Posted in audience participation, ebb & flow, know better do better, marriage, mental health, mindset, parenting, thoughtfulness

Can you go a month without complaining?

A while back, I read a few articles about complaining and how it rewires your brain. Not in a good way.

Also a while back, I used to run 30-day challenges on Facebook.

Two of those challenges have been “life-changing” as per feedback from people in the group.

One was no added sugars (which we ended up doing for 45 days, because we started mid-month) and the other was no complaining.

The no complaining challenge was inspired by a meme challenging the reader to go 24 hours without complaining and “see how your life changes.”

Why not expand 24 hours into a month?

It made us all aware of how much we complain. Several people over the course of the month said it significantly improved their marriages, whether because they had a habit of complaining to or about their spouses.

We had interesting conversations about the differences between talking about negative things and complaining. (How would you distinguish between the two?)

I wrote a bit about my experience at the mid-month mark:

Talking about my no-complaining challenge last night, I was asked if I genuinely feel good, or if I’m just stuffing all the bad stuff. Thought about it, and 95% of the time, I genuinely feel good. The rest of the time, the feeling good does come later. I don’t, after two weeks, feel like I’m accumulating crappiness and am at some point going to explode.

I was thinking about this more, and I think it’s a simple shift in what gets attention. (Simple does not necessarily equal easy, though it’s not been as difficult as I expected. Especially because it positively reinforces itself constantly.)

For example, yesterday, I felt like crap. I’ve been fighting off a cold, and the cold was slowly starting to win. I was slightly stuffy and had absolutely no energy. Something I’d eaten or drunk made my stomach hurt every time I ate or drank (severely bloated), and I just felt miserable.

Any time prior to these two weeks, yesterday, I would have complained to people about not feeling well. I would have complained to myself about not feeling well. Instead, I just did what I needed to do and just didn’t talk about how my body felt. (Not lying, just not bringing it up.)

And you know what? I had a good day. It wasn’t a great day—I felt like crap—but it was definitely a good day. And I don’t think it would have been if I’d been complain-y all day. (I did slip twice, but both short-lived.)

Today? I feel better. Energy is back. Most congestion is gone. Tummy feels better (and I don’t look like I swallowed a balloon).

Happy Friday, everyone!

Recently, I’ve made this adjustment again. Not avoiding complaining altogether, necessarily, but minimizing.

I don’t run the 30-day challenges any more, but I am going to take this opportunity to challenge you to eliminate complaining today. And tomorrow. Maybe the whole weekend? Then see how long you can go.

See what differences you notice.

Report back.

Posted in connections, ebb & flow, know better do better, marriage, mindset, parenting, podcasts, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Podcast quote: problem maintenance

As I mentioned a bit ago, I have been bingeing on Where Should We Begin? by Esther Perel.

The first episode of the second season (“You Need Help to Help Her”), she’s talking with a couple who has a young adult daughter with problems. Most of the details of the episode aren’t relevant to this post, but if you have a child with any sort of mental health issue, you might gain some insight from it.

Basically, there weren’t (known) problems, and suddenly, there were big problems, and the whole family dynamic and structure changed.

At the end, Esther is summing things up, and she says this (emphasis mine):

“When mom speaks of the holistic view, the way I would define it is this. I am a family therapist. I think systemically. I think about problems in context, problems in an ecology, not just what causes them but what maintains them. How is the relationship system, how is the family organized around the problem?”

Maybe you’ve thought about this before, but I’ve never thought specifically about problem maintenance (when the problem doesn’t start as a systemic one).

I’ve been thinking about this and am starting to apply it to my closest relationships.

  • What am I doing that maintains problems? (within my level of awareness)
  • How can I change that? (within my level of control)
  • Where can I connect disconnects to make life happier for everyone who lives here? (within my levels of awareness and control)

Hopefully, in time, we can all connect in to that, but I’m starting first, and we’ll go from there.

Blew my mind.

Problem maintenance.

Posted in know better do better, marriage, mental health, podcasts

Podcast recommendation

In talking about podcasts, I’ve mentioned Armchair Expert a couple of times.

A week or so ago, I listened to Dax’s interview with Esther Perel, a psychotherapist who specializes in relationships and sexuality.

It was captivating.

In it, they mentioned that she has a podcast, Where Should We Begin?

She’s beginning her third season, so I just started at the beginning.

I’m hooked.

Normally, I listen to podcasts in the car as long as the windows are up, maybe if I’m doing yard work, depending on the work.

In the last few days, I have found a balance between some windows down and still able to hear. I’ve listened while preparing meals. Listened while on a run. Spending time consuming this podcast when I normally wouldn’t bother listening to anything.

What’s she talk about?

