versions - older woman with head in hands

The Weight of Your Personal Versions

As a guy who spent years building software, I am thoroughly familiar with the concept of software versions. We’d make changes to software, and compile “versions” of it for release when it was ready. I had no idea that the same versioning concept could also represent our own experiences and personality!

A few years back, I was experiencing a feeling of emotional disconnection, and would occasionally find myself becoming short with my partner for no apparent reason. We had trouble talking, and I would find myself withdrawing from any emotional conversation with her. So not healthy!

I decided I’d get some counseling, to see if I could come to grips with what was currently going on in my life. I figured some of my early experiences and traumas must still be affecting me, even though I thought I’d dealt with it all.

Before going to the first session, I decided I would try and get a chronicle of my early years written down – but had no idea just how difficult this turned out to be! I started with a blank notebook page, and listed all the places I’d lived 20 or so before the age of 20), schools I’d attended (13 in 12 years), and major events I could remember.

It turned out I had huge gaps in my memory and needed to start working on a computer to edit the chronicle as memories came back. It was such a strange exercise in the end. Even now, a few years later, things come back to me. What was causing that blank spot? I think it was a defense mechanism kicking in, effectively a mind-fog.

When I got to the first counseling session, I gave my counselor a piece of paper with a short version of the major things that had gone on in my life. It listed experiences of abandonment, emotional disconnection, sexual abuse, and a bunch more. I thought it was a pretty good start on figuring out what was going on in my head.

The first thing he asked after reading it: “Is this person still you, or do you think you’ve moved on to be someone else?”

It floored me! It turns out my issues with feelings of disconnection with my spouse were more related to the emotional vocabulary I was using, and not decades old dramas (more on that in another post). Suddenly a weight came off my shoulders. I had been carrying around an outdated different version of myself for years! I had not realized that it was no longer a version of “me” that I needed to keep.

Sure, I still visit once in a while, and there are still some incredibly painful memories that come up from time to time. But now I find I can face them more readily, and look at them through the filter of distance.

Recognizing and cleaning up the versions of yourself that you’re carrying around can be a life-altering experience. True, we are the sum of our experiences, but that version changes over time. As I read the Zen Koan “Muddy Road” I can see how the weight of those different versions can weigh you down. By recognizing that those versions of us exist and that we are carrying them around, we can start pushing them away from our daily responses to life. That way lies a less burdened life.

Have you ever experienced anything like this personal versioning? Have you dealt with it or are you still carrying around that weight? Tell me about it in the comments!

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

You Might Also Like: Zen and the Art of Learning

 

tranquility

5. If You Love, Love Openly

Twenty monks and one nun, who was named Eshun, were practicing meditation with a certain Zen master.

Eshun was very pretty even though her head was shaved and her dress plain. Several monks secretly fell in love with her. One of them wrote her a love letter, insisting upon a private meeting.

Eshun did not reply. The following day the master gave a lecture to the group, and when it was over, Eshun arose. Addressing the one who had written her, she said: “If you really love me so much, come and embrace me now.”

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

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respect

Respect is The Key To Love

I tell my partner every day that I love her. That may sound old fashioned, but it makes me feel great to do it. We have been together for over 24 years. When people ask how we’ve managed to create that relationship, we point to one thing: respect. It isn’t as romantic to tell someone “I respect you” every day, but is critical that you feel that way.
 
Love is a word that gets bandied about too much. We use it on objects, food, outfits, whatever. What does NOT get bandied about is the word respect.
 
When someone says “I respect you” it forms the basis for an actual relationship. Respect is the glue that holds people together. People can fall in and out of love, and that love can vary in its intensity and depth as a relationship progresses. But respect for each other is far more binary in nature. It is either on or off.
 
Once you’ve lost respect for someone, it can be impossible to retrieve. And that can be the death knell of love. But if you can hold onto that respect, it can forge a bond deeper than anything else in your life.
 
We watch Seinfeld a LOT in our house. In one of our favorite Seinfeld episodes (The Engagement), Jerry and George decide that they need to grow up and form a mature relationship with someone. Jerry confides in Kramer about their thoughts:

Jerry: We were talking about our lives and we both kind of realized we’re kids. We’re not men.

Kramer: So, then you asked yourselves, “Isn’t there something more to life?”

Jerry: Yes. We did.

Kramer: Yeah, well, let me clue you in on something. There isn’t.

Jerry: There isn’t?

Kramer: Absolutely not. I mean, what are you thinking about, Jerry:? Marriage? Family?

Jerry: Well…

Kramer: They’re prisons. Man made prisons. You’re doing time. You get up in the morning. She’s there. You go to sleep at night. She’s there. It’s like you gotta ask permission to use the bathroom. Is it all right if I use the bathroom now?

Jerry: Really?

Kramer: Yeah, and you can forget about watching TV while you’re eating.

Jerry: I can?

Kramer: Oh, yeah. You know why? Because it’s dinner time. And you know what you do at dinner?

Jerry: What?

Kramer: You talk about your day. How was your day today? Did you have a good day today or a bad day today? Well, what kind of day was it? Well, I don’t know. How about you? How was your day?

Jerry: Boy.

Kramer: It’s sad , Jerry. It’s a sad state of affairs..

Jerry: I’m glad we had this talk.

Kramer: Oh, you have no idea!

It’s hysterical, and we actually quote it on a nearly daily basis as an inside joke. But it points to one of the most misunderstood parts of a great relationship: respectful communication.
 
When you respect another person, it is natural to want to get their point of view. In all my years of extensive (100,000 miles per year) travel, I made a rule out of speaking to her each night. We still make time each evening to have a conversation before bed. It can be about something as menial as what we’re doing the next day, or as important as where one of our girls is at in their life.
 
I value my wife’s ideas, desires, and feelings, as much as my own. Our relationship is based on building each other up. We create opportunities to support each other against what the world is throwing at us every day. And we do that by communicating with each other.
 
In business, my most important task was creating a strong team. That meant fostering an atmosphere of respect in the workplace and between team members. Central to that was the role of open communication, encouraging feedback, and making sure people respected each otherI like to think that team building was one of my strongest contributions to the success of my company, and it was all based on ensuring mutual respect. I’ll be writing about team building a lot in the future.
 
We may not always agree on a course of action, but we must respect each other’s contribution to the discussion.
 
When you think of ways to great strong bonds with people, make sure you take steps to ensure that the importance of mutual respect is never trivialized. It is critical to success in every part of your life.
 
And while I will still always tell my wife I love her every day, what I’m also saying is that I respect her.
 
Comments and thoughts are welcome, as always!