Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2016-02-29

5 Strategies We Used To Fight Less (and Cuddle More) During Our Cross Country Move

Moving is hands-down one of the most stressful things you can do. It’s right up there on the list of life stressors with losing a job, divorce and death. Disrupting routine is really draining, so is the discomfort of living amidst boxes on an air mattress.

There’s a lot I did to mitigate the stress of moving before we left Brooklyn for LA that did not work. For example, only moving things that spark joy was a great idea, but I ended up having to replace things I got rid of with stuff from the dollar store that would not have made a dent in our moving inventory.

I am really happy to report that the work that Dara and I employed to mitigate the stress on our relationship has been wildly successful. Every step of the way we have been having fun together and able to feel completely supported. Even when we both have mini-breakdowns under the stress of the transition. Even when we sometimes get snippy with each other.

Dara and I have a history of hard communication and fights. We have gone to couple’s therapy and read relationship books to work on our communication and managing conflict.

virginiabevindaraOn our road trip at the Welcome Center in Virginia.

These strategies help us recenter and refocus on what is important (our relationship, supporting our love) and what we can let go of (pretty much everything else). I also think these strategies are totally relevant for relationships regardless of whether or not you have an impending move!

Here are the five best strategies we used:

1. Generosity of Spirit

This is something that is a choice to make that influences everything in your relationship. In fact, I think it is the best tool for relationship success period. Having a generosity of spirit means being open to doing things to make your partner feel good, even when they’re a hassle or they are grumpy. It’s giving more than is expected and being compassionate and kind as a resting state.

It’s like applying mindfulness to a new level, how can I be generous in this moment to my partner?

Ways in which we are generous in spirit: Making tea for one another (Dara and I do this all day long, since we both work from home). When someone is crying from being so tired, helping them get what they need to get into bed as fast as possible is really nice. Thinking of them and doing nice things, and letting annoyances and frustrations go really quickly.

It also means assuming best intentions and working hard not to hold grudges. (I know Dara did not mean to interrupt my meditation by playing basketball just outside the meditation room today.)


2. Three Step Daily Relationship Makeover Tool

This tool I got from my friend Christine, the Lesbian Love Guru and fabulous relationship coach for folks of all genders, sexualities in couples, singles, triads+. It’s SO SIMPLE. It is a daily check-in that takes less than a minute and allows you to recenter and cleanse from the day, week or month prior. Here’s Christine sharing the tool on a video:

If you can’t watch a video, here’s the idea: Look each other in the eye. Each take turns saying the following: 1. I’m sorry for anything I did that hurt you or made you feel less than awesome. 2. I forgive you for anything you did that hurt me or made me feel less than awesome. 3. I am so grateful for you for [insert reason] or just I’m so grateful for our relationship.

Dara and I sometimes do it as Christine suggests, when going to bed, but sometimes we just do it as it occurs to us. It really does make things feel better and helps us remember our generosity of spirit and our priority–a happy, healthy and fun relationship!

It felt really cheesy the first couple of times we did it, but now as we continue to do it I think the shorthand meaning for us is that we value one another and our relationship.

tusconbevindaraIn Tuscon, outside of our friend Cris’ house.

3. Strengths-Based Check-Ins

We started this ramping up to our move in order to focus on the good things in our relationship and not highlight things that don’t work. The idea is rather than having check-ins that focus on areas for growth, we instead simply focus on what is working for us.

For example, our check-in this week I am going to thank Dara for being so careful with her language around our budget when she emails me. I can tell she puts a lot of thought into being as gentle as possible with a topic (money) she knows is scary and triggering for me. Acknowledging the things that we do that work helps us continue to do them.

The check-ins feel really good and help us stay in a positive mind-set, with team spirit and resilience.

bevindarapasaden

4. Written Agreement

The whole reason I was able to move to California was because Dara had enough savings to finance the physical move and pay for much of our living expenses for the first few months in LA. I had worked for years to build a law practice and was going to have to leave it in order to move.

I realized about three months prior to the move we weren’t clear on which living expenses were going to be covered and what the expectations were around that. I was scared shitless of being moved out West and abandoned. I’m living off some savings, but not enough to secure me if I have to suddenly find a new home.

