Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

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Self-knowing

Anger Leads To…

Death, Curiosity, and Woke: A Podcast Roundup

Eek! It’s been over a month since my last Podcast Roundup! Near death, curiosity, woke, and so much more today.

The following paragraph has absolutely nothing to do with my Podcast Roundup, but it was exactly what came to mind when I started writing this morning.

Are you ready, kids?!

death curiosity and woke

Yeah…Spongebob was a big thing at this house when our kids were little. I think I’ve seen every episode at least twice. And, for a while, there was rarely a conversation with my husband’s daughter that didn’t start with, “Remember that time in Spongebob when…” I found that show so clever and there were some great gags. I especially loved the so-called villain, Plankton!

On with the show!

My drivetime included four podcasts this week and all of them were pretty good. I could have listened to more, but I had important phone calls to make on the drive home. Priorities!

Practicing Human – Unwinding Bodily Tension

My one takeaway from this short piece is now my daily mantra, “Allow yourself to be just as you are.”

The Minimalists – 342 Near-Death Experiences

Those pesky near-death experiences. Life is short, and for some crazy reason we need to be reminded.

What’s important to me? Spending time with the people that bring light into my life is more important than anything else. What’s my legacy? An emotionally healthy family and friendships. When I’m gone, I want the people I love to think, “She was the coolest person, so much fun to be around, and always ready to be there when we needed her.”

You’ve heard that saying, “If it’s not a ‘hell yes,’ then it’s a ‘hell no!’” I like it and I use it, but holy Toledo, you guys. I’m afraid that just about everything is a ‘hell no!’ to me. Remember those in-person books clubs I swore I’d attend? Yeah, nope. Maybe that’s ok? “Your willingness to walk away from things can be a superpower.”

Oh! And they had the best analogy for living life. When you drive you watch the road in front of you and the activity in your immediate surroundings the closest. You only glance at the map and up at the landmarks, the mountains and passes, to keep an eye on where want to go. You glance in your rearview mirror for what might be coming up from behind you. This is how we should be living too.

EconTalk – Ian Leslie on Curiosity

What is curiosity? It’s looking for insight and connections. We’re all born with it. It’s what makes humans thrive, but somewhere along the way we seem to have lost it. I’ve met so many people over the years that seem completely incurious about…everything. It’s sad. Why is that?

Also, my dad and I were recently discussing how we should or should not be interpreting works of art, specifically movies and books, but it applies to just about everything. I found another piece of the puzzle in this podcast. “The best art asks questions, instead of answering them.”

What does that mean? I think it means when we’re experiencing some form of art, if we feel led to think more deeply about a topic, like why do humans act like this, then we’re seeing something great. We can see it multiple times and learn more. When we experience art we can see once, get what they are saying, and then walk away, never needing to experience it again, that’s not great art, it’s entertainment, a diversion which also has it’s positive uses.

Another book added to the TBR list: Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It by Ian Leslie

Also, I have a small rebuttal to one statement in this podcast. He said that some people, after reading that kids learn best on their own, through their own exploration, just “let them out in the garden to figure out life on their own.” Maybe some people do, but we didn’t.

Instead of formal school, which is great for teens and adults that choose it, but I believe is failing all our young children and creating incurious robot people, we allowed our kids to grow up right next to us. They asked questions, we answered. They expressed curiosity; we supported their pursuits. We didn’t direct their learning, we encouraged them to explore and experience the world by taking them out into it. In essence, we were mentors.

PS Young children don’t ask a million how and why questions to get information or to be annoying. They do it to practice interaction and connection. They are constantly proving to themselves that they exist and can influence their environment, that adults around them care about them. When adults ignore or rebuff them for being intrusive and annoying, they begin to shut down and isolate. THIS is one of my biggest problems with our culture in general and with schools. But that’s another post.

