Archive | December, 2012

Pressed: Fifty-Two Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirteen: The Job of Parent is Never Over

26 Dec

Fifty-Two Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirteen: The Job of Parent is Never Over.

Fifty-Two Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirteen:

The Job of Parent is Never Over

Andrew walking away in field

“Self-discipline is self-caring.” The Road Less Travelled, Peck, 2006

A Little Distance: It sometimes just takes a bit of distance to have a bit of objectivity (although I always like to think that objectivity is simply subjectivity kept in check). With a bit of an arm’s length view on the world, I have released myself from being involved in the decisions of others, especially where it is none of my business. Except, of course, when my son phones me up in the middle of the night and tells me some choices that he is making lately and how they are impacting his health and well-being. Then, I have to pull myself back out of my Zen-like reality that I have created for myself here in BC, and get back into the arena of parenting. I believe that even though I have accepted that my son and I are now heading down different life paths in his new adulthood, I also have to accept some responsibility for continuing to parent my son, although that becomes trickier, and needs to be handled respectfully. The trick is to continue to make him feel valuable and capable while helping to provide guidance from the sidelines: “The feeling of being valuable –‘I am a valuable person’—is essential to mental health and is the cornerstone of self-discipline” (Peck, 2006, p. 12).

The Job of Parent is Never Over: As tempting as it is, and as easy as it would be to follow the advice of others admonishing me and other loving parents not to be too involved (I am finding they often say this to allay their own parenting choices), I cannot sit on the sidelines and say, “my job is over”. The parent pressure from our current parenting culture is to not be a “hovering” parent, as if there is a danger that simple involvement risks being too involved. It is a delicate balancing act between empowering our children by letting go with continuing to be connected to them in important ways.

Problem solving is the basic premise of life and learning, and it is important to direct our children toward mentors. We do so by imparting the idea that we will continue to be mentors, but there are also other mentors with various skills and talents out there in the world to access. By doing so, our adult children become apprentices in life. “Tread humbly and always have a mentor”, is my motto, and once people understand this, they let go of some of the ego that drives them to know or do it all by themselves.

Parenting Due-Diligence: I like the term we use in the education world known as “due-diligence”. If anyone questions us, we can say that we did everything in our power to afford students success. Therefore, we develop systems, processes, policies and procedures to insure that we truly have done everything to lead students to successful outcomes (ideally graduation and successful transitions into the world of work or post-secondary involvement). Similarly, I believe that we also need to provide due-diligence when taking care of our loved ones in our families.

We have some obligation in life to lead our young horses to water. The drinking part is entirely up to them. However, what I am noticing, as I watch parents of adult children in this decade, is that too many are just letting these young wild horses hit the road, and they are literally crashing and burning. For example, we attend young people’s weddings, but very few of us sit and talk to newly married couples and advise them about what married life might be like, and the challenges that might need overcoming, the pitfalls to avoid and the joys to look out for along the way. Instead, we throw our rice, go to the dance, and likely never talk to this young couple again about their marriage because we assume that they will “figure it out”.

Air Traffic Control Tower: In our culture, we value this “autonomy” to the degree that our extended family wisdom and values are being ignored for fear of smothering or over-protecting our new adults. Whereas, in other cultures, the mixed generations consult each other and those with the most wisdom and the strongest skill-set in any key decision-making areas, take some leadership and responsibility for the young individual grappling with the matter. As much as I understand that our children need to step up and take responsibility for themselves, our responsibility continues to be to keep an eye out, and step in where they are about to drive over the cliffs in life. We can’t always save them, but sometimes we can help them with a loving conversation or some advice not always sought after, but later appreciated. Sometimes people don’t know what they don’t know.

I believe that just as God watches over us, and from time to time, steps in, so should we as parents of our loved ones make the effort to do the same. And who said that that was always going to be easy or feel good? The accolades and thank-you’s may never come, but we know that we have done due-diligence to steer some of the next part of their journeys from the family watch tower. I often think of parents as airline traffic controllers. Sometimes the pilots will call in and exclaim their dilemmas asking for direction and help from the tower. Sometimes, however, the traffic controllers have to call up to the pilots and say, “You may not see it from where you are, but I am advising you that from where I sit with all of my radar equipment and background in aviation, that you are heading for a crash.”

