Being A Minimalist

minimalist

Being a minimalist is something I end up talking to my kids about every so often because they are all minimalists.  Most of the time they only want to do the bare minimum when asked to do something.  Fortunately, this doesn’t apply to their schoolwork but rather times when they are asked to do something around the house and in other situations.  For example, if there are three books on the floor that all go on the bookshelf in the same spot but my son only read two of them, he will only put those two away when asked (and reminded) to clean up and will leave the third on the floor.  They often moan and groan at being asked to do simple chores like bring in the recycling bins.  If I ask them to throw a food wrapper away that was left somewhere right near where they are sitting, I usually get, “That’s not mine.” or “I didn’t put it there, so why should I have to clean it up?” as a response.  When there is a large amount of stuff in one room to be cleaned up, I sometimes get asked, “What is the minimum amount I need to do right now?”  They want to get back to or don’t want to be pulled away from what they want to do.

I realize this is pretty typical for kids because I was also a minimalist when I was a kid. At some point though I started to think about what I could do to be helpful to other people and how it would make them feel, rather than always thinking about how it would impact me.   Continue reading

Love Does Not Equal Lust

I think the line between these two things gets more and more blurred every day.  Each generation gets increasingly bombarded with messages and images that say being sexy and having sex are what it’s all about and that having sex with someone is THE one and only real way to express love.  On the other hand, we are also bombarded with the message that you don’t need to have feelings for someone to have sex with them. As long as you are physically attracted to someone, that’s all that matters.  My teenage daughter tells me that most of the people she knows who are having sex are just doing it because it’s something to do.  I’m sure many of them believe that’s what they need to do to let the other person know how they feel.  And of course, there are plain old hormones coming into play.  It is hard enough to fight those off without the messages I just mentioned thrown in there too.

So there are obviously a lot of purely physical relationships going on, as well as plenty of loving relationships where physical intimacy is involved.  The problem I see is that not enough people know how to have a loving relationship WITHOUT being physically intimate or even think that it’s possible to do so.   Continue reading

Instincts

Like all animals, we are born with certain instincts that are necessary for survival such as knowing how to nurse, and these instincts evolve as we grow older and we need different ones.  Our bodies react instinctively to certain stimuli such as blinking when we have something in our eye or blocking our face with an arm if something is thrown towards us.  We may learn to trust our instincts or gut feeling, which to me is really intuition and not so much a physical instinct.

Some instincts are involuntary and may or may not be controlled, while others are learned by example.  There are plenty of good instincts that we develop, like offering to help someone else or give them a hug when we encounter someone who might need that, or jumping up to help someone who is injured or in danger.  I know whenever I have to hit the brakes harder than usual, my arm automatically reaches out to hold back anyone who might be sitting in my passenger seat from falling forward, even though there is usually no one sitting there.  That’s definitely an instinct.

We might instinctively respond defensively or sarcastically to people or swear when we are frustrated, if that is the example that has been set for us.  Some people instinctively respond very emotionally to various situations, and some people are instinctively very controlling.  When other people treat us poorly, it is difficult for many people to not instinctively treat them poorly in return, rather than treat them how they themselves would like to be treated.  Then there are those people who instinctively respond physically when they are angry or frustrated and want to throw something or hit something or someone.  It is these types of instinctual responses that we must learn how to keep under control, which can be very difficult to do, especially if we have been doing them for a long time.

It is easier said than done, but it can be done with a conscious effort.  The first step is realizing and admitting that one needs to make that change.  That in itself seems to be a challenge for many people that I know, never mind actually trying to change anything.  It’s all about control and will power and finding alternative reactions that are more appropriate or less hurtful.  I wish I had all the answers on this one or could wave a magic wand and make all of my negative instincts go away, or better yet, make all of the negative instincts of my immediate family go away.  If only instincts weren’t one of the few things like love that are just so very difficult to control.

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Being Centered

One of the things that yoga helps with is being centered and grounded.  Pertaining specifically to yoga, this means focusing in on your own body and needs and being in the moment, trying to rid your mind of any other thoughts.  It can also mean feeling connected to the earth below us.  Feeling centered and grounded doesn’t need to be reserved just for yoga class though and can have broader meaning in our everyday lives.