We decided to create a written agreement detailing what our projected budget was, what Dara was paying for, what her expectations were for me during the transition.

The process of writing it all out wasn’t smooth but it was important. It helped me feel secure knowing I wasn’t going to be abandoned, and having written agreements forces you to have tough conversations! (This is also why I HIGHLY suggest pre-nups because I think they strengthen impending marriages.)

Did I trust Dara? Absolutely. Do I trust her more now for being willing to put things in writing? Yes. We’ve decided together what happens if either of us doesn’t meet our obligations and that helps us feel more secure and happy going into a super unknown situation.

5. Safe Word Out of Arguments

Dara and I are very different people who have had to work hard to live in harmony with one another. We communicate differently and often get very frustrated with one another because we don’t feel understood. We are constantly working to improve our communication.

Sometimes we do get into fights, but when we do we have a safe word. (Waffle.) We can waffle out of an argument simply by saying it. Neither of us likes to fight, it’s often a relief to have someone else Waffle. Fighting energy is draining and hard and I don’t want to have relationship conflict on top of all the other stuff I’m dealing with.

Anytime we’ve ever waffled out of a fight, it eventually gets resolved. We are so much more productive at creating solutions when we are in a positive space and fighting doesn’t solve things for us.

Do you have a creative tool you’ve used to mitigate relationship stress? I would love to hear it, please leave it in the comments!

neworleansnyebevindaraIn New Orleans on New Year’s Eve!

2015-10-08

Saying Goodbye to NYC: On Leaving, Change, Grief and Anxiety

I have this grief about leaving Brooklyn that hits me in waves. I am profoundly curious and excited about this new chapter in my life. I haven’t experienced a drastic geographic change in 15 years. I’m a totally different person than I was when I left CA. I’m so curious what it is going to be like. But also, I’m bummed about leaving a lot of the things I love about NYC behind. I’m working really hard not to let my grief and anxiety interfere with my ability to love the process and let go of NYC in a mindful way.

bevinatnybgOn my NYC Bucket List was going to the New York Botanical Gardens, which currently features an amazing Frida Kahlo exhibit. It includes fourteen pieces of her artwork and a whole recreation of the gardens of her famed home, Casa Azul.

When I was 29 and my fiance had just broken up with me and I was kind of a disaster, my friend Kelli Dunham gave me a cd about the grief process. I didn’t realize at the time that you could have grief about things that weren’t death. I just thought you powered through yucky feelings by ignoring them. Learning how to deal with grief and anxiety has been a long road and I’m still working through it.

I am going to miss my friends. I’m going to miss all of the tremendous cultural opportunities living in NYC–mostly all of my weirdo Downtown artist friends’ shows. I am going to miss Fall foliage (strategically moving just after foliage, when the gorgeous Gaywitchmas decor lines the streets and just before deep snow times). I’m going to miss the ability to skip car traffic and hop in a subway car to get places. There is grief about leaving that behind.

FridapyramidSince I’m moving someplace in a warm climate I got a lot of great ideas for my future gardens in LA. I love the way the colors of the plants popped against the bright colors of the buildings and pyramid at Casa Azul.

I want to approach this move in a mindful way that is as low stress as it can be. Last night I mentioned to Dara my anxiety level and she’s like “What are you anxious about?” I said, “Um, how about my impending move across the country?” Even the best laid plans and the most time you have to execute them still come with lots of unknown anxieties and that’s kind of buzzing along in the back of my head. I do all the things I know to do to handle my anxiety, including buckets of self care, meditation, faith that the Goddess has a plan for me and is taking care of everything behind the scenes on my behalf and still more self care. Yet still, part of having feelings that are difficult to experience is just acknowledging them. Hi anxiety. You are there still.

So my anxiety is telling me “Do ALL the NYC things you might possibly miss! Schedule ALL the hangouts with your friends! Fill up ALL of your time with moving prep!” But my self care mind is telling me, actually, slow the fuck down you started getting sick this week. Do what you can. It will all be okay. It will all be okay. It will all be okay.

casaazul

Ever since I stopped doing monthly queer parties, I definitely changed how I interact socially. Going through chemo as Dara’s support was a big part of recentering myself towards hanging out at home. At first it was out of necessity and then it became part of how I interacted with the world. I think this is also a product of getting older, and have heard queer friends in their thirties, forties and fifties talk about shifting priorities and not focusing on nightlife for socializing any longer.

