Love in the Trenches

They were out at the lake. The husband had just yelled at his wife for how how dissatisfying he found his lunch. He barely tasted it, choosing instead to storm back down to the lake and take another shot at fixing that stubborn boat engine. The very liberated daughter had watched the whole thing and she clearly was not happy.

“Why would you let him talk to you that way? If Ray ever spoke to me that way I’d show him the door.”

The mother just smiled as she picked up her husband’s uneaten food. She sat at the counter and ate it herself while they talked. “Ray’s way to be angry is to get quiet and cold. Honey, if I left your father every time he was upset we would have been divorced hundreds of times over.”

“All the more reason! Why do you let him treat you like that again and again? You didn’t raise me to be weak like that.”

The mother took a moment before speaking. “You’re right, we didn’t teach you to be weak. But what’s your definition of strong? He was one of the few liberated husbands when we were young. He cooked for you kids, he helped with school work, and he always made sure there was a roof over your head even if he really didn’t like what he was doing for work.”

“That’s 20 years ago! If you’d made him behave back then you probably wouldn’t be dealing with this now.” The daughter was very piqued.

“He’s not a child. And how exactly do you make someone behave? Withhold affection? Make demands? Fight with him? Why would withholding, demanding and fighting do anything for a relationship?”

“Mother! You just made him a incredible quinoa salad and he insulted you! He could at least appreciate that you made it for him!”

The mother pushed her meal aside and she went to the fridge and she started to make a sandwich. “Your father doesn’t like quinoa, you know that. When he was at the peak of his career I used to complain about him not being home enough.”

“Well he wasn’t.”

The mother returned to the fridge for more ingredients. “He wasn’t successful to spite me. Why would I criticise him for something I was proud of? Aren’t you trying to get a promotion right now? Do you see that as an attack on your relationship with Ray? Of course not. You’re trying to succeed at being a good professional, like we raised you to be. It’s a sign of respect to others to do your job well. You know your father always says that.”

“He still shouldn’t talk to you that way.”

The mother stopped and looked at her daughter for a long moment before speaking. “I’m not sure what ‘shouldn’t’ means. Your Dad was in pain. I was just being compassionate. I’m not a pushover.”

“What pain?! He wasn’t in pain! He couldn’t get the stupid boat motor working and so he got angry at you, like he always does when something breaks.”

The mother went back to finishing the sandwich. “Your father prides himself on being able to fix things, it’s what made him look capable in front of his Dad. He feels like he’s letting his Dad down, or he’s not being a man, if he can’t fix something. He’s always been like that.”

“All the more reason for you to tell him it’s time to stop.”

The mother smiled. “I might do that if I could figure out a way to stop getting mad at him. Demands don’t fix relationships honey. Love does.”

“Love doesn’t yell at someone for making them quinoa.”

“That’s right, love doesn’t. He knows I made it because you and Ray were coming out. Your father just told me is that he’s feeling a long way from feeling good. That’s the problem, not whether he likes quinoa. My job isn’t to demand that he like the food you and I like it’s to love him when he feels unlovable.”

“He yelled at you!! Why would you be helping him!! It should be him crawling back up here to apologise to you!”

“Crawling?” The mother smiled at the thought. “Your father’s having his version of a tough day. He stayed too long trying to fix the boat and now he’s really hungry and he came up to eat and found something he finds totally unsatisfying. He gets angry when he’s hungry. That’s just being human.”

The daughter notices the sandwich. “You’re making that for him!”

“He’s hungry. I’m just being practical. He’s in a better mood after he’s eaten. When I’m menopausal and screaming at him for no reason, these are the things he remembers to help balance things out. You see him upset about quinoa. I see a man I care about having a bad day; a man who’s proven himself over and over for all of us.”

“Your expectations are too low.”

“I’m trying not to have any.” The mother picks up the sandwich and starts for the pier. “Sweetheart, you guys just had a baby. You’ve been exhausted and your hormones are going wild. I’ve seen you be pretty mean to Ray, but ninety percent of the time he just takes it because he loves you.” The daughter chases after her.

