Eggs in One Basket

Lately I’ve been thinking about the truth behind the cliché, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Yesterday I thought of how it lines up with Stephen Covey’s concept about finding one’s center. Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a huge Covey fan, and I’m amazed and pleased at how often his writing comes to mind.

According to Dr. Covey, in order to get where you’re going, you need to find your center, what it is that you’re all about. After writing about the various centers that a person can have, he discusses the importance of having universal principles of fairness, love, equality, integrity, kindness, and honesty at one’s core. These values are timeless, unchanging, and present in every culture. They won’t let us down.

Often we have other centers that give our lives focus and direction. Examples from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People include self, family, spouse, friends, work, and religion (or church). All of those things are good and are valuable. BUT sometimes when they’re at the very core of a person and he (or she) loses one, then the person’s whole world falls apart.

  • If your family is more important to you than anything else, and then someone in your family dies, gets put in prison, goes astray, or lets you down, your world could come crumbling down if that’s all you ‘ve got. Think empty nest syndrome.
  • If your job is primary in your life and you lose it for whatever reason and have nothing else of importance, you’re anchorless.
  • If you’re enemy-centered, and thoughts of getting even are foremost on your mind, then that person is in control of your life and thoughts, not you. Covey gave a great example of a man who was thinking of leaving the university and taking his family with him to another locale because there was a person in his department who was the bane of his existence.
  • If you’re friend centered, your friends might get busy with other aspects of their lives and neglect you. What then? Are there other eggs in your basket?
  • If you’re spouse centered, that person could disappoint you, perhaps even find another.
  • If you’re church-centered, what happens when its teachings don’t line up with what you consider to be “right?”

Again, caring about the above events and people are important. Covey just reminds his readers to have some balance in their lives and to have fundamental values and principles as guiding forces in our lives, thus keeping us from cracking when our baskets drop.

Have you ever put all of your eggs in one basket? If so, how has that worked out for you?

 

 

In Sickness and in Health

 While chatting with my brother last night, he reminded me that I haven’t written anything based on what makes a marriage work. Maybe it’s because I don’t have any surefire answers, or maybe it’s because I’ve been busy. Or maybe it’s both. In any case, I promised him that I’d tackle that question this morning so here goes. Most of the post is based on an informal poll taken during a recent wedding weekend.

 When you see a couple preparing to love each other till death do they part and so on, it makes you think about what it’s all about. What does “in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer” really mean?  Most of the time the bride and groom are still so starry eyed and in good health that they can’t imagine the beloved dead broke, sick as a dog, or rude and dismissive.

So here are some of the tidbits I gleaned from toasts, polling, and personal observation. While intended for Ben and Jessica, these tips apply to any and all. Just what are some of the most important things to remember in making it last?

Having fun together. I think it’s important for a couple to do things outside of the house. They need to actually have a date night and/or to do things that keep them out of the rut.

Being willing to compromise. You can’t always have your way. Maybe it’s time to have Thanksgiving with his (or her) family.

Going for a win/win. Stephen Covey addresses this point in his Seven Habits book. Try to think of a solution that is mutually beneficial for both partners. While this sounds like compromise, it’s deeper and involves more thought.

Making deposits in the emotional bank account. Another of Covey’s ideas, this is a #1 activity in our household. Making regular deposits will come in handy when you make a withdrawal. I have a high school friend whose husband often stops by Wal-Mart after work and buys flowers for his wife. He’s not the kind of guy who does this sort of thing in a keeping score sort of way. He does it because she loves flowers, and he likes to make her happy. At the same time, at some  point in their life together, he might be forgetful  rude, moody, sullen, or distant, and I have a feeling that his wife won’t hold it against him. She’ll remember all of the many deposits (and not just in the flower purchasing department) that he’s made and will cut him some slack.

Putting the other person first. Getting rid of selfishness. This is a hard one for me and one I’d like to elaborate on. One day I came home from church, and my husband asked what I’d learned. When I told him that I’d been advised to put him first and to think of his happiness, he asked, “You had to go to church to learn that? I always think of things that might make you happy.” I was taken aback for a few moments because I realized that often, very often, I think of Jaynie and what she wants.

Having space. Giving each other space. When my sister-in-law Becky suggested this one, I immediately thought of Kahil Gibran’s poem entitled “On Marriage” in which he advises couples to let there be “space in your togetherness.” He mentions the pillars of a temple and how they’re far apart in order to uphold the structure. If they’re too close to each other, the structure would tumble and fall.

