Category: Relationship Food

Just waiting for my Nobel Peace Prize.

Sometimes the things I want to say to you are so important to me that it’s paralyzing. I’m so desperate to string together the perfect words to make you act, that I don’t even know where to start.  It’s a heavy burden.

It’s ok though, because I SOLVED ALL THE WORLD’S PROBLEMS!

As I sat drawing at my kitchen table (and continuing to avoid writing), I realized that there’s really only one word you need to understand. One word could repair the fabric of our society the way no legislation, politician or protest can: DIGNITY.

If everyone started honoring the dignity in everyone else the way we deserve just because we exist as human beings, and if we conducted ourselves with the dignity we all posses by the same virtue, all of this ugliness would dry right up.

Here’s how it works: There’s no way you can mistreat someone if you aren’t willing to drag yourself down to that level, and you can’t be sexist, racist, homophobic or discriminate against anyone (or allow your elected officials to do so) if you consider their quality of life first, and how it erodes their dignity (and yours) every single time. The less you’re in touch with your inherent dignity, the easier it is to rob someone of theirs, perpetuating the cycle of mean people creating more mean people. Don’t be mean.

Sounds too simple you say? It really IS simple. It’s the other stuff that’s convoluted. All the ways and reasons we use to hold each other down are only constructed to perpetuate a false bottom. You see, we are all equal. That is a fact. No one starts out any better or more deserving of their dignity that anyone else, but some folks can’t stand not being at the top. You can’t have a top without having a bottom, so the bottom was created one stereotype and one ignorant assumption at a time.

It won’t happen overnight. Maybe it won’t even happen in my lifetime, but it starts with us being cognizant of the way we act, and teaching that to our children until there’s an entire generation that doesn’t remember anything different, and respect is the norm. They will read of our ignorance and prejudices in their history books and be appalled. Can you imagine!?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow Days

We humans labor under many delusions that erode our quality of life. One that particularly makes my eye twitch is that we are all extra-special, super-unique little snowflakes. Friends, give me a break.

Like most stereotypes and over-generalizations, there’s some truth to it. We all have our own little oddities that make life more interesting and provide lots of opportunity to learn about different points of view, but while our quirks supply diversity, it’s our common human expereinces that gives us stability.

 “You don’t know how I feel!”
“You don’t understand what I’m going through!”
“Well maybe you’ve done this before, but [insert lame qualifying statement here]!”
Why is that our knee-jerk reaction when people try to identify with us? Statements like these not only isolate us, they also discount the empathy of the person trying to reach out…and that’s something we can’t afford to lose.
Here’s some stuff to keep in mind when you find yourself in a similar conversation:
1. Recognize the Empathy: It might sound a little harsh and sloppy, like the person is trying  to one-up you or make it about all about them, but remember humans are imperfect. Appreciate the effort they’re making to acknowledge your situation and help you feel less alone.
2. It’s entirely likely they don’t understand every single facet of your feelings, because no one can read your mind. Make it an opportunity to explain/educate, not an excuse to shut them down. If I’m every Queen of the World, it will be a crime against humanity to discourage someone’s attempt to empathize.
3. If you are trying to be the comforter in a scenario like this, be careful to keep your “I              statements” to a minimum, and make them reflect back to the comfortee.
All the –isms in the world, sexism, racism, ablism, etc, continue to exist because we make a million little decisions every day that lead toward ignoring what makes us the same and remaining ignorant about the unique qualities of people we think are so different from us.
Not making the effort to put yourself in someone else’s shoes WILL have serious consequences (so will keeping others out of your shoes for that matter). Always remember all we know for sure is everyone you encounter only gets this one life and your existence will affect it.
Isolation will destroy you. An individual snowflake won’t last long on it’s own, but when it starts sticking with its buddies, they are literally a force of nature.

What are your true colors?

Humans are complicated and life is messy. One of the many things we do to keep that theme running is miscommunicate, but before you can really communicate with someone else, you have to get on the same page with yourself.

