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.

Other People

It can seem so clear. They approach you. They talk to you. They use your name. They refer to things you know about or that they want you to know about. They’ll even ask you questions! And then they’ll either directly or passive aggressively attack you. What is up with that?

804 Relax and Succeed - If you are willingMaybe it’s your Mom and she’s just been grinding at you. Maybe it’s your brother who’s usual daily bullying has turned cruel. Maybe it’s someone at school or work who is running around gossiping about you to others. Or maybe it’s a total stranger and you barely know what they’re talking about, (as it is with almost everyone, all day, who works in customer service).

So how do you handle these people? What do you do to get them to be reasonable? How do you get them to leave you alone? And what is their problem anyway? How do those customer service people do this all day?!

Okay, so the first thing the sanguine customer service person realizes is that when people approach and talk to you specifically, what it is really happening is that they’re approaching and talking to the person their thoughts compile into you. So they have ideas about who you are and if that’s who they think you are then that’s obviously the only person they can attempt to talk to.

So if your Mom’s having her new boss over for dinner and you’ve messed the house up and she’s yelling at you, understand that she is pointing at you, using your name, but her words are not being used to describe you when she says phrases like you show no respect, you don’t care about how hard I work for us, you’re like your father you’re such a slob and now you’re in serious trouble. But if she’s not talking to you who’s she talking to?

804 Relax and Succeed - People think you're crazyShe’s talking to the situation. And in her fear and helplessness she may blame you, but in the end what she’s really describing to you is what her experience legitimately is. So rephrased it would be:

You didn’t respect that I cleaned up before work because I knew I wouldn’t have time afterwards. I’ve really been stressed and I’ve been underperforming at work. This dinner was supposed to save me and now it’s going to feed into the image the boss already has of me that I don’t get my work done, when that’s not actually accurate if he watched me all day. So now our income is in danger and I know you going to university after school was important to your Dad. But he wasn’t an organized man and that meant he never did take care of any life insurance so now we’re poor and I’m terrified that if I’m unimpressive to my boss that we’ll lose everything.

And all that comes out as an angry version of you show no respect, you don’t care about how hard I work for us, you’re like your father you’re always so lazy and now you’re in serious trouble.

804 Relax and Succeed - I am responsible for what I sayIn the case of your brother, he’s got a new girlfriend. She does drugs and she’s gotten him secretly into them. So when he’s coming down or wants more, he’s particular irritable and the drugs affect his brain chemistry, so things he would do are suddenly influenced by the drug. Particularly with things like cocaine and meth this can turn the person into an unwitting asshole. They can be mean and cruel and they’ll think they’re cool. But once the drugs wore off when he got clean–presuming he did–then things like the cruelty you’re describing will be some of the hardest things for the addict to remember because they recognize it as so unlike the previous version of themselves that you got to know.

And in the case of the gossip at work, who knows if it’s that they feel threatened by your skills or appearance or friendships, or maybe you remind them of their high school bully just by chance. Or maybe they just watched their Mom gossip every single day from their stroller, and then they watched the same thing at the playground and then later at the dinner table. So that co-worker or schoolmate doesn’t think that talking behind people’s backs is gossip, they just think it’s what people do, and the reason some people don’t like it is because they think they’re pointing out a universal truth when in fact it’s just their own filtered perception–just like you have of them.

And if it’s a stranger that’s attacking you then they’re focused on what you represent. Your company, the delays in traffic, their fears about cultures they don’t know and understand. Like all of the above, each case is the person wearing a mask you see them in, and they speak to a mask they see you in. And if they think your mask looks stupid or unfair or lazy or whatever, then that’s how they’ll act. Likewise you are looking at a mask of theirs built from your own thoughts about them–and those will also be based on almost no real information.

804 Relax and Succeed - He who does not understandThe point in all of this is that they are never talking to the real you. That is always their ego addressing your ego. It’s two masks talking. It’s ridiculous in the end. And it’s unnecessary. Silence is much more valuable than filling space with useless thoughts. And when the time comes you’ll recognize soul-to-soul communication when it happens because it creates those connections that are so rare today that they often last a lifetime.

