I’m no Einstein

Poor Albert Einstein. At the ripe old age of 26, he published several theories that redirected the field of physics and set it on a new course. His approach was groundbreaking and considered brilliant. Even to this day, people still pay homage to his intelligence. Many people assumed his mathematical and theoretical brilliance would be transferable to all areas of life. They asked his opinion on every subject imaginable and he gave it. In some areas, he was quirky. In others, he was mistaken. And in some, he was insightful enough. But in most regards, Albert’s life in general, his opinions and his personal behavioral choices, fell well within the range of ‘normal’. He was very human. Living up to one’s own reputation can be a burden. Albert was not frequently described, in any account of him that I’ve read, as happy.

Still, it must have been hard to become the standard against which all other human intelligences would be measured. I never met the man but I’ve been compared with him many times in my life. Not once favorably, by the way. But I never took offense at this, any more than I would have taken offense at someone pointing out to me that I was no Michelangelo in my sketch book or no Bernstein in my musical abilities or Baryshnikov on the dance floor. I have never tried to be like somebody else. It seemed like a full time job simply trying to be myself…even attempting to discover whatever that might mean took a long time.

I mention all of this because we live in a culture and a time that has placed a great deal of emphasis upon comparing things and people. We may not know what the absolute value of anything might be (the absolute truth about anything or if something is absolutely beautiful to all people for all time or if this is the absolutely best piece of pizza ever) but we are definitely sure that this is more truthful than that, or that this looks more beautiful than that, or that this one tastes way better than that one. This is where Albert comes in again. We’ve become marginally accustomed to the theory of relativity and practice it now with regards to truth, beauty and pizza quality. In fact, we practice it almost constantly. There’s a whole spectrum of valuations we make in our lives that are ‘relative’, i.e. how we perceive things will depend upon whether we’re riding on the train or standing on the train station platform. (I pray you’re familiar with that example as it has been used so often to illustrate Einstein’s theory).

I want to tell you that comparisons themselves ultimately have no value. We will never grow towards happiness or fulfillment if we are constantly judging ourselves against someone or something else. Even when we are comparing our current self with the version of ourselves from a previous point in time, it serves no real purpose. We’re no longer in that place in time and awareness. We are here. As I attempt to judge or evaluate myself in relation to others, I will always be in one of two categories…better than or not as good as. The relativity of both these categories negates the usefulness of either.

So I would encourage you to trust that your honesty will always steer you towards truth, to appreciate whatever beauty it is you see in front of you, and to relish pizza in all its glorious versions.

My deepest understanding is that we are all created equals.

When I am constantly comparing, I lose sight of that truth quickly. And I suffer.

 

 

 

 

The Cutting Edge

Rather a catchy phrase, don’t you think?…”The Cutting Edge”. I’d rank it right up there with “The Tip of the Spear” and “Breakthrough Technology” in the category of modern metaphors that are overused but not yet worn out.

In my blog entitled, ‘Expertise’, I brought on stage the expert’s experts. They’re the people at the end of the line for the most complicated problems and the toughest questions. They’re the ‘go to’ people. These are the people who are working diligently at ‘the cutting edge’. These people are typically not lime lighters. Every human endeavor has a handful (at least) of such individuals working behind the scenes of public awareness. Whether its nuclear fission, nail polish remover, soil fungus identification, the mating rituals of whooping cranes (or any species actually…we seem fascinated with this activity), wine crafting, carpet weaving or computer chip designing…every single enterprise that exists has those people working within its discipline who are pushing their particular enterprise towards what can be described generically as the ‘new’.

For after all, that is exactly what being on ‘the cutting edge’ means. These individuals, collectively and individually, are working on the line between what we think we know and what is, as yet, the unknown…between what has been done before and what has yet to be tried. This may seem glamorous, almost Star Trekish, but it is actually quite tedious. There is the monotony of the trial and error process along with the discouragement of frequent failures. These individuals are not necessarily more intelligent than the rest of us…but they do seem to have embraced a singleness of purpose in their lives that most of us have chosen not to. By that I mean, it takes a certain personality type. In order for anyone to develop this level of expertise, it is often at the expense of other interests or activities. There are only 24 hours in any person’s day. Their dedication to and absorption with their chosen endeavor is admirable and often endearing. It can be equally irritating. In either case, it does tend to make them a bit quirky.

