It is August of 2015, and the principal of my high school stands up to address the staff during our first faculty meeting after summer vacation – tough crowd!

“It’s all about relationships,” she pronounced.

She goes on to explain that she has done a lot of reflection over the break, and she came to the following conclusion: Unless we cultivate a positive relationship with our students and with each other, the rest of it won’t matter! Although she was unaware at the time, my principal was the first, of many, to bring that specific message to me that year – a year that would kick my awakening into high gear, culminating in a memoir (in progress) and a website that houses the blog you are currently reading.

It is now October of the same year. I am in Columbia, SC, attending a leadership workshop for school counselors. We were given a book on leadership and a beautiful, hardcover notebook suitable for journaling (my passion). After introductions, I open my notebook, pen poised in hand, ready to take notes. The instructor stands at the front of the room and says, (I shit you not):

“It’s all about relationships!”

I listened to her with a big smile on my face. “I can’t wait to get back to school and share this with my principal,” I thought to myself! The instructor explained that although counselors aren’t typically viewed as school leaders, we can definitely influence what happens inside our building, and the way we influence people is through our RELATIONSHIPS with them. I’m seeing a pattern here…

Yes! It really IS all about relationships.

Relationships are, hands-down, the most effective way for human beings to learn valuable life lessons. I can tell you from experience that while some of those lessons are pleasant, a fair number of them are not. Mother-in-law driving you crazy? Can’t stand your boss? Your ex-husband is an ass? As much as we hate to admit it, I’d be willing to bet that those people were put in your path to teach you something.

Apparently, I’m not a quick learner, because the same lessons keep appearing to me wearing different disguises! And, in case you hadn’t noticed, God really has a sense of humor about it! My dear husband and I could not be more different with regard to talents and character traits (although our underlying value systems are compatible, thank goodness, which is why we are still married after 29 years together).

For example, Bill comes from a long line of perfectionists (just ask his mother!). I, on the other hand, follow the advice of Larry the Cable guy:  “git r done!” I have a way with words, he has trouble spelling my name. Bill is a mechanical genius, I still can’t work the remote. Needless to say, this lends itself to some bickering…ok, A LOT of bickering. Meanwhile, our guardian angels are laughing their butts off! I can hear them now:

Angel one: “Holy hell! This is hysterical! How many more years until they GET it?”

Angel two: “I don’t know, but we’ve got forever! Pass me the popcorn, will ya?”

I am of the belief that, before we incarnate, we choose the major life lessons or obstacles we want to experience, and we make agreements with other souls who are willing to help us out (read Your Soul’s Plan for more on this topic). In other words, we don’t have just one soul mate, or primary “significant other,” we have many – a “soul family.” Think about this….what if the person you are struggling with is actually a member of your “soul family” who “contracted” with you to (lovingly) play that role simply because you asked them to? This theory would certainly allow us to view those relationships from a different perspective – to value all relationships – even those with whom we don’t see eye to eye.

Although I deeply love my husband, and believe him to be a significant member of my soul family, our relationship has its challenges…and I had the same kind of relationship with my mother. In my opinion, these two people, both of whom play(ed) major roles in my life, incarnated with me to help me grow as a person – to learn to relinquish control, to cultivate humility, and to step out of my Ego. How do I know this? Because, they both push(ed) the same buttons! And so, I thank them. I thank them not just for their unconditional love and unwavering support. I thank them, also, for getting under my skin, for causing me to take a deeper look at myself. And, trust me….it is a life-long process!