I believe that we have an obligation, as parents, to sometime hold up the “stop” sign to the people that we love, just like the woman on the road-construction crew on the Malahat Highway did to me as I was winding through avalanche territory at mock speed a couple of days ago to pick my son up from the Victoria airport for Christmas. It annoyed me a bit, but after that, I paid attention. Just as my son finds my road signs highly annoying, he knows that someone in the world is caring enough about him to hold them up, and say, “Hey, be careful!” Who better to do so than the people who really care and love them? Yes, there is grief for our intervention. It is never appreciated. However, it is valuable that we continue to try to stay connected in their lives so they are not alone.

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Fifty-Two Weeks Begin Now: Week Thirteen: The Job of Parent is Never Over

26 Dec

Fifty-Two Weeks Begin Now:  Week Thirteen: 

The Job of Parent is Never Over

Andrew walking away in field

“Self-discipline is self-caring.”  The Road Less Travelled, Peck, 2006

A Little Distance:  It sometimes just takes a bit of distance to have a bit of objectivity (although I always like to think that objectivity is simply subjectivity kept in check).  With a bit of an arm’s length view on the world, I have released myself from being involved in the decisions of others, especially where it is none of my business.  Except, of course, when my son phones me up in the middle of the night and tells me some choices that he is making lately and how they are impacting his health and well-being.  Then, I have to pull myself back out of my Zen-like reality that I have created for myself here in BC, and get back into the arena of parenting.  I believe that even though I have accepted that my son and I are now heading down different life paths in his new adulthood, I also have to accept some responsibility for continuing to parent my son, although that becomes trickier, and needs to be handled respectfully.  The trick is to continue to make him feel valuable and capable while helping to provide guidance from the sidelines:  “The feeling of being valuable –‘I am a valuable person’—is essential to mental health and is the cornerstone of self-discipline” (Peck, 2006, p. 12).

The Job of Parent is Never Over:  As tempting as it is, and as easy as it would be to follow the advice of others admonishing me and other loving parents not to be too involved (I am finding they often say this to allay their own parenting choices), I cannot sit on the sidelines and say, “my job is over”.  The parent pressure from our current parenting culture is to not be a “hovering” parent, as if there is a danger that simple involvement risks being too involved.  It is a delicate balancing act between empowering our children by letting go with continuing to be connected to them in important ways.

Problem solving is the basic premise of life and learning, and it is important to direct our children toward mentors.  We do so by imparting the idea that we will continue to be mentors, but there are also other mentors with various skills and talents out there in the world to access.  By doing so, our adult children become apprentices in life.  “Tread humbly and always have a mentor”, is my motto, and once people understand this, they let go of some of the ego that drives them to know or do it all by themselves.

Parenting Due-Diligence:  I like the term we use in the education world known as “due-diligence”.  If anyone questions us, we can say that we did everything in our power to afford students success.  Therefore, we develop systems, processes, policies and procedures to insure that we truly have done everything to lead students to successful outcomes (ideally graduation and successful transitions into the world of work or post-secondary involvement).  Similarly, I believe that we also need to provide due-diligence when taking care of our loved ones in our families.

We have some obligation in life to lead our young horses to water.  The drinking part is entirely up to them.  However, what I am noticing, as I watch parents of adult children in this decade, is that too many are just letting these young wild horses hit the road, and they are literally crashing and burning.  For example, we attend young people’s weddings, but very few of us sit and talk to newly married couples and advise them about what married life might be like, and the challenges that might need overcoming, the pitfalls to avoid and the joys to look out for along the way.  Instead, we throw our rice, go to the dance, and likely never talk to this young couple again about their marriage because we assume that they will “figure it out”.

Air Traffic Control Tower:  In our culture, we value this “autonomy” to the degree that our extended family wisdom and values are being ignored for fear of smothering or over-protecting our new adults.  Whereas, in other cultures, the mixed generations consult each other and those with the most wisdom and the strongest skill-set in any key decision-making areas, take some leadership and responsibility for the young individual grappling with the matter.  As much as I understand that our children need to step up and take responsibility for themselves, our responsibility continues to be to keep an eye out, and step in where they are about to drive over the cliffs in life.  We can’t always save them, but sometimes we can help them with a loving conversation or some advice not always sought after, but later appreciated.  Sometimes people don’t know what they don’t know.

