The Mini-Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

This is just a small bit to share, but I came across these mini- clips of the Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

They really make me smile. I hope you enjoy them too. 🙂

 

Longer posts to come soon.

Thanks for reading!

S

 

September Reflections

I feel like I sky rocketed into fall this year; a bit of a jarring transition which came on rather quickly.

In August, the heat of summer continued. And to be fair, the month seemed to pass by in a blur with my birthday/ car accident at the start, followed up by two major dance competitions for Dan, and my decision to visit Thailand with my friend Stacey, and the resultant pre-travel arrangements (e.g., shots, gear, packing, purchases, etc.). (Speaking of, I’ll write a separate post on Thailand soon – as it definitely deserves its own mention.)

Fall hit me suddenly – when Stacey’s father picked us up at JFK Airport in NYC and drove  us along Long Island’s winding highways to her parents’ house for Rosh Hashanah dinner (my first RH dinner, by the way. I’d been to a Seder years ago, but discovered that the holidays are a bit different).

The trees were still green in Long Island, though starting to show a tinge of autumn color, but the air was brisk and mild. The temperature was probably around 65 F. It literally shocked my senses (after spending 8 days in the lush, humid climate in Thailand), but also reminded me of that familiar transition into the colder months. Fall is undoubtedly my favorite time of year.

And now it’s practically October, and I feel like I want to stop time and hold onto this season just a little bit longer.

I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since Dan and I were in Chicago for Swing City. I thoroughly enjoyed that trip. The dancing was fun, but the time spent with him and his friends, and the moments when it was just us, were really wonderful. And to top it off we were surrounded by the trappings of autumn with colder temperatures, multicolor foliage, and that warm glow of mutual love.

Sigh…

Per the usual, my recent travels and the start of fall, have put me in reflection mode.

Firstly, it’s amazing to think of what’s happened in just this last year.

In fact, we started this blog in September 2011! Happy First Anniversary to RegularDaze. 🙂

But also, there have been so many events: my parents moving from Nevada to Texas, Dan and I venturing out to various dance events and exploring more genres of dance (his decision to focus more on West Coast Swing, and our journey into the Blues dancing community), our pre-holiday getaway to San Antonio, my travels across the U.S., celebrating our one year anniversary around Valentine’s Day, the end of my NYC lawsuit just before my more recent car accident, a couple of weddings (his co-worker, my college friend), his company experimenting with new projects and the beginnings of his search for next steps, my application process for PhD programs that didn’t pan out,  losing my job and delving deeper into photography, Dan’s efforts at improving his rock climbing, his trip to Dallas with dance friends and my trip to Thailand with Stacey… and more. It’s been an eventful 12 months.

Secondly, since I’ve been traveling quite a bit recently, and Dan and I have had conversations about relocating in the near future, I’ve been thinking a lot about what kind of a life we might have or want to have. For instance…

Were we to live in Thailand, our life would be filled with lots of cross-cultural exchange, and relaxed. We’d certainly have to learn a new language, figure out how to drive on the left-side of the road, get used to different standards of hygiene, and be vigilant about sun and mosquito protection. We’d also be able to eat fresh and spicy cuisine constantly, and centrally located to travel across Asia, able to live very well on little (due to the current exchange rate between the Thai Baht and USD), and far from everything and everyone that we’re familiar with.

Were we to live in New York City, our life would be fast-paced and diverse. We’d likely give up our cars and use public transportation, we’d shop more often at local retailers and attend more cultural events (plays, exhibits, talks, etc.), we’d need warm gear for the winters, and we’d be able to eat food from almost any part of the world at any given time of day. We’d need to find jobs where the salary increased significantly to maintain our current standard of living, or we’d need to decide to live simply (and probably in close quarters). We’d be closer to other Northeastern states and cities and the Atlantic, and able to stay in touch with friends and family.

Were we to live in San Diego, our life would be mild-mannered. We’d  be able to eat delicious seafood or visit the beach whenever we wanted, and keep our cars as we’d likely commute back and forth to work. We’d probably live in a place not too cramped or too sprawled. We’d be able to take advantage of outdoor activities year-round, and within a few hours drive could visit other Western/Southwestern states, or other parts of California. We’d likely find lots of Mexican cuisine, though slightly different than what we now have in Austin, and would stay abreast of developments with friends and family.

