Sponge Worthy

I am a sponge. I thirst for knowledge. I thirst for information. At no point in my life will I assume that what I know is adequate. Knowledge evolves on a moment-by-moment basis. We are inches away from discoveries that will alter the world, that will alter our lives. I don’t know what these discoveries are, but as a species, we evolve constantly. As a member of this species, I think it is my responsibility to continue to soak up knowledge, to evolve.

There was a famous episode of Seinfeld where there was a shortage of contraceptive sponges on the market. In fact, they were off the market for many years, but, thankfully, have returned. In this famous episode, Elaine had to decide which men in her life, at the time, were “sponge worthy”. As a human sponge, soaking up knowledge, I have to decide what is sponge worthy because it is not possible to acquire all knowledge. I’ll admit, I am a little ambitious in my endeavors outside of work. There is just so much to learn, to know, to do, to experience, I am having sort of a hard time prioritizing them all. All of these things I want to learn, know, do and experience require soaking up some knowledge, some information. And so, I have about two hundred unread books on my Kindle on various topics of vital importance and I want to read them all NOW!

I have much that I consider “sponge worthy”. There is a lot out there that I consider unworthy. Like the food I put into my body, cleansers and products I use in my home, I am equally discerning about the information I’ll fuel my mind with, knowing that I cannot possibly soak it all up and wring out what I don’t find useful. When it comes to information, and information overload, all I can recommend is to know, and trust your source. I can’t tolerate quotes that begin with “they said …”. I don’t know who “they” are; I can’t even begin to discern their expertise, their trustworthiness as informants. I don’t know how “they” arrived at their conclusion. Who made the study? What information was gathered? How were the results tested, analyzed, what statistical methods were applied? Were the results audited independently? Who the fuck are “they”? Please don’t thrust a newspaper at me as “proof” against a belief of mine, and by all means, don’t read the newspaper article out loud to me. I will go ballistic! You’ll give me no choice but to ask how they arrived at their conclusion, who made the study? What information was gathered? How were the results tested, analyzed, what statistical methods were applied? Were the results audited independently? Who the fuck are “they”? One liner references to a study administered on a topic will never convince me of anything. Four or five books by respected authors citing relevant sources may. I’ll soak it all up and decide what to wring out. You can imagine how I must fare in front of the evening news on television! Let’s just say I don’t go there.

As a member of this quickly evolving world, again, I think it is vital that we soak up the information we consider sponge worthy. If not for the sake of knowledge and personal evolution, then for the sake of those around us, our friends, family and loved ones. We are never too old to learn, to make changes, to evolve. At what point in life does knowledge become irrelevant? The last split second before death. Up until that point, it still applies. I can hear an audible click, like a phone being hung up, so often, during conversations with people of all ages, but mostly my age, or older. I can almost see a little display on their forehead that says, “You have been muted for the comfort of the occupant”. They may as well clasp their hands over their ears and scream, “la la la la, I can’t hear you!” We have all become so closed-minded; we are unwilling to soak up any information that requires some application of thought. I am a Republican. Click. I voted for Obama. Click. I believe in abortion. Click. I support the second amendment. Click. Processed food is bad for you. Click. Our minds are not like a soda can, capable of holding only twelve ounces. Once filled, no more knowledge will fit. Really? Never can anyone, ever, say, “I know everything I need to know.” “No more knowledge necessary here, thank you.” Knowledge isn’t like Girl Scout cookies! You can’t turn it away because you don’t want any! We never reach an age where a new way to do something isn’t going to be beneficial. “I’ve made it this far on what I know”. Just making it just isn’t making it.

Admittedly, I can’t be swayed by a brief blurb on network television or in a newspaper, I believe with all my heart that we need to know both sides of every story, of every argument, before we can wring out the sponge. I studied crime and politics in college. Two separate fields of study, not one, though you have to wonder sometimes. In both these fields of study, it was impressed upon me to know all of the arguments, all of the supporting philosophies. I studied a lot of criminal and civil law, and I needed to be able to argue either side of the case. It is ingrained in me to learn and to know both sides of any argument, anything less than that is being uninformed, or worse yet, ill-informed. On a daily basis, with the barrage of popular media and it’s sensationalized delivery, where the reporters sound exactly like the guy advertising this weekend’s monster truck pull, it is nearly impossible to get both sides of any story. For this reason, if not for the assumed, panicked expression and monster truck announcer’s tone of voice, I don’t participate in popular news media. I am old enough to remember when a counter view was allowed to be expressed on television after the news or other similar programming. That’s when popular media was popular with me. That’s the last time the media was unbiased. Once the opportunity for a counter view was removed, popular media news became nothing more than propaganda. I’ll soak up current events in a number of places, contemplate both sides of the argument, and usually arrive at a pretty moderate conclusion. All by myself. Shut up monster truck announcer news guy, you have been muted for the comfort of the occupant. I’m going somewhere quiet, with my Kindle. You are so not sponge worthy.