Communicating. Hmmm. Easier said than done. Men and women are so different from the get-go. Psychologists say our differences begin in the early stages of life, even before we’re born. When that little male embryo is flooded with testosterone, well, that’s just the beginning. Books have been written on this very topic so I’m recommending that you seek knowledge there. I just have to say,however,that learning how to speak up for yourself in the right manner and at the right time are crucial. No yelling and no snarky, hateful comments.

Respecting and loving the partner. As my sister-in-law Lisa reminded me, men need respect, and women need love. So true. We want to be cherished, and men want to be honored.

Being able to handle conflict. You have to learn when to keep things to yourself and when and how to bring up troubling issues. Interestingly, John Gottman who’s written extensively about marriage and what makes it work, says that sometimes it’s okay to sweep things under the rug.He adds that sometimes you just have to let things go too. For instance, I could yell and pout and whine about my husband’s obsession with hunting and sports, but why???? It’s not going to do any good, and it only poisons the atmosphere. Just find hobbies and interests of your own. That’s what I did, and it’s worked marvelously.

Having a purpose. I can see the value of this. I feel like if I went around and asked, “What’s your purpose for being married?” I’d get a lot of blank stares.

Time to bring this to an end and get to my next project. I just want to reiterate that I don’t have all the answers. If I did, I’d still be in my first marriage. All I know is that a successful marriage doesn’t just happen. It takes work, and it takes two to tango. Enough said.

Books Save Lives

Books have saved my life…and my psyche. My name is Jayne, and I’m a bibliophile.

My name is Jayne, and I’m a bibliophile. So are some of my friends. My children are too. In fact, I borrowed this quote from my son Paul’s blog (http://pbcrolley.tumblr.com) because I liked it so much.

“I know that books don’t save lives on the grand scale. They don’t end wars and such. They don’t cure cancer. But at the same time, books saved my life. And I know they’ve done that for friends of mine. Writing and reading bond me to other people—at its best, literature makes me feel less alone in the world. Great people, great books, great music—these are things that remind me of what beauty people are capable of creating and spreading through the world. So, maybe books do save lives—just not in a dramatic way.” Rob Roberge: The TNB Self-Interview (via synecdoche

I bought a Kindle a few weeks ago and am absolutely loving it. Where I go, it goes. I can even take to church because I’ve downloaded the Bible and the Book of Mormon on it. Today if I tire of reading my latest book delivered by Whispernet, The Motion of the Ocean, I can read bits and pieces of the other 27 books lined up at “home.” Last week Martha and I visited a book store at Edisto, and I bought six books. Six books! Isn’t that a bit excessive for one visit? Yes and no. They were gently used books shelved in the back room of the shop and so their prices were greatly reduced. Plus, I bought two of them to give as gifts.

As we were looking at the selection, I spied The History of Love, a book I’d heard described on NPR and had ordered from Amazon the week before. Martha bought it that afternoon. I wonder if she’s begun reading it yet. It’s none of my business of course. It’s just that yesterday she mentioned her obsession with books and declared that her book buying frenzy had to cease, at least until she read those she’d recently purchased. My other friends are like this too, especially Connie and Kristi.

My children love books too. While their tastes and interest vary widely, they’re all three Harry Potter fans. The girls love all sorts of fiction, and both read an array of nonfiction based on their current lifestyles, Carrie about raising children and Elizabeth about teaching and decorating. Lately, Paul seems to be reading more psychology and counseling material since that’s to be his life’s work. All of them know where to find spiritual words of wisdom too. All know where to read reminders like “Live in thanksgiving daily.”

Books have saved my life…and my psyche. My favorite book from childhood is The Little Engine that Could; because of it, I’ll usually keep on keeping on even when the journey gets rough. I say “usually” because there’s no sense in trying to control the uncontrollable. A favorite from adulthood is The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, no surprise to the people who know me. Dr. Covey’s words reminded me that I and I alone am the master of my fate and that it’s fruitless and a little crazy to blame other people for unhappiness or lack or growth. This morning I dipped into Simple Abundance by Sarah ban Breathnach and was reminded that “Even lousy days possess hidden wonder.” I’m thinking of the novels I’ve read this year and how each one has expanded my horizons and yet narrowed the gap between my fellow earthlings and me. In my book club, we’ve read several books about women and their choices, and I’m amazed at how despite race, socioeconomic status, culture, and century, we’re more similar than not. We face the same battles, heartaches, joys, anxieties, and dreams.

Is there a book that changed your life? Tell me about it.

Is Anger Okay?

My sister and I recently had a discussion about anger, and I told her that I sincerely believe that feeling anger is A-okay. It’s a normal human emotion. I also feel that acting on it is okay IF you do it in a managed sort of way. Hitting people, throwing things, having hissy fits, and hurling belittling insults is not a managed sort of way. In fact, I feel assured that having temper tantrums will lose friends and respect…not to mention jobs and perhaps your family.

