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April 2020

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Craig and his wife, Nikki, enjoy the great outdoors surrounding Bend, Oregon

More Happiness in the COVID-19 Era?

In any relationship (Personal or Business), if we can’t be happy together at home in the “shelter in place COVID-19 era”, maybe we need to look in the mirror and be the change. That doesn’t mean you leave your partner, spouse or family and make a new life, it means we find greater happiness in ourselves and it may mean we take this COVID-19 era opportunity to create new better habits together.

The quote about how long it takes to form a new habit goes like this – “It takes 21 days to form a new habit.” Since so many self-help authors have written about making new habits and how long it takes to do so, I decided to find the genesis of that quote and it appears to be here in Psycho-Cybernetics (audiobook) by Maxwell Maltz. I’ve now purchased the book.

Interestingly to me, as I searched a little more I found this study that suggests it takes over 2 months to form a new habit. With that amount of time to be invested, it makes sense to be very intentional about it and that we work to form “good habits” in our personal, family and professional lives.

While personal life and family life are intertwined, I separated them for that same reason to make sure that I’m a better me for me, making me better for my family and my customers, partners, and peers.

Part of making me better is a focus on physical and mental health. The book Younger Next Year has been my go-to for years now, though please don’t buy this book for yourself and then force on your partner or spouse. In 2014, I started on a more intentional fitness path that prepares me for an annual backcountry mountain bike ride on the Kokopelli Trail from Fruita, CO to Moab, UT. The preparation and ride make me better for me, my family and my customers, partners, and peers. You see the theme here.

Now back to the “shelter in place COVID-19 era” and a few observations:

First, my wife Nikki and I are having a blast together. Never perfect, though almost. Same as it was in the pre-COVID-19 era, but slightly better.

Second, we are watching a ton of shows and movies and I really liked the Dolly Parton themed movie Dumplin’ (Netflix). I really enjoyed the Dolly quote “Find out who you are. And do it on purpose”. Too many people (I’ve done it before too) felt others needed to change when we just needed to be a little happier with ourselves.

Third, what’s made Nikki’s and my time together in this COVID-19 era very special are the following, some old and some new:
– WE each have stopped sweating the small stuff

– WE laugh a lot

– WE are not pouting when the other doesn’t want to go to the grocery store, go for a walk, clean the house or do anything when we feel it needs to happen. If you do this pouty thing now, please STOP. Instead, one of us goes to the grocery store, goes for a walk, cleans the house or does anything when we feel it needs to happen and NOT guilt the other.

– WE have always functioned as a team to each do our share of the above OR other critical matters not listed above, like earning a living. It’s a balance, we talk about it and make sure we each give mutually so that one person doesn’t need to do everything.

– WE have added new work, fun, activities, chores, and hobbies that will hopefully become a HABIT alongside those in our pre-COVID lives that will continue to make us better together.

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By Patrick Fletchall

Our eldest son used to get frustrated with his Duplo set. His Duplo are comprised of many blocks, each of them distinct yet perfectly designed to fit each other. Most of the time he would patiently play, but on occasion he’d lose patience and angrily mash them together. The more he mashed, the less likely they were to click together. I’ll come back to that later.

My wife, Nicole, and I could not be more different people. After ten years, this is abundantly clear. She’s blunt and I’m circuitously wordy. She reads mommy blogs and I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer. She’s OCD and I’m slovenly. I could probably give 10 volumes of additional examples.

When we were first married these differences were exciting. During our first six months of marriage we lived in a 200 square foot room, and I discovered her the way that Louis and Clark explored a path to the West: exhilarating, breathtaking, and frequently dangerous.

At each step on the trail, I explored new territory and we learned more about ourselves along the way. Nicole revealed a different way of thinking, communicating, and looking at personal relationships. She viewed the world entirely different then I did.

For my part, I was thrilled to share my passions and interests with the woman I loved and admired. I was like a 6-year-old hosting his first sleepover. “Come look at all my toys!” It seemed like the perfect synergy: she taught me how to establish healthy boundaries within my relationships and I introduced her to the Die Hard movies. Either we fit each other like two puzzle pieces, or I had an extraordinarily munificent and patient wife.

I was like someone sipping a full cup of coffee while driving on a smooth road: I patted myself on the back for our steady marriage. But life, as we all know tends to throw a few bumps. Bump…recession. Bump…child #1. Bump…child #2. Lose job, downsize, sell car to buy groceries, global pandemic…bump-bump-bump-BUMP!

The circus of young children, careers, and school leaves very little luxury for reflective relationship-building. We all spin off each day and collide back together in sporadic bursts of energy. Nicole and I had less time to be able to have the deep conversations; our interactions became transactional. The cracks began to develop.

Over 10 years, our differences seemed less like doing a puzzle together and more like an unbridgeable gulf. The slightest interaction became the seed for bickering, and bickering became our new normal mode of communication. When you’re having five fights a day, saying “I’m sorry” or “I love you” ceases to become the first step in the process of reconciliation.

Through unemployment and pandemic, our lives became condensed into a 1000 square foot apartment. There are very few places to storm off to. We had started this thing living in 200 square feet and 10 years later we’ve gained only a little more space and two adorable, inconsiderate roommates.

When you’re quarantined and have nothing else to distract you, you start noticing more things. For example, you can tell a lot about a person based on how they extract toothpaste. There are numerous methods: flattening, squeezing, rolling, etc. Personally I’m a flattener: I press the tube from the bottom upwards using my palm on the counter. Sometimes, I use the edge of the counter to ensure maximum efficiency; but I sometimes worry about the 0.05 ounces of paste that squirt back to the bottom and go wasted. My wife, on the other hand, throttles the life out of the tube like she had an ex-boyfriend named Colgate.

We’ve always shared toothpaste. For a long time, I felt mildly protective of the poor toothpaste. However, recently I’ve been struck by how incredibly effective our conjoined methods of toothpaste extraction are. Each day, we alternatively choke and press the same tube, which results in the most efficient technique to get the last ounce of product. I was impressed by the fact that our efficiency was the result of not simply complimentary methodology, but a common goal.

I mentioned previously that our son would periodically get frustrated and slam his Duplos together. To date, I’ve never seen him swing two bricks together and have them match up perfectly. And if they had, I believe he would have been too upset to notice they had aligned before ripping them apart. My wife and I have been doing the same thing.

We were designed to fit together, but we collided with such velocity and frequency, how could we possibly come together and how would we know when we had? What would it take to shake us from our bad habits?

Like many, the last month has been extraordinarily challenging. But it has also made life uncharacteristically simple. Nicole and I are still learning to put the pieces together, but the monastic minimalism of our days has forced us to intentionally partner with purpose.

No matter how long it may take for the world to get back to any semblance of normality, our marriage (and many marriages out there I suspect) will never be the same. We’ve always unwittingly squeezed and pressed together, but now we realize that we were designed to meet this challenge.

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