My Total Lack of Self-Awareness

The Good Wife and I are in marriage counseling, not because our relationship is bad, but because we want it to be better.

I deserve no credit for this, the GalPal has taken all the initiative. And therein lies one of the challenges. I think we should be able to improve things on our own if we carefully consider the different dynamics of the alternating peaks and valleys of our partnership. And then accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. You know, easy-peasy, just use more of our brain power.

Now I know that assumption is terribly flawed. We can’t think our way to a better relationship, it’s much more about heart, and dare I say, feelings. If it has anything to do with intelligence, it’s solely emotional intelligence.

Our counselor diagnosed our main problem quickly in a way that resonated with both of us. Most of the time, when we try to resolve conflicts, one or both of us are too angry, or emotionally “flooded” or “unregulated” to show genuine care for one another and have a constructive conversation. We ignore the flooding at our own peril, proceeding to get more and more angry, and ultimately, saying hurtful things we inevitably regret.

One epiphany came when our counselor asked each of us to describe the physiological changes we experience during the initial stages of a challenging conversation. The GoodWife aced that quiz describing in some detail several physiological changes. The weekend warrior athlete who constantly assesses how his body is or isn’t functioning while swimming, running, and cycling, couldn’t describe a single physiological change; earning a donut hole on the quiz.

The point of physiological self-awareness is to make sure we only enter into challenging conversations when each of us is regulated, meaning sufficiently calm to engage in a kind and caring manner.

I wasn’t as embarrassed by my total lack of physiological self-awareness as one might think, more intrigued. How can that be? Why the hell is that? That realization has me now trying to get into some kind of touch with my physiological married self. To quote Bill Murray, “Baby steps.”

I think the answer to “how can that be” and “why is that” is two-fold. I had two great parents, three older siblings who I tried to watch and learn from, and an overall positive childhood, but there was no intentional or deliberate conflict resolution or social-emotional teaching or learning more generally going on in our house. Ever.

Nor was there any intentional or deliberate conflict resolution or social-emotional teaching or learning going at any of the K-12 schools I attended. Extra-curricular activities included. Sunday School and church youth groups included.

So it’s not entirely surprising that I failed the quiz.

By this point, my older sissy has stopped reading, thinking to herself, “Ron, it’s not all about you.”

It’s too bad she checked out because I know my experience is that of damn near every male growing up in these (dis)United States in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. We talk about “food deserts” in poor communities, but what about “emotional deserts” in every community, irrespective of economics?

What would emotionally intelligent parenting for both boys and girls look like? What do emotionally intelligent parents know and what are they doing that’s different?

How can educators, coaches, art and music leaders, youth pastors, anyone in youth leadership positions begin fostering emotional intelligence?

How can parents better partner with other adults in their children’s lives to help their sons and daughters develop some semblance of emotional and physiological self-awareness?

We need more attention and better reporting on these things. Meaning engaging and accessible stories that will educate and inspire ordinary people who only know what they’ve experienced. Stories that spark imagination, challenge the status quo, and foster new and better ways of relating to one another.

The End of Mom Guilt

By Lara Bazelon in The Atlantic.

Bazelon, 51 years old, in an essay adapted from a book, writes:

“The feminism of my mother’s generation was rightly focused on equal pay at work; eradicating the abuses that drove women out of the workforce or caused them to switch to lower-paying, part-time work; and, eventually, equal division of labor at home. That project is far from complete. But feminism today must be about more than these structural changes. We have to redefine what it means to be a good mother.”

She then adds:

“No real change is possible until working mothers stop trying to be all things to all people—perfect at work, perfect as partners, and perfect as mothers, with each role kept entirely separate. Rather than hermetically sealing motherhood off from workplace struggles and triumphs, women should embrace the seepage between their worlds. For themselves, but also for their sons and daughters.”

Then she describes a few working mothers who do seem to be all things to all people, which left me somewhat confused.

She makes a strong argument for ambitious mothers, but I couldn’t help but notice the two marriages she describes in most depth both ended in divorce. Which makes me think, acknowledging the limits of my hetero assumption, another book is in order. One on how men can partner more effectively with ambitious, successful women. 

We’re All Fools

If I was stuck on a deserted island, and could only have one person’s writing to keep me company, Richard Russo would get serious consideration.

Russo introduces his beautiful essay, “My Father, The Fool” by writing, “I’d run out of sympathy for COVID skeptics. Then I remembered my father’s stiff neck.”

Highly recommended.