As lay people, a non experts, we have a lot in common with the expert’s expert. We, too, are constantly working and living on the line between what we think we know and what is, as yet, our unknown. We, too, must endure the tedious methodology of trial and error…and this applies to all areas of our life…our dating, our working, our partnering, our parenting, our believing or non believing and so on. We, too, must endure the discouragement of frequent failures, of not being at our best, of getting it all wrong. And we, too, must closely look at what we have done before and have the courage to try what we’ve never tried before. If we want to continue to grow.

In the end, the expert’s expert and the rest of us land in the same place. We begin with not knowing, try our best and end up still not knowing. But we need not give up. This is our humanity that we’re all exploring. We are all on ‘the cutting edge’ of our self awareness.

I must confess, it makes us a bit quirky too.

Isn’t that great?

Expertise

 

It’s not hard for me to take a look around wherever I happen to be and notice lots of things that I know little or nothing about.

For example, at this very moment I’m sitting on a wooden chair with a cushion at a kitchen table. The kitchen table is also made from wood which has been stained, marked and sealed to look ‘stressed’. I have no idea what type of tree the table or chairs were made from. I have no idea what materials or processes were used to fashion the cushion. I won’t even pretend to know what specific colors they might be. (If you have ever dealt with a clothes designer, interior decorator or house painter you’ll know what I’m talking about. Who knew how many types of white or black there could be?)

But let me go on. Within my immediate field of vision there’s a refrigerator, electric stove, cabinets, kitchen sink, more wood for the floor, light fixtures, windows, coffee maker, juicer, and this here darn computer. All of which I’m familiar with as an end user. None of which I have any in depth knowledge of. I know nothing about where the raw materials came from, what processes and additional materials were needed to reshape and create each, who were the people involved in that manufacturing sequence (where were they from, what were they like, was this a good job for them?) and how it all ended up here. I do have a limited and working knowledge of how to maintain and repair most of what I’m looking at. That’s about it. Beyond that, I have phone numbers of people with more expertise.

So, if I can do this at my kitchen table, imagine how I can do this in a subway car, or laying on a beach, or walking my dog in the woods. I look around and am constantly noticing things that I know little or nothing about. None of this makes me feel inadequate. I am not supposed to know everything about everything. Not knowing is quite normal. (But more on that in just a moment.)

I want to bring you back to those phone numbers that I have. They put me in contact with people that know, at the very least, more than me. That’s what I hope. They advertise themselves as ‘professional’ or ‘expert’ but we have no real way of judging that. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see a billboard or commercial with the tag line, “Bill’s Repair Service: we may not know everything, but we certainly know more than you.”? I’d hire that guy.

Anyways, here’s the thing: there are certain problems, questions or situations that can stump the first level of expertise we call upon. They don’t know or can’t figure it out either. If we’re fortunate, we get referred to the next level of expertise. At this next level, usually 9 out of 10 issues can be solved or answered. One out of ten, though, will still be a stumper. Again, if we’re persistent and lucky (stubborn and ornery) we can be referred to yet another level of expertise.

So, you get the idea, right? There’s a phone tree of experts out there for any particular subject. If we are willing to stay on the line (keep pursuing the answer), we will get transferred from ‘expert’ to ‘expert’ up the knowledge chain with the belief that we will eventually end up with the ‘one who really knows’. The expert’s expert.

I’ve done this on numerous occasions for various problems or questions.

It’s a fascinating experience.

Here’s the summary:

If my quest involved a mechanical problem, at the level of the expert’s expert, their answer has been: “I can tell you how to fix that but it would be too expensive. You’re better off just buying a new one.”

If my quest involved a medical situation or even a scientific question, at the end of the line, at the expert’s expert level, the answer has been: “We don’t know exactly. They’re are numerous theories out there. We’re still doing a lot of work on that.”

Not knowing seems to be the norm.

I want you to know that.

I know I’m not perfect but…

Somewhere between absolutely right and completely wrong is where we meet the reality of ourselves every day. It’s where we experience life and, in that sense, it’s where we live. The two extremes are mental and emotional fictions. One we desire, the other we dread. And it’s not always the same one. We can dread being right and desire to be wrong just as easily as the reverse.

