Say Hello to My New Book!

What is it about? Love!

Love gives our life a higher purpose. It carries us forward, gives us hope, inspires us to do better, and is a gift each one can give and receive freely.

As humans, we’re often unprepared for love, especially when it arrives unannounced. It is why many of us end up wandering around, searching for love, not equipped to receive or give it. Sometimes love arrives in disguise, sometimes it arrives like a lightening bolt, in some cases it arrives very very slowly, or super fast, and often it sneaks in quietly before one can realize what happened. And just like it arrives, if the environment is not right, it can vanish and leave us changed forever.

Why love, and why so many questions?

Each love is different because it’s shared between unique individuals, with unique experiences and motives. With each new relationship, we learn about love and love teaches us about ourselves. To learn is to ask questions. This is why my book doesn’t provide answers, it offers an opportunity to ask questions, and take time to reflect upon those questions.

As you go through the book and discover more and more complex questions, I hope that it will offer you an opportunity for self-discovery and also a chance to feel.

To watch the video of the book, click on the button below. You can also purchase your own copy of the book.


Coming Soon: ‘Why Love?’

Love is born in our mind and our mind is built on a ‘Why’.

I’m excited to share with you that I created my first book called ‘Why Love?‘ This is the first book of a series of books that I plan on creating about the different forms of relationships where love takes on a different form.

The brief story of ‘Why Love’ illustrates the winding journey of love. The ‘Why’ defines the purpose of our journey. Each journey is unique, because each relationship is anchored on motives and emotions of different individuals. With every relationship we enter, we move onto uncharted territory. By asking questions, gradually we feel our way through each twist, the peaks, and the valleys of the mysterious journey of love.

I hope this book inspires you to not give up on love and to discover your own journey of love as you ponder the questions that inspire you to dive deeper into your own feelings.

Soon you’ll be able to purchase, my book here.


Seven reasons to avoid serious relationship with someone who…


Navigating the Waves

Relationships are hard. I’ve had several of them fail to know that serious relationships require serious work and commitment. The relationships that haven’t worked out also taught me a few lessons. 

Each relationship is unique. There isn’t a single magic formula that applies. That being said, there are seven clues to watch out for before committing to someone. 

So, before you leap in, make sure that you avoid betting your life on someone who…

Does not have a clue where they’re going

Life is unpredictable. As such, things don’t always go according to the plan. However, just because things don’t always work out the way we want them to, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have plans or goals. And no, a goal of winning the lottery to become a millionaire overnight is not the type of goal I have in mind.

I am referring to the type of goal that requires effort and some perseverance. It can be the goal of running a marathon, read the Greek Anthology, open a bakery, get a masters degree, or become a master chess player.

Whatever the goal, even if it changes or evolves over time, someone who has a destination in mind, knows better who they are and where they’re going. They won’t be drifting aimlessly, and dragging you along anywhere the wind carries them.

The danger of anchoring yourself onto a drifter is that you’ll be drifting along with them into a territory that you might not enjoy. Potentially, missing out on achieving your own goals.

Trivializes or dismisses your dreams

When you share with them that you dream of being a songwriter or, to one day open your own law practice, do they laugh and maybe say something like, “you’re crazy, why waste your time”?

If the person you’re with minimizes your aspirations, they are attempting to diminish you. It can also be an indication of someone with a low self-esteem. The danger of being with someone with a low self-esteem is that they prefer to be around those who feel worthless too so they can feel less inferior.

They fear that if you succeed in accomplishing your dreams, you might not need them anymore or realize that they are not so special after all.

Confident individuals who know their worth, cheer their partners towards success. They understand the value of being with someone who wants to grow, because it means they will grow too.  Only those who doubt themselves of having what it takes to get to the finish line, fear competition the most.

Resembles a marble statue

On the surface these individuals appear perfect. Admired by many, like an exquisite marble Greek statue displayed in a royal palace. They come across as poised and unaffected by anything or anyone.  They are charming and engaging, using witty remarks to mask or dismiss their true sentiments.

Great as neighbors, diplomates, workmates, or distant family members, however, for those who are looking to emotionally bond with them, it can feel like climbing a very cold and lonely Mount Everest.

Whatever the reason for being emotionally numb, those who have trouble connecting with their feelings, will have trouble connecting emotionally with you.

To clarify, I’m not referring to people who are very private about their feelings. Just because someone is not demonstrative or doesn’t broadcast their feelings out in the open, it doesn’t mean that they don’t feel. I’m referring to those individuals who are tuned out emotionally.

For many of these folks, remaining emotionally numb feels safer. Rejection can’t hurt them and neither will a break up. They walk into a relationship wearing an armor of steel treating feelings as if they were trying to pierce them and shatter them to pieces.

Understandably, for some sensitive beings, emotions can be tough to face because they can wield incredible pain. Plus, it doesn’t help that from an early age many of us are taught that feelings reveal weakness, and to deal with them it is best to dismiss them altogether.

Still, relationships require connection on an emotional level and if someone is unwilling to open up emotionally and let you in, then maybe you are better off staying out.

Is only available when it’s convenient for them

When they want something from you, they are relentless. They shower you with messages,  show up unexpectedly wherever you go, and seem to always be around.

But the moment there are challenges or, you need their help, they are impossible to find.  They are your best buddy during the good times, but act flustered or disappear the moment an obstacle appears.

It’s easy to be with someone when things are going smoothly, but life is full of hills and valleys, and if they’re missing during the valleys, and are not part of the full journey, your journey with them might feel very lonely.

Doesn’t have a life of their own

At first it might feel wonderful to spend 24 hours together and have all of their undivided attention, but after a few months of being glued to one another, it might become overwhelming.

As with most things in life, balance in a relationship is very important. And when someone expects you to be their 24-hour entertainment, it might be a difficult expectation to sustain.

Spending time with only one person might eventually feel stifling. Especially if you start feeling cut-off from other people and interests in your life. Having a life outside of the relationship is healthy. It keeps things fresh. By being around other people, you learn new things that you can then share with your partner.

If the person you’re serious about demands your entire world to only be about them, then ask yourself whether you’ll be happy living in such a limited world.

Isn’t flexible and doesn’t understand how to compromise

Variety is the spice of life. Every living thing is unique in one way or another. Just like each leaf has a unique pattern, each individual is etched with a distinct character.

When two unique individuals with unique ways of looking at the world come together, being able to compromise is essential to keep the relationship balanced in the long run. If only one individual continually gets their way at the expense of their partner’s sacrifices, resentment will fester and can eventually create a wedge between the two.

If you’re entering into a relationship with someone who only accepts their way of doing things, or make you feel as if your way of doing things is wrong, then you might want to pause for a moment and reconsider taking on such a demanding task.

By not having the room to be an individual and to have an opinion, you’ll be living under an enormous pressure. The pressure to act and think based on someone else’s definition of what is right and wrong.

When you feel pressure to act according to someone else’s version of the ideal, it can feel very restrictive, especially when your ideal looks different from theirs.

The resentment caused by the pressure can eventually affect your relationship because when your freedom is limited, your freedom to be happy is limited too.

Who is unwilling to risk anything

There are no guarantees in life and there is no guarantee that your love will always burn with the same intensity as it did when you first met. Most relationships don’t work out, but it doesn’t mean it’s not worth building one.

