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What does it take to stay in a relationship? What makes it really work?

What does it take to stay in a relationship? What makes it really work?

Here’s my thoughts on the short version:
1. A strong initial spark,
2. a willingness from both people to explore and see if you respect and care for eachother
3. The desire to consciously work on it and be completely honest and vulnerable in the process of healing the subconscious,
4. Do that, and become new people together.
5. Dedication to nurturing your love,
6. A strong shared vision to keep your paths aligned and moving forward together towards a shared future.

Beyond that… I’ve never been in a conscious romantic relationship long enough to know… lol

But I would guess that it involves repeating 3-6 over and over again and continuing to choose each other.

I’d like to say that as a conscious being, with conscious communication tools everything is peachy and pollyanna in relationships. But in reality, it can be hard. Especially when you’re dealing with romance, travel and social survivability.

Of course, all relationships have challenges, ups and downs, joys and sorrows. The relationship experts tell us that the more “in love” we fall at the beginning, the more resonance of our deep subconscious pain/trauma there is underneath it all. They call it Imago Love.

When I work with couples, you can sense this Imago love immediately. Even if they are experiencing challenge, you can feel the connection deep underneath it all, the underlying love. In some couples, it’s obvious it’s not there, and probably never was. Although learning conscious communication tools can be helpful to any couple, and there are hacks to ease communication and rekindle passion, to be totally honest, for those couples who don’t have that Imago love, it’s really hard to rekindle that spark, when it wasn’t there in the first place.

I had a real-life experience of how important it is to have ALL of those things in place when Max and I were in the process of dating and splitting up. Looking back on it, we had 2, 3, and 4 down pat, and both became much more awesome people from the process but by the time we hit Spain around this time last fall, things were on the decline…

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Here’s a story from the soon to be released JoyGasm Book (Go to JoyGasm.me/book to get the first 15 chapters, and updates on when it’s being printed)

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“Traveling together had been difficult for a few months, and it was seeming like our desires and dreams for where we wanted to be were very different. He wanted to be in a big city, dancing, going to chic cafes and fancy restaurants, adventuring to a new city every month. I wanted to see more of the world for sure, but I also wanted to hang out in small beach towns, preferably speak Spanish, and explore local culture in a deep way, getting in with the locals, eating cheap and dirty, and exploring what life was like in that place. I wanted to be able to get to know people, and after a few months of a new place every month, I had realized that more than anything I wanted to stay someplace for 6 months or more.

Obviously, we had a massive clash in future/present vision going on.

So with that challenge hitting the fan, what do we do? Well, as two people fluent in non-violent communication, and committed to working on our relationship we both look at each other and try and state our needs, find a compromise, work it out. Easier said than done.

Using the statement “I feel” is meant to turn the communication back towards you, your feelings your needs, and keep that projection in check. But with my sense of freedom being curtailed by our shared travel plans, my emotions were flying high. Both of our basic needs and desires are not being met for how we wanted to live, and more often than not we find ourselves slipping into “I feel like YOU…” insert subconscious pain based accusation here.

After a few weeks of this, we realize this is bigger than we could handle ourselves and seek help from a friend and facilitator of communication. He calls us both out on the improper use of the NVC format and we move deeper into being as conscious with our communication and projections as we can. We commit, again, to owning our crap, and moving through it together. Both of us have been feeling stuck, and frustrated, but we are willing to work it through, together.

Newly committed we drive back into the work, a few weeks of this go back and forth, and I’m exasperated.

It’s so challenging to speak with him. I get SO angry. We’re working together, and we spend days and days (it seems) trying to find peace in our interpersonal/romantic so that we can actually have a working conversation in our work lives. On top of that, the work isn’t working either (aka providing revenue) so it seems pointless… deep to the core of my pain.

One day after a particularly frustrating conversation, I sit down with myself to figure out why this all so challenging, and why the heck this is happening.

As my thoughts wander around, I realize that I’ve been trying to leave the relationship for a month or so now, and every time I start to have the conversation he says “But you can’t threaten the relationship, we have to work on it together.” I hear you Max, and if I wanted to work on it…fine. If I don’t then fuck it. Well.. okay. Not fuck it.

Because I’ve been through this “relationships transition with a boyfriend” a half dozen times or so in the last few years, and I know what it takes to get closure and release someone in a loving and healthy way now. I’ve had lots of practice. There’s no need to be as uncomfortable in this as we are, if we just get clear on what’s happening and be honest with each other about what’s next.

I had thought when we started this thing that since Max was a spitting image of my “list of things I want in a partner” that I might not have to go through this whole relationship transition thing again… But now it looks like it’s staring me in the face. Fuck…

So I start to ponder. What does it really take to stay in a relationship, if this isn’t it?

