Love and Reality

From the movie Her

From the movie Her

I recently saw the movie Her with Joquin Phoenix and it really got me thinking.  Rough cut of the movie line: it’s a love story, about a man and a Operating System (OS).  But past that simple description, it asks us to take a look at how we narrowly define love and on a deeper level, what is ‘real’.  Culture seems to have the job of creating norms and rules about things that aren’t always easily definable.  Love can be simply defined, but it also has intangible qualities that are much more difficult to quantify.  It requires us to put language to feelings.  Reality is equally as hard to nail down.

love [luhv] noun

– a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
– a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
– sexual passion or desire.
– a person toward whom love is felt; beloved person; sweetheart.
(used in direct address as a term of endearment, affection, or the like): Would you like to see a movie, my love?

reality [ree-al-i-tee] noun

– the state or quality of being real.
– resemblance to what is real, a real thing or fact.
– real things, facts, or events taken as a whole; state of affairs: the reality of the business world; vacationing to escape reality.
Philosophy of Reality
– something that exists independently of all other things and from which all other things derive.

These are probably good definitions, but are these definitions really the totality of these complex words?  What does love feel like?  Does love happen in reality or is it a construct of our minds?  How do you know it’s a “true love,” rather than a superficial “I’m so in love with ice cream” kind of love?  And who am I to judge if you’re not really so in love with ice cream?  In turn, what is Reality?  What does it mean that Reality exists independently of all other things and from which all other things derive?  What are the nuances of a feeling real?  Is there a better way to love?  Or a worse way?  Do we attempt to make these deep philosophical ideas into black and white issues, easily defined, to fit in the boxes we like, so we can be comfortable?  While I understand that our cultural perspective does define these concepts, under what perimeters should love or reality be defined for anyone, given that few of us are from the same exact culture?

In Her, a man falls in love with a computer operating system (OS).  The OS is a learning, thinking, questioning, and growing being.  It has a great personality, but for most of us, it’s not what we think of as a “real person,” and therefore we might wonder, is he having a real relationship?  There were several places in the movie that I felt myself cringe when he talked about his girlfriend, and then explained she was an OS.  Yet the love felt real, at least to the man, and for me, the movie stretches the idea of what constitutes real love anyway?  At what point is love “real,” or valid?  Do we limit other peoples emotional lives when we foist our cultural judgements, our contextual thinking, and perceptions of reality of right or wrong doing, onto their reality?  Who gets to decide for everyone anyway?  Given that so many people are lonely and learning to love is powerful to our lives, why would we stop love from existing in any form that doesn’t harm anyone?

The movie also explores the idea of what make any of us real.  Is the OS real?  As in a sentient personhood sort of real? Is the OS more real than say a Corporation, which in the US we have given personhood and now Corporations have the rights of a real person, even though I’m pretty sure that Corporations don’t have souls. This is a similar question that was asked in the movie Blade Runner, At what point is something ‘real’?  More human than human was the sales pitch for the Replicants.  We could create ‘people’ but they had no rights, no souls, they weren’t real independently from our need or use of them, the Replicants were commodities.  Yet they evolved over time to have feelings, physical and emotional, and memories, and relationships, and they wanted ‘more life’ and to be considered real.  And, even today it’s amazing how many people have cyber relationships going on in virtual worlds?  Real people are behind the avatars, but they often haven’t met in the reality we call meeting ‘in person’, yet they can really know each other and they talk, have friendships, and dare one say even fall in love sometimes.

What if love and reality are big things, so big that we can only ever see a tiny bit and we think we’re seeing the whole thing, but the whole thing is so vast that there is no way from our small place in the universe to see it all?  What about that?  From this perspective of vastness, it may just be that we probably know next to nothing.  And, we create cultural constructs of our knowledge and try and make the whole vast infinite universe fit in our tiny little boxes.  I am reminded of a line from the movie Lion in Winter, “I know, You know that I know, and I know that you know that I know, we are a very knowledgeable family…”  But, the line might have been more true if we just said, “I don’t know, you don’t know, I don’t know what you know and you don’t know what I know, and we are all just making stuff up all the time pretending to be knowledgeable, it’s what our family does.”  That would have been funny.  In fact that’s the only thing I know is true… really.