She’s with a couple who have come to her for help (though they apply to be on the podcast—these are not her regular therapy clients). They have one three-hour session with her; that’s edited down and she interjects a few overarching thoughts throughout.

Changing relationship roles, affairs, impotence. Straight and gay couples. Cis and trans people.

None of the situations have led me to “that’s me.” But there is a piece in every single one that tugs at a piece of me. Most of them have made me at least a little teary at some point. There are pieces of myself that I recognize. Pieces of my former selves that I recognize. Validations that I want. Lessons I can learn from their experience.

So what I’m saying is … if you’re at all interested in relationship dynamics, or if you want to listen to how she works with others to see what you can take for yourself, this is a podcast for you.

And if you listen and geek out on it and want to talk about it—I’m here for you!

Posted in gifts, marriage, mindset, parenting, thoughtfulness

Mother’s Day—advice for the guys

Every year, memes get passed around that say something to the effect of, “For Mother’s Day, I want to sleep in and wake up to a clean house.”

Lots of “ha ha ha” reactions.

But you know what? Based on conversations I’ve had with women in the past couple of year, that would actually be perfect.

So guys, if that’s what she said, that’s what she meant. Do it. Give her a few hours in bed to herself (sleeping? with a book? with her tablet? Mom’s choice…) while you and the kids clean the house.

Don’t farm it out. Do it yourselves.

Then make breakfast (or brunch by then?) for her (if the kids are little, you’ve already fed them at least once), maybe in bed if she’d like that (I personally don’t like eating in bed but for many it’s A Thing) and then clean it all up.

All of it.

As we say at our house, “Use your Mama eyes.” Don’t do a half-assed job that she’s going to need to finish later. Make it better than good enough; make it good.

If she says she wants to sleep in and have the house clean, she means it. (If this isn’t on her wish list, don’t do it. Seriously. Listening isn’t that hard.)

Posted in differences, marriage, meandering, mindset, socializing, thoughtfulness

Why invite people to a wedding?

For my first marriage, we were married in a church by a priest—one of the most thoughtful people I’ve ever met. In our meeting with him, he asked us, “What do you want guests to get out of your wedding ceremony?”

What?

This was a question I had never thought of, had never heard anyone else talk about explicitly or implicitly.

The wedding is all about us, right?

To be honest with you, I don’t remember what we figured out as an answer to that question, but it was fun to wrestle with. I enjoy questions like that, that force new perspectives.

Also, I have no idea if what we decided was conveyed to the people in attendance. Did the guests take from it what we had intended? I never asked. (Which strikes me as odd—asking seems like something I would have done.) I’m guessing that the answer was heady and vague and was something that either wouldn’t really convey or would convey regardless of our conversation about it.

Has this been discussed in the planning of any wedding I’ve attended? Probably not. (Like I said, I’d never heard of this notion prior.) I didn’t even remember to think about it when planning my second (though that event looked much different than the first).

Taking it one step simpler—we in general do think about who to invite, especially if there is not unlimited space.

Why do we invite those people? Often, some are “obligatory.” Do we figure out who we want to invite and plan from there? Or figure out a “how many” and then decide who to fill the seats with?

I (occasionally) like to throw big parties. Years ago, in a bigger house with a pool, we’d throw a Memorial Day thing every year (though it got thwarted once or twice). Christmas Eve Eve was big the year it fell on a Saturday.

Getting married is a solid excuse to have a big party.

I didn’t realize how much I would love this plan until reflecting afterwards, but The Climbing Daddy and I had a very small wedding and later threw a big party at home. (In other words, that’s what we decided, but I didn’t realize how great the idea was until after we had done it. The original “why” was different.)

We maintained intimacy, exchanged vows fairly privately, then celebrated later with lots of people.

One of the perks of having so few people was that everyone could hear. Especially in an outdoor space, sound is a problem. I’ve never been to an outdoor wedding where I could hear the ceremony. Which leads back to the question: why invite people?

It was relatively easy to make sure that people’s needs were met. I have been to weddings (regardless of venue) where there weren’t enough chairs, or the food didn’t accommodate diets (which is not inherently a problem, but I like to know ahead of time that there isn’t going to be anything for me to eat so I don’t show up hungry), or there wasn’t any food at all. (On our end, we did fail on securing shade and we all baked a bit when we were eating lunch after our ceremony.)

So. When you planned your wedding (or are planning it), who did/will you invite? Why? People first or numbers first or some back-and-forth combination? Did you have a thought about what you wanted them to get out of it? (Seriously—has anyone else been asked to think about this?)

(Also: I’ve been to many weddings that were perfectly lovely, any many that had issues were otherwise lovely as well.)