Have you noticed how people are like driftwood on the ocean? Some drift along with you forever and ever, as if holding hands. Some drift in and out of your life, and then in again. And some bump into you with a big bang, only to be taken away by the next wave.

Yet no matter how hard you try to push some away, you can’t seem to do it; and no matter how hard you try to hold onto some, they still slip away.

Yes, I’ve noticed it, too.

I bet at times you wish you wish you had none of that drifting close to you. Most of us have at least one moment in our adult lives when we are convinced that no people = no problems. But we can’t escape people.

Relationships are at the heart of human existence.

The more I mull upon their complex nature and unforeseen purpose, the more I realize that the seemingly random occurrences of relationships may not be random at all. They don’t drift but purposefully navigate into your realm – to guide, assist, and push you to advance.

2 Categories of Relationships

Your relations can be divided into 2 categories based on their purpose: Relieving and Revealing.


This first category makes you feel great. These relationships are like Vitamin B shots in the fabric that’s your life.

In this camp are your feel-good people (and other species of the animal kingdom) who RELIEVE you from the general misery of life. As soon as they show up, they put you at peace with who you are, no matter the length of the encounter.

It could be your childhood friend, your soul-mate. Or it could be someone smiling at you in a grocery store, or paying you a compliment in an elevator. Or perhaps you stand in the sunrise, stunned as you lock your eyes with a deer.

If you’re lucky, the relieving relations are your life-long friends, colleagues, and even family members and spouses.


The second category relationships join your road to point out where the blockages are. These relationships REVEAL where your anger, fear, and judgment hide; they expose your impatience and level of self-esteem, inability to forgive and accept.

These, too, can be your life-long friends, colleagues, and family members. (Oh boy, do we know it!)

But sometimes they show up as random acts of aggression in traffic, as political opponents on a TV show, or perhaps as a snake on your path scaring the bejeesus out of you.

The first category seems easy to handle. Yet their purpose is 2-fold: they are a source of joy, but also a source of suffering. On one hand, they make us feel good about ourselves. On the other hand, they help us realize that that the physical world is ever-changing.

We want to hold onto these people and moments, and here lies the danger. We begin to compare everyone against those people. How come my husband is not as charming with me as the guy from work? Or, Wow, what a positive person. Why can’t I be more like that person?

These relations pose a great temptation: they train us to think that for us to be acceptable, we need to be someone different. Thus, they are a source of hidden judgment – everyone needs to measure up.

The second category seems to be the source of suffering only. Yet this category, too, has a 2-fold purpose. On one hand, these relationships help us realize that the outer world is ever-changing. On the other hand, the infinite possibilities for true advancement are at the heart of suffering.

Suffering comes with an opportunity to rise higher and evolve. The ashes and rot of our pain fertilize our growth to the next level of acceptance and happiness. The ultimate reward is profound – diminished suffering in the future.

Other people highlight what needs healing in you. They guide, assist, and push you to advance as a human. Nothing is as powerful of a teacher as your relations.

eva fanari

Take a quick inventory of all the people you know – do you recognize the categories?!

Photo by Eva Fanari, Newport, CA