Here’s my thoughts:
1. A strong initial spark, (nope)
2. a willingness from both people to explore and see if you respect and care for each other (yes, except I don’t respect him sometimes)
3. The desire to consciously work on it and be completely honest and vulnerable in the process of healing the subconscious, (got that one)
4. Do that, and become new people together. (Been doing that)
5. Dedication to nurturing your love, (sort of)
6. A strong shared vision to keep your paths aligned and moving forward together towards a shared future. (I don’t want to live like he wants to live)

I think back to when we met. Co-Boat in Thailand. I remember meeting him and feeling he was interesting. Well… “at least, more interesting than everyone else in that small boat.” We’ve laughed our way through telling that story a dozen times to people, and I remember what he said about me.. “I saw her and thought, who is this crazy woman with a kid, she’s weird.”

Not much of a spark there… in fact, if it wasn’t for the wild adventure of capsizing, bailing out a dingy and almost dying on a day trip, I’m not sure that we would have ended up in a relationship. If we hadn’t “happened” to be going to the same island and co-working space afterwards, he would have disappeared from my life without a look back, and I from his.

Not much of a spark then.

I think back to the times that I’ve fallen madly in love…. That Imago Love the Guy and Katie Hendrix speak of. The sparkling fire within our bodies, the certainty that this was something special. The feeling of being drawn, and inescapably desiring that person. I remember feeling that with Derek, Rafiq and Daniel… I know from the memory of the feeling with the other men, that this time, that spark just wasn’t there…

In fact, after the whirlwind drama and pain, I’d just had with Daniel in Bali, I’d specifically asked the universe for something calmer next boyfriend around. Got it!

So the core of our relationship is “happenstance, similar visions, mutual support, and a willingness to give it a go” and having run with that for a while, we now had “entanglement of emotions, logistics and ‘cuz we said we would” added into the mix.

I think wistfully of falling in love with Daniel, the kind of love that swept me off my feet, how I couldn’t help but walk over to his house, the poetry that had spewed forth from my heart, and the magic and love permeated the field of our moments together. The start of this relationship had none of that.

If I am completely honest with myself, it is a relationship of social survivability. Having moved from Bali to Thailand, and new to a place, Max was the most willing and interested person there, he wanted to hang out with me. When Alex called him Dad 3 weeks in (something he’d never done with any of my other boyfriends), and we’d both blushed and hoped for love that ended in like that, it had anchored it in, and made it more real than it maybe was at that point. On top of that, Max was willing to be loving and kind to me when many of the other Digital Nomads around me looked at the fact that I had a kid and excluded me.

Not really the foundation of a long-term love relationship.

In that moment I know we are over, and I know that moving forward I will make better decisions for relationships. No more dating men I’m lukewarm about.

I know from him and other lovers, that by 6 to 8 to 9 months in, the love and connection, the novelties of getting laid regularly most often have worn thin and the challenge begins in earnest. The challenges are all there to be seen, right from the get go, but the love and oxytocin high blinds you for a few months. Max and I had even named this from the start of our relationship, we knew exactly what we were getting into, and here we are in the middle of the challenges.

I realize deeply that I have been contemptuous of him from the start, I’ve been learning to accept and love the aspects I find challenging about him, but the contempt lingers and underlays everything that we do together. No wonder it doesn’t work.”

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I can’t take back or change the time Max and I spent together, nor would I want to. The love we shared, though not Imago love, was a deep and committed friendship and romance that we supported through strength and determination. I became a much clearer and more loving person through the dedication we had to working out our stuff together. It’s beautiful to see now that Max and I were able to transition our relationship, still maintain a friendship, and co-support each other in understanding our challenges as we work towards moving closer to our vision for what our dream lives look like, even though we aren’t romantically together anymore.

I decided that in the future to merge my life on that level with someone, I would really need to care at the core about who they were, what they wanted, and how we could be together.

When Dan and I met up again this spring and sparked like crazy, again. I thought. “This is what is needed at the core of it, this is the feeling to come back to, to try and find again if shit hits the fan.” A part of me relaxed and loved deeper. We still are. I could tell you stories for days, and…. Dan and I are still navigating how much and what I share about our life with the world through FB. I’ll share more when we get clearer.

What I didn’t realize at the time of the insight with Max was that I needed to apply this to my friends too. To all the people in my world, the ones I was dreaming and creating and visioning with as well. To be meticulous about the quality of the connection. This is strange for a woman who is used to figuring out who to hang out with by “social survivability standards”

1. do they look/feel dangerous, no.
2. Do they look/feel reasonably like-minded. Yes.
3. Are they leaving the country tomorrow or in the next week? No.
4.Do we like each other enough to spend time together for a couple of hours because we have nothing better to do as travelers. Yes.
Okay now we are friends!!!

It’s a new ball game for me to figure out what long term friendships can look like.

When I arrived back in Calgary, I connected with the people around me. I reached out to the people I remembered being helpful, kind and supportive in my life. The people I really liked last time I was here. Some of them replied, some of them had moved on. Great. Got support network. Whew. Social Survivability is taken care of.

