A couple of times a year, I teach a 6 week non-credit course at Emory called “Living on Purpose”. Intentional, meaningful living –identifying values, and creating a lifestyle that organizes life around those values so that we are living a concious, intentional, meaningful, passionate life.
My day job is therapy, much of it with couples. I’m on a little campaign to help people live — and love — with intention and purpose. Part of loving intentionally is “caring behaviors”. I find that couples pretty well know each other. It’s amazing, really. Couples know how to push buttons, and they do it well. I’m even more amazed by the predictable fact that they also know how to light each other up with caring behaviors, and don’t always do it! Now why is that?
I suspect it’s the power struggle phase of the relationship. Forgive the following reference to comedy because the power struggle is actually very painful, but it does remind me of the old slapstick where two of the Three Stooges were always trying to go through the door at the same time and constantly got stuck. When we insist that “You and I are one and I’m the ONE”, we’re not *seeing* the other person, which really hurts. In the romantic phase, there was SO MUCH hope for being seen and accepted, so it is underestandably disappointing and painful when we feel ignored or invisable. When our partner hurts us, we react defensively, which often involves hurting them back. Then it’s chain reaction back and forth until both hurt deeply, a point at which we either give up or hopefully seek help.
My job is to help restore the connection. One of the ways we do this is by intentional loving. It seems so simple, but you gotta show your love with tender, caring behavior. Instead of REacting, try, REsponding — thoughtfully — intentionally. The intention being a caring statement instead of something hurtful. Take a deep breath, and say “let me see if I understand you, because I really want to”. “I really do love you, and I want you to be YOU.” When you do this, you are putting your partner back on your caring radar, which is healing, and you make room for both people in the relationship. Then it’s “You and I are … well, you and I”. We are two different people sharing life. And there is room in this life for you to be you and me to be me, and that is not a bad thing at all!
That, in itself, may be the most caring behavior of all. Try this, also. Think back to when you fell in love. You did things for each other so easily. You know what your partner loves. Give it freely, NSA (no strings attached). Do it lovingly, tenderly. Yes, you’ll be vulnerable, but isn’t that the definition of intimacy?
Restore your connection by seeking to understand the naturally occuring *otherness* of your partner. Love is a verb; do it with intention. Love on Purpose!
When it comes down to it, it’s really not so much dishwasher, is it? Or toothpaste squeezing / capping procedures. It is the reactive way we communicate about it. It’s the crazy way we trigger each other!
React: v. 1)to act again. 2)to act in opposition 3) to act reciprocally upon each other 4) to act in a reverse direction or manner –Webster.
React: Re-act out our childhood
To everything there is a season, and time to every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die… – Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2.
As kids, many of us had more than one “Mama”. Your best friend’s Mom fed you, looked after you, tucked you in at sleep-overs, treated you like one of her own. I’ve been blessed to maintain a close friendship for 47 years with my dear friend Donna, and a special relationship with “Easie”, who died last night with her loving family all around her. All these years, she was Donna’s Mom, but in childhood and adulthood, having lost my own mother a few years ago, I found great comfort and joy in Easie’s presence. All these years, she’s been there, cooking and caring, laughing and relishing in her role as “Mama” to all of her “kids”.
This morning, I pause to remember her, and honor her life. Strong, strong Easie. She was quite a character, great sense of humor, fantastic southern cook, hard worker, loving mother, generous and strong in character. No matter the burden, she carried on tirelessly. Though she could be feisty, she was a loving, forgiving soul. I will remember her always as “Mama”, and hopefully embody a few of her qualities.
To everything there is a season. We are all born, and we all die. And with any luck or grace, we learn how to live by remembering those who die before us. Today I intend to remember and appreciate what I learned from her, I will try to be generous, forgiving, caring, loving, I will keep my sense of humor, hopefully, and stand up for what I believe. I may even eat chicken and dumpings and turnip greens, but they won’t be the same without her seasoning.
Godspeed, Easie. We will miss you; we will always love you.