I believe that just as God watches over us, and from time to time, steps in, so should we as parents of our loved ones make the effort to do the same.  And who said that that was always going to be easy or feel good?  The accolades and thank-you’s may never come, but we know that we have done due-diligence to steer some of the next part of their journeys from the family watch tower.  I often think of parents as airline traffic controllers.  Sometimes the pilots will call in and exclaim their dilemmas asking for direction and help from the tower.  Sometimes, however, the traffic controllers have to call up to the pilots and say, “You may not see it from where you are, but I am advising you that from where I sit with all of my radar equipment and background in aviation, that you are heading for a crash.”

I believe that we have an obligation, as parents, to sometime hold up the “stop” sign to the people that we love, just like the woman on the road-construction crew on the Malahat Highway did to me as I was winding through avalanche territory at mock speed a couple of days ago to pick my son up from the Victoria airport for Christmas.  It annoyed me a bit, but after that, I paid attention.  Just as my son finds my road signs highly annoying, he knows that someone in the world is caring enough about him to hold them up, and say, “Hey, be careful!”  Who better to do so than the people who really care and love them?  Yes, there is grief for our intervention.  It is never appreciated.  However, it is valuable that we continue to try to stay connected in their lives so they are not alone.

Pressed: Fifty-Two Weeks Being Now: Week Twelve: Into the World of New Relationships

3 Dec

Fifty-Two Weeks Being Now: Week Twelve: Into the World of New Relationships.

wine in Hope Bay Cafe

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Twelve: Into the World of New Relationships

New people: It is becoming more apparent to me as I continue in my 52 week experiment with a new life in a new place, that I am being very thoughtful of whom I will be in a relationship with (acquaintances, friendships or intimate partnerships). Now that I have the blessing of people wanting to get to know me, and to feel that I want to know them, I am considering the topic of relationships a bit more carefully. Perhaps I came to a new place to be sure that my time with people was authentic and valuable to both them, and as well, myself.

On the intimate relationship front, despite people thinking I should just dive into the culture and the relationship dating scene, this is a bit easier said than done. I think that if people in general are comfortable being alone and enjoying our own company, we do not feel compelled to rush in and risk unhealthy habits or companionship to fill our time. As well, not everyone is going to find what I have to offer interesting or a good fit for them either, so the explosion of “the right” chemistry with people is not always easy to find. However, I am finding it, and now I have to really think about what it is that I want in my life. Life is a lot less complicated “sans people”, but much less rewarding.

I have done the hard work to get to a healthy place in my life. Now, relationships have the potential to further expand my life or, as I have experienced in the past, make it smaller. I ask myself this about relationships in general: “What makes me the best that I can be and gives me more energy than it costs me most of the time?” This sounds a bit calculated, but I think it is an intentional way to be.

Biology: I think that people as a whole need to really listen to our bodies and ask ourselves important questions. At a recent presentation given by an educational expert named John Abbott (November, 2012), talked about our strong biological programming. When we kiss, he explained, we know almost instantly who we should be with or not. Our tongue and saliva have been programmed to rule out people that might be related or a bad physical match for us. So, that “bad” kiss we have all experienced was truly trying to tell us something. As we get older, our radar goes beyond “the kiss” and we pay attention to other red flags.

I am aware that human insecurities can sometimes make us perceive warning signals that may not actually be there, and it is wise to be careful that we are not merely making excuses for not being intimate. Being emotionally unavailable is fearful living that impedes a healthy and enlightened consciousness. So, the balance is between finding how to be both judicious and courageous about new relationships. And when I do allow people into my life in various types of relationship, I need to “recognize that the reason [I’m] in the relationship is to learn about [myself] and deepen [my] connection with the universe. So healthy relationships are based not on neediness but on the passion and excitement of sharing the journey into becoming a whole person” (Gawain, 1993, p. 56).

