Relationship Tip: Don’t Be an Ass

f_ZenCommand-Marriage-edit

The Golden Rule is short and to the point: Treat others as you want them to treat you.  It’s pretty simple, yet we often complicate it.

In his book The Zen Commandments, Dean Sluyter says “our personal relationships can be simpler than we usually make them.” He summarizes the principles he thinks make relationships work.

“Whether in a romance or a marriage or a family, the principles are the same: you take care of one another, you be as kind as you can, you do your share of finding new sources of fun, you quietly pass up opportunities to score points or be a wise guy, you give the benefit of the doubt, and you try to make things less insane rather than more.  If you think the other person is off the program you address the situation gently and with respect. But since the problem is often your own perception, you can save everyone a lot of grief by waiting a little while first to see if your perception changes.”

The Zen Commandments: Ten Suggestions for a Life of Inner Freedom, Dean Sluyter, from Lesson #5: Keep it Simple

Here’s my summary of his Principles

  1. Take care of each other
  2. Be kind
  3. Do your share
  4. Avoid being an ass
  5. Assume the best (not the worst)
  6. Make things better (rather than worse)
  7. Before jumping to a conclusion, wait
  8. If, after waiting, there’s still an issue, address it

Sluyter’s advice resonates for me, both the words and the simplicity of it. If both people in a relationship apply it, a lot of perceived relationship problems disappear.  Did the thing go away or did our thoughts about it change?

I know thoughts in my mind impact my perception of things, and that can affect how I experience stuff. I’ve received new information in situations and been shocked at how quickly my perception has pivoted.

I want to keep #7 in mind. Life promises change; guarantees it. I’ve been amazed at how something that had a hold of me can lose its power simply with the passage of time.

What relationship principles guide you in life?

 

Photo source: RJA1988 on Pixabay


 

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How a Decision I’d Felt Fine About Suddenly Felt Wrong

WaLk the Goats

A lot of my childhood stuff was discarded over the years, but neither I nor mom ever discarded Sad Baby.  Plush in all parts except the face, she had a zippered-pouch in back cradling a music box.  The soft body, with lilting musical tones, was a comforting snuggle.

The plushie eventually made her way from the east coast to California, her cloth frayed and worn, the music box long dead and disposed of. I washed her face, aired her out and alternately displayed her on my bed or stuck her in the garage.

Years passed. Sad Baby had been in the garage a while when a desire to declutter arose. My decluttering urges loop around regularly. Each time, something that survived the last cycle, does not make the current cut.

One de-clutter tip I’d read was to take a picture of an object cared about but no longer wanted. It would keep the memory without having to store the thing.

I looked at Sad Baby. “It’s time,” I thought. “Time to let go of you.” Sad Baby had been mine for 55-years.

I took a picture, tucked her into my trick trash, and she was gone.

Sad Baby comfortably lived in my memory. I didn’t miss her. I was content with my decision.

Until…I wasn’t.

Continue reading “How a Decision I’d Felt Fine About Suddenly Felt Wrong”

Road Lesson #3: Don’t Take it Personally

106_RoadRageLesson3_2-26-19I’ve written two blog posts inspired by a place I dubbed mindfulness intersection. It was a stretch of road I drove regularly, giving me plenty of opportunities to practice mindfulness.

My first lesson was about my rage at another car cutting in front of me.

My second lesson had me being the cutter, at a different, but similar, intersection.

My third lesson—I’ve stopped saying final because life keeps surprising me—I tell here.

This lesson captures the essence of Don Miguel Ruiz’s second agreement—don’t take anything personally—in his book, The Four Agreements.

“Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”[1]

This third lesson, surprisingly, happened while I was walking. Having had a disagreement with Bubba, I was outside, stomping up the street, trying to clear my head and make sense of what had just happened.

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Wintry Mindfulness Moments

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My blogging efforts remind me of learning to drive a stick-shift: fits-and-starts. In January, I met my goal of posting three-times a week. So far this month? Sketchy.

My excuse? I went east to spend time with dad, to celebrate his 95th birthday. Generally I avoid flying cross-country during winter; too unpredictable. I haven’t been home for Christmas in decades. I tried to get east for dad’s 90th birthday, but snow-storms cancelled that year’s trip.  With mom’s death last September, the urge to go east for Christmas or for dad’s February birthday was strong.

I opted for dad’s birthday, both to miss the holiday madness, and so I could get information together for his tax return. Dad might discourage my traveling for his birthday; but to get the taxes done would be a compelling enticement.

Whether I was going to get east seemed dicey.

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My New Swear Word

Pixabay: ponce_photography. Free for commercial use; no attribution required

I have a new swear word.

Actually, it’s less a swear word and more a cheery way to acknowledge a minor mishap.

The word was born in the kitchen, while scooping quinoa out of a bag and into a pan. No matter how careful Bubba and I were, grains of quinoa always leapt from the measuring cup onto the counter.

Have you ever found yourself muttering under your breath about being clumsy, careless, stupid over something minor? Over something you’d never criticize a child for?

Well, when the quinoa fell, our voices muttered.

Some things are habitual; tracks laid down years ago and reaffirmed so often they’re solidly etched into being automatic.  Bubba and I have a few of those tracks; we work at counterbalancing their automaticity with more intentional responses. Sometimes we find something that works and is fun.

It was in the kitchen, with quinoa falling and voices muttering, that we found our counterbalancing tool: the quinoa itself.

Quinoa, when spoken, sounds like keen-wa. Which is quite fun to say, especially if you elongate the vowels.