One of my favorite quotes by Mother Teresa is, “What you spend years creating, others can destroy overnight. Create anyway” because it reminds me to not allow fear of tomorrow, destroy building something worthwhile today.

Same applies to relationships. Instead of blocking yourself by the fear that the relationship won’t last, focus on how much happiness the relationship is giving you today.

Falling in love is risky because it exposes each one of us to a potential heartbreak and pain, but it’s worth it because to give and receive love is the most profound human experience.

Love can seem illogical, inefficient, confusing, erratic, and unpredictable, but without it, life can feel cruel.

If someone is unwilling to take an emotional risk on you, then don’t risk losing the opportunity to find real love with someone who is willing to take that risk. 

About the Illustration: Navigating the Waves

Navigating the Waves

When I painted this picture, I was inspired by water and its qualities. On one hand, water can be peaceful and calming, but on the other hand, too much water and violent waves can flood towns, destroy crops, and cause havoc.

In this picture I wanted to show the boy in his little boat trying to stay afloat as the giant waves sway him from side to side in an attempt to topple his boat. The waves are like the powerful emotions rocking him from side to side. His dark side and his lighter side are two forces fighting within him. On the horizon, the sunrise and calmer waters represent his gentle and bright side, while the overwhelming waves trying to push him to lose his balance, represent his darker side.

He remains calm on the surface as he tries to keep his boat steady, but inside he feels overwhelmed. Often Relationships can feel overwhelming as we try to navigate the complex world of emotions that we are often not equipped, nor prepared to, deal with. When our little boat is all we have to navigate an enormous and powerful sea, the journey can be challenging. But, with each wave we conquer, we get closer to the calm shore ahead.

Why Backup Relationships are a Waste of Time and why you shouldn’t Settle for them

A friend of mine, let’s call her Katie, has been dating the same guy for about 5 years. They are both well educated, have good but demanding jobs, enjoy travel and spend weekends doing outdoor activities. For the last three years they have also been living together in a conveniently located apartment where they often host chic dinner parties. Recently they even started talking about getting a dog. Things couldn’t be better, but Katie is now having doubts about the future of their relationship.

A few months ago she brought up the idea of marriage and having kids. Katie is 34 years old and feels that her clock is ticking. The conversation apparently didn’t go so well, because her boyfriend, let’s call him Matt, revealed to her that he’s not interested in getting married, nor having kids.

He declared that he is happy with the way things are.

My friend, on the other hand is not happy with the status quo and desires something more than just sharing her bed and rent with Matt. She feels stuck. Should she leave him or, stay and accept this arrangement?

This is not the first time I came across a similar situation. In fact I’ve experienced in my own life, and I equate it to flying standby.

Why? Because that’s exactly what my friend is, a “standby”. Allow me to explain…

Don’t choose a standby option when you have a firm destination in mind  

Let’s say you’re planning your dream vacation. You probably have a place in mind. You look at best dates to travel, then book your flight and a hotel room. You make a plan because this vacation is a big deal. You want to ensure that when you arrive at the airport, you have a seat reserved on the plane that will take you to your destination, and that when you arrive, you will have a comfortable place to stay.

On the other hand, if you just need to get away and don’t really have a place in mind, your approach might be very different. You’re willing to take a chance because you’re not committed to where you’ll go or stay. Without a plan set in stone, you can show up at the airport, keep your fingers crossed, and hope that a seat to some tropical destination becomes available. Even better, you might save a bundle by taking a risk and flying standby.

If the stars align, you just might have an awesome vacation, at a bargain. However, if you’re not so lucky, you might end up back on your couch going nowhere.

The bottom line, if you consider something or someone very important, you’ll be more deliberate in your approach. Whether you do this by purchasing an actual airline ticket to ensure that you have a seat on the flight, or making a relationship official to ensure that the person you can’t imagine your life without, is with you as you grow old.

When someone holds little value, your approach towards them will probably be less deliberate, because the consequences of loosing them don’t seem so severe. Matt and Katie travel to exotic places, go hiking to beautiful places, share expenses, go to trendy restaurants for dinners, enjoy watching action and adventure movies and snuggling at night together. But, having a pal to spend time with is not enough for Matt to leap in and commit to Katie for the long-haul. Plus, why should he get married if he already has what he needs, with no strings attached?

Just because you’re a good company, it doesn’t mean you’re exceptional 

Katie might be fun to hang out with, but judging by his actions, Matt does’t think she’s exceptional because he’s not afraid of losing her. She is a good backup option if nothing better comes along. So, he keeps his options open. Just like flying standby, he doesn’t have to fly to Chicago, if he can fly to Paris for the same price when it’s convenient for him. However, if a seat to Paris doesn’t come along, then at least he’ll have Chicago to go to rather than stay home.

Time is precious, don’t waste it on someone who does’t consider you precious

After five years together, if Katie hasn’t gotten what she desires from her relationship with Matt, she probably never will. Because even if Matt conceded to Katie’s resolve to get married, and they ended up having kids, the fact that she wasn’t his ultimate choice to begin with, means that Matt settled.

Relationships are not easy because even when two people love each other, external forces create challenges that often require determination, mental strength, resources, and dedication. Regardless of how much you love the other person, to keep a relationship going, it takes work. If someone settles, it means that when the relationship starts sinking, they likely won’t fight to keep it afloat because they didn’t want it to be buoyant in the first place.

No one deserves to be a “standby” option to someone who does not consider them their first choice.  

Matt deserves to be with someone whom he considers his first choice, just like Katie deserves to be with someone who will consider her the ultimate prize.

When it comes to relationships, no one should settle, if you want your relationship to last.

About the Illustration: Chasing a Butterfly

Sunflowers and Girl with a Butterfly

In my painting I chose to paint a girl chasing a butterfly in a field of sunflowers. She is chasing an illusion represented by the butterfly. It’s beauty is captivating but fleeting because a butterfly only lives for a very short time. Even if the girl were to capture it, she can only enjoy it for a short while. Yet she is persistent, like the sunflowers growing in the fields. The sunflowers are hardy, unlike the delicate roses growing by the side. The boy stares at her from across the field and wonders why she wastes her energy on trying to catch something that can only give her joy for a short while. He wants to walk away, but is amused and doesn’t, wondering if she’ll ever catch it.






Nine Lessons I Learned Thanks to Cycling

Nine Lessons I Learned Thanks to Cycling

As I reflect on my year, one accomplishment I am proud of is having ridden 4,500 miles (7,242 kilometers) on my bicycle. The same distance it takes to go from Washington D.C. to Rome, Italy, or from Krakow, Poland to Mumbai, India.

Several years ago, a friend from work convinced me to join a “Bike-Buddy” group. The group commutes to work on their bikes from the area where I live. It’s a way to make the ride more fun, while reducing the amount of cars congesting our local roads, reduce cost of the commute, and a great way to stay healthy.

Initially, I would ride to and from the office once a week. When the weather was nice, I would even push myself to ride twice a week. But, that was the maximum physical effort my body could tolerate. A round trip is 25 miles (40 kilometers).

I was nervous when I first started. The weekend before my attempt to cycle to work, I ended up doing a practice ride just to make sure I could actually complete the trip and reach my office.