As the new year comes closer, there’s a feeling of checking in, how is this whole “having longer-term friends thing going Elena?” Add in some recent relationship challenges, and it seems more important than ever to ask the question…. is the core, the spark, the feeling of it all strong enough to maintain the love through the times of challenge?

Questions I’m asking myself about my relationships…

Is the spark there at the core?
Even if our shared vision never happened, would I still want to be around this person?
Do they demonstrate the skills needed to work on the challenges that may arise?
Do our dreams for the future align?

Six months later, the community has expanded, At the potlucks I see others connecting together, friends forming, connections moving deeper. It’s beautiful, heartwarming, and loving. I notice that I feel the spark with some people, it’s got that Imago feeling, that feeling that it’s amazing just to lay in their arms and be warm and silent, or talkative, or whatever together. The feeling that my heart sparks when they walk into the room. I’ve noticed that I don’t have that with others. Some are interesting to me even without the spark, and some are in between, and some people I’m happy to see, but may never really get to know. Only time will tell. I’m learning that’s okay.

I see people I spark with connecting deeply with others. I watch them go super deep into conversation or cuddles, and that’s great. My heart is warm for their love, whatever brings them joy. I want them to follow their hearts and explore where seems most interesting. I see new faces, and I’m curious about them, wondering who they are and what they be. Some of them spark with me more than others. I’m learning that’s okay.

Maybe we see each other once a month, once a week, never outside of potlucks. Each relationship is different… With a new awareness for some of the projections I’ve been putting on others, and some of the ones I’m finding have been put on me, I find it more and more important to get clear what are the expectations around the friendships I have. Do we want to get together more? Do we have the time? Is it enough to see each other in passing once a month, share some cuddle puddle, and food, and know that we’re still around and still showing up to the same places? I also want to check in, are there places/people with whom I may have miscommunicated, or have I been unclear on what I could give, or needed to receive?

I’m committing to sitting down and checking in on who and how I want to nurture in friendship, love, and collaboration. I’d encourage you to do it too.

Your thoughts, questions, comments, clarifications are always welcome.

<3 E

Valerie Shakti Bottazzi

Valerie Shakti Bottazzi and I speak about leaving abusive relationships, the ability to become a new person (in this lifetime), being businesswomen and mothers, the experience of post partum depression, and the difference between meditation, visualization, and imagination.

 

Valerie generously offered us a few of her guided visualizations, and if you’d like to learn more about her offerings overall you can visit her website here valeriebottazzi.com

 

Get the Goodies

Ps. Valerie’s meditation, life wheel, and morning ritual tracker are all gorgeous and super effective at improving your discipline with your daily practices.
 

 

Suicidal Ideation is normal.

“Suicidal ideation, the act of thinking about committing suicide. Is normal. A normal healthy response to an overwhelming, unrelenting, inescapable emotional pain.”

The words drop into my mind like a hammer. I’m normal. It’s okay.  “I wish someone had told me that 5 years ago.”  I laugh a little bit, but it’s not funny.  I think of the years I’ve spent hiding this part of me, the hours I’ve spent ruminating and pondering what makes me so fucked up that my first thought when something goes wrong is “I want to die.”

The pain I’ve felt at the voice that said,

“I want to die,
I want to die,
I want to die.”

All of this is normal.

 

“When you get a chance, go with a friend to the place where you wanted to drive off the bridge, be the passenger, and talk to them, share with them what you felt, what you experienced, what your world was like then.”

 

“I can do that.”  I think immediately of the bridge as it crosses Fish Creek park on 22x. How many days of driving that cursed yellow school bus did I think about turning the wheel just enough?  Hundreds of times.  Today, a question I had never thought to ask rises to my mind.

How much shame did I internalize from feeling there was something really wrong with me for thinking about it?

A few hours later I’m a passenger in the car, on route south to a family dinner.  I’m dressed up and excited to be going towards my beloved’s families house to spend time with them.  The traffic slows, but it’s the wrong time of day for rush hour.  It must be an accident.  We wait in traffic for a while, and as we pull slowly past the scene, I see clearly, the side of a car smashed in, the back passenger seat, where Alex would sit. It fills my stomach and my heart with dread, I hope dearly there were no children in the back seat.  I feel deeply “I would be so sad if my son died.” This in itself is a relief to the cold hearted “It would be a relief to be free.” a few years back that was my internal response to moments like this.

As we pass by the accident, we both get quiet.  The car is filled with a clear sense of the frailty of our mortality, the real possibility of losing the people we love on short notice, and it brings it all back to reality really fast.   I squeeze his hand, and we sit in silence for a while.

A few KM later, as we exit onto 22x, I realize that this is the moment of speaking my thoughts to die on that bridge.