Quillette – Progressive Social Panic at Yale and Princeton

I had no notes on this last one, but it was interesting to hear more conversation on the idea of “woke” and “social justice” possibly going too far. I’ll just leave you with the description they posted on their website: “Reporter Aaron Sibarium talks to Quillette podcast host Jonathan Kay about his recent scoops concerning the campaign against anti-woke Princeton classics professor Joshua Katz, and the unsettling radicalism of student activists at Yale Law School.”

So, there you go. Several more hours of listening all logged in. Do you listen to podcasts? Share them in the comments here. I’m always looking for new perspectives and voices.

From Strength to Strength: New Read

Just before my glorious weekend out of town, I started reading From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life by Arthur C. Brooks. Why pick this one up? I can’t possibly even BE in the “second half of life” since I’m clearly far too young, but alas…I am…chokes…nearly fifty years old. And I am already starting my “retirement,” so I think I qualify.

And now I hear you asking, “Retiring from what, Michelle? You haven’t had a career or even a job in nearly twenty years!” I may not have worked outside my home, but I have been a housewife AND homeschooling mom and since my boys are finally (mostly) out of the nest, “Hello, Retirement!”

Let me tell you, it is a big shift. One I didn’t even realize was starting or would hit me this hard. Retirement is rough, especially if you’re a driven kind of person and you fully enjoy your career.

I found myself asking, “What’s next?! Is life over? Does retirement mean sitting here, reading a book until I die?” And then running around screaming and crying from time to time, much to the dismay of my poor husband who is NOT retired and works from home.

I’ve been doing some serious soul searching the last few years, and this book is only another chapter of that story, some research into another point of view. I decided to order it after I read one of Arthur C. Brooks other books, Love Your Enemies.

This morning I read this:

“The aspen tree, it turns out, is not a solitary majesty, as I learned by sheer coincidence later that day from a friend who knows more about trees than I do. He explained to me that each “individual” tree forms part of an enormous root system. In fact, the aspen is the largest living organism in the world; one stand of aspens in Utah called “Pando” spans 106 acres and weighs 6 million kilograms.

That “lone” aspen I was looking at was no such thing. It was simply one shoot up from a vast root system – one expression among many of the same plant.”

from strength to strength

I made a mark there in the book, a bracket around the paragraph and a small heart. I need to remember this picture, I thought.

Then I started thinking back to yesterday, when I met my sons for dinner out and spent over an hour talking about college classes, work, surfing, and philosophy, over some amazing tacos. We somehow got onto the idea of Buddhist enlightenment, when my eldest reminded me of the one drop in the ocean idea, where we discover we are everything and everything is us, a part of the whole and the whole at the same time. Once we realize it, we see ourselves in everything. My youngest chimes in with “Like a bubble popping. You float along, realize you are the whole and pop, you’re gone, dissipated and there but not there.” We stopped and thought about. Yeah. Nice.

This morning, on the way back from coffee with a local friend, I stopped at the post office to pick up a package. Waiting in line, I looked around me. The woman in front of me smiled and set down her package on the counter. We laughed together at the face the woman behind us made at having to lick an envelope. And it hit me: these are other aspen trees.

I smiled slightly, internalizing the moment of realizing that I AM connected to these seemingly disconnected people. My reaction to them changes them and theirs changes me.

We may look like we’re each a standing “lone” tree in this world, but we certainly are not. Like those aspens groves, beneath the ground our roots are all one system. Each of us has an affect on the other. When one falls, another grows taller. When one sways, the others sway with it.

Here’s what he says on the next page:

“The secret to bearing my decline – no, enjoying it – is to be more conscious of the roots linking me to others. If I am connected to others in love, my decrease will be more than offset by increases in others – which is to say, increases in other facets of my true self.”

My extended family, my friends, and those I connect with online and in person every day are what make life and death beautiful. Those connections, that love, lasts forever in the roots beneath the soil.

Human Behavior, War, and More: Podcast Roundup

It’s been awhile since I did a Podcast Roundup so let’s dive in. It’s Friday so I’ll make life easy for both us with one-line (maybe two if need be) takeaways from each episode.