When I state that both are fictions, that neither extreme actually exists or is possible, I say it in the same manner that True North as navigational point also doesn’t exist. Apart from local factors that can influence our compass point or directional instruments, the magnetic field of our planet itself fluctuates. True North is an abstract. As explorers will testify, having an indication of North as an orientation point is extremely useful. Without such an orientation, venturing into the unknown would only be an exercise in becoming lost. But that’s all True North (or even North) is. An orientation, not a destination.

Perfection is another fiction. I’ve asked many people to complete the thought/sentence that is the title of this blog. Here’s how every single person (thus far) has done it: “I know I’m not perfect but…I would like to be”. Now, there have been some small variations in the exact wording…’but I try to be’, ‘but I should be’, ‘but I want to be’…but the essence of the answer is the same. Perfection is the goal. Perfection is what most of us are aiming for. Being ‘absolutely right’ would be perfect.

And, actually, we’re all aiming for something that doesn’t exist. It’s easy to understand why we keep missing it.

Wanting to learn, wanting to improve, wanting to grow and develop…these are understandable and, for the most part, healthy.

However, we are not perfect. Ever. There is no such thing.

We are all works in progress. That is as perfect as it ever needs to be. We are our happiest when we are growing. Nothing is ever truly finished. Our misery and suffering begin at the precise moment we stop wanting to learn…when we think we know…when we’re ‘absolutely right’. That’s when the pain, the realization of something we overlooked, misunderstood, or never saw coming, reveals itself. Time after time after time.

The voice that drives our search for perfection is a tyrant. It is a loud voice, ripe with restless dissatisfaction. There is greed in that voice, as well as egotistical pride. When we are driven by this voice there can be no quiet appreciation, no enjoyment of the moment and no savoring of the incremental progress being made. Anything less than perfection is flawed, worthless junk.

And that’s how we come to see ourselves. Flawed. Worthless. Junk.

This is one of the most crippling voices I have ever encountered in myself. And one of the most damaging voices I deal with in others

Initially, as I struggled to not listen to the voice that demanded perfection, I felt as if I had abandoned my most noble quest, my highest calling, and settled for the mediocre.

These feelings were all a part of my delusion.

I have discovered that I do not have to be perfect in order to be loved. I do not have to be right in order to be valued and respected. I do not have to know something completely in order to be able to contribute to the conversation.

My remaining open to learning and willing to keep trying is so perfectly human, so totally lovable, that I almost missed it…

…as the voice of perfection urged me to chase the mirage.

Whose Voice is that anyway?

It’s no secret nor that unusual that many of us have a voice (or several) chattering constantly inside our heads. Sometimes it’s a play by play announcer, sometimes it’s providing color commentary, other times it can be more like point/counterpoint. The voice slips in and out of these various roles seamlessly. What the voice rarely does, however, is shut up.

We’ve all hit the mute button during Wimbledon, or the Ryders Cup Tournament, or even the Super Bowl in order to silence the inane blabbering and simply witness the sport. Have you ever wondered if there was a way to silence the voice(s) between your ears?

Well, there is. But that’s not the subject of this blog.

This voice appears and then develops as we initially attempt to process much of the raw material (sensations and situations) from the world in front of us into our opinions and feelings. We’re all so young when this is occurring that we believe that the voice(s) IS us. After all, it is with us constantly…relentlessly wondering, speculating, calculating, debating, pouting, crying…processing, processing, processing…buffering, buffering, buffering. This voice, if it isn’t US, is presumed to be our friend.

The torrent of data that life presents us with (and this stream of consciousness that races to keep up) is overwhelming. For all of us. There’s simply no way to make sense of it all, not enough time or energy to follow every thought through or react to every feeling. So from very early on in our life we quickly become more and more selective. The voice(s) begins to pick and choose which thoughts or feelings to focus on. All else is ignored. The voice always draws our attention towards what it’s familiar with, what it thinks it knows. Somehow, this feels safe and secure. Comfortable. And this becomes our pattern for life. This is what is considered ‘normal’.

If a barking dog once really frightened us, it’s probable we’ll always scan for dogs, barking or not. If the neighborhood bully had red hair and freckles, it’s likely we’ll have to resist the impulse to shy away from those with similar features. If a girl named Kate or a boy named Paul broke our hearts in high school, we’re probably going to be reluctant to trust the next person with that name.

The presumption is that the voice(s) in our head is trying to look out for us. It’s hard to even imagine but….that might not be true.

