Archives for posts with tag: building blocks

I remember a handful of childhood things, memories I feel fairly confident are actual memories, rather than recollections of anecdotes shared by a family member. One of the things I remember is my Granny’s ‘button drawer’ in her sewing room. It was nothing more (or less) than the bottom drawer of her sewing machine table. It was nothing more (or less) than entirely filled with all manner of buttons. When clothing wore out and was cut up for rags, baby or doll clothes, quilting squares or strips for braided rugs, all the buttons were removed and put in the button drawer. There was no order or organization to it. It was a deep, vast, plentiful and chaotic assortment of all manner of buttons, some very old (having come from her grandmothers clothes), and some buttons were so new they were still stitched to cards in groups of 4, 6, or 8, waiting for just the right project.


Playtime at Granny’s house.

On visits, particularly rainy days, when Granny was at her sewing machine, I had the entire button drawer for my play set, my toys, my treasure. I strung buttons into long garlands of sparkly buttons, and bracelets of colorful bead buttons. I sorted and organized the buttons again and again, endlessly fascinated by their variety and materials. I could bury my hands deep in the drawer of buttons and feel the larger, heavy buttons that had slowly settled toward the bottom of the drawer. Pulling some strange, previously unseen button from those mysterious depths was exciting.

Building blocks were available for play, too, and I enjoyed them.  I have in mind a morning at play, old-fashioned square blocks, Linkin Logs, and some odds and ends – and a lot of frustration that the pieces, seemingly very ‘regular’ and organized, didn’t work together the way I wanted them to. Unlike the buttons, the clear purpose of each block was both obvious, and limiting, at least for me. I have a recollection of frustrated little girl tears, and a male figure exclaiming with similar frustration “How can  you not like this? They’re building blocks!!”   It wasn’t at all that I ‘didn’t like them’ – but they sure weren’t buttons of endless variety, with sparkles, carved shapes, colorful forms and limitless purpose in my imagination; they were just blocks. Motionless. Massive. Firmly and clearly geometric. Built with a specific purpose. Designed for a singular sort of play. Not buttons.

Although I was already a ‘chatterbox’, I couldn’t express my emotional needs, or articulate my emotions with clarity. I’m still easily frustrated by difficulty communicating emotions clearly.  Metaphorically, I’m still turning building blocks over in my head, and trying to figure out how to make something of them that really sparkles. lol  These ‘building blocks’ are different; values, ideas, principles, boundaries, standards… the decision-making of my life has become the ‘building blocks’ of my future experience.  I’ve got my blocks… now to build something with them.

My building blocks are simple enough, and so far they seem quite sound. My ‘Big 5’ relationship values are my ‘gold standard’ for a thriving healthy relationship composed of thriving healthy individuals. They work for me, and give me room to grow (and demand that I do, because it’s always about practicing). My Big 5 are: Respect, Reciprocity, Consideration, Compassion, and Openness.  Experience tells me that any relationship [of mine] grounded in these values will thrive, and I will thrive, myself.  As an individual human, with my own issues and baggage, and wading through considerable chaos and damage as a trauma survivor, I’ve got a couple ‘building blocks’ that are ‘all about me’, too – how do I guide my own experience? What principles can I rely on to keep me on the path to becoming the best of the woman I have the potential to be? I find that, for now, three very simple ideas are all I need there: mindfulness, perspective, and sufficiency do the job nicely.

8 words, and time and practice to build those basics into a content and satisfied life; it isn’t a destination, it is a journey.  My Big 5 and my basic principles are less a map, or a goal line, and more like… a backpack, base layers, and good preparation, before heading into the wilderness.  Good preparation matters for any project.  Planning supports any endeavor, even when events later stray from the plan.  Good fundamentals result in improved game play.  I could throw metaphors at this all day. I doubt that makes the point any clearer.

Here’s where it gets complicated, for me.  I’ve got my Big 5.  I’ve got my partners.  What have they got? I mean, other than me, practicing my Big 5? We’re all in this sandbox together, and everyone brings their own toys… compatible sets of blocks are helpful, if we’re all going to have a good time.  What happens in that sandbox if I’ve got buttons, and my playmate has blocks? What if someone comes along with an Erector set? Or Fischer-Technics? Playtime just got more complicated; our play sets are not easily going to work well together.  That’s a jigsaw puzzle for another day.