There are certain things we just long for that are so satisfying, and give life such rich texture. What is it about those moments when you’re tasting something delicious, or you’re on a much anticipated trip, or you’re with someone or doing something you really love? You’re present — completely in the now. Enjoying. Slowing down. Appreciating. Discovering. Savoring.
My last post was about slowing down, so this is clearly a theme. Aren’t you happiest when you’re savoring? This concept has much relevance for relationships, and also for singularly enjoying life. We can waste alot of precious time and energy on negativity, on worrying about what others thought / think / will think. Living in the past, obsessing about another time / space dimension, we lose the precious present moment, and we drain our power and joy potential to an unsatisfying, ineffective pattern of worrying about what is not ok. And the irony is that this worry causes us to miss all that IS ok. If we are habitually focused on what could be wrong, we miss what is right, and lose the opportunity to savor.
Who doesn’t love the anticipation of a wonderful experience, and also love the moment when it arrives? You can create alot of this joy and fun by being proactive and present. You don’t have to spend alot of money or travel out of town to create something special.
Today is Tuesday, September 8. Because of this, I recommend you celebrate! Set the table tonight with the good dishes. Plate your food with intentional beauty and garnish it with something lovely and interesting. Close your eyes and appreciate your sense of taste. Put a love note in your kid’s lunch box. Surprise a friend with a card or call. Smile at a stranger and watch what happens. Don’t lose, but rather love these moments, whatever they are, for they are ticking by. Buy or pick some flowers and put them in a vase. Notice and savor what is special or beautiful. I promise you it’s there.
Remember the Jetsons? Da da DA da! Always, during the opening, George is out walking Astro on the treadmill, and it gets away from him. He yells: “Jane”! “Stop this crazy thing”!
Such a great metaphor for our hectic lives in which find ourselves reacting to and with increasing speed, trying to keep up with the machine. The machine in George Jetson’s life is his treadmill. In our culture, it’s the electronics, the consumption and the spectacular array of things we have created and accumulated to keep us busy, and ultimately to worry about. And like George’s treadmill it gets away from us.
My clients were referring to the early stage of their relationship. “It was so much fun”! “We had time to be together then”. “We enjoyed the simple things, picnics, hikes, just hanging out”.
As far as I can tell, there are still the same number of moments in day. We just use them differently when we’re not intentionally focused on being in joy. We get caught up in reacting to ever-increasing speed at which data comes at us. Now we have 800 channels on the TV, several voice mails, several e-mail accounts, more *entertainment* and what happens to the happy factor? It drops! What do we long for? Time.
We have time. What many of us don’t have is a priority system that allows for meaningful use of it. Give your relationship priority. Take time for the simple things. Stop the crazy machine.
My wise old girl went to work with me this week, and has a couple of comments. She said that while she is not officially licensed in the State of Georgia, she has credentials in the State of Grace.
She wants you to hear the words “forgiveness” and “acceptance” as a way of being in relationship with yourself and another. She said it’s not easy living with another person (and she would certainly know), but her heart forgives easily, and she readily accepts the love that is offered.
Forgive yourself for being imperfect, forgive others for the same. Accept your companion for she or he is — another person, or another species!
Allow yourself to RECEIVE love, for you are lovable.
“Genius thrives in a contemplative environment”.
Do yourself an extraordinary favor and give yourself the gift of down time. Routinely. Make time in your schedule for silence.
Become an astute observer of the ordinary. Notice the wind or breeze, notice your own breath. Notice the temperature. Listen to silence. Notice the angle of the sun’s reflection. Watch the birds.
Many in our culture lead lifestyles that are noisy, chaotic, and stressful. Then we medicate the stress by doing things that only add to the chaos. We make a habit of activities that take us far from who we are at our core, so much so that sometimes we may even be fearful of being quiet, if only because it’s unfamiliar.
Yet space and silence are restorative. You will feel better, have more energy, be more effective, and certainly life will be more pleasant when you can find a natural rhythm.
Listen to the space between the notes, and allow the genius in you to thrive.
There is the *thing that happened*, and then there’s our perspective on *the thing that happened*. That perspective is filtered by history, culture, age, gender, experiences, both positive and negative – and resulting defenses – just to name a few.