The other barrier was being able to do my work effectively after an hour of riding, and then at the end of the day, being able to jump back on my bike, pedal home, prepare dinner, and attend to all the other “mommy” duties waiting for me at home.

That was two years ago. During my first year of cycling to work I managed to reach a distance of 503 miles (810 kilometers). The following year I challenged myself to double that benchmark and attempt to ride 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers)! With deliberate effort and determination, I also managed to reach that goal and even exceed it.

Beginnings are often the hardest

When I started biking to work, I didn’t think I was even capable of conquering a distance of more than 500 miles in a single year. Sure, I know cyclists who do 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometers) per year or more without blinking, but these are extreme individuals. People who only sleep, eat, and bike.

Last year, when I made a full commitment to commute on my bike, my goal was to ride 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers). At the time, that distance seemed enormous. I wasn’t even sure it was a realistic goal. The year before I managed to reach 1,215 miles (1,955 Kilometers). But, that took some effort and determination. To almost triple that distance was a whole new level.

Despite my concerns, and few obstacles, I finished the year with 4,500 miles (7,242 kilometers). During the many hours I spent moving on my bike, many thoughts moved across my mind too. And, in addition to learning that often beginnings are the hardest, here are some other lessons I learned on my 4,500 mile journey:

Together is better

When I started cycling to work, it was thanks to my bike buddy group. The group not only gave me the support I needed to feel comfortable biking across two counties, but also motivated me to push myself to ride close to 13 miles each way.

Simply being aware of the fact that others expected me to be there, propelled me to get up at 6:00 am each day, get on my bike and ride. On gray and rainy mornings, when I just wanted to stay in bed or climb into a dry warm car, knowing that my friends were expecting me, gave me the push I needed to overcome that lazy moment and start peddling. Once I was riding alongside others, neither the rain nor the clouds bothered me as much.

When I got a flat one day, it was also a great relief to have someone there to assist me with changing my tube and offering me their pump.

And when a torrential rain flooded the bike path as high as my waist, it was good to have someone there to guide me towards an alternate route.

When you have someone by your side, things feel less intimidating and challenges less daunting. Conversation helps the long distances feel shorter, and when you’re tired, drafting off one another reduces the amount of effort needed to peddle. Those who win famous biking races, like Tour de France or Giro d’Italia, do it only because they are supported by an entire team of powerful cyclists creating the best possible conditions for the winner to reach the finish line seconds ahead of the rest. Working together takes you further.

Live in the moment

When I’m riding my bike I need to stay alert and focus on the road ahead. I need to watch out for pedestrians, runners, kids, pets, cars, pot holes, branches and other bicyclists. Riding in a constantly shifting environment requires you to be present in the here and now. You need to pay attention to what you’re doing. When to shift, when to brake, when to swerve or to speed up. You’re constantly making decisions, often in split seconds, that determine if you’ll arrive safely at your destination.

Bicycling forces you to be aware of your environment, sharpen your reflexes and to trust your instincts. It helps you become more mindful and live in the moment as you’re trying to reach your destination.

Move the body, still the mind

Mindfulness makes experiences richer and more fulfilling. Paying attention to my environment and what I am doing allows my mind to tune out the noise caused by endless responsibilities or the stress at work. When my mind is clear, I notice more of what is around me, take in more, even discover something new and feel greater appreciation of what is around me.

In fact, by stepping away from the stress of my day in order to focus on my riding, I gain perspective, and often find solutions to the challenges that seemed so daunting earlier on.

Living in the moment is like going back to childhood. As kids, we live in the present. Children have trouble distinguishing yesterday from today. If I tell my daughter that we’ll be home in 10 minutes, to her it feels like eternity. She’ll ask me every minute, are we there yet? But, not being aware of yesterday or tomorrow, also means greater happiness. Children don’t spend today worrying about tomorrow, nor do they hold on to the past. They are happy with what’s in front of them, here and now. Sometimes, ignorance is a bliss.

Now, I am not suggesting to never grow up and live carelessly in the moment, but rather to take breaks during the day to simply breathe, look around and find something in your space or, your mind, that you’re grateful for.

Celebrate the ups and learn from the downs

On my way home, I climb a total of about 700 feet (213 meters), and the hardest part of that climb are two steep hills, back to back, that divide my ride in half.  When I first started riding this route, I had to dismount my bike and walk up both hills on foot. Gradually, with some practice and help from efficient use of my gears, I was able to ride up one hill and then eventually ride up both of them.

Riding up these hills is still a challenge but the reward of riding downhill and seeing the city scape from the top is priceless. And once I pass the hills, the road twists through a tunnel of trees, making me feel like I am flying past the hardest part of my ride.

When you bike each day, you learn to accept the ups and the downs on the road. The tough climb up a steep hill and the breezy descent downwards as you glide effortlessly at an accelerated speed. The rain, the heat, the cold winter air, the wind, the pink light of the morning sun and the black darkness of the night. You learn to accept all the colors of nature and its seasons.

Let go of what is difficult to control and focus on what you can change

Acceptance is one of the biggest lessons I learned while biking. To accept that there are certain things that are out of your control is very liberating. Fighting or trying to change them will only lead you to frustration and anger.

By letting go and accepting that I can’t change the weather or the steep hill, gives me a sense of calm. I accept the things that are out of my control and focus on what I can change. I carry lights to see the path ahead when I ride at night. I wear extra layers and invested in a heavy-duty cycling jacket for the cold winter days. I shift downwards when I have to climb that steep hill on my way home and I always wear a helmet in case of a fall.

It’s ok if you fall as long as you know how to pick yourself up and learn from it

One day on my way to work, it was raining and I was trying to go around a turning car. To avoid getting hit, I had to swerve onto a sidewalk and cross a wet grate. My back wheel slid and I fell. In addition to some bruises, I cut my knee and my left forearm. For a couple of weeks it was tough to walk and use my left arm but I dealt with the pain and carried on. I  became more cautious and learned a very important lesson, to never ride on wet grates. Stop if you must, wait for the car to make its move, then proceed. You can’t win with a car. Pace yourself and be patient. Being impatient is often the reason behind accidents. I’d rather arrive a minute or two late then to never arrive at all.

Pain is part of life

When I fell, I cleaned and bandaged my wounds, and run into a meeting an hour after my fall. That evening I also rode home. Most cyclists I know, at one point or another suffered an injury. And even got on a bike and rode to urgent care to get their wounds stitched up. Then, got right back on their bike and rode home. Luckily, most injuries I am familiar with have not prevented these toughies from cycling, even if they had to temporarily take a break.

Part of riding is getting used to scrapes and bruises. You learn to tolerate pain. As a regular cyclist, you learn to accept that an occasional fall and pain is part of the game. The key is that you learn to avoid the falls or make them less painful.

You wear a helmet, you steer clear of wet metal surfaces, you don’t ride on ice and you put fat, knobby tires for a better grip.  You make sure your brakes work well, you always need to be prepared for sudden stops. In life, and when riding a bike. It can save you.

Don’t give up easily

If, despite your best attempt not to fall, you do end up falling, fall in such a way that you’ll be able to recover and bounce back. On a bike or in life, work, relationships, parenting, etc. There is a reason why most cyclists wear helmets. So, if they do end up falling, their most precious body part will be protected.