Those three locales are just examples of the Rubik’s Cube assortment of permutations my brain has been pondering of late.

I have no idea where we’ll end up together, but in keeping with the spirit of fall (and thereby the beginnings of change and transition), I enjoy considering various options and starting to align the mechanisms to move us forward.

Life really is a journey, and I think I’m finally starting to see it as more of an inclusive set of experiences, vs. a litany of items on a check list to achieve. I’m still goal-oriented mind you, but I’ve been trying to sit back and acknowledge the view from above a bit more.

Hope autumn is treating you well, wherever you may be.

Thanks for reading,

S

Constant Compression

Hi Guys,

I’ve started a sister blog to chronicle my experiences relative to my back injuries. You can find it here: Constant Compression

I have lots of thoughts, feelings and experiences to share on the topic and decided it would make sense to consolidate them in one place. I’ll continue to post related musings on Regulardaze, but for the majority of my back-centric commentary, please check out Constant Compression.

Thanks for reading,

S

Birthday Bash

Writing codifies things – puts an indelible mark on a once blank page (or screen), and makes them real.

And I desperately didn’t want to accept this as real – but I can’t deny it, and I can’t run from it.

So here goes…

I’m embarking on another personal injury lawsuit, this time in Texas.

On my birthday, a couple of weeks ago, I was rear-ended, and the impact caused injury. My car suffered some damage. Fortunately, Dan wasn’t in the car with me, but unfortunately, I am the one hurt.

As you might remember, I am on the heels of celebrating the settlement of my longtime NYC personal injury lawsuit (which lasted from September 2009 – June 2012). And now it’s back to the fray of legalities, insurance companies, medical providers, and physical and emotional upheaval.

Things have been difficult lately (re: physical and emotional upheaval), but I know I (we) have been through this before, and I know I (we) will get through it again (somehow). Dan, my parents, and close friends have been encouraging and supportive – and I know without a doubt that they will be indispensable to maintaining my fortitude during this experience, as I will be to them.

I can not recommend these circumstances to anyone – surely, there must be other means for learning about the legal system, the state of U.S. healthcare, the insurance industry, and one’s strength of character – but I can not deny reality either. The situation exists and I (we) must face it head on, again.

I haven’t found the silver lining in all this yet, and I definitely don’t know why it’s happening. I recognize the laws of probability/chance and being caught in a string of random, unrelated events, but I also acknowledge that I am the type who seeks meaning in everything. I value fitting the puzzle pieces of life into some sort of comprehensible whole. And in a puzzle each piece has its role; its purpose. I like taking experiences and thoughts, sorting them into digestible boxes, tying each box with a ribbon, and storing them in the categorized shelves of my mind.

Lately, my efforts at categorization are being continually thwarted by life events, and to be honest, it’s frustrating.

As I said above, I know I (we) have been through this before, and will get through it again. I (we) just don’t know quite what to expect, or what will become of it.

And yet, I (we) don another parachute and jump headfirst back into the land of the medically litigious.

Wish me (us) luck. It’s time for another journey.

Thanks for reading,

S

Investment Advice from Dad: Part 1

My Dad asked me to meet him for lunch to discuss various personal investment related topics.

I thought I would chronicle the main points of our discussions here, mainly to record my memories/reflections, but perhaps readers may find them useful, too. Please note than neither my Dad nor I are financial professionals and any ideas discussed in this series are purely personal opinion/experiences, and should not be used in lieu of professional counsel.

Here are the takeaways from our first meeting:

Stocks

  • Stock investing is often one of the most risk-laden and volatile forms of investing.
  • Stocks can often offer some of the highest rates of return (if the market is in your favor).
  • There are two main types of stock: Common Stock and Preferred Stock. There are multiple categories of stock such as: Blue Chip Stock, High Cap Stock, Low Cap Stock, and things that function similarly (meaning equally risky and changeable) to stock such as Foreign Currency Exchange.
  • Beyond stock valuation, which can decrease or increase one’s investment, stocks can also pay dividends, or a portion of the company’s profit, to the stockholder. Dividends can be used to reinvest, or taken as is.
  • If you plan to put a significant amount of your funds into stocks, read as much as you can about the stock market and how stock trading works, as well as the industry (or industries) you plan to invest in. Don’t let a broker or advisor be your sole source of information.

