When Others Let Us Down

 

1333 Relax and Succeed - Human beings are gods hidden from themselves

For some of us it was a cheating spouse. For others, an addicted friend, or a neglectful parent. For some it was a crime, or it may even be abuse by an authority, or an institution. There are many ways to feel the extremely tormented pain of neglect or betrayal. But there are also ways to be free.

It is a deeply poignant thing to move through the rush of feelings we experience when we sense that those around us have let us down. Part of our reality shatters. The whole experience makes more of the universe feel forever less certain and that makes us angry. We don’t feel safe. It makes sense that we resent whoever is associated with our feelings of vulnerability and helplessness.

But our resentment, anger, or need for moral justice rarely pay off. Like the Buddha says, we are not punished for our anger, but by it. Even if we exact revenge, the best that can happen is someone else suffering and any pleasure we get from that is short-lived even if we remain satisfied that justice has been done.

There simply is no going back in time. No matter how important something was, no one can unscramble scrambled eggs. People can’t undo one hour of sex, two years at a bad job, or 18 years of absent parenting. Each of those things and everything else like them are water under the bridge, and the desire for a different history will generate a great deal of anger and regret.

Fortunately, those feelings won’t last, and for fairly logical reasons because the reasons for the feelings make sense. But because they do, it is possible for us to speed up our ‘recovery’ to a potentially positive view of a situation, or even another person– if we’re prepared to.

Firstly, we must accept that our brain has these people or institutions weaved into massive amounts of our lives, and anger is like a jolt of electricity through our system. This means that when we are angry we are likely to grab information from all over life and history to express our outrage. But that’s fine. We can even be totally unreasonable.

The process of fully feeling our emotions isn’t about the perpetrator(s) of the betrayal, it’s about us bleeding off some of our own totally understandable brain chemistry steam in a non-destructive way. We have many compelling and painful thoughts under a lot of pressure.

This is why our pain from these experiences should be fully felt. Rather than pretend we’re okay and then convert four angry days into 20 resentful years, we are better to fully feel the feelings we have. We need not be scared of them. They are there to be felt. And after we’ve felt them, we can get on to empathy.

1333 Relax and Succeed - Empathy when you plant lettuce
We should nurture our understanding of those who we feel have done us wrong.

If we feel badly expressing ourselves honestly we have to remember that it’s society that told us to hold those feelings in, and we’re still recovering from the Victorians and they were scandalized by the word ‘leg’ (you had to use ‘limb.’). We don’t have to go insane or commit crimes or hurt others to let pain out. We just have to find constructive forms of letting off that emotional pressure.

Run, lift weights, listen to thrash metal, go to one of those places where you can pay to smash things. Or maybe just find someone who loves you that will let you rant, or abuse them for a while, on the understanding that you’re going to get proxy angry at them because you can’t yell at the person or institution that hurt you.

People that love us can survive that experience because they are the ones that accept us with our imperfections, just as we do theirs. That’s why we love them. But it’s a very healthy thing to ensure the person understands that we know full well that it is misplaced anger, and that we are grateful to them for helping us.

By doing that we make it much easier for the other person to hear us being unreasonable without taking it personally. If our point is to inflict pain, of course we’ll choose painful things to say. That doesn’t mean the things we say are somehow true. We’re blowing off steam, not doing journalism.

Once the anger has dissipated we can then begin a meditation that will untie the Gordian Knot of anger and blame in our imagination. In reviewing any situation from a less emotional distance, and by meditating on the other person’s context and history, we can often find that what happened makes more sense than what we had hoped would happen.

When we go from being an ego having a personal struggle to a limitless self having a psychological experience, we move from having feelings about a knot of things, to simply cutting through those feelings with understanding

Eventually our meditations on others lives lead us to realize more profoundly that others do not see their role in life as fulfilling all of our expectations. Nor should they. Otherwise we would be doomed to have to do likewise.

This means that, essentially, we feel let down when people fail to meet our expectations by merely being the only people they could be, given their experiences and their awareness. None of us can be someone we aren’t no matter how much we love those around us.

The people that let us down are merely people who are not who we had imagined they were. We can’t blame them for our imagination. Instead, by taking responsibility for our own speculation, we achieve understanding and forgiveness in return. And resentment and anger for understanding and forgiveness is a trade worth making.

peace. s

Dealing With Mom

1326 Relax and Succeed - Dealing With Mom

Hi,

I hope you’re doing good. I’m sorry for letting you down.

