Moving Target Syndrome

28 Dec

Every so often I am involved in conversations that go something like this:

Wife: “You know why we never do anything? Because we never plan to go anywhere. Trips don’t just happen, they need to be saved for and planned.”

Me: “OK, how about this – it is late December now, how about if this June we plan to drive through Europe like you have been wanting to do for years, then in August of next year we could fly into Boston and drive through the US like you mentioned last week?”

Wife: “But the kids HATE driving in the US because all we ever do is drive forever to spend time with people who they have never met.”

I respond to her statement by pulling together elements that I have reason to believe will hit the right target feelings for her. The goals are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound), they address the need that she was talking about and they include specific trips that she has brought up in the recent past. Despite all of that, she points out challenges rather than getting on board. When she talked about the exact same trips they were a dream, but when I brought them up in response to her complaint that we never plan anything they suddenly seem impossible.

She then points out that trips like that cost a lot of money. I told her that I have been saving specifically for things of that nature, among other things all of the Christmas presents that I just bought for her and the kids came from that account. At that, she asks if I ever think about getting the house fixed up.

To review –

Statement A) Trips need to be planned

Response to A) Here are some plans

Counter-response) Those won’t work

Statement B) Trips need to be saved for

Response to B) I have that covered

Counter-response) Do you ever think about getting the house fixed up?

My responses never hit the target. Is that because the target gets moved, or is it because I’m responding to her words without properly interpreting the underlying subtext? It seems that even when I think I have completely covered her possible concerns, she goes off on another tangent that makes our previous topic irrelevant.

When I bring this up as another case of “Moving Target Syndrome” she says that she has never understood what I meant by that. This makes me feel like Sheldon Cooper having a conversation with Penny. We each keep missing the other’s point. What can I do about this?

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Poetry Corner – SAD Song

25 Sep

SAD* song

 

The morning and my mood keep getting darker by the day

Grey skies weighing heavy on my heart

Wrapping up in layers just to keep the cold at bay

And hoping for the autumn sun to force the clouds to part

 

This season’s charms are no less than the others

But somehow they are often lost on me

I force myself to raise my glance, to drink the colors in

‘Cause if I don’t I’ll soon succumb to the law of gravity

 

Autumn always finds me falling deep into despair

I need your light, your shelter from the storm

And when you’re gone I can’t go on, my world just falls apart

Stay with me, lay with me and keep this body warm

 

Remind me of the times we’ve felt the sunshine

The heat so strong we scrambled for the shade

Tropical vacations are just dreams to me right now

If I could bring that feeling back I’d have it made

 

Tell me of the good times that are coming

Help me build a bridge that takes me to good times to be

Give me strength to last until the solstice bottoms out

And sunshine starts to fill the day again, I want to see

 

It’s just Autumn that always finds me falling deep into despair

I need your light, your shelter from the storm

And when you’re gone I can’t go on, my world just falls apart

Stay with me, lay with me and keep this body warm

 

*Seasonal Affective Disorder: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seasonal_affective_disorder

Poetry Corner – Lifeline

25 Sep

Lifeline

Winter comes, an enemy unrelenting

Cold winds and snow, November brings the night

Bodies wrapped in layers of isolation

Our armored selves resisting with all our might

Deep inside, a spark of hope is hidden

My beating heart marks time with springtime’s score

The promise of parole from winter’s prison

In a place where I can be myself once more

Springtime melts my frozen soul

The sensuous kiss of sunshine on my skin

And I don’t care if it’s only temporary

As long as I can forget about winter yet again

My flight is called, the tears aren’t far from coming

The reprieve too short, my furlough from the cold

I am strong enough to make it, but I promise –

This will not last, I’ll escape before I’m too old

Springtime melts my frozen soul

The sensuous kiss of sunshine on my skin

And I don’t care if it’s only temporary

As long as I can forget about winter yet again

Simple, really

18 Aug

Someone who can laugh at my jokes (honestly)

Someone who is confident enough to enjoy physical activities without worrying what I think about their performance

Someone who is glad to see me

Someone who knows how to enjoy their own body and is not shy about it

Someone who is playful

Someone who understands the concepts of challenge AND reward

Someone who might sometimes agree that sex is more of a priority than sleep

Someone who enjoys sharing their friends with me

Someone who is willing to be physically and emotionally intimate

Someone who thinks that my best is good enough

The Best Advice

27 Apr

From the movie How Do You Know

Lisa: So I was just wondering if there was one general thing that you’ve found over the years to be generally true in a general way that would help anyone in any situation?
Psychiatrist: That’s a great question, yes, I would say figure out what you want and learn how to ask for it.
Lisa: OK. Those are both really hard.

