The Freedom to be Beautiful

What kind of beauty are you interested in? Through movies and music videos and other kinds of  marketing for societal and cultural ideas, there’s a superficial, ego-centered view on beauty that involves comparing ourselves to advertised standards. But in that case superficial is really just another term for thin-skinned, so people who subscribe to that belief definitely worry and suffer a lot.

The other kind of beauty involves confidence and soul. It risks vulnerability to share connection. It risks judgment to realize potential. And nothing as wispy as the opinions of others has any hope of stopping it. Beth Ditto is a great example of how the size and scale of modern media is making more room for ideas that aren’t dictated by advertising objectives of the makeup or clothing industries.

You do not need to look like her, or her, or her. You don’t need to look like him or him or even him. That is mimicry. That isn’t even close to being. It’s literally the other side of the coin from being. You either perform being someone or you be yourself, but if you’re using comparison or fear to dictate your choices then you are not as courageous as Beth and you won’t find your own version of her beautiful voice.

The pressures on young men cause them to keep their real attractions secret. In the locker room immature males seeking approval will suggest that anyone who doesn’t like the hottest possible girl has their masculinity in question. This isn’t actually an anti-gay perspective even though they might even use that term. This isn’t being against gays, it’s about being cock of the roost. It’s about wanted to be the most masculine, not fear of being the least feminine. Half the time the guy is touting a girl whose type he’s not even sincerely interested in.

Of course, in the girl’s locker room the girls who do align with an immature boy’s attractions will then try to create even more separation from them and their competition by trying to draw attention to how others don’t align with what is actually a rather bizarre external reference. No healthy person wants the look or body of another person, they want to be themselves.

Young women are particularly bombarded with these ideas via the media and it starts so young it’s difficult for a woman to protect herself when even her own mother is probably also a victim of these false beliefs. We all have to have a real dedication to ourselves and to the individuality of others so that our culture begins to adopt a healthier set of standards that involves people feeling fulfilled instead of feeling coveted.

Make room for yourself. Make room in your opinions of others. Be the change you want to see by stopping your own judgments. Question others judgments. And pay more attention to who is really living big. Because those are the people who can teach you to do it too.

Have a fantastic week everyone. Start it off by giving yourself permission to be you. Accept yourself. That won’t mean everyone responds to you positively, but it will mean they’ll be prompted to deal with you more honestly. And if you get to be you, that’s all you really need.

peace. s

PS You might also want to check out Beth’s song Oo La La, which I also love.

Alex’s Secret

Despite the fact that she rarely liked Alex’s answers, Michelle often found herself in her office when she was upset. It was a bumpy time. We’ve all had them. Demands become too high. We get unreasonable, impossible requests and, no matter what we do, a big price will be paid in one way or another.

Both of them knew there was no way such a large project could ever be properly built in the four weeks given to them. A good team could easily spend that much time in the planning stage, where most of the savings in time and money happen. Now everything would be compressed and patience would be commensurately short.

Michelle was freaking. Her mind raced with the impossibility of it all. Over and over she discussed those painful realities with herself and anyone else who would listen. One wondered how much she might have gotten done during all the worrying, but that was water under the bridge. Now she was sitting in Alex’s office crying.

“This is gonna be a disaster.”

“It may not be as good as it might have been, but even then–who knows? Maybe the rush exposes some advantage…?”

Michelle rolled her eyes. “Stop with the crazy optimism. Why does everything always have to be rosy, or good with you? Why can’t you just let this suck?”

Alex comes out from behind her desk and sits next to Michelle, orienting herself toward her. “I’m sorry about that. I didn’t intend to let you stop you from feeling your own legitimate feelings. I did think this sucked.” Alex takes a moment and composes herself. “We knew when she gave us this assignment it was crazy. It put everyone under enormous pressure.”

“For no good reason.”

“Maybe. Her job is to capitalise on opportunity, not create the most ideal administration situation possible. We’ve all benefitted from projects she’s brought into the company with that attitude, so we can’t turn on her when that same quality isn’t convenient for us personally. That feels selfish to me. Like we’ll take but we won’t give. She has to work around our strength and weaknesses combinations too.”

“But how do you handle it?”

“You used the word ‘pressure.’ The most rigid people in life snap and break more often than anyone. They’re too incapable of responding to a lot of the unexpected twists and turns that are part of life. They suffer a lot. I’m more of a fluid person. I like to stay flexible. That’s why I said I did feel what you feel, not that I do feel it now. When we got this assignment I felt an earthquake.”

Michelle feels better with that connection. “So you truly thought it was bad too?”

“You’re not alone. I knew right away it would create an unpleasant effect. I meditated on what would happen and I realised that I could stay flexible for a time, but that eventually our compressed schedule would mean we would reach the point where the the pressure increased too much and it would have to turn to a gas–our beautiful whole would have to be split apart–atomized–into a divided whole.”

“And that’s what’s happening now?” asked Michelle.

“Yes. We still manage to occupy the same space, we’re still all 100% busy, but now we’re more diffused in our impact. I knew by now most of us would be bouncing from emergency to emergency. I guessed that would kick in about a week beforehand and so I reminded myself that I could stay calm in all of that, and then I did my work and waited.”

“That’s it?” Michelle’s disappointed. “Before, you knew you could concentrate and get things done, and then you knew you’d be spread too thin and that shit wouldn’t get done, and so you just waited for the shit to hit the fan? That’s your secret?”

“Kind of, yeah.” Alex was sorry she couldn’t give it to her in a way where it seemed more valuable. “I’m bouncing just like you, so I’ve been eating and sleeping really carefully so my health holds up. And if I start to feel anxious I just check in and remind myself that I knew it would be like this, and to just drop the smallest stuff and handle the emergencies.”