That moment is happening today.
That opportunity to be listened to
is happening today.

I quickly check in with Dan. “Are you able to hold space for me while I share about this place that I have been suicidal?” He says yes, and I am so greatful.

As we drive forward my voice starts speaking, and it feels not quite like my voice, but the silent repressed voice of all the times I have driven here. I speak in the present tense like it’s happening now. Like I’m walking through my thoughts.

“This is where I start thinking about running off the road.  Before the bridge, so the bus would land in the water, and we’d drown.  Less chance of survival.  But the angle is tricky. Some days I speed down that off-ramp, feeing into the speed build, I’d need to be going fast to break the median.  I remember feeling the courage it would take to take the plunge.  Somedays it was exciting to feel the excitement of getting close to that moment.”

I can feel my body tingling all over, there is a visceral sense of relief, of being seen, heard and felt.  I understand why I was invited to do this.  I know I will do it again in other moments of pain.

“I feel I am useless. I feel I am helpless to change it. The kids I am driving are so far gone off the autistic spectrum, they are incapable of living normal human lives, I would be doing their parents a favor to end their lives and the suffering of parenting a child like that.  But Alex was on the bus most days, I didn’t do it because I thought out of all of us, he might have a future.  I couldn’t take that away from him.  I couldn’t take him away from his grandparents like that. ”

My body starts shaking, and deep tears flow to my eyes. I wonder at the pain I must have been in all those years ago. I see my pain through a new lens.

“Suicidal ideation is normal.”  I think to myself.  Time to REALLY let it go.

“I hated that job, I hated the kids I drove, I was filled with contempt every day. I hated waking up early every morning and slogging through the cold weather to pick them up. So they could sit like lumps on the bus, and sit like lumps at school.  They had no future.  The bus never really got warm, even with three pairs of pants, and a big jacket and scarf and hat, and big mitts and the heat cranked.  I was always still cold.”

I remember the strictness of my playlist.  Only happy tunes, happy words, happy themes to the songs I listened to.  No sadness allowed.  I clung to joy like it was a life preserver in the middle of a choppy sea.  I forced myself into it all winter, being the most upbeat person on the team, I stuffed my pain.  I remember the joy in my heart when spring started to come that year, and I finally felt the sun on my skin again. I remember thinking “I thought I would die, I thought the winter, and the cold would kill me. ”

We pass the bottom of the bridge and head up towards the next offramp.  We are passed the point of no return. I whisper. “This is where I was always silently relieved that I had decided not to do it.”

He says nothing, but I can feel him there.  Listening to my pain, heart open.

I get quiet again, and sit with my feelings, with the tingling sensation in my scalp, hands, and spine.  I know I’ve just healed that time of my life, and that desire to die on a deep level today.

It’s time to return to the lovely conversation we were having before this moment started.  I shake my whole body and make a silly noise.  I take a deep breath in.

“I’m complete. Thank you.”

He squeezes my hand, and we sit together in silence for a while before returning to our conversation.  I hold his hand, watching the city lights sweep past us, and into the night, as we enter the countryside.  It’s beautiful to be here, alive and enjoying the drive.

 

**** If you or someone you know struggles with suicidal thoughts. I wrote this today to let you know that you’re normal.  It took me a lot longer to ask for help than I’d like to admit, and I know that it’s hard.  But asking to be heard is one of the crucial steps in recovery, along with learning to love yourself.  I feel I did it backwards, I feel it might have been easier if I’d know how to ask for help but it might also be a chicken/egg type thing.

If you need support in learning to love yourself, check out the 60-second depression recovery/self love hack I created in the darkest of days to help myself find the courage to keep going.  JoyGasm.me/LOVE

The Fall and the Death of Ego

Today I write to honor the season’s changes. The changes in our lives. The death in preparation of rebirth that is the “fall”.  This is a moment to celebrate, a new beginning.

I have been a traveler for many years. I have traveled far and wide, and it was in my travels that I met Grandma Kaarina, on Christmas day a few years back, we were both there soaking up the Mexican sunshine.  I had run away from the Canadian winter that year and many before. In fact, it has been 6 years since I’ve done a full winter. 10 since I did it on a regular basis. When I was 21, I did my first full year of summer, traveling to Australia, and when I returned I knew that I would not return to that cold, I had no desire to return to winter.

Yet this year I am choosing to stay. To embrace winter. Why?

The death, that is at at the heart of winter, is something that is a source of renewal, a source of connection, a source of life. This is a necessary part of life. A part of the natural cycles of life.  Each plant dies and is reborn, each generation has its time.  Yet in my life I have denied this seasonal cycle for many years.  I feared the darkness, the cold, the isolation in a basement suite that the winter threatened.  I feared seasonal depression, suicidal thoughts unchecked, and the pain of being alone.

