My Favorite Little Things- The Importance of Simple Pleasures

DEMON DOG

He’s not possessed by the spawn of Satan. I swear…

I was inspired to write this after an admittedly silly, albeit adorable, moment with my Pomeranian. While in the kitchen washing a few dishes, he walked up to his bowl to get a drink of water. Then, out of the blue, began to spin in a circle…before drinking more water again. I just had to laugh and smile. I had no clue why he did it. He probably doesn’t know himself. He does all sorts of strange, random things at times, but it got me thinking about how enjoyable the simple things in life can be for us when we simply take the time to notice them.

We are bombarded by all manners of stimuli on, not just a daily basis, but moment after moment. Even as I write this, my Internet radio just played some random ad that I barely paid attention to and yet, I’m sure I’ll recognize it the next time I hear it. When you drive around, there are billboards advertising everything from McDonald’s to fancy vacations. When I saw my family watching Project Runway a few days back, the program that used to be an hour long now runs for an hour and thirty simply due to the sheer amount of ads that they play. Even at work, I get calls with automated messages about buying this or that.

Of course, this is far from being a new issue. Undoubtedly, many of us have grown accustomed to constantly hearing how we “need” this or that. Thankfully, there’s a bit of a movement developing against the almost out-of-control consumerism in the country. Even so, while it’s all well and good to fight against the urge to shop and spend on all of these superfluous things, without a solution to a problem, you’re going to find yourself stuck.

That’s what the gist of this post is about. The solution to the problem of dealing with the unnecessary and excess is by appreciating the little joys in life that happen just as often as McDonald’s plays a commercial. All we have to do is keep our eyes and ears open for them.

I’ll give you a scenario that occurred not too long ago when my cousin, his girlfriend, and I went to the beach. Miami beach is obviously not the sort of place where you go to enjoy simple (aka affordable) pleasures in life, but these two managed to find a way. While at the beach, plane after plane flew overhead, advertising concerts and shops and restaurants. It’s much in line with the atmosphere you find at the beach. You go there to buy things, to look beautiful for other people, people who don’t and likely never will know your name. But while all this garbage is going on around us, those two were wrapped up in each other and more concerned about including me than they were about which hot and happening restaurant we should have lunch at. All the while, I just found it encouraging that, dispute everything being offered to them around us, they were already content with what and who they had.

My "souvenir" from that day.

My “souvenir” from that day.

I guess it’s inevitable that I’m going to harp on this a little longer (and I apologize in advance of you reading the rest of this sentence), but their attitude was in stark contrast to the attitude of my ex. I used to shower her in all sorts of materialistic trinkets, from expensive trinkets to customized stuffed pillows. As I mentioned, she was never satisfied, often demanding more and, during one particularly nasty occasion, referred to all my gifts as cheap and worthless.

She was never happy and I am thoroughly convinced that, among the plethora of other reasons involved, her materialism (despite claiming she wasn’t) also played a role.

And that’s the problem with wanting things. You will never have enough and never be satisfied. You will work for years and years of your life for things that you might possibly not even live long enough to possess, all the while losing out on opportunities to spend time with family, or just grabbing a beer with a close friend.

I’m not saying there is something inherently evil when it comes to giving into indulgences. It’s great to splurge sometimes and “treat” yourself (I am LOVING my wireless surround sound system), but if you are constantly treating yourself, it stops feeling like a treat and begins to feel more like an expectation.

So it’s good to balance yourself out by learning how to enjoy the everyday. During a gentle rain, instead of complaining about being stuck in doors, let the pitter patter calm and sooth you. I know some people claim they just don’t like it. I used to be one of those people who “just doesn’t like it,” but when you shut off your mind, focus on your breath, and just listen to those tiny droplets beat against your window…I swear, it’s like you stop having a single problem at all in the world.

I know what I’m suggesting isn’t exactly easy. I could ask a hundred people what’s one of their biggest concerns at the moment and, chances are, it’s going to be “money.” But based on our society’s present culture, you can already infer as to why that might be on a lot of people’s minds. Still, when you take the time to just enjoy a beautiful blue day or hang at a friend’s house watching old movies on VHS instead of going on a shopping spree at Ross or trying to increase your credit line just to get that 60 inch flat screen television you’ve been eying for months, your money woes start to dissipate.