If an 8-count box of crayons can represent your emotional spectrum, keep reading. This is about getting familiar with the super-deluxe 120-count pack.
Somewhere, somebody decided emotions are either good or bad. For example, happiness, love and gratification feel good, so we naturally want to do things that give us that feeling. Guilt, sadness and fear feel bad and are to be avoided. Anger spans both lists, because there’s often temporary relief in lashing out.
That’s all baloney, and here’s why: Every single one of your feelings serve a purpose, and if heeded appropriately, will help you navigate even the trickiest of situations and relationships.
Think of guilt as your emotional pain response. Pain is your body’s way of alerting you to a problem. It says “take your hand off the stove, Dummy! It’s burning!”. A healthy guilt response will let you know when you’ve behaved badly and need to adjust your behavior.
The same way guilt helps you look out for others, fear helps keep and eye on you. It’s the knot in your stomach that warns you not to take a ride from that stranger at the party, or the panic that makes you take your foot off the gas before careening out of control.
Anger is simple. It’s just mad, and everybody understands that. It’s so easy in fact we seem to want to default to it. Are you hurt? Anger. Are you confused by someone’s actions? Anger. Disappointed? Anger.
We’ve got the idea that being mad puts us in a more powerful position than being hurt. The truth is, being aware of your pain and honest enough to admit it, puts you in control because it’s the first step toward a real resolution. Reacting to a situation when you’re not sure, or not being honest, about your motivations is like taking medicine when you don’t have a proper diagnosis. At best, it won’t help; at worst, it can be dangerous.
You can’t be easily abused or manipulated when you’re in tune with your real feelings. Being aware of all the shades of your emotions makes your intuition much more sensitive
Humans are emotional creatures. We can’t realistically stop ourselves from reacting emotionally to both external and internal forces. If you aren’t honest and aware of what you’re reacting to and why, your response will almost always be inappropriate, dumping more turmoil and confusion into your life. Peace is a product of learning to use your emotions as a tool, instead of being a slave to your emotional triggers.

How to be Self Rescuing

The calvary isn’t coming.

 This may seem obvious, but first you have to realize no one else is going to rescue you. There’s not a person on the planet who could, no matter how much they wanted to. Our culture is saturated with entertainment depicting women seeking the perfect man who will worship her, do at least his share of the housework and maybe hers if she’d rather take a bubble bath, follow her around at the mall with wallet at the ready and be sensitive to her every mood while never failing to take genuine interest all facets of her work and play…..Oh, and be a perfect attentive parent/provider.  It’s not going to happen ladies, not every day anyway. Even the man who is perfect for you is still just a man with the same pressures you face. It’s not fair. Lump that together with the vastly different communication styles of the sexes, and it’s a wonder we can get along at all (more on that in a minute). Sure, there are some guys out there with unreasonable expectations of women, but in my observation, they aren’t burdened with the same kind of wildly romantic notions of someone in shining armor swooping in to save them. It’s Probably because they don’t grow up being the target demographic of Disney princesses and romantic comedies.

I don’t know what to call this one, but it might help repair your relationship.

There were these popular storybooks when I was a kid.  They had pages of stickers in the back, and each page had indicated spots where you could put the sticker that completed the illustration and added too the story. I didn’t like them.  Stickers stressed me out because if you put them in the wrong place or changed your mind, it was too late. You could remove them, but the stickers would curl and never really stick again. The paper would tear and lose its smooth, fresh surface to a permanent scar.

