On the Verge of Death

What if you had a 50% chance of not waking up tonight and every night thereafter?

A 50% chance means that you can’t give up your job, move to Nepal, or do anything else really drastic because you still have to live your life.

Or can you?

In other words, if your odds of dying each day are pretty substantial, I’d bet that we would get our priorities in order and live each day more fully.

If we have a horrible job or relationship, we may decide it’s no longer worth suffering, and make a change by either improving it, fixing it, replacing it, or removing it.

If there is something that we’ve been longing to do or have, perhaps we would strive to do it or to obtain it.  Perhaps that something is a motorcycle, a trip to a special place, a visit to a special person, forgiveness, or peace of mind.

If we have something that we’ve been longing to remove, maybe we’d decide to get rid of it.  Unwanted weight, debt, anger or resentment might be on top of the list.

If there is something you’ve been taking for granted, take a moment to appreciate it.   All those moments don’t add up to that much time in a day, so go ahead and indulge.   Perhaps it is a loved one, your good fortune, something that you do well but have failed to recognize, the taste of your morning coffee, or the beauty of the craftsmanship of your spoon.

Take a moment to give it some serious reflection, because in the end, we don’t really know our chances of living to see the next day.   Odds are hopefully in our favor, but you never know.

Now, make a list of the things you’d do differently, and go do them.

Minding Your Relationship

No one ever told me why marriage is so much work.  My interpretation of that had more to do with diapers, laundry, yard work, house cleaning, cooking dinner and the like.  No folks, that’s the easy part.

The hard part is managing the relationship.

Sure, some folks are just so easy-going that almost anything goes and they’re cool with that.   In my opinion, they’re never 100% cool with everything their partner does, but for some couples, they’re like 90% cool and that’s good enough.  Perhaps that’s the model we should strive for.

Until we get there, it’s work.  Hard work.  I’ve written before about that dynamic of choosing a mate then having to live with the consequences. Given that this is the cycle we inevitably and initially eagerly enter into, we spend much of our time (after the romance has faded) living with the consequences.  There is much we can learn from positive psychologists about how to cultivate that relationship to create satisfaction and intimacy so that it survives and thrives post-romance.

Harvey and Pauwels calls this “minding” the relationship.  We should “mind” relationships because we may have habits in the relationship that are unknowingly damaging to the relationship, such as not appreciating what the other needs, taking others for granted, or inability to see the impact of our behavior on others.  The term “minding” does relate to a philosophy of mindfulness and being present and thus able to adapt to a given situation.  Couples that successfully mind their relationship have a high degree of closeness and contribute to the other’s goals and hopes in life.

Harvey and Pauwels describe the components of  relationship minding:

  • Knowing and Being Known – This does not mean more communication; rather it refers to communication with the aim of having a better understanding of the other.  For most of us, that means more listening.
  • Attributing – Explaining positive behaviors as personality or character (as opposed to a freak of nature) and negative behaviors as circumstantial and temporary (as opposed to a character flaw).
  • Acceptance and Respect – for the other, not only in terms of who they are, but for their values, opinions, and feelings, even during conflict.   Ability to forgive is high among couples who mind effectively.
  • Reciprocity – Equal sharing of effort and benefits to the relationship.
  • Continuity –  Continuation of the strong, close bond between the individuals, even as the individuals evolve and change over time.

The authors also share some minding behaviors to help us make these concepts a reality. These behaviors include affection, respect, support and assistance, shared quality time, and appreciation.   It seems to me that investing in any relationship in these ways is likely to improve the quality of that bond.   Is one of your relationships lacking any of these ingredients?  Go fill that void and see what happens!

 

Source:   Harvey, J.H. & Pauwels, B.G.  (2009). Relationship connection:  A redux on the role of minding and the quality of feeling special in the enhancement of closeness.  In S.J. Lopez, & C.R. Snyder (Eds.),  Oxford handbook of positive psychology (2nd ed.) (pp. 385-392).  New York: Oxford University Press.

 

A Mother’s Day Gratitude, Long Overdue

I have to confess I was not the most grateful daughter.  As a teenager, I’m sure I gave my mother several sleepless nights and ulcerating moments.  I think it sometimes requires that we become parents ourselves before we realize the full scope of what it means to be a parent.

I’m sorry, Mom, for all those times I took you for granted or got frustrated or impatient with you.  I have learned that being a Mom means worrying and working 365 days a week, 24 hours a day, but the Thank Yous only come on one day per year.

So here we go.  Thank you Mom for:

  • Doing the tasks no one wants to do
  • Doing those tasks without complaining
  • Saying the things that no one will say
  • Saying those things despite knowing you’re going to take the heat for it
  • Putting our needs ahead of your own
  • Putting our needs ahead of your own and often sacrificing a lot to do so, without making us feel guilty
  • Stepping up and doing that something extra for us
  • Stepping up and doing that something extra for us without any expectation of thanks or acknowledgement
  • Teaching us that we can all change and grow, no matter what our age
  • Teaching us that we can all change and grow, and not lecturing us about it
  • Always trying to do the right thing for us kids
  • Always trying to do the right thing for us kids, even though it feels like it will break your heart.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom.  I’m going to try to be a better daughter, 365 days a year, and not wait until Mother’s Day next year to try to be the daughter to you that you deserve.

Mom and me

Mom and me

Nothing to Be Grateful For

Sometimes my life sucks and it feels like everything is going wrong.  Sometimes it feels like the world is going crazy, and I along with it.  Sometimes it feels like I’m all alone and no one cares.  Sometimes it feels like there’s more bad in the world than good.

Despite what is going on in the world, or going on with me, I always, always can count on the following:

  • I am grateful for my wonderous body, that gets me from place to place and does what I want, even if sometimes I’m in pain or feel uncoordinated.
  • I am grateful for my amazing mind and brain that can help me solve problems and imagine, even if I my memory fails me.
  • I am grateful for the ability to touch and feel a hug, even if I don’t have anyone to hug.
  • I am grateful for my growing ability to feel love and joy, even if sometimes I feel depressed and angry.
  • I am grateful to have ample food, shelter, clothing and modern amenities, even if I have to fix, procure and maintain them.
  • I am grateful for the family, friends, acquaintances, students and co-workers in my life, even if they might disappoint or annoy me.
  • I am grateful for the friendliness and kindness of strangers, even if sometimes they can be rude and inconsiderate.
  • I am grateful for the freedom and opportunity offered by our country, even if sometimes it feels oppressive and depressed.
  • I am grateful for our beautiful and miraculous Earth, even if sometimes she feels cruel.
  • I am grateful to feel connected to all things on Earth and in our universe, because I know I’m never alone even if I feel lonely.
  • Most of all, I am grateful to have a positive and grateful perspective on life because I know that every day we are on this Earth that it is a miracle to celebrate.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. “ – Melody Beattie