To a child, being grounded has an ENTIRELY different meaning (lol!), but to the rest of us, being grounded probably means something along the lines of having a good foundation of values and morals with which you live your life.  And being centered might mean being able to look inward to those core beliefs about what it means to be a good person and what is truly important in life and letting those thoughts and ideas guide you.  Many people have a more spiritual definition and may think of being centered and grounded as being able to focus on what God has in mind for them.  I’m sure there are many other ways to define it as well.

I think it’s worth a little time to think about what those things mean to you, regardless of how you end up defining them, and then make some time whenever possible to reconnect with your inner self, God, your ancestors looking down on you, your own thoughts and reflections, or to meditate or do whatever is right for you to feel more centered and grounded.  It’s easy to get caught up in all the details of our never-ending “to do” lists, our busy schedules, our job responsibilities, our family demands, and whatever else fills our day or may cause stress and frustration.

We all need to feed our own souls every so often, and that means different things to different people.  I find just closing my eyes or being in a dark, quiet room and then taking a few deep breaths thinking nothing but positive thoughts while I purposely smile (to signal the rest of my body to relax) does wonders.  (I discuss some other benefits of smiling and laughing in my post titled “Not Just A Smile“.)  I just need to remind myself to do it more often, and I may have found a way to help with that.  I just recently taped the following meme to my computer monitor so that I see it early in the day.  I’m finding it very helpful to do all of these things each morning.  Throughout the day I see it as well and may stop to smile and take those deep breaths, or maybe even just one deep breath.  It is all helping me to be more centered.  Perhaps it will help you, too.

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Following Directions

This is something that is challenging for several people I know.  Now, I’m not talking about just remembering to do what they are asked or actually understanding the directions, which I know can be difficult for some people.  I am talking about it being a challenge because of the need to do things on their own terms and when they choose.

Again, I will use my husband as an example.  Not only does he not like people suggesting when he should do something, but he can never seem to do it the way he was asked.  He always has to do something differently so that he got to make some decision about how it was done.  For example, if I ask him to set up the card table and chairs in a particular spot or orientation for company, he will always do it differently and tell me he thought it would work better that way.  If I ask him to put food from the grill in a particular sized dish because that’s all I have room for on the buffet table, he will deliberately go get a different plate that is way too big for the food it needs to contain and won’t fit on the table, which means I have to swap dishes in front of all the guests, and then he gets mad because I made him look bad.  It’s like he thinks he always knows more about something than I do or has a better way of doing it.  Even when he agrees with me about something, he has to make it sound like he is coming up with a better idea.

That’s the underlying issue. I can never be right or know more about something than him.  And I think it’s very much a control thing.  I think he sees following my instructions or suggestions as him relinquishing control or power to me and that he is “whipped” if he does just do what I ask, as one of his friends would say.  He also says that checking with me about something or asking how I would like something done is “emasculating” to him.  So apparently he is less of a man if he has to ask my opinion rather than do it the way he thinks it should be done or make the decision himself because men are supposed to know everything and make all the decisions.  I chalk that up to how he was raised and his lovely friend.  I would really like to see him work for a female boss sometime and see how that goes.  I’m guessing not well.

Unfortunately, this has trickled down to two of our kids, all of whom like to do things according to their own terms and schedule.  They are not cooperative team players, which makes things rather stressful for me trying to coordinate everyone’s schedules and responsibilities and teach them about time management and so on.  I know this is partly because they are kids, but I’m sure they have learned by example, and perhaps it is in their DNA, to not want to do things when and how they are asked.  I have actually been told several times, “Well, now that you have asked me to do it, I won’t.”  Guess where they have heard that.  I am hoping this will all change as they grow older and wiser and have more experiences with other people who don’t like hearing this. Hopefully, they will be more willing to change their behavior than their dad.

I know there are reasons why he doesn’t like following directions, but those reasons are not there for others who have this difficulty.  Following someone’s directions is not a sign of weakness or relinquishing control but rather shows that you are willing to do what it takes to make someone else happy, make their lives a little easier or less stressful, or any number of other positive outcomes.  And should you need to deviate from the given directions or have an opinion on the matter, it never hurts to check with the other person first.  They may have reasons for wanting things done a certain way that you haven’t thought about.  It also shows you are thoughtful and value their opinion and thought process and trust their judgment.  That’s a lot better than making the other person constantly feel like their thoughts and decisions are invalid.