In the grown-up world, our relationships are like those storybooks. We start with the cookie-cutter format society supplies, and then press the messages we absorb from our family, community, religion, culture and experiences to our lives like stickers.
We affix our dreams, needs and expectations to another human being who is just as fragile as we are. As time passes, things change. We are changed.
One funny thing about people is how we put all kinds of emphasis on teaching our kids how to get along in school and in business, but instruction on how to get along with other people tends to start dissipating after kindergarten. We don’t learn to talk about things in an authentic, open way.
Overwhelmed, we start pulling off our stickers, not understanding where it all went so wrong.  Hurt, bitterness, disappointment, anger multiply and wound. Friends, the remedy and prevention for this is trust. Trust is rebuild by communication.
It’s fun when you enjoy all the same things and laugh at the same jokes. It feels good when all our needs are being meet, but real life is a lot messier than that because we are all needy and flawed. A relationship is fulfilling and solidified when both sides are giving. When each spouse knows the other is equally invested, they’re both willing to give more.  Over time, the love will start piling up. The sun shines brighter, food tastes better and life’s blows are a little softer.
If you are in a struggling relationship, I encourage BOTH of you to try this: For six weeks, live every moment for your partner. Be courteous and kind. Try to anticipate their needs. Save the last snack for them. Learn their favorite song, and ASK why it’s their favorite. Start saying things like “Wait, I’m confused, can you say that again?” or “Maybe I misunderstood you”. “That sounded kind of mean. Is that really what your meant?” is really useful. If you get frustrated say so, BEFORE it escalates. LISTEN without being defensive. Ask questions and be EMPATHETIC. Seek understanding instead of validation or gratification.
During this process, at least one of you will screw up at least once. When it happens, be kind and forgiving. Someone should apologize without deflecting blame, and the other should forgive and LET GO! Don’t keep a record of every fault. Remember your spouse can’t read your mind. We’re all trying to figure it out as we go. Be gracious, merciful and humble. It will only work if both of you participate. Also, don’t make any major decisions about your life before you read The Velveteen Principles.

 

I’m much happier now that I know what makes me miserable.

 

Everything good in my life is a result of infinite grace and the kind of wisdom you can only get from screwing stuff up the first time.

If my first marriage hadn’t sucked, this one wouldn’t be so awesome. The trick is to learn, not only what went wrong, but why. We make a big deal out of trying to figure out what we want in life. We start out early asking kids what they want to be when they grow up and lay it on really thick around high school with all the “What are going to do after graduation? Where are you going to college? What are you going to major in?”. Most of the time, these early plans don’t pan out for two reasons:

1. You didn’t have enough experience to understand everything the plan entailed.

2. You didn’t give equal consideration to what you don’t want.

Number one is obvious. I want to talk about number two.

Having an idea of what you want is super, if you’re flexible. You may get it and see it’s totally different than you expected.  You may discover a million really great things you didn’t even know you wanted along the way. What you want is usually a very fluid concept you tweak a little as you go along.

What you don’t want is probably not going to change much. I went into my last job knowing exactly what I wanted: A steady full-time job that offered benefits (in spite of all my pre-existing conditions, thanks Obama) so I could finally emancipate myself from Social Security Disability. I grew up thinking I could get a job, really dig in, learn everything and work there for the rest of my life. I thought there would be room for advancement, and I would be compensated according to my value as an employee. I knew I was valuable. I believed these things so deeply that finding out they weren’t true shook me to my core…something akin to definitive proof that there is no God.

I had to suck it up and regroup, searching out all the happy accidents  and bits of wisdom  I’d gathered in my time there, not the least of which was a sturdy list of things I’d learned I couldn’t live with in my next employment like blatant, raging sexism and condescension, or a boss who sometimes seemed to bully his staff out of sheer boredom.  I have a lot more confidence going into this job search (and every aspect of my life, really) knowing I can make a more informed decision about the situation in which I spend most of my waking hours.

The moral of this story is: don’t stress about figuring out exactly what you want.  Be realistic about the things you just can’t put up with. We’re often told we can’t change other people, and that’s super true, but there’s also only so much we can change about ourselves. That’s not an excuse for bad behavior. As in “I’m a jerk. It’s just who I am, and I can’t change”. I was thinking more like “I used to think I would be ok with a boyfriend who bites his toenails (or is a different religion than me, or has different social convictions than me, etc.) but now I know I can’t”.

I’ve know what makes me happy, pretty much since birth, but it was leaning what makes me miserable that actually brought me happiness.