The Disservice of Rushing

Lately I’ve been thinking (again) about the rush that most of us live our lives being and doing. We’re so busy, trying to pack something into every second it seems. And in some ways I can understand because there’s a lot of life to be lived and lots of things to do and we’ll never be able to complete them all in our (short) life time. But I think that pressure and decision to say yes to so many things has had a negative impact on our relationships. I don’t think that we take the time often enough to really think about what we say or how we talk to people. Sometimes we’re so focused on being right or doing something our way that we’re not able to see the value in doing it another way, and we’re certainly not willing to admit that we don’t know everything.

I believe we can all learn something from everyone on the planet. Maybe it’s just one or two things, but those things can have great value. But when we go into a conversation or relationship with our minds already made up in how a conversation will go or how smart we are (and they’re not) or making a decision without really listening or getting all the facts, it’s not only hurtful to them, but can have a negative impact on us as well.

Just because someone is younger than you, is older than you, is from another country, went through a divorce, went through bankruptcy, doesn’t like pets, or likes your favorite sports team’s biggest rivals doesn’t mean that they can’t have good ideas, can’t teach you something and aren’t worth a few minutes of your time really listening to what they have to say. The same is true for advice, just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s bad or because it costs a lot it’s good.

I don’t think it’s (just) about trying to pack every minute of every day full, it’s about making sure to use your time wisely and make the most of your life. Some of the best moments of your life will be with other people. Some of those great moments will only happen if you slow down and take the time to meet someone new, take the time to build up existing relationships or make amends in one that you’ve damaged. I encourage you to take time to slow down this weekend and really watch where you’re going, listen to the full explanation or conversation before making decisions, and suspend judgment a bit longer than you do normally. What will you experience with an open mind this weekend?

Reality Reflections: Think Before You Speak

One of the things I’m always talking with my clients about is the importance of checking how you say things.  If I walked up to you in the middle of the sidewalk and said “do you like Italian food?” you would think I’m crazy or at the very least weird. I don’t know you, we don’t live near each other, we haven’t talked online, we’re not social media connections, we don’t work together: there’s no relationship that could be conceived of between us. If however I said “Hi, I’ve got a coupon for a free dinner for a couple at this excellent Italian restaurant down the road, no strings attached, would you like it?” That would make a big difference and you would think I’m being generous and not rude or weird (which would be my goal). The way you phrase things can make a big difference.

A more typical example would be someone saying “What are you doing here?” at the local bar to you. It’s not quite rude, but it’s not exactly friendly. A better way to say it would be “Hey! It’s good to see you! How have you been? I didn’t know you liked this bar! Are you here with or meeting anyone or would you like to come hang out with my friends and I?” (with appropriate breaks for responses of course).  Another common example would be “Why didn’t you take the garbage out?” when you could say “Could you please take out the garbage tonight.”

When you start these conversations as I have proposed initially you’re basically asking for a fight, for someone to be offended or for lots of misconceptions and misunderstandings to take place. Yes, I know that sometimes the words that fly out of our mouth happen because we’re surprised by something or we’re tired or we’re just not thinking. But if we all took 5 seconds to think about our words before they flew out of our mouths and used our ears more proactively, we would be in a lot better shape personally and with our relationships.

If you take a moment and remember that last time that your words offended someone even if you didn’t mean for it to happen, and the guilty and horrible feeling that (should have) followed, I think you’ll find sufficient motivation for taking those few extra seconds to think about your words before you have to apologize for hurting someone.

New Relationships

This month one of the topics we’re talking about is relationships. I’m a big dog lover and follow several service dog organizations. One of those organizations just had a new litter of puppies, and as I was checking the little ones and their proud mama out, it got me thinking about relationships. So today I thought we’d talk about the joy of new life, new relationships, and new opportunities.

We’ve talked about the fact that relationships end, there are many reasons that we choose to end our relationships, and often they’re good reasons. Sometimes there is fault, failures and mistakes involved, and sometimes the end could have been avoided. But sometimes relationships are meant to be for a period of time and then we’re supposed to move on. The unfortunate thing is that some of us sit and stew or feel sorry for ourselves or sulk for entirely too long after that break up. That instead of living life, moving on and starting fresh, we’re stuck in the past. Yes, you should mourn your relationship and take time to consider what went wrong (and make changes if appropriate) but that shouldn’t take too long, certainly not years in the large majority of cases.

