On Relationships:

From the time we’re children, we’re taught by society that we aren’t good enough. By the time we reach young adulthood, we try to paint over the people we are with the brushes society suggests for us. We ignore who we’re meant to be by wearing the hats of the people we believe we’re supposed to be. We eventually forget who we are.

The modern culture of romance, or “dating culture”, is the result of the complete lack of importance placed on the vast substance inherent in our own humanity. We spend our days painting beautiful masks of ourselves and spend our nights wearing them out to down town masquerades.

Every weekend is our carnival, every club is our Venice. With all of us dressed in the height of fashion and wearing the dreamiest of disguises, we’re content to dance our youthful years away.

We paint our masks with the simple stripes of the surface. We think of ourselves, and others, as white or black, male or female, gay or straight, Christian or Muslim. We continue to identify with our surface and mistake it for who we are, when the two are not exclusively connected.

We’ve traded complexity for simplicity. With all of us exchanging our identity for identical illusions, we have slowly rendered ourselves interchangeable. All of our masks look the same.

We build sand castles in the path of crashing waves. We find beautiful partners and we dance the nights away. Sometimes our dance partners stay the night and maybe even for breakfast. Sometimes, we share a second dance. On extremely rare occasions, we find their outer shells so shiny and sparkly that they capture our attention for an entire handful of dances.

These dances last long enough to facilitate relationship status changes on our Facebook and inspire overwhelmingly cute Instagram photos of our morning snuggle and romantic gestures. We do everything and go everywhere with this person. We’ve found the one we want to save our last dance for. We’re totally and completely in love.

The Lovers I (1928) by Rene Magritte
The Lovers I (1928) by Rene Magritte

And then our surfaces begin to erode. They become difficult to maintain. We struggle to keep up the act. Our polished smiles and filtered personalities begin to crack. The weeds from our overgrown interiors begin to force their way through those cracks. We’re confused, and so are they.

We thought we had already shown one another our true selves when we let them see us in sweat pants or without make-up on. They smelled our morning breath. They caught us with food stuck in our teeth. One time, we even farted in front of them.

Our own shallow notions of ourselves had us equating who we are as people with what our natural surfaces used to look like, before we painted them with water colours and doused them in exotic smelling oils.

Are the cracks starting to show in your mask?

But there’s an entire other world inside of us. It’s full of scars, dreams, mistakes, passions, light, and darkness. It’s a place we’ve ignored while we focused on our appearance, on the character we’re acting as. That place of substance deep inside of us – that place which makes us different and beautiful – provides a journey that would never truly end if our loved ones were to explore it.

But that place scares us. It scares us because we’ve never explored it ourselves. It scares us because we have no idea who we are.

It becomes a terrifying prospect to open this place up to the person we think we love. It’s our own little house of horrors. Even if we did muster the courage to ask them to come inside, how can we expect someone to want to see us for who we are when we can’t even stand the thought of it ourselves? The fact that our significant other is also probably feeling the same personal insecurities only exasperates the situation. The situation becomes unstable because both partners have awoken a deep-seeded self-hatred.

We begin to miss someone loving us for the surface appearance that we’ve spent so much time perfecting. We long to feel that superficial attention and shallow admiration again. We return to the masquerades.

We prefer to spend our time there, hiding behind our masks and having them admired by similarly veiled strangers. We begin to look a little too long at new potential dance partners, with shiny new faces that haven’t eroded like those belonging to our significant others.

We’re bored with what we have at home, because surfaces are simple. There is no journey for us to go on.

That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is. Most people love you for who you pretend to be. To keep their love, you keep pretending – performing. You get to love your pretence….the sad thing is, people get so used to their image, they grow attached to their masks. They love their chains. They forget all about who they really are.”― Jim Morrison, 1981 Creem Magazine interview with Lizzie James.

Eventually one (or both) of the partners will realize how difficult it will be to excavate our identities with the appropriate teams of spiritual archaeologists. The road toward self-love has become long and treacherous. We decide a quick reset is much easier.

Being with another person is no place to hide from ourselves, after all. It becomes a race to see who can come up with the perfect wording for whatever arbitrary excuse we’ll use to break up. We’ll call it “losing our spark”, “growing apart”, or “not being happy”.