“That’s a baby! How can you compare that to a boat motor!?”

“Pain is pain. It doesn’t matter whether you broke a foot or a leg.” As they near the water we can see the daughter really cloud over. She is harbouring a lot of anger toward her father. The mother stops and addresses her before walking onto the pier where he and Ray are working.

“Honey. Again: your father’s problem is that he’s suffering. I’m not going to debate whether he deserves to or not. What makes a marriage isn’t weighing whose suffering is worse. I can think about me and what I want, but does he really look like he’s got much to give right now?” Just then the father hurls a wrench angrily onto the pier. The mother kisses her daughter on the cheek and walks out onto the pier and offers the sandwich. He half-heartedly thanks her, but he seems a bit embarrassed.

Later that afternoon he does get the boat going. After a nice steak dinner he suggests a boat ride. Ray suggests, “Should we head down to Half Moon Bay?”

The father walks to his wife’s side and puts his arm around her. “Diane likes the view down by the promenade. I thought we’d go down there.” The mother turns to the daughter, winks and smiles.

Later, while the father and Ray do the dishes, the mother sits down for a tea with her daughter. “Ray might go under soon and we all know it. Every business like his is struggling in this recession and he just had a baby. If that happens you can kick him while he’s down and demand that he do the impossible and undermine his confidence. But after 35 years of marriage I can tell you, you might find that you’d get where you’re going quicker if you just made him some sandwiches instead.”

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.

Making Changes

Hello! It’s a holiday here a student had a very big breakthrough yesterday and it was so inspiring that I felt like writing to you even on a day off. Besides,we’re right in the middle of our discussion about slowing down our moments enough to allow us to escape from unnecessary egotistical suffering. Today we’ll draw meaningful distinction between suffering and pain. The former you can do something about, the latter you simply accept and feel.

869 Relax and Succeed - Be kind to unkind people

Okay let’s say you’re dealing with someone you love and care about a lot, but someone who often makes you angry. Maybe it’s your kid, maybe it’s your parent, maybe it’s a sibling or an important friend. These are the sorts of relationships where no matter when someone asked you, you would always know that in the end you would forgive the person. Maybe not the behaviours, but the person is ultimately accepted without conditions. Despite that they can still be exasperating for any number of valid or invalid reasons.

So you’re in the process of yelling–notice I don’t care about what. No matter why I’m doing it the route out is the same; you must alter the direction of your thoughts. You can’t go somewhere and ask for adrenaline and then take it and complain that you’re all worked up. You asked for it!

Same with the anger you’re feeling. Anger is always masquerading fear, so your anger is really worry that you won’t be able to keep paying these prices. You’re concerned your loved one will go beyond the limit of your life. It makes sense you’re afraid and that you’d have angry thoughts about how the person isn’t cooperating with something so obviously good for everyone involved. And that frustration would impact your voice. Fine. That still doesn’t mean you want to stay there. It’s generally not useful and it’s unpleasant for you. That’s suffering not pain.

869 Relax and Succeed - Be gentle with yourselfIf you’re going to think the sort of thoughts that are resistant to what is, what was or what may be, then you will suffer. To bump harshly into the walls of ego can be helpful though. For instance: you catch yourself yelling at the loved one. Your impulse is that you should make yourself stop, but instead I would suggest that you simply watch yourself getting upset.

Understanding will change your behaviour not effort. Your ego is yelling. With this meditation you’re focused on keeping some consciousness with the watcher–the real you, the creator of your ego. Once you recognize that the story you’re telling yourself is colouring your feelings about it, go back to recalling the connection you have and the person you’re angry with.

Look at them while you yell at them. Know in non-word terms that it’s true that you will always love that person. From there you will naturall realize that the current ugliness between you can only be a portion of your journey together, so why not make it as brief as possible for no other reason than selfishness? For no other reason than it feels better? Why not just take the pain but leave the suffering?

