You Are What You Think: Judge Not

What  you think is the true basis of your whole personality, it directly informs your feelings, words and actions.  In this series that  I’m calling “You Are What You Think”, I am going to explore why what you think about is so important and the causes and consequences of different thought habits.

Character

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote this quote during the 19th century and it is as true today as it was then and for a very obvious reason.  What we think and how we view things are completely intertwined. A liar, for example, is unable to trust others because he always suspects others of being as deceitful as himself.  Ken Keyes put it another way during the middle of the 20th century…

Mirror

This is why it is so important to pay attention, not only to what you say about others and what you say about yourself, but to what you put into your brain and what you think about or how you process that stimulus.  If you continually let your baser impulses run wild, if you don’t repeatedly and thoughtfully pursue empathy and rationality, you really have no basis on which to judge others or the world in which we live.  You cannot say “I am a good person and that person is bad”, because your own perspective is biased.  Thoughtfulness or mindfulness in your approach to life is the only way to be sure that your perspective is as accurate as possible and when you view the world in this way, you are often less inclined to judge others, because of your increased awareness of what you do not know about that person’s feelings or motivations in acting the way they do. To round this quote session out, here is one from a favorite TV show of mine from the 21st century…

asshole

When you act or speak in ignorance of what another’s circumstances might be, you reveal that ignorance to the world around you.  Or to put it one last way, from an even older source than Emerson, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” Another problem with spending so much thought energy on judging or disparaging a situation or another person is that you are wasting time and energy on a thought process that will ultimately leave you, in no better position than when you started out. A better use of your time might be to acknowledge the issue and then turn your thoughts away from the problem itself and who’s to blame and toward finding the best solution to the problem going forward.

Good News! Never Underestimate The Power of Hope!

Chant BeautyWould you have clicked on this post if the title had been bad news?

I turned on NPR this morning just in time to hear a gentleman say that you will never get someone to change their mind by yelling at them.  That comment tied in perfectly with this blog that I was already planning.

So would you click on a bad news link?  Maybe and maybe not, but don’t we all have enough negativity in our own situations without getting more of it from others?

Life is too short to be constantly focused on the bad stuff but unfortunately it’s human nature to obsess over the things that go wrong.  It takes effort to focus the mind on the good stuff.  It takes effort to count your blessings.  The reward from that effort is that you eventually train your brain to see the good without effort and you train the people around you to think of you as a source of inspiration and positivity.

When I became a stepmom I did a lot of research on child rearing and one of the suggestions I came across repeatedly was to not overuse the word no.  Instead of constantly harping on what the child is doing wrong and the dire consequences that will follow their mistakes, try to tell them what the right thing to do would be and the positive consequences that result from good decision making.  If you are only telling them what not to do, you leave them with no way forward, they are stuck knowing that what they did was wrong but with no information on how to make it right.  This same principle applies to every sort of human communication in our lives. It would work quite well in romantic relationships too.  So don’t be a nag, be a cheerleader!

The take away is this: if  you have a message that you want to get out there to the world, if you want to change peoples minds about an issue, I would suggest you take the advice of the quote above.  Don’t lead through fear or righteous indignation.  Don’t tell people what they shouldn’t do.  Tell them what they should do and why it would be better for them if they did!  Never underestimate the power of hope!

True Love – What It Is and What It Isn’t

True love isThe quote above is meaningful in so many ways. So let’s start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start.

“True love is not just physical”…  It’s not just physical, although the physical is a huge part of it.  Of course when you hear that love is not just physical, you interpret it to mean that it isn’t just about lust but I think it goes beyond that.  The definition of physical from the oxford dictionary is.. “of or relating to the body as opposed to the mind”.  So in a deeper way it means that true love is about the mind or rather the mindset as well as the body.  If your attitude or mindset is negative toward the object of your affection than it is not true love because either this person is not right for you or you are not willing to do the work to keep your mindset positive.