Asking the right questions: Just as it is interesting considering the matter of being in relationship with people, it is interesting to watch other people who are seeking or holding on to relationships. I have noticed that people are pretty tentative about showing who they are to people unless they feel that they can trust them. This is difficult to do in the cyber age where many people are meeting each other online and often demonstrate a failure to launch their interests from the virtual world into real-life connections. It is also difficult to do where trust has been broken in an existing relationship.

What is ideal is to have the opportunity to meet or re-connect with someone and look each other in the eye (and appropriately), ask the hard questions and then truly listen to the answers given. Being intentional rules out a lot of the margin of error we experience when we are just going with our “gut”. No one likes to be interviewed, but whether we want to admit it or not, we are always consciously and unconsciously interviewing people as we determine our next steps in any kind of relationship:

  • Who are you?
  • What is your essential raison d’etre?
  • What do you have to offer me that will make my life a better experience?
  • What can I offer you that will make your life more rewarding?
  • What do you want from me most?
  • How will you handle problems that will inevitably arise?
  • Can I trust you?
  • Will you like or love me for the person I am most often?
  • Will I have something to learn from you so that I will change and grow for the better because change is inevitable (although my essential being is already established)?
  • What will we do and make meaning of together?
  • Are we a good fit for each other as acquaintances, friends or lovers?
  • What must we do to continually strengthen the relationship?

If we are honest in our questions, we need to encourage honest answers through our conversations or experiences with each other. By doing so, we learn pretty quickly who fits and who doesn’t.

The grass is greener: I always find it ironic that my married friends admire my singleness, reminding me that cohabitating bliss is not always a splendid thing. “Freedom”, they remind me, is everything. We single folk often wonder what it would be like to be “normal” like everyone else and have that reliable person in our lives forever and ever. So, if freedom is what married people envy in single people, how can we have freedom within a relationship? Inevitably, the matter of doing what one wants gets compromised by another person, especially where power, control, insecurity, distrust and martyrdom get in the way.

I suppose that finding a good match is the key. However, I remember being at a film conference for work in the Kananaskis a decade ago where I had to review dozens of videos on relationships. One stands out in my mind (although I cannot remember the title) that indicated that there are only approximately 20 percent of relationships that are truly healthy because there are no healthy relationships without healthy individuals (emotionally and socially). Most relationships are based on codependent neuroses and result in difficulties and despair. People are reduced to the weakest neurotic tendency of the weakest partner. Tolle reiterates this point in his eye opening (and somewhat depressing) chapter about relationships in The Power of Now (1997).

Women have some things figured out: At the risk of sounding like a raging feminist or a delinquent generalist (these are only my observations), I find that 40-something women start to come alive at this time in their lives (Tolle, 1997). They find their voices. They are stronger and seem to know where they are going. 40-something men, I am finding, are struggling a bit with their identities. They have either raised and are now consumed by children who are very young or getting close to young adulthood, and have had or continue to have successful careers to provide for themselves and their families (and to define them as individuals); Or they are looking to have children, and find new life paths that are more rewarding—a second chance at youth because they were too busy or non-committal the first time around with what they found to be other priorities.

Women, on the other hand, have often have gone to counseling, read a zillion books, talked to their friends for hours and hours figuring out who they are and what they need as they accept that they are now moving into a new era of their lives. They are often fulfilled as parents, or have to accept that they can no longer have children. Most women that I am meeting are thrilled about a new sense of purpose and freedom that comes with these life changes. They now have time for themselves and each other, and are not interested in continuing on in the same nurturing roles that they have typically assumed in their relationships. They are entering into a new stage of their lives.

Happy endings: What I am learning is that there are no happy endings. “Happy” and “ending” seem a bit oxymoronic to me. Instead, I think we are always in transition, and the only real ending (and I am dubious even that that is an ending) is death. So, to speak about endings feels to me to be static and unappealing. Even my parents, who are celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary this year, would not describe their life together as “blissful”. It has been filled with the ebb and flow of what most long term relationships seem to host. Each up and down cycle has been filled with both beginnings and endings as they grew and changed over five decades together.