The key is to express your anger in a way that gets your point across without losing your cool. I don’t have any pat formulas for doing this correctly, but I try to follow Stephen Covey’s advice to keep the courage/consideration balance. You have to have enough courage to speak up for yourself and get your point/anger/hurt/disappointment across, but at the same time you have to have consideration for the other person’s feeling. It’s tough. Just when you want to shake someone or give him (or her) a good tongue lashing, you have to pull back a little. At the same time, if you hold back too much, the other party might not even know you’re annoyed or angry and therefore keep doing whatever he was doing that perturbs you so much.

As Ann and I were talking, I mentioned a quote by Aristotle about anger, but I couldn’t remember it all at the time. I’ve since looked it up: “Anyone can become angry. That is easy; but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way, that is not within everyone’s power. That is not easy.”

A cardinal rule of behavioral psychology is that you teach people how to treat you. Consequently, you owe it to yourself and to others to let them know when they’ve crossed the line. How else will they know? If you’re being taken advantage of, talked down to, or used, get angry enough to take up for yourself. NOW.

Making Deposits

 

While I’m no expert on marriage and family relations, I do know a few things from experience, observation, and research that contribute to successful relationships. One particular concept that’s on my mind today is Stephen Covey’s emotional bank account. My husband and I discussed this before we got married, and we’re still referring to it. Why? Because it works.

A simple but revolutionary idea, the emotional bank account works pretty much like a bank account at a financial institution.  If I want to use my debit card, I have to make regular deposits to my account. I also have to make sure that the money in my account is sufficient to cover all withdrawals; otherwise, I’ll be overdrawn and have to pay a huge overdraft fee. Naturally, I don’t like that so I keep a close watch on my expenditures.

The idea of deposits and withdrawals works exactly the same in interpersonal relationships. This is so simple to see, and yet sometimes emotions like anger or resentment or plain old selfishness get in the way of our vision. Often we get so caught up in what we want when we want it that we can’t see the dynamics that are going on.  “Me-ness” runs rampant.

While everyone has a different idea of what constitutes a deposit, sincere compliments, hugs, acts of service, and common courtesies can make everyone stand a little taller.  Is it really that hard to say, “You look great,” or to iron your husband’s shirt (or your wife’s blouse)?  These are little things, and yet I’m convinced that in relationships, the little things are the big things.  Apologizing when you’ve hurt or disappointed someone can actually be a deposit. So can occasionally doing things you don’t really enjoy like accompanying your sweetie to an event that’s important to him. Not because you like basketball games or church socials but because you love the person.

Deposits are important because sooner or later you’re going to make a withdrawal, usually unintentionally.  Sometimes it’s something little like forgetting to pick up the dry-cleaning, and sometimes it’s a doozy like forgetting an anniversary. At times like these, you need to make sure your account is still solvent.

Not long ago my daughter Carrie was putting some clothes that her husband Rich had washed into the dryer when she began to notice stains that hadn’t been Shouted out, and now the tiny shirts were ruined for good. Plus, Rich had used hot water, and some dark clothes had faded on some white ones. She began to get exasperated and downright angry as she thought, “How hard would it have been to pick up the Shout and spray it on Emma’s shirt? And why couldn’t he reach up and change the water temperature to warm?” Still fuming, she then began to remember all of the wonderful things Rich did for the children and her every single day.  Before her laundry experience was over, she was feeling grateful again, and their relationship was “in the chips.” If Rich had not consistently made deposits, her anger could have escalated to the point that she’d have been really irritated and critical.

 A friend of mine used to call this “piling up your chips.” Call it what you like. Just do it. Just make some deposits and see what happens.

Deposits and Withdrawals

Here’s another Stephen Covey post. It’s not that Dr. Covey said (in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) anything that I didn’t already know in some part of my being; it’s that he said things in a different way, one that spoke directly to my heart and mind. This morning when I walked in the dining room and saw a newly upholstered chair, Covey’s concept of the emotional bank account came to mind.

 People in all sorts of relationships have emotional bank accounts whether it’s a friendship, a marriage, a love relationship, a parent-child relationship, or any other type of bond. Each individual has the opportunity to make various types of deposits, something that’s necessary because each person is sooner or later going to make some withdrawals. What each party needs to do is to make sure that deposits outweigh withdrawals. This concept is so simple that I can’t believe that I didn’t think of it myself. 