Now when the quinoa falls, we call out keeeen-waaaa! with a cheery voice; it’s so much easier to feel upbeat when the music is soaring. It’s become our way of simply recognizing what is—the quinoa is going to leap—rather than responding as if it shouldn’t be doing what it’s doing.

It’s been so effective at quieting our spilled-quinoa-muttering-minds, we now use it regularly, in all sorts of situations. Because, at least in our house, life serves up plenty of spills, drops, tumbles and minor mishaps.

Spilled milk?

 Keeeen-waaaa!!!!!!!

 

Photo source: ponce_photography on Pixabay


 

I Love Stuff. I Hate Stuff.

Pixabay: 999theone, Free for commercial use; no attribution required

I have a love/hate relationship with stuff.   I own too many things.  Not all of it sparks joy, that Marie Kondo test to decide whether to keep something or eliminate it.

I’ve gotten rid of things along the way, but unless I move and have to do a major purge, things flow into my house at a faster rate than they flow out. Having lived in the same place for nearly 20 years, stuff has accumulated.

The percentage of stuff I use regularly is…small.

Some of the stuff is seasonal, stored until the season rolls around again.

Some is aspirational: those pants I’ll fit into once I’ve dropped 10-pounds.

Some is, if I’m brutally honest, fantastical: am I really going to read Daniel Pink’s To Sell is Human or George Lakoff’s Moral Politics?

Continue reading “I Love Stuff. I Hate Stuff.”

Postage Stamps are Little Marvels

Pixabay: AngelaT Free for commercial use; no attribution required

The price of a U.S. first-class stamp goes up January 27, 2019 from $0.50 to $0.55.

If you’re of a certain generation you might ask, “What’s a stamp?”

If you were alive 50-years-ago, when stamps were $0.06, you might grumble about the higher price.

But focusing on the price misses something bigger: the marvel of what you get for the price of that stamp; that stamp affixed to an envelope you can send to a friend 3,000 miles away.

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Road Intersection Lesson #2

Pixabay: Alexas_Fotos / 19628 images CC0 Creative Commons

Have you ever thought you’d squeezed every morsel of learning out of some lesson, only to have it say, wait! there’s more!

My Road Rage story was like that. I dubbed the location where I learned to reduce my road rage, mindfulness intersection. After blogging about it I thought, ok, that intersection is dry; I’ve learned all there is.

But life continued. And I realized so much depends on perspective. When I first wrote about taming my road rage, I wrote about it from my perspective: the one pissed off that another car cut in front of me.

My second lesson had me being the cutter.

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Tilting at Windmills

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I love moments when I see my perspective shift on something.  I tilt my psychological head and, bam! things are suddenly different.

I was driving to the hospital to see mom. The Vermont hills, peppered with farms and cows, rolled before me, small towns and communities rising up and fading away.  The green scenery swaddled me in its splendor; an occasional tree hinted at autumn.

I rounded a turn. There on the hill before me was a display of a half-dozen windmills.

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Ice Cream, Safeway and Letting Go

Dustytoes on Pixabay CC0 Creative CommonsIce cream is the secret to a long and happy life. My dad, an almost daily eater of ice cream is, at 94, my evidentiary proof.  If red wine drinkers have convinced the world of the medicinal argument for their lust, I’ll go with the longevity argument for mine.

So, I eat ice cream, leaning toward anything with salted caramel in it.

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When Birthdays Go Awry

Alexas_Fotos CC0 Creative Commons on Pixabay

My birthday was a fizzling failure. Or a shimmering success. It depends on what lens you see it through.

Breakfast seemed simple: go out and have someone wait on me, bring me exactly what I want, clear things away and do the dishes. Luxuriate in some morning spoiling all while checking out a new café in town.

It was the heart of your typical breakfast rush hour when we walked in, and the place was…empty. Not a single customer. No greeter. No wait staff. Utter silence. Not a good sign.

“They’re new,” I said to Bubba. “Still working out the kinks.”

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Ugly Dog

55_UglyDog_5-5-18When my 10-year-old daughter started to make her plea for a dog, I knew I was in for a stubborn brawl.   Like an attorney arguing her case, she pitched her arguments:  she’d be safer at home after school; she’d learn responsibility; she’d get exercise walking it.

After wearing down my resistance with her compelling courtroom convictions, I agreed; within certain parameters.

I had grown up with german shepherds; big, beautiful beasts with long snouts, long fur, and long tails. Their reputation aligned well with the “safety” argument, but their long fur meant lots of shedding, which I didn’t want to deal with. They’re also bigger than I wanted, so they got crossed off the list.

After doing some research, I landed on a dog I wasn’t familiar with: the boxer.

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What’s the Fee to Pet Your Dog?

NatWhitePhotography on Pixabay

If you have kids it’s likely, at some point along the way, they’ll deliver a wisdom-pearl that will bring you up short.  It’ll be delivered with a knowing confidence that silences the moment.

My daughter, at age 8, brought fresh perspective to a dry topic: taxes and park entrance fees. I know, exactly! Something every parent and 8-year-old talk about. But I work in the financial sector, so I had actually been trying to explain to her the idea of taxes and how they’re used. One of those uses, I explained, was to ensure we have parks for public use.

It was only when we were going to a local regional park that I realized she had actually been paying attention.  The park had a day-use fee, which I paid. As we parked, she looked at me and asked why I had to pay to enter the park when our tax dollars pay for it.

I fumbled my answer, at which point she argued the arrangement was “like buying a dog and then having to pay every time you want to pet it.”

Out of the mouths of babes.

 

Photo source: NatWhitePhotography on Pixabay