It hurts when I think that you might want to lean on me and can’t so I’ll be honest. I try not to think about that. Even when I do –I wouldn’t have a clue of what to say anyway.

Like everyone with a mouth I throw a lot of opinions around, but the longer I live the less I believe that anyone knows what to say for big stuff. There’s things when we’re young that we have to figure out to be adults. And a lot of times it just plain hurts to learn it.

That’s the hardest thing about being a parent you know. Watching your kid hurt and knowing that you can’t stop that. That there’s nothing you can do –it’s awful. You feel like you failed but it’s just normal life, but your kid doesn’t know that yet so you guys get mad at us when we already feel awful. It’s all super confusing.

So, here’s the good news. If you’re confused, then that’s good. You must be on the right track then, because that’s what happened to me and everyone I ever met or heard of. Even famous super successful people.

They say the divorce rate is supposedly 50%. That’s a lot of daughters –and sons– growing up without their Dad’s around I guess. Or around much. And that’s if you even get to meet him, right?

Some Dad’s miss their daughters like crazy. Other guys find the whole thing so painful that they try not to think about it at all. Some climb into a bottle. There’s others guys who know their daughters are better off without them so they leave. There’s even guys that wish they’d never been born so they couldn’t even have a daughter whose life they could screw up. And there’s everything in between. We’re all in there somewhere. We’re all floating on some mixture of all of those.

It doesn’t really matter how it all got to where it is because it just is. No one means to get divorced. However it happened, that leaves you and your mom stuck alone. That’s not an easy thing for either of you. I want you to know that I know that. A lot of people know how hard that is. Even your mom had a mom. And bills are bills. Here is something I know for sure: you’ll hate those too.

Why I’m writing is that my friend’s daughter –she’s so angry. I don’t want you to be like that. Her anger’s just eating her up and she’s an amazing girl. I don’ want you turning your anger against yourself like that. I want you to use your amazingness. So I’m gonna try to explain the little bit I know in case it helps you. I’m sorry I can’t be there in person to do this.

First thing: you gotta remember that your mother’s a person. She’s not just your mom. She’s a lot of people to lots of us. But she’s a person. Remember that. If she seems mean or tough or even really super sad –this divorce stuff, and dating. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And all my female friends –they all tell me it’s super hard for them too.

1326 Relax and Succeed - We cannot avoid all strife

Some of them feel pathetic after they break-up. They kind of panic and try too hard. They even can end up competing with their daughters. Men can be pretty judgmental so being older probably seems pretty scary to a lot of ladies. I never even noticed my female friend’s necks but they seem to think they’ll never get married because of them. If your mom starts wearing beads it might be because she’s scared.

Sometimes moms are cold or angry or whatever, because someone betrayed them. People like that don’t trust love anymore. Not even with their kids. That’s how much it hurts. I have a friend who is so scared to love her daughter because she’s afraid of what will happen to her if the kid ever rejects her. She’s already lost everyone in her life so this thing with her daughter –she’s terrified.

There’s also moms where sometimes the mom just never got any love given to her so she had no one to show her how to give hers away. If this is all making life seem too complicated and not worth it –it is complicated. Way more complicated than you can know. But it’s totally worth it. It’s why I’m writing. If you don’t see your own value you can waste your life not living it. And that’s bad because life is great even with all the crap.

Don’t forget, a lot of problems moms have, got caused by their husbands. And even if they didn’t, if she’s in pain she’s in pain. Don’t expect her to show that because she has to be strong for you. So her pain’s gonna come out as anger. Remember that. Your mom gets mad when she’s hurting.

A friend of mine went to see Oprah talk. She was shooting a movie –Oprah I mean, not my friend. And the director had to teach Oprah how to tuck-in the girl playing ‘her daughter.’ She didn’t know how because she never had that happen. Her mom had a hard life and was cold and her grandma was mean. And mom’s –or anybody– can’t give away what they’ve never had.

What matters is, Oprah’s life turned out great. So a girl can have the worst mom in the world and still have a great life. And your mom’s a long way from the worst. Your mom’s so good I had you with her. She loves you it’s just –you’ll see. Being an adult is not parades and parks and ponies the whole way I’ll tell you that. She’s doing better than you think.