Being with another person is much smoother, more interesting, fun, and positive when we figure out that we’re simply exploring one another’s perspectives rather than determining who’s right. Who really knows, anyway, since no one is without filters. Somewhere along the line (in my world, it’s childhood) we got a message that, in conflict, one person was right and one person was wrong, and that determination settled disputes. So all we have to do is figure out who’s right, right? Right there is the problem! What if we looked at it without needing rightness and wrongness? What if there was only curiosity about what it’s like to be the other person?
“You can be right, or you can be in relationship…”
It’s the time of year when postcards are being selected, purchased, written upon, smiley faced and hearted, x’d and o’d, stamped, mailed, received, read, smiled upon,and stuck to the fridge or bulletin board. Vacation is a happy place. We work, we stress, we save, we plan, we sacrifice to take a vacation. And we feel so happy on that first day. And the second, and the third… Half way through, we start to fire up the worry neurons, just to be sure they still run. Worry that it’s already half over. Wait; I’m still on vacation! Now I’m worried that I worry on vacation. Then with any luck we can park the worry for a little while, but it’s back there, biding time til it’s back in the drivers seat, while happiness, hopefully, is front and center. My coaching group and I came up with “what it is” about vacations that makes us happy.
Here’s what we’ve got so far:
- true to natural self
- focused on what is right
- slower in pace
- joyful (and therefore creative)
- easy laughter
What would you add? What is it about vacations?
Go slow. What? Why would I want to go slow? This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me!
I’m tellin’ ya: Go………………….
Q: Seriously, WHAT is your rush?
A: We love each other and can’t wait to spend the rest of our lives together.
You’ve met someone who excites you and you find out the feelings are mutual. You go out, have an amazing time together. You never run out of anything to talk about, you feel good, you look good, you find out you have so much in common, perpetuating the thrill. The excitement turns to hope, joy abounds, appetite goes down, taking with it the need to sleep, passion abounds, and wowiezowie: can it be you’re falling… in love?
It is an amazing experience, this “falling in love”. Everything is so beautiful, the colors are brighter, the air is different up here on top the world, how did you ever live without this person? It is unimaginable. You are changed forever, and in a most spectacular way! You are generous, kind, forgiving, romantic, accepting, open for anything. Gone are the days of cynicism, skepticism or anyism of any kind. Where, oh where have you been all my life?
This is your brain on the love drug. The chemistry involved is delicious. Let’s see, we’ve got opiates, dopamine, we’ve got some adrenline, and some phenylethlyamine . Just show me where to sign, baby.
Now this is the problem, see. You’re high as a kite, and you’re signing up for a lifetime with someone you haven’t taken the time to get to know. This could kill the goose, you know. Remember Aesop’s Fable about a certain golden-egg-laying-goose? The farmer discovered his goose laid golden eggs. But he quickly got greedy, wanting it all instead only one golden egg a day, so overcome by his greed, he rushed things along, killed the goose, trying to get ALL of the golden eggs. Of course, there were no more eggs, and no more goose to lay them. Mother nature has given us this fantastic gift of golden-egg-chemistry to help us mate, which is part of her agenda.
But there is a hitch. Once we’re hitched, the drugs wear off, and we wake up to a power-struggle, which appears to be the other part of her agenda. What happened to all that that hope for being loved unconditionally? YOU are the problem, YOU changed, YOU say tomato, I say tamahto, we can’t agree on anything, and YOU are my worst nightmare! Sound familiar? I’ll write about nature’s agenda in power struggle another day, but I will say this for now: there IS hope and lots of it, if you’re open to Imago Work.
What’ll you have? Goose or Golden Egg?
As a couples therapist, I say go slow, and feed the goose that lays those golden eggs. There is no rush into cohabitation. Don’t do it. Just say no for now, and enjoy this most fantastic journey. Enjoy it for at least two years, get to know that person beyond the blind high of the love drug. The more deliberate your courtship, the higher the likelihood of long-term health of your relationship.
Take your time, now, and savor it all.