Timing

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It will come as no surprise to anybody who knows me that control is very dear to me. Control of one’s passions, control of one’s words, and actions, and really, pretty much everything else that can be controlled. As an aside, I find it beyond bewildering being upset at things not under our control. I don’t, by any stretch of the imagination, take a detached view of the world, I fight and fight hard for the things I believe can be influenced, I just don’t see much point in fighting the weather, so to speak (now, influencing said weather is another matter entirely and I am not opposed to doing so).

The thing with control though is that much of it depends on time, and even more of it depends on timing, so that’s what I will focus on today. Time is necessary to learn control, to learn what can be controlled, to practice gaining and keeping and relinquishing control when one needs to. Serenity prayer, anyone? 🙂

Timing is more difficult. Most of us, certain in our own mortality, still manage to plan (i.e. to assume that we will have enough time to get where we want to). And when it comes to ourselves, in most cases, in this part of the world called the first, we have that time. We buy it with medicine, and education, and relationships.

But timing does not depend only on us. It is not only ourselves that need to be taken into account, nor just our wishes, nor indeed our actions alone. Timing includes someone else’s time, and sometimes the time of the age we live in. It’s what we mean when we say “life (or s**t) happens”.

A financial crisis, a war, an illness… many things can crumble plans, and the control these plans imply. We are often too isolated, we believe ourselves too small to influence these big things. But they are not the weather. We should fight, and fight hard, to influence them, human or not as they are. And we do, with medicine, and education, and relationships.

We are not all teachers. We are not all doctors or scientists or in charge of financial institutions. But we can all have relationships. And if timing can come into its own, it is on the relationships that we need to focus our individual efforts. And by timing I mean making choices. Simple ones, like not saying the bad words we want to say. More difficult ones, like standing our ground when we could just go with the flow. And difficult ones, like acting on the values we hold dear rather than the things we believe in.

I have discussed my view of control in another article on this blog. See, control is not just reining in, a force that is restrictive of freedom.Control can be passive and neutral, negative, or positive in that it allows action. Sometimes going through life (or the s**t described above) is control enough for powering a small country. Sometimes life seems out of control, depending on which tooth of the tiger sinks into which sensitive piece of our flesh. Our abused children, our bullied youth, our neglected elders, the sick and the maimed, have enough on their hands just to make it through to another sunrise.

But if we are well, and whole, and reasonably functional… what is then our excuse?

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Puzzle

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Interesting… we don’t know the origin of this word, it seems to have appeared about 430 years ago and accumulated a few related meanings, including the one of a “mystery”, which this word already is… ah, the snake biting its own tail 🙂

And a mystery it is, sometimes, when the wings of the butterfly are long turned to pixie dust but the hurricane over the Pacific is in full swing and things click in places you had never expected but, looking back, you have searched for and arranged your life so that they may be found.

It is, after all, being open to experiences and willing to go on the pathways that open, as I was discussing with friends just last night. One of those nights when, over good food and good drinks (sage tea, as it happens 😛 ) the discussion is led towards the very subjects your heart didn’t know it needed but recognized it immediately as necessary. I think I mentioned in a previous post that I am not good at chitchat and only tolerate it until the other person is comfortable enough to delve a bit. The price I pay, I guess 🙂

It happens sometimes, when you have been quietly unsatisfied with something (could be a situation, your job, a relationship) AND you are willing to leave yourself open to chance, that you are steered on pathways you hadn’t thought of before. That willingness is key though, and rarely found in lives that we try to control and box in routine. Not that routine is bad… it’s just not enough, not for ever.

I was pondering this earlier yesterday, trying to figure out what it is that keeps us bound. Fear comes to mind, and comfort, plus expectations and upbringing. After all, don’t we sometimes stay in relationships (and jobs and other situations) because it is expected of us? Because we fear hurt (unemployment, rejection, loneliness, pain)? Because it is not perfect but it’s not yet at “tipping point” (note to self, find the book and read it, if it’s as good as the others, it’s worth it!).

Those expectations, the fear, the comfort, are tied to our past and shape our present. We cling, like a child looking at the ground from up high, gathering the courage to jump. Sometimes the child will jump on its own, but most of the time a little encouragement from parents helps (later, goading from its peers helps as well, not always at the right time). Is this, then, what we need? Is the child in us in need of companionship and encouragement to let go of the fear and jump? And who can offer this once you’re an adult and your friends are just as cautious as yourself?

Ah, but not all of them are like that, surely? Can’t we all think of a person in whom life seems to flow hotter, who is less afraid it seems, who sometimes makes us uncomfortable not because they reproach us anything, but because we fear to disappoint? Hmm, that fear again…

But isn’t this person, usually called a “troublemaker” or a synonym in a fond voice and with a bit of a smile on your lips, offering even more fear – of the unknown, of the uncertain? When should we listen? And when should we just ask for the bill and leave?

Adjusting

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It is easy to talk about love when you’re happily in love. It is also easy to talk about love when you are not happy about it. But, ignoring click-bait articles like “if he does that he truly loves you” and “if she says this her love is gone”, how do we adjust our inherent bias to talk about love a bit more objectively? Is that even possible? Can we quantify and delineate the place love holds in our lives?