“Nor romantic”…  One of the oxford dictionary’s definitions of romantic is “of, characterized by, or suggestive of an idealized view of reality”.  Don’t get me wrong, this viewpoint is important!  You should think that you are the luckiest person in the world and you should view your relationship through rose-colored glasses but what this quote says is that you need balance.  Romance is not the only component of true love.  No person or relationship is 100% positive all the time and you need to be able to see the down side of your mate and your relationship and still think it is worth it.  Which leads us to the last part.

“True love is an acceptance of all that is, has been, will be and will not be.”  This last part reinforces the need for more than a romantic viewpoint, because to some extent you need your love to be rooted in reality.  If you are waiting for your love to change, to become the person they should be, so that you can be with a “perfect” partner, than it isn’t really true love because you aren’t in love with who they are, you are in love with a figure that you have made up in your own head.  If you know that your love doesn’t want kids and you do and you are just hoping down the road they change their mind then you aren’t respecting them or their views in a way that you should with a true love.  When you talk to people that have been together forever they will all have stories about times when they were disappointed or frustrated and their relationship was on the rocks.  The one thing that made their love last was not that it was perfect, it was that they valued it enough to hang in there.  They valued it enough to accept it for exactly what it was and still hang in there.  That’s what true love is.  It’s seeing yourself and your love as clearly as you are capable of and still knowing that you wouldn’t want to be with any one else.

Lollipop’s Guide to Love: Finding It, Knowing It, Keeping It

Lollipop Love

All you need is love right?  That’s what they say and if you believe that’s true then you might be interested in my guide to love.  Read on for my insights into finding love, knowing it when you do find it and hanging on to it!

Step One: You’ll Find it When You’re Ready / Don’t Be Desperate

My Mom always told me she found love when she stopped looking for it and that was my experience too.  How’s that for a frustratingly smug and vague opening? But wait, it’s true!  When you make finding love your soul focus, you lose sight of all the other aspects of your life.  You lose the enthusiasm and passion that make you attractive to a potential mate.  You also tend to jump at every opportunity when you are desperate for love and no one wants to feel that the reason someone is interested in them is because they are around and have a pulse.

Step Two: You Have to Love yourself For Someone Else to Love You

And the clichés keep on coming! This one is true too.  Confidence, happiness and a dash of self-aware humor are all attractive qualities and are unable to be achieved if you don’t feel good about yourself.  The thing that you have to remember during this stage is that you don’t have to be perfect for someone to love you, although always striving to be your best self can’t hurt in your search for love.  The key is to strive to be the best you, not the best version of some ideal that has nothing to do with you.  There’s an old saying that goes: “For worry, work is better than whiskey”.  This means if you really hate something about yourself, address it and work on it, don’t avoid it and let it fester.

Step Three: You Have to Put Yourself Out There and it Has to be The Real You

The other reason why loving yourself is so important is because if you don’t love yourself you will find this step impossible.  You truly have to believe you are worthy of love to risk putting yourself out there.  Guess what, it is really hard to find love sitting on your couch and watching TV or not filling out that online dating questionnaire, or not talking to that cute person at work.  In fact I would go so far as to say it is nearly impossible.  If you’re super stumped about where the love of your life might be found, there were a couple of good suggestions two sentences back and if neither of those options appeal to you than just do what you love but do it with other people.  Another idea is to think about what kind of person you would like to be with and go where those people might be found.  That last one is tricky though and requires thought about the Real You.  If you want to meet someone who is kind and community oriented but you absolutely hate DIY and getting sweaty maybe don’t look for love by volunteering at Habitat for Humanity.

Step Four: You Have to Have Standards, They Aren’t Just For Every Other Aspect of Your Life

As Cher from Clueless said “You know how picky I am about my shoes and they just go on my feet!”.  She may have been clueless about many other things but this one she got right.  If you don’t have some idea of what you want in mate, how are you supposed to find them?  Perhaps instead of trying to hook up with every rando that comes along, you should be alone for a while and think about what you want out of life and a life partner.  I’m not talking about physical attributes or fairy tales about how you might meet.  I’m talking about qualities such as “family is important to them” or “they have a decent job”, or “they are capable of being selfless”.  Obviously you can’t always judge a book by it’s cover and some people may seem nicer than they really are, at first.  But if there are clues, like they are really nice to you but really mean to everyone else, that they are perhaps not what they at first appeared, have some self-respect and hit the bricks.