Why is that, you might ask. Because while a new Beamer can cost you an arm and a leg, going for an evening stroll with your significant other is typically going to be free. Granted, that all depends on what that lover of yours expects from you in return 😛

But if you need a little more help in the matter, here are some things that we often take for granted due to our society’s inherent materialism. Fight the urge to spend on tickets for opening night at the theater, and give some of these suggestions a try instead:

  1. Just breathe- Starting with the simplest thing we humans can do, take the time to sit back, relax, and breathe. Focus on nothing else but your breathing, the enjoyment of it, the very fact alone that you can still do it. Yes, this is basically meditation and yes, it works so long as you give it a chance and stop trying to convince yourself it doesn’t.
  2. Go for a stroll- Regardless of whether or not people still even refer to walking around aimlessly as a stroll, give this a shot. Winter is coming up and, thankfully, it’s actually getting a little cooler in Miami. So, after a long day at the office, find a nice park and walk a bit. Don’t think about walking in a specific direction or to a specific location. Just walk.
  3. Hang out with your friends at home- Their home, your home. It doesn’t matter. The key here is to shy away from feeling the need to constantly go out and spend money just to hang out with friends. I know I’ve personally fallen into the habit of going out just to hang out. It’s important to realize that’s unnecessary.
  4. Play with your pets, your kids, younger siblings, etc.– These days I’ve actually realized how much I enjoy playing with that little ball of fur I mentioned initially. If you’ve got pets, spend a little more time with them. If you have children, really evaluate how much time you take out of your day to do simple things with them like coloring or building couch forts. Seriously, how much fun are couch forts?…Yes, I’m 24 years old. Why are you asking?

This is just a starting point. I’m not going to spoon feed everything to you, after all. Besides, I’m still learning to enjoy all the simple pleasures life has to offer myself. Really, with everything we can technically do that doesn’t involve spending heaps of cash or wasting hours upon hours to earn said cash, this is the sort of thing you never stop learning.

So that’s enough of you being on the Internet. Move away from the computer for a bit, put down the wallet, and quit fretting over every little thing. It’s time we all realize just how wonderful the deceptively simple things in life can really be. 🙂

Stop Being Sad and Be Awesome Instead

Initially, when I decided to write this blog, it was with the intention of using my personal everyday experiences as a lesson for others. Today’s experience will probably adhere to that theme more than any of my blogs so far. If you’ve been reading my blog, you already know that a few months back I broke things off with a girl I once believed would be my future wife. You’re also likely aware that I’ve had bouts with depression in the past as well as fairly recently. Today, unfortunately, did not start out as one of my better days.

You see, the truth is, as happy and relieved as I am to be out of an abusive relationship, no matter how bad the relationship, we are all bound to remember some of the better moments. I’ve been sick for the past few days, so I’ve been sleeping quite a bit. Needless to say, my inactivity hasn’t been helping my moods much either. However, it was after passing out during the afternoon today that I ended up finding myself at my weakest. And it was all because I had a dream, an all too nice dream, about my ex.

As I said, no matter how bad the relationship, there are always bound to be a few moments that made you smile. Today, I had a dream about one of those moments. It was a flashback to when we met for the first time, to when I gave her the very first gift I would ever give her; a small, sterling silver promise ring that I bought with all the money I had at the time. The dream continued to our first kiss, a hesitant, but soft and sweet moment. Finally, the dream brought me to the scene last fall when she was going up to see her parents.

We were at the airport, she was trembling as I held her close to me. I kept whispering to her how much I loved her, how she would be alright, how she would be in my arms again real soon. It was a bittersweet moment, but it was also the moment, when we kissed each other good bye for the last time before she walked through the gate, that I was positively convinced I would go to the ends of the earth for her and that she would do the same for me.

It was the last, genuine moment where I felt like we were in love because, in the months that followed, and due to all sorts of unfortunate events, our relationship would become increasingly strained and increasingly painful for the both of us. When I woke up, all the anguish of saying good bye to her last fall and the knowledge of what came after rushed back into my head and heart like a jet-propelled freight train. For the first time since saying good bye to her for the last time, I missed her.

I sat up in my bed, contemplating how things had gone so wrong for us and wondering if there was anything I could have possibly done differently. Maybe it was due to my exhaustion, maybe my cold, maybe a combination of both plus the weight of nostalgia bearing down on me. Whatever it was, for several minutes I had forgotten all the pain and all the abuse. I forgot about the abusive screaming, the projecting, and her violent temper and genuinely believed I had lost something precious.

It’s a dangerous state of being, but I suppose that goes without saying. It’s what depression can do to you and it is always hard to fight against to get to the reality of the situation. You begin to feel guilt over things that were ultimately out of control, blaming yourself for events and actions that were never even your fault.

And as cheesy and lame as this is probably going to sound, in moments like this I’ve found myself turning more and more to the immortal words of Barney Stinson. Yeah…as if you didn’t see that coming.

whenimsadBefore this blog loses all credibility, hear me out. As simplistic, simple-minded, and overall dumb, as Barney’s motto may sound, he still has a point.

