my trip to the museum

My daughter and I spent the day at the Museum of Nature and Science yesterday. I have trouble conceptualizing time and space, and really big amounts of either usually just send my brain into tilt. So I was happy that the museum exhibits did a nice job of breaking things down to my level of understanding.

For example, I learned that scientists estimate the age of the earth at 4.5 billion years, and that if I started right this minute counting to one billion, it would take me 32 years to get there. So for all practical intents and purposes, I think it's fair to say the earth is REALLY OLD.

I also learned that 99% of all species that have ever existed on this planet are extinct. Ninety nine percent!! And the average temperature has vacillated between great extremes of heat and cold over the earth's lifespan. Apparently extinction and global climate change were occurring long before humanity hit the scene.

Suddenly it seemed sort of quaint and amusing to me that humans, who are basically a microscopic blip on the timeline of our planet, are trying so diligently to prevent global warming and preserve endangered species.

Not that there's anything wrong with trying, if that's what floats your boat! But it seems like it may amount to nothing more (or less!) than building castles in the sand. If you happen to love building castles, or environmental activism, then by all means, go for it with gusto. But do it for the joy of the process, not the outcome. Because the outcome is in the hands of forces far beyond our control.

In the car on the way home, I told my daughter how I used to be quite the Earth Mama. I was big into recycling, saving the environment, stopping war, ethical veganism, yadda yadda yadda. And I told her how sure I had been that people who weren't being 'good stewards of the earth like me' were wrong.

As I spoke, I realized how little of my activism back then came from a place of joy or peace. It mostly came from a place of feeling fearful about the future, and wanting desperately to avoid the destruction of things I held dear. She said, "Gosh mom, you are such a different person now! I'm sure glad you got over that, or I might have followed right in your footsteps!"

I'm glad I got over it, too. And embarrassed about the judgment and arrogance I carried for so many years. *Sigh* I guess we all have our learning curves!

These days, I try to navigate using joy as my North Star, rather than targeting my actions toward preventing catastrophic outcomes from happening. Although I still slip back into prevention mode at times, I've definitely relaxed a lot.

I'm in no way implying that all environmentalists or activists come from a place of fear! I have no doubt that it's possible to be an activist simply because you just love the experience of doing so. But that wasn't the reason I was doing it. And so, many of my ideal-based goals and actions have faded away.

I still recycle and carry cloth shopping bags, but not because I think I'll save the earth by doing so. It just feels good to me to do these things for now. And I no longer try to convince anyone else that they should recycle or conserve, because that kind of interaction is simply not fun for me.

In the big scheme of things, nothing lasts. Everything is only temporary. Genghis Khan's empire crumbled, and even the most carefully preserved mummies eventually decayed. But rather than depressing me, my trip to the museum only increased my motivation to deliberately choose what I want to experience in each moment.

Because when it comes right down to it, history seems to confirm that every creation will eventually be destroyed. So there doesn't seem to be any redeeming justification for suffering in order to create what amounts to a sandcastle.

Mining all the joy I can from each moment is the only thing that seems practical. I happen to love creating some sandcastles, even though I know they will not last. To me, it's fun to write these posts, raise my kids, and bake cookies. So as long as it continues to be fun, I'll keep building. And when the waves level my creations, I'll just start making new ones.

stacking the deck for compatibility

Here's the post I mentioned about William Glasser's book, Staying Together. It seems to be out of print, but from what I can gather, it's been updated and morphed into sort of a newer edition, called Getting Together and Staying Together: Solving the Mystery of Marriage. As always, this post is about my interpretation of his work, so please read his book for a completely accurate representation of his theories.

William Glasser is the founder of Control Theory, sometimes called Choice Theory, which suggests that we really only have control over ourselves and no one else. So if we think changes need to be made in a relationship, we are the one who is responsible for making them. He suggests that all human behavior is an attempt to satisfy these five basic needs: survival, love, power, freedom, and fun.

My colleague and I created our own parenting model, Inspiring Connections, which parallels his theory in a way that is sort of spooky. We also identified what we call Five Core Needs: Autonomy, Basic Survival, Connection, Contribution, and Creativity. In our workshops, we teach parents how to help their children learn constructive and socially appropriate strategies for meeting these needs. So his theory makes a lot of sense to me.

What I learned from Glasser is that this model can provide significant insight into relationship dynamics when we realize that each of us prioritize these needs differently. He suggests rating the importance of each need for each person on a scale of 1-5, and then comparing them to determine whether a partnership seems to have genuine long term potential.

It was pretty enlightening for me to map out my priorities and compare them with my best estimate of the priorities of my past relationship partners. I could see pretty clearly what I had missed while I was blinded by love -- that some priorities are inherently more compatible than others. Although there are always exceptions, in most cases love is simply not enough to overcome deeply mismatched need priorities.

For example, I have a very high survival need, so I won't be a good match for someone who doesn't. I'm just not a big physical risk taker. Odds are I would be constantly freaked out and scared by driving fast, high risk sports, or traveling through a foreign country without reservations. I would feel destabilized in those situations, whereas a man who enjoys that kind of adventure and ranks fun as a higher priority than survival would probably feel stifled by my need for security. And indeed, that is exactly what happened in one of my past relationships.

Other examples:

- Someone who doesn't need a lot of love and affection is likely to feel smothered by a partner who is physically expressive and prefers a lot of contact and communication.