You cannot reconcile other people’s views of you with your view of yourself. You both built your ideas of each other out of your personal thinking. And while you might have attached the thoughts to each other, they can be massively different thoughts about who you each feel you are. That’s because the other person’s view will be based on their experience of you, just as yours of them is. But they spend all day with themselves and you do the same with yourself, so everyone’s always generating their views of other people based on a warped perception of a tiny percentage of the other person’s life.

It’s the same reason you think your mother’s crazy cleanliness standards, or your brother’s new bad attitude, or your co-worker’s negativity are all things about you. Because that’s what happens when you’re with them. But really that’s just the tip of a much larger iceberg that was created long before you showed up. Yes, you might trigger something in them that’s fairly consistent, and they might hold you responsible for their trigger, but you do that to others too. It’s the only way to live in ego and most of the world spends almost all of its time in ego.

804 Relax and Succeed - Maturing is realizingSo when people approach you and they’re upset, just deal with what’s actually going on and respond to that instead of all of the language around it. If it needs no taking care of then great–you can just forget it. But you will make yourself very unhealthy if you continue to retell the stories of those events to either yourself or to others. The replaying of that mental tape will only lead to suffering and it will also serve to solidify your own opinions into more permanent judgments that you will come to believe. And those beliefs are what take you further from the truth that leads to peace.

Getting along is mostly just letting people be where they’re at. If that’s unreasonable then you have to find somewhere else to go. But asking people to react to the person you know as you is impossible. Everyone will always be treating you like who they believe you are and those beliefs will be based very little on who you actually are. Forget trying to reconcile this–it’s the agonizing battle most people engage in most of their lives. Surrender. Realities are separate. If you truly and deeply accept that fact you become a witness to the world in a very special way. And in that way you can enjoy almost any person or experience as exactly that–just another interesting experience.

Be like water. Let other people’s ideas flow through you instead of hitting something solid. Be flexible. Allow them to have their state of mind. They’ll have it anyway and the allowing will feel really good for you to do.

peace. s

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

Relationship Issues

Winner: 2015’s Blog of the Year #7

Are you a couple with issues? Not violence or psychological torture, just some serious issues. Do you see the same problems coming up over and over and over? Do you want them settled once and for all? It doesn’t seem unreasonable to want someone to understand and appreciate your view of something and then respond to it does it? So what do you do?

752 Relax and Succeed - To find signs we are lovedI actually have super-good news for you. As I’ve been able to demonstrate with lots of other couples, this problem can in fact disappear in no time flat. But they can also reappear just as quickly and easily. The fortunate part is–that’s all up to you.

Think of your consciousness as a jar of water. When it’s clear you can see in every direction clearly. But every single jar on this Earth has a bit of sediment at the bottom left over from its creation–from its childhood. These are things that interfere with the clear functioning of our consciousness.

The inevitable occurrence of challenging circumstances will jostle our little jar and cause some of that busy thinking to float up into our consciousness. But we must remain calm and understand it belongs there as an aspect of the jar and it will naturally settle again if left alone.

If we battle against these reactions, if we want and desire and otherwise agitate our consciousness in an attempt to shake it out of us, we only serve to further decrease our clarity and further block our view of the outside world. At the same time, to the outside world we only look darker, more chaotic and less inviting.

752 Relax and Succeed - PatienceA relationship is two jars sitting touching each other. When things are good and calm it’s easy for each jar to capture the light travelling through the other jar. This is the light of the very universe itself and we see it filtered through a person we love clearly. Our vision of that light is at the heart of our feelings of love.

If we develop an egocentric personal sense of events around us then we begin to think that our partner’s sediment is our sediment. We then begin to shake ourselves in order to shake them in the vain hope that this new-to-us sediment will go away. We start to think the agitated sediment shouldn’t be there, rather than the truth; which is that we must accept that it is there and understand our role in agitating it into something we now have to deal with, just as our partner must contend with the messy details of our childhood.

In relationships the sediment gets called a problem. And rather than accepting what is, we all want to fix the problem. But there is no fix for the sediment there is only acceptance. Because every time you try and make it go away you’ll only serve to agitate it further. It’s like trying to pat down water waves to make them go away. It just makes them worse.