Ca$hing In On The Political Divide

Imagine if there was some perfectly legal way to make money based upon people’s mutual antipathy for one another.

Introducing Conservative Move whose message is simple:

WE’RE MOVING YOU

TO VALUES, PROSPERITY, & SAFETY

When your community no longer reflects morals and values, it might be time to move. We’re an organization of real estate agents here to help you sell your homeorganize the move, and buy a home in a community where you feel safe, valued, and at home.

They emphasize three things that liberals make damn near impossible . . . great schools, safe streets, and lower taxes. Because any rational person knows liberals stand for crap schools, dangerous streets, and high taxes.

They could’ve gone with “no longer reflects YOUR morals and values,” but chose instead to tap deeper into their potential customers inner hate.

Then a kicker:

TIRED OF YOUR WOKE WORKPLACE? WE CAN HELP! 

I prob deserve some blame for this entrepreneurial effort for writing about gun control back in the day on this way too liberal blog.

Right to Bear Arms

“Maybe we should just divide the country into 25 “hawk” and 25 “dove” states. Pick one representative of each view and have them take turns picking states for everyone else. Since I disagree with almost everything in paragraph one, I nominate myself for the doves, and my first pick is Washington State. Clint Eastwood, representing the Hawks, will no doubt take California which I’m not happy about at all. My second pick, Oregon.

For practical reasons, residents of hawk and dove states will be allowed to travel freely into ideological enemy territory; however, they will have to agree to adapt to life in ideological enemy territory. For example, Clint will have to leave his gun at home when he flies to Seattle and I will have to avoid committing a violent crime when visiting California lest I be fired upon by private citizens and/or executed by Ahrnold. Social scientists can do longitudinal studies on the quality of life in each set of states.”

So I guess you have me to blame or thank for Conservative Move, depending upon your perspective. Now certainly, it’s only a matter of time before every conservative finds every other conservative and they fix their children’s schools, eliminate the crime in their community, and lower their taxes.

Monday Required Reading

You Can Learn to Love Being Alone.

“People who pursue solitude of their own volition ‘tend to report that it feels full — like they’re full of ideas or thoughts or things to do. . . . In this way, it’s distinct from loneliness, a negative state in which you’re disconnected from other people and it feels empty.”

Putin’s Bloody Folly in Ukraine.

“As Putin spills blood across Ukraine and threatens to destabilize Europe, Russians themselves stand to lose immeasurably. The ruble and the Russian stock market have cratered. But Putin does not care. His eyes are fixed on matters far grander than the well-being of his people. He is in full command of the largest army in Europe, and, as he has reminded the world, of an immense arsenal of nuclear weapons. In his mind, this is his moment, his triumphal historical drama, and damn the cost.”

The style and substance of South Carolina basketball’s Dawn Staley.

“‘She loves on them hard,’ associate head coach and longtime confidante Lisa Boyer says. ‘She’s playful with them, she’s hugging them, she’s there for them. I think they sense the fairness. I think they sense the genuineness of her. She speaks to them — it’s not some fairy tale. She’s telling them the deal.'”

“‘I owe basketball,’ Staley says. ‘I’m forever indebted to it. It engulfed my life for the positive. The game has gotten more of my time than my friends and my family. I feel like on a smaller or larger scale, it can impact my players’ lives in some kind of way.'”

A Renowned Community of Quilters is Taking on Copycats—and Winning.

“’We put a lot of work into it, and it’s about our life,’ Charley says of quilting. . . . We used these quilts for warmth. It was about our struggle, and our survival.'”

“Charley might feel differently, she offers, if these makers — who may have, say, studied textiles at art school — sent some of their profits back to the community that inspired them. But that doesn’t happen. “This work is ‘inspired’ in your mind, because you see the quilt pattern,” Charley says. “But you don’t know my story. And you’re going to try and duplicate it — and go to Joann Fabrics to do it?’”

The Age Of ‘Anti-Ambition’

A phrase for our times by The New York Times’ Noreen Malone. Subtitle, “When 25 million people leave their jobs, it’s about more than just burnout.”

Among the insights:

“. . . last month a Business Insider article declared that companies ‘are actively driving their white-collar workers away by presuming that employees are still thinking the way they did before the pandemic: that their jobs are the most important things in their lives. . .'”

“. . . a Gallup poll that showed that last year only a third of American workers said they were engaged in their jobs.”