It’s not surprising, having been raised in a culture that embraces the youthful face, and rejects the elder.  In a culture that isolates in little box houses, and keeps us churning in consumerism.  It is not surprising when the media tells me that the new is to be cherished, and the old discarded.  If I was not productive in those winter months, I was without value.  To be discarded.  Of course, I would run away. Of course I would avoid that death.   What value would death have to a culture that praises baby faces and the newest fad week after week, after week, after week.

But I have not denied the symbolism of death totally, for I have had some wise teachers, and I have learned to create my own deaths and rebirths, separate from my journey with the seasons. Seeing each country, each city, each moon time as a moment of death and rebirth. A ceremony to celebrate becoming reborn.

 

So when I returned to Canada in the spring, I knew that I would die. Not physically die, but to metaphorically die. To die as an ego. To die to the part of myself that need to do it ALL ON MY OWN ALL THE TIME.   To die as an individual, and be reborn as a collective. The energy these past few weeks has been so strong there were moments when I wondered how would I even know what to do, without the kind voices and faces of those who live and love around me.  How I would have survived without a friendly face who I knew was on my side. The collective is strong.

Yet I have spent the better part of the last few years being the embodiment of aloneness. Loneliness. Alone. Not peaceful and alone like the monk on the mount, but fearful. Fearful and alone. Not fun. Isolated. Socially rejected, but by my own choice and habit. Always the outsider.  Always the minority.  Traveling, with me, myself, and my son.

 

He and I have known change more than stability in our lives, and in this time of massive change, maybe we are more poised than others to deal with the instability of these times.

 

Now having returned to Calgary, now it is time to anchor into a community and become WE.

 

Not me. We. We can save the me. Me is lost now without the We.  We are a collective soul, a collective evolution, a collective tribe.  Spanning far further and wider than most could imagine. Every country I touched, I found people, young and old, seeking the knowledge that they were not alone in having woken up.  Seeking community, a return to the land, and a hope that there is a better way to live.  This is not only my journey, or your journey, but the larger journey of the soul of our time.

“The next Buddha will be a Sangha,” said Thich Nhat Hanh.  It is time to learn to open up to the tribe.  To share the pain, the burdens, as well as the joys and the celebrations, and to rekindle the village. To relearn what the village is and can be for me. Who I can be in it, how I can be of service in it, and how we can share the bounty and the challenges of life together.

The challenge for me now is to love myself so much that I can finally accept into my life, heart, and soul, the friendship which was torn from me at 10 years old when I moved and created the TRAUMA of relocation.  To honor the intergenerational nature of this trauma, as see also that I am the one that passed on deeply to my son by bringing him to 11 countries in 5 years. To forgive me in that, and to find peace within.  To allow the winter to bring its death, and to let it wash over me, to rest deeply in the darkness.  To huddle closer to those around me, also in search of the light.  And when the time comes, in its own time, to find ourselves, the tribe, the village, the community, peacefully budding into blossom in the spring.

 

 

 

When we listen from the inside out…

When we listen from the inside out..
When we listen to the heart that beats inside our chest,
when we listen explicitly to the inner wisdom,
the beauty, the knowing, the power of the divine that is inside of us.
We create. As I am doing now, as I have been doing.

As YOU have been doing.

The awareness of our creation is where the joy comes in.
In the space of observing the beauty of our own creation,
whatever it may be.

We are 100% responsible for our own lives. We CAN, have and will, find 100% joy for all our creations.

We will find ourselves crying on the bathroom floor, and smile inside or outside, at the passion of it.

Our most beautiful life is created here in each moment.

I was speaking to a man yesterday who said “Well, I’ll just tough it out for the next year or so, working 12-16 hour days, and 4 jobs, and then after that year is done, then I can relax”

It rankled at me, and made me frustrated, that he could not see the illusion of tomorrow that was pulling him.

I feel that lots of people, including myself have fallen under this illusion of “work now, for reward later” I am proud to say that I am now successfully living for now, while rewarding myself now, while also creating a beautiful future.

See I don’t believe you can get to a beautiful future by worrying. I know from my experience, it doesn’t work.

So the better we feel in any given moment, the better our future will turn out.

People have called me self centered, people have called me hedonistic. I don’t care. My life is more delicious to me than anything anyone else has ever presented to me, and I dig it. 🙂

I love for every single person I meet to feel as inspired by their own life. To realize that every moment they are alive is completely of their choosing and that it’s beautiful in how it serves.

Sometimes it’s “negative” and then serves as a reminder. A reminder to be present, to love, to be at peace with the moment.

And each and every moment is true, is beautiful, is whole and it’s own. And so you too feel true, beautiful and whole.

And what else have I wanted but that. What else do any of us desire but that. (and a new bikini! to show off the hot bod I’m finally proud of!! lol)

 

I Love you!

 

With inspiration and Bliss!!

Elena

Are you stuffing your emotions?