752 Relax and Succeed - Spending today complianingThe best example I know of this is when a couple argues over something that happened the previous day. Okay, so it’s already happened. You can’t go back in time and unmake it happen. But people will often wake up the next morning, see the sediment from the previous day lying there inert, and instead of leaving it alone they’ll shake the other jar, activate the sediment and then blame the partner! There is nothing to fix. Nothing to sort out. Nothing to be understood. It’s crazy. It would have just laid and done zero damage if the person wouldn’t have shaken it.

There are no actual problems in relationships. There are only current agitations of thought created by the desire to live within a different reality. But until that thought-based cloudy thinking settles, our own light and the light of our partner will be obscured. The more we shake it to be different the darker everything will get.

Accept that your partner has sediments just like you do, and accept that those get agitated occasionally by life. That’s not something being wrong, that’s being alive. You don’t fix that. You calmly know that by doing nothing things will naturally settle and that the light you see in your partner will always return. Because after all, that light isn’t actually them. When it’s unconditional love what you’re seeing is the undisturbed light that’s at the heart of the very universe itself.

Have a wonderful day.

peace. s

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

Polyhedrons of Perspective

You can stop arguing, defending and wondering why people act this way or that. What will make you feel better is when you realize that the things you want to do are actually impossible. The paradox is that when you surrender into that awareness you suddenly realize that you’ve always had what you were looking for. But to get there, first there’s some things you simply have to accept if you want to live with the equanimity that goes with an enlightened life.

748 Relax and Succeed - Wisdom is what's leftThe first thing is to accept that there is only Now. There is only the Present Moment. You have never been alive in the past nor will you live in the future. It always was and it’ll always be Now. People read that and it half-makes sense and so they read on. Really stop and really think about that like Eckhart suggests. That’s not to be taken lightly and there’s salvation in that idea.

Okay, so you can’t fix the past. And if you’re worried about the future then you’ll be worrying in your Present Moments rather than being Open and Aware. That lack of awareness will lead you to make the sort of mistakes that will cause your fearful future to end up being a self-fulfilling prophesy. Your future is always made of what you do in your Nows. Quiet your mind about before and later and pay attention to your nows instead.

The second thing you have to do is Accept. You have to accept that every moment is a polyhedron. Every single moment has many sides—many perspectives that can be taken on it. Think of Moments kind of like soccer balls—they’re three dimensional but they also have those little sides–little separate realities. Except in the psychological world people are much more complex than soccer balls so those sides can be infinitely tiny. So there’s no correct perspective on a moment. There’s just the side you’re looking at. That’s all you’ve got. That and maybe glimpses of the sides bordering yours. But just glimpses.

748 Relax and Succeed - I removed your egoI often talk about how I agree with Shakespeare about the ages of man. We all go through about 7-9 year cycles where we become someone new and then eight years later, just as it’s getting boring, we find or push ourselves into a new role where we need new perspectives on old things. Where we’re a beginner again. A lot of this has to do with aging because you get more experience with that change. That makes you more comfortable and then aware, so it’s a spiritual journey as well as a physical one.

If we’re lucky and we work at it our life experiences can lead to the big discovery everyone’s looking for—which is when we no longer see just our side of a single moment, but instead we can see at least enough of the soccer ball of life to appropriately humble our own perspective. We see that how we’re seeing it is just one way of seeing it out of many….

I’ve written about it here before but I’ve got a good example of me getting a better view of the soccer ball. My ex wife and I were talking one gorgeous Saturday morning and she wanted to stay in and clean the albeit dusty house. We were both busy all week and I wanted to relax. I didn’t like arguing over cleaning so I suggested we get a maid so we could spend more time out together. Back then I thought you had to be out, rather than just truly together. And it seemed like a loving offer that was taking half the cleaning off her back. Her answer surprised me.

748 Relax and Succeed - When I do good

She asked how much I’d pay a maid. I guessed way too high and she said she’d do it for that. I didn’t like that idea because my point was I wanted to get more time with her. But in my young-man innocent idiocy I thought to myself, okay, I wanted to go the park with friends but I guess if she wants the money and thinks it’s fair for the work then I can just shift to doing something fun at home and that way I get my relaxation and she gets her money. Fair deal.