- Two people who prioritize freedom fairly equally can be a good match, whereas a major difference in this area can lead to a pursuer/distancer dynamic that is painful and frustrating.

- A high need for power and a low need for power can work well together. Put two equally high needs for power in a relationship, and things can turn ugly very quickly.

As I mapped out my own priorities, it became very obvious what priorities would be most compatible in a mate. Now my next challenge will be to remind myself to investigate this issue before I get too deeply involved with anyone.

I'd like to think that I've experienced enough painful mismatches to have gathered the motivation to do my homework first. Only time will tell ...

more books

my library card hasn't gotten much time to cool down between uses ...

Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships: Healing the Wound of the Heart I'm typically a fan of John Welwood's work, so it's no surprise that this book is currently chock full of post-it arrows pointing to quotes I wanted to remember. Like this one:

Our birthright as human beings is to have direct access to perfect love, and our privilege is to serve as a channel through which it flows. Realizing this, we can see the folly of trying to earn love through efforts, looks, or achievements. We might be able to win approval, praise, or rewards by these means, but not the love that embraces us as we are, the love that sets us free, the love that lights up this world. Rather than trying to win love, we need to fully let it enter into us.
His explanation about how past experience can color present relationships is among the clearest I've ever read, and his exercise for feeling love fully is very profound. This book gets my highest recommendation.

I had to post this cover. Look at that man! Isn't he incredible? My heart just bubbles over with joy when I see his face. This book presents the most grounded and accessible treatment of Buddhism I've ever read, and believe me, I've read a lot of 'em. The author suffered from severe anxiety as a kid, and grew up to be this endearing, transparent, authentically real guy who also happens to be a monk. He knows what we normal people are going through, and he gently shines his light on the tunnel that leads to a more peaceful mind. It's quite a lovely read.

Miracles of Mind: Exploring Nonlocal Consciousness and Spritual Healing (that typo in the title came from amazon, not me. just so you know.) Remote viewing, psi experiments, nonlocality, healing touch -- can't go wrong with a list of topics like that!

A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives You can tell I'm in a 'brain' phase ... listen to these chapter titles: The Vain Brain, The Emotional Brain, The Immoral Brain, The Deluded Brain, The Pigheaded Brain, The Secretive Brain, The Weak-Willed Brain, The Bigoted Brain, The Vulnerable Brain. Too good to pass up! And a little scary. Seems I can't trust that wrinkly little gray matter nearly as much as it wants me to ...

Feeding Your Demons: Ancient Wisdom for Resolving Inner Conflict I think I mentioned this already. I'm cogitating a whole separate post about this one. It also earned my highest recommendation.

Getting Together and Staying Together: Solving the Mystery of Marriage The library had an older edition of this called simply Staying Together. William Glasser, the father of Control Theory (which says we cannot control others, but only ourselves) shares some very solid insights into temperament and compatibility. When I mapped out my previous relationships using his system, I was rather stunned at how obvious it all suddenly appeared. There will be another post about this, too. Five stars.

Don't you just love the cover of this book? I found it a bit too wordy for my taste, but I loved his assertion that the polarization of right and wrong underlies many if not all of our societal and relationship concerns, and that a paradigm which includes room for creative and constructive energy would serve us much better.

another cover I had to include a picture of. I'm new to Sedaris. I actually laughed right out loud as I was sitting there alone reading this book. When I take this one back today, I'm heading straight to his shelf for more. Absolutely hilarious. I aspire.

Dump 'Em: How to Break Up with Anyone from Your Best Friend to Your Hairdresser Honestly, can you believe this title in light of my post about my awful haircut? How could I not check this out? It turned out to be full of scripts for getting rid of anyone without burning bridges. I was pretty impressed. Even learned some stuff. I'm feeling all verbally empowered now.

urgency schmurgency

I love that whenever I talk to clients or friends, I always end up saying what I myself most need to hear:

The part of you that is calling for a BIG decision, whether it be about career, relationship, housing, or whatever, is the Mind, not the Heart.

It is the mind that creates urgency and desperation. It truly believes it cannot go one minute longer without a resolution. It hates ambiguity. Its job is to push for an action, a solution. It tells you to Just DO something about this! Anything! RIGHT NOW! because it doesn't think you can handle the pain of uncertainty.

The heart doesn't ask for big decisions or big declarations. It just rests quietly in loving stillness, taking each moment as it comes. It does not fear the future. It is okay with uncertainty, mystery, and unresolved situations. It knows that solutions and futures, like blooming flowers, usually unfurl themselves without assistance when the time is right.

So despite what the mind is saying, you don't need to force yourself to decide or act. You can wait, listen, watch for opportunities. Open to what is around you right now. Take note of what brings you joy, and look for small ways to increase that. Huge leaps of faith are rarely necessary. You can almost always get where you want to go in baby steps.

Don't let your mind terrorize you with its demands that you act or decide. It's actually just like the Wizard of Oz. Pull back the curtain and you'll see.

The mind is really just a tiny little part of you; so desperate to be important that it goes to great lengths to appear big and powerful. Which is very cute. But the heart, well, the heart is huge. Bottomless. Infinitely more trustable than that capricious little mind. Its grounded and loving guidance is always worth waiting for.

Nine times out of ten, when you think you simply must make a decision, you actually don't have to. It's a rare situation when you can't afford to get out of your mind for a while, even if only for one full breath. Let the panic and should-ing subside a bit. Settle into your heart, and see what you find there.