When Is It Good Enough?

My friend and I were walking back from the bus stop this morning, lamenting what we still had left to do before the kids return from their last day before the break. I shared that I was almost done getting presents. She pointed out that I had said I was done a couple of days ago…. and I did. And I thought I was. And then I entered the spin zone.

slide1“Maybe that’s not the right gift for her.” “Maybe that won’t actually fit him.” “What if … what if… what if….”  I used to make fun of my mother for this very thing. “Mom, it will all be fine. Everyone will love it. Stop fussing.” I had no idea. As my friend and I talked, she wisely said, “You know you’re never really done,” meaning there’s always one more thing you COULD do if you thought about it. I said, “You’re right. Maybe we should just decide to be done right now.” We laughed, and thought that was a good idea, and then returned to our own homes where we could choose not follow that advice for the rest of the day. But maybe it really is that simple. Maybe it’s as simple as deciding it IS good enough. Continue reading

About Those Dark Emotions You’ve Been Avoiding

I feel the need to begin by saying that I love my family of origin and can confidently say that they taught me many valuable things that have contributed to the good parts of my adult life. Having gotten that out of the way, this morning I want to talk a little about dark feelings in my childhood.

In my house of origin, rationality was held in high regard.

Sometimes only rationality was held in high regard. We would talk through problems, so long as that talk didn’t include any negative emotion.

Anger was not encouraged.

Tears were actively discouraged.

Sadness was something to take care of in your own space, by yourself.

While I was in elementary school, my mother completed the bachelor’s degree she had begun before leaving college to be come a mother of 4. When my brother graduated from high school in 1979, my mother graduated from college, with a bachelor’s in social work that came with a whole lot of new information about all of the dark feelings that were confined to the bedrooms of our home. Continue reading

A Little More Should-ing

So this word has just been top of mind for me lately, and I think it’s because this word has governed a good bit of my life. Should. I imagine there are people out there who think that’s probably good. It’s valuable to know what your obligations are and to follow through on them. After all, if we didn’t have a good sense of “should,” what would we ever get done? Given Western culture, I think this is a reasonable line of thought, and it’s one I subscribed to unconsciously and probably consciously for most of my life.

slide2It turns out however, that this notion of needing to “should” ourselves into productivity may be inaccurate. The interesting thing that I’m finding in my life is that when I ignore or re-route my extremely well-developed sense of “should,” I get a lot more done, and more importantly, it’s all the best stuff. Strangely enough I don’t turn into some hedonistic miscreant without my long list of shoulds. That’s what we picture right? Without our obligations, without the tethers, without this burdensome sense of what we ought to do in order to be a good parent, a good citizen, a good employee, heck a good person – what ever would we be?! Continue reading

A Parade of Shoulds

As the end of the year draws near, many people become reflective. We think about what we’ve accomplished (maybe), and we definitely think about what we have not done (how is this year OVER already?!). This bears some similarity to the effect that adult birthdays sometimes have as we get firmly into middle age. We think about all the things we thought we’d have sorted out by now. We think of all the things we thought we would have accomplished by now. At the end of the year we think of all the resolutions and self-promises we made at the beginning of the year that perhaps we lost track of. I sometimes wonder if the absolute frenzy over the winter holidays is really just an attempt to avoid facing all of that (Holy Crap it’s going to be 2017): the parade of shoulds.

I should have done this; I should have done that. I SHOULD be doing all kinds of things that I’m not currently doing. In order to meet my full potential, I definitely SHOULD… The thing about should-ing yourself is that it really seems to build on itself, especially if the should you think of first is something you really don’t want to do. I SHOULD make a plan for what we’re going to eat all week during the weekend so I’m never caught flatfooted during the week. I REALLY don’t like doing that, so I can quickly come up with all kinds of other shoulds and sort of rifle through them until I find one I can and am willing to do. The problem is the rifling through generates a big parade of shoulds. Now when I say parade, you might be thinking of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade or some other joyful parade with marching bands, floats, children singing in choirs and, some local hero or celebrity. A parade of shoulds is NOTHING like that parade. Continue reading

What Holiday Means to Me…

A good friend of mine has a great story. Early in their marriage, she and her husband took a trip – I don’t remember where and it doesn’t really matter. Point is they had chosen the location because there were things to do there that interested them. The two of them are decidedly different in terms of body clocks and morning. He wakes up like my daughter, pretty much ready to go and get down to business. She, like my son, needs a little extra time to be happy about doing anything.