Relationships and the closing of circles

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Adam Greenfield’s “Breathe Deep and Let Go of Things”

Relationships truly are the sum of our lives.  We create circles of friends, neighbors, family, strangers, pets, nature, ideas, and ultimately ourselves.  With all the practice that we have with relationships throughout our lives, you would think that we would be experts at having them and doing them well, handling issues and avoiding problems.  Yet, we all seem to have some people and situations in our lives that we find difficult.  This is not to say we are never difficult. I have had many opportunities to muddle through turmoil.  I have experienced and created as much as the next person and, so far, have been able to trundle my way through the ups and downs of this life I have been tending.  So along the way I have learned that relationships, as in life, don’t always turn out just the way I want.

Recently, I have been experiencing a situation in which I don’t see a friendly way through.  I see myself as someone willing to work things out, look for the win win, find compromises, etc.  I don’t just think of myself this way, I have also asked trusted people close to me, how they see me, because I know I have my one-sided perspective and I don’t always see myself fully.  And while my trusted people are happy to point out my flaws, they also tell me that they see me as someone who sincerely tries to find the middle ground in relationship situations.

What I also know, is that there are people in the world who will only feel good about you, as long as you bend to their perspective.  They are not interested in seeing how they contribute to an issue.  They really want you to know that they are mad at you, and it’s your fault, and unless you admit to this, and ‘show’ them that you understand their ‘rightness,’ the situation won’t ever get to a place where it feels emotionally comfortable. And, even that might not be enough.  In most situations I have been able to acknowledge my own part, and apologize when my intentions were quite different from my impact.  Unintentional impact can still hurt another person.  I am truly sorry for hurting someones feelings, even though I was trying to do something quite different.  Still, in some situations you cannot own your own issues or your part in the disagreement enough for the other person, they want more, they want it to be one-sided, all your fault. They point to things that were said, using contexts that weren’t intended, often rigid, black and white ideas of right and wrong.  And, no matter how much you try to hear them, and share your perspective, they are not interested in hearing you, just in being heard. Often even when you are trying hard to hear them, they still say you are not listening. It’s hard work, exhausting.

For most of us, this is a bit of a ‘crazy maker.’  If we care, even a little, about the relationship, we want to find the middle ground. We want to hear and be heard.  We want some sort of closure that feels like we can walk away with respect or kindness, agree to disagree and still have a friendliness.  Yet, this is not always possible.  And, when we find ourselves in one of these endings, we often struggle with self doubt, and hopefulness that we can find a way to resolve the situation.  Sometimes we have to instead learn to ‘let go.’  In some belief systems they say, “Let Go and Let God,” or we see powerful quotes by great orators who mimic our struggle, such as Frank Herbert’s, “There are no endings, just places where you stop the story,” and one of my favorites, “It is always important to know when something has reached its end. Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn’t matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past, those moments in life that are over.” by Paulo Coelho.

Even if it doesn’t feel finished, sometimes we have to just let go and close the circle.  Allowing someone to see you in the worst light, and still let go with love, let go with forgiveness for our part, let go with forgiveness for the other parties part.  I believe that the process of letting go is a powerful way through the sad feelings or angry ones.  Letting go of the attachment about how people see us.  Letting go of what they say about us.  Letting go of the ‘crazy maker’ so that we can continue with our story.  For me the big take away, and I have learned this lesson a few times in my life so it feels easier this time, is that there are places when my sense of self is so different from someone else’s sense of me that the two ideas of me are too incompatible to continue in any sort of close proximity.  If I’ve been honest with myself, gotten feedback from those I trust, looked at my part of the situation, attempted to repair the hurts, but still been met with rigid, angry judgement, then I have to let go for my own sanity.  Grieve the loss, but let go of the idea that I can influence a more realistic idea of me, one that is a little closer to my own.  And, really, what is lost when people don’t want the same thing?  The only thing lost is an idea of the relationship, an idea that might have existed once, but needs to be released, because that old idea of the relationship is gone.

For my part, if I can do this, then I let go of the spinning of my mind.  The wrangling to make reasonable, or rationalize, or over process my thoughts and feelings.  I learn to just ‘be’ in this moment, uncomfortable though it is, until the next moment shows up.  I do this over and over, through this moment and the next and the next.  Until the moment that I am in, absorbs me fully, and my life circles on.

What can Zombies teach us?

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“My posture is terrible. I should stand up straighter. People would respect me more if I stood up straighter. What’s wrong with me? I just want to connect. Why can’t I connect with people? Oh, right, it’s because I’m dead. I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I mean, we’re all dead. This girl is dead. That guy is dead. That guy in the corner is definitely dead. Jesus these guys look awful.”
Quote from Warm Bodies

This blog probably belongs in October.  But here it is, January 2014, and I am writing about Zombies.  Probably Zombie blogs are worthwhile all year long…  that’s my hope at any rate.

