Finding Relationships in Minimalism

2017 Minimalism Relationships

Welcome to the fourth of a six part series on my personal aspirations for minimalism. In each piece I hope to examine some of the tenants as to what I am looking to increase in my life as a result of embracing minimalist philosophies. This evening I want to write about wonderful beautiful human relationships, incredibly difficult but overwhelmingly rewarding when we take the time to allow them to blossom.

I did an exercise recently where I talked about some of my favorite things in 2016 with Lindsey. Now these could be anything, from actual objects to trips and experiences, any “thing”. It is not surprising that my list was almost entirely experiences; the only “thing” on it was my Kindle which reignited my love for reading. One of the top things on my list was cooking: I loved learning new recipes and techniques, mastering culinary skills, and cracking open a wonderful bottle of wine while spending time with Lindsey in the kitchen. We’re basically Top Chefs now. Then we’d go out to the patio, a little buzzed by then, and enjoy the fruits of our labor, talking and laughing with big smiles. Both of us being foodies meant that food and beverages recalled some of the most vivid associations with positive memories. But would that experience have been remotely the same without someone to share it with?

I recently went to my sister’s graduation, and there I was able to see my Aunt who I hadn’t seen in almost ten years before that. It had been so long that she had become somewhat of a figment of my imagination. There were ideas and feelings and memories that stirred but weren’t quite tangible; not as if she didn’t exist, but rather, as if I couldn’t quite make her out. And there she was, real in front of me after all this time. Real and overflowing with positive energy, an infectious laugh and an attitude of overcoming her hardships that was awe-inspiring.

Not all relationships are easy. I have a friend who I have grown apart from. He is still a wonderful person, but I think our life paths have simply taken us in different directions. Couple that with the fact that we don’t get the opportunity to physically see each other anymore and it makes a personal relationship difficult. I had become sad, struggling with how that relationship fit into my life, when I was reading about the idea of “breathing” in people exactly as they are. The premise is that we are all an amalgamation of millions of different experiences and circumstances that make us unique. We have different thoughts and perspectives and ways of viewing the world and everything that we encounter in it. To try to change someone is a futile task: instead we can accept people exactly as they are and find the things we appreciate most, the cool little things that make each person amazing. We were recently able to reconnect over a love of public speaking and it has strengthened our bond immensely.

If someone asked me what I think would make a most fulfilling life, I might answer “many long meals full of smiles and laughter”. As I’m starting to step back and remove activities and things that were bogging me down and cluttering my life, I’m finding more time for those joyous meals. And when they do come, an ability to slow down, appreciate the moment, and find the love in the people I’m with has allowed me to experience those times more fully.

When I think about how we can appreciate our personal relationships better, I think about a significant other, friends and family, and most importantly, yourself. If you’re without a significant other, that’s totally fine. In that case, start with yourself. But if you do have someone you care about in your life, we can take the principles of minimalism to make that relationship even stronger and more beautiful.

I find that the idea of breathing in your significant other to be very rewarding. Remember, you’re with someone else because they’re not you, which is what makes a relationship stronger and more interesting. So appreciate that person exactly as they are, that day, that hour, that minute. Set aside dedicated time to explore what makes them compelling and engaging, time that is just for you two with a singular focus. Cutting out the rest of the noise, distractions, and obligations allows two people to really give their time and focus to each other, and there’s nothing more rewarding than that attention. I also try to focus on gratitude, being thankful for their presence and laughter, the things I couldn’t have done if they weren’t on this team we’re on together. I think about the deep bonds that get formed over travel, new experiences and places, and when we get out of our comfort zone together. When we fight, I remember that it is usually because we are hungry, but if a real issue remains after eating, our difference of opinion is what makes the world a neat place of ideas, and that is special. Consider taking the time to meditate together, stare into eachother’s eyes for long periods of silence, and see what a simple hand holding does to your love.

Friends and family can be easily as rewarding of relationships as well, but can take more work. I try to remember to put aside my pride, forget over analyzation, and instead reach out and be the one to make plans; if they break or change, I will be ok with how that river flows. I try to remember that life can get us caught up in our own little bubbles, so try as often as possible to stick my finger out and pop them. Friends are always people that you choose to have in your life, and should be people that support you, push you, and inspire you. Family is the same way, but remember that family can sometimes take even more clearing of time and space to develop and appreciate. I always remember that though I may be different from my family, there are always ties and similarities that can be found when we dig hard enough: or they could already be our best friends!