Bonds

  • Bonds are usually loans to an entity. The entity pays you back the original investment plus interest.
  • Bonds are usually less risky than stocks (and often offer lower rates of return), though this depends.
  • Some municipality bonds are currently facing bankruptcy (i.e., municipal bonds held by entities in California).

Diversify

  • Try to have a mix of investments (e.g., some more secure, some less secure, some with higher rates of return, some with lower rates of return, etc.). This can mitigate risk and allow you opportunities for greater return.
  • Try to avoid entrusting all of your investments to one source (whether that’s a broker, adviser, investment form, etc.).
  • “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

Passive vs. Active Investing

  • Think about how much you want to monitor your money – do you want to check the Wall Street Journal or the stock market daily? do you want to put your money in vehicles where you only need to examine monthly statements?
  • If you want to be active in the day to day activities of your funds, then you might consider taking on more risk (i.e., stocks).
  • If you want to be passive in the day to day activities of your funds, then you might consider taking on less risk.

The Transaction

  • Financiers of all kinds (bankers, brokers, advisers, etc.), make their money on the transaction of funds. To them the outcome of the investment is usually secondary to getting you to: open an account, buy, sell, trade, etc.
  • Always know who is getting what – i.e., what fees will come out of your initial investment, because this is money you are paying in addition to (or included in), your investment dollars.

Exit Strategy

  • Always have an exit strategy in case your investments aren’t working to your advantage.

Heart

  • Look for financial professionals, or financial institutions, with your best interest at heart. Don’t be swayed by promotions, uncharacteristic urgency, or get rich claims.
  • Look for proactive financial professionals – someone willing to contact you in good times, and especially in bad.
  • Most investing is estimating – rarely (if ever) will someone be able to give you a guarantee. Be wary.
  • Always, always, check the source of information. Reputability is key.

My Brother

Every now and then, life surprises you.

Let me provide a little bit of context:

My (younger) brother and I, grew up in Massachusetts.

For the first 10 years of my life, our family lived in a tiny rural town of less than 2,000 folks. In our early years, my brother and I spent much of our time together hanging out at the house playing or studying (because there simply wasn’t much else nearby, and our family was close). When I turned 10, we moved to the lower most floor of a “triple decker” (3 floor apartment building) in the inner city. From there, we moved to one side of a duplex and attended a charter school, and then finally to a small single family house in upper-middle class suburbia where we both finished out our high school years. When we weren’t in school, we were attending after school sports (soccer, baseball, swimming, dance, etc.), music lessons (violin and piano for me, drums for him), other activities (reading, web-design club, art classes, girl or boy scouts, Vernal Pool Society, martial arts…I can’t even remember them all right now…), and of course spending time with our respective friends and our Maternal relatives (who we saw weekly; our Paternal relatives would mainly get together on holidays).

Needless to say, at only 2 years and 9 months (to be exact) apart in age, with many shared life experiences, my brother and I were close. And even though there was the occasional poking, pushing, argument, and see-who-could-yell-the-loudest-fest, our relationship was pretty solid and stable.

Then when I left for college (and moved to Texas), things changed a bit.

My brother and I didn’t communicate regularly, in fact, we communicated about twice a year – once when I would return home for Christmas, and again when I’d visit during the summer. I’d find out how he was doing through phone conversations and email with my parents, but it wasn’t quite the same.

Sadly, in his Junior year of high school my brother became involved with some friends who introduced him to drugs, and my brother ended up on the wrong side of the law on a few occasions. By this point our communication was pretty strained and irregular at best, and our parents were on high alert constantly. It seemed like every conversation I had with our folks included commentary on how my brother was in trouble, wayward, or just difficult to connect with.

I spent isolated time with my brother during this period, which began about mid-2006. Again, we saw each other at Christmas, and possibly during the summer. Relating was strange.