You deserve the love. You do. You are perfect exactly the way you are, pain and scars included. Never forget: just because people can have trouble showing it doesn’t mean they don’t love you. It already hurts us when we can’t show it, so you being mad just makes it worse.

If a kid asks for love we should give it to them. We should. But sometimes we just won’t be able to. You probably have stuff now that you wish you could stop doing –or start doing– and those things are probably easy too. I’m not sure why we can’t do that stuff, but your mom’s got stuff like that just like you and me do.

When she feels unlovable, every time you push her to get love she’s going to find a way to protect herself. It freaks anyone out when someone asks another person to do things that scare them. Moms are people. Dads too. We screw up and get stuff wrong. But none of that means you’re not loved.

Don’t spend your life angry. You’re loaded with so much potential you wouldn’t even believe it. But I’ve seen people waste that on anger or on being sad. Even if they have reasons to be, it doesn’t do any good!!

We have to make something of our life because it feels better when we do. We have to be selfish about that. I guess it’s like grandpa used to tell me. He used to always say, ‘life is its own reward.’ Huh. Now I’m him. See how that happens? Some day you’ll have a daughter that will be mad at you. 🙂

I hope you and your mom find a way to connect better and not fight so much. If that happens I’m glad. And if not, well, remember: Oprah turned a mean mom into a great life. 🙂 Now you have to do the same with your dumb, absent Dad. But your mom is there. And what she’s doing is hard. So just try to remember that her anger is pain. And remember she loves you. Because she really does. So don’t forget to love her.

Now go be awesome.

Love, Dad

Dominance in Relationships

1314 Relax and Succeed - Dominance in Relationships
People often want relationships to be equal, but they often work better when they are balanced. ‘Equal’ means that each person has half the responsibility for each thing. And doesn’t just include tasks, these are also approaches to life.

An example of the above would be a naturally unemotional parent is often urged to assume ultimately insincere, unnatural emotions towards their children, all in the name of good parenting equality. Yet many unemotional people, or people on the Autism spectrum, have made wonderful parents by being exactly the way they were. We need to learn to connect with those sorts of people too.

Contrary to ‘equal’ is ‘balanced.’ That means that the relationship is shared around the idea that each person gets to be who they naturally are, without being told to be someone else by their partner. That love is unconditional.

If that wasn’t a possible way to live and love, then people like Stephen Hawking couldn’t have fallen in love, because he certainly wasn’t helping around the house. Then again, because he was Stephen Hawking he was likely able to afford help, but it’s the marriage itself still demonstrates a passion to support another human being in a way that few people can relate to.

I have no doubt his marriages were sincere on both ends, but the fact that they did or could not include certain romantic relationship tropes points to the fact that clearly there are other forms of shared passion that both people find deep value in. What they give each other and the world is very different in the end, and it could be described as unequal, but what matters is if it worked for each of them.

Today we’ve begun to ignore when things aren’t working because our thoughts and ideas have become so predominant that we ignore how life feels. We want things done in the ‘right’ way, and by current standards of thought the ‘right’ way is things divided equally, even if the people involved don’t want it that way or if they don’t think that’s reasonable.

If people are equal then both people have to care which restaurant is chosen, and both have to care about how things are cooked at home etc. etc. But when two people both want to pick the restaurant that can lead to arguments, and the same thing can happen over how to cook in the kitchen.

1314 Relax and Succeed - It is a healthy thing to be ourselves

In an unequal but balanced relationship, a naturally more passive personality can be far more comfortable not deciding where to eat, and they may be far more interested in family happiness than the happiness they get from how a food is cooked. They may simply not care enough about this or that subject to argue over it.

Their passiveness is actually a form of letting-go that is a cooperative, helpful aspect of the relationship, not obsequiousness. Any demands that they be more assertive are stressful, unwelcome and unnatural for them. Can that go too far? Or course. But the approach itself is not an issue. Many couples walk that line to very long and happy marriages.

Just as some are more passive, others are more naturally comfortable leading. Who is who can change from subject to subject, but one person being active and another being passive is not necessarily a problem. That can very well be what is making things work really well.

The point in fairness is not equality, it is respect. It is not about dividing things 50/50. It’s dividing everything up in a way that demonstrates both respect and responsibility for and from each of us. No spouse who ever cared for their loved one with cancer or dementia was in a position where equal made any sense when it came to expressing love. People shouldn’t need a disease to be given that grace by the rest of us.