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Why I Watch “The Bachelor” … and It’s Not What you May Think

I’ll admit, I have watched “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” since the very first season. It’s a little bit of a guilty pleasure because who doesn’t love a good love story, right?  I also like seeing all the places they travel to that I will never see otherwise. But I mostly watch because I think it is a fascinating study in human behavior.  It is definitely not a normal circumstance to have 25 people all trying to date one man or woman in a competitive environment while living under the same roof.  The situation presents an opportunity to see how people react in that environment, but there is always a good mix of personality types as well, which are interesting to watch.  Here are some of my observations:

  • Very often, the final two women are completely opposite in personality, and the bachelor seems to be torn as to which one he should choose. I find that fascinating, especially when the two women can’t stand each other from the beginning.
  • Sometimes the person who gets the “first impression rose” is not at all who the bachelor things she is, and sometimes it takes him a while to figure this out.
  • There is usually at least one person who behaves differently in front of the bachelor than they do around the other women, and that always causes drama amongst the women. Or there might be one person who behaves rather differently when the cameras are not rolling. Then there’s the dilemma of whether to tell the bachelor about these things that some of the women debate. The wise bachelors heed these warnings, while the ones who don’t get burned in the end.
  • Sometimes people will do things when they are in a group setting or in an unusual setting (in this case, both) that they wouldn’t do otherwise, like everyone remaining in the house having a dance party while dressed in an outfit of the girl who is on a date because no one likes her.
  • There is usually someone who is very needy, and usually someone who is very emotional. Sometimes they are one in the same.
  • There is usually one person who is not there to make friends but is there just for the bachelor. That person is usually very manipulative and competitive, likes to cause drama or be the center of attention, and will do anything to win because it’s really more about winning. The rest of the women can’t wait for her to leave the show.
  • There are usually women who become either more or less competitive, emotional, aggressive, or bashful under the circumstances than they would normally be.
  • Many women learn to “take their walls down” because they have to, due to the pace of the show, while others have their guard up more than they normally would.
  • Usually at least one person learns something about how they need to treat people more appropriately, or at least they model to viewers how not to treat people.

Most of these could be stated the other way around with the men pursuing the Bachelorette.  Having male contestants vying for the attention of one woman is always interesting.  Men are not usually as caddy as women, but the competitive factor is always present, and they still find ways to cause drama.

I think we would all learn a lot about ourselves if we could have a bunch of cameras follow us around for several weeks and then get to watch it back on TV, regardless of the circumstances.  This particular situation just amplifies people’s personality traits and behaviors because love or the possibility of finding love can make you do crazy things.  I just find it fascinating.

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Patterns, Cycles, and Connections          

My math brain loves looking for patterns and significances in numbers … on license plates, in dates, and anywhere else you would find several numbers together.  I love geometric patterns and finding patterns in nature as well.  Cycles of things fascinate me too, whether it’s life cycles, cycles of the season, or cycles of any other kind.  They are, after all, just more patterns.  Finding and making connections between things is something I am always thinking about, too.  It could be how different subject matter relates to others, like math and science, math and art, math and music, math and history, art and music, etc.  I look for other connections as well, like art and nature, math and nature, and nature and human behavior.  I guess I’m more of a “big picture” thinker than some people.

I also pay attention to patterns in human behavior.  There are the patterns of how people behave in certain circumstances and the patterns people demonstrate in their day-to-day behavior.  Some people like or need routines, while others don’t like following them or having anyone else dictate to them how they should spend their time.  Some people don’t adapt well to change because they like things to be more routine, while others seem to need constant change.  There are our patterns in how we react to things, how we treat people, our daily routines and eating habits, how we manage our time, and so many more.  Part of the reason I chose to do this blog in the first place was to share my thoughts on all these patterns and connections that I have been storing in my brain for way too long.

My family is probably tired of me pointing out some of their patterns of behavior.  The same negative behaviors continue to result in the same negative reactions from me or someone else.  I know it’s hard to change a behavior that you have been doing for a long time, but I am trying to encourage some conscious thought about the behaviors so that they can possibly change for the better for everyone’s sake.  It is always easier to focus on the negative behaviors, but I try to praise the positive patterns, too.

Some cycles and patterns are beyond our control, while others are completely up to us to determine.  Whether we can change them or not, I think it’s good to at least examine the patterns, cycles, and connections so we can appreciate the good ones. And if we can change some of the bad ones, even better.

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