Practicing Human – No Wrong Emotions

Making space and being honest and accepting of my own feelings doesn’t mean I need to express them or make other accept them.

Secular Buddhism – When Things Fall Apart

The dishes always going to get dirty, then you wash them, put them away, and use them again. It’s the cycle of life to fall apart and come back together again.

EconTalk – Luca Dellanna on Compulsion, Self-deception, and the Brain

Your mind is an has emotional driver and your navigator (logic) makes up reasons for those emotions.

              Book: The Control Heuristic: The Nature of Human Behavior by Luca Dellana

Practicing Human – You’re Responsible for Your Happiness

Self-work is for everyone around you. It helps you slip into the water without making a huge mess of everything.

Cato Daily Podcast – Deregulate Low-Income Entrepreneurs to Address American Poverty

I took no notes on this one and I don’t remember any of it. I think I was in my head.

People I (Mostly) Admire – Does Death Have to be a Death Sentence?

When we turn our attention to the hard things in life, you’ll find a lot of beauty.

Book: A Beginner’s Guide to the End: Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death by BJ Miller, MD and Shoshana Berger

Quillette Podcast – Shmuel Bar on the War in Ukraine, and the Failure of Western Deterrence

When we look at other world leaders and their actions and think “That’s crazy!” or “That’s evil!” we’re not seeing their decisions and actions from their point of view, from the culture, background, and store of information.

Practicing Human – Self-Sabotage

If you think you know what you want but when you move toward it something always gets in the way, there may be something you aren’t willing or able to feel/experience yet.


human behavior

How’s that for a round-up?! I’m off to get this place ready for our Friday Night Happy Hour. I’ll be playing some mean pool and maybe…with a little luck…I’ll win a game, maybe even two.

PS I really need to learn to take a day off after a run into the city. I have so much going on in my head that I would love to quietly process. I took notes, and have stored the ideas away for later. Maybe tomorrow I’ll take the day to stare out the window and reflect.

I Have Nothing To Say?

Me? With nothing to say? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Welcome to my train of thought!

I came online late this morning with every intention of posting that I wouldn’t be posting today, intentionally. It’s not that I forgot or ran out of time. I simply don’t have anything to say.

nothing to say

I’ve been reading, journaling, and thinking all morning. “In my head” as the saying goes. I have a lot to work on in there. I wish I had an excellent therapist that lived nearby, that I could call and say, “Do you have a couple hours to walk with me and hear me out? I need some feedback on this.”

Oh, and the money to pay for such professional “help.”

Yeah, I know. “Get a friend!” But friends need to be kept, relationships maintained. Some of the things I think, consider, and want to get off my chest, would make a “friend” run away. Too much of a chance laying that on a poor friend.

So here I am…not posting because I don’t have ANYTHING to say.

Yep. Welcome to my mind.

Once I opened my laptop and started typing the words, all the others started knocking on my door to come out and play.

Here’s the first. A quote from Andre Gide’s So Be it: or The Chips Are Down (1952)

“Believe those who are seeking the truth;
doubt those who find it;
doubt everything,
but don’t doubt yourself.”

I heard it quoted on the Secular Buddhism podcast yesterday and it rang so hard in my head, I scribbled it down to look up later, and then I DID! That’s how you know it resonated with me, I remembered it.

I don’t think we need to say much about it. Do we? I mean, it sounds like brilliant advice, advice I’ve been following all my life. Except the “don’t’ doubt yourself” part. I’m still trying to uninstall that software.

Here’s another. It’s from Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn. I read it last month and posted about, extensively. I’m still re-reading it before my morning meditation, digging up the gems and storing them for future use.

“The next time you feel a sense of dissatisfaction, of something being missing or not quite right, turn inward just as an experiment.
…make a place for yourself…
Just sit. Reside at the center of the world. Let things be just the way they are.”