So, what do Zombies have to teach us?  Well, let’s start with what Zombies represent.  They represent, on a simple level, the living dead.  In Africa, the Voodoo definition of “Zombi” is a living dead person who is controlled by another person, the other person controls everything about the Zombi and the Zombi has no will of his/her own.  In Western culture, Zombies are typically depicted as mindless, reanimated corpses hungering for human flesh, and particularly for human brains.  In a recent movie, Warm Bodies, Zombies eat brains to vicariously feel human again  by eating the memories and experiences of another person and also in an attempt to feel connected to their past humanness.

Now, knowing what a Zombie is, what can you learn from them?  The first question possibly needs to be: Am I a Zombie?  The second question is also what most spiritual journey’s are about: How do you stay alive once you decide you’re not a Zombie?

My personal bias, probably because I am old, is that being alive when you’re a kid or a teenager, well that’s far easier. I am not attempting to minimize the teenage angst, or the terrible things that can happen to children and teenagers.  But, having survived my own childhood and teen experience, I feel somewhat clear on this subject. It’s really hard for young people to be the living dead.  They are typically too alive in their minds, even if they are overwhelmed and depressed, they often haven’t had the long term experience of being beat down by choices, life, or responsibilities.  There are always exceptions to this rule of thumb.  But, if you’re 30+, yep you’re in danger, seriously deep danger. By your 30’s you typically have all sorts of past history, you have whatever is going on in your life now, to include responsibilities, kids, cars, homes, credit cards, and jobs.  These things make us tired and these things, these responsibilities in conjunction with general exhaustion, can make it easy to become the living dead… slaves to our stuff and slaves to our choices… no longer feeling in control, but rather forced to do the will of others.

Anytime you feel trapped in a marriage, or a job, you wake up, go to life (work), come home, watch tv, eat, sleep, wake up… do it over and over again, you are in danger.  It’s the monotony of life, the losing of interests, the giving up of dreams, these things are part of the slow migration towards becoming a Zombie.  Whenever you give up on important ideas, this giving into the status quo of societal expectations of you, then you’re in danger.  When you stop questioning yourself and others, and quit being curious and exploring what people think and why they think what they think, and if you agree or disagree, and why you agree and disagree… you’re in danger.  When you stop noticing the beauty around you, or participating in making the world a better place, you’re in danger.

I’m not absolutely certain, but maybe all it takes to stay alive, is finding your passion and keeping your brain alive.  Being on the quest to discover the things that gets you up each day with interest, excitement and passion, not just getting up because you have to get up, but because you genuinely want to get up.  It could be anything, so I am not interested in limiting this to being artistic, though for me it has to do with being creative and thinking and learning.  Again, creativity, thoughtfulness and education can take a lot of forms.  Maybe you love your job, you wake up ready to go out and “Live it!”, or maybe your job is the thing you do to support your real life, the one where you are continuing to explore the world around you, refusing to succumb to the potential banality that surrounds us all.  When in motion it is easier to stay in motion, but it takes a greater effort to get things that are at a stand still, moving again.  In the movie, the Zombies are able to become alive again, it took an openness to love, to start caring, and willingness to participate differently in life.

You can be rich, poor or anywhere in the middle, and still find yourself waking up dead.  And anyone, rich or poor can have a rich life, filled with passion, curiosity, and connection.  A simple truth: it’s easy to lose yourself, we are all just 2 steps from being a Zombie.  Mundane existence is a slippery slope and we all can slide down that hill, if we aren’t paying attention.  For me, being alive is about having passion and balance, it’s about really truly caring,  not being afraid, and not living a life of fear and hopelessness.  There are many issues that seem hopeless, and yet, if we are alive, aware, and thinking, looking for ways to make things better for ourselves and others, then very little is truly hopeless.  We often have opportunities that show up in our lives to love and learn and grow.  Question your thinking, why you believe what you believe?  Question my thinking.  But, always keep looking at ways to really be alive.

Be kind to everyone you meet, they are all walking a hard road, often filled with Zombies.  The lesson: be kind to Zombies, we’re all in danger of becoming one.

When you love someone…


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“When you love someone, you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity – in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern.

The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now. Relationships must be like islands, one must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits – islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, and continually visited and abandoned by the tides.”
Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I am not sure exactly why this quote has so captured me.  Especially in the hindsight that Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s husband, Charles Lindbergh, had three other families (wives and kids) in Europe. It’s unclear if she knew this or not. I would find it a little hard to imagine such a smart woman being completely ignorant of who her husband was, and what he was capable of, even if she didn’t know the specifics. So, maybe she did know that he had affairs, and maybe she understood that love is complicated and messy sometimes. That often we are hurt, not by another’s actions, but rather by the idea that we have of who they are and how they should act, instead of loving them in spite of the fact that we feel failed by them, for not being what we want them to be.