Initially, I felt angry and sad. I was angry that my brother got into drugs, that he was becoming an increasingly bigger source of strain and tension on my parents, and that when I would be home, he was frequently unavailable. I was sad because I saw him suffering – upset that he got expelled from school, upset that he didn’t feel at home with our family or his friends, upset that he acquired large amounts of debt in legal fees and court costs – and I was sad because here he was, my brother, hitting some really difficult times and I felt helpless. I was in the audience watching a tragedy from the front row and no matter how much I wanted to jump in and change the plot, or close the curtain and hide the pain, I couldn’t.

Things got incrementally better…my parents left the Northeast and moved to Nevada in mid-2008 which caused my brother to have to (mostly) support himself financially (since he had been living with them but did not want to move cross country). My parents went on to their post-child-rearing stage and established themselves in a new State, with new jobs. My brother stopped actively using or dealing illegal drugs and found a couple of part time jobs that provided structure. He focused more on his music, his real passion. I graduated and worked at the university, did some traveling with my closest friends, went on to grad school in New York City, left a poor relationship, dealt with the accident, worked in market research, and found love.

Throughout it all, our family always met up at Christmas. My brother and I both would stay with our parents for about a week in December. During those visits, I would get moments with him – just me and him. But they seemed fragile and short. After the holiday was up, we’d all return to our respect corners of the country and go about our lives.

I didn’t push my brother into any kind of adult connection. We had our own lives, and to be honest, I knew so little about him as an adult that I often felt more connected by our past than the present. But furthermore, I became more my own person and I didn’t want a deeper relationship with my brother to compromise my adult identity – an identity that I’d been trying so hard to form and maintain. I also didn’t want my connection to him to resemble the one I have with our parents (re: emotionally difficult, laced with expectation and misunderstanding), as that was the only other example of a nuclear family relationship I had to draw from.

My approach became one of love from afar: I’d send the occasional text, email, and birthday card – tell him that I cared about him, but left the rest up to him.

I got a phone call from my brother last night.

It was completely unexpected, and it was really great. We talked for about an hour about how we’re both trying to find our way in life, how we are frequently frustrated at what we think our parents expect from us, how we feel misunderstood by our parents, and how we just want lives where we’re happy, loved, and enjoy what we do.

There were multiple moments in the conversation where I was awash with emotion:

– I could hear the exasperation and pain in his voice through the struggles he’s facing

– I could hear the pride and love when he talked about how thrilled he was with what I’d done so far in life

Here was this person, this one point of humanness across the country, who I could relate to instantly, feel strongly connected to, and dang it,  really wanted to reach through the phone and give a hug to.

Now, I don’t take this recent phone call as a sign of massive change. I still anticipate that we may not communicate regularly, that we’ll really only spend time quality time together at Christmas, and we’ll send short messages remotely when a brief burst of “love you; thinking of you,” strikes. But it feels great to know that my child self, teen self, and adult self can connect to this person who has been there through all of those stages and still gives a damn.

It’s also nice to know that he and I can start to bridge the gap as adults and redefine our relationship in ways to match the present; something I perpetually struggle to do with my parents (and other relatives). Likewise, with him I’m the 25 year old me instead of the 12 year old me, but if I feel the need, I can invoke the 12 year old me sometimes and it will still be okay. Plus, no one else can quite experience the underbelly of our nuclear family in the same way, with knowledge of all it’s positives, intricacies, secrets, and dysfunction. I only have one person on this Earth I can call a sibling, and that’s him.

My family has been one of the greatest sources of inspiration, frustration, tension, and learning, in my life. It seems like that’s not going to stop anytime soon. I struggle on a regular basis with my relationship to my parents and other relatives, but I’m hopeful for the future as long as I can occasionally reconnect with my brother in a peer-to-peer way and remember that sometimes life (and others), will surprise you.

Thanks for reading,

S

P.S. As I mentioned above, family is a constant source of mixed emotion for me. A HUGE thank you must go out to Dan, and my dearest friends (Ya, Pa, St, Au, Ro, Al, Ra, Er, El, Ma…), who help me weather the storms and have truly become my own family, apart from that of my genes.

Flow

I’ve been in the land of unemployment for 10 days (8 business days). And so far, it has been glorious in a way I did not expect.

