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April 2016

To love a person more than a story

To truly love a person and to be loved in return. This is the highest form of happiness that I have known in this life. Sometimes I wonder, if we all agree that love is the most wonderful thing and most of us crave true love more than anything else, then what holds us back from finding it? Even when we do stumble upon perfect love in these imperfect lives, then what prevents us from sustaining it over the long-term?

I think that true love is something that happens when two people love each other more than they love the story. Most of us have it the other way around. Even before we meet our true love, we are in love with the fairy-tale of our perfect love story. We might imagine a perfect wedding or we may plan to have two children. We might imagine the right life partner as someone who falls within a certain age range, someone who looks a certain way, is from the same part of the world, or someone who shares the same interests. In this way, we might fall in love with a love story even before we meet. Then, when we meet a real person, we tend to qualify or disqualify them based on whether they can take us down the path of our perfect story. In doing so, we often disqualify people who we might otherwise have fallen madly in love with. Worse yet, we undermine the potential of our relationships because we overlook the infinite possibilities available to us that we haven't previously imagined.

Even if we are lucky enough to find Mr. or Ms. right, even after we have had the perfect wedding and have been fortunate enough to setting into the perfect house, this is when we fall even more madly in love with the story. Now we are collecting pictures and shared memories of perfect vacations and life milestones. Now we have established rituals and routines that slowly become as familiar as the back of our hands. We have rules and expectations of each other, shared friends, and the expectations of our extended families. We have the house, the car, and the image of the happy, photogenic family to uphold. Indeed, we might fall so deeply in love with all of this that we tend to overlook the real person laying next to us in bed every night.

Love Story

But what happens when the person in bed next to you has thoughts and feelings that do not fit with the story you love? What if you have fallen so deeply in love with your story that you have forgottent to love the real person, with real feelings, messy thoughts, unreasonable dreams, and even crazy impulses that you fear might threaten everything? What if you find yourself growing apart in some ways? What if you discover that you are fundamentally different in important ways? Do you love each other more than the story, or do you block each other out to maintain the story? What if your partner doesn't behave in the way that your friends understand and approve of? What if he or she lies to your or cheats? Do you truly try to understand each other, accept the truth of what is, or do you force each other to get back in line so that you might desperately maintain the story you both love? If you love the person, why can't you just accept anything and everything about the person? This doesn't mean that you aren't allowed to feel how you do when your partner does something that hurts you, just that there are ways to express those feelings without hurting each other.

To be in love with a person is to achieve the highest form of happiness that can be found in this world. It is to know and accept someone completely, to share everything openly, to explore and grow together in complete openness and honesty. It is to be in a space where there is no friction, no power struggles, no agendas, no lies, no arguments, and no manipulation. And why do these terrible things happen in a relationship? They happen only because we love a story more than we love a person.

When a couple loves their story more than they love each other, they are willing to sacrifice each other's feelings for the purpose of the story. They don't want to hear about anything that falls outside of the boundaries of the story. They don't want to allow anything that is perceived to threaten the story. They control each other for the purpose of maintaining the story. They fight each other to coerce behaviors that support the story. They argue and debate so that they may convince each other to love the same version of the same story. They leave each other lonely, alienated, and choking in a life that leaves no room to grow, to evolve, and to experience anything that excites them. We tell each other that there are parts of us that are not acceptable. We forbid each other from exploring those parts. We take away each other's freedom to exist in this life for the simple reason that it may threaten a fucking story. So naturally, we begin to resent each other. We keep things from each other. We lie, we deceive. We cheat. Or maybe we just eat or drink ourselves to a slow death.

This is what will happen to you if you are with a person who loves your story more than he or she loves you.

To love a person is bliss. To love a story leaves us lonely and cold. To love a person is to accept and embrace every single thing about that person, unconditionally. It is to give each other so much understanding and acceptance as to feel more free, more yourself together than apart. Nothing is more wonderful in this world than for two people who find a way to give each other the freedom to be who they truly are. Remarkably, when two people love in this way, then the most perfect love story will inevitably flow from that love. It is possible to have your perfect love story, but you have to stop trying to control what that story is going to be. Just let go and try to love a person first. The story will follow and it may be even better than you imagined.  Most of us have this backwards and this is why we are miserable in our relationships. 

Posted by Mark Manney.

False certainty

I have found that most people would rather live in a state of false certainty than accepted reality. The problem with false certainty is that, well, it is false. Your life is an illusion. If you cling to what you want to believe, see only what you want to see, and tell yourself only the stories that you want to hear, then you are cruising through life blindly and certain to fall. Your perceived reality has little in common with actual reality. False certainty may sustain the status quo for a while and may help you cope in the moment, but as a result you make bad decisions, miss opportunities, fail to grow and inevitably experience painful shock and surprise at every turn.

Reality can suck, but the only way you are going to make it suck any less is to embrace it, know it, and change it. If you want any real improvement, truth must be your starting point. Only when you understand your truth can you begin to respond in the ways that you care capable of responding. Here are some strategies to help you start moving in the right direction:

1) Let's start with your relationship realities. Do you embrace honesty and openness in your relationships or do you expect the people in your life to follow your rules and tell you what you want to hear? Encourage the people closest to you to tell you how they really feel about anything and everything. Ask them to be sensitive in their truths, but try to stay strong. Embrace and accept what they are telling you.