Instead we should be looking ahead. Every day someone dies and someone is born. We can focus on the person we’ve lost or the person we’ve gained. While we never truly let go of the person we’ve lost, they should not remain our primary focus, we should be focused on the next generation. The person who has passed on will in all likelihood have very little impact on the world now, the person who has the greatest chance to impact the world is the one who was just born.

So before you feel frustrated or scared about having to start a new relationship, I encourage you to think about the possibilities that new relationship holds. Maybe this person will be the one that fits you most compatibly, maybe this will be the one who will challenge you to reach for your dreams, maybe this will be the one who shows you a side of yourself you never knew existed but will really benefit from, and maybe this person is just meant to bring you a little love and light. Will you choose to be open to the possibilities of a new relationship this week?

Peace in Relationships

We’re getting ready to head into what will probably be another busy week. It seems like even when we have the best intentions of slowing down that we don’t make it happen like we should. This month we’ll be talking about relationships. Yes, we do talk about relationships all year long and it’s a very broad topic, including family, partners/significant other, friends, coworkers and neighbors. But this month we’ll be focusing in on making the most of the relationships we have, learning how to be a supportive partner and navigating the complexities that we each bring to a relationship.

Whether we’re talking about family, partners/significant other, friends, coworkers or neighbors, in order for it to fall into the relationship category you have to interact with them. For estranged family members or neighbors you don’t even know by name, it’s not really a relationship, and we won’t be focusing on it much, other than in a conversation about starting or fixing relationships. Today though I want to focus on the one thing that frustrates, challenges and hurts us when it comes to relationships: fighting and disagreements.

Any time there’s a relationship there’s always more than one person involved. And with each and every one of us comes opinions, likes and dislikes, fears, and different ways of seeing things, which means that it’s very likely there will be at least one fight or heated disagreement between you during the course of your relationship (even if it’s over something like a misheard comment or lack of context). So if you want the best relationship possible there’s one thing to keep in mind: peace starts with you. Don’t expect or require them to always be the peacemaker or hope that you’ll never be lacking peace, choose to bring peace to your relationships and work on learning how to work things out in a more peaceful manner. Is peace something you need to work on this week?

“First, keep the peace within yourself. Then you can bring peace to others.” Thomas a Kempis

Where Do We Start?

I’m not the type of person to really watch or listen to the news but I do check in and skim headlines each day so I’m at least somewhat aware of what goes on in the world. There’s been a lot of hate in the news of late, and to an extent you can understand some of it: there are people around the world who suffer greatly and as a result of their suffering they believe that the only way to deal with it is to obliterate anyone in their path to showing the world who they are and making a statement about how hurt they are, even if they won’t admit it that that’s why they’re doing it. Too many people hide their pain behind bitterness, nastiness, brutality, humor and sarcasm, or just plain hide.

I can’t imagine how God felt after the Garden of Eden incident when He knew that there would be so much pain and suffering in the world; knowing that we would suffer so much as a result. The worst part was probably knowing that most of our suffering and pain to the degree that we experience it is because we’re too stubborn to get help, to be vulnerable and admit that we’re not perfect, that we have our failures and weaknesses, and because we can’t accept that it’s OK to fail or be imperfect.

In some ways it’s totally understandable that we don’t want to admit our vulnerabilities to others, that we don’t want to be honest about how we feel deep inside because we’ve been hurt or seen others experience the wrath, laughter, criticism and hate for not measuring up to other people’s expectations, unrealistic or not. It makes us question our relationships, question people’s motives, curb or go overboard in our thoughts, actions and reactions, and not choose to fulfill our potential.

There are lots of reasons to doubt and question other people, and we think that we’ve got some good reasons to question God as well. We think that because God hasn’t responded to our call immediately that He’s busy or doesn’t care, and when it’s been long enough we think that He’s forgotten about us or what we shared with Him about or that He doesn’t want us to have good things in our lives. But I think we’ve forgotten who God is.