I believe that if we are fortunate enough to spend a wonderful evening, year or decade with a person, we are blessed. Spending a lifetime together could be the penultimate goal, or could be the death Nell expectation of a good relationship that was intended to have a shorter life span. The happiness now is the key. Does that mean we can go out and have multiple one-night-stands to live in the moment? I suppose it could mean that, although I don’t think that is what would fill me up. What I think it means is that one positive connection leads to the next, and then to the next. If we find love in all of that, we are blessed; and in finding it, we need to protect and nurture it.

I am optimistic that as I have had before, I will continue to experience meaningful and loving connections with new people in my new life in BC (and beyond). The key is to be present enough to decide what relationships I am attracting, allowing into my life, and then choosing to sustain so that I can be best I can be, and, in turn, offer the same to someone else.

Fifty-Two Weeks Being Now: Week Twelve: Into the World of New Relationships

3 Dec

wine in Hope Bay Cafe

52 Weeks Begin Now:  Week Twelve:  Into the World of New Relationships

New people:  It is becoming more apparent to me as I continue in my 52 week experiment with a new life in a new place, that I am being very thoughtful of whom I will be in a relationship with (acquaintances, friendships or intimate partnerships).  Now that I have the blessing of people wanting to get to know me, and to feel that I want to know them, I am considering the topic of relationships a bit more carefully.  Perhaps I came to a new place to be sure that my time with people was authentic and valuable to both them, and as well, myself.

On the intimate relationship front, despite people thinking I should just dive into the culture and the relationship dating scene, this is a bit easier said than done.  I think that if people in general are comfortable being alone and enjoying our own company, we do not feel compelled to rush in and risk unhealthy habits or companionship to fill our time.  As well, not everyone is going to find what I have to offer interesting or a good fit for them either, so the explosion of “the right” chemistry with people is not always easy to find.  However, I am finding it, and now I have to really think about what it is that I want in my life.  Life is a lot less complicated “sans people”, but much less rewarding.

I have done the hard work to get to a healthy place in my life.  Now, relationships have the potential to further expand my life or, as I have experienced in the past, make it smaller.  I ask myself this about relationships in general:  “What makes me the best that I can be and gives me more energy than it costs me most of the time?”  This sounds a bit calculated, but I think it is an intentional way to be.

Biology:  I think that people as a whole need to really listen to our bodies and ask ourselves important questions.  At a recent presentation given by an educational expert named John Abbott (November, 2012), talked about our strong biological programming.  When we kiss, he explained, we know almost instantly who we should be with or not.  Our tongue and saliva have been programmed to rule out people that might be related or a bad physical match for us.  So, that “bad” kiss we have all experienced was truly trying to tell us something.  As we get older, our radar goes beyond “the kiss” and we pay attention to other red flags.

I am aware that human insecurities can sometimes make us perceive warning signals that may not actually be there, and it is wise to be careful that we are not merely making excuses for not being intimate.  Being emotionally unavailable is fearful living that impedes a healthy and enlightened consciousness.  So, the balance is between finding how to be both judicious and courageous about new relationships.  And when I do allow people into my life in various types of relationship, I need to “recognize that the reason [I’m] in the relationship is to learn about [myself] and deepen [my] connection with the universe.  So healthy relationships are based not on neediness but on the passion and excitement of sharing the journey into becoming a whole person” (Gawain, 1993, p. 56).

Asking the right questions:   Just as it is interesting considering the matter of being in relationship with people, it is interesting to watch other people who are seeking or holding on to relationships.  I have noticed that people are pretty tentative about showing who they are to people unless they feel that they can trust them.  This is difficult to do in the cyber age where many people are meeting each other online and often demonstrate a failure to launch their interests from the virtual world into real-life connections.  It is also difficult to do where trust has been broken in an existing relationship.