And frankly, it also takes an enormous amount of will-power to enact.

Feeling sad and upset and depressed literally sucks the life and energy out of you. You don’t want to move, you don’t want to eat, and you certainly don’t want to smile. And in moments like what I experienced early, smiling is exactly what you should force yourself to do. Article after article has been written regarding the many scientific studies that have proven the simple act of smiling, even forcing yourself to smile, can make you feel better.

But that’s only the first step. When life beats us down, smile right back at life and don’t stay down. Get up, get active, and do something you enjoy, be it reading, writing, singing out of tune, or, in my case, working out until you can hardly breathe.

Today, I managed to channel the sorrow into motivation. Each and every day I’ve decided to prove to myself in some sort of way that I am better off. While I’ve managed to get back into my work out routine that I neglected so much while being with her, today was the first day my focus went from being “getting back in shape” to “proving she lost something wonderful” and not the other way around. There is nothing wrong with that because it is important to discover one’s own self worth. It is absolutely crucial that we all discover that we are of value, we matter. And people who mistreat us and take our energy and our love and our sacrifices will never deserve us. For every push up I did, I reminded myself of just how much better off I now was. For every pull up, I admired just how far I had come on my own without the burden of being with her weighing me down. For every sit up, every leg raise, and every mile I ran, I was reminded of just how much I loved finally getting my life back, instead of being subservient to another.

And you know what? It was the best damn work out I’ve had in a long time.

😉

Manipulation or Love?

One of the goals of my blog is to share my experiences, in the hopes that my good experiences will uplift others while my bad experiences will serve as a warning. In my first blog, I highlighted on some of the reasons why my relationship with my ex came to an abrupt close. It was largely due to the realization that I had misconstrued her manipulative tendencies for love. I also realized that finding out the one that you were so busy planning out the rest of your life with is the one who has been holding you back is a very difficult pill to swallow. But nowhere near as difficult as realizing that all your loved ones around you were busy screaming at you about the bad road you were headed down and you didn’t hear a thing. I’m just grateful that they all have been extremely gracious, providing encouragement and showing support through empathetic gestures. It’s perhaps the greatest reason as to why I’ve been able to deal so well with things now.

All of that aside, having experienced just how painful being in a manipulative relationship can be, I want to do my part in preventing others from dealing with the same hardships if at all possible. There are numerous behavioral tendencies to search for, and I use the word search because looking just doesn’t cut it. I looked and saw all of the following characteristics in my ex, but it didn’t sink in because I wasn’t really searching for them. In fact, I was ignoring them. To those of you who are reading this post right now, don’t make the same mistake I did. Carefully go over each of these and be honest with yourself when you determine whether your significant other, or even you yourself for that matter, have been behaving in such a manner.