So the story goes that after a couple of mornings of honoring his preferred mode by getting up and going to do the cool stuff they were excited about, my dear friend began a speech when her beloved awakened her. The speech started: “What vacation means to me…” I imagine that the speech included many elements, but of foremost importance was that she be allowed to get up when she darn well pleased and linger over coffee before beginning the day’s adventure.

slide2Why oh why am I telling you this story? Because I think this time of year can leave a lot of folks feeling very much like my dear friend, getting up before she wanted to so she could be with her sweetie doing the cool things they wanted to do. There is so much going on, and everyone wants to be together (what’s wrong with August for a get together by the way) that it’s easy to forget to honor our own ideas about what the holiday season should be like. The cool stuff is decidedly less fun when we feel that we MUST do it, or when we lose sleep for it, or when the way we do it doesn’t honor our own hearts’ desires. Continue reading

Revolution Not Resolution

Here it comes… I know, it’s weird to even think about New Year’s when there’s so much holidaying to do before then, but it’s less than a month away. It’s resolution time people. Are you ready?

So many folks face January 1 with a very clear notion of some way that they have failed in the past year. The solution is a resolution. (If you’re a language nerd like me that sentence can be entertaining for quite some time.) THIS year I am not going to suck in that same way. I am not going to smoke. I am not going to overeat. I am going to go to the gym. I am going to be more productive. I’m not going to yell at my kids. I am going to stop barking back at my neighbor’s dog (anyone? just me?).

slide2Personally, not one of the changes I have made in my life has came from a resolution. None of them. Not one bit. The whole theory behind most resolutions as the answer to a problem is based solely on action. I just need to act differently and everything will be different. Well, yes, and no. The idea behind action-based change misses out on a critical feature of the human brain. The thing behind your action is your thoughts and feelings. Example: my action is that I overeat at dinner. The thought behind my action: 1) our family dinners are too short and 2) I’m gonna miss out if I don’t get everything I can right now. The feelings that follow are empty and focused on getting it all in. So with an action-based solution I make a resolution that I’m not going to overeat at dinner any more. That’s it. Heck, I’ll even put a sticker on my calendar for every day that I don’t overeat at dinner. Woot. That will work great. Really, it might, for a while. Any of you who have attempted life change by resolution can probably put a prediction on how long that is going to last. Most employees at the gym will tell you 90 days is about the outside limit on that score. Continue reading

Relationship Transformations

I wish that I could count the number of hours friends, well and me too, have spent trying to figure out WHY their partner does X. We speculate, we run hypotheticals. We call friends and get them to participate in speculating and running hypotheticals. All the possible variations, all the possible explanations, all the ways the past gives evidence to whatever theory we’re developing.

slide1And it’s not just the speculation. We THEN make all of those speculations and hypotheticals mean something as though they are fact. The “could be” becomes the “is” somewhere between our heads and our hearts. “If this is what’s going on in his head, he really doesn’t love me at all.” “If he doesn’t understand what I’m saying, he doesn’t care about me.” “If he can’t answer this question, we really have no future.” “If she…” okay, I admit I was going for gender neutral there, but do men do this? It’s an honest question. If they do it, they don’t include me in those conversations. Truthfully, I probably wouldn’t include me in them either. I’m not much fun to have around if what you are really looking to do is get yourself good and worked up over a hypothetical. I imagine my girlfriends will give it up soon as well.

Why? There are two reasons I’m not down with the hypothetical relationship analysis: 1) there is no point in reacting to a hypothetical as it potentially has absolutely no basis in reality and 2) engaging in all of this speculation and hypothetical meandering is entrenching yourself in the part of your relationship that is none of your business. WHAT?! Yeah, that’s right I said none of your business. Continue reading