“So you’re telling me you just accept failure?”

Alex seems half offended by the idea. “No. I accept that, considering the limitations we’re under, this is the very best job that could be done. I never do work I’m not proud to do.”

“What if it bombs though?”

“I never do work I’m not proud to do.”

Michelle just sits with that for a long while. “So then, according to you I should just go back to my office and get as much of the most important stuff done as is reasonably possible?”

Alex is very sincere when she says it. “What else could you do?”

Michelle realises she has a point. As she rises to leave, we can see she’s lost in meditation about her own understanding.

“Have a great day Michelle.”

“Yeah, thanks Alex. I’ll think about what you said and maybe I’ll try it.”

“I think you already have.”  Michelle looks at her confused. Alex continues, “Only I did it back when the assignment got handed out and you’re doing it now. I just selfishly prefer to do my freaking out and meditating when it’s calm. Try it next time. Maybe you’ll like it too.”

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

The Stagnation of Thought

If you’re inactive you’re looping. You have two modes of movement through this universe. If you understood the difference between them you would find you would be much more successful at avoiding suffering; particularly anxiousness, worry and fear.

Non-word-based thought is quite valuable. A technician doesn’t look at an engine and think of the parts in words–they’re thinking of it as a function within a system. They’re like detectives looking for the answer within the flow of movement. They’re looking for clues that would provide evidence for the theory they’re testing in their minds–without words.

That kind of flowing thought is where your wisdom is. That’s how kids can learn to talk so fast. A kid can be five and know 3 languages really well; not because they’re so smart, but because they listen so well. The listening–the awareness–is the skill. The talking only facilitates some interactions, but not as many as we believe. Usually our conversations are crippled by our identities, which are undone by too much internal thinking.

The damage comes when you turn those thoughts into clubs to bash yourself with, or you turn them into loops that you tie yourself up with. Depressed people have very sad loops. They may have them for good reasons, but what they’re feeling isn’t the experience, it’s the strangle of the looping. An angry person does tight fast loops around something and then snaps. And anxious or inactive people loop around ideas so slowly (out of fear, or lack of interest), that effectively no progress is made. Those are crazy, crippling forms of over-thinking.

Think to create an idea. And yeah, develop a really good pre-production plan and set yourself up for success. But once you have your script and your plan, it’s time to shoot your film. Any thought-looping here has nothing to do with creating life, it’s only about creating fears and anxiousness.

Those of you who do it know what I’m talking about. You get excited about an idea and then you talk yourself out of it. Then you start thinking the thoughts that un-inspire and you do that until you get angry with yourself, after which you use your anger to tell your ego to shut up and then finally you get a burst of movement forward. The problem kicks in again though, just as soon as you start talking to yourself again.

People let their fears stop them because they think creation takes genius, not boldness. Here’s how easy you can leave your mark in the universe: In film we have a term for shooting without sound, so on the clapperboard they’ll write MOS. Almost everyone who starts in film will immediately ask, “Why is ‘without sound’ written as ‘MOS?'” And the answer is that a lot of the early cinematographers came from photography, and Germany was a leading nation for photography. So when a German cinematographer called out instructions to the crew, he would say, “Vee are going to jhoot ziss mit out sound.”

It exists. MOS. Millions of people know the term and use it regularly. It’s creation was a creative act. So where did it come from that it deserved to last this long? It came from one person’s bold creative act to add something to the universe.

Some senior German filmmaker said “mit out sound,” and some person with courage, risked offending the cinematographer, risked having people angry with them, maybe even risked getting fired, and they to added some humour to the universe anyway. They risked their job and people being just a little upset, and they wrote it anyway.

Obviously it was popular and spread, and now most Germans are quite proud to know their artistic culture has left this mark in the world. And that was invented by some guy just trying to create a life by making a small joke with his co-workers. And yet how many of you stop yourselves from doing likewise pretty routinely?

How many of you will be the first to put your hand up to volunteer?  Do you see how fears hold your life back? And do you see how things can echo if you live life with courage? Families end up being created by someone having the simple courage to ask someone to dance.

Your creation could be a relationship that you get the courage to start if you stop talking yourself out of your worthiness. Or you could create a child, or a friendship or a career or business. You can create an enjoyable conversation (because why create an unenjoyable one?). You could create a piece of art, you can expand by learning, or even building a spreadsheet. Life happens as a verb. Verb your life. Because the worst fate is isn’t failing or having people laugh at you. The worst fate possible is to leave your life unlived. So start living yours right this moment.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

She Said Lenny

She Said Lenny, by Jim Donovan (film below)

There’s a of people who believe the idea of genderless love is silly and yet others who believe it is exalted. None of this is written to change your mind, but it is provided as a potential insight into the other side’s views.

The world itself might seem like a thing but it is in fact a concept you have. The trick is, your brain’s identity is comprised of how you’re taught to see things, and we were all taught when we were younger. So no matter how old you are, the older you get the more different the world gets from the one you were raised to initially understand. My parents have trouble understanding ideas that are based on ideas that were developed long after they were young.

Today, at least in the Western world, we have this weird thing: we currently have two generations cohabitating and yet one grew up with “gay people” and the other group didn’t. Of course gay people either accepted or stressed over their own knowledge of this fact, but the point is, it wasn’t a common concept shared in the culture. Straight people rarely if ever heard about gayness. We quite literally didn’t know it existed. Liberace was creative and flamboyant, not gay. Rock Hudson and Richard Chamberlain were dashing leading men that women fawned over. No one said anything about them loving men.