If some goth couple wants to move in next door, be awesome neighbours and swap traditional gender roles –or even have none at all– that’s great. They’re awesome neighbours. No one should feel the need to talk him out of letting her dominate.

Likewise, if some couple chooses super traditional male-female roles because that’s what they’re more comfortable with, they also shouldn’t be told to change to suit others because others deem that relationship unequal.

Further, if some transsexual or gender-less couple moves in across the street, that too is fine so long as it works for them. No one should pressure anyone to assume identities that don’t feel natural. Each of us knows ourselves better than even our closest friends. We know what works for us.

There is room enough in the world for everyone to be the versions of people they naturally are, including versions that we aren’t comfortable with. It’s not other people’s job to make us feel comfortable. Our discomfort lives between our ears.

Instead of talking to ourselves or others about our judgments about other’s lives, we should be pleased any time we see anyone find a partner (or a life without a partner), that supports them in being who they naturally are.

peace, s

Dedicated Awareness

1274 Relax and Succeed - Threat your relationshipsA few years back some newlyweds moved in down the street. You know the type. They were the kind of couple that frustrates unloved people because they are so doting, so nose-to-nose, as they bob in a bubbly beaming kind of love.

They got themselves the cutest little puppy. He wasn’t too sure-footed, but he made up for a lack of direction in enthusiasm. Their morning walks past my house looked like their conversations sounded, zipping from over here to over there for no apparent reason, but every minute of travel was full of life as he tangled the two together with his leash. I saw this little tableau play out every single morning at 6:00am.

After they had lived there a couple of years, their walk had switched to match the dog’s. Now it was a bit after 6:00am when they went by, although that worked because they could move faster thanks to the dog walking in a straight line while they just held hands and talked. Sometimes you could tell one had an early morning or a late night, because one or the other of them would go by alone with the dog, which worked, because by then the dog was less trouble in that he was much more predictable by then.

1274 Relax and Succeed - Do not let a lack of awarenessWithin a couple years after that people saw them together far less often. Their appearances grew less youthful and more professional. They walked and talked more professionally too, even to each other. By now they were almost ignoring the dog the walk was so predictable.

By about seven years in, he’s usually walking the dog alone, and if it’s not him alone it’s her. Whoever it is is now on the phone more than they pay attention to the dog. As we age we get jobs that demand more, our days start often earlier. Even the dog was starting to walk more slowly by then.

Over the next few years you saw them together and apart, but even when they were together it definitely seemed like the warmth had worn off. They’d go by, bundled up in winter clothes, never holding hands, often on their phones in separate virtual locations. I’d see the dog run around in the field chasing the ball, but no one was watching it, and they only looked for the ball after the dog was waiting for another throw, no more pride in him just finding it all.

I found it a bit sad to watch, because it had always been a good and loyal dog. But now he was slowing down and his running days were numbered and he seemed more anxious than ever to access his inner puppy. Mostly his excitement just frustrated them as they worked to calm him down.

1274 Relax and Succeed - The best time to plant a treeEventually the owner was waiting for the dog as it limped along. It just sat in the field now and watched the other dogs run, wishing it still could too. And so it would sit there, alone in the cold, while whoever was walking him checked their work messages before dragging him back to the house.

Of course eventually the dog died, as did the relationship. In fact, the track of their walks is very similar to the journey most relationships take, from focus and appreciation to assumption and demands. With each slightly colder step, we remove the heat from the relationship and we create unnecessary distance between us and others. This only happens due a lack of consciousness that it is happening.

The dog died with puppy still in his heart. But that pup could not play without someone to play with. So too went the relationship. The puppy; the loving, caring, bumbling, mistake-ridden, totally forgiven for crapping on the carpet puppy, was always present. All he needed was two partners who were prepared to stay connected and to notice he was there, as playful as ever. If we can all learn to do that one thing, we can all learn to keep our dogs for as long as we 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.

The Heartbreaking Cost of Finding True Love

1258 Relax and Succeed - We feel the love we giveWhen we’re young we think it’s anyone notable. Notably attractive, notably strong, notably wealthy, notably popular; and we’ll go after the best version of that we can find. If our standards are relatively low we can be happy for a long time, but if they’re very high we end up breaking up a lot.

By the time we’re a little more mature we’re looking for someone who’s more of a match for us. We want someone who’s naturally inclined to have similar interests and values regarding how the energy in life gets invested, so it becomes less how people are to others and more how they are to us. But we still are quite particular about what we’ll accept.