How many times have you heard someone say that they’re their own worst critic? Or that no one is as hard on them as they are on themselves? It’s a fairly common refrain. It would seem that one of the roles the voice(s) favors is the voice that tears us down and holds us back. The voice that detracts and doubts and finds fault with everything…even a legit accomplishment.

That doesn’t seem particularly friendly.

We hardly need protection from an honest effort and a genuinely good experience.

But the voice(s) will still find something to warn us about.

We might want to consider that the voice is not keeping us safe so much as it is holding us back from growth and joy.

So, whose voice is it anyway?

 

 

The Need to Know

It has always amused me when I’m watching a fictional story (TV show, movie, national news) when one of the characters is asking the relevant questions and they’re told that they can’t be given those answers because that information is available only on a ‘need to know basis’.  The Truth is always Classified. The reality of a situation is above their pay grade. The character and the audience both know that whatever that something is, whatever is being kept secret, isn’t flattering (mildly phrased) to someone. Someone has something to lose. Someone is protecting someone or something. From the truth.

Of course, this is all in the fictitious arena of entertainment…and the nightly news. I include the nightly news because, on a daily basis, people in that business are making editorial decisions as to what it is they think that we, the people watching, need to know. They choose which stories to run, which to quash, which to follow up on and which to let fade away. Decisions are made that reflect their judgment as to what we need to know and what they think will drive revenue. Decisions that we will never know about. Moreover, we won’t ever know the true basis for their decisions. Even the people within that business are informed on a need to know basis. Pursuing the truth can cost you your job, perhaps your career.

I mention this because we forget sometimes. Quite often actually. We forget that when we enter a stage or movie theatre, one of the requirements of the audience is to bring “a willing suspension of disbelief “. Otherwise, we wouldn’t enjoy the show, the story, the acting and the drama. We would simply be sitting there telling ourselves and each other that none of what we’re seeing is real, that none of what they’re saying is actually true. But none of that matters. We enjoy a good story so much, we’re willing to be swept away by the fiction.

That’s understandable in a theatre.

What has become increasingly confused, however, is the distinction between entertainment and information. Most of us will sit in front of the television to receive both. It was only a matter of time before we, ourselves, were no longer demanding a clear separation between the two. We, through our viewing preferences, indicated that we wanted our information to be more entertaining and our entertainment to contain more factual information. The people in that business were only too willing to oblige. After all, they’re in business to make money.

This is not an indictment. This was not a conspiracy.

But we have incrementally, and now systematically, neutralized what used to be one of the most forceful checks on the wrongdoing of institutions, governments agencies and big business. We have neutralized the outrage of an informed public because we no longer know what to believe from the primary sources of our information. They have been compromised. They do not seek to level the playing field with accurate information and full disclosure. They do not let the chips fall where they will. They are in the business of selectively steering the chips into their pockets.

Again, I must state that this is not an attack on anyone or the news media in particular. This unhealthy progression took place within the course of normal human events and situations. We, ourselves, fell asleep in front of the whole process.

All I’m asking is for you consider that, not only do we have the need to know, we have the right to know.

Our collective well being depends upon it.

 

 

 

 

The Smile Reflex

There’s something about this experience called life that makes taking ourselves too seriously impossible.

We smile as a reflex response. It’s no different than our eye blinking when an object suddenly comes close, or our leg jerking when the doctor taps it with the rubber mallet, or our flinching at a loud noise nearby. Reflex responses. We can smile at something that just crossed our minds, at the sight of someone who walked through the door, at the soft play of candlelight on our lover’s face, at a child chasing a puppy…and so much more. There’s no need to think about smiling before we do it. In fact, the common way to refer to these instances is to say that ‘we caught ourselves smiling’. We realized we were smiling after we had smiled.

These are moments of appreciation…unscripted…unedited…uncensored…undeniable. They occur frequently and randomly everyday and everywhere. That’s part of their charm. And we smile. And, if we’re paying attention, we notice that we smiled.

A coworker brings you a cup of coffee made just right without you asking, there’s a tap on your shoulder and a stranger hands you the phone you had unknowingly left on the counter, a friend you’ve been wondering about happens to send you an email with a goofy picture that captures what you’ve always liked about them, the repair person tells you that everything is still covered under warranty, the song in the elevator reminds you of that time in Jamaica.

