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Life in the Lab: A Letter From Iowa

Dear friend,

I had a boyfriend many moons ago who said whenever he got involved with someone new, he secretly wondered what would be the thing that was going to eventually drive him crazy about his new beloved. For whatever reason, when my sweetheart and I became involved, I thought about his words.

What I loved then, and love still, about my sweetheart is that he is deliberate and methodical. He does not rush, ever. He is not chatty. He is, in a word, quiet. And...I am not. I could foresee the day when these beloved qualities would wane in my regard and they have over and over, but I always remind myself that I LOVE these things about my sweetheart.

However, on day #34 of our road trip, I put him on the skewer for all the things I love about him. He just is not connecting with me in the way I want him to. He is not responsive fast enough. He is just too slow. He is, in two words, too quiet.

I share all this with you because, on day #33, we had just been talking about our work with our therapist. I was talking about how isn't it funny that we think that he’s so great, but we don’t go particularly deep - instead our work together is focused on making things work right here, right now. In the same vein, as we sat around the fire that night, I commented on how things that felt SO important in my 30’s, 40’s and even 50’s just don’t seem so weighty and important now. However, and you should know that I laughed when I said this, the things I’m still attached to in my 60’s - those really feel like they are of import and not to be trifled with.

You know, like when one finds their dear partner to be not responsive enough, too slow and too quiet.

How many times do I have to relearn this lesson? Whenever it seems like it’s about them (especially him), it’s usually about me.

The next day, when we departed beautiful Stone State Park outside of Sioux City Iowa, I decided that I would drive, and I popped in my trusty earbuds and began to listen to a new Audible Original titled How to Train Your Mind. You may laugh, but this really was kismet working in the form of the digital behemoth. I really wanted a new book, preferably a very involved piece of historical fiction, with a worthy female protagonist. But, I couldn’t find one quick enough before we were ready to go - fortunately, so instead I went with How to Train Your Mind.

As I listened to the first hour of this three hour ‘retreat’, it dawned on me that I have not meditated once - not once in the last 34 days! If you aren’t a meditator, you may be thinking “so what?”, but I usually meditate for 20 minutes every single day.

How to Train Your Mind largely focuses on meditation as it relates to productivity and the author makes the case that you get back, in productivity, nine minutes for every one minute that you meditate. Based on that, I’m the kind of geek that would love to make a mathematical case that my previous accumulated daily meditations finally ran out on day #34.

My friends, I was literally laughing out loud when I had the lack-of-meditation-realization. I told myself a little mental joke that I must be using meditation as a crutch for my relationship. The author even notes the tendency of meditators to find that they are realizing such good results, they let it go, feeling like they don’t need it anymore.

Worse, it was so unconscious! If I was trying to quit smoking - 34 days without smoking would be awesome. If I was dieting - maintaining my good eating habits for 34 days would be a feat. Somehow, I let go of my meditation practice with no fanfare at all.

So, the laboratory of my relationship continues and the experiment reliably yields the same results for new tests, and verification of the same old hypothesis. When I focus on each of our strengths, things proceed pretty swimmingly.

So I will share with you the axiom of our therapist, Be kind, have faith, don’t panic. It pretty much always works, so long as you have a crutch like meditation so you don’t take yourself too seriously.



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