We’ll break up, get a gym membership, and work on painting over the tiny cracks left from the waltz that lasted a tad too long. We’ll return to the carnival and, thus, the cycle is born anew. We’ll swear off the opposite sex, and then love itself – as though they were the core issues rather than our festering self-loathing.

Eventually that human desire to share ourselves with another will overwhelm us again, at which point we’ll put on our glass slippers, head to the ball, and once again spiral out of control toward midnight.

I’m not saying to ignore your surface, or that it’s not important. I believe the maintenance and development of your body is just as important as your mind and your soul. I believe in balance. Try to indulge in an ignored inner passion.

It makes no difference if that includes cooking, playing an instrument you suck at, or listening to old Led Zeppelin records, as long as it fuels your soul. Read a chapter or two of an old, classic novel while you’re on the stationary bike doing fasted cardio instead of reading your texts. Work a little bit every day on that part of you that we can’t see, that part of you we’ll never be capable of fully exploring. Work on remembering who you really are.

Show me your beautiful and meticulous surface, and I’ll admire it. It might even lure me close enough to share a dance. But if that’s all you have to offer, it’s a dead end. It’s boring, and I’m out. Show me that endless inner garden that you’ve grown, maintained, and explored for yourself, and I’m in.

Take me by the hand and let’s explore one other. Like two children on a magical adventure, I don’t care how much time we spend in there. You’ll have my interest and wonderment forever.

Be good to each other,

– MG.

Photos Courtesy of:

Venetian Mask: 7-themes.com


On Love (Part 2):

Be the crazy love you want to see in the world. Be the unconditional love and acceptance you want in your life.

As humans, we love order. Our entire society is built upon it. We define, separate, categorize, analyze, dissect, reduce, and group everything and everyone around us. We build borders and set boundariesIt helps us to understand complexities greater than ourselves.

We break up our whole world into tiny pieces and keep them in the little boxes we’ve made for them. We define athletic greatness with numbers, statistics, and box scores. We measure wealth with commas, assets, and the contents of our safety deposit boxes. We peeled off the layers of nature until all that remained were atoms and then we sorted them into a table full of neatly named elements and little numbered boxes.

We like to live inside the box. Even our notion of what makes a human being hasn’t escaped this obsession to break things down. We’ve reduced the idea of ourselves to a simple vessel carrying two hundred and six bones, some vital organs, and a built-in laboratory capable of internally conducting complex chemical reactions.

The soul doesn’t scientifically exist because we can’t measure and categorize it. As humans, we love to restrict.

I’ve never been able to fully relate to our society’s ruthless obsession with categorizing everything. Especially when it comes to the notion of love, which has unfortunately fallen prey to these restrictive and reductive tendencies of our species.

I’m not referring to the Shakespearean kind of love – which funnily enough is an example of the categorization I’m referring to – but the type of affinity that occurs naturally between humans. We’ve taken that inherent feeling of togetherness, tenderness, and appreciation toward one another and we’ve broken it down and analysed it to death.

Tribal Goodness.

Family, friends, acquaintances, strangers, lovers, enemies, siblings, parents, teachers, team-mates, in-laws, pets, gay, straight, bisexual, co-workers, classmates, platonic, physical, bromance, romance, showmance, mentally stimulating, spiritual connection, intimate, lustful, infatuation, the list is infinite.

We’re taught to rank our love and have been given various definitive categories that we can sweep that love into. They place limitations on what displays of love are acceptable in our relationships depending on the category it falls into. Like an aisle in a grocery store, we force our love into clearly marked boxes and shelve them accordingly.

Looking for way to show your buddy that he’s appreciated? Try a manly, five-tiered handshake to fist-bump-explosion combo, found in aisle five under “bromance.” Looking for a loving way to say goodnight to your daughter? You’ll find just what you need with a kiss-on-the-forehead located in aisle two – “parent-child relationship.”

As a society we’ve bought into this merciless dissection of love despite the fact that it contradicts everything we truly know about it.

Love is a powerful universal force. By its very nature it is raw, wild, and free. It is not something that is tamed, controlled or bottled but something that is channelled, nurtured, and unleashed. It is not restricted by earthly words and its language is spoken from within.