After the fall it might take a little effort to get over your injury, the pain, or the fear, but keep trying. Take it day by day, and don’t give up after the first attempt.

Sometimes you need to try three or four times before you see any progress. And some days, it might even feel like your progress is reversing. That’s ok, we all have bad days. But it’s one thing to have a bad day here and there, and another to have a life that you’re unhappy with because of obstacles that you’re unwilling to face and try to improve upon.

Choosing what is comfortable and convenient can lead you, one day, to the most painful realization.  That you missed out on some of the best opportunities in your life because you feared pain. I am not just referring to physical pain. I mean the pain of regret that might catch up with you one day because you didn’t want to face the pain of a breakup. Or, the pain of rejection, the pain of going back to school to earn a degree so you could get a better job, the pain of quitting smoking so you could breathe lighter and save your lungs.  The pain of waking up each morning at 5:00 am to exercise in order to become healthier and feel better about yourself.

Just because you avoid pain, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Pain is part of life. Learning how to deal with pain, and overcome it, will condition you to be more resilient rather than live constrained by the fear of it.  Your only constraint will be the boundaries you put on yourself.

About the Illustration: Enjoying the Ups and Accepting the Downs

riding bicycles on hills

In this picture two cyclists are riding along a hilly path in the birch forest. The leaves on the trees are like bubbles, floating upwards. The two cyclists stroll peacefully along, riding up and down, as if the hills were waves across the ocean. There is a natural flow between them and with the nature that surrounds them. The boy and the girl accept the natural flow of the terrain. They embrace the steep climb up and enjoy the descent.

The girl’s bicycle looks as if she’s about to be lifted off the ground. Almost as if she’s flying. The girl is elevated by the experience and feels lightness as she reaches the peak of the hill. The boy is grounded and about to climb a hill, but he’s happy and accepting of the challenge.

Comparing this to a relationship, often two people who are together are not on the same plane. Sometimes one partner is a dreamer while the other one is grounded. When one is up, sometimes the other one is down. Occasionally one wants more freedom while the other one seeks security. Learning to accept your partner’s natural flow, rather than try to change it, helps balance the relationship. Balance between the two individuals is an essential ingredient in a happy relationship. Just like in nature. To every peak there is a valley. To love spring, one must experience winter.



Don’t let hurt define you. Learn form it and move on.

Careful what you choose to carry with you. Your choices define who you become.

As my family was escaping from Communist Poland, there was very little time to pack, and what we chose to pack was of grave importance. We could only bring one suitcase each, with the awareness that we might never come back to Poland again. Almost everything my family worked towards building and acquiring during their life had to be left behind in one swift moment. The house my father built, our car, furniture, books, and photographs. The toughest part was leaving behind the many people we loved.

I was not aware that my family was escaping Poland under the guise of going on a sight seeing trip to Italy. So I grabbed my backpack and started packing random play things and some books without much thought.

Then, just before stepping out of my bedroom for the last time, I noticed my sketch book and pencil crayons on the table. In an impulse move I grabbed them and stuffed them in my backpack.

As we travelled through Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Yugoslavia, those crayons and the sketch pad became an essential part of my journey. I used them to capture what I was seeing out of the bus window, drawing endlessly to pass my time. And page by page, country by country, my love for drawing grew stronger. Those crayons and the sketch pad were like the seeds that eventually blossomed into one of my greatest passions, and in many ways defining who I am today, an artist.

The baggage we carry, shape how far and where we go.

I often like to compare this situation, and my back pack, to the baggage we each carry through our own life’s journey. What we choose to carry with us, eventually defines us. The experiences and the people we come across, shape us into who we are.

If we stuff our “back pack” with hurtful experiences and toxic people, they will be like heavy boulders weighing us down and making it difficult for us to move on. What’s worse, by stuffing our bag with negative experiences, we leave very little room for positive ones.

At some point, most of us have either experienced a troubled relationship or a tough breakup, a loss of a loved one, rejection, a bad boss or a toxic work environment, and so on. But, at one time or another, we probably also experienced an inspirational trip, a special connection with someone, a wonderful celebration, or a colleague who made us laugh, impacting our life in a positive way. These elevating experiences are the ones we should focus on while learning to let go of the hurts.

Leave the unnecessary behind.

I was trying to set up my colleague on a date with one of my girlfriends. It was obvious that he was feeling a bit lonely and needed some company, especially since things at work were getting very challenging.

He’s been dating a lot, but things didn’t seem to go anywhere with any of the women he met. While arranging the date, he revealed to me a bad relationship experience from his past.

Back in college he got into a serious relationship with a girl he completely fell head over heals for. After graduating, they moved away to different states. Despite the distance, they decided to continue the relationship, but each month that passed by, it was getting harder and harder to maintain the connection they once shared.  He started to feel lonely and depressed. Something had to change. So my colleague decided that he would propose to his girlfriend. Even if this would mean moving across the country and changing jobs. To his dismay, when he proposed, his girlfriend declared that she was not ready to get married. She asked him to wait. He waited a little longer, but after another year passed, he grew even more unhappy. Once more he asked her to marry him. Again, his girlfriend said that she wasn’t ready. Being rejected the second time left him feeling devastated and they broke up. It was a bad break up, and it tore him to pieces.

The rejection and disappointment caused him great hurt that eventually turned into anger. But, he also realized that now as a free man, he could date or be with anyone he wanted to. He started to date many women, but most of his relationships lasted briefly. And for over 20 years he continued scouring the dating scene, but never seriously committing to anyone.

As he shared his relationship story with me, he admitted that his current lifestyle gets tiring. He still feels lonely as he is unable to connect with anyone deeply.

But, unfortunately the hurtful experience of being rejected early on, has left him scarred. And So, the underlying fear of getting hurt again has become a barrier, making it difficult for any new relationship to grow and develop into something deeper.

As expected, the date I set him up on didn’t lead to anything serious either.

Learn from hurt, don’t let it define you 

By hanging on to hurtful experiences we restrict ourselves to move forward. Eventually this pain becomes a prism through which we judge and view similar experiences going forward.

Learn from challenges. Overcoming challenges is when we learn our greatest lessons

It doesn’t mean that we can avoid disappointments or getting hurt again. What matters is that we shift our perspective and view those tough experiences as learning opportunities. Often, through the challenges we face, is when we do the most learning and the most growing.

Ignoring feelings and emotions is a great way to avoid hurt, but makes experiences shallow  

Also, building a wall around our feelings and emotions will prevent us from reaching an emotional depth that brings fulfillment–an essential part of happiness. How can we experience happiness if we don’t know what sadness is?

It’s alright to feel sad from time to time. But, it shouldn’t be the place where we stay. Eventually, the rain will stop and we need to open the curtains to allow the sunshine to come through. Focus your attention on experiences that heal you. By building friendships, finding new hobbies that bring you satisfaction, learning new skills, and exercise.

Lighten your load and let go of hurt.

Choose happiness whenever possible, not sorrow. Sorrow is too heavy to carry on a long journey and leaves very little room for anything else.

