At 12, I discovered my love for dance. I will dance till my feet hurt on slow and fast songs alike. As I grew older, I found art and I felt like it found me too. I started to see people and places through the eyes of art.
Now much older and able to travel on my own, I realise how tiring road trips could be, yet I love them so! I made a decision to tour many countries in the world someday and I was determined to work hard to afford this.
At 21, I met the love of who completed me, understood me, shared my passion for life and by the next year we said I do before loved ones. It was the best day of my life.
At 23, I had my own baby, a girl, she is everything and more. Like every child, she was demanding of my time, attention and love. I struggled with the balance, my work, marriage, parenting and living. Between all of this, I lost myself, my dreams, passion and I feel entrapped as much as I try to ignore it. I need help!
This fictional story is the reality of many men and women today. Age isn’t exactly the issue here as we grow up differently based on what we are exposed to, or the knowledge we seek. I do not claim to have all the answers, but I will love to share the things I have learned that could help before or after you get to this point.
Self-discovery – Know yourself.
This means you need to find your purpose in life, it means digging deep into your childhood and revealing the experiences that shaped you (good and bad). It means realizing what your beliefs are and living by them. The effects of self-discovery include happiness, fulfilment, clarity and maybe even enlightenment!
To know yourself is one thing, to love yourself is another. Forgive yourself! Yes, you messed up and it’s done, forgive and learn from it. Be able to feel whole and completely happy all by yourself without the need for another person to validate your decisions, actions and reactions. Guard your heart, take responsibility for your actions and don’t compare your development to others. Accept yourself as handsome and beautiful without being told. Own your weaknesses and flaws, correct what you can in character, comportment, lifestyle etc. Accept what you cannot fix like a scar on the face, a crossed eye, disability in the body or a freckled face and love you just the way you are.
Having a good understanding of things before getting into it is expedient. Do not enter marriage unaware of what it takes. Ask questions, get mentors, seek counsel, read and hear talks on it. Each marriage is a unique story, however, some basics are common to all. Understand what it takes to be a committed husband/wife, have sexual intimacy, what could cause delay in pregnancy, birth control, money, communication, managing in-laws, balancing work and domestic issues etc.
Expectations are also problematic when we use them as a measuring rod that guides our emotions. We all have the right as humans to demand and expect things and it’s quite human to do so. I understand that we all have preferences and values that we live our lives by and that we hope our partners are on the same page, but that’s much different from those things being absolute. The truth is marriage is tough. It’s a hard path to merge your life with someone else and face life together no matter what it brings your way.
Healthy marriages tend to have several things in common; they tend to have realistic preferences for the way that the marriage runs (e.g. my partner is only human and can make mistakes). They tend to be resilient because they can avoid getting stuck on unmet expectations. They usually roll with the punches and see difficulty in the marriage as a challenge to overcome rather than a sign of failure. Healthy marriages tend to manage their expectations.
Marriage can be challenging and can be even more so when you throw unrealistic expectations/demands into the mix. Give yourself and your partner a break and allow each other to be human. Don’t be afraid to express what you want and what you hope to get from the relationship.
Know Your Spouse
I often say that if you truly love your spouse you need to have an idea of the child he/she was. Understand their strengths, dreams and goals. Seek to enhance, support, and cheer them to fulfilling purpose. To fully enjoy your spouse, you need to allow them exhale (time to connect and play with friends and family), support their dreams (pay for that exam, support by watching the kids when they need to read), find ways to lessen the burden on one party by sharing it, realise when you need to seek help for your partner to feel better etc.
Denial is one of the most common defense mechanisms that we all use, pretending that an uncomfortable thing did not happen. Overcoming this self-deception and consciously accepting there is a problem is the beginning of finding a solution.
Locate your old friends who knew who you used to be. They remind you of the person you once were and allow you better judge the person you have become. It is said that talking to an old friend makes you realise how much your life has changed. Healthy friendships help you awaken the child in you.
When you find that you cannot break out of the denial, or even begin to reach out to old friends as bridges have been burnt or there are actually no friends to call out to. Find someone to talk to, howbeit a stranger who is experienced in counselling and is better equipped to guide you on the journey of self-recovery. There is therapy is talking about things that weigh you down.
Martin Luther King said ‘The less I pray, the harder it gets; the more I pray, the better it goes’. There is a great measure of calm and clarity that comes from the place of prayer. It cannot be overemphasised as the quickest way to get back on ones feet is to get down on our knees in prayer.
Just as in children, play helps us develop new and creative solutions to problems. It can be an important source of relaxation and stimulation for adults as well. While you let loose and laugh at yourself, you better experience and express emotions.