Think for a moment about your checking account. I know more or less at any given moment about how much money I have in my account. Before I pay a huge bill, indulge in a new pair of shoes, or buy a shower gift, I need to know how much I can spend. If I spend more than I have in the account, I overdraw. Who wants that? I’m better at financial management now that I was when I was a younger person juggling the needs of a growing family, but there have been a few unpleasant moments when I overdrew and had to pay a big penalty.  Paying overdraft fines is something I try to avoid, and I’m conscientious about the ratio of deposits to withdrawals.

Dr. Covey suggests applying this same principle to our relationships with others. DH and I have discussed this principle many times, and although he’s not that into psychology or “touchy-feely” issues, he likes this concept. In fact, he’ll often ask, “Am I overdrawn?” In case either of us feels underappreciated, we might say, “Did you notice that deposit?” “Does baking brownies count as a deposit?” “Did you notice that I picked up the pinecones, cleaned up the kitchen, or ironed your shirts? “ You’d think that people wouldn’t need reminders, but they do. In intimate relationships, people often tend to take each other for granted. At the same time, sometimes they’re quick to judge another’s shortcomings or flaws.

Lately DH has been spending a lot of time with his hunting cronies in the woods. Many afternoons and every Saturday can find him sitting in a deer stand waiting for Bambi. This past Sunday AFTER all day in the woods Saturday, he played golf with his brothers.  I was beginning to feel a little neglected and asked him to pencil in some couple time for this upcoming weekend. He listened and then reminded me that we had spent a couple of hours selecting plants and trees for the yard Saturday after lunching together at Zaxby’s.  “Doesn’t that count for something?” he asked.  Yes, as a matter of fact it does, and he’s in no danger of overdrawing the account.

Yesterday, however, he made what I call a thousand dollar deposit. He recovered one of the two dining room chairs that I recently purchased at a thrift store.  They’re the perfect accompaniment to the oak dining table and the four wasabi chairs that sit in our russet colored dining room. After unscrewing the seat of the chair, he placed it on a piece of fabric and cut the material a couple of inches larger. Next, he cut the foam to fit the chair seat bottom. Placing all three layers together and stretching the fabric as tightly as possible over the foam and chair bottom, he used his staple gun to secure the layers to each other.  Using his drill, he then secured the chair bottom to the chair itself. Voila! The chair I’d been hiding in a corner now sits in a prime location and sports a lovely brown, green, and blue fabric stretched over some comfortable foam.

When he left for work this morning, I told him how much I appreciated his handiwork and added that I saw it as a major deposit. He looked at me with a slight smile and said he might go to the woods for a little while this afternoon. That’s cool. After all, his account is healthy. Now I’m wondering how mine looks.

All Work and No Play?

This afternoon has me thinking about Stephen Covey’s 7th habit, Sharpen the Saw. I don’t have the book (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) in front of me at the moment, so this little explanation will be a paraphrase based on memory. Covey tells the story of a man trying hard to saw down a tree in the woods. The saw is rusty and dull, so the sawing is going slowly, and the woodcutter is especially tired. When asked why he doesn’t stop and sharpen his saw, he responds that he doesn’t have time. Doesn’t that sound cuckoo? He’d rather keep on getting nowhere fast than take a few minutes to sharpen his saw, an act that would speed up the tree cutting process and save some of his energy.

But can you see that little story applies to you? I can. In fact, this morning as I was out walking and enjoying this gorgeous weather, the woodcutter story came to mind. For the past two weekends, I’ve been doing fun stuff. Make that three weekends because the weekend I kept my precocious and beautiful grandchildren was a fun one too. Looking back, a few highlights include visits to two museums, dining out in cool restaurants (including a Mickey Dee’s where the grandchildren, Lib, and I enjoyed ice cream cones and fruit smoothies), getting a henna tattoo at Karma’s on Ocean Blvd. in Myrtle Beach (it’s already faded, alas), and shopping/ browsing.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been working, working, working too.  A strong believer in the Protestant work ethic, I buy into the “no free lunch” truism and have never been a shirker. Still…there comes a time when you need to walk away from the computer, the office, the firm, or the plant and sharpen the saw. When my children were little, one of my many mottoes was, “We work and then we play.” Too much work can make a person irritable, fatigued, and dull. Why some people think that working harder and harder and harder WITHOUT A BREAK is going to make them more successful and happier is beyond my comprehension.

Covey’s sharpening the saw recommendation is sort of like the phrase that, “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.”  I’ve been at the computer for several hours (off and on) today, and now it’s time to have some fun.  Hmmm. Maybe I’ll take some time out to go to the library and read some cool magazines…or perhaps try a new cookie recipe. Then again, I noticed that a movie I’ve been wanting to see is playing downtown. I’m for sure going to do something “sharpening” so that when I get back to the work, I’ll feel refreshed.

What about you?