Sounds like torture. And it is. It’s kind of where I am this morning. My MO is to turn to something to “fix” that feeling, quick before it gets worse. It never works. I make it worse by reacting to a feeling that may or may not be indicative of reality. So, I’m trying it.

I’m sitting here. I’ve read, journaled, thought, read again, jotted down a note, taken a few breaths. I think it’s almost time to set it down and get on with my day. I have things to do. I’ll come back to these feelings later, now that I have them down on paper, and see if they mean anything. I’ll keep you posted!

Last one. This is from The Anxious Hearts Guide by Rikki Cloos, which I’m (unfortunately) reading my Kindle. I really have to stop falling for that. I want the book NOW and see it’s on Kindle, when I know I’m not the best at reading on my phone. I can’t make notes the way I want. I need to see and feel paper, all spread out in front of me!

“A deep-seated feeling that you’re not worthy of love is the culprit here. Insecure attachers tend to have the unfortunate trait of holding a deep, unsettling belief that they are inherently unlovable.

Contrary to what your brain is telling you, you don’t have to be perfect to be loved. You are actually lovable right now, as is, without any improvement at all. But without the self-awareness, self-work, and efforts to curb your problematic and toxic relationship behaviors, we’re going to end up pushing away anyone who is trying to love us in spite of our flaws.”

Before you rush to comment that I am loved, and YOU do like me, the problem here isn’t between you and me. It’s between me and me. I’m not my biggest fan and I’m slowly starting to see that that really needs to change. I’m working on it. This blog is part of that.

I wish I had found books like these thirty years ago. Where would I be right now?

How’s that for having nothing to say?

My post about deliberately not posting today so that I can continue my train of thought has now concluded. Thanks for being here. Comments are (as always) highly appreciated.

Who Am I? Still Searching

It’s Sunday! And that means a “Blast from the Past” repost from my old blog! Are you excited? I am, I think. I scrolled through old posts this morning, pulling up lots of angry words about wildfires, politics, and rants about Facebook, wanting to use my time machine to give myself a big hug. There was so much fear behind those words. Then I pulled up a post with the title, “Who Am I?” from August 3, 2015.

About halfway through reading it, I was reminded of the Zen koan, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” I had it written in my journal in bold letters just this past week, along with the words, “OH MY FREAKIN…I GET IT!” Deep stuff, you know? Full of insight, my journal is.

who am i

Something other than politics and social media angst was driving my stress train in 2015. My sons were 13 and 14 at the time, my homeschool “career” was quickly coming to a close, changes were coming, and I wasn’t sure where I’d go next. I didn’t know who I was going to be without the title “homeschool mom.”

Sidenote: I’m still working on that. It’s a big part of why I started this blog.

On with the post!

Did anyone else read that title and think it in Jean Valjean’s voice? Am I the only one?

Why am I here? Why do I post publicly instead of in a personal journal? Much of what I write on my blog is about what I’m thinking. It’s what I would talk about if I were sitting among a group of friends, but hopefully more thought out and prepared. I read a lot; books, articles, blogs, newspapers, the dreaded Facebook post. I have thoughts I would much rather process out loud but when I talk my thoughts tend to get scattered and forget the words I would most like to use. When I’m writing, I can go back and edit a thought or find a kinder way to say it. And sometimes I’m not as kind in my writing as I would be in real life. Sometimes I just want to get an angry or dissatisfied word out.

But why not just write all that in my journal, close it, and move on? Why post it here for the world to see? Connection.

Out here in the desert you are alone a lot. It’s not necessarily lonely. I have a group of friends and very dear family. But the group is small and to continue to move in social circles you need to reign in the talk of politics and religion. Also, few people in my social circles read as much as I do, and I don’t know any that read the same books. There isn’t much of an outlet for discussion. It can feel like I’m the only person out there trying to put thoughts together, trying to make sense of the world around me instead of just marching on.