Can you be blamed if a secret is kept from you? Because you surely and simply cannot be blamed if you learn a life-altering secret and it takes a while for your brain to install that new idea. Like in this case, maybe the idea of genuine homosexuality. Remember, in some countries there’s still a lot of disbelief about the reality of being gay. Even where I’m from in Canada, being gay was only “made legal” in 1967, and gay people couldn’t be married until 2005, and yet Canada was the fourth nation in the world to make it legal.

History is short, and the people that don’t understand homosexuality or bisexuality or transexuality are all being very honest. Those things have never really been planted as ideas in their minds and, once they were, they were treated in very hostile ways by people’s existing beliefs  because that’s what brains do. So for many the new idea didn’t survive. But we’ve all done that, just about things other than being gay. We all do that with ideas we’re not accustomed to. Even having crutches can be stressful because it asks us to alter our view of our own place in the world.

Meanwhile the new generation are more like the Greeks, who had many words for love. That’s better than one word, but it’s still carving an incredible whole into pretty incomplete pieces. So more mature people are somewhat correct; the world generally isn’t improved by creating more definitions because a definition is just another word for a separation or a difference. That creates the potential for duality and conflict and boom, we all have a mess to deal with. Better that we forget the words and divisions and just respect love as love.

Understand: the big new concept-acceptance process is brain-difficult for any person who tries to learn, whether it’s learning something else, or learning that homosexuals can experience the same genuine love the person feels in their own relationships. It’s equally hard for some person who’s accepted those ideas to understand that there could be people who are very genuine in their sense that homosexuality is wrong. Both things just feel wrong to opposing view. We can make it legally right, but that still won’t help some people to change their minds.

This short film, She Said Lenny, by Jim Donovan, is a great example of someone experiencing the moment where their ideas about the world are challenged. Much as the lead character learns in the film The Crying Game, this doesn’t mean straight people need to convert, or that gay people need to be angry that others don’t share their views. It is possible for us to agree to disagree, so long as we’re willing to let others be as free as we ourselves are.

Society is a work in progress. The good news is, history has always added more and more types of people to the accepted family, and that is becoming increasingly easier as people like NASA seriously begin to plan to meet potential cultures from other planets. It’s good we’re practicing this skill with other types of humans in a way. Maybe it’ll make it easier for us when the Darius Kasparaitis lands on Earth and we actually meet Hakan Loob, the leader from from the planet Jyrki Lumme. Won’t that suddenly make us all feel like one family.

peace. s

PS With thanks to my buddy Craig for pointing the film out to me.

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

The Stranger’s House

The stranger’s request was immediately suspicious and William’s radar immediately went up. The stranger claimed he was giving William a very large budget to build the home of his choice–William’s–just as long as it could handle a family with three kids. William knew a little about what that was like because he was paying alimony and child support to a wife and three kids.

When William pulled up to the beautiful lot overlooking a park, he saw another contractor he knew parked next door. Amazingly, as it turned out, Ray had received the same call, only for the lot next door! Ray had three kids as well, so he and William assumed that had something to do with them getting the jobs.

William argued that the whole thing was just too good to be true and he warned Ray to watch out. Ray said he was happy for the work and that he was grateful for William’s concern, but that he would happily keep working right up until something actually went wrong. William was essentially just waiting for an inevitable bomb to drop, so conversely he kept a very close eye on everything as a result. He often lamented all the struggle he would experience once it did all blow up.

The first thing Ray built was a picnic table. “What’s that for?” William asked him.

“My family. They come for lunch with me each day and the kids help clean up the lot. I’m hoping it teaches them a healthy work ethic, plus I eat well and sometimes we even dance.”

“Dance? You should wolf down a burrito or something. Time is money my friend. If you stop to eat your per-hour rate drops. I’d tell my wife to stay at home.”

“I am so sorry William, I did not know you were married! We will have to have you and your wife to dinner one night.”

“Uh, yeah, that’s fine. Her and I… we’re not together anymore.”

“I see.” Ray kept his focus on William. “My friend, you are breaking your back. We’re not young men anymore. Why don’t you hire more help?”

“I’m tellin’ you William, this whole house deal is a sham. This guy has something up his sleeve and we’re gonna get stuck with the bill in the end.”

“But every invoice has been paid on time.”

“He’s just setting us up. The fact that it’s going good is all part of his plan.”

“I see,” said Ray, confused. “So… the good news is actually… bad news…?”

Now William doesn’t seem as sure either. “Uh, yeah. Basically.”

In the months that followed, Ray’s wife did come down every day and those kids did keep that lot looking a lot better than William’s, next door. Everyday Ray sang at work, and he laughed with his co-workers, and he let his kids draw funny little cartoon characters on the wood before he used it. He really enjoyed building the house out of such fine materials. He was grateful to the trees and the people that supplied them. It was going to be a beautiful house. Ray had thought out every detail to ensure it would be ideal for the stranger’s family.

For those same months, William complained a lot, which made sense because he worked much more slowly. He insisted on doing too much himself because he was always worried about costs. That left him exhausted, which left him grumpy, which only served to make him even more suspicious of the stranger. All day he tried to figure out what scam the stranger was playing. He would take breaks from work and do math on pieces of wood in his attempt to find the hidden theft.

Soon the houses we’re nearing completion. Ray takes a lot of pride in his work. He enjoys his days with his co-workers and he is very grateful for the income. That’s all reflected in the home. It’s warm and decorated and beautiful. Care and attention has been paid. Conversely, William’s house looks uninspiring, unfinished and cheap. It looks like someone who didn’t care much at all, and it’s true William didn’t care about the house. He was too busy caring about his fears.

It was therefore ironic when one day there was a knock on the nearly finished stranger’s door. William opened it with concern. Why was anyone visiting? The stranger introduced himself rather plainly, and he explained that he was there to give William the deed to the house he had just built. William was suspicious.