When I saw this movie a while back this particular quote from the Psychiatrist jumped off the screen and slapped me across the face. It is the key to so much of what I do in life. 1) Figure out what you want, and 2) Learn how to ask for it. So easy to see the truth and simplicity of it, but so difficult to put into practice.

You would think that figuring out what you want would be the simple part, but right away we run into a number of potential complications. What if we want something that we perceive as being unavailable to us? It could be unavailable for reasons of legality, morality or economy, or it could be simple physics (can’t be in two places at the same time). Other impossibilities include wanting to change things about the past, or wanting things from certain people that they are not capable of providing. So figuring out what I want will not be helpful if what I want is for Paulina Porizkova to have fallen in love with me instead of with Ric Ocasek but to be OK with Charlize Theron popping by for a threesome every once in a while.

It is a bit like setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, ones that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound. Constraining the definition of what you want within those boundaries is likely to lead to a higher level of success than if we insist on longing after things that are vague, impossible to measure, unattainable, irrelevant, unspecific as to duration or any combination of the above.

Like most BWG’s I’d like to think that my wants are pretty straightforward. There are plenty of things that I wouldn’t turn down if they were easily available, but my basic needs don’t seem so complicated to me. That in no way prevents them from seeming inscrutable to my spouse. For example, my desire for some form of logical organization of the contents of the refrigerator prioritized by size and frequency of use is a complete mystery to her. We have a small refrigerator, and the fact that there is only one shelf with the headroom to handle cartons of milk and juice (which are used daily) has never prevented her from loading the front of that shelf with a bewildering assortment of small, seldom-used items which block easy access to said cartons. After 20+ years of marriage I have long since stopped trying to explain how I think the fridge might be better arranged and why. She doesn’t understand, doesn’t care and just thinks I am being a pain if I point anything out.

The feeling that my wants introduce an array of needless complications into her existence might explain my current crisis of not getting what I want. I just got back home after a 2 week  trip – my first such extended absence in almost 6 years. (Note: she has had several such trips over the same time period.) I miss my family when we are not together. I am a physical person and was raised in a demonstrative, touchy-feely family with lots of hugging and physical reassurance. Going without that when we are not together is tolerable in part because I can at least have the illusion that we all feel the same way and that we will make up for lost hugs when we are reunited. (Hugs with my kids, and perhaps more than just that with my wife.) When I got back from this most recent trips my daughter was predictably cuddly, and even my teenage son was the source of several unsolicited pats and hugs. Not the case with my wife. No, she’s not mad at me. She just thinks that things were very peaceful without me around, and peace is what she wants most in life.

Figure out what you want and learn how to ask for it? I want more physical intimacy. I’m not talking about nymphomania, just some sort of indication that I was missed and that it seems good that I am back. How good? Show me. Convince me. As it is, I’m looking at taking more out-of-town jobs because the illusion of maybe being missed while gone is more comforting than the loneliness of returning and sharing a bed with someone who doesn’t hug you back.

Am I asking for something that unreasonable? As a BWG I am used to being considered the bad guy, but am I really asking for too much in this case?

Explaining the unexplainable

18 Dec

Here’s one for the ladies.

A recent YouTube video highlights some basic differences in perspective and understanding between men and women, so as a public service I will attempt to explain a male perspective (at least THIS male’s perspective) regarding the role that sexual attraction plays in our lives.

Ladies, imagine that you have a specific event that you are looking forward to. It could be a party, a dinner, a night on the town, a visit to the opera or the ballet. Something that you have written in your calender in ink in big, bold letters with more than one exclamation point and maybe even a happy face. This happening will require a suitable outfit, and you have been planning this for months. You found the perfect dress for it 3 weeks ago and have so far been able to match it with some great nail polish and lingerie. There is, however one item still missing from the ensemble – the perfect pair of shoes. They will be just the right shade of (insert color here) and be wonderfully strappy with exactly the right heel. You’ve already scheduled time to get your hair, nails and feet done, so all that is left are the perfect wrappers for your soon-to-be-perfect feet.

For whatever reason today you happen to be visiting a nearby city, walking through a shopping district in the early afternoon when out of the blue you see them. They are almost too good to be true, the holy grail of footwear. Exactly perfect in every detail, but it is much too pricey a shop. Every tag that you can see is at least 3x more than you would ever allow yourself to spend on shoes, so you almost don’t even want to find out how much they want for perfection, let alone whether they might have them in your size.