About the illustration: Letting Go

Letting Go
Letting Go

In this picture I chose to paint two people letting go of one another. The trees also part with their leafs, so they can regrow new ones in the spring.  Each end is an opportunity for a new beginning. As humans, we also go through ends and beginnings.

To make room for something new, we must get rid of redundancy. Prune the dead branches, like trees, to allow the healthy ones to grow strong. Similar cycle applies to relationships. Those people who no longer serve a purpose in our lives, or allow us to move forward, also need to be permitted to depart. By trying to keep someone that no longer belongs in our life, becomes a heavy load that prevents us to move on.

In the picture, the girl in the red dress is moving on and looking forward. At the same time, the boy is looking down, his shoulders heavy. He’s looking at the two leafs falling on the ground by his feet. The leafs symbolize him and his love. No longer connected to the tree that gives them life. He’s struggling to accept this, and instead of looking up, he is still stuck in the past. He must find hope again. There is lots of hope, if he can only see. The red roses painted beneath in the field, symbolize love. If he doesn’t let go, he’ll miss the many opportunities to find love again.

If you want your Relationship to last, invest in yourself

We were doing some spring cleaning and I asked my daughters to get rid of their unwanted toys. Each girl was given a box, and not surprisingly, within minutes both boxes were full.  Before packing up the boxes to be taken away for donation, I did a quick scan of their closets to make sure there was nothing else that needed to be purged. Sure enough, in the back of the closet I noticed a pair of sparkly slippers. These sparkly plastic beauties were once all the rage when my girls played dress up, but now that beads and Beanie Boos took over play time, these radiant slippers lost their sheen and laid long forgotten at the bottom of their toy basket.

Naturally, I went ahead and slipped the slippers into the donation box, when all of a sudden my younger daughter let out a scream protesting to leave her precious slippers alone. These were hers and she wanted to keep them! This objection alerted my older daughter (the original owner of the slippers and the Cinderella costume that came with them, which were handed down to her younger sister), who claimed that the slippers belonged to her and that she wanted to play with them.

A dramatic battle over the slippers ensued. Tears, cries, accusations, and harsh words were poured out over an object that for months, if not years, lay forgotten collecting dust in the back of the closet.

Watching this melodrama unfold, made me wonder how is it possible for an object that lay unnoticed in the back of the closet for months to create such a ruckus in a snap?

We only fear losing something that we perceive to be valuable

In the case of my daughters, the notion of losing these fancy slippers reminded them of the value that this object held to them. Or rather, once held. Not to mention that there was only one pair of slippers, and two eager girls who wanted to posses it. Limited resources are usually the cause behind many terrible wars in human history.

But going back to the battle over the slippers, I think that my kids’ response applies to human behavior in general: we value most that which we either don’t have or what we have the potential of losing.

And same can be applied to relationships. When we chase someone who’s hard to get or difficult to land, we tend to perceive them as more valuable. At least to a certain point. If they become impossible to get, eventually their unattainability can turn into a turn off, or completely discourage us from trying.

The more effort we put into something, the more valuable it is to us

But assuming that they are enough of a challenge worth pursuing, then their value increases in our eyes because winning them over requires effort and work. And the more effort or work we invest into someone, the more valuable we perceive them to be.

Their every text or encounter is worth in gold, and the idea of being with them seems like a win in the jackpot. At least for the first few months. But as date nights morph from head banging at the Red Hot Chilly Peppers followed by parasailing over the Atlantic to eating pizza on the couch while watching a movie on Netflix, routine starts creeping in. You start getting comfortable, putting less effort into planning time spent together. The screen becomes the entertainment, and takeout, your dinning experience. The mystery is gone, as you figure out each other’s tendencies and habits, and before you know it, your relationship slides onto the quick and easy track. And the easier something becomes, the less valuable we perceive it be.

It’s human nature to grow accustomed to something that’s always there. And so like the air that we breathe without much thought, the person who’s always there, keeping us company, also starts being taken for granted.

Generally it’s difficult to always focus our attention on one individual, all of the time. Occasionally we take others for granted, even the people we care for. It’s difficult to keep the same level of focus we had for someone at the beginning of our relationship, five or ten years later. But it’s one thing to get distracted now and then, and another when their presence leaves us feeling indifferent.

Stay flexible not rigid 

In the case of the slippers, my kids became indifferent about them because the slippers were good for one thing only: a five minute stroll around their bedroom. They sure looked good for a few minutes, but those plastic slippers were uncomfortable, not practical for an active child, and could only fit a lucky girl with the size 12 feet. Those shoes offered only one application.

Curiously, in my girls’ toy donation boxes I found dolls, stuffed animals, coloring books, princess dresses, plastic knick knacks they got with their kids meals, beads, or games with missing pieces. The one toy I have never seen them part with is Lego. Why? Because Lego bricks offer them endless possibilities. They can build any structure their minds can imagine. It’s a toy that always stays cool because it adapts to anything their mind can think of. Legos have hundreds, if not thousands, of applications. You can build anything, then destroy it, and then build something new again, whether you’re nine years old or 99! They never get old because they always offer new possibilities.

How do we stay valuable? By reinventing and investing in ourselves. 

Keep building and rebuilding who you are. Create a better version of yourself beyond just the physical. Looks can certainly help at the beginning, but your six-pack abs or killer legs alone can carry you only so far. Without substance, no matter how shapely your legs look as you stretch them on that couch watching Netflix, if those legs can’t carry you further than the fridge and your sofa, and your conversation dies after three sentences, you’ll soon be walking alone.

How to reinvent yourself? through experiences and education. By collecting new experiences and learning new skills, we evolve. And our personal evolution should never end. Just because you landed a warm body to keep you company for a month or two, in the long run, it’s your ability to keep others engaged that will determine if you’re just a stop along their route, or their destination.

Whether you are in a relationship or not, keep trying to be a better version of yourself. Take a class and learn something you were always afraid to try. Maybe it’s cooking, piano or painting classes. Broaden your horizons, and try to push yourself occasionally outside of your comfort zone. Learn a different language, and go ahead, buy that ticket to Rome to see the Coliseum, instead of watching it on your computer screen. Take action and do something, anything that will get your heart pumping a little faster and place you in situations you’ve never been in before. Only by doing something new, will you broaden your experiences that will help you evolve into a better version of yourself. And the more work and effort you put into yourself, the more confidence you’ll gain, if needed, to walk away when you know you’re no longer valued by someone. And therefore, those around you who are conscious of this possibility, will understand your value that much more.

About the Illustration: The Circle of Love


In this picture I wanted to illustrate the circle of love and friendship in a relationship. I painted three stages of this cycle, starting from a simple encounter that progresses to the physical love, that eventually evolves into profound friendship and love. But the circle starts and ends with friendship.

In the illustration I framed each stage of this cycle by painting budding trees around each pair, symbolizing growth and possibilities that come with new growth. Just like trees grow a new canopy after every winter, so do we grow new opportunities with new experiences that we gain.

The cycle begins with awareness of the other person. And as awareness grows into curiosity about that individual, as seen between the two people on the left, the desire to connect deepens.

Then relationship grows more intimate, when touch connects the two physically, as seen by the couple in the middle staring at the sunset. And as the physical pairs with friendship, true love is formed. The pair standing on the highest plane touching hands, exemplify friendship and the physical connection in one.

