Friday, August 31, 2012

Beginning Again

Welcome back! 

 If you know me, even just a little, you probably know that I'm a giant fan of Change. I've learned that many people think that's a strange thing. Not sure whether there are official statistics out there--undoubtedly... and you know what they say about stats--but in my limited experience, it seems that most folks are extremely change-adverse. Aw well. I like it! And as Gandhi so eloquently put it: 

A few months ago, it came to me that the work I was doing (both for a little pay and for none) was veering off the path of the direction I wanted to head. So, I submitted two notices, one which was sad, one which was scary, and began designing--in my head--the picture of where I wanted to be next year. That journey is beginning, and I'm taking a few of the first steps. 

One of those steps came to me yesterday via an old friend on Facebook: next month--beginning Saturday--I'll be participating in FatMumSlim's Photo a Day Challenge for September. I feel as though a creative kick in the patootie, not to mention a different way of looking at the world (through the lens of my little Canon PowerShot) will be an inspirational start to this new venture, and Charlotte's ideas are sizzlin'! Since this is the first time in three years that I've not been in at least one college class, this project will also lend a hand with writing ideas. Hard to say what will come out of it, but it feels like something good.

Another step is merging my short-lived second blog into this one. Sooo, the next three posts were written a couple of years back, but continue to be things I ponder. I hope you enjoy them, and my photos to come....

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Just Whose Button IS It?

We come into each new relationship with our entire history forming and shaping our perceptions of who we are, what the world is like, and how we fit in it

Old wounds, shame, embarrassment, losses, and disappointments leave emotional scars. Whatever we (usually unconsciously) made the incidences "mean" about us and the world colors our view, skews our perception and creates sensitive "buttons." 

We've all heard the term "s/he pushes my buttons." But what does that really look like? What is the phenomenon and how do we respond (as opposed to react) to "getting our buttons pushed" in the most healthy way possible? Naturally, each of us will have different buttons, and we'll respond to them in our own unique ways.

Say your partner has a habit... a simple action that most people barely notice -- or perhaps see and find either charming or innocuous -- but that makes you completely bonkers. How to handle this? 

Since most of us live in our own worlds and believe our view is "right," "normal," and generally held by the majority of people, we see that "annoying habit" as "wrong," a flaw, something that needs to be fixed. 

The reality is, our response to the habit/annoyance is in US! Our partner's action or habit probably feels completely normal to him or her, just as ours do to us, and when we react with annoyance, it often triggers an emotional response in return. (Your reaction to your button being pushed pushes his/her button, and the cycle escalates. Wheeee!)

Here's a simple example, one which might be familiar:

He:    Leaves the toilet seat up.
She:   Asks a number of times for him to lower it after use.
Forgets. Leaving the seat up is a habit, not a big deal to him, and -- as we know -- habits are hard to break.
She:   Makes his habit Mean Something... perhaps that he is lazy, a slob, perhaps that he doesn't listen/care about her, any number of things (whatever her buttons are labeled.) Eventually -- if there is not clear discussion -- she walks into the bathroom, perhaps in the middle of the night, sits down on the cold porcelain, dunks her bum into cold water, and explodes.
He:    Gets attacked by a livid partner who's buttons have been pushed and who is likely to call him a lazy slob who never listens and doesn't care about her.
He:    Knowing he is NOT lazy OR a slob who cares very much about her, gets HIS buttons pushed, defends his nature, and an ugly fight ensues.
        And nobody wins.

I have a mental picture of an actual "Button", a bit like a doorbell or buzzer that sits somewhere in/on my body -- sometimes in the pit of my stomach, sometimes over my heart -- which when pushed, triggers an emotional reaction in me that is extreme... Usually my reactions have very little to do with the current incident, but almost everything to do with what the incident means about me, people in general or my place in the world.

So I've been asking myself, how do we disconnect the wires that keep the buttons "Live" and reacting? Some of my thoughts....

Whenever an extreme reaction comes up, Notice it! And ask yourself

  • does this incident warrant such intense defensiveness, anger, sadness, etc?
  • Or is there a familiar theme here? Have I felt this before?
  • What am I making it mean about me? Or about my partner?
  • Breathe. Pause. Breathe some more. Take a time-out to calm down.
  • Admit to your partner that your button got pushed.
  • Discuss the buttons and their underlying meanings with loved ones.
  • Commit to disconnecting the wires, and ask for the support you need.

Remind yourself:

  • These are MY reactions.
  • Take responsibility for your feelings.
  • Avoid blame.
  • Take some time and think.
  • Choose to Respond rather than React.
  • Visualize disconnecting the wires behind the buttons.
  • Perhaps find help healing the old pain and resulting beliefs through counseling, wise friends and/or meditation or spiritual practice.
  • Respect the fact that we all have buttons, and care enough to sidestep those that live in your loved ones.

Anybody else? I'd love to hear your solutions to handling our emotional triggers and any other insights you would like to share. To a more healthy, peaceful and harmonious existence!

