There’s a famous story about how a journalist once asked a couple, “How did you manage to stay together for 65 years?”
“We were born in a time when if something was broken we would fix it, not throw it away.”
They implied that kids nowadays are more tempted to throw away whatever is broken without considering fixing it, and Forbes did mention something about Millenial leaders being impatient. It makes sense of course, since we live in a world where everything is available at our fingertips. We are a generation hooked on methods of instant gratification. We want everything now..and if not now, then yesterday.
Recently I wrote a piece where I said, “We are all wounded, but maybe we need to think of ourselves in terms of kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing cracks with pieces of gold so that the broken is more beautiful than the new.”
That referred to ourselves. But what if we find ourselves in broken careers or broken relationships… Do we work hard to fix it or do we throw it away? How do we decide?
1. Let the past whisper the answer to you
-Find out your default reaction.
The most obvious scientific way to approaching this is to study the past and find your default reaction. Are you a fixer or a thrower? There is a quote that says, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” So from past behavior, what has been your default reaction? To run away at the first sign of danger or to try and fix something but then end up with the thing in your hand despite the fact that it has obviously outlived its usefulness?
-Has your default reaction served you?
In other words, do you find yourself thinking, “Maybe I should have stayed longer. Maybe it could have worked out if I only tried harder. I didn’t give it my best shot…”
There’s no point for regrets of course, since what’s done is done. But you need to be honest with yourself and ask yourself if your default reaction – to run or stay – has served you.
-If it has served you (and sometimes that is the case), then I think you’re okay to run when you run but if it hasn’t then maybe you need to up the dial a bit and raise your patience threshold because you’re a bit too impatient.
2. The ROI method
Measure your return on investment, and I’m not talking about taking out a calculator and crunching out numbers (though some of you nerds might be tempted to do that). But look into the effort you put into trying to fix the situation and measure it against the progress you are making into actually fixing it. Sometimes our effort lead to monumental leaps, which is all good and well. But when you feel like you’re blowing air into a torn balloon and the only thing the balloon seems to be doing is flapping and making noise…then it’s about time to call it quits. I’ve written about this in details previously.
3. Let it sort itself out
A professor once made a remark about how some problems sort themselves out after a while when you let them be. The funniest part about that remark was its ending, “Like email.” It was funny because it was not expected. We live in a world where email was the one thing that usually doesn’t sort itself out on its own but we learned not to send him emails about important things throughout the semester. My point is, there are some situations where the deterioration is organic. You don’t have to make an effort to fix a broken thing, destroy it or simply walk away from it. All you have to do is wait and the deadline will zoom right past and it will expire. Why I mention it is because we’ve turned into a generation of “Oh my God we have to do something about this!” that we don’t see there is an option out there and that option is to actually DO NOTHING.
It’s easy to find yourself in a downward spiral when every time your aunties see you they quack about how you need to get married, or when your work colleague rudely mentions about your biological clock (which by the way, is NONE of their business!) or when getting your facebook friends show off their honeymoon, anniversary and first/second/third baby pictures. But here’s the thing:
1) Nobody’s going to save you. The problem happens when people sit and think that someone out there is going to somehow save them and make them happy but that’s just seeking happiness from an external source, which could – or could not – work out. Why give an external factor that much power? Such an attitude leads to anxiety and insecurity. The best way to counter that is to practice self-love and understand that you are enough as you are, with or without someone.
2) A lot of times, people think that the solution for everything at your age is to get married. For instance, a guy has spending problems…get him married (because according to their logic, if he settles he will learn to be more responsible). Instead of solving this guy’s financial problems head-on, the marriage obviously compounded his financial woes since having a family is not exactly cheap. While marriage might solve a few problems like keeping those quacking aunties quiet for a change, it could also open more doors to trouble; the sort you always hear about but never imagine could happen to you. So as the Arabic saying goes, “Close the door that brings in the wind and relax.”
الباب الذي يأتي منه الريح أغلقه واستريح
3) Get rid of emotional triggers. What drives people to sit and pout about how they’re so lonely and miserable is all the emotional triggers around; in the malls, on the road, on TV, on Facebook. As the quote says, alone people don’t like to hear about the together people. That doesn’t mean to avoid the together people altogether but to avoid those who can’t stop talking about how their spouse did this or that or “Oh My God! Doesn’t that show he’s so adorable!”
“No, it only shows you’re pretty annoying.”