What is ideal is to have the opportunity to meet or re-connect with someone and look each other in the eye (and appropriately), ask the hard questions and then truly listen to the answers given.  Being intentional rules out a lot of the margin of error we experience when we are just going with our “gut”.  No one likes to be interviewed, but whether we want to admit it or not, we are always consciously and unconsciously interviewing people as we determine our next steps in any kind of relationship:

  • Who are you?
  • What is your essential raison d’etre?
  • What do you have to offer me that will make my life a better experience?
  • What can I offer you that will make your life more rewarding?
  • What do you want from me most?
  • How will you handle problems that will inevitably arise?
  • Can I trust you?
  • Will you like or love me for the person I am most often?
  • Will I have something to learn from you so that I will change and grow for the better because change is inevitable (although my essential being is already established)?
  • What will we do and make meaning of together?
  • Are we a good fit for each other as acquaintances, friends or lovers?
  • What must we do to continually strengthen the relationship?

If we are honest in our questions, we need to encourage honest answers through our conversations or experiences with each other.  By doing so, we learn pretty quickly who fits and who doesn’t.

The grass is greener:  I always find it ironic that my married friends admire my singleness, reminding me that cohabitating bliss is not always a splendid thing.  “Freedom”, they remind me, is everything.  We single folk often wonder what it would be like to be “normal” like everyone else and have that reliable person in our lives forever and ever.   So, if freedom is what married people envy in single people, how can we have freedom within a relationship?  Inevitably, the matter of doing what one wants gets compromised by another person, especially where power, control, insecurity, distrust and martyrdom get in the way.

I suppose that finding a good match is the key.  However, I remember being at a film conference for work in the Kananaskis a decade ago where I had to review dozens of videos on relationships.  One stands out in my mind (although I cannot remember the title) that indicated that there are only approximately 20 percent of relationships that are truly healthy because there are no healthy relationships without healthy individuals (emotionally and socially).  Most relationships are based on codependent neuroses and result in difficulties and despair.  People are reduced to the weakest neurotic tendency of the weakest partner.  Tolle reiterates this point in his eye opening (and somewhat depressing) chapter about relationships in The Power of Now (1997).

Women have some things figured out:  At the risk of sounding like a raging feminist or a delinquent generalist (these are only my observations), I find that 40-something women start to come alive at this time in their lives (Tolle, 1997).  They find their voices.  They are stronger and seem to know where they are going.  40-something men, I am finding, are struggling a bit with their identities.  They have either raised and are now consumed by children who are very young or getting close to young adulthood, and have had or continue to have successful careers to provide for themselves and their families (and to define them as individuals); Or they are looking to have children, and find new life paths that are more rewarding—a second chance at youth because they were too busy or non-committal the first time around with what they found to be other priorities.

Women, on the other hand, have often have gone to counseling, read a zillion books, talked to their friends for hours and hours figuring out who they are and what they need as they accept that they are now moving into a new era of their lives.  They are often fulfilled as parents, or have to accept that they can no longer have children.  Most women that I am meeting are thrilled about a new sense of purpose and freedom that comes with these life changes.  They now have time for themselves and each other, and are not interested in continuing on in the same nurturing roles that they have typically assumed in their relationships.  They are entering into a new stage of their lives.

Happy endings:  What I am learning is that there are no happy endings.  “Happy” and “ending” seem a bit oxymoronic to me.  Instead, I think we are always in transition, and the only real ending (and I am dubious even that that is an ending) is death.  So, to speak about endings feels to me to be static and unappealing.  Even my parents, who are celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary this year, would not describe their life together as “blissful”.  It has been filled with the ebb and flow of what most long term relationships seem to host.  Each up and down cycle has been filled with both beginnings and endings as they grew and changed over five decades together.

I believe that if we are fortunate enough to spend a wonderful evening, year or decade with a person, we are blessed.  Spending a lifetime together could be the penultimate goal, or could be the death Nell expectation of a good relationship that was intended to have a shorter life span.  The happiness now is the key.  Does that mean we can go out and have multiple one-night-stands to live in the moment?  I suppose it could mean that, although I don’t think that is what would fill me up.  What I think it means is that one positive connection leads to the next, and then to the next.  If we find love in all of that, we are blessed; and in finding it, we need to protect and nurture it.

I am optimistic that as I have had before, I will continue to experience meaningful and loving connections with new people in my new life in BC (and beyond).  The key is to be present enough to decide what relationships I am attracting, allowing into my life, and then choosing to sustain so that I can be best I can be, and, in turn, offer the same to someone else.