Just as you are making your move toward the door of your newly-found Xanadu of shoes, you catch a whiff of the most delicious comestible delight that you know – (insert name of insanely desirable food item here.) It has been such a long time since you last enjoyed this ecstatic taste experience but since the olfactory sense is directly tied to the limbic lobe and has direct override access to our memory centers. The result is that the concentrated wonderfulness of every previous encounter with this glorious monument to the epicurean arts crashes like a wave over your consciousness, temporarily blinding you to the task at hand.

The fact that it is nearly 90 minutes after your normal lunch time and that you had an early breakfast before leaving your hometown adds to your cognitive dissonance. The object of your long search is close at hand, but your sudden hunger has taken at least part of your mind hostage. You have even gone so far as to take your eye off the prize to turn your head in search of the source of the wonderful scent. There it is, two doors down from the shoe store – a tiny café cozily tucked in amongst the larger shops. Resting easily after the lunch rush, it beckons with a tantalizing hint of an ambiance within that might possibly match the wonderful scents that first caught your attention.

An internal struggle – which demand on your attention will get the upper hand?

To a guy, whatever he is working or playing with at the time is a bit like the shoes, while sexual attraction is something like the distracting and periodically recurring hunger set off by the sight, scent or thought of some wonderfully fulfilling and tantalizing memory or fantasy. We need to eat. Hunger is a part of our everyday lives. Sometimes we enjoy it more than others. Sometimes it rocks our world. Even so, it isn’t possible for us to have such a great meal that we won’t ever think about eating again, or for us to have such a foul experience that we will swear off food altogether. Fasting may work for a while, but eventually our hunger returns, clawing its way into our consciousness and taking progressively more of our attention until we are pretty much forced to do something about it.

From what I’ve read and what I’ve seen in life I suspect that for a significant percentage of women sexual attraction is more like the pair of shoes. Like their biblical nemesis the cold-blooded serpent, they need to eat, but not anywhere near as frequently as do those whose blood runs hot. Once the party wardrobe is complete (the babies are born) these women experience a more or less permanent shift in emphasis. The purpose has been served. There may be new projects in the future, but it isn’t at all the regularly recurring need, the hunger that can only be satiated on a temporary basis.

It does not seem that many men experience this same shift. For most, the primal urge continues. Controlled for the most part, but unextinguished. The popularity of medicines to treat erectile dysfunction supports my contention that the spirit remains willing even if the flesh may be weak.

I’m sure that separate bed hermits can find bliss with each other just as those with more frequent and urgent needs for physical contact do, but my heart goes out to those who are mismatched in this respect with their partners, no matter what combination of X’s and Y’s may be involved.

Reasonable and unreasonable

18 Dec

Wife has been gone 4 days doing important family-type stuff. No problem with that. Kids have been great, things have run smoothly. Did all of the laundry that was in our baskets as well as the kids’ baskets last night so that she wouldn’t have any extra to do when she got home this afternoon. Lots of stuff to hang dry because she thinks that it is too delicate to go in the dryer. I respect that.

After dinner she discovers that one of her favorite dresses is hanging with the rest of the laundry that didn’t go in the dryer. She says “I sure hope that this dress didn’t get washed because it is dry clean only and is now about 4 sizes too small.”

Where to begin…

Of course the dress got washed. That is why it was hanging there, and that is why it shrunk. It was in the laundry basket. The tag reads “Wash with like colors” so that’s what I did. There were knitted sweaters and other things on the floor beside the basket that did not get washed because they are dry clean only, or they are wool and need to go on another cycle without fabric softener so that the fibers will not be chemically weakened and lose their shape. The material tag says that it is Viscose, but it was purchased here in Europe and made somewhere in Asia, so I assume they mean Rayon. Must be HWM (High Wet Modulus) Rayon if they claim that it is washable. (Look it up. I did.)

I read labels. I used to tutor physics and in high school I got an award for being one of only two junior chemistry students at our school who in a nationwide test came out above the 90th percentile in chemistry. I understand how surfactants and enzymes and detergents and even catalysts work. My wife doesn’t understand any of this. All that she knows is that a dress that she had mentally labeled “Dry Clean Only” because she bought a small because the medium was just a tad too baggy to be flattering is now too small for her.

I understand that she is sad. I understand that she wishes that I had not washed it. I understand why she is saying that she thinks it would be better if I didn’t do her laundry anymore. What I can’t figure out is why this is my fault or what I could reasonably have been expected to do differently to prevent it from happening.