Once we’ve had some difficult life experiences with the limits of our tolerance we know that even someone compatible to our interests isn’t good enough and we begin to look for people that are simply easy to be with. Just someone to share life’s loads with. By that stage people have surrendered their big strict romantic ideals and they happily trade that for a daily partner who simply sees past our own faults and still makes us feel truly loved. (Although notably, precious few work on trying to be easier to get along with themselves.)

1258 Relax and Succeed - May you be held in compassionWe can be lucky and find profound connections like that right away, but even they aren’t often destined for life. Regardless, for most people who do ultimately find true love (which isn’t a large percentage), it often takes several relationships and a lot of meeting people before they finally find someone that defies everything they’ve learned, and everything they know about themselves. At that point we are left with a very inexplicable attraction that exists despite all complications, including those surrounding our own confusion and/or lack of trust.

In the other relationships we were certain, and then we beat up ourselves for not being able to figure out how to make the relationship feel worth it. Each time we thought we’d finally figured it all out and finally knew what was right for us, but then we realised that all we did was graduate from one level of misinterpretation to a more sophisticated version of misinterpretation. Yet, in the case of actually realising true love, we’re often so startled by it that we question even ourselves. Despite our brain being uncertain, we find ourselves with a strange dedication nevertheless.

We do think these are the most beautiful people in the world, but not in the way we’ve traditionally thought of that concept. We see them as having deep and wonderful connections to various aspects of our lives, and yet they may have less to do with our personal interests than any other person we’ve been with. They are easy to be with in a very special way. These are people you can be at your worst with and still feel safe.

1258 Relax and Succeed - True love can be foundIn unexpected ways, the ultimate people for us will have all of the qualities we’ve always sought, they just won’t deliver that package of qualities the way we might have originally imagined. But how they always stand out is that these are the people we’ll pay a price for. These are the people who we are devoted to despite our better judgment. They are the ones who somehow magically compel our hearts to make significant sacrifices that aren’t about us feeling unworthy ourselves; they’re about us seeing the other person unconditionally.

There is no explaining them, and there is no way in which to go about finding them, they simply occur. But when they do they’ll stay with you for life, whether they live or die. We’ll never know enough to understand all the wonders that take place in our consciousness, but true love is what it is nevertheless.

Some people frustrate us because they only represent a part of the universe we’re looking for. But when we finally find a person that is whole to us as they currently are–even with us aware of their faults and weaknesses–well, then, that person is someone who can open a universe to us.

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.

Why a Healthy Relationship is Like Swimming in Pee

I really didn’t create that title as clickbait. Things should stand on their merit, so I promise to pay this off. I was simply thinking about a relationship issue I wanted to blog about and was searching in my memory banks for a relevant set of facts to use as a metaphor. But I don’t think I’ve ever made myself laugh harder than when I found these particular facts, and this particular title occurred to me. And what it made it so funny was that it really is true.

When someone asks me if there’s a way to check how knowledgeable their guru is, the only thing I can think to say to them is, did you see improvement? Otherwise, the only other test I could think of would be to choose some random strange thing and ask the person to instantly metaphorize the truth using that thing or idea. If they can do it easily and it makes sense using; a shoelace, the 1950’s and the concept of competition, and if they do that quickly and clearly, then that’s a really good sign.

If they spout nebulous platitudes that lack clarity, then that’s often camouflage for a genuine searcher who is posing in an effort to use the fake it until one makes it approach. Then again, if you’re wise enough, anyone’s a guru, so even with a faker you don’t always lose.

Okay, so to use my own crazy metaphor: why is a good relationship like swimming in pee? It’s really pretty simple. My home town recently conducted a study and, surprise surprise, they discovered that people pee a lot in public swimming pools. And it’s not the kind of thing that’s likely to stop, nor has it likely changed much in history.

If you’re not currently a pre-teen playing gross pranks; the fact that every one of us was a baby with a diaper, and  every one of us will hopefully eventually be the old person with poor bladder control, we’ll all eventually take a turn at the role of The Urinator. So the deal simply is: if you want to swim in public pools you’ll have to live with a fair bit of pee. And yet note, the pools are packed full of people.