Yet we rush to bury the budding bulbs of love into the labelled drawers society has marked for us. We throw today’s bulb into a drawer labelled “friend-zone” and tomorrow’s into “too old for me.” In these darkened drawers we keep these bulbs and then actually wonder why the love that blooms is as black as Cornelius van Baerle’s tulip.

I think of all the amazing people in my life and I’ve realized it has been the light of a love that was never bottled that has attracted them into my life, and what has kept them here. It is a love which, admittedly, is a love that can be a little silly at times.

Bromance? Showmance? Or just a bit of silly and wild love?

I’ve given some of my closest male friends big wet kisses on the mouth when I felt the moment called for such a display of love. Despite the fact they are rugged, heterosexual men, they accept my random smooches on the beak because they know where it comes from. They know it comes from a love that is unfiltered and unrelenting. They know that I know their every fault and all of their vices and yet my love has blossomed infinitely regardless of this.

Love is an untamed force. When we try to control it, it destroys us. When we try to imprison it, it enslaves us. When we try to understand it, it leaves us feeling lost and confused.” – Paulo Coelho, The Zahir: A Novel of Obsession.

This is because wild and natural love grows alongside wild and natural acceptance. The people that remain in my life – near and far – are all people who I’ve loved and accepted in this way.

Whether its an unexpected Skype call or a postcard in the mail, I’m constantly reminded of how strong of a bond is created by just loving people with all of my sincerity.

I truly believe those who are in my circle of love – and those I’m grateful to say include me in theirs – are there through very little influence of my own and largely through the natural and powerful selection of love itself.

They have each accepted and embraced my untamed and crazy love – the love of a wild wolf. They have returned that love with as much or as little love as they possibly can. It doesn’t always add up, but love doesn’t keep score. The important thing is that they have accepted my silly love and, in exchange, I’ve accepted theirs. This is how I know all of the people in my life, all of those I hold dear, are supposed to be here with me.

To be honest, I can’t think of anything more pure, noble, and sincere than letting love continue to govern who is and isn’t in my life.

Love is love, and your love belongs to you alone. It isn’t defined by the norms of your culture or your society. It is defined by however you choose to allow that love to manifest itself.

So go out and unleash your love. Let it be silly. Kiss your bestie. Fist bump your mom or pops. Hug it out with that old lady next door.

Be the crazy love you want to see in the world.

Be the unconditional love and acceptance you want in your life. Don’t tame the love of that wild wolf under your skin.

Stop defining your love. Instead, let your love define you.

Be good to each other,

– MG.

Photos Courtesy of:

Cover ArtTwo Lovers In An Interior by a Yellow Blind by Suzuki Harunobu
Women on a Road Triphttp://www.theplaidzebra.com 

On Reliance:

Our minds are lined with shelves overflowing with advice that we’ve accumulated over the years. Mental libraries, divided by subjects such as love, life, and happiness. Many of the tomes covering these various subjects are made up of simple but memorable sayings to help us along our path. 

Though I believe these expressions are beneficial in keeping the bigger picture in our minds, I find they often lack depth and substance. One such expression I hear used often, and have been guilty of using myself, is:

if you love something, set it free; if it comes back to you, its yours.”

When I paint a picture in my head of what this expression means to me, I picture a person opening a birdcage and letting a yellow canary fly out of a narrow apartment window, or a little boy letting his excited terrier off of the leash in a park. Eventually, both owners have their pets return dutifully back to them. I think this expression serves as a powerful microcosm of the dependent relationship dynamics which characterize many modern romances.

The problem with this expression, and the picture it paints, is it associates the notion of love with both ownership and reliance. I think both the notions of ownership and reliance are contrary to that of love, yet they’ve found a place in many of our intimate relationships.

The one you love is not a car. You didn’t buy him from a salesman. She does not come with ownership papers. In order to set something free you must first be the owner of it (or at least have it in your possession). You had to of restricted his or her freedom in the first place. It seems tragically contradictory to fall in love with something when it is wild and free – whether its a bird soaring in the sky or the beautiful stranger you met on the train – only to try and capture and cage it. We have allowed the complex toxins of private ownership to leak into the simple, pure, and unrestricted stream of love. Loving someone isn’t releasing them. Loving someone is never wanting to cage them in the first place.