See, I knew I wanted to spend more time on the things I was already enjoying more than my work (e.g., photography, writing, reading blogs and spending hours analyzing the work of photographers and writers, planning travel, dancing, etc.), but I wasn’t convinced I would keep enjoying them as much without work in the equation. And maybe I thought I might enjoy the “fun” parts, but not the “annoying parts” – as, for example, all the photographers I’d talked to/emailed, had told me that editing was by far the biggest drag and a necessary evil.

But you know what? I spent four hours editing photos yesterday and couldn’t believe it when I looked at the clock. (Maybe this will change over time, but still!) The last time I spent four hours or more on a work task was when I had a monster of a deadline which dictated that I remained chained to my desk until the task was through (and boy, couple a task you find unfulfilling with a mandate to continue at full-speed at all costs and you’ll find yourself a worn out shell of a human).

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi came up with the theory of “flow,” or what has been described as a state of complete immersion in a task at a deeply satisfying emotional and cognitive level, which leaves one feeling energized, adequately challenged, and happier (or as often stated in the research: of a “more positive mood”).

This idea has since been linked to the modern mantras of “being present,” and “living in the moment,” etc., and throughout his career Csikszentmihalyi has produced countless research on the topic of flow and how it impacts individual motivation, which has gone on to influence practices across a wide range of disciplines (e.g., education, sports, religion, etc.).

As you might guess, to a high achieving type with a career orientation and desire for self improvement (re: me), flow can really mean the difference between a profession that leaves me brimming with joy, or wrung out to dry.

One example of the research examining the  link between flow and professional satisfaction among high achievers found (perhaps not-surprisingly), that achieving types show positive moods when engaged in a challenging task requiring great skill. (Read more about the work of Professor Eisenberger and his colleagues here).

Essentially, if I am achievement motivated, the more likely I will exhibit a positive mood state if given tasks which challenge me and utilize my skills. This makes sense.

But what about when I have tasks that utilize my skills but don’t challenge me? Or tasks that challenge me, but require skills I don’t have? Well, such scenarios can lead to that gray area – some combination of boredom, fatigue, or utter frustration (or all three).

The question then becomes, how to find a professional scenario that provides what I need to activate flow.

For now, working on bettering my technical skills behind a camera,  my eye for balanced composition within the frame, and my ability to color correct an image, are completely engrossing and satisfying. I’m also allowed the ability to work with people and help them meet a need, as well as to determine my own work environment and schedule. And though currently, it is more of an educational venture than a monetary one, I’m content financially.

But is flow the golden ticket to career satisfaction? Almost.

The demands of modern living (e.g., food, rent, car maintenance, etc.) and work-life balance (e.g., scheduling flexibility, adequate/fair compensation, health insurance, professional support and training, etc.,) come in as well. There are some basic elements that (arguably) must be satisfied first, before one can attain that “holy grail” of achievement (I could go off on a tangent about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but I think you get the point).

But for now, my survival needs are met and I’m really enjoying the experience of flow. It’s really refreshing to be acquainted with an old friend.

Personal Cliff Climbing

My apologies – I know it’s been awhile (about a month actually) since my last post.

I wish I could say that the month was replete with cathartic moments, mental clarity, and those “I always wanted to do this” experiences, but mostly it was a time of rest.

For the most part, Dan and I continued about life as normal.We worked, we loved, we did the day-to-day things that keep our lives afloat.

But a few key things happened:

– I injured my right pinky toe in mid-May; since then, I’ve been slowly regaining full use of my right foot. While a fairly minor injury, it hasn’t allowed me to dance which has been a serious bummer.

– Dan and I attended a West Coast Swing competition in Dallas. Although he may not have done as well as he’d hoped, I was very proud. I think the car rides up and back also gave us some valuable time to reconnect and discuss more about our relationship.

– I found out that due to financial circumstances, my position would be changed from a full-time salaried arrangement to a contractor/per-project basis at the end of June.

As you might imagine, that last bullet has been pretty jarring, though not wholly unexpected. While I can’t provide much detail, our company had been experiencing some challenges earlier in the year, and once I’d received all the decision letters from schools, I knew it was time to reevaluate things and make another plan for my professional development.

But it’s never comforting to feel like you’re suddenly pushed off a cliff you were hoping to climb gradually (and at your own pace).