Our most important relationship that we can develop however, is the one with ourselves. We are constantly bombarded with images, messages, and ideas of what we should do, look like, feel, and think in almost every situation. It can be so easy to feel lost, without an identity, in a sea of choices. I can eventually seem natural to feel inadequate, second guess your path, and worry. Before I went on a personal journey to figure out the big mess that was myself, it was this weight on top of me that I couldn’t seem to shake, this feeling like gravity was almost constantly compressing me down. It was not the happiest place to be.

Before I really embraced the idea of self-love, I found self improvement. On the outside, this seemed to be a good place to be, but it wasn’t either. It was deceiving, almost mischievously so, because I felt like I was becoming a better as a person, growing and improving, but in reality it was coming from a place of self dissatisfaction. I might have been learning different skills, gaining financial independence, or reaching for larger goals, but it was coming from a place of lacking to fill a void in myself. It wasn’t working. I was still trying to be someone else (even if that ideal person was fantastic).

What I needed was to take time and develop a relationship with myself. A few things helped steer me into that direction. If I had to say what helped me the most, it is this idea of giving the world your best self. It is a bit tricky to describe, but it goes something like this: there is a version of you that is the most “you” you can be, and you owe it to the world to find that you and a be the hell out of it.

I guess what that really speaks to is something even bigger than ourselves. It’s this idea that there are core aspects of ourselves that we are the best at. It’s the things that make us most excited and energetic, and that we produce our best work from. When we take it from just ourselves to the population of humankind, it’s an inspiring push to be the most pure version of ourselves we can be because there is this burning need from the world for that person to do awesome, positive, noteworthy things. That is what really jumpstarted things for me.

I’m going to share a story that will feel a bit hippie for some people, but I hope the core of it comes across because I do believe it is the best example of the power of authenticity I’ve encountered. I attended Burning Man for the first time last year. Burning Man is many things to many people, but two major principles permeate through the whole experience. First, there is no money, only gift giving. This eliminates a whole mess of expectations and entanglements that we only realize are being caused when we are in a situation without money. Not that it is a better place, but only that it can be much more complicated. And second: radical self-reliance, where people are expected to participate in this crazy beautiful city, build shelter, procure food, and generally survive on their own capacity and competence. There are others, but I found that these two core principles, the focus on self and focus on others, created the thing they called “playa magic” or the idea that “the playa provides”. This is a situation where things sort of just happen that would be coincidence in daily life but feel natural there. Conversation seems to flow like dam that burst open. Things and experiences you’re in need of seem to present themselves as if they were there all along. It’s a weird phenomenon to experience, but I have defined what I believe to be the reason for this “magic”.

I think it is authenticity. At Burning Man, people are free to be the absolute most authentic versions of themselves. There is this creation of a world where you can be exactly who you want to be. Some people dress as a unicorn and shoot fire off of a three story tall metal dragon. Others make new friends over espresso at sunrise. But in the end, it is clear to me that when people are their most authentic version of themselves, when they can form that relationship with themselves that is so deep and accepting and loving of themselves, magic truly does happen.

There are definitely some ways of finding the self love and amazing relationship with yourself that we can shoot for, and I’ll go into those ideas in subsequent articles. I do think the principles of minimalism have helped immensely though. With this lifestyle I’ve cleared my life of clutter, mess and jumble that was bogging down my ability to see my true self. It has allowed me to take personal time for myself and appreciate the strides I’m making. It has massively jumpstarted my creativity, getting me writing constantly and working on a business that I’m truly passionate about. When I think of authentic, and I can’t think of anything more exciting than sharing what minimalism has done for our lives through writing and design at Calila. It’s incredible how easy it seems to come when I’m proud of myself and what I’m doing.

Adding to my personal relationships, bit by bit, has been abundantly rewarding. I’m finding that I’m able to connect better, clear time and focus with friends and family, and delve into the ever-developing curious relationship we have with ourselves. It’s a learning process, one that continues to advance each day, and I’m incredibly glad to have opened my eyes to the experience.



When I write I want it to be an open invitation to engage in dialogue and discussion.

Please feel free to write me at cstephens.calila@gmail.com

 

Part One on Finding Freedom in Minimalism

Part Two on Finding Learning in Minimalism

Part Three on Finding Health in Minimalism

 


I can’t say I love social media, but because I realize it can be a powerful force for change, I’m trying to help put a little positivity out into it.

Since I do love beautiful minimalism in our world, I try to spread that message as much as I can on Instagram at @caliladesigns


Thank you for spending time with me over the medium of language.

- Cameron







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