Reliance, in my opinion, is a much more subtle and dangerous form of ownership. The canary doesn’t return to its cage out of love, it returns because its the only source of nourishment and drink that it has ever known. The canary has grown to love its chains. It no longer believes in itself. The canary is in a state of dependency and has learned to fear a life without the cage. It fears being apart from the owner it depends on for safety, warmth, food, and water. The decision to return to the owner is both self serving, and convenient. The relationship has, from the outset, fostered a sense of real necessity.

The Bird Cage (1910) by Frederick Carl Frieseke
The Bird Cage (1910) by Frederick Carl Frieseke

I see so many words which emerge during conflict in today’s relationships that expose the same sense of necessity. We have to stay together. We need to work things out. We can’t just give up. These words are followed by the revealing of the foundations of reliance the relationship has been built upon. “She is the only one who understands me.” “No one else will accept me like he does.” “We’ve been through it all together” “I can’t be happy without her.” “I’ll be alone without him.”

We pile up these imagined conclusions as though our world didn’t exist before this person came into our lives. We begin to perceive life with this person as essential to maintaining the things we value in our world. These things range from the relatively narrow in scope, such as a specific circle of friends, a shared living arrangement, custody of the children, or the new puppy, to those broader in scope, such as our ability to be happy, accepted, appreciated, or loved. We become the canary. Our reliance becomes our cage.

I think it’s important to note that not all reliance is bad. Being committed doesn’t mean being caged. Too many people confuse commitment with a lack of freedom. Being in a relationship doesn’t mean being reliant on someone else. I really do hope the people in my life that I love the most know they can rely on me. I hope they know they can come to me for any type of help – for advice (although I can’t promise it will be very good advice), when they are feeling blue, need a shoulder to cry on, a wing man for the night, a hug, the shirt off of my back, or all of the above.

I want my significant other to rely on me. I want her to be certain she can rely on me for unconditional love, acceptance, and support for the rest of her days.

But there is a major difference between being in a relationship where you can rely on one another, and one where one (or both) of you feel like you must rely on your significant other. 

In the former situation, a couple is adding additional wind under each others’ wings. In the latter scenario, one or both partners are chained to the other by shackles cast in iron reliance.

The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.” – Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays.

We must be the canary without the cage. Be responsible for your own happiness, acceptance, self-belief, growth, success, and well-being, because no one else can ever give you those things. Don’t create your own prison by accepting the delusion that someone can.

And, as much as you may want to, you can’t provide any of those things for another person, either. So don’t be the one caging another canary with promises to provide them with those things. 

Instead, accept that you are responsible for your own life, and others have the same obligation to themselves as you do. The sooner you do that, the sooner you’ll find another canary just as wild, free, and as perfect as you are.

There is nothing more powerful than a love that is born out of love. I can’t think of anything more pure or beautiful than two souls soaring together for no reason other than the mutual respect and endless love they share for one another. That is a flight that will last an eternity.

Be good to each other,

– MG.

On Love:

Love will be twelve rounds of the most gruelling fight of your life. It must be constantly struggled for; it is an endless and beautiful war.

I don’t know exactly what love is, but I know a few things it isn’t. Love is not elusive. It is not an exotic animal endangered by the rampant poaching of unrealistic romantic comedies. It is not a crop that is at a risk of complete exhaustion due to the swelling number of beating hearts starving for it.

Love is as abundant as it was when white knights draped in their chivalry were in the height of fashion. It is as ever-present in us as it was in the immortalized lovers Romeo and Casanova. That universal force we call love has never changed, but our romanticism of it has.

We’ve somehow turned love into a treasure of lore that can only be obtained through toil and trouble. It has become a sort of Holy Grail, only reachable by the brave crusaders of cupid. An alchemist of love requires the perfect concoction of timing, skill, and luck to brew the elusive and everlasting elixir of Eros.

In between stone masonry and tax evasion, we’ve left love to collect dust on the shelf of dying arts. Why have we done this? Because it was easy to.

It’s easy to want to fall in love. It’s easy to be in love with the idea of love. It’s easy to imagine laying on a bed of roses and feeling completely vulnerable in the safety of that special someone’s arms wrapped tightly around you.