There’s also this thing where everyone in NYC is really busy. There’s a necessary hustle to living here because it’s not cheap and my friends tend to be working artists. So they hold down day jobs/day hustles, side hustles, artwork, gigs, rehearsals, etc…

Remember that line in Clueless where Cher’s dad says “Everywhere in LA takes 20 minutes!!” In NYC I think that’s more like 45 minutes. The subway is convenient but it takes awhile, and busses take forever–often they just don’t show up. So if you factor in 45 minutes to get to Crown Heights from South Brooklyn neighborhoods it is hard to squeeze that into an evening. Am I naive to hope that things are a little bit different in a town where most folks drive?

bevinmacvictoriaThe other day I got to do one of my favorite things which was a spontaneous dinner hang with two of my favorite people at once! Mackenzi and Victoria!

I also just got kind of fatigued with how much work it takes to schedule a hang out in NYC sometimes. When people are busy and you get to the third round of times that don’t sync up… This summer I made plans with a couple of friends of mine 2 months out to go to Spa Castle. I totally guarded that time like a precious jewel because it was so hard to get it on the calendar and I wanted to see my friends.

I have also been on a journey to move towards centering self-care into my life–making taking care of myself a priority. Having blank space on my calendar to work on my day job work or my art work is important, it’s also important that I get to the gym, and not to burn myself out running around. Where I used to say yes to everything and fill up my calendar with back to back plans, now I’m more hesitant because I want to conserve my energy for the work I want to be doing in the world. I changed the way I eat, which means I cook for us a lot. It’s much easier and cheaper to eat a whole foods diet* if you cook at home, but that also means I spend a lot of time cooking and cleaning.

nybglilypond

So I had all of these shifts in my life, many of which contributed to my decision to move in the first place, but it also means so many of my precious NYC friends became people I see only every 4 to 6 months.

When I was doing my “should I or shouldn’t I” thinking about moving I realized that if I move away and am still working somewhat bicoastally, I’ll still see my NYC friends about every 4 to 6 months, just in more concentrated doses during visits rather than sporadically during our busy New Yorker lives. I’m hopeful that will work out.

Each time I catch-up with a friend I haven’t seen in 4 to 6 months (or sometimes longer) I am struck at how connections don’t necessarily have to have time limits. I love the experience of having so many friends with whom I have connections that time does not expire. That’s radical, beautiful abundance. It’s kind of weird to be like “Okay, so in the past 6 months all this has happened” with someone who is not a friend from out of town, but that’s a totally legitimate way to sustain connections with people we don’t get to see day to day. And in NYC there are few folks we get to see day to day unless we work or live with them, roll in a crew that prioritizes group hangs, or you see your neighbors often. (I have some neighbors I really love who I rarely see because our schedules don’t overlap.)

meandamandaAmanda moved away from NYC years ago and it is always a joy to get to see her again! Photo by Sarah Jenny.

So in part, my handling of moving anxiety and grief is going with the flow when it comes to getting my last minute NYC enjoyment in. I can’t possibly go to all the museums I’d like to see before I go, I probably won’t get to squeeze everyone before I go. Having an abundance mentality, where I know I can try to see folks as much as possible, putting it out there that I want to have hang outs while I’m decluttering and packing, sending around potluck invites, prioritizing quality time AND self care… Even looking at my life and being able to acknowledge that I’m having grief and anxiety is huge progress compared to who I was just 8 years ago. That’s what I’m experimenting with to handle my grief and anxiety.

That and remembering that I get to see lots of people I love once we are headed to LA. Both on the trip out through the South and once we get there. Life is change, the Goddess is change, and with change comes grief and anxiety.

bevinpyramid

*It is also not cheap to eat a whole foods diet and food justice programs that work towards making whole foods more accessible to low income folks is work I really admire and want to amplify. Do you do food justice work and want my help amplifying? Please get in touch!

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