I post it in the hopes that there is someone out there doing the same. My hope is that my posts aren’t just rants and raves. Someone might read it and want to chat about it, politely challenge my choice of words or point of view. I know that isn’t likely. In the current online climate, I’d expect more people at best to dismiss what I’ve written, at worst to pass it around and ridicule me personally, maybe start a protest about what kind of an awful person I am because of my post. But I will still take that chance.

This is my second blog. My first was more of an online journal of our family’s adventures in homeschooling. It was there to entertain and inform my long-distance family of what we were up to, maybe even convince them we weren’t isolated and watching TV all day. Hopefully, somewhere along the line we inspired another family to investigate homeschooling the way we did. It changed our lives for the better and I’d love to spread that around! I’m working on another blog that will do that as well but not as personally as we used to.

This blog is only a few months old. It won’t be about my family or lifestyle really, although that does come into it a bit. It’s more about my personal journey, a search for intelligent life so to speak. My hope is that through writing my ideas out and sharing them with others, I can expand my world beyond my own backyard and share that experience with my family.

So here I sit after a long hot day, re-reading and editing this post with what we might have for dinner rolling around the back of my mind. Should I wait a few hours, read it again, and then post it? Or should I just go for it and set it free?

I think I’ll let it set sail and see where it goes.

What is the sound of one hand clapping? Perpetual solitude. To me, the point of solitude is to recharge and connect with yourself so that you can come back and move in the world in magical new ways. These ways cannot be created alone. They need connection and collaboration to take off.

I’m having a hard time putting it into words. It’s too big. I’m going to have to ponder this longer. But it has to do with why I write here, instead of simply journal in a book. I set my thoughts free into the world and see where they go. The magic doesn’t work in secret, alone, locked up on a shelf in my mind.

Yeah, I’ll be driving today thinking about it.

Thoughts from the Epiphany Machine: The Shower

I heard the story of Zen Master Hakuin on the podcast Secular Buddhism a few days ago on my drive into the city. I made a note about it and moved on, not thinking much about it until around 24 hours later when “Is that so?” came to mind while I was taking a shower, you know, the epiphany machine!

Later that day, I looked up the story online so I could read it through. I found a great version on Kannon Do. I highly recommend reading it. The idea I kept going back to is accepting the curve balls that are thrown at us. It’s something I have always struggled with.

My typical M.O. is to stress and freak out about whatever unexpected scenario comes my way. My initial response is usually, “Oh my! No! This is bad. What are we going to do?” And then, if no one mirrors my panic and runs with it, I usually back down from Defcon 2 to Defcon 5 fairly quickly. My next step is to pretend like I’ve always been completely at peace with the current situation but harbor a low-level state of fear just below the surface for a while just in case the sky does fall.

I’m fun. Trust me.

For the longest time, I believed this was a brilliant coping mechanism. Sure, my reactions can be a bit jarring for those that don’t know they’re coming (my poor husband), but equilibrium, forgiveness, and peace are quick to return. No harm, no foul. Right?

Yeah…not always.

Buddhist parables and stories sometimes cause me to doubt my practices. Maybe I’m doing this wrong? I try a few different tactics, fail, try again, get a little better, realize what I’m doing, accept the journey and keep going.

Two of the notes I had in my journal from that podcast I mentioned early were, “No doubt = No awakening” and “Unlearn.” I read those words, flipped through the pages in exasperation, “Seriously? That’s it? What does that even mean?” There was nothing about “Is that so?”

I went back to the podcast and skipped through it on fast forward.

“Ooooh! It’s all starting to come together!”

When the Zen Master was faced with unexpected situations, he simply said, “Is that so?” and “embraced the situation without judgement.”

When I experience an unexpected situation, I jump to conclusions about what should or will happen next. This shouldn’t have happened. It’s not what I want to happen. It’s going to end terribly for everyone. Everything is ruined. I have no doubt about it. I know.

No doubt = no awakening. My eyes and heart are closed to the world around me. I know what’s going to happen. I’m at level 49 here! I’ve learned a lot over the years!

What if, instead, I did doubt what I had learned over the years. What if I decided to let go of what I think I know, unlearn, and take a step back? Would things be harder or easier?