Ever felt like you were stuffing your emotions?
Ever felt like you got lost in telling the “story” of how you’re feeling?
Ever wondered if there was a better way to process and move through what you’re feeling?
How do you even begin to learn how to feel safe to express your emotions?

Bargain like a Berber

How to hold your own, and not feel like you’re getting scammed every day you’re in Morocco.   Your guide to the psychology of the bargain and the mutual win in Barter.

Story: The Fatima Henna

The streets of Marrakesh are teeming with people. the experience is maddening, especially trying to keep hold of a 6 year old boy who has just had ice cream.  Imagine his small blonde head, amongst a sea of brunet adults, in the darkness of New Years Eve.  There are thousands more here than usual, and the space throngs with people.  I don’t know how much of this I can handle, but we’re here and I couldn’t NOT come see it, so we’ll see how long it lasts.

All of a sudeen, a dark shape intent on our little group materializes into a woman.  Fatima, her eyes are smiling, the rest of her facing hiding behind a hijab. “Hello” she says and takes my hand firmly in hers… she holds it poised, as if to kiss it, and then deftly pulls out a needle.. I start to freak out! WTF….but it’s a henna pen, and she deftly starts to etch beautiful arcs of flowers onto my hand. 


She pauses and I go to pull my hand away.. she holds it, firmly, and definitely clear that she is NOT letting go of my hand.. “Excuse me..  Give me my hand back” I say to her. 

Max looks at me.  “She’s GOING to ask for money..” Is written all over his face.  We’ve done this already before.  She hurriedly says .. “for free, for free” meaning she’s doing this for free. yah right.

She finishes the drawing on my hand in less than 40 seconds, and turns to face my small son.  She grabs his hand and starts drawing a scorpion on his arm.  I ask her to stop but she doesn’t stop until she is done with the drawing.   When she’s done, she turns around, and says “Selfie! Take a selfie” and poses, with the needle right next to her face and my hand.  She’s done this before, and we both know it.  She looks up at me, her eyes are no longer smiling, but have a questing, victim tinge to them, she’s about to ask me for money, I know it.

“I usually charge 600 dirhams just for the scorpion,” she holds Alex’s arm up towards me, and he squacks a complaint, because she’s almost lifting him off the ground. “But for you I ask only 300”

I look at her square in the face.  “You said it was free.”

“You just give me 300, no problems.”  300 dirhams is 27 euros.  No fucking way is that happening.

I can tell she’s done this hundreds of times today already.  Two blonde haired tourists and a child are an easy mark, and she pegged us minutes ago.

“You said it was free, and I’m sorry, but you chose the wrong people to get money out of tonight.” I lay it all out on the table, made it clear she’s not getting anything.

“Just a little bit of money, for my children, my family.” Her eyes glaze, but it’s so fake I almost puke.

We go back and forth a few more times, and I’m tempted to just give her cash, but it’s tottal bullshit, and I’m not going to, just on the principle that it’s bad to teach the locals that their shit scams actually work.  I decide to hold firm.  “I’m not paying you, you said it was a gift, otherwise I would have taken my hand back.  But you wouldn’t let me”

She glares at me. She’s realized it’s not going to work, and she’s wasted 4 minutes of her time for no money.  “Fine!” she half yells, and grabs my hand, scooping the still wet henna back into her device.  She reaches for Alex’s arm and does the same and then walks off without a word.

I feel like my hand has been raped, and for some reason the person who did is mad at me, even though they lied.  My heart is confused, and my trust in the goodness of humanity just died a little.

 

Understanding What Went Wrong in the Psychology of it All

To win at the bargain, you need to know how to make fun.  That is completely the point of the barter.  Of course you are also choosing a price and an exchange of money, but it is primarily an interaction based in humour and building of relationship.  So without further ado, here’s a step by step to stay in your power, and have FUN while bargaining. 

When you greet your merchant, be friendly and cordial.  Identify what you want to purchase.  Preferably having scoped out prices elsewhere or from friends beforehand so you have a range for a fair price.

Looking at the item, smile, look at them, and ask for the price.  Keep eye contact.

Wait for the response.  Whatever they say, look at them like what they said was crazy while they say it. 

You can say something like “really? are you sure sir?” and look at him again in the eyes and laugh a little.

Whatever he says, laugh in response, and maintain a happy vibe.

Offer you hand forward to hold whatever item you’re discussing. 
Now holding the item, say to him, come on now, let’s not muck about, what’s your LAST/Best price?  Smile and laugh.

Wait to see what he says.  Don’t do anything but ask the same question or laugh if he tries to ask you for your price. 

***Exchanging Hands****

Whatever he ends up saying.. Your final deal is going to be 1/4 to 1/2 of this number depending on how well you push back.

Laugh and offer the item back to him.  “No really sir, that’s not fair at all (that’s too much)” and laugh. keep eye contact.