Sometimes when you’ve spent so much time and energy progressing towards a certain goal or point in time, reaching it can feel a bit strange or surreal. That moment when you’re able to look out over both where you’ve come and what lies ahead.

There’s something comforting in the routine of the “working towards” space –  being in between “start” and “transition.” With your nose to the ground, you can just continue in the day to day,  knowing that tomorrow will be relatively similar to today with intermittent progress forward.

So once that machine of one foot in front of the other comes to a close, “what’s next” can be a welcome deviation, a scary unknown, or some combination of the two.

Lately, I’ve felt perched atop a mountain. I’ve spent quite some time working towards this point in my life on multiple levels (personal, professional, physical, etc.), and now I’m sitting atop a peak representing hours of work, self-reflection, milestones, tears, long nights, short days, and smiles. A collection of memories and experiences compiled into my own little self-pinnacle, a personal precipice.

For the moment, I’m arrested between the after effects of my own “machine” – that downgrading of  perpetual motion (like the noodle legs effect of adjusting to walking on a flat surface, after running on a treadmill)- and a desire to sit back and take in the view of past, present and potential future, and the uncertainty that comes with the next adventure.

Fortunately, I have some financial cushion so I’m not thrust back into the rat race just to try to find a source of income. And you know, I want this time to be different. I want this next major shift to really stick, to really fit.

And, while I’ve been thinking about all the usual suspects:

– what I’m passionate about

– what I value

– what kind of life I want

I also know that going forward, I will need to pursue a professional endeavor that better taps into my creative side and is more people-centric.

But of course, I worry that I won’t find the best option(s), or worse, maybe I’ll find the wrong option(s) and divert down a path that leads to self-sabotage. And I was going back and forth, back and forth – a mental tennis match of “what ifs” and “could possibly” – and then I stumbled on this excerpt from one of Seth Godin’s more recent blog posts:

In addition to wasting time, the frequent reconsideration sabotages the effort your subconscious is trying to make in finding ways to make the current plan work. Spending that creative energy wondering about the plan merely subtracts from the passion you could put into making it succeed.

And then something hit me…

Maybe “finding” has worked before, but if I want a truly new tomorrow, a changed life going forward, I might have to – “create.”

So a week or so ago, I did what I’d been thinking about doing for a long time (months, actually). I contacted two local photographers and asked them if they needed assistants, if they could share some insight on their experiences, and if they would provide the one thing I really need: help.

Could they help me improve my work and skill set? Could they help me be brave enough to take something I love and experiment with it in a totally new way?

To my surprise (and delight), both of them said they would try. And that’s really all I can ask for, because they can’t solve this puzzle for me (or rather, create the solution?) – that’s all on me. But, then can offer some assistance, some guidance, and maybe, just maybe, that will give me the skills, knowledge and courage to put myself out there in a totally new way.

Here’s to trying new things and hoping for the best. I’ll keep you posted, as this is just the start of an entirely new journey.

Thanks for reading,

S

 

A Love Letter

I had started working on another post a couple of days ago.

It was about decision making, the idea of analysis paralysis, and some reflections as a result of Seth Godin’s recent blog post on when to reconsider decisions.

But then, I found this article in the NY Times: The Vanishing Mind: When Illness Makes a Spouse a Stranger

And I cried.

The article discusses frontotemporal dementia, or Pick’s Disease, a rare form of dementia (loss of brain function, often connected to memory loss) coupled with brain atrophy in the frontal lobes.

What’s so striking is that the article not only describes the difficulty individuals have in dealing with the disease (changes in personality, loss of speech or memory and other functions) and the fact that there is no known cure, but also how the lives of those close to the ill are impacted.

The main couple described in the article is Mr. and Mrs. French: Mr. French with Pick’s Disease, and Mrs. French the spouse and caretaker. The interactions between the Frenches are completely tear-jerking – how he quietly accepts his disease and supports her care giving choices even when she’s wracked with guilt or uncertainty, and how she spends hours with him in his nursing home room, just to be with him.