There are boundaries that may be healthy for us, for me affairs cross a boundary in a marriage. Would I love my husband less if he had an affair? No, don’t think so, the love can remain. I’m not sure if I would stay in the relationship, certainly if I stayed it wouldn’t be in the same way. I don’t know what the relationship would look like, but it would change as I changed my thoughts about myself, my husband and the new “now” of our marriage. Love can bind us to people and places, it can give us purpose to learn and to move through the fear of vulnerability and stay true to love that is just for love.

Change through time is true in all relationships, family, friends, and lovers, even without traumas and dramas. We are constantly shifting how we feel about other people.  How we think about them, changes how we feel about them.  We do this all the time.  Think about the myriad of ways that we get angry or annoyed with people, even people we love, for much less concerning issues; the kids leave lights on everywhere they go, you ask nicely, you ask sharply, you ask and ask and ask, and still, no matter where in the house you walk, the lights are on. You scream, you rant, you threaten, and in these moments you don’t love in a loving way. Because your love has stories and expectations woven into the core of it. If you loved me, you would turn off the lights because you know and care what that means to me… Or, you would turn off the lights because it’s the responsible thing to do, or it saves money, whatever. Unspoken stories, I love you when you… do what I want?  The weft and weave as I sit in my justified nagging and yelling place, not showing love, because you didn’t meet my expectations. Is this conceivably true? Can I possibly be so self centered and demanding? Having unrealistic expectations of others and then wondering why the relationship feels distant or hurtful. This is the way of severing and ending relationships, this is not loving.

Just where is my responsibility for my needs, my feelings, and my expectations? Why don’t I turn off lights as I come to them instead of being unloving? Tell myself new stories that don’t connect my love for you, or your love for me, to my expectations? This simple shift is probably the hardest thing to do. The fine line between a healthy boundary and an unrealistic expectation. This shift takes courage, because like life, it’s fragile and filled with the longing of wanting to be loved in return, and we cannot control that. It takes the strength and flexibility of a dancer walking on a tightrope with no safety net and also dancing with a partner navigating the same dangerous ground.

Not many of us do this balance well. We may have areas where we sit in Buddha like calm over a topic while the world around us loses it’s collective mind. Yet, there are always chinks in our perceptions, places where we lose our own minds, often to issues or ideas that someone else has no problem with. It keeps us humble, we aren’t so perfect ourselves.  We are all creatures of light, but also of shadow. When we recognize our imperfection, do we then withhold love from ourselves?  Often the answer is “yes.” If this is true, how can you truly love another, with all their messy imperfections, if we can’t love our own self, with all of our messy imperfections? We hide and hate our shortcomings, we drown them and pretend they don’t exist, instead focusing on the shortcomings of others.  Isn’t the idea “to love others as we love ourself” at the core of all world religions? I think “yes.” My very purpose in this life is to recognize the places in myself that need to be challenged, tweaked and tuned, to learn to love myself through the process, and learn to love others in spite of my (mis)perceptions and (mis)expectations of them. Allowing for the ebb and flow, the here and now. Being present to the tide as it dances by my shore.

Changes are inevitable

I haven’t posted to the One Minute Mindset in over a year.  This post makes me reflect all the changes in my life over the last year.  Most of my world has changed.  And, while I believe that change is good, it is also incredibly time and energy consuming.  Last year at this time my life was moving forward in a normal, comfortable pattern.  My mother had several health issues that had taken my attention, but she was sort of on the mend by last November, I had her living on her own, but near me.  My work was going well, I was enjoying my clients and my practice, and I had some plans to work on making my kitchen prettier.  All in all, I had a busy and full life, filled with people and projects.  In December I had an inkling that my husband might be offered a job in the Pacific Northwest, which would mean a move from New Mexico to Washington State.  But, it was all theoretical until February 2013.  In February my life went into overdrive, since then I have closed my business, sold properties, moved my mom in with us, and then moved all of us (people and pets) to Washington State.  Basically uprooting my entire life, blowing up my comfort zone.  Kaboom!