Looking For Mr or Ms Right

"All the good ones are taken".... So many times I have heard this lament from my single girlfriends. Perusing Match, Plenty of Fish, being rejected by eHarmony, they enumerate the pitfalls of "getting back out there." Another hopeful online date, another "loser" kicked to the curb. It seems there are many post-divorce 40+-year-old well-educated, successful women who are single and looking. And perhaps even more men.... The stories I've heard over the past few years seem similar. Or at least similar within gender.

The single (straight) women I know who are looking for Mr Right tend to fit at least a few of the pieces of this story:

  • They've finally left a marriage or relationship (or have been left) that they KNEW was not healthy long before it ended.
  • They are frustrated with "the search" and feeling like a "3rd wheel" in a world of couples.
  • They fluctuate between being ok or perfectly happy with being single -- in fact, often loving the freedom it allows, perhaps for the first time in their lives -- to being so lonely they ache.
  • They are often scared financially. Even if there was a favorable divorce settlement, their lifestyle has changed, usually significantly scaled down, as they now depend upon their single income. (The combination of financial fear and loneliness can create a tone of desperation to their dating which can be construed as neediness.)
  • They are smart, and are at an age where they're not willing to pretend they're not.
  • They've often thought long and hard about what they want in a man, and may even have a clear wish list.
  • They are looking for a partner who is not afraid of their power and who will challenge them to become better.
  • They want so much more than "just sex".

The single (straight) men I know who are looking for Ms Right tend to fit at least a few pieces of this picture:

  • They REALLY miss having regular sex. Sometimes this comes across in their dating search as being single-minded, horny, narcissists who really don't care about anything except sex (which is rarely true.)
  • They're not sure exactly what went wrong with their marriage or long term relationship.
  • They are often extremely smart in their chosen professions and yet continue to be baffled by (and perhaps have even given up on ever getting the answer to) What Women Want.
  • Spending time with their buddies is great, but they also miss the allure of a woman's perspective, soft strength and nurturing.
  • They're frustrated with the dating game and wish they could just find a good woman to love who wasn't sending mixed messages or triggering their feelings of "doing it wrong."

So... if this is you, how do you find the partner you long for?
I certainly don't pretend to have the answers to that question; however, I'm willing to consider some possibilities. 

We DO all know that giving up and drinking ourselves to oblivion while eating pizza or bon bons on the couch isn't the answer, so clearly continuing to be out in the world is part of it. We know people DO find their true love at any age... (I did -- at age 50!) And if I can do it, YOU CAN!

A few thoughts that come to mind that can help move the prospect closer are....

  • If you're still pissed off at your last partner (or the one before that, or...), TODAY is a good day to begin to forgive. Baggage can --and usually does-- drag down a new relationship in no time.
  • Practice gratitude for everything you have and focus on the good stuff in your life. While every single one of us has gone through some painful times, we get to choose minute by minute whether to continue to rehash the memories and keep those feelings fresh or not.
  • Cultivate a "The Best Is Yet To Come" outlook. If you want a brighter future, you must believe it's possible.
  •  Remind yourself that YOU are the thinker of your thoughts. It takes work to tell those crappy thoughts, "Get thee behind me," but trust me, it's worth every conscious step, and before you know it, becomes habit.
  • A positive, hopeful attitude is contagious and magnetic. Remember that good, kind, fun, people are generally attracted to good, kind, fun people!

Conscious Relationships

Lonely? You don't have to be!

Books, counselors and teachers abound, and yet every day so many of us struggle with the balance between intimacy and distance, trying to be what society says we should be, or searching for magic keys to find, create, fix or keep fulfilling relationships. 

Here are just a few of our wishes and the books, blog posts, etc that attempt to teach us...

How to become a love magnet...

How to meet the man of your dreams...
How to pick up hot chicks...
How to romance and win her heart...
How to seduce him...
How to heal and find bliss in sensuality and sexual play...
How to keep your partner happy...
How to survive / resist / forgive / end an affair...
How to stop sabotaging your relationships...
How to let go and move on...
How to find someone to love...
How to keep your love alive...

Why, for some of us is this so difficult? Is it all in saying the "right things?" Is it about having the "right" body or clothes or car? Can we stop the habit of repeating our histories (even with
20/20 hindsight), our parents' perhaps less-than-skillful examples, our own prior bad choices? Can we make our relationships conscious, non-violent, exciting, growing, and fun? Are smart, single folks able to overcome past "failures" or post-divorce cynicism and draw to us the partner we long for? 

These are but a tiny spattering of the thousands of questions that have flowed through my mind as I go through life, observing. Today I've decided to begin to write about my passion: exploring the ins and outs -- and definite ups and downs -- of being an imperfect human in relationship. 

I would love to hear your thoughts and insights, begin dialog, expand my mind along with you. Please, feel free to comment. And so it begins...