While I find the French’s story incredibly moving, it makes me realize two things:

1) how much I love Dan and those closest to me, and how I wish to never be parted from them

2) how much Dan and those closest to me have had to deal with these last couple of years as I’ve faced and come to terms with a chronic injury

I could wax poetic about how life is precious and how important it is to treasure what you have, but instead I want to say this:

 

To Dan and all whom I love,

If something, anything, happens such that I’m unable to reach you, know you, or feel you in any way, please know this:

I love you.

Please know that I take every sliver of a shinning moment that we spend together – whether joyful, peaceful, angry, or unstable – and I keep them close to my heart in a little place that I retreat to when the world goes sour.

And if I’m somehow unable or simply not myself, then I trust you to do what you need to do for me, for you, and for anyone else involved.

I am grateful for all that you are, will be, and have been, and I hope to always have the honor and pleasure of continuing this journey with you for as long as I’m able.

Thank you for being you. And again, I love you.

 

-S

 

Adult Attachment

Today, I took a walk around a nearby public high school at midday. As I was approaching my return route, a couple crossed the street and I found myself walking behind them for a block or so.

They were cute – clearly happy to be with each other, and equally happy to be allowed off campus for lunch. To help you picture them: the girl had short cropped dark hair and was wearing a black cotton dress with a floral pattern and brown flats. The guy had jean shorts that fell below his knees, flat slip-on shoes, a t-shirt, broad rimmed baseball cap with red unkempt hair poking around the perimeter, and a slender skateboard in his arm. Both of them were wearing backpacks, holding hands, and walking with a tinge of awkwardness – in the somewhat shy but playful fashion of teenagers in love.

While moments like this often cause pause – “I remember when I was that age,” “I remember my first love,” “ahh, youth,” etc., it actually prompted me to think about how influential those early experiences can really be.

Dan and I recently read Attached written by Levine and Heller. The book explores how attachment theory can be used to explain, understand and improve adult romantic relationships (though the principles can certainly be applied to non-romantic relationships as well). For those familiar with Bowlby’s (and Ainsworth’s) original attachment research regarding children, this book basically brings the same theory forward into the adult realm.

To briefly recap attachment theory according to Bowlby, Ainsworth and the many child development researchers since, the premise is that children display one of four types of attachment to their care givers:

– secure: the child is able to perform activities with their caregiver as a stable base; the child is upset when the caregiver leaves but is able to be calmed when the caregiver returns and then resume their activities; the child can be consoled by a stranger but prefers the caregiver

– avoidant: the child shows little emotional change with or without the caregiver present; a stranger is often treated similarly to the caregiver; the child may ignore their caregiver

– ambivalent-resistant: the child shows constant distress over the proximity of their caregiver; the child is distraught when the caregiver leaves and is difficult to console; the child prefers their caregiver to strangers but when the caregiver returns the child may feel upset

– disorganized: the child shows a mix of behaviors (often leaning towards the ambivalent-resistant and avoidant categories); appears confused and has difficulty responding

These attachment categories can also be lumped more generally into secure and insecure attachment (with insecure encompassing avoidance, ambivalence and disorganized).

Adult attachment theory is very similar, but the categories used by Levine and Heller are: secure, anxious, avoidant, and anxious avoidant. Here are their descriptions of such attachment styles:

Anxious: You love to be very close to your romantic partners and have the capacity for great intimacy. You often fear, however, that your partner does not wish to be as close as you would like him/her to be. Relationships tend to consume a large part of your emotional energy. You tend to be very sensitive to small fluctuations in your partner’s moods and actions, and although your senses are often accurate, you take your partner’s behaviors overly personally. You experience a lot of negative emotions within the relationship and get easily upset. As a result you tend to act out and say things you later regret. If the other person provides a lot of security and reassurance, you are able to shed much of your preoccupation and feel contented (Levine & Heller).

Avoidant: It is very important for you to maintain your independence and self-sufficiency, and you often prefer autonomy to intimate relationships. Even though you do want to be close to others, you feel uncomfortable with too much closeness and tend to keep your partner at arm’s length. You don’t spend much time worrying about your romantic relationships or about being rejected. You tend not to open up to your partners and they often complain that you are emotionally distant. In relationships, you are often on high alert for any signs of control or impingement on your territory by your partner (Levine & Heller).