I guess the easiest way would be to go back in time and in love. I mean we must think about a love that has happened in the past, before another love. There are probably people who have been in love only once but in my experience most people have been in love several times. Some have even been in love at the same time with several people, but we’ll avoid that for the moment not because there’s something wrong but because we are trying to analyze something a majority of people can relate to.

If we want to get really picky I guess we could eliminate teenage loves as well, on account of hormones, inability to distinguish between love and lust, immaturity etc. I am reluctant to do so, for two reasons. 1. Sometimes it really is true love. You could try to think of your own teenage love and check your feelings about it. If you still feel warm fuzzies or very protective about it, chances are it was true love, despite the obstacles given above. 2. Maturity, difference between love and lust etc…. those are hindsight speaking. What I mean is that for each love we have felt, looking back, we can use the wonderfully frustrating thing called hindsight to say “it wasn’t true love, it was lust” or some such statement that implies we are now more mature and, going back, we would have done things differently.

Maybe this is what I am trying to do, use hindsight to objectify relationships, find a proper place for love. But isn’t hindsight our first line of defence when we’ve been hurt? “I should have seen the signs” is a common comment. “I was going through a rough patch” is another one. Both of them correct in essence, but can we reduce love to a mistake we have made because we were not mature enough? And are we ever mature enough to firmly say we will not make another mistake? Or even more extreme, saying that we will never love again? Or trying to use wish lists and website filters as a degree of maturity?*

I have always considered love as different from the person I love AND from myself. This is another way of being more objective when it comes to love. It is also a lot more rigid. If that person was loved by me then (worthy or not… hm, it took me the best part of ten years to admit I may have been at fault in a break up I could have sworn was the other one’s fault 😛 ) then that love is a given, no matter what happened in the meantime. This is probably why I consider love as selfish, as expressed in another blog article on the same subject. At the same time, this perspective holds love as the only thing that cannot hurt, ever. A break-up can hurt, unkindness can hurt, taking for granted can hurt, unrealistic expectations can hurt too. Relationships, huh? But love is not touched by those, doesn’t live or die by those either. It endures, unchanged, until time alone can fold it into the past.

*I have nothing against dating websites, in fact I know several couples who have met that way. I understand the need for those filters, too, and for the wish lists. It comes down to the distance between us, and in the era of connectedness that distance is enormous. We had to substitute something, right?

Practical

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I started reading about pragmatism on the internet but got confused and decided to stop. I guess I am just not cut for philosophy 🙂

I wanted to explore the concept though so I settled for practical. The reason was a contradiction I battle on a regular basis. I like to talk and think and assemble ideas and words in ways that make sense and make it easier to think about life, love and the universe. I can spend long periods of time doing this. Add to this the fact that I am addicted to reading and the result appears to be a theoretically inclined, non-practical person that could possibly need taking care of 🙂

The picture is, of course, incomplete. But in what way and when and why are actually the questions needing answering, so let’s analyze.

Much as I like thinking I tend to think about real life, particularly mine and most specifically in regards to relationships. How do I react, how will the other react, what will be said, what could possibly be the consequences etc. So far, so good. I think about my life and how to live it best with a minimum. I also think about what needs to be done and in what way to minimize the effort and increase the results. Not always practically, don’t get me wrong, just… efficiently, you could say. That requires quite a lot of thinking, as even things, let alone people, can throw balls from the left field that leave you scrambling. My wish for control couldn’t possibly take this kindly, so I think about consequences of actions (a lot!) and possible ways of combining actions. That has two consequences (intendend pun?): one, I get bored later when people want to analyze things out loud as I have already done it; two, I appear (and am!) bossy as I have already picked the best of the alternatives I could find and presented it (or started it) as such. That tends to annoy people :). I am learning to talk with people first, then spend the time thinking and come up with a solution (or a change to the soution agreed on – yup, annoying again!).

With a profession that tries to combine practical and theoretical approaches, this type of thinking of mine is not something I do for leisure, it’s ingrained. As a result, unless it’s hectic, I cruise (at a fast pace 😛 ) rather than scramble – perfect!

So far, so quaint.

It just so happens that you can’t think of the little things without touching on the big things (like life, love and the universe), nor should you be afraid of doing so. They may seem too big, too important, and you may feel too lowly, but still, you have a life time in front of you, you can chip away at them. It may seem like a waste of time, but it makes thinking of the little things easier. Decision-making also becomes easier as now you know faster what you can live with and what you can’t. It keeps you cool under pressure (because you almost invariably come up with a plan of action) and allows you the time to wonder and feel joyful when you see kittens, butterflies and small children.

How to do it? We seem too busy to think even of the little things sometimes! Your brain will help. A bit of sleep, good food and water and finding those 5 minutes in the shower/surfing/trekking/gardening/meditating etc. and away you go.

Do not try this while you are changing a nappy 🙂

Possession

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You know that feeling of shock you get when someone describes you by a word you would never have associated with yourself? Something like “You look so happy” when you know you are anything but, or “you have been so helpful” when all you tried was to serve yourself.