That is personal freedom. Taking responsibility for your thoughts to the point where your selfishness creates increased happiness, which increases gratitude, which in turn makes us generous and then our problems end up being solved in surprising ways by things like love.

869 Relax and Succeed - Yelling silences your message

Once you’re watching yourself semi-regularly you will be able to stay more aware by choice. You’ll have experience over time, so you’ll know with quick confidence that if you’re yelling you must be lost. I know it sounds strange but you can interrupt any emotion just by knowing you don’t want to feel it. Just that desire is like sticking something in the spokes of a moving bike.

If you’re thinking that desire into existence then you can’t be simultaneously using your thoughts to create the undesirable issue. That single step away from your ego allows you to redirect the course of your consciousness onto more productive things, no different than you tune a TV to get different types of shows. You never have problems. Your mind is just sometimes tuned to a painful channel.

As you get better, once you’ve stopped yelling and are in touch with some loving feelings you’ll be more able to take some action like call a friend, cuddle your pet, or dive into a hobby etc. Slowly your wisdom will creep in where the anger was taking up space and you will be able to move toward more thoroughly loving feelings. You’ll also find many more constructive ways to face your challenges.

Yes this benefits the person you’re yelling at, but do this because you love and care about yourself. I’m an action guy. You don’t get better thinking about how to be better, you get better by taking different actions than you have been. These are the actions to take within your consciousness. Fumble through them and learn them until they are entirely natural. That knowledge and practice is the never-ending path to peace and wisdom.

peace. s

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

Taking Care of You

I am not a teacher. You are a learner. I am simply here. You are passing through me. I’ll offer you everything and you can take what makes sense to you in any given moment. That’s all that can ever happen. All I can offer is what I have, and all you can take is what you have room for. The rest is up to the universe.

759 Relax and Succeed - Don't just be good to othersThe reason we’ll meet is because sometimes you’re done dropping and you’re ready to bounce. Maybe it’s a small bounce, like working through a new job or some dating challenges. Or maybe it’s a huge bounce like overcoming an addiction, ending a relationship or overcoming powerful grief. I am always just a nice straight wall for you to bounce your possible futures off of. From my perspective all situations are all the same.

Whether someone cuts off their finger or their arm, it really hurts and it’s the pain I naturally respond to. That’s what connects me to the other person. Not a detailed understanding of how they came to be that way. That should ultimately be irrelevant to both of us. What was written yesterday does not impact what gets written today other than that the writer is more experienced at choosing their words.

Once we are connected, I simply listen to what you’re saying in a very deep way. The intense way you would listen to your new baby’s breathing, or your mother’s dying words. All-in. No me. I’m not reacting as me, I’m responding to something in you that’s behind the words. We all often know when someone’s hiding something because they will unintentionally tell us so. This is like that, just a bit deeper. It’s listening to intent more than content.

759 Relax and Succeed - The future dependsIt’s true that I can be profoundly helpful, but again I am like the mathematician who proves to you that your rocketship can fly. You will build your own ship and you must fly it. I’ll just help you remember that you already know how to do both those things really well. Your life is much more about your imagination than you realize, so think big.

If you’re ready you know. You either love how things are and you’re wise enough to want to learn how to maintain that while you were happy and a good learner, or you’re tired of things the way they are and your low feelings have been energized into a focused kind of anger. Not anger at you or your history. But an intensity about squeezing the most out of each and every moment. That doesn’t have to mean they’re good moments. Some of my all-time favourites have included a lot of sadness. But such is the sweetness of life. The pie needs some crust to hold the filling in.

If you’re not ready these words mean little to you. If you like the idea but not the words, then seek out another teacher. New clothes or a new car won’t do nearly as much for you as truly attending to your own life. Respect it enough to want lots from it. It’s generous and it’s huge, so feel free to go crazy. Because even the dreams you don’t achieve will lead you to dreams you never even thought to have.

