[Photo credit: Veronica Van Gogh]

I spent last weekend at the Rosseau Sanctuary as a holistic nutritionist (to be) and provided healthy vegan, lactose and gluten-free food for women who attended the event hosted by Jennifer Polansky.   It was an amazing, challenging new experience for me since I never cooked for so many people in this kind of environment but, in hindsight,  I enjoyed every minute of it.  I mentally grew and this process already started when I drove all the way up to the retreat from Ottawa through Algonquin Park. It took me almost seven hours to get to the sanctuary which was a great opportunity to practice mindfulness, peace, and quiet in the car. I so enjoyed the ride, even though it was not easy. I was tired, saw two wolves on the side of the road, did not encounter another car or human being for at least two hours straight and wondered what would happen if the car breaks down. This is what I basically looked at the entire time I drove to Muskoka:

Traveling is a fantastic tool of self-development simply because it extricates me from the values of my culture and shows that another society can live with entirely different values and still functions. On one of my walks “in the wild” last weekend, I had a great conversation with a local who moved to Muskoka from Toronto, got married, had three kids and lived there ever since.  They seemed happy; chaotic but content – the wife, kids, dogs, and cats running around in the house while I still tried to figure out where the main entrance was. They trusted me instantly, even when I said I would love to see their puppies in the backyard. This then makes me think and re-examine my own life. My brother told me, after he visited Russia,  that the most currency to be found there is trust. And to build trust you have to be honest. Being honest means, when things suck, you say so openly and without apology. I think trust lost its value because appearances became more advantageous forms of expression. This is why people start lying, say polite things even when they don’t feel like it, tell a little white lie and agree with people they don’t actually agree with. Why not just say what is on your mind?

Others pretend to be friends or partners. What I am facing these days is, that I never know anymore if I can trust a person but yet, I open myself up to opportunities and new people because I am always choosing. If I am choosing to make my relationship the most important part of my life, that means I am not engaging in and choosing to go to meth/cocaine parties all night long and come home at 7 a.m. We all worry about something in order to value something, right? And to value something, I must reject what is not that something. The something I don’t want in my life anymore. Nobody wants to be stuck in a relationship, for example, that is not making them happy. Nobody wants to be stuck at a workplace that does not make them happy and that they hate and don’t believe in.

Yet people choose these things. All the time. This is when I thought I have to become comfortable with saying the word “no”. In this way and rejection, it makes my life so much better. By just saying NO while a red neon blinking “STAY OUT and AWAY” sign is flashing and police are putting up tape that says “DO NOT CROSS” to make extra sure. There are healthy forms of love and unhealthy ones. Unhealthy love is usually when two people try to escape their problems through their emotions for each other or they are using each other as an escape. I think that on the other hand, a healthy relationship is when love is based on two people acknowledging and addressing their own problems with each other’s support. I believe now that in a healthy relationship, there are clear-cut boundaries between the two people and their values, and there will be an open avenue of giving and receiving rejection when necessary. Entitled people for example who take the blame for other people’s emotions and actions do so because they believe that if they “fix” their partner or friend and save him/her they will receive the love and appreciation they have always wanted. The victim and the savior, the person who starts fires because it makes her feel better and the person who puts out the fire because it makes him feel important. These two types of people are drawn strongly to one another. Their model for a “happy relationship” is based on entitlement and poor boundaries. Sadly though, after some time, they both fail in meeting the other’s actual needs. The sex is usually always good in the beginning but there is so much more to it all and to experience and explore together as a couple. In fact, their pattern of over- blaming and over- accepting blame perpetuates the entitlement and shitty self-worth that have been keeping them from getting their emotional needs met in the first place.

Acts of love are valid only if they are performed without conditions or expectations. Partners (or people) cannot solve problems for me. They can help and that makes me happy but I also know that I have to deal with the internal stuff on my own. I do not see myself as a victim.  Usually, the victims create more and more problems to solve; not because real problems exist, but it gets them the attention and affection they crave. The intentions are selfish and conditional and therefore self-sabotaging. Therefore, genuine or true love is rarely experienced and probably never will be.  And in the end,  innocent people lose their passport.

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