Like we all have muscles that help us move and digestive systems that make us pee, we all have ways of being that are productive and other ways of interacting with the world that are us just dumping waste. These are our low points. We all have them when we’re tired and weak, and that’s when we’ll fall back on our childhood programming. That’s why parents often sound like their own parents when they finally lose it with their kids.

Like the pools, if you’re looking for a relationship to swim in without that person’s childhood being a factor, then you’re looking for a magic pee-less pool. Sorry, you can’t swim in that. That’s like being single and out of the water. If you want to swim you have to live with the pee. There is no other way.

If you want a relationship you have to live with the fact that your partner will be at their worst when they’re tired, and they’ll act like their childhood programming for a short time. And you should know what that programming is. Then, when your partner’s the one who’s struggling, that is when it would be most helpful for you to be your most patient and tolerant. Certainly that’s when they need you most.

So see? I meant it. A healthy relationship is like swimming in pee. There’s some acceptance –some tolerance– built in there. And in that metaphor you still don’t like the pee, but you can largely ignore it as long as it’s not dangerous. This is what the Buddha means when he says, if you will accept suffering you can cease all suffering. By being accepting of people’s imperfections, you’re not only agreeing to accept the ‘faults’ of your partner, you’re also giving yourself permission to have all of the fun that goes with sharing time with them in the ‘water.’

pees. 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.

Sologamy

It’s more popular in other countries, but even here people are starting to understand the true nature of sologamy. At first it seemed like some silly, narcissistic effort at self-aggrandizement, but in fact it is more of a spiritual practice than a ritual or ceremony.

This isn’t about I’m so awesome. It’s not pride, it’s respect. It’s just like real couples either know or learn; no one’s marriage is held together by romantic love. What does it is respect, dedication and perseverance. Those little ceremonial cuddly times are nice, but it’s the partnership itself that counts most. It’s knowing someone has your back.

People who practice sologamy are merely those who have come to realise how critical self-respect is to healthy being. Some don’t even have a ceremony other than the one in their head where they actually make the commitment. You know the one–the one that means you can turn down invites you don’t really want and not feel guilty about it. That one. Self-respect.

Far from being flighty or silly or immature, people who are sincerely practicing sologamy are practicing the art of stillness, focus and wisdom. They won’t want their ego frightened, angered or backed into doing something it doesn’t want to do. They simply want to be able to resign themselves to the harder parts of life, and feel worthy of, and revel in, its joys.

There’s a lot of thin, hollow-feeling single people out there who come across as though they’re worried that if they don’t find an anchor soon they’ll blow completely away. People feel like wispy clouds when they should feel like the sky itself. Yes, we all have weather pass through. It’s inevitable. But the sky is always the sky. Sologamy is about recognising the sky and committing to it.

This isn’t to say you’ll always be faithful. You’ll slip into ego occasionally. You need to, or you’d forget to value peace and clarity. So the idea is to surf. Sometimes you’re riding the way you want to go, sometimes you’re traversing to get to where you want to go, and at the end of every wave–every section of your life–there’s always a tough period where you have to paddle back out.

Don’t waste your life feeling unworthy or incapable or weak or alone. You belong to everything. We all live in the palm of the universe. Even falling down is safe. So be yourself, mistakes and regrets included. The universe finds it very easy to absorb such tiny experiences. And it revels and expands when you’re blossoming and creating.

Maybe it’s through your work, maybe it’s by having a relationship, or even a baby, but your job is to joyfully move through the universe in whichever way feels right to you in any given moment, and any associated consequences for those choices were always yours to live. Your struggles are where you grow stronger. You subconsciously seek them.

Take it seriously. Respect yourself. You don’t have to be pushy or rude, though people may take it that way. But people not liking you representing your own interests is their problem taking place in their consciousness. You’re learning to manage yours. So you don’t want nervous narratives about disappointing others to lead you to somewhere you really never wanted to be. You making a choice to sacrifice for some reason is fine. You going out of a fear of not being accepted is you thinking too small.

Whoever you are are, you are beautiful and you are worthy of your own affection and respect. It will be much easier for people to give those things to you once you know how to give them to yourself. Start practicing today. You have a lot of amazingness to uncover.

Have a wonderful day everyone.

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 we 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 we’ll find most of the complaints line up on the partner.

Rarely do we 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 we start off thinking we’re a match made in heaven then even the smallest mistake is going backwards.

Two people where either one has a huge a list of wants ends up being entirely unsustainable in any kind of long term healthy way because eventually the partner doing the serving will wear out.