  • If he objects and stays the same price, put it back in his hand.
  • If he drops his price a little bit, frown and offer it to him again.

“Well I did like it, I like it in this colour, no not the other colours, this one, but its just a little to much” point out the flaws of the item, and also what you liked about it, like you’re thinking it over.

“What was your lowest price sir?” wink and laugh like you have forgotten what he said before (Or ask in seriousness, but with a smile in your eyes looking at him)

Keep laughing and asking for a best price until you have hit 1/2 of the original asking price. Do not make a counter offer yet! 

Avoid making a counter offer as long as possible, because once you’ve done this, you’ve basically agreed to pay half the difference between your two prices, and he’s got more leverage to raise the price a bit by not budging (which they can be very good at)

“Well it’s (not very good quality, not as nice as the other one we saw, but I’m here, and I want it now.  I was only thinking to pay less than that”

At which point they will say “how much do you want to pay?”

“Well I was hoping to spend XXX (low ball your price to 10-20% of his asking offer) yes it will feel ridiculous, but if you do it smiling and looking at him, KNOWING and letting him know that you know that you are playing a game together.  He’s going to act shocked, offended, and repulsed by your offer.  He has to be, that’s his gig, especially since you’ve already shown him you know how to play the game.  If he doesn’t play hard now he’s going to give you the item for too cheep..

This is often where real respect and admiration and friendship can happen, because you are now laughing together both acknowledging playing the game together, so you can laugh your way through the rest of it.  By making it past this hurdle, you’ve gained “not just another tourist” status, and they will love you for it, maybe even invite you to have tea.

He’s going to say “that’s too little, give me X” which may be a little bit less than his previous asking price.  If it’s the same price, use the “exchanging hands” trick to shift the power dynamic again.

Depending on how much he drops from his original price tells you how much it’s marked up. 

If the item is 300 originally, and he drops to 250, and then to 220.  You know that he has at least a margin of 200, and probably he paid 30 for the item.  So you can laugh in a friendly way, lowball him at 30, naming the price, and barter back and for to 60-160 for the item..

Or pay 300 for it. Your choice!

The funny thing about Morococo, is that although people are constantly trying to bully you, if you overpay for something.  (Say he asks for 300, and you give it to him without haggling, he’s just as likely to give you 50 in change anyways, and smile at you)  But also with a sad look in his eyes, like you missed the point of the interaction. 

Using Cash, Power Games and the little lie

I’ve got 20 minutes to find a shop, choose my loot, and bargain a price for the small cash I actually have on me.  It’s the worst situation to bargain in, but I’m leaving tomorrow and it’s now or never to get my trinkets.

I choose my Fatima hands (a symbol of good luck and protection in Morocco), we package them up and I know I’ve fudged the order for my best bargain.  My package wrapped up gives me no leeway to haggle with physical objects.  And I’ve got a time limit coming up soon.

I ask him how much he wants, and he asks me for 600 dirham. Almost $80 Cad, and I truly balk.  I’ve chosen 15 hands, of various quality, none of it guaranteed silver, though they always say it is, and it’s just way too much.  I had planned to spend $5 and I have $30 in my wallet.

So I pull out all the stops, asking him for less, etc etc.  Saying I only have 200 in my wallet, knowing I have a little bit more.  He knows as a tourist I can always go get more money, so it’s an accepted lie.  We open the package and take away a few of the trinkets, pairing it down to the few and required ones. 

I have 5 minutes before Alex looses it, and we miss our ride to Paradise Valley.  We’re stuck at 400, and I just don’t have it.  I reach into my wallet pull out $200 and motion to the older man.  I’ll pay this much for it right now, you’ll make the cash up on the next person, and I’ll thank you. 

I don’t know if this will work.  I’ve never tried such a lowball with just cash, but I can see his eyes flicker across the cash.  He may not have made any sales yet today, or not enough to cover his expenses.  He doesn’t know what will happen after this, and he’s come a long way to sell.  He wants the cash, and I know it.

“You can take this now, or we can sit and have tea if you want.”  (I say this to him, in reality I have less than 3 minutes to meet our ride. I almost have to walk away, but I can’t let him know that, because I need to appear to be able to continue the battle.  Time is not on my side!)

I laugh as I offer tea.  By saying this I’ve singled that this is my last offer, I will sit and drink tea for 30 minutes with him before I we would even talk about another price.  I am set in my price and not moving and he knows it.  This is what the offer of tea brings.

So, I hold the money out, my arm outstretch towards him, 200 at the end of my arm reaching out for him to claim as his.

The old man looks at me with a new respect.  He stands there.  He’s holding my Fatima hands, I want them. Ke knows I want them, which he can always hold over me.   I want this price.  He looks at my cash, then at his younger shopkeeper friend. 

They say something back and forth in Arabic, and the younger man shakes his head.  “Really, this is a crazy price, it’s not a good price for me, but I see you are a good woman, and my friend says we should say yes to you.  But really it’s a crazy price.”