It’s easy to hope for your own Ryan Gosling or Rachel McAdams as you watch the Notebook with a tub of Ben and Jerry’s. It’s easy to paint, with the most passionate of oils, that perfect portrait of the young unrelenting love that we want to find.

I mean, who DOESN’T like the idea of a rain-soaked kiss? [Source: The Notebook]

It’s also easy to make excuses. It’s easy to build makeshift walls. They are quickly and easily erected.

Timing, distance, near or remote plans for the future, work, school, gym, yoga, grocery shopping, career progression, meal preps, pets, television series box sets, weekly (or daily) fro-yo, the past, the weather, the opinions of friends and family, or that new book that Oprah recommended, are some of the many excuses – big and small – that we use to protect us from opening ourselves up to the love that constantly surrounds both you and I.

I know very little about this crazy world we’re caught spinning in. When it comes to love I know even less, but I do know three things for certain.

The first is that there is no such thing as a perfect human being. You’re not perfect, God knows I’m not perfect, and that sweet boy or cute girl you’ve had your eye on at work certainly isn’t perfect either. Taylor Kitsch is probably the closest I’ve seen to perfection and I’m sure even he has a single flaw, somewhere.

I won’t be as cliché as to suggest that love is instead when two imperfect people are perfect for each other, because I don’t believe that either.

What I do believe is that love  will be twelve rounds of the most grueling fight of your life. 

It must be constantly struggled for; it is an endless and beautiful war. The very idea of perfection should be erased completely from our conception of love.

Love exists not between two imperfect people perfect for each other, but two lovers perfectly and sincerely at peace with one another’s imperfections, so much so that they’ve even come to regard those flaws with admiration.

Taylor Kitsch as Tim Riggins in the television show Friday Night Lights.
Taylor Kitsch as Tim Riggins in the television show Friday Night Lights. [Source: Friday Night Lights]

The second thing I know is that none of us have been without pain in our lives. Whether it was a family member, close friend, significant other, or that dickhead on your school bus, we have all been hurt by someone we have let into our lives.

That isn’t to say our hands are not bloodless, either. Conscious of it or not, we’ve done our share of the hurting as well. Every single cut we’ve suffered has left a scar and, no matter how small or insignificant it may appear on the surface, every one of them causes us to flinch a little more at the prospect of love’s left hook.

We put our gloves up and we duck for cover. We step out of the ring because we remember the pain of those scars from our first few rounds. Scars that still feel fresh in our minds. Scars we’re afraid to look at.

We should, like the prized pugilists that we are, wear those scars as the badges of honour they
are. We should be proud of every moment we’ve spent in the ring – regardless if it was a win or a loss.

Whether it was a grade three knock-out from a fling that only lasted for first recess or a unanimous decision that ended a five year romance, we need to keep our chin up. We’ve loved and lost, and that’s something we need to take pride in. It’s better than never have taken a swing.

So we can all keep comparing our scars, or we can actively work on de-constructing that flawed personal belief that we’ve somehow suffered more acutely than the person who’s chasing us. Either way, let’s get back into the ring.

The course of true love never did run smooth.” William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The third and final certainty I possess is that love will not come to you. It will not jump your fortified walls or smash through the obstacles you’ve put in front of it. Sure, there’s always the chance that you’ll be caught out in a vulnerable moment outside of those walls, and fall deeply in love with someone.

There’s a far greater chance, however, that your many years of perfecting your defences will produce barriers too well constructed to be breached. Eventually, you’ll have effectively exhausted all of your excuses, and wake up at fifty years old as a successful, strong, and incredibly lonely person.

It’s extremely hypocritical to expect people to open themselves up to our love when we’re not willing to do the same.

I’m not saying to settle. I’m not saying to look for love just for the sake of loving. I’m just saying we should try to open ourselves up to love. Chase that butterfly feeling when you get it rather than trying to snuff it out.

I think we’d all be surprised with the results if we, for once, stopped being our own largest hindrance of real love in our lives. There will be no perfect time, and you will never truly be ready. You and I were born to love. You just need to let love in.

Be good to each other,

– MG.