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12 Bittersweet Experiences Of a Long Distance Relationship That No One But You And I Can Understand

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12 Bittersweet Experiences Of a Long Distance Relationship That No One But You And I Can Understand

Years ago, I did what many choose not to: I got involved in a long distance relationship. This brilliant, handsome, beguiling man didn’t reside in another city, county, or state—he lived in another country.

My friends thought I was crazy. My mother believed I was setting myself up for heartbreak. My father, I’m certain, was just glad he didn’t have to meet the man. I, however, was doggedly determined to Make It Work, despite the ocean (trust me, it’s not a pond) and most of the continental United States between us. We were, after all, Meant to Be.

Before I made the radical decision to move from my home in Italy to his in San Francisco, we subsisted on the powers of communication and rendezvouses marked in my memory as some of the loveliest and most passionate moments of my life. People marveled at our ability to remain deeply connected regardless of the time difference, the language barrier, and the miles and miles between us. I always argued that we survived and thrived precisely because we were worlds apart. While bittersweet, here are twelve experiences that only those who are engaged in a long-distance relationship can understand:

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1. The old adage is true: Absence does make the heart grow fonder.

There are few moments as memorable and sensational than reuniting with your loved one. While a long-distance relationship involves its share of lonely nights and forlorn weekends, being apart fosters a greater appreciation for the time you do have together—and greater appreciation for the one you love. Not seeing your partner on a daily basis makes you miss them in an entirely good way—for when you do, you hold on to them like you’ll never let go.

2. You have the time, space, and energy to focus on your own life.

Let’s face it: Relationships –at least the ones that last—require a not-so-insignificant amount of selflessness. You compromise in myriad ways, from turning down a job promotion that necessitates travel to stay close to them and spending time with his friends instead of yours to taking up golfing when you’d rather be playing tennis. In a long-distance relationship, you often have the opportunity to focus on you—and only you. You can work late hours without feeling that twinge of guilt. You can have a weekend away with your niece without hurting his feelings. You can spend your evenings on your novel. You can embrace your own passions wholeheartedly. And these experiences are all the richer because you know you’ll be wholly, completely you when you do see your partner again.

3. You embrace the magic of the moment.

Long-term domestic partnerships come with a litany of mundane activities that would probably make your younger, freer self cry: Trips to Ikea. Grocery shopping. Picking up her dry-cleaning; pairing his socks. In a long-distance relationship, you learn to plan reunions that rarely involve the routine necessities of daily life. My long-distance boyfriend and I relished what time we had together, and filled nearly every waking hour with romance and adventure. We went rock climbing. We slept under the stars. We talked until two o’clock in the morning in front of a fire while it blazed snow outside. Without the distractions of chores and alarm clocks, we were able to concentrate solely on each other.

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4. You learn independence with a capital I.

Friends of mine who have been in committed, domestic relationships have a tendency to forget how to do things on their own—and some have never learned at all. During the years in which I was in a long-distance relationship, I gained a number of lifelong skills that have rewarded me to this day, from changing a flat tire and balancing my checking account to fixing a clogged sink and managing emotional woes on my own. The self-sufficiency I gained led to immense courage and considerable growth. Moreover, those qualities I inadvertently adopted and nurtured while alone have served me well in more way than I can count.

 5. You sharpen your communication skills.

I envy modern couples in long-distance relationships. Technology today—from Skype and texting to Whatsapp and Facetime—allows couples who are physically separated to stay closer and better connected than ever. And yet I don’t regret a minute of the time my boyfriend and I spent communicating when we were apart. Since every second on the phone was valuable, we didn’t waste it on small talk or trivial matters. Rather, we spent that time together discovering each other in deep, lasting ways and discussing weighty issues—politics, religion, our pasts, our dreams. Our letters to each other were filled with specific, telling details as we tried to paint for the other an image of our lives across the proverbial pond. Our communication, harkening back centuries, led to a bond that was so much more intimate than the purely physical. It was intensely emotional, mentally provocative, and spiritually satisfying.

6. You learn patience.

Patience had never been one of my virtues. Until I met this man from San Francisco, that is. During our relationship, I learned that not every desire can or should be instantly gratified; that days and hours and sometimes months of waiting come equipped with marvelous rewards. What’s more, anticipation builds, which can often be delicious.

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7. You acquire trust.

It takes a leap of faith to trust your non-live-in lover who lives in the same town. Trusting a partner who is three time zones away is another story entirely. But my partner and I, early on, made a commitment to be loyal to each other, no matter how lonely we got. It takes courage to trust someone on that bone-deep level, and yet, if you’re with the right person? It will be wholly natural. Moreover, it will instill in you persistence and faith—which is right up there with patience in terms of lifelong gifts.

8. You realize that geography is just a construct.

If you have a magnetic, unbreakable bond, the distance between you becomes just that—distance. You may be interstate or oceans apart, but narrowing that distance when you can has never been easier. And when you can’t be in each other’s physical presence? You realize you can be in their mental, physical, and spiritual sphere. With this, you start to see the world in a larger, more encompassing and enlightening way. The moon you’re looking at is the very moon that he too is seeing, after all. It’s just a matter of perspective.

9. Your passport becomes brag-worthy.

When possible, my boyfriend would make the fourteen hour trip to meet me in Italy, even if it was only for a week. I had a blast showing him my favorite haunts. When time permitted, I would meet him in San Francisco, where we did everything from taking a tour of Alcatraz to spending a tender, lovely weekend in wine country. Other times we met halfway—or out of the way: New York City. London. Greece. Together, we experienced places and people and cuisines and attractions that few couples have the chance to do in an entire lifetime together. Exhilarating? Oh, yes.

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Which brings me to my next point…

 10. You get creative.

Each date feels like a first date when you’re in a long-distance relationship. From the outfit you wear to the venue you choose, the hopeful expectation your separation builds also grants you the time and creativity to put real thought into your outings. Gifts also become symbolic and not mere necessities—a painting that brings to mind your first weekend at the ocean together, a necklace that captures the color of her eyes, a book that you loved and want to share with him. Because each interaction is undeniably precious, you put imagination and energy into each gesture and every plan.

 11. You choose your battles wisely.

Domestic relationships are often prone to disagreements both large and small, with disputes ranging from household responsibilities to issues as petty as who left the light on in the living room. The boon of a long-distance relationship is that your arguments are few and far between. And when you do have them? They’re based on meatier issues, and are resolved with the thoughtfulness and deliberation that comes with having the time and space alone to think things through.

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12. You learn the power and beauty of being comfortable and content alone.

Reflecting back on this time in my life, I realize that my long-distance relationship was, in many ways, a primer for my future when my husband and I decided to separate. When I was with my San Francisco beau, I learned at a relatively young age how to be relaxed and satisfied in my own company. I had no one to please; I had no one else to please—and in that space, I discovered what stimulated me, what disappointed me, what warmed me, what enthralled me. I walked for miles in the woods alone on a regular basis—a hobby I do this day. I found pleasure in dining solo; a special thrill in seeing a play or film by myself. I learned to navigate emotional turmoil alone. Without the diversions and responsibilities of being with someone on a day to day basis, I started to know myself in a way I never had before. And through this, I gleaned what it meant to enjoy and appreciate myself. Which is, of course, the most rewarding experience of all in both life and love.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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