The stranger then explained that William’s life would always be like the house he built. If he was distracted by fear and suspicion and mistrust; if he failed to offer his talents and skills, then the result would be to miss out on creating the things in life that truly bring it value. As a result, William was welcome to live inside the physical space that his own negative thinking had wrought. Then the stranger invited William come with him to Ray’s, which he did.

At Ray’s door, announcement of who the stranger was instantly got him a big hug from Ray’s entire family. They were just about to sit down to dinner. There was always plenty. Would the stranger please stay? After all, he had contributed meaningfully to Ray’s income that year. They would like to celebrate. William could join them too.

The stranger agreed, as did William. As they sat down, the stranger offered Ray and his wife the deed to their home and property. They were equally confused. What was going on? That’s when the stranger turned to William.

“Do you see William? Ray cared. He was active in that care. He invited his wife. They ate, they laughed, they danced. He cared about his family, his employees, his suppliers, his customers, and his work. You William, were worried. And worry only breeds more worry. So if you’d like to live in a nicer, calmer space, I would suggest you do as Ray did. Consider focusing your thoughts on caring rather than worrying, because whichever you do, that is where you will ultimately live.”

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Training Day

You gotta serve somebody, as Bob Dylan said. That’s what the series The Sopranos is about. Even a championship team in sports only wins the right to have every other team try just a little bit harder against them next time they meet. So in the end, no one really wins, which is why it’s somewhat mindless for so many people to be looking for a life where they don’t lose.

The weird kids get teased by the cool kids, but those outsiders also tease the cool kids for being so predictable. The average kids huddle in the middle, just hoping to be accepted if they keep their head down. But you can’t waffle about who you are. People sense that inauthenticity and they tend to not trust or like it.

Meanwhile, the confident and motivated go off and become Kanye West, Johnny Depp or Mozart. None of them care what you think about them, they’re going to picks the songs or films that they really want to do as artists. Hilary didn’t climb Everest to impress you and me. He and these others were all climbing destinations within themselves. They were responding to their own natural drives rather than using their ego to talk them out of what they felt the urge to do.

Is it possible you’ve misunderstood resistance and they didn’t? What if it isn’t an impediment, or a block or something preventing you from succeeding? What if resistance is only there to strengthen and sharpen your abilities, much like Bruce Lee would use a sparring partner? He had someone fight against him as a form of training for going forward. This is a lesson worth paying attention to.

Rather than seeing difficulties in your life as problems blocking some predetermined success, imagine that your life is more like some video game, where you’re wandering around and the entire point of the game is that it randomly tosses you challenges to overcome as a way of advancing you through itself. How would difficult people appear then?

Start off with the idea that you do know what you should do and you’ll do it right up until you know you should do something else. Trust yourself. Then see any detours or challenges related to your goals as having been intentionally placed there by your trainers.

It’s as if you have a superior from James Bond and they start off your day saying, “Okay Jennifer, as you move through your day we’ve inserted several irritating and challenging interactions for you to help train your responses. Over time we’ll get your impervious to these sorts of things so that you can reserve your energy for what counts, so watch for them.”

If that was how it was set up you’d be totally okay with meeting irritating people. And why? Because you’d always be telling yourself, this person isn’t really like this, they’re just acting this way as a part of my training. So the very same irritating or troublesome behaviour would suddenly be okay because it had been rewritten in meaning within your consciousness. Nothing in the outside world changed, just your idea about it. Do you see now how the world is an illusion made of your thoughts?

An enlightened person is just someone who cannot shake the knowledge that this whole thing is going perfectly and that we’re all helpful players in each other’s games. That means everyone you meet is perfectly helping your execute your life and you’re helping them execute theirs. It’s all very peaceful when you just let it unfold without expectation or regret.

Stop pushing against life. That uncomfortable sensation is within your consciousness, it does not exist in the world without you creating it for yourself with your thoughts. Just allow things to be, even if they’re not ideal or even close to the way you’d want them. Be more accepting. Let more thoughts pass through you undiscussed or encountered. That is what it is to be free of suffering by accepting that there will always be suffering.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

The Disappointing Spouse

There is a great deal of misunderstanding regarding what makes a successful marriage. If you ask people what would help their theirs, almost invariably they’ll start with a polite generality about getting more help, or better communication, or more intimacy, but in fairly short order you’ll find most of the complaints line up on the partner.

Rarely do you find people who are working hard on themselves as a part of their marriage, and yet that is why arranged marriages often test as happier. If you go into a relationship assuming that you already have a lot in common but now you need to learn to appreciate each other, then the marriage is on a sustainable path. If however, it’s just two people and either one has a huge a list of wants, then that is entirely unsustainable in any kind of long term healthy way.

This requires a subtle balance between being yourself, and choosing to trade the sacrifices of coupledom for the advantages of a partnership. No one stands still on that line. Everyone is always in a constant state of balancing, including the very happiest couples. So what’s their advantage then? The happy ones? Their advantage is largely humility. There’s a post from Reddit a few years back that speaks to this. It’s a good example of someone shifting from want to appreciation, so I’ll let this wife speak for herself:

My “Aha Moment” happened because of a package of hamburger meat. I asked my husband to stop by the store to pick up a few things for dinner, and when he got home, he plopped the bag on the counter. I started pulling things out of the bag, and realized he’d gotten the 70/30 hamburger meat – which means it’s 70% lean and 30% fat.

I asked, “What’s this?”

“Hamburger meat,” he replied, slightly confused.

“You didn’t get the right kind,” I said.

“I didn’t?” He replied with his brow furrowed. ” Was there some other brand you wanted or something?”

“No. You’re missing the point, ” I said. “You got the 70/30. I always get at least the 80/20.”

He laughed. “Oh. That’s all? I thought I’d really messed up or something.”

