and I love all the little steps it took us to get here and all the little steps that are happening in the moment and that will happen in the future. But I also know that the reason he fell in love with me is for me. He didn't fall in love with me because I want to agree with him all the time or not speak up when I feel differently about something or see something from a different perspective than he does. He fell in love with me because I am me. And so losing sight of myself, or losing contact with myself even for a week or two, puts a strain on the relationship as well as on the relationship I have with myself. Of course a relationship is a unit and a team effort, but if both parties aren't bringing themselves forward, then what is there? I have written a blog about finding the balance in relationships and it's funny that I don't automatically take my own advice. The basic rule, in my opinion, in a relationship is to make sure you are taking care of yourself so that you can bring yourself forward to be there for the other person. It's the old "put on your own airplane oxygen mask before helping others." If I can't breathe, I certainly can't help someone else try to do the same.
So instead of writing a blog about what I wish I was feeling or experiencing, I decided to write a blog that's open and vulnerable. Sometimes I can be a perfectionist and a lot of the time that comes hand-in-hand with a TON of impatience. I like things immediately. I don't like to wait and sometimes this comes out the strongest when it comes to how I relate to myself. Sometimes I just don't want to take the time to have the patience but what I am learning is that if I don't take the time to listen to myself, I am not going to get very far anywhere else. And since moving in with my boyfriend, I realized this morning that I have fallen into old patterns, in a way. I have stopped voicing what I want or speaking up when I need something out of fear of what he may think. I find myself holding back opinions and feelings, when I am reminded time and time again that opening up and being vulnerable is the gateway to experiencing such deeper intimacy, both with myself and with him. I have even had a hard time with leaving my stuff or being messy or just allowing myself to fully own the space as my own. Sometimes it's challenging in a new relationship because you want to show the other person your "best side" so badly that sometimes it just becomes exhausting. And when you add living together, it adds a new level because the ability to hide from anything becomes much more challenging. And patience and working together (and separately) becomes a priority so that each person can find their own groove... and slip into place.
The great thing is I have self awareness. I may not have patience or a strong streak of assertiveness, but I do have awareness of where I am in my process and how to be with myself in a way that will help me move forward. I am lucky to have a boyfriend who is "over the top" supportive and communicative. He pushes me to be vulnerable in a way that is so loving and caring, yet makes me want to be the best version of myself I can be. He inspires me to, even when it feels hard, reach inside myself and find that tiny voice... and express it as loud as I can. He wants to experience, see, feel and be with the real me. He wants the feisty, fiery, free-spirited, "sort of a hippy," California transplant me. It's a great reminder for me to take some time to myself (like I did this morning) and remember who I am. I am not my patterns or my beliefs or my thoughts or my insecurities. I am not my fears or my anxieties. I am me. I am beautiful and funny and have more to say than I could ever get out in one day. I would be doing a disservice to myself and to others (as I learned from the woman who emailed me) if I decided to keep myself all bottled up. So thank goodness for self-awareness because once I realized what was going on, I had the power to change it. That's the thing to always remember... we always have the power to change anything we want to about ourselves. It's not a matter of trying or thinking about... it's just a matter of making a decision and following through. It's the most basic form of discipline I think there is, though undoubtedly it's the most important.
The best thing about all of this is the fact that I feel like I have been reunited with myself. The confidence in me is building again at a rapid pace and I am feeling more like myself every time I make a decision to be true to myself. In my meditation book this morning, I stumbled upon this William Shakespeare quote: "This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou 'canst not then be false to any man." It was a perfect fit for today's realizations. It's a reminder to myself, and anyone else out there... things are going to happen that may take us out of our authentic selves. It might be challenging things like a divorce or positive like moving in together or having a baby. But regardless of what the event is, we always have the ability to close our eyes, stop our thoughts and just take a minute to breathe into that loving place in our hears... the place that houses our soul. We can do this and turn around old patterns, remembering that we always have the ability to transform whatever we want to in our outward behavior or relationships with others. Sure, it may be taking me some time to settle into and get used to living with someone. I have to find a new balance of where I begin and where the relationship begins and do my best every day to nurture myself. And it's most certainly not a reflection of the relationship or the other person in the relationship. I think I might possibly have THE most supportive man there is as a boyfriend, but that level of comfort has to come from within myself. I have to be comfortable enough to let myself shine and fully trust that someone is going to love me as much as I know I deserve to be loved. Everything is a reflection and each time we feel ourselves drifting away from our own heart or goals/passions/desires/feelings... we can stop and check in. It's beautiful, if you really think about it -- because it's an opportunity to create more intimacy and closeness than you ever thought possible, with yourself and with someone else. I tell myself this every day as I continue to move forward in the life I feel I have been waiting a very long time to live. So do it, be real... be open and vulnerable and run right into the world with your arms wide open. There's nothing to lose and what comes back to you is nothing shy of completely beautiful.
Follow Robin Hoffman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/StepintoSoul