Great Expectations

What Do You Expect?

What is an expectation?

ex·pec·ta·tion
/ˌekspekˈtāSHən/

Noun

A strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.
A belief that someone will or should achieve something.

Let’s talk about that second line, there, a belief that someone will or should achieve something. Let me ask you this; how easy is it to change? What’s the biggest thing you’d like to change about yourself? Are you done, yet? Have you even started? Not that easy, is it? Now what if someone strongly believed you should change in that way? What if they believed that you would, or should, achieve those changes? And what if you didn’t? Do you think the fact that you didn’t quite fulfill their desire, confirm their strong belief, would cause disappointment, even if only a little? Would prolonged disappointment on their part, perhaps, cause a strain in your relationship? Yes, it would, and the more time that passes that you don’t confirm their strong belief, the more likely that disappointment will mount. The relationship deteriorates over time as a result. Yet we all have expectations of others in our relationships. It is absolutely natural.

Expectation is a relationship disease, like a cancer, eating away at it, undermining its health and vigor, zapping its strength and cutting short its longevity. The only person than can change you, is you. You, plain and simple, have to want to change. Then you must apply a significant amount of energy to that desire. And only you can do that. Period. You can’t change anyone else, and they can’t make you change either. Expecting another to change, trying to convince them to change, pleading, offering ultimatums or threats, are the surest way to put a once vibrant, healthy relationship to a slow and miserable death.

This reaches far beyond romantic relationships and invades relationships with friends and with family members. Expectation causes disappointment, anger, resentment and eventually bitterness, in any relationship. The “expector” is disappointed, angry, resentful and bitter for being let down, the “expectee” for the lack of compassion and understanding on the part of the “expector”. Even if we have expectations of someone with the best of intentions, “I think you should lose weight because I care for you.” Or, “I think you should spend less money so you can save for retirement.” When those types of expectations are placed on us, even though well intended, what is the immediate reaction of the “expectee”? Not change, at least not long term. The “expectee” may make an initial effort, but if they are not embracing the change wholeheartedly, if the desire to change does not come from within, the behavior will continue, the expector will be disappointed, and the expectee feels all that much more awful, first of all for letting the “expector” down and for “failing” or for letting themselves down. Often times, this undermines the self-esteem and self-confidence of the “expectee”, which, with many behaviors, just causes them to increase or worsen, or for new behaviors to manifest.

I once knew a married couple and from the outside looking in, I thought they had the perfect relationship. I remember talking to the wife about it and she told me that a couple of times a year, or when there was a change in family dynamic (a new kid, a new job, etc.), they’d sit down and discuss their expectations of each other. I thought this was brilliant. I attempted to employ this in my own, already unhappy marriage, and the expectation that my husband would even sit down and have a meaningful conversation with me wasn’t even met. Long story short, my marriage ended, neither of us ever lived up to any of each other’s expectations. And the happily married couple are now bitterly divorced. The wife was, for lack of a better term, a bit more assertive than her husband. Over time, he pretty much self-destructed. His life is in shambles and she is happily remarried.

Surely relationships must have some level of expectation in order to survive. Is it wrong to expect your spouse won’t cheat, will honor your wedding vows? The difference here is that vows are a mutual agreement, entered into by both parties, willingly. An expectation is one sided. Therein lies the crucial difference. Expectations often follow the word “should”. Listen to your thoughts, your words; how often are you thinking or saying, “should” as it relates to other people in your life? That is a one-sided desire, your desire, for someone else to change or conform, often against his or her will or desire. Expectations in a relationship, being one-sided in nature, are a highway to frustration and disappointment. Yours and theirs.

We usually begin a relationship managing to overlook all those things we think the other party should or should not do. We are open, accepting and tolerant. That is the key; openness, acceptance and tolerance. As time passes, unless we are conscious of own behavior, the “shoulds” begin to creep into our thoughts and into our speech. We need to learn to identify this tendency and to foster that loving openness, acceptance, and tolerance. We need to affirm in our relationship the characteristics of the other person that drew us together and accept the characteristics that we might otherwise expect to change. Quite simply said, much harder done, we need to replace expect with accept.

One of the best books I have ever read on all matters of relationships is The Soulmate Experience: A Practical Guide to Creating Extraordinary Relationships by Mali Apple and Joe Dunn. This book eloquently and logically explains how poisonous expectations can be to a relationship and how to replace expectations with invitations. I’ve read this book and I’ve re-read this book. And I recommend this book unequivocally. It should be required reading for anyone that ever has to relate in any way to another person! I am inviting you to read this book; I am not expecting you to read it. I’ll accept your decision, either way. Just sayin’.