That’s how it started. I launched into him. I berated him for not being smarter. Why would he not get the more healthy option? Did he even read the labels? Why can’t I trust him? Do I need to spell out every little thing for him in minute detail so he gets it right? Also, and the thing I was probably most offended by, why wasn’t he more observant? How could he not have noticed over the years what I always get? Does he not pay attention to anything I do?

As he sat there, bearing the brunt of my righteous indignation and muttering responses like, “I never noticed,” “I really don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” and “I’ll get it right next time,” I saw his face gradually take on an expression that I’d seen on him a lot in recent years. It was a combination of resignation and demoralization. He looked eerily like our son does when he gets chastised. That’s when it hit me. “Why am I doing this? I’m not his mom.”

I suddenly felt terrible. And embarrassed for myself. He was right. It really wasn’t anything to get bent out of shape over. And there I was doing just that. Over a silly package of hamburger meat that he dutifully picked up from the grocery store just like I asked. If I had specific requirements, I should have been clearer. I didn’t know how to gracefully extract myself from the conversation without coming across like I have some kind of split personality, so I just mumbled something like, “Yeah. I guess we’ll make do with this. I’m going to start dinner.”

He seemed relieved it was over and he left the kitchen.

And then I sat there and thought long and hard about what I’d just done. And what I’d been doing to him for years, probably. The “hamburger meat moment,” as I’ve come to call it, certainly wasn’t the first time I scolded him for not doing something the way I thought it should be done. He was always putting something away in the wrong place. Or leaving something out. Or neglecting to do something altogether. And I was always right there to point it out to him.

Why do I do that? How does it benefit me to constantly belittle my husband? The man that I’ve taken as my partner in life. The father of my children. The guy I want to have by my side as I grow old. Why do I do what women are so often accused of, and try to change the way he does every little thing? Do I feel like I’m accomplishing something? Clearly not if I feel I have to keep doing it. Why do I think it’s reasonable to expect him to remember everything I want and do it just that way? The instances in which he does something differently, does it mean he’s wrong? When did “my way” become “the only way?” When did it become okay to constantly correct him and lecture him and point out every little thing I didn’t like as if he were making some kind of mistake?

And how does it benefit him? Does it make him think, “Wow! I’m sure glad she was there to set me straight?” I highly doubt it. He probably feels like I’m harping on him for no reason whatsoever. And it I’m pretty sure it makes him think his best approach in regards to me is to either stop doing things around the house, or avoid me altogether.

Two cases in point. #1. I recently found a shard of glass on the kitchen floor. I asked him what happened. He said he broke a glass the night before. When I asked why he didn’t tell me, he said, “I just cleaned it up and threw it away because I didn’t want you to have a conniption fit over it.” #2. I was taking out the trash and found a pair of blue tube socks in the bin outside. I asked him what happened and why he’d thrown them away. He said, “They accidentally got in the wash with my jeans. Every time I put in laundry, you feel the need to remind me not to mix colors and whites. I didn’t want you to see them and reinforce your obvious belief that I don’t know how to wash clothes after 35 years.”

So it got to the point where he felt it was a better idea — or just plain easier — to cover things up than admit he made a human error. What kind of environment have I created where he feels he’s not allowed to make mistakes?

And let’s look at these “offenses”: A broken glass. A pair of blue tube socks. Both common mistakes that anyone could have made. But he was right. Regarding the glass, I not only pointed out his clumsiness for breaking it, but also due to the shard I found, his sad attempt at cleaning it up. As for the socks, even though he’d clearly stated it was an accident, I gave him a verbal lesson about making sure he pays more attention when he’s sorting clothes. Whenever any issues like this arise, he’ll sit there and take it for a little bit, but always responds in the end with something like, “I guess it just doesn’t matter that much to me.”

I know now that what he means is, “this thing that has you so upset is a small detail, or a matter of opinion, or a preference, and I don’t see why you’re making it such a big deal.” But from my end I came to interpret it over time that he didn’t care about my happiness or trying to do things the way I think they should be done. I came to view it like “this guy just doesn’t get it.” I am clearly the brains of this operation.

I started thinking about what I’d observed with my friends’ relationships, and things my girlfriends would complain about regarding their husbands, and I realized that I wasn’t alone. Somehow, too many women have fallen into the belief that Wife Always Knows Best. There’s even a phrase to reinforce it: “Happy wife, happy life.” That doesn’t leave a lot of room for his opinions, does it?

It’s an easy stereotype to buy into. Look at the media. Movies, TV, advertisements – they’re all filled with images of hapless husbands and clever wives. He can’t cook. He can’t take care of the kids. If you send him out to get three things, he’ll come back with two — and they’ll both be wrong. We see it again and again.

What this constant nagging and harping does is send a message to our husbands that says “we don’t respect you. We don’t think you’re smart enough to do things right. We expect you to mess up. And when you do, you’ll be called out on it swiftly and without reservation.” Given this kind of negative reinforcement over time, he feels like nothing he can do is right (in your eyes). If he’s confident with himself and who he is, he’ll come to resent you. If he’s at all unsure about himself, he’ll start to believe you, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Neither one is a desirable, beneficial outcome to you, him or the marriage.

Did my husband do the same to me? Just as I’m sure there are untold numbers of women who don’t ever do this kind of thing to their husbands, I’m sure there are men who do it to their wives too. But I don’t think of it as a typical male characteristic. As I sat and thought about it, I realized my husband didn’t display the same behavior toward me. I even thought about some of the times I really did make mistakes. The time I backed into the gate and scratched the car? He never said a word about it. The time I was making dinner, got distracted by a call from my mom, and burned it to cinders? He just said, “We can just order a pizza.” The time I tried to put the new patio furniture together and left his good tools out in the rain? “Accidents happen,” was his only response.