Step Five: You Have to Find Someone Capable of Independent Happiness, Being Needed is Nice but at Some Point You Might Need Someone Too

This is one of my examples of knowing what your needs are and making sure they get met.  Standards people, they are really important!  If you are anything like me you love to be needed and there is nothing so attractive as someone that needs and appreciates you.  The thing you have to be careful about with this noble intention, is that there are folks out there who are incapable of being happy by themselves or indeed happy at all.  You will spend all of your time and energy trying to prop them up and talk them into seeing the world as a halfway decent place.  The only and inevitable result of this will be that they will continue to see the world as they always have and you will be exhausted and unhappy yourself.  Toxic attitudes are like any other contagious disease, no matter how strong your immune system if you keep making out with someone who has one you are gonna end up sick and tired!

Step Six: Is It Love?  The Three L’s You Need to be Sure Are There

So, say you have found someone that is in fact a decent person and everything seems to be going really well.  How do you know if this relationship has what it takes to last?  Let me introduce you, dear reader, to the three L’s.  And the three L’s are, drumroll please, Like, Lust and Love.

Let’s start with like.  In order for a relationship to work you must like the person you are with.  This seems really obvious until someone comes along that is absolutely drop dead gorgeous and you are in lust city, until you realize that every time they open their mouth you want to die.  This is a situation where you have lust but no like and that is not gonna work out.  The person you are with should be like your best friend and you should genuinely respect their opinions and have fun in their company.

Let’s talk about lust, baby!  If you cannot picture yourself kissing someone much less doing anything else to them it’s not gonna work.  On the flip side if kissing and stuff is all you do because you have nothing in common it’s not gonna work.  Keep this in mind as well.  If you end up with this person forever, there are gonna be times where they and you are not at your best looking and you are still going to have to kiss and do stuff with them, so make sure that sounds like fun before you commit.

Lastly, love, but wait isn’t that what we are talking about anyway?  How can love be a requirement for love?  When I say love I mean the kind of love parents have for their children.  The kind that makes sacrifice seem worth it and would have you gladly leaping in front of a bus to save them.  Hopefully your love story will not require you to die in order to prove your devotion but it will require you to put your own needs aside on occasion to be there for your partner.  It will also require you to tell them hard truths and see them at their worst and if you don’t feel that all-encompassing, selfless kind of love for them; then, say it with me, it’s not gonna work.

Step Seven: Once You Have it Don’t Take it for Granted 

Yay!  You’re in love, love with a big L, love that lasts a lifetime!  How do you hold on to that love in the crazy world in which we live?  Step number one: don’t take it for granted!  Don’t just assume that it will continue along perfectly fine without attention or upkeep because that is true of absolutely nothing in life. And if you are this far along in this article, one might assume that love is important to you, so take care of it.  Tend it, tend your partner, tend yourself, make it a priority in your life!  The definition of husbandry from which the word husband derives means: the care and cultivation of something.  So care for and cultivate your relationship and ladies just because you are not a husband does not let you off the hook.  I know society would have you think that you are doing your partner a huge favor just by being with them and putting up with their manly, ridiculous ways but, spoiler alert, society is full of it and men need just as much care and support as anyone else and if you can’t be bothered to figure out what that means to a man, to your man, than I can honestly say you don’t deserve him.

Step Eight: Don’t Give Up

We’ve come to the end of our road.  We have found love and like and lust and we are trying to not take it for granted.  So, what else do we need to make sure it works?  In short we need to not give up.  If all the steps above have been followed, it sounds like this relationship has been built on solid ground and includes two awesome, amazing people, so don’t give up on it!  Don’t do it, it’s not worth it, if you break it you’re just gonna have to start all over again and guess what, if you are a giver upper you’re probably gonna do that the next time too.  So don’t put yourself through that.  Nobody is perfect and things will happen to test the relationship and each of you individually but take breaking up off the table.  Don’t threaten to leave just to get your way.  Love is tough at times but it’s worth it so, please, don’t give up!