That’s what the Zen Master did in the story. He doubted he could know what would happen, accommodated the situation, and took care of the things and people around him. What happened, happened.

I can hear the old me in the background, “But…what about being prepared? Making things better? Fighting for what’s right?!”

The new me answers, “Has crying, yelling, and stressing about what is happening, who’s fault it is, and what we’re going to do, ever made anything better? Or did it only make it harder for you and those around you to adapt?”

Shower thoughts are so profound. The story of “Is that so?” isn’t what I made notes about. It wasn’t foremost in my mind, but it was in there. The night before, I had been stressing about some news and what my future would look like. This whole “empty nest” thing has me running in circles. We really need to change that visual, but that’s a post for another day.

My mind was blank, the morning habits had taken over, and then it came into my head, “Is that so?” A puzzle piece fell into place. What can I do when the unexpected happens? I can take a breath and relax, be kind, love on, and watch to see what happens. Stop trying to control everything.

That doesn’t mean I’ll be happy with the results. I may not get what I thought I wanted. I may be worse off than I was. But only that negative thing will be happening. I won’t be adding to it, making it worse for myself and those around me by panicking throughout the whole process.

I’ll just ask, “Hmm…interesting. What happens next?”

Mindfulness and Concentration Balance

Each morning, before I sit in meditation for twenty minutes, I read one chapter of Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat Zinn. Remember? I said I would go back and do this after I read the book straight through, and here I am crushing it.

Ok, maybe not crushing it, but at least I am getting to it most days.

This morning was something special. I read this:

“Without calmness, the mirror of mindfulness will have an agitated and choppy surface, and will not be able to reflect things with any accuracy.” Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat Zinn

I am great at mindfulness. I am hyper-aware of everything around me; the people, their moods, the air, objects, what needs to be done, etc. It’s my superpower and it comes naturally to me. It also drives me bonkers much of the time, especially when I come face to face with the fact that not everyone shares my awareness. What do you mean, “When did we move that trash can to the other side of the room?!”

With that tidbit of knowledge about me, you would think I would have an eye for minding the details, but…nope. I’m a big picture person. I take it all in at once, all the time, which leads to some pretty overwhelming thoughts and feelings that I have only begun to understand and accept.

What’s missing? Calmness and focus, concentration. Which is what this chapter was about. Concentration leads to calmness, and calmness is addictive. We can throw ourselves into it like an escape pod and stay there forever. It’s another form of attachment, a refusal to accept and move in the world around us.

Single-minded pursuit, complete focus on one thing, is a wonderful way to get things done, but it has its drawbacks. Have you ever known someone with that superpower? I’m in awe of them, and then I’m frustrated and angry with them because they will not look at me when I’m talking to them. They don’t notice that I’m there wanting to connect.

Where is the balance? Practicing focus and concentration alongside mindfulness. Being still allows the water around you to be still or flow quietly around you, while mindfulness allows us to see what’s beneath the surface and move.

I have typically fallen asleep during my meditation practice. I’m still sitting, sometimes nodding my head, but I’m dreaming. I’m talking to someone, holding my pencil, turning a page, or planning what I’ll do later. I’m never quiet for long.

Today, I put my mind on my breath and thought, “Calm the water.” I imagined standing hip deep in a warm river (I hate cold water) and running my hands in the water. When I moved my feet, the silt at the bottom floated up and mixed with the rushing water, obscuring my view. I stood still and let the water run and waited. Soon, the silt and leaves settled, and I could see the rocks beneath my feet, the fish swimming in the deep, and the sticks that might poke me if I moved too quickly.

It worked. I want to bring this feeling with me all day long and I’ll try. Every time I start to feel overwhelmed, I’ll take a breath and think, “Calm the water,” so I can see more clearly and make kinder decisions, respond in more helpful ways.

In the past (like this past week kind of past), I’ve struggled with trying to do everything. I’ve actually cried out loud, “Everyone says slow down, do one thing at a time, but when I do, I lose something, forget something, or fail!”