Without friendship, profound love can’t exist. Relationships that last, start and end with friendship. And therefore it’s a cycle. Friendship means being nimble, willing to adapt, grow and evolve alongside each other. It means being open, and willing to invest in the friendship by investing in oneself and supporting one other. The work and effort we invest into our friendship first, will determine the strength of our relationship in the longterm.


Having no Choice in a World of Choices, is also a Choice

One of my favorite ice cream shops in Italy is Gelateria Venchi. On my last trip to Rome I still remember the overwhelming experience of walking into this world-famous chocolate and ice cream shop to grab a gelato on a hot summer day.

The shop’s interior is very ornate, and gold trimmings abound the shelves filled with opulent stashes of thick chocolate bars and creamy chocolate truffles. There are all kinds of flavors to choose from: dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, with hazelnut, pistachio, caramel, liquor, fruit filling, plus other exotic flavors. And that’s just the chocolate portion of this sweet shop.

Having too many options can feel debilitating

On the other side is where they sell their renowned ice cream. An extensive glass partition divides the salivating customers, as they try to decide what two scoops to choose out of at least 40 creamy flavors bursting out of their canisters.

In the back of the ice cream counter, you see a rich chocolate fountain streaming down the wall that stretches about 15 feet long. It’s an impressive display. All senses are engaged and the experience for someone like me, who goes nuts for desserts, is out of this world. If I could, I would just park my bed here and indulge in all this sugar and cocoa deliciousness until chocolate would run through my veins.

But since I can’t live in an ice cream shop, and I read enough about diabetes to know better about the harmful effects of sugar, I controlled my inner beast, and limited my indulgence to two scoops.

After a tough inner struggle, I finally managed to pick out two flavors for my cone: hazelnut and straciatella. The classic flavors that most Venchi fans appreciate. The process took half an hour just to be able to walk out with my ice cream cone onto Via del Corso.

Anyone serious about ice cream would understand that you can’t rush through such an experience. After all, we’re talking about indulging in some of the best ice cream in the world.

When we face too many options, it can be difficult to find the option that is right for us

Choices can be debilitating, indeed. If I only had three flavors to pick from, such as vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry, I would probably be eating my ice cream within 2 minutes of walking into the store. But faced with 40 flavors, I had difficulty choosing the one that would bring me satisfaction. And even after all that self-negotiation, I was still second-guessing my decision and wondered if indeed by picking straciattella and hazelnut, I made the right selection.

The dilemma of too many choices, too little time, and not enough experience

I think it’s similar to what many face in our western middle-class society today. An abundance of choices, and often too little time and experience to choose what’s right for us. It’s like giving a seven-year old a 20-page wine menu to pick out a bottle of wine that compliments a beef tenderloin and mushroom cream dish.

Given that the child probably hasn’t had a chance to sample any wine before, barring the legal ramifications if they did, and as such have not developed a palette for the settle aromas and tastes of a quality wine, their selection would probably be a shot in the dark. As an alternative, they could simply turn to the adult sitting next to them and have them make a selection.

Are you living a life based on your choices or the choices others made for you?

And that’s exactly what often happens when many of us face an important decision; we turn to our parents, family, friends, teachers, even governments or social media, to help us make the choice, and consequently tell us what to do.

The trouble with allowing others to influence our choices is that we give them the power to choose for us, but in the end we are the ones stuck with the consequences of these choices, not them.

They are not the ones stuck in a career you feel numb about. They are not the ones trapped in a loveless or destructive marriage. Nor, do they lose another night of sleep because of a crying child. You are the one living with the consequences of those choices, no one else will live them for you.

So before giving someone the power to choose for you, ask yourself if you are willing to live with the consequences of the choices you allowed others to make for you.

How relevant is past experience for a world of the future?

Certainly, asking the advice of someone who has experience, can be very helpful. But experience is based on the past, and that means it can be outdated in the present or the future.

Twenty years ago, my friend’s parents insisted that he study engineering. He was hesitant to go into that field because his passion was computers and he wanted to study programming. Nonetheless, he was good with math and listened to his parent’s advice, and spent five years learning engineering. Upon graduating, he ended up working in a cubicle for a big corporation, being paid the same wage as a dental assistant.

After three years of feeling stuck and miserable, he ended up quitting his job. And in 2004 my friend decided to start developing apps for smartphones. His parents were devastated, complaining that he was wasting his life on some silly computer games.

Now, his parents weren’t wrong for being concerned about his son’s decision to quit a stable job in order to develop apps. In their experience, a career in engineering was a safe and stable way of making a living. Meanwhile, developing apps was a complete gamble.

In my friend’s world, new developments in technology opened a whole new universe of opportunities, many of which his parents were not aware of in the year 2004.

In any case, my friend ended up running a very profitable company and today works from all corners of the world, rather than being stuck in a cubicle, like he probably still would be today if he made a decision based on his parents’ advice.

Having more choices can be more daunting than not having them

But making choices is not always easy. Especially today. To a generation or two before us, access to options was limited. About 60 years ago, if you needed to buy toothpaste, and walked over to a local pharmacy, you might have had one or two brands to choose from. Now, if you walk into most pharmacies, you have an entire isle of toothpaste brands and flavors to sift through. Similarly, if you were living in the 50s and were a woman, your choices were either to get married, stay at home and raise your children or become a school teacher, nurse, possibly a secretary. While becoming a CEO of a big corporation for a woman then was as likely as going to Mars. Today those options have changed, and many women have the opportunity of becoming a CEO if they want to. Marry if they want to, have a child or not, get a degree or go into the space program. An abundance of choices have been made possible for this generation, not just of women, but of men too.

But having access to a vast amount of options, doesn’t necessairly mean its easier to be a woman, or a man in today’s world. Having choices requires knowing how to choose right. And that’s not always easy.

When we’re presented with an abundance of options and don’t have a whole lot of experience in knowing how to choose, it can be difficult to make the selection that’s right for us. It doesn’t help either when cultural and social media pressures, paired with persuasive advertisements, clutter the path to a choice that’s best for us.

So if we don’t have enough experience to make the right choice, and we are faced with a debilitating amount of options, how do we choose? We can go with our gut. The trouble is that many of us have stopped listening to that gut feeling. And we ignore or dismiss our instincts because of doubt. Doubt that’s generated by cultural or religious pressures, communities, social media, politics, our own families even. And when we doubt our own instincts, we doubt ourselves, and therefore our choices.

Not having a choice is also our own choice

Making choice in a sea of choices is difficult, and making the right choice can be even tougher. But this is why more than ever we need to listen to our instincts when making a decision that will impact our life. And I am not referring to picking out toothpaste or an ice cream flavor; I am referring to making choices that shape our life and who we are. You want to have a big family, go right ahead. You want to be a bachelor and explore your sexual fantasies, have a blast. You want to travel the world or help build a school in Africa, make it happen. Today, more than ever we have lots of options to live the life we want to live. Don’t limit your options by giving others the power to choose for you.

Make choices based on your instincts.

Listen to your instincts. Feel comfortable with your selection. Accept it, carry on, and be at peace with the decision you made. And don’t compare the choices you made with other people’s choices, because that leads to self-doubt and eventually to fear of living the life you want to live. Remember that the choices others made are right for them, but don’t necessarily suit you. And that’s ok! They are not you, and you are not them.