I shuddered to think what I would have said had the shoe been on the other foot and he’d made those mistakes.

So is he just a better person than me? Why doesn’t he bite my head off when I don’t do things the way he likes? I’d be a fool to think it doesn’t happen. And yet I don’t remember him ever calling me out on it. It doesn’t seem he’s as intent as changing the way I do things. But why?

Maybe I should take what’s he always said at face value. The fact that these little things “really don’t matter that much to him” is not a sign that he’s lazy, or that he’s incapable of learning, or that he just doesn’t give a damn about what I want. Maybe to him, the small details are not that important in his mind — and justifiably so. They’re not the kinds of things to start fights over. They’re not the kinds of things he needs to change about me. It certainly doesn’t make him dumb or inept. He’s just not as concerned with some of the minutia as I am. And it’s why he doesn’t freak out when he’s on the other side of the fence.

The bottom line in all this is that I chose this man as my partner. He’s not my servant. He’s not my employee. He’s not my child. I didn’t think he was stupid when I married him – otherwise I wouldn’t have. He doesn’t need to be reprimanded by me because I don’t like the way he does some things.

When I got to that point mentally, it then made me start thinking about all the good things about him. He’s intelligent. He’s a good person. He’s devoted. He’s awesome with the kids. And he does always help around the house. (Just not always to my liking!) Even more, not only does he refrain from giving me grief when I make mistakes or do things differently than him, he’s always been very agreeable to my way of doing things. And for the most part, if he notices I prefer to do something a certain way, he tries to remember it in the future. Instead of focusing on those wonderful things, I just harped on the negative. And again, I know I’m not alone in this.

If we keep attempting to make our husbands feel small, or foolish, or inept because they occasionally mess up (and I use that term to also mean “do things differently than us”), then eventually they’re going to stop trying to do things. Or worse yet, they’ll actually come to believe those labels are true.

In my case it’s my husband of 12+ years I’m talking about. The same man who thanklessly changed my car tire in the rain. The guy who taught our kids to ride bikes. The person who stayed with me at the hospital all night when my mom was sick. The man who has always worked hard to make a decent living and support his family.

He knows how to change the oil in the car. He can re-install my computer’s operating system. He lifts things for me that are too heavy and opens stuck jar lids. He shovels the sidewalk. He can put up a ceiling fan. He fixes the toilet when it won’t stop running. I can’t (or don’t) do any of those things. And yet I give him grief about a dish out of place. He’s a good man who does a lot for me, and doesn’t deserve to be harassed over little things that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

Since my revelation, I try to catch myself when I start to nag. I’m not always 100% consistent, but I know I’ve gotten a lot better. And I’ve seen that one little change make a big improvement in our relationship. Things seem more relaxed. We seem to be getting along better. It think we’re both starting to see each other more as trusted partners, not adversarial opponents at odds with each other in our day-to-day existence. I’ve even come to accept that sometimes his way of doing things may be better!

It takes two to make a partnership. No one is always right and no one is always wrong. And you’re not always going to see eye-to-eye on every little thing. It doesn’t make you smarter, or superior, or more right to point out every little thing he does that’s not to your liking. Ladies, remember, it’s just hamburger meat.


Whirling thoughts about expectation and obligation can end up accidentally whipping our partners if we’re not careful. Today, look at your own relationships and find your own examples of “hamburger meat.” Because we all have them. And yet if we really want to impact our relationships positively, we’re often better to invest our energies in thinking about other things.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

The Generous Husband

When considering the greatest acts of love imaginable this is not likely to be on your list. You might think of someone escaping a war-torn country to be with his love, or some woman defying her entire culture to share her life with the man she truly loves, or maybe you’d think of some couple who meets during a disaster and goes on to have a wonderful family. But you won’t think of this.

We think of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia as diseases that impact much older people but by her late 40’s Karen was already showing signs that something was wrong, and soon she couldn’t even set a proper dinner table let alone run her life safely and effectively. By 50 they were making plans to get her into a home where she would be safe and well looked after.

Maybe the doctors and nurses were more prepared for it due to their experience. These brain diseases can attack various regions and often they’ll attack the ones involving our social comprehension. So people will become rude without meaning to, or they’ll say inappropriate things, or sometimes they’ll even do them. And sometimes, they’ll behave in ways that are far more complicated.

The home called. They had caught Bob’s wife in bed with another man. It was clearly sexual. A meeting was called. They trick is, the people involved were young enough that it was difficult to control their every move. More of these instances seemed inevitable. What did Bob and his daughter want to do?

What a thing to be asked. Do? What would someone do in such a situation? Both Bob and his daughter wanted some professional guidance but there is no guidance for a wife becoming extremely uninhibited and sexualised. No one else could consent on her behalf, and yet obviously no one knew if she was capable of consent if she needed it. And worst of all for Bob, his wife didn’t remember Bob or his daughter, and instead she thought she was married to the man she was sleeping with. Who imagines dealing with that at 50? Or is it worse for Bob’s daughter at half his age?

This can seem like an impossible situation unless you’re Bob and you’re in it. But Bob found a way through it. I’m sure it’s not easy, but it’s a route he can have faith in. Because Bob’s basically been told that this love and sexuality is an aspect of his wife’s disease. Even if they move her to another home, it isn’t likely to change. So Bob asked the only intelligent, loving question left. “Is she happy when she’s with him?”

I’m confident it was a very difficult answer to give him because it was overwhelmingly affirmative. Yes, she and the stranger she met in hospital appear to love each other very much and both seem happiest and healthiest when they’re together. Bob’s wife is happier and more alive if she is allowed to experience her love with another man.

