Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Nevermind, Forget it, It Doesn't Matter

Yesterday my wife said something to me, and when I didn't respond the way she wanted me to, she dismissed the topic by saying, "It doesn't matter." I'm not sure about your relationships, but when I hear this phrase it could mean a lot of things.

A. It could mean that it doesn't matter, because we have bigger fish to fry at the moment.
B. It could mean that it doesn't matter because she knows I wasn't listening the first time, and repeating herself isn't worth being understood on that topic.
C. It could mean something  I would want write a blog about. Here is that blog.

I am excited to say that I may have found the exact interpretation for phrases like these.

"It doesn't matter."
"Forget it."
"It's okay, don't worry about it."
"I don't care."
"It's not a big deal."
"I'm over it."
"I'm sure it will work out okay."

I believe that these statements are usually a dismissal of something that a person really wants to say. They don't even come close to actually saying what the person means to say. They are completely inaccurate statement, but they slip into a lot of conversations anyway. As a matter of fact, I'm starting to ask the speaker immediately when I hear them because I truly want to understand what was intended.

You can see why this could be important in my marriage. Yesterday when my wife said, "It doesn't matter," that's not what she meant. I hesitated for a minute in the conversation with her. Then I asked, "Did you mean to say, 'I don't believe that you can understand how I feel right now?'" 

She thought about it. "Yes, that's what I meant." She said. It was a simple conversation, but I think it helped me to get some interpretation at the moment. I also think she was glad to be understood in that way.

I've also found a slight variation on the meaning, but it is similar. In other situations the speaker seems to be saying, "I don't even understand how I am feeling right now."

I am starting to keep an eye out for those little phrases, especially when I first say hello to people. "Hi, how are you doing?" I say, "Oh, good. We just have been (insert stressful situation), but it's no big deal. How are you guys?!"

With strangers or acquaintances I usually leave the statement alone, but with friends I'm starting to clarify what they mean. It seems to bring us closer together when I can understand what they are feeling, or they can understand it better.

Do with that what you will :)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Energy Efficiency Requires Community

As you know, I love simplicity, and for me that means seeking to own a minimal amount of possessions. As such, I am thinking a lot about the home that I own. It's a bit much, and the energy costs alone are a bit daunting. Beyond just downsizing, I often think about living off the grid completely, and finding alternative sources of energy.

A conversation with my youngest brother was most helpful on this topic, and gave me something new to consider. I was trying to get to the bottom of some specific metrics for energy efficiency, and I was asking him questions about it. He is in engineering school right now, surrounded by some of the most capable people for solving energy efficiency problems, and has been there for almost two years now. Here is what I asked him.
"Do you think it is possible to create a recommendation for the most efficient way to live off the grid, including specific energy source with exact model specs, ideal square footage of house, room sizes, ceiling height, insulation type, and even land size for food production?
His answer to me:
"Well possibly, but I think you may have a problem. Efficiency for energy cannot be achieved in isolation. Efficiency for producing energy is achieved much like other things in the economy, through specialization. If a person tries to be completely self-sufficient, he forfeits the value of specialization in the market, and forfeits efficiency in doing so."
Of course. It's not what I wanted to hear exactly, but then again I think it was exactly what I wanted to hear.

Part of me wants to be completely self sufficient, not depending on anyone. Another part of me desperately wants to depend on people, all the time. Off-the-grid is not the answer for energy efficiency. The grid is what makes it efficient!

It is important to acknowledge that not every grid is efficient just because it is a grid, and that many cities and towns are using 100 year old systems that are not efficient. I get that, but my point is that isolation can never truly be the most efficient way to live. We need community. We need to share.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Trading, Gift Giving

An idea has been percolating for a few weeks that is a bit controversial. I'll say it as a statement. The barter system increases one's quality of life.

Trading for things, giving gifts, doing favors for other people is better than buying things with cash. This is a very complicated argument, which I don't intend to tackle fully with this one blog, but the idea can be boiled down to something fairly simple. Cash removes any obligation between the two people who are exchanging things.

Instead of explaining why that is, think about the things that you own. Now think about the things you paid cash for (which may be everything that you own). But now try to think of something that you traded for, or something that you received as a gift. Think about how that impacted your relationships. Now think about how it would feel if everything you owned, including your house, was a part of a trade of some kind. 