None of these moments can be planned or predicted. They simply show up. This is so obvious that it could be a bumper sticker:

The unexpected. It’s not what you saw coming.

Here’s what’s not so obvious: we love these moments. We feel most alive in those few seconds…before our brains kick in…before we cover up emotionally and guard ourselves again. We love surprises. We enjoy the non ordinary, the break in the routine, and the opportunity to improvise. We smile during these moments and we smile when we remember them. We tell stories about them. We enjoy them at a level that our thinking doesn’t understand. That our thinking won’t allow.

I’ve delved into this in greater detail in my book but the essence is: life itself is a risky business. When we strive to take the risk out of life, we take the life out of ourselves. We deaden ourselves with caution and control, with being rational at the exclusion of all else, with being consistent at the expense of being creative.

There’s a line from a song, “I want to live, not merely survive.”

In the moment of a reflex smile, we feel alive.

Awakening to ourselves can begin with these. We would do well to linger and not rush by those feelings, to savor them, to explore them without explaining them, to pay attention to what it was that we felt. It’s in those moments that we can discover who we truly are.

And smile.

 

 

 

 

 

No Laughing Matter, The Midling

There’s a ‘honeymoon’ period in every serious relationship, whether there’s been a ceremony or not, that isn’t about going away somewhere for a week or two. It’s a period of time during which all of the effort, anticipation and focus of combining two unrelated molecules into one stable compound seems to have worked. Hence the phrase, there was a chemistry between them. This time period typically lasts for about 6 months to 2 years, but not always. There are instances where this period doesn’t last as long as the week or two the couple goes away. In which case, we remark that there was bad chemistry from the start. There are other instances, though, where this period can seem to last uncomfortably long. The sweetness seems artificial. The niceness is forced. We tell ourselves and whisper to others, ‘watch out, something’s going to blow.’

What makes this stage, phase or time period of relationships so unique is that the peace and ease that each person experiences is directly related to their willingness to suspend their expectations of one another as they coordinate and cooperate in their efforts to combine. The newness of what is happening requires an attitude of openness and tolerance, a kind of free floating approach to alternate possibilities. Internally, it can feel like the weightlessness of space. That’s because we have escaped the gravity of our expectations. We are no longer pulled and the pinned down by our thoughts of how things are supposed to be or have to be in order for us to be happy. We actually have created some real space for ourselves and our partner.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending upon your perspective, after a while, we tell ourselves (in so many words) that we need to come back to earth. It’s not that feeling floaty, looser and lighter about things was bad. Nope. It’s just not what we’re accustomed to. We will quite sincerely tell ourselves that we have to get back to reality.

Feeling looser, feeling lighter, feeling less confined and restricted feels unreal.

BUT IT IS REAL.

We were there. We felt it.

We weren’t drugged. We weren’t hallucinating. We weren’t clinically insane.

But we will discount it, dismiss it and disregard anything we might have learned about ourselves during the experience.

Sigh.

Our newlyweds experienced their floatiness together for about a year. Physical intimacy was accomplished without harm or trauma but passion was never really sparked. She came to expect him to make her laugh in order for her to relax and he came to resent having to entertain her in order to have sex. Needless to say, they didn’t talk about it. The frequency of their intimacy trailed off accordingly. She told herself that this was probably normal. She feared, however, that he no longer found her attractive. He told himself that sex wasn’t as important to her as it was to him. Otherwise, she’d complain about not having it enough…just as she had started to complain about other things that weren’t up to her liking. He started spending time with sites on the internet. He’d used this venue before marriage and told himself that there was no harm in it.

Another sigh.

 

 

 

What did you Expect?

I’ll repeat the question, because it’s not rhetorical: What did you Expect?

This question has always put me on the spot.

What did you Expect?

I can picture the question inscribed on my tombstone (not that I’ll have a tombstone).

It reminds me of the Naropa Institute motto: “Love of the truth puts you on the spot.”

When I answer that question, I feel exposed. When I tell you honestly what I expected, I can’t help but reveal something about myself to you. My expectations can’t lie. They are what they are. That’s one of the reasons we’re likely to fib about our expectations. We’ll tell you that we really didn’t know what to expect or that we didn’t expect anything. We generally don’t like being put on the spot. We don’t feel comfortable or safe with people, anybody really, getting to know us. (That’s a bit odd, considering that we humans are frequently described as social beings, but let’s leave this topic for another time.)