Just typing that made me think, “Yeah, Michelle, that’s attachment. You need to let things go.”

No one on the planet can do EVERYTHING. I’m getting more done, but not well, and in the process of doing I’m failing at the most important thing, being present and loving to the people around me. I’ve got lots of thinking to do, but first…stillness. Calm the water, so I can see beneath.  

Looking For Love: Anxious Attachment

I’m back on track, ladies and gentlemen, and here to give you some of my thoughts on the book Attached by Levine and Heller. This will be a longer post, but I hope you’ll stick with me. There was so much I wanted to say, and I cut it down A LOT. Yes, it was that good! And these are just MY personal takeaways. The book is so much more.


Applause! Applause! I have conquered the day. That ugly, procrastination self-talk has lost the battle, but the war does still rage on. I’m feeling confident today, not because I’m a bad ass, but because my husband loved on me yesterday when I was feeling low. Get your mind out of the gutter and I’ll tell you the story.

Remember that focus issue I brought up (again) yesterday? Well, it got worse. My husband was working on a project out in the garage, and I thought, “It’s Thursday! I’ll take the trash down for him!” I got the recycle out, then thought, “Hold on. I’ll get this dinner started and THEN take the trash out because then I won’t have food scraps in the trash overnight.”

I started the potatoes, turned on the radio and then started washing the dishes, forgetting all about the trash. That’s when my husband came in the from the garage and started taking out the trash, thanking me for helping with the recycle.

And I started raving and crying because I realized at that moment that I had forgotten…again.

That’s when he did something amazing. He stopped, pulled me to him and held me while I cried. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me!” Yes, I’m dramatic. Get used to it.

A minute later, I was safe again. I finished the dishes. He took the trash cans down to the road. We had dinner together. I had one of his delicious new beers. And we watched a new TV show, which I highly suggest you see, “Minx.” Yes, there’s nudity! There’s nothing wrong with naked people! Trust me. This is good stuff.

How does this relate to the book Attached? Well, this is what a secure person can do for an anxious one if they’re both interested in walking this path of life together. Through books like this, we’ve learned more effective communication skills that have saved our relationship more than once.

Let’s get into that book a bit, shall we?

“Attachment principles teach us that most people are only as needy as their unmet needs. When their emotional needs are met, and the earlier the better, they usually turn their attention outward. This is sometimes referred to in attachment literature as the “dependency paradox”: The more effectively dependent people are on one another, the more independent and daring they become.”

“…we live in a culture that seems to scorn basic needs for intimacy, closeness, and especially dependency, while exalting independence.”

Like I said in my first post about this book, I discovered this paradox when my children were very small and fought with my culture while I raised them quite differently. This attachment is biological and starts from infancy. This book moves on to apply it to any intimate/close relationship. The principles have changed my parenting, family, and married life for the better.

“Numerous studies show that once we become attached to someone, the two of us form one physiological unit. Our partner regulates our blood pressure, our heart rate, our breathing, and the levels of hormones in our blood.”

“Dependency is a fact; it is not a choice or a preference.”

When I feel the threat of detachment, I feel physically ill. My head and hands ache as if they are filling with blood. My heart races, my breathing shallows. I feel like throwing up. But one text from my loved one, a quick note, a hug, or a squeeze of my hand, and my anxiety eases. Oxytocin win!

Humans have evolved depending on each other for safety, security, and happiness. Our survival has depended on it. Yes, we have a better chance at staying alive independently in modern times, but our biology does not know the difference. Besides, why do we want to get rid of a bonding/attachment system that can bring so much joy?

“…when our partners are thoroughly dependable and make us feel safe, and especially if they know how to reassure us during the hard times, we can turn our attention to all the other aspects of life that make our existence meaningful.”

There you go. We can be the rock under each other’s feet, that secure base to jump from. It’s a mutual dependence that gives us the courage to be out in the world doing big (and small) things independently.