What if you had to borrow all of the tools to finish your basement? What if people traded their time to help you in the basement for a meal, or something else you gave them?

What if your lawn care was a trade? 

What if your child care was a trade?

Cash makes our exchanges less personal, and therefore decreases our quality of life.

For me personally, there are very few things that I own that I traded for. I intend to change that in the future. I am actually going to look to trade things first, and resort to cash as a secondary option. It's a lot more of a hassle to be sure, but I think it might just be worth the hassle.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Capacity to Nurture

First of all, baby number two has not yet arrived. The baby is 34 weeks in development now, which is the minimum I was hoping for before the baby arrives. We are happy about that. Mom has had lots of help from family friends and church. She is still looking forward to being able to eat and do things normally after the child gets here, but she's also happy to give the baby as much time as possible.

My awareness for nurturing is strong right now. When I hear someone say, "He was like a father to me." I  hear, "He nurtured me." When someone says, "She has always been there for me no matter what." I hear, "She nurtured me." It just seems to be a key concept in parenting, and friendships too, and it's at the forefront of my brain often.

Nurturing another child is intimidating to me. Last week I asked my dad how he nurtured seven children. I didn't want to know how to nurture little children, I think I learned that part by being nurtured by him when I was young. I wanted to know where he found strength to keep going.

Life is not easy right now. There were a lot of what I refer to as "meltdowns" in my house in 2013, and heck, there were meltdowns last week. I'd like to say that these meltdowns are all from the toddler, but it's the adults that are overwhelmed in our house much of the time. My wife and I have always had good days and bad days historically, but there is something about having a child that challenges us further. I think young children have a way of keeping adults at their emotional limit. Kids bring out the worst of me, and make me more in need to nurturing, and I think the same is true for Katie.

Facebook posts don't usually offer this perspective. Facebook captures the special moments of children with beautiful photos. Other people's kids seem so easy for them to nurture. My daughter does make me smile and laugh almost every day. But the truth is that I hold onto those moments and take beautiful photos of those moments because I'm trying to survive. Many days my only goal is to survive for the next five minutes, until nap time, or until bedtime.

My dad did give me some good advice, as did my brother who has three kids of his own, and a friend who also has 3 kids. They confirmed that my situation is normal, and that young kids do tend to push people to their limit. They also encouraged me take care of my self, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Practically speaking, they encouraged things like reading the Bible, listening to spiritual teaching, and taking 45 minute breaks away from the family to workout, or read, or do something for myself.

I am hopeful that I can and will be ready to nurture another child, but if you have any secrets to add to that list or just survival techniques, I'm all ears.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Finding Strength in Nurturing

Right now there is a lot going on in our house. We are preparing for the new baby. This means several tasks are underway, like getting our toddler into her new room, organizing baby clothes, and organizing the house. On top of this the toddler is sick and growing some mean canine teeth that seem to be causing her some grief.

On top of that, my wife has a new challenge for her second pregnancy, gestational diabetes, so she has to have a really strict diet until the baby arrives while testing her blood sugar five times a day. If you know my wife, you know that she is a picky eater and hates having strict rules about her food. Having a giant baby inside her belly isn't making the days go any smoother either.

My biggest question is this. How to I stay strong emotionally for this house?

This idea has been a key to helping me grow. I had never thought about nurturing my wife until October of this year. The responsibility for that had never actually occurred to me. I also hadn't thought about what nurturing means to me.

When my life feels out of control, like right now, the thing I need the most is nurturing. The thing my wife needs often is nurturing. What does nurturing look like to you? Have you thought about it at all?

For me, it's easiest to understand when I think about a child in a tough circumstance. Maybe she is being bullied, maybe she is sick, maybe somebody yelled at a boy and upset him. That's when I see the need for nurturing. They need empathy, understanding, some logic and a friend. When I think about a situation like that, I instantly know how to nurture.

I've started to become aware of my own need for nurture too. I've started to be aware of times when I feel like a teenager who just got beat up at school. I've started to recognize when my friends are nurturing, and what that looks like. It's really helpful to me to understand that. Hopefully it's a helpful concept to you too.