For me the shock has come because of possession. I consider myself one of the most possessive people I know. So being described as “giving” has put me in the ironic position of justifying a weakness. Not a sin – for me that is pride – totally different subject.

If you also take into account (and I do!) that I don’t know what jealousy is, being possessive is an even bigger headache. So let’s analyze a bit.

I can give provided one of two things happen: one, I retain the object as such (loaning it to others for the duration) – like giving them a copy of a book I have read, enjoyed and considered appropriate; advice is another such object, so is expertise. Two, by giving I get even more in return – a present, for example, or the end of an irritation.

I can give even if those two things cannot happen, compelled by love – that is a gift, therefore wasn’t mine to begin with. Haven’t you been in love, and found the absolutely perfect gift? Even if you paid for it, did you ever consider it yours? Or were you just a conduit, helping the rightful owner take possession?

But then we have to define possession: have, own, control. Both in object and in spirit. Therefore it is by default something that is separate from you. Not only the object/spirit you possess, but the actual possession (An act? A state? A fact?). A more schizoid explanation of the separation of body, mind, spirit etc. I do not know! Think about it… you control yourself, don’t you? So you, yourself and the control exerted are three separate entities. Mad, innit?

But that separateness leads to questions like “what do you have? What do you control? And mind you, how do you do that?”

The clothes on my back, the salary I draw, the bed I sleep in… changeable. Childhood mementoes – more difficult to give. Ourselves or the people around us – let’s not joke about it!

So the giving is not so much of an object, although they are a start – and the easiest.

It is in the relationships where we have so much trouble giving. Managing expectations, so to speak.

I consider the people I love to be entitled to what I have to give, objects, advice, time, suppport etc. It is therefore my privilege to give so that everything should be normal. Note, it is not a prerogative. Nor can I lose. That object, the perfect gift, I cannot give it to anyone else. How could I say “I love you” if I am not prepared to share the time and the memories? We only ever should count at the end of a relationship.

Fingers crossed, it would have been worth it!

Marriage

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I would like to have a chat with an evolutionary biologist or anthropologist one day. (In fact I would like to study those subjects.) The question I have is: do you ever feel like an alien?

Do you, sitting down at your computer and sending long words into a cloud that has nothing to do with cumulonimbus, do you have that self-righteous feeling that if only “civilized” people would behave more naturally a lot of problems might just be avoided?

(Deists might ask themselves the same questions, they would probably define “naturally” in another way)

Civilized people are the only species on this planet that ignore natural rhythms for reasons other than safety (think 8 hour work day, 5 days a week for an entire year, ignoring circadian, seasonal , climatic and personal objections).

Civilized people are the only ones who insist on wearing clothes when there is no need to and contort their bodies in awkward positions like sitting on chairs or the toilet.

Civilized people are the only ones who do not know what, how and when to eat.

And of course, they are the only ones that I know of whose genders come together in close relationships that have nothing (much) to do with survival – children, food, protection, safety etc.

I have a good opinion about the above coming together. In all its many forms. Including marriage, as it happens. (And when I talk of marriage, it’s a general term, a bit easier to say than “the coming together etc.etc.).

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I never was one who wanted or wished to get married. I never dreamt of beautiful ceremonies or ritualized commitments. So of course I found myself married 🙂

The marriages I had known about before have not been inspiring. Abuse, routine, divorce, nagging, cheating, compromise, hard work, what was there to like? Reading about marriage wasn’t much better, given that people of different cultures sanction marriages for all kinds of reasons that sound odd to say the least: getting pregnant, money and property, inheritance, power, promises, religion.

So, do I have the recipe for the perfect marriage? No. I have a recipe for a good marriage, mine to be exact. So for my marriage, this holds true: you need to start from a position of strength. Please note that I didn’t say equality, just strength. I was not pressured, commanded, pushed, coerced or cajoled into marriage. Nor did I need it. It was a choice of mine, and as such I am committed to it.

If the first condition is met, I reckon you are halfway there. But wait, there’s more 🙂

The second condition: being people takes precedence over everything else. Sounds basic, but culture and religion tend to prescribe a lot of what goes on in the privacy of one’s marriage. Number of people in that marriage, for example. The gender of the people in that marriage. The sexual positions that are acceptable. Who does the cooking, washing, cleaning in that marriage. Who works, rules, counts in that marriage. And if those tenets do not suit the people in that marriage? I say that the people come first. Rules that don’t serve the people do not a good marriage make.

The third condition: lay down the rules and don’t change them unless you change. Define cheating and personal space. Clarify points of contention and acceptable forms of endearment. Argue about the important things so you can compromise on the trivial. Be sure you can live with the other one’s rules.

You can love, like, help, support, respect, admire, hate, dislike, ignore and despise the other to your heart’s content at different times of the day. Be tender, playful, generous or the opposite. Food needs to be cooked, children need to be cherished, work around the house needs to be done. You can do that with flatmates, friends, genetic family. But if I want a good marriage, it behooves me to practice what I preach 🙂