Can you imagine the position Bob is in? Can you imagine that you’ve planned your retirement and just as you’re getting close to the point where you hit what you thought would be the easiest period of your lives together, instead you’re not only entirely forgotten about, but moreover you must actually approve of, and even in strange ways pay for, your spouse to have a powerful romantic and sexual relationship with someone else? Wow.

This is the height of love because what has Bob done? He’s put his wife’s needs before his own. He volunteers to suffer so that his wife may have peace and happiness. That’s as generous a love as we can have. Bob wants his wife to be happy, even if that means she’s happiest with someone else.

If Bob can do all this, then I’m sure the rest of us can do better than we’re doing. So let’s all take Bob as an example and, for the rest of this week, do your best to put the needs of your partner ahead of yourself. And while I do feel for Bob, I’m also happy that his spiritual courage has lead him to experience the greatest form of love that anyone can partake in. Because as daunting as it may be, we should all be more like Bob.

peace. s

PS You can follow the link above to hear Bob tell his own story.

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

The Confrontation

She let him have it. How dare he speak to her that way? They were friends, she was hurting and he attacked her. He went right for the jugular, refusing to respect what was happening and what it all meant. Her heart was broken.

“I can’t believe you said that to me.”

“I can’t believe you asked me to believe something so ridiculous.”

“I never asked you to believe anything! I was hurt. I came to you for help and you acted like my problems are nothing!”

“What problems?”

She’s incredulous. He was right there. He did it! And now he’s claiming he doesn’t know what’s going on?! She was livid. “I just finished telling you about how my boss has been treating me and you acted like it didn’t matter!”

“Okay, first off, can we at least try to calm down enough so that we’re not yelling back and forth?” He took a breath and steadied himself. His voice was warmer when he spoke. “Look Syd, we’ve known each other a while now. If you haven’t figured out that I care then pay more attention because it should be obvious for a variety of reasons. Who rescued you when blew your rent on that crazy gift for your Mom?”

“She was worried she was going to die!”

“I remember. That’s why I gave you money I really didn’t have. Of course I thought your Mom was important. Who took her special meals up every time you couldn’t? Who sat and played her dice game with her? Don’t act like I haven’t shown I care.”

She shuffles in her place, uncomfortable. He puts his arm around her. “When that guy dumped you I’m the one that invited you over for dinner, and it was me that was sitting beside you and it was me that put the mirror on the chair across from you because it was me who told you I wanted to make sure you had dinner looking across the table at someone beautiful.”

She jags a cry. She’s emotional, and he’s mixing a bunch of sweet and awful moments together really fast. “What’s that got to do with anything?”

“That’s us Syd. That’s what we do. A girl dumps me, I come see you and you tell me I have a nice ass or that girls are dumb anyway and you help. Even if I’ve been a dick. You show you care. And I do too. So that’s who we are so you can’t take today and rewrite all of that. You can if you want, but to me you’re the same person, which is why I don’t want to hear this shit anymore.”

She’s incredulous that he’d attack her after they just calmed it down. “What shit?”

“This shit about you being weak. This shit about you going into a depression because of your boss. I know you. So it’s insane to ask me to believe that you’re too weak for this. It’s offensive to you, and you asking me to pretend you’re weak is offensive to me. I know who I know, I know who I see every day.” It’s weird. He’s complimenting her and giving her shit at the same time. She gets up, back to him, crosses her arms and paces nearby. It doesn’t seem to bother him.

His tone shifts down a bit. “And who I see is a strong woman who made it through her Mom’s cancer and her parent’s divorce, and her breakups and mine–and she survived Grady Marsh in high school and yes, she was knocked around for sure.” He leans in to stress his point. “But the weeble wobbled and it didn’t fall down Syd. You were fine then you’ll be fine now, so all of this dramatization is exactly that.”

“Don’t reduce my life to some lame plea. And so I’m just supposed to go everyday and get treated like shit? Is that it? I should just be fine with how she treats me?”

“Of course not. She’s a classic over-compensator. She feels like a fraud who doesn’t really deserve her job and so she feels uncomfortable around any capable person and she over-compensates. It’s classic. It’s hardly personal. She’ll do it like a robot to everyone who she perceives has the ability, intelligence or beauty that she doesn’t have. And don’t act like you’re helpless.”

“Oh what, I confront her and wait for her to get angry and undermine me and then just surrender my job? That’s what she’d do.”

“Maybe. Depends on how you approach it. But regardless, either fix it, leave it or stop bitching about it. She’s always been like that; you should either go in and accept that as the landscape of the job, or make a formal complaint and wait to get fired, or just leave. But stop talking like you’re weak with no options when you’re really only scared. You’re an adult.”

“This is a painful thing, why can’t you see that?”

“I can. But no one said there’d be no pain. You live around enormous numbers of people in horrible pain. My point is it won’t last so it doesn’t need us to engage with it so much.”

“I’ve put in five years there. Why should I have to leave!?

“Why not leave? Why are you assuming where you go would be worse? Maybe it would be better. Maybe you’d meet your new boyfriend who becomes your husband there. Syd, stop acting like these mental attachments matter.”

He urges her to sit back down next to him and she does. “Let me clear it up Syd: the world isn’t fair. Go to a children’s hospital and see people with real challenges. Even your own sister. She’s a single mom of a sick kid, she has to work two jobs, and your once-had-cancer mom helps but you don’t. Your life looks pretty good you know. I know it’s no princess-life but come on. We gotta remember, 25% of the people walking past us will get cancer and a bunch of the rest of them are those people’s families. Maybe that’s still us, so maybe this isn’t so bad really.”

“I don’t think you understand what being depressed is.”