4) Reach out to friends [those who can actually have a conversation about something other than their spouses]. It’s very easy for lonely people to withdraw into themselves thinking they don’t have anybody out there. Again, nobody’s going to save you. You’ve got to do all the legwork yourself. And just because you’re single doens’t mean you don’t have friends, work colleagues, knitting club members, or even old neighborhood grandmothers you can call and visit [those last ones are the best because they appreciate the calls and visits the most + visiting them always comes with the added bonus of free food].
5) Loneliness resulting from a downward spiral is an emotion triggered by a mental thought process. It has been shown that getting some exercise helps with the symptoms of the clinically depressed. Exercise is known to release the happy chemicals endorphins. And if that doesn’t work, have a banana (bananas are known to work great for mood elevation).
In the end remember that we do live in a lonely world nowadays. With too many screens and information overload, maybe technology has helped increase the number of relationships but it didn’t do much about improving the depth and quality of those relationships. And also, there are people who happen to be married and yet still feel lonelier than you probably would on your own. So enjoy your solitude.
And have a great week!
Her name? It doesn’t matter. Her story? She got married under the impression that the man was single. But it turned out he had a wife. And a child. While the ease of travel has opened up opportunities for people to go and work in other countries, it has also given young men an excuse to fill up their four-wife quota as they claim; “You don’t expect me to be alone when I’m there…”
And because the second and third wives are from a country different than the guy’s headquarters, such women enter marriages completely oblivious to the existence of the first family.
I’ve heard this story so many times in our Kemeni community, and at some point, I thought it was one of those stories that would die in the post-Facebook generation (since people’s personal lives are everywhere). But the latest victim I know of is five years younger than me, and it seems guys are getting smarter and deactivating their facebook accounts when they’re planning to extend their families. Which makes me wonder one thing.
Is honesty dead?
The fact that guys can actually do this without being held accountable for their actions infuriates me. Where is society to make this behavior stop? Unfortunately mothers of men like this end up taking his side, in the worse case scenario, aiding and abetting, and in the best case scenario saying with a resigned sigh, “What can we do? Boys will be boys.”
The least the mother can do is tell the family of the second wife-to-be that her son is already married but then again we can’t always blame the mother because it’s . When did honesty become so hard? But no. Because boys fear rejection, they keep that hidden until it’s too late for the girl to run, and then they go,
“Oh, by the way, meet my wife. And kid.”
Honesty is not a virtue that needs to be celebrated and applauded because it is a virtue that needs to be the norm so it’s quite a shame when people go around building entire households on dishonesty. If the guy can’t think of his wives’ feelings once they discover the truth, the least he could think about is what he’s teaching his children….
I know I haven’t been keeping this blog updated recently. It’s not that I’m out of ideas. My head is usually full of half-baked ideas that if you tip it over, many of them will spill onto the floor and make my room look like a child’s nursery with toys all around. I don’t usually know where to start, but I’ve got to start somewhere. So here it goes; the one word (or one phrase) resolution. You know how productive people tend to make resolutions at the beginning of every year. Well lazy people like myself tend to enjoy a new spin to this whole resolution business. We make a one-phrase resolution. As mentioned earlier, a resolution is like a promise you make to yourself. In the footsteps of those who made the 2 in 1 hair shampoos, many people mix their goals and resolutions in fancy phrasing and add them to a list – that eventually gets lost somewhere. To emphasize, goals are targets that you are supposed to reach. While resolutions are decisions you resolve to make. So losing 5 kg would be a goal, while exercising frequently would be a resolution.
But the one-phrase resolution is a brilliant idea. It’s just a motto that you decide to live by for that entire year. Or month. My friend’s motto last year was ‘healthy lifestyle’. Sticking to it made her eat more proteins, and less carbs. It made her exercise more and eventually lose weight. What it did not do is put walls and confine her. And since it was made of two words only, and was as generic as it could be, it was easy to remember, and more importantly, to live by.
In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin had a motto for each month, and while she did have a list of resolutions to achieve under each motto, lazy people like myself could just skip that part. So for instance, some of Gretchen Rubin’s motto were:
-January: Boost Energy
-February: Remember Love
-May: Be Serious About Play
Possible one-phrase resolutions to live by could be: “Take more risks”, “Do it scared”, “Journal More” and “Build Self-Esteem”. And while it is true that self-help experts would emphasize on setting up more SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based) goals, but if that has never worked with you, you could give the one-phrase resolution a try and start from there. The ultimate goal is to look back a few months from now and realize you’ve grown and become better (smarter, braver, healthier, kinder)….
That’s all folks!