“Chapter 5: Living with a Sixth Sense for Danger: The Anxious Attachment Style”

This is where we will dwell…because it’s about me. I know it best.

“…you possess a unique ability to sense when your relationship is threatened. Even a slight hint that something may be wrong will activate your attachment system, and once it’s activated, you are unable to calm down until you get a clear indication from your partner that he or she is truly there for you and that the relationship is safe.”

Do you have any idea how good it feels to hear “You have a super-power!” instead of “Here’s your problem!”? The best part of this book is that it shows you how to USE your super-power for good!

“The study showed that people with an anxious attachment style tend to jump to conclusions very quickly, and when they do, they tend to misinterpret people’s emotional state.”

“If you just wait a little longer before reacting and jumping to conclusions, you will have an uncanny ability to decipher the world around you and use it to your advantage.”

What study? One that asked people to push a button when they started to see a change in a facial expression on video. Anxious types (like me) saw it a fraction of a second earlier than others. We see it and then rush to identify the emotion, often incorrectly. When they changed the test so that we had to wait a moment longer before responding, we were able to identify the emotion more correctly.

Another hint to stay aware, learn to breathe and pause, before reacting to the world around you, my anxious friend. Not everything is a threat to your survival.

“…the brains of people with an anxious attachment style react more strongly to thoughts of loss and at the same time under-recruit regions normally used to down-regulate negative emotions.”

…sigh… Validation. Do you feel it?

I just need to be more aware of my style and adjust my communication skills. There’s nothing wrong with me. I have a superpower I need to learn to use correctly. Remember “Frozen?” Nothing made my heart smile more than when my son stopped the movie and said, “So…they found out she had a power and locked her away by herself instead of teaching her to use it? Oh, yeah, that will be great. Nothing bad can happen here.”

“Expressing your needs and expectations to your partner in a direct, nonaccusatory manner is an incredibly powerful tool.”

“Nooooo! It’s too hard! Too dangerous!” were my notes in the margin. First of all, you have to know what your needs ARE. Then you have to become vulnerable to express then. What if they say no and you have to leave the relationship? What if they accuse you of being silly, over-thinking, over-communicating, reading into a situation, etc.?

So what?!  Do we really want to stay in a relationship like that and not even try to repair it? Life alone isn’t that dangerous anymore, not so much that we need to wrap ourselves around anyone that will stick with us a while.

“Often, insecure people cannot get in touch with what is really bothering them. They get overwhelmed by emotions and lash out.”

One thing I have learned lately is to simply admit that I’m feeling yuck and I’m not sure why or where it’s coming from. Instead of scrambling to find any source of pain and eradicate it quickly (like the study I mentioned above), I sit in that feeling and allow it some space to move around. Buddhism and meditation, non-doing and trust, are helping in that pursuit.

I’m printing out these two lists and putting them on the fridge!

The Five Principles of Effective Communication

Wear You Heart on Your Sleeve
Focus on Your Needs
Be Specific
Don’t Blame
Be assertive and nonapologetic


Five Secure Principles for Resolving Conflict

Show basic concern for the other person’s well-being.
Maintain focus on the problem at hand.
Refrain from generalizing the conflict.
Be willing to engage.
Effectively communicate feelings and needs.

One more word: Oxytocin! “The next time you decide to skip the Sunday morning cuddle in bed for a chance to catch up on work – think again. This small act might be enough to immunize your relationship against conflict for the next few days.”

We (our culture) do not spend enough time in close physical contact with each other. Don’t say COVID, because it started LONG before that. Oxytocin (the love and bonding chemical) is created when we touch. Feeling low? Ask for a hug! In fact, I think I’ll start asking my friends and family if I can hug them more often!

And there you have it. Attached by Levine and Heller…in a nutshell!

What’s next? I was going to jump into an intriguing (but silly) novel but a friend is reading Will by Will Smith and Mark Manson and I cannot skip over the chance to do a read along!

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