Every person reading this who’s been married for longer than six months is laughing their ass off at that. That is ridiculous. We were both nuts. We were calculating that was fair and that it got us what we wanted. We weren’t however thinking about how it would feel. Because how it felt was that I felt uncomfortably guilty watching F1 Racing while she vacuumed our livingroom and she resented me sitting there with my feet up while she worked. At that point the money in the bank was an abstract concept no one was even thinking about except maybe to use as a point in an argument.

As I’ve aged my view of the soccer ball expanded and I can now see how crazy that was. But I also know I’ll make “mistakes” like that again. There’s no way not to. Because I can’t know what someone else stitched in next to my perspective on the soccer ball. They’ll tell me that. I’ll find out from experience. And so all we can do is live in the moment and do our best and remember that we’re all polyhedrons looking at other polyhedrons so no one ever really knows what’s going on. And there’s real comfort in just letting all that go and surrendering into what feels good instead. And lo and behold, it turns out that’s what feeling good was designed for.

peace. s

Recoupling

A lot of my student/clients are struggling marriages. If I’m given enough time and they are both genuine and earnest enough to allow me to take them through a process, then only one of two outcomes takes place. Either they fall back in love, or things end shortly thereafter.

??????????????????????????????????????????I consider myself successful either way because I don’t save marriages, I show people the way to have enjoyable, rewarding lives. If the relationship actually makes it unnecessarily difficult for the participants—including kids—to enjoy life, then the raised awareness of either one or both partners leads them to take action. They will be less interested in preserving their legal status and more invested in circumstances that are more conducive to healthier, happier living for both partners, be that together, alone or with different partners.

Even if you’re going to stay together and have a fun, successful relationship, you still need to know how to get through rough times. Those are inevitable. You need to know what they feel like, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to recognize the fact that you’re usually happy. Fun times are easy, but when you’re experiencing them actually take some time to pay real attention to how your mind is processing events.

You’ll see that your optimistic view has you noting many opportunities for you to be happy. By contrast a person creating negative feelings will be able to sit in the same context and notice nothing but what’s lacking or wrong. So the most important starting place for any couple is for it to be made up of two people who are genuinely dedicated to their own happiness. Not structureless, self-indulgent pleasures, but a rather a 627 Relax and Succeed - We're all entitledgenuine appreciation for the value of rest, recouperation and the space for creativity to take place in—be that time, space or both.

Sure, if someone’s got cancer or whatever then they get to be a bit needy and surivival is good enough, we don’t need to add to their struggles by holding them to some super-high standard for happiness. We all have tough times like that. That’s when love kicks in and carries the most weight. But other than those times where you simply need love and support, a central relationship responsibility is to your own happiness. If you can’t do that then there’s no point in complaining to a partner. People don’t make other people happy. People can ultimately only make themselves happy.

If you know how to be happy then you will have many go-to thoughts to jump toward that can be far more pleasant than the ones that go with a bad marriage. To escape to higher-frequency busy thoughts you need to be able to recognize that you are lost. Fortunately our emotions do a great job of signalling us because the angier we get the louder we get. And once we’re angry we’re not fighting the point anymore because making a point doesn’t require hurling insults. Wanting to win against someone—that can quickly degrade into name-calling and cheap shots. 

So if you hear your voice raised, then it’s a virtual guarantee that you are locked in ego and doing things that are likely to run contrary to your larger objectives. You are far better to take your chemical-filled blood and yell back, “I can tell by the fact that I’m ?????????????????????????????????????????????????yelling that I’m saying things I may not mean and so I’m going to take this anger, go outside for a walk to calm down so that I can talk to you about this more constructively because we both deserve that…!” That’s actually helpful; to just announce that you’re lost and then try to create a delay until your consciousness can settle a bit. As angry as they may be, the other person will recognize you’re attempting to be genuinely helpful to the situation. If both parties are on board then that’s the best possible scenario.

Once people have calmed down they generally don’t need any help. They fell in love without help. They just need assistance seeing each other. So know that angry temporary blindness or fears will cause us to miss important details and react in counterproductive ways. So as much as possible just delay your relations with others until both parties are more able to be genuinely constructive. Do that and you will reduce the amount of resentment moving forward, and that is what will keep your relationship healthy: leaving the past in the past and searching for the best possible present. It’s always there to do.

Enjoy your day.

peace. s