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Monday, March 03, 2014

Variety is the Spice of Life!

Yes, yes.. I know… I just said last week that certainty and security were fundemental to your happiness in the world. This is true but not true all the time. We human beings are playful beings. We love to be up and doing, playing, getting into and out of trouble. We love to spice things up when we get bored. In short, we like variety.

There is nothing wrong with this! And in fact for some of us, having a life filled with variety is the most important ingredient for a happy and successful life. When life is too stable, we get bored and no longer feel we can grow.

Once in my classroom after a guest teacher had been teaching for a three week block, one of my students said she was surprised that there was another way a morning lesson could be and that she loved how she never knew what would happen in the morning lesson with the other teacher. The guest teacher was funny and taught in funny voices, made jokes and was generally unpredictable. For her this was perfect! For others in the class, it created discomfort at first but as trust grew, they grew to appreciate the diversity. For myself, teaching in the Waldorf style of staying with a class from grade to grade, always learning a new curriculum and never teaching the same lesson more then once, provided me with the needed variety in my work that fueled  my continued growth as a human being. If you are a teacher, how do you add a bit of surprise and wonder into your classes? What variety is available to augment the stability you must have in the classroom?

As a parent, planning little surprises for my daughter as she was growing up allowed her to feel loved and cared for. These positive surprises allowed her to develop a sense that the world is a loving and beautiful place -- even when it appears otherwise. Positive variety allowed her to grow and decide to follow her own path in life - to try different courses of study until she found the right one for her. Of course negative variety in the form of divorces, deaths, burglaries, and other life events that cause trauma also create variety. For some people who are not able to cultivate positive variety, they will draw almost magically to themselves crisis after crisis. This kind of variety in a family creates many more challenges that eventually need to be tackled by a professional.

In loving relationships, the conflict between variety and stablity can create tension for couples (with or without children). Couples early in their marriages (or dating) love how everything is new and mysterious. The undiscovered of the other person creates anticipation. What will the other say or do in this context or that?  This variety fuels relationships for the first few years. But when we get familiar with all those beautiful surprises, we grow bored... remember what happens when we are bored? WE no longer grow.. and as they say if you are not growing, you are dying. So, the relationship dies a little everyday for lack of variety.

This happened to me. After 21 years, I was too predictable and steady. And he was too predictably as well. We knew each other backwards and forwards. So, someone had to do something. And he did.  Our divorce certainly added variety for both of us! But more importantly, it made me mindful when he said to me, " I just want a little mystery."

So how in your long term loving relationships can you and your partner create healthy variety that enables you to grow?

My best friends tackled just this question 20+ years ago. They have no children  - children are great sources of variety in a relationship! They decided to make a effort early-on to grow together by pursuing interests together. They take classes, explore new places, take up new hobbies, and have been able to thrive inbetween moves for school and jobs, crazy work schedules, and the dreaded midlife time of life. Some of these pursuits they truly both love, and some is one person or another's passion. But the inspiring thing about their focus on their loving relationship is how much exploration they have taken up. Ballroom dancing, hiking, kayaking, fantasy football, wine collecting, pottery, photography, art collecting, travel of all kinds, bourdon tours (neither really drinks very much!) working out, bread making, healthy eating, herb gardening, and on and on it goes. I am always intrigued to hear about the new hobby, class, passion they are exploring and whose interest it is. Currently, bird watching is high on their lists. Pick something to feed yourselves with - pick anything, there is no wrong or right!

Variety - create beautiful healthy variety that will allow yourself, your children and your loving relationships to grow and flourish.
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