For lots of reasons, I’ve come to love the spot. That doesn’t mean at all that I’m stronger or better or smarter than anyone else. I’m simply a freer and happier me when I willingly step into the spot.

One of the ways I discovered this was by reverse engineering. It occurred to me that if someone else might be able to catch a glimpse of the ‘real’ me by asking me that question, I might just as well be able to do the same thing. That is to say, to get to know the real me.

It wasn’t all that hard or complicated. As often as I could remember to do it, before I went anywhere or made a phone call or even simply walked into the house, I asked myself ‘what did I expect?’. And I didn’t just ask the question. I searched myself and answered honestly. It rarely took more than a minute to do this. Then I went to wherever or made the call or entered the house mindful of what I was expecting.

It was a fascinating process on several levels. Here’s some of what I discovered:

  • acknowledging to myself what I expected made it easier to recognize when and in what way the situation was deviating from what I had anticipated.
  • being clear with myself as to what I was expecting somehow made it easier to express myself and my preferences if the situation was going in a different direction.
  • being clear with myself also made it easier to let go of what I had expected when my expectation wasn’t that important to me. I had to know what the expectation was before I could ever know if it mattered.
  • looking at my expectations made it quite evident that my expectations broke into two distinct categories…what I expected from myself and what I expected from others. I found that I was more than lenient with the first type and strict as all get out with the second type. In short, I had a double standard. I didn’t expect myself to live up to my own expectations but I sure as heck expected you to. Oh. Ouch. Crap.

Of course, there’s more.

Of course I discovered that much of what I expected was pure speculation and never actually happened.

Stayed tuned.

 

The Gravity of Expectations

Physics in general and gravity in specific have been getting a lot of ink recently. It’s nice to consider that one hundred years isn’t too long to wait for a little verifying data.

For reasons peculiar to me, the explanations of how gravity warps spacetime struck me as remarkably similar to how I’ve understood expectations to distort my view of reality. Bear with me:

Expectations…they’re like gravitational waves…bending and distorting spacetime according to the mass of the relationship they encounter. It seems that every body exerts an influence on every other body they’re in contact with. Mental and emotional distortions are not dependent upon physical proximity. We are tugged and pulled at…as we ourselves tug and pull at others within our spacetime continuum.

A stranger choosing to sit next to me in the subway expects me to move my foot slightly to accommodate their access. I expect them to watch out for my foot. Space and time become momentarily distorted. For a fraction of a second, we both behave as if this really matters.

My daughter expects me to have a ‘talk’ with her when she brings home a poor report card from school. I expect her to have a ton of reasons that won’t sound valid to me. Space and time warp this into a crises because I’ve come into her ‘room’ and want to get this over with quickly.

Two people who marry usually have the expectation of fidelity. If that expectation isn’t met, the union can collapse and create a black hole that distorts and traps all other emotions and relationships into a negative and lightless void.

Gravity influences more than just the motions of objects. Expectations influence more than just the emotions of people. The more mass of the object, the stronger its gravitational field and the more it warps spacetime. The more levels of expectation, the stronger the force behind them and the more they warp our perceptions.

And without belaboring the similarities any further, the truth is that most of us have yet to internalize (grasp), not the science behind these discoveries, but the implications and impact that they would have on our world view if we did. Most of us still hold on to what we were taught; a reductionist, Newtonian concept of the ‘outside’ universe wherein there were fundamental building blocks of particles and set laws that they obeyed. These were simpler notions, advanced notions for their day, that we could devise proofs for. Yet, they were incorrect, incomplete and misleading.

We have many outdated and misleading notions about ourselves still. Habits are one of them. Expectations are another. We still believe that having expectations in our relationships is OK, as long as they are reasonable. As you may already have realized, reasonable is a relative term. It’s a ready made argument just waiting to happen. Simply sprinkle a little bad mood onto it and watch it explode. So regardless of their reasonableness, all expectations have the effect of corralling us towards certain behaviors or responses. We eventually resent this. We usually come out sideways when we do.

Our expectations, unacknowledged and unspoken as they typically are, continually exert their influence in our relationships. By not considering or addressing their existence consciously, we often miscalculate where a given conversation or relationship is actually going. Our expectations distort reality or, more frequently, we warp reality to fit our expectations. The result is suffering in the form of misunderstandings, hurt feelings and frequent arguments.