Secure: Being warm and loving in a relationship comes naturally to you. You enjoy being intimate without becoming overly worried about your relationships. You take things in stride when it comes to romance and don’t get easily upset over relationship matters. You effectively communicate your needs and feelings to your partner and are also strong at reading your partner’s emotional cues and responding to them. You share your successes and problems with your mate, and are able to be there for him or her in times of need (Levine & Heller).

Levine and Heller consider anxious-avoidant as a mixture of the anxious and avoidant categories described above.

So as you might guess, the premise of the book is how an awareness of adult attachment theory can help one find a partner, improve an existing relationship, or decide whether to stay within a relationship.

What’s interesting is that, while some psych researchers have focused on how attachment in childhood can influence adult attachment, Attached posits the case that adult attachment is actually somewhat separate from childhood attachment in that, one can grow up with a certain attachment style which can then be altered/changed throughout adult relational experiences. Also, certain societal expectations or trends, can influence how adults view attachment – for example the topic of codependency. According to the dictionary codependency is:

Excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one with an illness or addiction. (Merriam Webster)

And in today’s pop psych world, codependency is often used to describe the interactions between unhealthy folks (usually those with addictions or other maladaptive behaviors) and their partners. The two individuals, in essence, can feed off one another with one partner “enabling” the continuation of the unhealthy behaviors in the other, which then perpetuates an unhealthy reliance between the two.

Codependency, in my experience, is very real and very challenging to overcome. However, as Levine and Heller argue, it is really meant to describe the interactions of unhealthy individuals to those close to them – it is not intended as a reason for maintaining a constant amount of space or distance between healthy partners. In other words, it was never meant to make mutual, loving dependency between partners the enemy.

Now some of you may be thinking codependency is a bit of an extreme example – but what about the idea of being responsible for our own experiences, such as happiness, as I wrote about here? Well, there are always shades of gray, but truthfully, Levine and Heller did not fully discuss the concept of maintaining both an individual and joint identity within coupledom. I personally believe it’s healthier to have a simultaneous sense of self and a sense of oneness/we-ness, while in a partnership, and I think it’s unrealistic for each of us to expect our significant other to fulfill every single one of our needs (the major needs for certain, but not everything – that’s what I have friends and family for). However, those ideas should also not be reasons against fostering intimacy and healthy dependency within a relationship because at some point the relationship must morph from “you and I” to “we”. My partner should be able and allowed to contribute to my wholeness/completeness as a person – just not responsible for 100% (or even maybe the majority) of that wholeness/completeness. Balance, folks, balance.

But anyway, while societal trends can influence how adults view attachment (and in the case of codependency, such trends probably really shouldn’t), adult attachment can also be impacted by close relationship experiences. This Op-Ed piece called The Brain on Love by Diane Ackerman, provides additional support to this idea, as it discusses how experiencing (or not experiencing) love, actually influences our neurology. This is why Levine and Heller argue that as an adult one should “choose a romantic partner wisely” (and I’d extend that to other key relationships too- close friends, business partners), for a poor choice can influence attachment styles.

As you might have guessed (based on other postings I’ve written herein, or if you know me in person), I am squarely in the anxious attachment camp. And as you might have also guessed, I used to be more secure.

Had I, back when I was 15 like the couple I observed earlier today, been a bit more choosy in who I allowed into my inner circle (speaking mainly about former partners, but also about other relationships), I might be a lot more secure today. A lot more open to intimacy, a lot more understanding and supportive of my partner, and less emotionally volatile.

I can dwell on the past and rue my missteps, but rather than relive the past, I’d rather learn from it and start deliberately “rewiring” my brain for the benefit of me and those I’m close to. As Levine and Heller’s book discusses, being aware of your own adult attachment style is the first step, then it’s learning how to interpret and respond to both your own internal signals/behaviors and those of your partner, and then doing your best to become that which will make you a better partner (i.e., more secure). Dan and I have our work cut out for us, but it’s a joint project and I know we can do it.

So I thought about Attached when I saw the guy and girl walking happily hand in hand by the high school. I hope they’ll find themselves able to adopt (or nurture, if they already have) the traits of those securely attached. I think we all deserve to feel deeply close and emotionally contented by those we care about and love.

Thanks for reading, S