I smile broadly as I thank him profusely, and he hands me the package.  I hand his older friend the cash, and we smile at each other with a wink.  Our hearts hug, though the culture forbids us to do anything but shake hands.  A camaraderie of having made it through the battle unscathed, and both slightly richer makes me feel happy and accomplished.

I feel I just got a steal of a deal.  He has more money to feed his family tonight. We both win, and the experience was fun and funny all the way through.  I head to the car, and arrive in perfect timing to hop in and head to our next adventure.

Loneliness, Alone-ness

Do you ever feel lonely, when surrounded by people? Or while being with your children? I know I have.

I feel like I’ve had these experiences, as well as hiding from them more than most. Or maybe just as much as you have. I can’t know unless we bring it to the air and talk about it.
I’ve hidden from friendship, from companionship, from love. I’ve run away from intimacy since before I can remember that I knew I was running.
Yet I am also free and able to show up when it’s time to connect deeply, especially with strangers. Years of workshops during a difficult home life taught me that strangers are safer to be vulnerable with.

I’m still learning to trust those closest to me.

I feel vulnerable and held in my sharing today. I feel scared, and yet brave. It is a daily journey to choose to love myself in the fear, and to transform the fear or numbness into fullness, to open into it.

Why do I do it? As a truth speaker, one who shares their truth, and opens the ways for others to do the same, I am here sharing the story of alone-ness, knowing some of you will resonate, and hoping you will share, so that we all don’t feel so alone.
Today I painted in the morning, and then all afternoon I wanted to paint more, to be lost in the flow of brushes and paint and cutting and collage. But instead I was in funk, mucking about, trying to leave the house, and getting a sullen boy in return, feeling crappy, and not feeling the goodness of the time freedom I have at all. The boredom, the low level funk, creeped in. Knowing it would help, I dragged my ass to the beach, and even catching a ride 80% of the way, and running into friends wasn’t enough to crack open the feeling blah..
It wasn’t till we got to the beach and Alex wandered off to chat with some kids that I realized that what I needed was some alone time so that I could feel the feeling inside of me.
When I found a quiet patch of sand, and sat myself down, what I found behind the veil of boredom and frustration was…

Utter self pitied loneliness.

It’s the craziest thing to feel lonely when you’ve got a 6 year old boy who won’t leave your side.

He is literally ALWAYS there.

 

And yet the journey of always accompanied, never connected is a slow torture that I’ve inflicted on myself many times over the years. Now with 6+ weeks of solo parenting and no babysitter or co-parent around, the wear and tear of it is starting to show and has me realizing it’s about time to get help, and what I’ve been doing hasn’t been working.

And then there is the Guru, who reminds me softly, that “There is no suffering in being alone, only the suffering comes from the mind, which believes aloneness into loneliness.” Shove it guru, you’ve not been through what I went through. But where did all this pain come from?

As I find time to sit alone on the beach, I drop in and I feel the depth of the pain, it goes back 2, 3, 5, 7 years ago in this town, feeling abandoned again and again in the process of leaving Alex’s dad. It goes back further to moving when I was 10, leaving all my friends behind when we moved cities. “I have no friends” the wounded child inside of my screams. I have no choice but to hold her as my body shakes and cries. As I do, some strangers walk by and see my tears, they ask if I’m okay, and I give them a thumbs up and thank them for asking if I was okay. See, there’s always “someone”.

So now, my existential past pain is stopping me from seeing a gorgeous sunset happening all around me.

I am reminded that it is equally silly to feel lonely in a town teeming with new people to meet, and also with people who have known me for years.
Or all of you on the interweb, only a “please send me love” away.
Yet there’s a companionship of house and years and days that is still missing from my life. Not only from my traveling life, but also from my life before in Calgary, when 30km and 1.5 hrs of traffic separated me from my best friends, and getting together was an occasional and much organized thing. My heart yearns for the simplicity of my time in small town Morocco with Caroline and Anthony, and Christopher when we simply organized by saying “hey, let’s meet at this end of the beach” almost every day.
Or for the constant companionship that Maxim and I shared as we traveled, loved, parented and worked together.
I also realize the ridiculousness of pining over moments from the past, and the added ridiculousness continuing to winge about it all when after leaving the beach, we bumped into people we knew and then needed to “rush forwards” from them to meet up with friends. All while still winging about feeling lonely.

 

Guru pipes up from the back bench. “Seems pretty silly doesn’t it Elena? Remember this too shall pass.”  It’s a calming thought for my mind, but the feeling pulses through me none the less.

I am not such a master yet, that it doesn’t just seem simpler to cry, let some steam off, and see what I can do about arranging adult company, and kid care for tomorrow.
#DreamLife #SelfLove #Friendship #AloneNotLonely #ItStartsWithMe #TruthSpeaker

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