  1. They are difficult to approach- The most prevalent issue in my relationship was the issue of communication. I could never approach my ex with anything that sounded even remotely negative (nor positive in some instances, but more on that later). One night, I tried addressing to her that it hurt me when she promised to attend a special show I was putting on and then had ditched me to hang out with a friend. Immediately, she forgot about the issue of the promise and claimed this was merely an issue of me trying to control her. Angrily, she screamed and shouted curses before hanging up on me and not speaking to me for the rest of that night. Needless to say, anytime such concerns arose, I often experienced intense anxiety. More than once, I put off bringing up important issues simply because I was terrified of her reaction.
  2. Nothing is their fault- As alluded to previously, those who display manipulative tendencies are somehow free from fault. It does not matter if they happened to forget something you stressed was important to you, it does not matter if they broke their promises, or neglected to use the money you gave them for the reason you gave it to them. Anytime there was an issue, it immediately became my fault. I try to be a humble person. I’ve always made it an attempt to own up to my faults. Her hitting my new car and then “forgetting” to give me some money to fix it is not one of them. It is important to know the distinction; to know when you are the one in the wrong and to know when they are trying to shift the blame.
  3. They are possessive but demand complete social freedom- I hate to admit it, but I allowed my ex to dictate to me on many occasions who I was allowed to associate with. Because of that, I gave up three friends to keep her happy. I’m just glad that they have since given me the opportunity to make amends. However, the other side to the issue is that I had no right to raise any concerns over who she chose to associate with. During a weak point in our relationship, she got rather intimate with a friend of hers and then refused to tell me who it was. She then made it a point to inform me that she would hang out with her guy friends for as long as she liked all through the night and it was none of my business. That said, the moment she ever discovered that I was even mildly friendly to even a female co-worker, I was immediately met with accusations of finding the other girl prettier. On top of that, if I did not pick up whenever she called, regardless of the reason, she would become angry. Never mind that she had no issue with ignoring me sometimes for, literally, days on end.
  4. You make excuses about their behavior- This is a bit different than the others because this has more to do with your behavior than your significant other. Throughout my relationship, when I would speak to my friends about my ex, oftentimes about what I perceived to be minor issues, my friends would point out how disturbing her behavior was. What was my reaction? “She’s just going through a lot right now.” “She’s not usually like that though.” “Well, really I could have handled it better.” I made excuses for her bad behavior. Why? Because on the inside, I was well aware at how poorly I was being treated, but it was too painful to consider that someone I had loved so much could treat me in such a manner. The next time you discuss with your friends anything about your relationship, really examine how you respond. You shouldn’t have to make excuses or explain why you’re with the person you’re with. But if you find yourself doing so, you really need to consider ending things.
  5. They Project- For me, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. As I mentioned in my first blog, it was her accusing me of selfishness that made me finally see my ex for who she was. She could have accused me of anything else and I might have let it slide, but selfishness was the one trait I made it an active point not to display. The truth of the matter was- her complaining about me being selfish, her complaining about me not letting things go, her complaining about me being the possessive one- everything she was accusing me of being described her more aptly than they could have ever described me.
  6. They are never satisfied- I jumped through all sorts of hoops for her and it was never enough. I watched whatever shows she wanted, ate wherever she wanted at, and bought her anything that caught her eye. But her gratitude would last mere moments before it was replaced with her usual miserable attitude. Case in point, initially when we broke things off, I made it a point not speaking to her at all. One day several weeks later, she made it a point to call me and I answered. She was in need of money, not just to supposedly send me back the engagement ring, but also for basic necessities. Regardless of how I currently felt about her, I always make it a point to help others in need if I’m capable of doing so. So I helped her. But not even an hour after giving to her, she was back to accusing me of selfishness again.
  7. They assume the worst about you- You could make an absolutely positive statement and they will somehow spin it into a bad thing. Allow me to explain by sharing one particular experience. Right before a really big fight that had been apparently brewing for some time ( though I was unaware until she went on the attack one evening) I was excited to show of a new dress shirt and suit. It might not sound like a big deal, but her initial response to me asking her what she thought was to ask “Who are you trying to impress?” Eventually, she went on about how she thought I looked nice, but that was often her initial attitude. I was up to something, or I thought something that I shouldn’t be thinking, or that I was undermining her.

Needless to say, there are a number of other facets to this issue. Manipulative relationships don’t just have an effect on you, after all. Another way to identify if you’re trapped in one is by examining how it affects the amount and quality of time you spend with others like friends and family. That said, there is only one other issue I’d like to address regarding manipulative relationships. It can happen to anyone, woman or man, regardless of the age difference. However, as the video below demonstrates, our society has a very different reaction when a woman is being abusive as opposed to a man:

While my ex was never physically abusive, the video demonstrates that when women are the abusive one in the relationship, the assumption of most is that the man either deserve it or that the woman doesn’t pose any real threat anyway. This preconceived notion demonstrates how ignorant we still are when it comes to relationship abuse in general. We should never excuse or condone abusive behavior because, even if the other person was in the wrong, retaliation within a relationship doesn’t lead to resolution, but can lead to something far worse. As a young man, I have to say that one of the reasons I felt it was so hard for me to get out of my relationship was because I too had it engrained in my mind that, as the man in the relationship, I should be able to handle more emotionally, mentally, and physically.

However, the real truth behind it is this: A relationship can only thrive when it is based on mutual respect as well as love. I won’t deny that I still love my ex very much, but the blatant lack of respect I have endured for two years straight renders whatever love I have for her as weightless and inconsequential. Respect is key, not only for the one you are with, but also for yourself. I lost my self respect while I was with her. I became convinced I would be lonely and miserable were I to ever lose her when, the truth was I was far more lonely and miserable with her than I am now without her. It is respect that is key in getting out of a manipulative relationship, because that self respect will prompt you not only to stand up for yourself, but help you to realize you deserve far better than the abuse you are currently tolerating.

I will end with one of my favorite quotes on love, as cliche as it may be.

‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

In other words, true love is everything a manipulative relationship is not. So as with the list of experiences above, use this quote as a sort of check list and be painfully honest with yourself as you thoroughly examine your relationship. If you are suffering from abuse, leave. You cannot change the person unless they acknowledge it for themselves. My ex never did. But if you realize you are the one committing the abuse, make the efforts to change. If you truly love the person you are with, you will be able to make the necessary adjustments. Because true love- affectionate, honest, and open love- truly never fails.