Sunday, March 30, 2014

Good vs. Nice

I try to be good for a lot of reasons. Self-Respect runs a close 1-2 finish with Avoiding Hypocrisy because I absolutely have to tell my kids to be good, and I expect my husband to be good. Not perfect--not even nice--but connected to other people and actively trying to help those people through life. That's what I consider loving, and I don't see any other purpose to being alive. Sure, there's other activities we do to stay employed, or housed, or healthy, or smart. Let's call them adjuncts which only have meaning in the context of loving connection to other people.

I'll state again: I don't care about nice. I don't even care that much about happy. Both are pleasant, and I like pleasant, but if you separate out all the "extras" we add onto nice and happy, they're not essential to a good life. Nice (i.e. amiably pleasant) and Happy (i.e. in a buoyantly positive mood) are easier to bear than their opposites, but I'll take someone who is gruffly and annoyingly trying to steer me away from trouble over someone else who is too nice to risk provoking me by saying they're concerned. 

adjective: nice; comparative adjective: nicer; superlative adjective: nicest
  1. 1.
    pleasant; agreeable; satisfactory.
    "we had a nice time"
    synonyms:enjoyablepleasantagreeablegoodsatisfying, gratifying, delightfulmarvelousMore
    adjective: happy; comparative adjective: happier; superlative adjective: happiest; suffix:-happy
    1. 1.
      feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.
      "Melissa came in looking happy and excited"
      ,untroubleddelighted, smiling, beaming, grinning, in good spirits, in a good mood, lightheartedpleasedcontentedcontentsatisfied,gratified,


I once had a co-worker who was neither nice nor happy give me advice. I'm not sure what her motivation was but I'll assume it was concern. I was flustered after I heard from one of my children's prior social workers that their birth mom wanted to get in touch. She claimed the child had been stolen from her at birth 15 years prior during a bout of drug-taking forced on her by a bad influence and she wanted the child back. When told that the child had been adopted at age 2, she said she didn't care, she wanted to talk to her baby and explain

Quotes by Matthew Ray on Inspirably
And I was considering it before she went underground for another fifteen years. My husband disagreed but I was willing to go to the mat with him over allowing at least a phone call because it's nice to hear that you were wanted, and missed.  I thought it might make my child happy to hear this at least once after being abandoned in the hospital. 

Listening impatiently, this co-worker said "Stop tying to be nice. Who cares if it makes anyone happy? That won't last, don't be naive." I didn't like hearing this, but she was right. Niceness is sometimes unrealistic. Happiness leads to disappointment. And protecting your child is a fierce business. I'd never hesitated to say "no" to one my kids for their own good. In this case, I had to say "no" for one of my kids, for their own good. I told them a few years later, and they sulked, but understood because I acted out of love. 

In a hypocrisy-avoiding disclaimer, I often ask my kids to be nicer to each other, but that's because I use the word to mean "kind" and they all know it. But kind is an entirely different concept. Kind is important. 

noun: kindness
  1. 1.
    the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.
    synonyms:kindliness, kindheartedness, warmheartedness, affectionwarmth,gentleness,

    consideration, helpfulness, thoughtfulness, unselfishness,
    selflessness, altruismcompassionsympathyunderstanding, big-heartedness, benevolence, benignityfriendlinesshospitality,neighborliness;
    generositymagnanimity, charitableness
    "he thanked her for her kindness"

Kindness is how we best show love, both toward people we know and don't. Again, I don't mind some gruff displays of caring, but those sometimes get misunderstood. You have to know your audience. And don't forget yourself, as I was reminded in this blog: 

I tell my kids all the things I think are important to be happy in life. For one, I say "working a full-time job is the key to the house of happiness" because that's my shorthand for being independent. For another, I say "meeting in the middle is the the path to the happy place" because that child is uncompromising. But again, I don't really mean happy. I mean content, which doesn't have the same attraction to them but it's all I care about. Or more specifically, fulfilled. 

  1. 1.
    satisfied or happy because of fully developing one's abilities or character.
    sereneplacid,untroubled, at ease, at peace
    "the new job has me feeling fulfilled"

What more would you want for your kids than this?  To make a good life for themselves and be satisfied. 

In my experience, the only way to be fulfilled, to fully develop your abilities and character is to love wholeheartedly, and at great effort and cost. If I exercised with half the passion I try to love, I'd have torn muscles and road burn from falling to my knees. 

When you are born to or create or find people worthy of your love, how could there ever be a time you say "that's plenty?"

Even if they never know all you do for them. Even if it's only between you and God. 

This is why I'd say I'm good for me, because I need to love as fiercely as I can in order to feel worthy of love in return. And I'm good for people I care about--even if I know them peripherally or briefly--because they deserve no less. 

Especially the man who loves me best of all, and loves it when I post my blogs on time. 
Happy Birthday, Mark xxoo

Love, Lisa

Monday, March 24, 2014


I like reading romance because I think about love all the time, and I like reading well-written books of all types because they make me think, period. But I especially like well-written, young adult love stories because they're mysteries of self-discovery. Who am I? What do I want? Why do I desire that person? And how do I get them to like me back? At age 12, we know none of this. By age 15, we're supposed to have it all figured out. Often by 18, we're in a pattern that we'll stay in all our lives, sometimes with the person we'll marry. I started dating the man I married when I was 16.
 Buy Me :)
Or, read me at your local library.

Dye cast.

And yet I remember thinking at the time: What on earth am I doing? He doesn't like me (he was convincingly nonchalant). Other boys do. Go with those other boys.

But you can't change who you like, which you discover when you try. And that process of discovering who we are through who we like is fascinating. Books that capture it are often my favorite books of all.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is one of those books.  There's such a essence of truth about the book, like if you want to understand how we humans learn about life and love, watch this play out.

Adolescence is one burst of activity for our understanding ourselves and other people, and then figuring out how to expand or use that knowledge. Another chunk of info comes at us the first time we live with others outside our family, a roommate of any variety. Our first supervisory job. Our first long-time relationship. All build upon our knowledge base of how we're likely to act and react in different situations, and understanding how others will do the same. This is becoming the field of Personal Intelligence, which is a framework for a type of positive psychology, that is knowing yourself and others well enough to make the kind of choices that will lead to long-term happiness. Scientific American titled their article on the topic "How to Plan for Your Future Self."

Take a sample quiz here
When I was in grad school I was the TA for a course in Self-Understanding, and it was fun to teach and even better to take, but there was an edge of self-indulgence to what would sometimes be called "navel-gazing." Although the intention was to cultivate the kind of introspection that would help college students make informed life choices and the text book more engaging than most, it was a personality class disguised in a way that appealed to the inherent narcissism of kids that age. I doubt many of my former students remember much from the class because learning about personality theory is not the same as being good at studying people and making accurate predictions about how they'll perform under different sets of circumstances.

If you think about the people you know who are really good at this--whether a coach, boss, adviser, teacher, captain, friend--there's a security in knowing that in anything you do together,  chances for success are high because they understand human nature, and teach you in the process.

To me, Aristotle and Dante did the same.

Love, Lisa