“I Don’t Need Anyone”, The Great American Lie

McLintock

I was watching Benny and Joon the other night with the husband and at the very beginning of the movie, one of benny’s friends is talking about a conversation with his wife, where the wife asked if he needed her, and this apparently really freaked the friend out.  That got me to thinking about why a married person would be freaked out by the idea of being needed or needing someone else and I realized that this whole idea of needing other people, is kind of a touchy one in our society.  We are all supposed to be rugged individualists, bravely facing each new dawn, certain in our ability to handle life’s challenges unaided and unafraid.

This adoration of self-reliance is really one of the founding concepts of American life.   In the beginning we decided to strike out to a strange new world far away and once we got there we decided that we didn’t need anyone telling us what to do and American history has been about a series of new frontiers and expanding boundaries ever since.  We as a people love the frontier and in our minds these frontiers are populated by tough people who don’t need anyone.  But the story of our frontiers are not stories about lone people doing it on their own.  They are about groups of people, couples and families and communities surviving together and helping each other.  Those families needed each other in a way that is completely foreign to us now.  They literally could not survive and certainly could not thrive alone.

In this day and age, needing people is seen as weak. If you’re truly successful you’ll know it by how independent you are.  If you have everything you want what need do you have for another person?  After all everything you want you can provide for yourself.  It is one of the most unfortunate aspects of modern society that we are so afraid to need someone.  How can you be a real team if you don’t trust or need the other members?  Yet we try over and over again to form relationships where we refuse to need and feel trapped when we are needed and we wonder why they fall apart.

I love the quote above because it’s so real.  Those lives aren’t built on standing alone and yet also living some fairy tale happily ever after.  It’s talking about life and work and how rewarding those things can be when you have someone else to stand with you.

The First Year of Marriage: a Review.

06/13/14, our wedding day!

06/13/14, our wedding day!

Yesterday was my first wedding anniversary and yes we got married on Friday the thirteenth.  Why you ask?  Because we are odd and in that way perfectly suited to each other.

I approached the first year with a small amount of trepidation.  You always hear that the first year of marriage is the hardest, with all the adjustments inherent in melding your life with someone else’s.  I needn’t have worried.  We had already lived together for a year and a half before we were married and apparently went through most of our adjustments during that period.  I won’t say that the past year has been nothing but continual wedded bliss but it has been pretty great!  What follows is my top two favorite things about being married so far.

First off you may hear that once you’re married the magic dies almost immediately and what follows is a string of arguments and hurt feelings leading inevitably to bitterness, disdain for your partner and divorce.  I have found the opposite to be true.  Before we made the commitment to be together forever every disagreement had to be hashed out and fully understood lest we remain ignorant of our partners faults and enter the marriage state unprepared.  This was not the first serious relationship for either one of us and the dissolution of those previous relationships left us a bit wary of repeating our mistakes.  Neither one of us wanted to marry the wrong person and there was always the knowledge in the back of our heads that if we wanted out; we could still get out with comparatively little damage done.  Once we got married and said those vows to each other, most if not all of those doubts disappeared.  We are the kind of people who will kill ourselves trying to keep our word and trying to keep from hurting those we love.  Now when a disagreement arises we ask ourselves if this is something we want to be fighting about for the next thirty or forty or fifty years and put that way, the differences seem small indeed and the fight seems hardly worth the trouble.

The second thing about marriage that I love is how you become a smaller part of a bigger whole.  I can honestly say that although I have always been in relatively good shape and, at least in theory, have always been interested in being healthy.  I have never cared enough about it to really delve deep into the subject and educate myself.  My husband however loves this kind of thing, nutrition and exercise are mothers milk to him.  So without having to put out much effort myself, other than showing up to the gym with a good attitude, I find myself with a personal trainer and nutritionist.  Being married is like having a second brain, one that you can access at any given time, but that you don’t have to maintain and educate.  For someone like me who really believes that the meaning of life is to learn and grow as individuals as much and as long as you can, this is a truly great thing indeed!

So in conclusion, yay marriage and bring on the next year!