Make your own choices and be happy with them.

Playing with leaves

About the illustration: Playing with Falling Leafs

In this picture I wanted to capture the feeling of joy while doing something as simple as playing with the falling leafs. I also wanted to show the richness and the abundance of the fall season as it relates to choices.

The different colors and shapes of leafs falling above the two excited boys, symbolize options. There are so many leafs, so many options, but so difficult to choose or to capture them all. Many leafs will fall by the wayside and won’t be captured. This symbolizes that we can’t have everything. We have limited time and resources, and space in which to choose from the pool of options presented to us. Every choice carries a different consequence, just like every leaf is different and unique.

And just like the wind blowing the leafs in the boys’ direction, so does chance bring different set of choices to different people. What is key is knowing how to choose from what is offered to us, and choose that which will make us happy. At the same time, it’s also important to learn how to let go of the options we didn’t choose.

Just like the two boys are looking up at the leafs falling from the bountiful canopies of the trees, so should we look at the opportunities and choices still ahead, rather than look at the fallen leafs. Let go of the regret about our past choices. Because by looking down at the leafs on the ground, or the options we did not select, we might miss the many wonderful opportunities still ahead of us.


The Difference between taking a Vacation and Travelling

My rule each year is to use my passport at least once to travel someplace. Preferably to a place where English is not the native language. Of course that’s not always an easy feat, but the rewards are worth the effort.

Initially when my family moved to Canada, and we had limited funds to splurge on vacations, we would pack our old Honda full of towels, blankets, bathing suits, sandwiches, boiled eggs, and thermoses filled with tea, and head for Long Beach or Lake Simcoe in Ontario for a low-budget vacation. Wealthier Canadians would travel to Florida, Mexico, or the Caribbean Sea to stay at a fancy all-inclusive resort in Cancun or Punta Cana. And after a couple of months of the cold Canadian winter, such a sunny getaway can indeed be the perfect cure.  I too hoped that one day I would be able to vacation in a similar fashion.

Eventually, as I got older and my vacation budget expanded, I did end up at one of these places where all you needed to do is find a comfortable place under the sun and sip on Margaritas. And although it was relaxing and the views were magnificent, other than a glowing tan and a few pictures of me holding some decadent drink with a miniature umbrella stuck in it, the experience didn’t imprint anything profound on my mind.

Moving our everyday bubble from one place to another, helps us feel safe, but prevents us from having deeper experiences

After all, even though the resort was on the Caribbean, within its walls it felt like I haven’t left Canada. Despite being in a Spanish-speaking country, inside the resort most people spoke English and were either from Canada or the U.S. The menus, food, and activities were catered towards the Canadian and U.S. clientele. Even the dollar was used as the currency. Things were running smoothly at the resort, someone was always there to carry your umbrella and bring you a cocktail, the landscape was manicured to perfection, the buildings had a fresh coat of paint, and there was an abundance of everything. But, on the outside the locals had to scramble for basics, the buildings looked worn out and the infrastructure lacked maintenance.

Step out of the familiar space and be open to experience the real world

Somehow, these two contrasting worlds, divided by a wall, and existing right next to each other, disturbed me. Perhaps because I was aware that the world within the resort walls was a pretend world. Available only to the paying and privileged customers from the north. And I was not fully experiencing the country I was visiting, but rather consuming an extension of the North American culture with an island-feel twist.

It was safe. The resort walls protected me from any unsavory situations, keeping me in a convenient and familiar world. But the price for all this convenience was that I returned home uninspired. I was certainly rested and more relaxed, but within a few days, my life was right where I left it, and along with my tan, the fantasy paradise quickly faded.

Our destinations should contrast the places we leave behind

After sampling the beach resort experience, I concluded that this flavor of travel was not for me. I craved more from travelling than just a tan and a pretty view. Certainly, a carefree escape is nice from time to time, and we all need it sometimes, but it can’t be the only purpose of travel. At least not for me. I like to think that the purpose of travel is to expand my world rather than keep me isolated within the one I already know. I don’t want to travel 3,000 miles just to find myself surrounded by the very same people I interact with daily or eat a hamburger when I can have a Pupusa.

I want to walk to a local market, hear the native language, watch locals interact and go about their day. I want to see the unpaved road or that worn out building with unusual architecture or concealed sculpted figures above it’s entrance. I want to sample that fried fish from the street vendor and walk into a hidden courtyard tucked away from the street noise and the bustle. I want an element of surprise in my travels and savor things I don’t usually get a chance to experience in my day to day routine. I want something different because I want to return home feeling like I learned something new.

Don’t hide from richer experiences just because it takes effort

To experience a different culture, occasionally there will be discomfort caused by unfamiliar surroundings, unusual tastes, smells, or sights. But it’s the discomfort, the inconvenience, and the unknown that push us towards finding creative solutions, to try out a different approach, and to discover something new about ourselves and the world. Or, even appreciate more what we already have, like coming to a warm home after a long walk on a cold winter day.

An adventure requires some risk. Sometimes you just need to leap in and see where the path takes you. You never know what you’ll discover along the way.

I remember the time when my family and I travelled to Cappadocia in Turkey, and we were walking for a long time, getting lost in a terrain that looks like something from outer space. The experience of planting my feet along the same paths where once an entire civilization roamed and hid in these cone-shaped like huts, moved me. We spent hours discovering various formations with hidden entrances and rooms; even occasionally stumbling upon old frescos. I was mesmerized. But also didn’t realize that we were walking for hours and started to get very hungry. Not to mention that our feet started to get blisters. Being captivated as we were, we wondered quite far into the valley and there were no places to eat nearby, so we became desperate and had to find some food—and fast. Luckily we stumbled upon a local young man who happened to be selling dried dates, figs, and nuts. We bought some of each and indulged in these delicacies. I never thought that dried dates or figs could taste so delicious. Normally I would not make a meal out of figs nor dates. But finding ourselves outside of our regular routine, we had to get creative and make the best of what we had.

That evening, we sat perched on a rooftop of an ancient building in Cappadocia, watching the sunset, eating figs and dates for dinner, while resting our bare feet in the breeze as we smiled and felt happy despite some discomforts we had to overcome to find ourselves in this magical moment. That was an experience I will never forget. Unplanned and full of inspiration.

After this day, figs and dates became part of my regular diet and many of the pictures I draw include the little mounts that were inspired by my visit to Cappadocia.

I think it’s healthy from time to time to get away from ourselves. To find ourselves surrounded by what feels strange to us and to push ourselves out of our own comfort zone. To take that risk and learn that different isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just different from what we’ve been exposed to. The more we expose ourselves to new situations, the more flexible we become and the easier it is for us to adapt to unforeseen situations. Because, after all, no matter how much we plan, life has the tendency to throw at us a few surprises here or there. And it helps to get some practice beforehand on how to handle the unexpected without loosing our footing.

