Saturday, July 31, 2010

Decisive independence: You got it? How do you know?

I've spent the past bunch of years working in and around the college crowd. Student friends, colleagues, teammates and competitors have filled my daily experiences. Mentoring young men and women, teaching, supporting and counseling young adult couples, career planning and professional development, leadership and spiritual formations are some of the ongoing themes in our shared time, interactions, and discussion. Rarely have I found these men and women wanting to be told who to be, how to act, what to like or what to pursue, when or how fast.

OK. Let me tell you a little story...

When I was a young teen a friend, Steve, and I enjoyed "running" his small boat up and down the Alsea River near the Oregon coast. The boat was powered by a portable Evinrude gasoline engine. As a general rule moving down the river toward Waldport, where the Alsea emptied into the Pacific Ocean, was always easier for the motor whether the tide was coming in or going out. That being said, it was dramatically more challenging for that little motor when the tide had been in (up), had just previously changed direction, and was now rapidly on its way back out toward the open sea!

When that happened all the river and ocean water previously forced up the stream by the advancing tide was "stacked" upriver for several miles. So when the tide had now clearly changed directions there was little to keep it from racing back toward the mouth of the river to escape into the bay. If Steve and I were in his little boat heading up the river just after the tide had changed, that little motor was working to push us, in that little boat, "uphill" against all that water now rushing back toward the bay and the open ocean.

Along the river's bank there were a lot of broken down and rotted docks, old moorings, some channel markers, and related river debris somehow fixed to the river bed deep below the water line. We'd pass these artifacts and structures on our way up or down the river.

On one of my first outings with Steve I remember how interesting it was to come upon a tightly anchored channel buoy. It was bobbing violently against an outgoing tide as we slowly chugged upstream against the same current to pass it. At that time I observed how by looking just at that "protesting" buoy, and if I had not known better, it would have been easy to conclude the buoy was in the jaws of some powerful unseen fish who was dragging it mercilessly and rapidly upstream! But because I knew we were moving (thanks to our busy little Evinrude) and I could assess our progress, albeit slow, by scanning the distant stationary river bank, I knew this buoy was "fixed" even though it appeared to be moving rapidly upriver against the current.

Think with me about that little cameo in time. Two things in that situation kept us properly oriented to what was actually going on there: 1) we could hear the motor, and 2) we could scan the distant river bank to see we were making progress against an outgoing tide. But consider what our conclusion could have been (potentially disorienting?) had we been unable to hear the motor or (for whatever reason) we were unable to see the distant shore?

We could suspect the only consistently stubborn and illogical age group we'll come across are two year-old children. O.K., humor aside, I know that's a really dangerous combination--stubborn and illogical. Beyond infancy and early childhood, most thinking people don't find themselves being really stubborn and really illogical (at the same time) unless they are or were blinded by some form of intense emotional or psychological trauma. But as we all know it doesn't mean people can't be fooled--that is, for example, confused into thinking their getting one thing they want when they're actually getting something they don't want. Of course, Smarter Romance is all about trying to help people avoid the disappointment of such situations.

I made a statement in my last blog about the intensely manipulative nature of today's society. It's true (and we'll consider some of those things in the next blog). So, how does one avoid manipulation? Perhaps by knowing one's self, knowing facts, being aware of one's surroundings (hearing the hummm of the Evinrude), keeping a fresh perspective, having or keeping some dependable "anchor" or reference points ("the river bank"), being accountable to others, having a vital support network, etc.

When a person is young (or maybe just in a new relationship) you want to think your charting a course, making decisions, doing things that will be in your best interests. How do you know? Do you have an evaluative criteria? OK, so you make a decision to do something. How do you know you made it? Maybe you were influenced by something or someone else at the time?

Smarter Romance is about helping people initiate, grow, and enjoy healthy cross-gender relationships. As I said before, rarely have I found men and women wanting to be told who to be, how to act, what to like or what to pursue, when or how fast. So the challenge to me is that of helping you make your choices as free from coercive influences (mine or your other influences) as might be possible. I appreciate it when you help me help you around that stuff--and SR will help you do the rest.

Until next time. Be safe, have fun, and above all be smart.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Who's really treating you like a little kid?

In a previous blog entry (April 22) I posed this little scenario: Let's pretend I hand you a little book to read--say it's only ten pages long. As I hand it to you I tell you that reading it will bring about one of the most normal, pleasant, and potentially gratifying experiences you will ever experience in your entire life. I also emphasize that it's a story you are supposed to prepare for, anticipate, and get excited about for your future. However, I similarly warn you how that if you choose to read the little book now, so you can experience the tale's pleasant affects now, at this time in your life, it will undoubtedly mean you won't be able to experience the level of satisfaction you could have had. It will also mean, if you read it now, that you won't be able to replicate and prolong the level of satisfaction you do experience in the way you would have had you waited. OK. So, what will you do with the book?

You're probably thinking about how obviously transparent that little story sounds?
Am I right? And that line of thinking may, in turn, lead you to wonder if I'm thinking of you as a little five-year old child struggling to save your Christmas candy cane. Seriously, no, that's not my intent because if that's true then we're all "little kids." We all struggle with temptations like this.

So I can affirm to you that we're all candidates for this kind of temptation. Whether it is the explosion of a minty Christmas candy cane on our tongue's taste buds or the release endorphins to the pleasure centers of our brain; we're all potential targets.

Targets? If you pose my scenario to your friends and neighbors most all of them would probably report their desire to wait--although you would get some discussion. It's a fun scenario posing a relatively tough situation. I think everyone would agree, too, that some people find resisting temptations like these harder than do other people. That's the way life and people work.

But all-in-all here's where I'm going with this: we've never lived in a societal environment that is more manipulated than the one we're presently living in. That's a fact! And how does that fact play into this discussion and what are it's implications for dating and romance--and you? Give it some consideration and we'll continue this discussion in the next blog entry.

In the meantime be safe, have fun, and be smart!