There are aspects of this change that are sad, the feeling that I am leaving people and places that I love.  I have a great circle of friends and in some ways I felt like I was walking away from my life.  While I don’t get to see my friends daily, living in the same city, I lived in the space of proximity, the idea that we were just a few minutes away.  As close as I was, in reality I didn’t get to see friends daily or even weekly or monthly.  Moving away makes me notice the distance.  It requires me to not take people for granted.  I have to make more effort, or else I may drift.  But, I ask myself, is that recognition of the distance and the requirements of relationship a bad thing?  I don’t think so.  I think it is in part what change offers us.  The opportunity to rethink our lives, get out of our ruts of thinking or acceptance, or a taking for granted that things will always stay the same.  Nothing stays the same, nor should it.  How do we grow in our comfort zone?  I am not saying we can’t grow in our comfort zone, but my guess is that we grow slowly.  There is nothing like looking for new hand holds and footings to activate our minds and force us to look for new ways to be in our lives.  Change can open us up.

I think about what I have gained from the changes so far.  I have new opportunities to meet people, to challenge myself, to push through my fears, to continue to create myself with new experiences.  The big one for me is pushing through fear.  Meeting new people is partly scary, will I find my tribe, will I find people I like, will I find people who make me laugh and who think I am funny too?  But, also the reinvention of myself, in my eyes, in the world around me.  I have this great moment to find a new, or slightly different version of me.  Many things about me are the same, the underlying person, but that person in a new environment, well, she’s a different person than she was.  That is part of what change offers us.  A chance to see who we really are in different situations.  Am I really brave?  Can I handle the unknown?  What is really important when I have to rifle through myself and pull out parts I either haven’t used or haven’t used in a long time?  Moving location is almost like living in parallel reality, you are in a different place, much is the same, but much is different and you could never fully know what it will be like till you are there.  The other life no longer exists the same way, you could go back, but even then, it too is changed.

I know that I am incredibly lucky, because I still have my support system, it’s just that most of them live a bit further away than they used to.  With email, FaceTime, and Facebook, I can keep up with the daily happenings of most.  But, I have had enough change that I am forced to re-evaluate the “what” of my purpose and direction.  Do I try to recreate what I have known, or do I choose something completely different?  There are multiple choices, each a door that takes me in a slightly different direction.  It really doesn’t even matter ‘what’ I choose.  Thinking about the choices, weighing the possibilities, leaping out into the world and doing it with all the wisdom that I have learned from past experiences, making mistakes, facing fear, and learning to live in the liminal space of my personal journey.

This is what change offers me.

Fight, Flight, or Freeze… yeah, you

Most of us have heard of the fight, flight, or freeze response.  For anyone not familiar with these words, they are the survival responses that have been wired into our deepest parts, physically, mentally, emotionally, in order to survive the tiger running at us.  It tends to be a burst of Adrenaline and Cortisal, that motivates you to action, (fight or flight) or floods you so much that you are frozen in fear.  Fast forward 10,000 years, we don’t have so many tigers, but our brains and bodies still retain this strategy for survival.  And, since the world is filled with modern day threats, poor drivers, scary husbands, scary wives, scary neighbors, or kids, and we still use the fight, flight or freeze, in order to make it through the day.

In the brain, several items are crucial to understand.  Our brain wants to create connections and habits.  There are PET scans of brains learning new information and the amounts of glucose and energy required are huge.  So, it benefits the mind and body to habitualize reactions and responses, to be efficient.  This is great if the reaction and response is an effective one, but when we have habitualized ineffective reactions and responses, we may have a problem.

One of the benefits that relationships offer us, is an opportunity to learn to manage these fight, flight, or freeze reactions.  Because, nothing triggers these responses like someone we love, pissing us off.  And, for most of us, we tend not to feel like flight or freeze, but rather, ‘bring it on… let’s rumble.”

So, how do we calm ourselves before we get to rumbling.  Well, the newest info is that we need to start paying attention.  Awareness is a key.  Questions to start to pay attention to are: How is my body feeling?  Am I feeling tense or tight anywhere?  How is my breathing, slow and deep or fast and shallow?  What am I thinking?  “Fuck you you fucking fuck…” or something calmer?  All these signs can tell us if we’re heading into a meltdown.

First thing if you find yourself heading down the road of a rage is to take a break.  Work on breathing, HeartMath is a technique that can help.  In the world of the brain, practice makes perfect, so don’t wait till your about to flip your lid.  In short HeartMath uses a Freeze Frame model.  Think of a stressful situation, recognize the feelings in your body.  Then shift your attention away from the stress towards something fun or calming.  Imagine you are breathing through your heart.  Practice this daily.  Repeat as often as you need to, to create a new response and to build your brain’s ‘walk away muscles.”