Sweating the Small Stuff and Its Consequences

Joe: Good morning Calliope.

Calliope: Hi Joe. Whats new?

Joe: I am still working on my stress book. Here is my latest newsletter which I have also incorporated into my book.

Sweating the Small Stuff and its Consequences


Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.

~Leo Buscaglia~

First the big stuff. At its extreme, worry takes the form of a psychological disorder called obsessive-compulsive disorder. You get overcome by worrying about what you did and what you are about to do. You keep doing the same things over and over hoping to get it right this time. Being consumed by this disorder leaves little time for anything else and leaves you constantly exhausted.

Fortunately most people do not worry to this extent. Small matters can look large at the moment but in the long run don’t matter very much at all. Fear comes close to paralyzing them in everything they think or do.

Where does this fear come from? For many people, it dates back to early childhood when they were given the impression that they were not competent to do much of anything. True, most of us are not born prodigies but gradually learn survival skills and go on to develop special talents. Encouragement along the way helps us take our first faltering steps. Have you watched a baby learn to walk? The first awkward attempts lead nowhere. But with encouragement and support, babies are off and running before you know it.

Some parents are critical of everything their children do. Children naturally want to please their parents. But if nothing they do is acceptable, they tend to start worrying about whether they are worthwhile or just give up.

Such children grow into adults with no confidence in themselves and can start second guessing everything they do. They are not likely to take too many chances. They don’t trust themselves and seldom try to develop new skills. They might also go to the other extreme and strive for perfection in everything they do. In case you haven’t noticed, perfection is an impossible goal to reach.

So what’s the alternative? Having given up on perfection, what’s left? You can do your best. Your best depends on your energy, health, mood and skills. All of these might well vary from day to day. You might not be satisfied with your best, but you can’t do any better at the moment. You have given it all you’ve got. Perhaps you can do better at another time. But that doesn’t matter. You did your best right now.

Accepting your best means being kind, gentle and understanding of yourself and of your best efforts. It doesn’t matter what others think about you. You know you did your best and that’s all there is to it. While you are at it, learn to accept others as doing the best they can under their current circumstances. This approach will save you the trouble of worrying or fretting about things over which you have no control.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Let go of perfection as a personal goal.
  • Let go of fretting about what you consider your shortcomings.
  • Recognize your abilities and accept them for what they are.
  • Always do your best and be satisfied with it.
  • Accept the best others can do.

Learning How to Stay in a Relationship

Joe: Good morning Calliope. Just a quick visit to share with you my latest column/newsletter. Hope you like it.

Learning How to Stay in a Relationship

Sailing at Sunset

Sailing at Sunset

Love does not consist in gazing at each other,
but in looking outward together in the same direction.~Antoine de Saint-Exupery~

When I first worked with couples, I thought the key to a better relationship was good communication. As I continued my career, I realized that marriage and similar relationships were more complicated than that. I also learned that there is no easy solution to staying together. Half of all marriages last and half don’t, despite a commitment “til death do us part.” I have not encountered any reliable statistics on the comparative success rate of relationships outside of marriage.

Most people say they got together because they love each other. But what does that mean? Love can mean sexual or romantic feelings, finding someone who cares about you or whom you care about. Many potential partners look for someone to take care of them. They might also be in the market for someone to take care of. Yet it is very easy to fall into the trap of depending on someone who might not always be there or trying to control the other person to keep the relationship the way they want it.

What does it take to keep the commitment alive? In his book, Passionate Marriage, David Schnarch suggests that one of the most important tasks is for each spouse or partner to know himself or herself before entering into a commitment. If you don’t know what you want from life, how can you reasonably expect another person to share your life with you? What are you asking the other person to share?

Let’s assume that two people understand what they want from life, share their goals with each other and agree to support each other in attaining them. That’s a good start. But wait a minute. Think back to how your life was ten, twenty or thirty years ago and what was important to you back then. Have you changed? Most of us have and are quite different now than we were in the past. There is no way to absolutely predict what you will be like in the future or what your partner will be like.