He’s not angry, but he is firm. “Now you’re being disrespectful to me. Please don’t pretend you’ve got some feeling I don’t. Don’t pretend that everyone you know hasn’t suffered horribly in their life. All of us feel like just throwing in the towel sometimes. I know that hurts and so does everyone else over about ten years old, so don’t put a spotlight on your problems like they’re the only ones that count because the rest of us have some challenges too you know. When was the last time you asked about Brian?”

Her eyes widened and she hid a gasp. “I’m so sorry. I was so caught up in what’s been happening that I didn’t even think to ask. I’m so sorry.” She takes a step toward him but she can see he needs some space.

“Thanks. Mom says he’s good. We’ll wait and see how the chemo did.”

“I’m so sorry. We should go see him.”

The whole thing between them is a bit weird for her now. He seems comfortable, just stung. “Yeah. He’d like that.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Syd, just stop okay? Just stop with all of the whining. You’re not depressed, it’s just when small shit goes wrong somehow your dad taught you this habit of spinning it around in your head for forever and for what? What’s all that thinking do but dump a bunch of awful-feeling chemicals into your brain? How does that help you solve your issues with your boss, or Palestine and Israel, or climate change, or women’s rights, or any other thing you’ll get all down about? It’s just a stupid waste of time and a bad habit and you always defend it. It steals energy from our friendship that could be used more wisely.”

He turns toward her, almost intimately. “It’s why you forgot to ask about Brian. You’re always too wrapped up with thoughts about yourself that you never stop to ask what you’re missing and yet you’re famous for not noticing major things in people’s lives.”

“I am not!”

He just looks back at her. She can tell that it’s true. She has a moment where she caves in a bit. She hates the thought that among her friends she’s known as the one who hogs the pain limelight. But to her credit, that reputation doesn’t feel comfortable, so she takes a good breath, sits up straight and she turns to him. “Okay… okay… so you’re saying I’m strong and so you’re not mad at me and you’re mad at me for acting like I’m weak.”

“Yes. You I love. I know you. It’s the behaviour. It’s beneath you. It’s like watching an alcoholic hurt themselves. I won’t blame the alcoholic for drinking themselves, but I won’t buy them a bottle either.”

She sits with that for a bit. If her parents made it to Canada, through all of that hell back home, then how could the child of those strong people act like a shitty boss would be enough to knock her entire life off track. The longer she considered it the more the stronger feeling built until finally she turned to him. “Okay. Okay then tell me what your brother loves and then lets go get a lot of whatever that is.”

He turns to her. He’s crying. She touches his shoulder. “I’m so sorry I hurt you.”

“I’m not crying about that.”

“What’s wrong then?”

“Nothing. You’re just so beautiful when you love people.”

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

The Spirit of Possibility

Whether it’s their own idea or someone else’s, people scoff when they hear dreams that seem too big. But too big for who, and when? Is it possible that the limitations of the world are merely made up by the limitations of our imagination? Is it possible that everything mankind has wrought started with a thought?

Every single thing you see before you; every cup, every phone, every car, everything you watch on a screen, everything that was ever created–including the blog you’re reading now–began with an idea. So why do you act like ideas are nothing? Why is your reaction to a big idea to note why it wouldn’t work, rather than getting excited by finding out how?

Did a pyramid seem possible to early man? Did the rule of law and democratic government seem possible to the subject of a king or queen? Did cars seem possible to cowboys? Did going into space seem possible to people who’d grown up without electricity or running water? And did the internet or smartphone seem possible even a few short years before their inception? Probably not. But they seemed possible to some collection of people. That’s the only reason you have any of the things that exist.

There’s an interview with David Lynch and Patti Smith where she asks him where his ideas come from and he gives an answer that will feel good to every truly creative person. He talks about how there’s a completed puzzle somewhere off in the universe, and he finds the fragment of it somewhere in the universe and he falls in love with it. And that love attracts other fragments, and the more fragments that get attracted the bigger the bait for more fragments. And that’s how every single amazing thing ever happened.

Darwin felt a tug and he followed the passion right out of his beloved church and right into discovering evolution, which in a way was him trying in his own way to describe what God or the forces of nature had created. But people adopt these ideas at their own pace. There are still people coming to accept that idea, and yet so much of the modern science and medicine the nonbelievers use will have been built directly as an extension of that initial creative truth.

Darwin won one friend over, then another, then a publisher, then a society or two, and eventually the public and the school systems. But it all started with one guy falling in love with his personal fragment, and you yourself are like a spiritual fragment-finding creation. That’s how you found all of your friends, and if you have a family it was literally born from the initial thought to bring those two first fragments together. And you felt it as a simple sense of recognition that felt something like, “Oh, he’s attractive.”

Watch yourself today. See people’s statements to you as offerings, and ask yourself what you do with them as offerings. Do you reflect back a previous belief regardless of what they’ve said, or do you attempt to prove it wrong using what you believe versus what they believe? Or, do you take it in and ask questions and really ask yourself what’s being said? Because Einstein told people about gravitational waves 100 years ago, but few believed him then.

Fortunately Einstein’s initial thought was enough bait to attract 100 years worth of clinging fragments, and recently some of the fragments who are scientists actually turned enough of their own thoughts into machines and processes that they were actually able to prove that Einstein’s had formed a truth.

Too often children and adults alike are told that ideas are crazy or too big. Too often we tell ourselves that, but we must shake that collective tendency. It’s ego-related and it’s all about your fears. Forget those. Find your fragment–the thing that will be worth you moving past your fears for. Maybe you’ll be right, maybe you’ll be wrong about what’s on the other side. Maybe you’ll create the thing and maybe you won’t. But that doesn’t matter. Because the power isn’t in the creation, the power is in creating. Even your so-called failures add value to the universe.

Don’t sell your dreams short. The route to them might be entirely unexpected, but if you boldly go forth you are sure to accomplish something meaningful. Start today.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.