Do you really know what your kids are going through? If your normal reaction is outrage, disapproval ,or punishment, then you can be pretty sure that they aren't telling you. Do you know if your spouse is honest and faithful? If you have threatened divorce over non-monogamy and get angry when she expresses her truest, darkest feelings, then your spouse isn't going to tell you what's going on. 

Better to base your relationships on unconditional truth and acceptance and then do your absolute best not to freak out when the truth comes your way. The payoff is the bliss that comes from true closeness and the deeper sense of security that comes from knowing the truth about your relationships. It isn't easy to offer acceptance and unconditional love to the people we love most because sometimes the truth feels threatening. But the truth is the truth and it is better to know it. Besides, anything less than unconditional acceptance is something less than love.

2) Look at your financial realities. How much money do you have? Is your business really profitable? Does your job pay enough to support your lifestyle? How much debt do you actually have? Is it growing or shrinking? 

What are your goals? If you stay on the current path, are you going to do the things that you want to with your life? If not then what, specifically, are you going to do each month to make some progress?

If you are employed, then is your job really as stable and permanent as you like to believe it is? Is it not possible that your CEO is in acquisition negotiations right now and a layoff is coming next month? A job offers false certainty whereas a move to self employment may be scary at first, but ultimately offers a more certain reality that you have some control over.

3) If you are a student, do you know what to expect from your chosen field after graduation? Are you sure that you really want to continue down the current path? If not, make changes. If you are an artist or in any way creative, get honest reactions about your work. Are people loving it? If not, then knowing this is the starting point to getting better.

4) Be honest with yourself. Don't tell yourself that you are any greater or more special than you are. Also, don't believe that you are any less great or special than you are. Accept that which you actually are and start living your truth. Others will adjust.

5) What actually makes you excited? What makes you feel good to be alive and looking forward to a new day? Be honest with yourself and then do that thing. This is what nature wants you to do and there is no guilt or shame in following nature's call. This is your intuition, your calling, your destiny. Stop lying to yourself and accept the truth about what excites you.

Delusion

I hope that this post, in some small way, encourages you to become brave enough to step out of any false certainty in your life so that you may embrace what is, change what you don't like, and become what you are.

Posted by Mark Manney.

Last June, at around the same time as my band Abscondo finally released our album (which all of us in the band absolutely love and I would recommend that anybody listen to), I quietly made the decision to put the band on hold. It is difficult to explain why I came to that decision because I absolutely loved what Filip, Martin, Tibor and I created.

If I were to try to explain why I made the decision to put the band on hold, it really came down to a couple of things: 1) We were playing English-language, alternative music in a small country where you really have to be a lot more commercial and mainstream to find an audience, 2) the financial burden of touring, recording, and keeping the whole thing running started to not make much sense to me, and 3) my creativity was suffering because I was spending most of my energy booking shows, dealing with logistics, and thinking about PR. Basically, it stopped being fun, it stopped being about art and music and more about image and ambition. I had a lot of fun with that band and we created something pretty great, but after 3 years it didn't feel good to me anymore and I had to follow my intuition.

In the months that followed, something beautiful happened. I started writing songs again. I started feeling that creative inspiration again. I re-discovered what it feels like to make music without ego, without ambition, without trying to be cool.

In December of last year, I put together whatever equipment I had and created a makeshift home studio in my flat. I wasn't confident that I had the skills to record, mix, and master an album entirely by myself...but I was having fun and wanted to try. Back when I was recording as band, I found the process too technical. It was all about perfection, editing everything until it was all in-time, tuning the vocals, making it sound radio-friendly...and my gut feeling is that this kind of process kills music. Most of the alternative and indie music these days is starting to sound the same as commercial music because everyone is striving to make something technically flawless. But I don't think music should be flawless. The music I love sort of just flows...it is natural...it captures the reality of a human being being human. So that's what I wanted to make -- something that sounds like how it really sounds when I play in a room by myself.

One of the things I did differently is that I recorded the vocal and acoustic guitar during the same take through two mics. Every day, as I would practice, I would record each song. I used a click-track for some songs, other songs are not even in perfect tempo. I did this for a month or two because I wanted to get really good at performing these songs. When I felt that I was playing these songs as well as I was ever going to play them, I then went back and selected the best take from all of the rehearsals. This live performance became the starting point for each song.

After that, I used a little midi keyboard and added some piano, some synth, and some string sounds. On two tracks, I used a professionally-recorded piano part that was done many years ago. For one song, I hired a drummer. Aside from this, you don't hear drums anywhere else in the album and you don't hear anybody playing anything except for me. The sounds you hear were created by me without any looping. All of the mixing, all of the effects, and even the mastering was done by me...so what you hear in the end is exactly what I, the songwriter, heard in my head when I first wrote the songs.

I love this album. It is finished and will be released very soon (as soon as I figure out the cover art). I will probably release it via Creative Commons because it didn't really cost me anything to make it and I want to share it freely.

Posted by Mark Manney.