About this illustration: Exploring the Unknown Waters

August 2017_artwork_Travel_JazArt

In this picture I painted a scene of two friends embarking on a journey. They are leaving the land and traveling on a small boat into the unknown waters. One boy is curious about the sea and observes the fish jumping happily and freely in their own world. The other boy is looking back at the land, pondering for a moment if he’s doing the right thing by leaving the safe and familiar world behind him. He’s hesitant, but his curiosity is stronger than his need to feel safe. He looks at the red balloon, as the boy on the land releases it into the sky. The balloon symbolizes the letting go of something we want to hold on to, but can’t any longer because it’s weighing us down and blocking us from moving forward.

A girl sits on the tree looking longingly as she is seeing her friends go. She does’t want them to go, but she doesn’t want to leave her home to join them on an adventure either. She is stuck in a place where she dreams of being somewhere else, but doesn’t know how to let go of her current situation to get someplace different. Because what she has now, although dissatisfying, seems better than the possible disappointment she might come across in the unknown waters. And she fears disappointment more than predictability, so she is stuck in a place of longing instead.

The two dragonflies symbolize growth and maturity that result when we push our boundaries. And as the two boys step onto the new territory, the challenges they will face will help them grow, learn more about themselves and come closer to self realization. This will be their reward for being brave and taking their journey onto the unknown waters.





Ambitious women sometimes struggle to find love

A few weeks ago several of my girlfriends and I went out for some drinks. We try to go out, just us girls, at least once a month to get a bunch of stuff off of our chests and feel lighter at the end of the night.

Typically we discuss our jobs, politics, families, and relationships. However, almost always relationships tend to dominate our conversations. Most of us are married, but a couple of my girlfriends are not. This time, one of the big reasons that we were getting together was because one of our unmarried girlfriends just broke up with someone she was dating for several months and she needed a lift. So we tried our best to remind her that she doesn’t need a man to be happy.

And she gets it. She understands that happiness comes from within. Having experienced various relationships, she knows that being with someone just for the sake of having a warm body next to you, doesn’t guarantee happiness. And settling just for anyone out of fear of being alone, isn’t her style either. So in that sense my friend does not need a man, nor needs a companion to fill the silence. But she does want to find love, like many of us.

My friend has managed very well on her own. For a 38-year old she has an impressive list of accomplishments. A graduate of John Hopkins with an MBA degree. Holds a management position at Booz Allen and makes good money. Travels the world, speaks three languages, and owns a fancy condo in a hip neighborhood. Cooks like a pro, exercises, loves adventure, and to top it all off, is an attractive woman. So naturally, the rest of us are scratching our heads as to why she hasn’t found anyone who would appreciate her total package.

Unable to find an answer, I reached out to a few of my male friends who could possibly help me understand why amazing girls like my friend can’t find a keeper.

I heard several theories, but one simple explanation offered to me by my serious-dater friend made the most sense. Basically what he said was, “why would a guy want to be with a woman who doesn’t need him in the first place?” At first, his response made little sense to me, but then the more I thought about it, his theory intrigued me and gave me plenty to think about. If someone appears that they have everything, they are communicating that there is no room for anything, or anyone else in their life.

Or, they are such a superb individual that most men upon meeting someone like my friend, quickly sense that she is out of their league and realize they wouldn’t be able to add much to her already rich life. In which case, it’s going to take someone truly exceptional to be a match for her. And that special someone does not come along every day.

From another perspective, a different friend of mine always knew she wanted to get married and have kids. So as soon as she graduated from college, finding a husband was her goal. There was an opening she needed to fill, so she got right to it. She interviewed several potential candidates. And eventually the right one came along, and by the time she was 27 she was married and on her way to starting a family.

Sometimes we need to help love find an opening

When an employer is looking to hire someone for a job, they typically announce that there is an opening. Position requirements and description are provided and qualified individuals may apply.

Of course there are exceptions on the market. Certain positions require very special individuals. In fact, in exceptional cases some companies go as far as approaching specific people they have in mind to fill the very top spots in their management suite, but these are rare cases and are not available to just anyone.

But typically, those seeking a job need to be aware that an opening exists before applying. And the opening needs to fit their skill set. Someone with a specialty in accounting is unlikely to search for a job as an art teacher.

When an opening isn’t advertised, how are people to know about it? Thus, it’s less likely that candidates will apply. And so the chances of having that position filled are very slim.

To be in a relationship there first needs to be a role to fill

But even if the opening does get filled somehow, it needs to benefit both parties. In a relationship, each party needs a role that benefits the other. And the role can be as simple as mowing the lawn or reaching high cabinets without a ladder. But it needs to be a role that makes us feel like we’re contributing something the other individual might not have. And those individual qualities, or ingredients, need to be complementary.

Complementary roles achieve better results 

Kind of like in baking. When my girlfriend and I get together to bake, she usually supplies the recipe, plus the wet ingredients, such as eggs, butter or milk. And I supply the dry ingredients, flour, sugar and salt. Our combined effort and ingredients often produce a delicious cake, bread, or pastry that we both get to enjoy with a fine cup of coffee and conversation. But if my girlfriend brought over the very same ingredients I was contributing, then we would end up with too much flour and sugar, but lack milk and eggs. Our baking options would be extremely limited with only flour and sugar and we would both probably end up hungry after this baking date.

Also, if I supplied all the ingredients, the recipe, and the effort, while she sat on the side watching me do all the baking on my own, she would start wondering why I invited her to bake with me in the first place. Sure, it’s nice to enjoy a delicious home-made cake without having to put in any effort. And perhaps once or twice, being able to sit back, watch someone else do all the baking, and then indulge in a piece of home-made cake can be enjoyable. But, in the long term this skewed arrangement makes one party overburdened and the other party feel useless. So while one builds resentment the other becomes disengaged. When we have nothing to add, then there is no use for us. And most of us prefer to feel needed rather than feel useless in a relationship.

Good relationships thrive when two individuals complement one another. When people feel like they are contributing something valuable to the relationship, their self-worth also increases. And when the relationship contributes to feeling positive about oneself, then we have more reasons to hold on to it.

It sometimes takes time, but also a bit of luck

I believe that a great girl like my friend will eventually find the right person to spend her life with. It just might take a little longer. Certainly there are many candidates who might fit the “good enough and he likes me” criteria. But the void she is looking to fill requires more than just these basics. Hopefully, when she is ready to make room for someone like this in her life, and with a pinch of luck, the right candidate will come along. Because it’s never too late for love.

Find a way to let someone in

So as I reflect on this puzzle of why some terrific girls have trouble finding love, my advice to them is to first open a way to let someone in. Even if it’s just a crack. Perhaps it can be something like opening up to your date about never seeing Star Wars before and having him teach you about the force and the battle between the dark side and the light side. And while this might feel like you are exposing a weakness, it’s a risk worth taking in exchange for building a bond with someone special.

About the picture: Girl on a swing


In this illustration I painted a girl who is enjoying swinging from a branch. She is surrounded by different animals. There are two ducks, two frogs, two owls, two butterflies, and even two sunflowers. They each have a partner to share their experience with, whether that’s swimming, catching flies, enjoying the breeze, or taking a pause to observe the world around them. As she tries to swing high up into the air, the dog gazes upon her with marvel. He wonders, how does it feel to experience swinging like this. He wishes he could do the same and join her on the swing, but he knows he can’t. So he waits. Maybe eventually she will join him for a stroll by the lake and they can find a common ground to walk on side by side.