Ecclesiastes 11:4 says “But there are some things that you cannot be sure of. You must take a chance. If you wait for perfect weather, you will never plant your seeds. If you are afraid that every cloud will bring rain, you will never harvest your crops.”

The thing about people and God and our lives after Eden is that we have to be willing to take chances if we really want to live. We have to take a chance in trusting God and opening up to other people and asking for help, not just complaining. We have to believe, and even more than that know, that God cares for us and that not only is God interested and cares about us, but He cares about other people too, and He wants us to as well. We need to take the chance that God really does have a plan for our lives and to be open to God’s creative purposes and plans for us, and not box ourselves up before we have a chance to explore the potential He placed inside of us. We need to accept God and the person He has created us to be, and the people He has created and placed around us. We need to be honest with God and with ourselves and with each other. And we need to make sure that we honor each other with the respect and knowledge that God created each of us so each of us deserves to be treated as such.

Reality Reflection: At An End

This week I got the news that a family friend is getting very close to the end of his journey.  He’s had medical problems for years and things have worsened and now he and his wife are working with hospice.  The man has always had a great sense of humor, is good to his friends, loves his wife, and has really endured through serious medical issues in a positive way that you don’t often see.  He’s not perfect, none of us are, and I’m sure that he’s had his moments of anger and frustration, as well as fear and sadness, especially at this point in time.

It’s not easy to know the end is very close, whether it’s your life or that of someone you know well, especially when they’re one of those ‘good people.’  No, it’s not good to wish anyone were dead or think it’s better to lose someone who has some not so great habits (everyone has a family and a mother), but when the world loses a bright soul it seems like it’s felt even more.  What would you do if you knew that your end was near?  I would hope that you would take advantage of every moment you have with those you love, and maybe even do a splurge or two that you’ve always wanted, like take a special trip with your partner or kids, maybe even take the opportunity to try and mend a few fences.

As I was reflecting on the impending loss of this friend it got me thinking about the other side of death and loss, the side of the living.   We don’t go anywhere when someone we know or love dies, we’re still here.  And often we end up at a funeral or life celebration talking about them with other friends and family.  It’s not often that we’ve got the opportunity to let someone know what they meant to us and how thankful we are that they’ve been in our life before they pass.  It adds something to the grieving process for both sides, to be able to share that with them and support and love them, and it can make their last days very meaningful and happy, instead of painful and sad.

Loss is never easy, especially when it’s someone we’ve known for a very long time, and known on a very personal level.  But the way things work right now, everything comes to an end.  So I do encourage you to take a little time to reflect on how you want your end to go and make sure that you’ve got things clearly written down, but more so I encourage you to make as many memories as you can, to love as big as you can and to enjoy as much of life as you can.

Together in Love

With Valentine’s Day just a few days away many people are thinking about love in the US.  But love and relationships aren’t exclusive to the US, they’re present around the world. As I was reading through my emails today and thinking about my partner a few rooms over from me I was reminded about one of the things that often challenge us in a relationship: unity.  That’s kind of a big part of a relationship, that on multiple levels you and your partner are a good match.  Even if you’re together for “political reasons” (not something that happens as often today), there are still things that bring you two together and you can agree on or talk about comfortably without the conversation feeling one sided.

The other part of unity is the feeling of being completed you have about/with/because of your partner.  I don’t believe we are supposed to be alone, I believe we should be going through life together, and that everyone should be able to find the person that makes them feel like a better and more complete person. Not every couple experiences that “click” where you meet someone and it just feels right.   Sometimes getting to the point of feeling that connection takes time and effort even if your intention originally was just to build a friendship.   No, it doesn’t have to be for forever, but for however long you are together you should feel that connection with that other person, and work together to keep that feeling alive.

Unity is all about who you two are together, whether with family, your kids, at work or out with friends.  It’s also what others see in and of you and how you interact with the world as a couple.  Constantly berating your partner or telling (negative) stories about them in public doesn’t make you look unified, it hurts the relationship and may even hurt your relationship with others.   Valentine’s Day does have a way of bringing people together, which is one of the reasons I love it.  But this year instead of just taking time out during one day to be together, I encourage you to work on building your unity and connection throughout the year.