Your chances of staying together improve greatly if you both enter your relationship with a sense of adventure. You are setting out on an unknown voyage. Life circumstances, finances and health might alter your voyage considerably. You or your partner might both learn new life destinations. You might learn new ways to approach life taking you in different directions than you agreed on when you began your relationship. It will take a great deal of flexibility from both of you to weather all the challenges and surprises life has in store for you. To be successful, you must be responsible for meeting your own goals and support your partner in reaching his or her goals.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Learn to know yourself and what is important to you.
  • Share your life goals with your partner and encourage your partner to share his or her life goals with you.
  • Don’t expect your partner to reach your goals for you or blame him or her when you don’t reach them on your own.
  • Find ways to support each other’s goals.
  • If you clash, look for ways to compromise.


Life, Religion and Spirituality

Joe: Hi Calliope. Here is the latest Sliding Otter News post you wanted to see:


Life, Religion and Spirituality

Nantucket Sound Sunrise

Nantucket Sound Sunrise

 Religion is for people who are scared to go to hell. 

Spirituality is for people who have already been there.

 ~Bonnie Raitt~

 Life is yours to live. Religion and spirituality help you make sense of your life and find your way. When was the last time you stopped to consider what your life is about? Why are you here? Children hear that they can be anything they want to be when they grow up. That is not quite true. Some paths require resources, money, skills or connections which might not be readily available to you. Your choices are not unlimited.

Yet many options are open to you. Your families, friends, circumstances and talents guide you toward certain paths. Those might be easier paths for you to follow. More challenging paths await you as well. These will require more effort from you but might be more satisfying in the long run.

If fame, fortune and power are what you crave, you have no need of religion or spirituality. You will pursue these goals at all costs regardless of the effect on your life and the lives of those you encounter on your way. It’s all about you.

Religion and spirituality are important to people who want their lives to be about something more than what they can grab for themselves. They form a context for living life directed toward a higher calling. When I was a child, a vocation was considered a call from God to pursue a higher purpose. Originally it meant being called to be a priest or a nun. Later it came to mean living any life in the context of a greater meaning.

How to find meaning outside yourself is not always obvious. Where do you start? What are the steps? Spirituality is the process of finding, accepting and sharing the meaning of being alive as you journey through life. You learn from others on the same path and share what you learn with your fellow travelers.

Religions are formalized systems for finding the meaning you search for on your spiritual journey. They are like cookbooks for the soul where you discover formulas for living a spiritual life. Obviously various religious systems cannot all be the one true path to spirituality and to God although many claim to be the only right way. Regardless of the claims, all religions start with the same purpose, living in a way which unites you with God.

How do you know if you are on the right path for you? Spirituality and religion both suggest reflection and meditation. If you never stop to see where you have been, where you are headed and the effect of your choices on you and those around you, you have no way to check your course. Honest reflection will help you evaluate your life path and whether it is taking you in the right direction. If you are hurting yourself or someone else, you might have made a wrong turn and need a course correction.

Life Lab Lessons     

  • What do you want from life?
  • Are you headed in that direction?
  • Have your choices made you a better person?
  • How have your choices affected others?
  • What could you do better today?

On to Spirituality

Getting in Gear

Getting in Gear

Joe: Good afternoon Calliope.

Calliope: Good afternoon Joe. I wondered what became of you.

Joe: As you might have guessed I became sidetracked from work on my book.

Calliope: What happened this time?

Joe: Summer happened. After being holed up all winter, everyone I know seems to have suddenly become more social. I must include myself. So far the summer seems like a constant party. Well not quite, but it seems like it. I have been having too much fun to concentrate on writing.

Calliope: Are you still in party mode?

Joe: I still have plenty on my plate, so to speak. Maybe it was the heat, but I have found myself in the cool basement with my computer screen staring at me. I tried writing a few times and it felt unfamiliar.

Calliope: So now what?

Joe: I wondered that myself. Natalie Goldberg advises keeping the pen moving (or the cursor in my case.) Eventually it worked and I am back into writing mode. I discovered a few topics I left out of my first draft.

Calliope: What are you working on now?

Joe: I am revisiting the chapter on stress and spirituality. I wrote a couple of columns in the mean time and added them to the book.

Calliope: Do you think I could see one of the columns of which you speak?

Joe: Indeed. I would be happy to share  on on Life, Religion and Spirituality. I will have it to you tomorrow.