If you’re ready I’ll probably hear from you. If you’re not, that’s cool too. We’ve gotta get lost before we feel the need to figure out where we actually are and where we’re actually going. And that happens to everyone in good time. Maybe I’ll see you then. Either way, you take good care of you.

Much love, s

Scott McPherson is a writer, mindfulness instructor, coach and communications facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

Other Perspectives #73

Newsflash. Life is not a competition. And if you have chosen to enter some contest that involves physical competition then that’s why it’s called a con-test. The prefix “con” means convene, condone or connection. So a contest is a test that involves some convening and some connection and you certainly have to condone to compete. A Roman can throw you in with the lions but he can’t make you compete. That has to be a choice. So if you’ve chosen to compete then you should be happy and enthusiastic about exercising and practising because that’s the course you chose for your life. And if you’re not competing then why in the world would you care about when other people are at the gym? You’re not in a competition with them and if you believe you are then start by recognizing that act as an entirely ego-based action. The Tarahumara Tribe run 100 mile foot races that can feature half the tribe and there is no accounting of who won or who finished in what order. They run for the love of it. So unless you’ve chosen to be happy by competing, you should exercise for the same happy reasons. Because if you’re doing it right it feels great even when it doesn’t feel great. Love your body, love your life. But do not live it in competition with others unless you keep that in proper perspective because otherwise that is a recipe for an unhappy existence. Now go have an awesome week.

peace s

00 Relax and Succeed - Other Perspectives Footer

Other Perspectives #35

498 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - I never wanted anything

I suspect the people in this photo are still teenagers and that’s suitable because the quote is definitely an immature view of love and relationships. This isn’t to say that it isn’t a valid way to see things for someone young, but obviously most 20 year olds know way more about the world than most 10 year olds and the same holds true of 40 year olds who look at 20 year olds. And one of those ways we often grow is that we adjust our expectations for our relationships. Let me be absolutely clear: no one will ever be anyone’s everything. Got it? Never. That’s not how it works nor do you want it to be that way. You will need your friends even if you have a significant other. You will have interests that your partner does not have and they will do likewise. This is not a failing of either of you or of the relationship. Human lives are multi-facted polyhedrons of experience and thought and perspective. Those differences make each of us unique despite all of our similarities. So you will sometimes not know what to say or do to help your partner but someone else will. There’s nothing wrong with that, and if either you or your romantic partner are hoping or planning not to need anyone else, then you are signing up for guaranteed trouble because that is asking way too much from each other and from yourselves. Yes, partners should be each others primary sources of inspiration and support, but no one will ever be anyone else’s exclusive support system and if anyone’s asking you to do that, then know that they are also asking you to do something that is both immature and unhealthy. Be supportive and then trust your partner to come to you when you’re the right person. Anything other than that is mistrust and that’s a bad basis for a good relationship. Now go have yourself an awesome time together by simply enjoying each other’s company.

peace. s

Note: Everyone who posts or shares a quote does so with the very best of intentions. That said, I have created the series of Other Perspectives blog posts in an effort to prevent some of these ideas from entering into people’s consciousness unchallenged. These quotes range from silly to dangerous and—while I intend no offence to their creators—I do use these rebuttals to help define and delineate the larger message I’m attempting to convey in my own work. I do hope you find them helpful in your pursuit of both psychological and spiritual health.

True Friends

Winner: 2014’s Blog of the Year #2

I hear a lot of people spending a lot of time standing around discussing how other people didn’t live up to their expectations. Of course, they don’t describe it that way. They say the person let them down, or that they weren’t who they thought they were. (I especially love that last one. That’s hilarious.)

114 Relax and Succeed - Not all those who wanderWhere exactly were these people letting you down from? Was there some place they were supposed to be? Did you build some castle in the sky for them to live in? Are they an actor in your play who missed their mark? And does this mean that anything that you don’t want is automatically wrong? Is that possible? Can you always have your way? Is a friend not a friend unless they are doing what you want?