On the other hand, if we go into an arranged marriage we know that we already have a lot in common, but we also know we now we need to learn to appreciate each other. Only then the marriage is on a sustainable path because that makes us active in our awareness about the other person. We are looking for what we like, while in the un-arranged marriage at least one person is watching for things they don’t like.

The line defining when to care versus when to let something go requires a subtle balancing act between being ourselves, and the choice to trade the sacrifices to self for the advantages of a partnership. And thanks to pressures of daily life, no one stands still on that wide grey line. Everyone is always in a constant state of balancing, including the very happiest couples.

But what’s their advantage then? The happy ones? Their advantage is largely humility. Someone posted a reply on Reddit a few years back that speaks very well to this. It’s a good example of someone being courageous, self-aware and loving. Through her own realization she has managed to shift from want to appreciation, and she does it so well that I’ll just 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

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.

Living With Death

His death had rocked her hard. They had just started to talk about what retirement might look like in 10 more years–and then he was gone. I had just started working with her on her self esteem when she asked me to go to the funeral with her that day. She just wanted to feel a bit more solid. She faintly trusted me when I told her that even feelings this bad would eventually pass, like they all do.

His life had been pleasant if not exciting, so there it was at least a funeral where the sentiments expressed at the podium all felt sincere. Her part was made harder by the fact that none of her small family were able to make it over from Europe. She also hadn’t been here long enough to establish the deep sort of friendships that help one through things like this. His friends were great, but in truth she felt largely alone, with me being a strange exception.

When it came time to speak she stood there at the podium and she met her commitments, but she found the whole experience wracked and painful. She was grateful she wasn’t overly religious–the entire process had not taken long. She asked if we could walk. I too felt like being under a big sky. The whole day felt like a hug you never wanted. The feelings were too big for words for a long time, so we drive to the river valley and parked and headed down a trail.

We walked down by a little lake. Finally, she asked what she could do to stop the hurting. I looked at her genuinely confused. I explained that the hurt was the other side of the love. They were inextricable. If she took the pain away then she would have needed a history where she didn’t love her husband. It is possible to be relieved when someone dies, but this was not one of those cases.

I asked why she didn’t want the pain. She thought it was a bizarre question, which I realised from her perspective it would be. She’s just started with me, so she thinks she wants to increase her happiness and decrease her sadness, when what she’s really looking for doesn’t do that. It makes you feel the same way about your happiness as you do about your sadness. Rather than liking the good parts, you value it all.

I explained that she chose an identity of a woman who’d lost her husband and it hurt. I felt that was suitable. If the universe gave you the capacity to experience emotional pain like that, I suggested that the death of a beloved loved one was maybe the most suitable time possible to get that feeling out of your quiver of feelings.

I was sorry the pain was stabbing, but that’s how that feeling operates. Far from living wrong, I thought the pain was a sign of her health. She seemed to be right where one would feel it was appropriate or natural for her to be. When she asked what she was supposed to do with the pain, I told her to feel it; to know it. I told her that the more she understood it, the more valuable she would be to people in similar situations in the future.

I explained that knowing the pain didn’t make it worse, it made her wiser. Crying at the death of a loved one is wise. So is being stoic if that’s how you naturally unfold. The point is, of course there would be a reaction of some kind. Accept that. And know that it won’t last. That it’s just the suitable feelings for the context, just as a raincoat suits rain.

She told me that simply knowing there was no answer had actually taken a layer of suffering away. I explained that what she had removed was the illusory layer of suffering that her mind layered over top of the pain. Now that she had gotten rid of the voluntary stuff, it made it easier to handle the mandatory pain. Plus she felt stronger, which was a nice feeling.

It’s going to take some time for her to go through this. She’ll do it in stages as everyone does. She would need build a new mindset to be a single woman with new challenges. And then one day someone will really need her, and she’ll know just the right thing to say to them and they’ll be so relieved, or maybe grateful. And then she’ll realise that this experience is what taught her the wisdom she shared. Our cracks truly are where our brightest light escapes.

Don’t offer resistance to painful experiences. They pass more quickly with less resistance, and you can learn a great deal by travelling through them. Some are simply awful, and if you’re experiencing one right now I am so sorry and I love you. But you too will get through it, and you too will live to laugh again. But in the meantime, you’re going to be collecting some of the most hard-fought wisdom a person gets in their lifetime. Big hug.

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.