Malone adds:

“Recently, I stumbled across the latest data on happiness from the General Social Survey, a gold-standard poll that has been tracking Americans’ attitudes since 1972. It’s shocking. Since the pandemic began, Americans’ happiness has cratered. The graph looks like the heart rate has plunged and they’re paging everyone on the floor to revive the patient. For the first time since the survey began, more people say they’re not too happy than say they’re very happy.”

Given the constant updating of statistics, the physical devastation caused by the pandemic is obvious. In contrast, the negative mental health effects lurk below the surface. If like me, you’re firmly on the ‘happy side’ of the ledger, keep in mind that we’re in the minority. Consequently, let’s strive to grant others more grace than normal.

A Swim To Remember—60th Birthday Edition

It’s hard to believe, given my good looks, but as of today I have completed my sixth decade on Planet Earth. Yesterday I “celebrated” the big 6-0 by heading to the local YMCA to attempt 60×100 yards, and although some spectators might claim to have seen me miss the send off on a couple of the later 100s, there are no official reports supporting this.

Given that I’m clearly starting to lose it (What other evidence does one need to prove that “it” is being lost than thinking 60×100 constitutes a birthday celebration? None, in my book.) I’m passing the baton for today’s birthday post to the two best writers in the family – my incredible daughters who are always right about everything, A and J.
“Hello, loyal readers of Pressing Pause! We are pleased that you read our dad’s blog – it makes him happy, so it makes us happy. But we can’t give him too big of a head (it’s important to stay vigilant about this) so please don’t encourage him too much.

In honor of our dad’s 60th, we’d like to share a few fond memories from over the years. Before we were old enough to really know how lucky we were, his job gave our family the chance to live in China and see pandas, play elaborate hide and seek games, get pneumonia, make friends, and learn tai-chi. Five years later, we got lucky again, and his job took us all to Norway. There, we did very little except go on walks, because it’s an expensive country and if you know our dad then we don’t need to elaborate any further. We’ve also had a blast cheering for our dad at countless races – running races, biking races, swimming races, and, believe it or not, races that combine running, biking, and swimming. His interests really are inspiringly varied!

And he’s been there for some of the most important moments of our life, like when he took our whole family to see Tears of a Camel, a movie that featured an excruciatingly long shot of a camel’s eye and marked the first time both of us fell asleep during a movie. He has also been there cheering us on for some of the other most important moments of our life, like graduations, violin recitals, swim meets, business ventures, cross-country moves and new jobs. We think he’s been the best dad we could have asked for, and for his birthday, we wanted to make sure that everyone else knew it, too.

We can’t believe we get to say that the author of Pressing Pause is our dad, and we’re thrilled to wish him a happy 60th birthday. To sixty more!

Love,A and J

P.S. He doesn’t love boats, just in case that’s a useful piece of information for any of his friends out there that like to prank him.”

Sometimes I Can Only Muster The Strength To . . .

. . . read headlines. Recently, I’ve been diagnosed with “CEFS” or Current Events Fatigue Syndrome.

Some recent headlines are funny enough that I don’t even have to read the article. My spirit is already lifted.

I Became Extremely Hot In The Pandemic. My Husband Did Not.

Okay, so maybe I didn’t read it because I was afraid the Good Wife wrote it.

Some recent headlines are so cringe-worthy I can’t bring myself to read the article. This is CEFS in action. In increasing order of cringe:

Misinformation Is A Pandemic That Doesn’t Have A Headline

Tie for First. . .

Election Offices And School Board Meetings Could Become Weapons-free Zones In Washington

Report: World’s 10 Richest Men Doubled Their Wealth During COVID Pandemic

And sometimes since I know how the story is going to turn out, it’s unnecessary to read on.

Help! My Husband Throws Away My Things Without Asking In The Name of “Minimalism.”

Dude’s wife divorces him. He moves into an apartment a few steps below the one he lived in during college. Can’t afford any real furniture to speak of, any art, anything. Shortly thereafter, dies from loneliness in his minimalist “paradise”.

Okay, so maybe I didn’t read that because I was afraid the Gal Pal may have authored it as well.

That Time My Nephew Called Me A “Miscreant”

A “miscreant” is a person who behaves badly or in a way that breaks the law.

See number 6. In fairness, it can’t be easy being a radical lefty in the wilderness known as Ohio. He’s also a diehard Ohio State football fan so he’s still reeling from the Wolverine ass whupping.

Put all that together and I’m gonna let it slide.

One noteworthy thing he sidesteps, he could never substack like that in China.