Or what about that funny second one—they weren’t who you thought they were?! Well no kidding. Even with your spouse you witness a small fraction of a person’s life and almost none of their history, so why would you think you could truly know them? Sure, you’ll share some ideas with them, but the rest is like an iceberg—90% of it is below the water.

Most of my clients with serious, expensive, long-term addictions have spouses that have absolutely no idea. I knew a guy eons ago who would watch Jeopardy at work and then at night he would go home and watch the second showing later in the day with his wife. Despite the fact that they’d been married over three decades, this habit had convinced his wife that he was one of the smartest men ever. She had no idea he had watched it hours earlier on another station.

So every person you know has an identity that is simply an invented story that is some combination of what they’ve told you, and what you tell yourself about them. The whole story is only based on a few facts, so no, they can’t live up to your story because they have no idea who you think they are or what you think they should say or do. They can’t be who you want them to be because they are busy living out the story of who they believe they are.

114 Relax and Succeed - A friend is someoneSo a real friend isn’t someone who does what you want them to, or who does things you judge as good or acceptable. A real friend is someone who can see you clearly and so they love you unconditionally. Real friends are either highly conscious people who see everyone clearly, or they’re people whose icebergs are flowing in a very similar current to yours. That means your own personal psychologies mix well, which in turn translates to your intense sense of empathy and connection with them. And because that feeling is the feeling of home or oneness to our spirit, that feeling ends up superseding any judgments. With no judgment and the resulting sense of strong connection, we’re left in a state of best friendship.

This means that “real friends” love us despite what they know about us and despite what we’ve done or do. So there will be people who will dislike either of two friends for various reasons, and the friends could honestly recognize those reasons as valid, and yet they choose to look past those things because they are focused on the value the other person brings into their life. By not thinking about those other qualities, they are left in a forgiving state of mind. If you’re not thinking about something it can’t bother you. Likewise, if you are thinking about what you do like about someone, you will feel great.

What that translates to in real terms is that we can only truly be ourselves in front of friends who truly love us, or highly conscious people who will also offer unconditional love. Everyone else will be conditional: Maybe you can’t yell. Maybe you can’t kick something when you’re scared or hurt (and that might look like anger, but those people who truly love us can see that anger is actual fear or pain). Maybe you can’t be friends with someone. Or maybe you can’t even talk to someone. Maybe you have to like certain music or have certain interests. Maybe you have to be smart. Or cool. Or rich. Or thin. Or sexy. Maybe you cannot even disagree. While at the same time, your best friends are the ones that think you’re perfect just the way you already are.

114 Relax and Succeed - Do you wanna knowSo if you want to know who your very best friends are, they are the ones who forgive you no matter what. Even if you’re tired and scared and alone and that drives you to act like a total ass, where you cause tons of forever-lasting trouble and other people pay for your mistakes and yada yada yada—even if you’re at your absolute lowest, worst and most pathetic, the people who truly love you will still see the goodness in you and, in doing so, they will forgive you. In fact, far from abandoning you they will recognize your suffering and respond with compassion. Rather than turn their backs, they will rush in to help and it will be through their unconditional love that you will be restored.

And should you feel badly about the other people who deserted you in tough times? Not at all. They either aren’t enlightened yet, or they’re simply not able to love you purely enough to do so unconditionally. Yet. But that’s not a problem. That just is. They will be able to unconditionally love someone—just not you. And that’s important. Because in the end, the people we unconditionally love are like windows into enlightenment. They are where our personal thoughts are silenced by love. Through our loving connection to them, we can invest ourselves in learning to love all of creation with an open, enlightened, unconditional awareness.

The people that let you make mistakes and still love you; those people really love you. Appreciate them. Everyone’s only got a few of them in their life and our loving connection to them is an aspect of our own spirituality. They’re certainly relationships worth nurturing.

So go nurture yours.

And have an awesome day.

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.