No blocks? How about a wheel barrow?

No blocks? How about a wheel barrow?

Today is a good day to build something wonderful. Today is a good day for kindness. Today is a good day to smile and acknowledge that we’re all in this together. Today is a good day to change the world.

No lack of harmony in the garden.

No lack of harmony in the garden.

I’m thinking about relationships today, and love, and harmony. It may not be my best choice of subject matter with this killer headache, but I needed a break from learning Baldur’s Gate , which is what gave me the headache!  Video games in any format tend to be really tough for me to learn, and I don’t get pleasure out of pushing my frustration level higher, so until pretty recently I did not bother with video games; too hard for me to learn, no fun.

The TBI changes my perspective on a number of things, and learning games, or building any skills that are impaired to the point of pushing me to the point of real frustration when I try to do things I’m not good at, seems really important now…  Changes in perspective, choices, and mindfulness (even in games), make a huge difference for my enjoyment of difficult things.  Relationships, though, are not games… still plenty of skill building potential, but even when delightful and harmonious, game-playing is not to be encouraged. lol.  The tutorial got me thinking, though, about the basic building blocks to learn a game, the prerequisite skills and concepts that are a necessity before I could even attempt game play… I know people who game ‘straight out of the box’, never bothering with the tutorials, never risking plot spoilers by reading the back stories, or doing any research.  Some of them are amazing gamers.  I also know gamers who carefully read the reviews before buying a game, read the ‘rules’ and back stories, watch some video walk-throughs of tougher sections of game play, maybe even watch someone else play before they take it on (and many of them play the game on ‘easy’ the first time). (Damn, wouldn’t it be nice if there was an ‘easy setting’ we could use for’ our first relationships?) Some of those gamers are also quite amazing.  Is there a right way?

Well, hoping to avoid taking a metaphor too far, but with relationships, I don’t think there are short cuts that are worth taking…but I’m only talking about my own experience, realistically.  I do need to hone my basic skills, and knowing that, it seems  important to figure out just what I think those basics are… not the fancy stuff; I mean the absolute ground level must-have approach, skill, or method for me, as an individual – the one I actually am – to succeed in my relationships.  It meshes nicely, as thinking goes, with approaching my relationships mindfully, as well as the general requirement to ‘take care of me’.  (Ah, adulthood…complex, exciting, frustrating, rewarding, and… ongoing.   Still, ‘ongoing’ certainly tends to imply there’s time to work on this stuff…although I’ve already muddled through 49 years without a clear ‘success story’.)  Most of my relationships are… challenging.  For me, for sure… for people daring to love me…I can barely imagine the sort of committment that requires, or how difficult that must be.

Building blocks… basics… it isn’t likely to be the same for other people, but I know what my own ‘big 5’ are… qualities, characteristics, or skills that I think are an absolute must for a healthy long-term relationship:

That’s it.  I think mastering these makes it a pretty good bet that a relationship based on those fundamentals will do well.   Sure there are other things that are important – communication, an essential, is the first thing that comes to mind – but I am finding, lately, that mutual respect,  reciprocity, consideration, compassion and openness generally result in good communication (or require learning good communication skills to achieve in the first place).  I could also note that having basically compatible values is pretty critical, but I think the ‘big 5’ I listed would likely prevent me investing heavily in a relationship with someone with seriously incompatible values, and the process of finding that out would be less painful than some other tried and true methods I’ve explored (like wishing, guessing, assuming, or playing make-believe about someone else’s values).

My current partners, and our exciting, wonderful, rich, affectionate, complicated, sometimes challenging, nurturing, mysterious, entangled, sweet, inviting, and evolving relationship(s) are certainly one of my most important sources of ‘life curriculum’! I could perhaps call it ‘my home room class in the school of life and love’ – no hyperbole required.  😀

No matter who the teacher is, we have to do our own homework.

No matter who the teacher is, we have to do our own homework.

…in spite of my headache, and occasional subtly unharmonious moments that quickly become part of the past, it’s a lovely spring day.  I’m not making a big deal about either the headache, or the sometime momentary lack of harmony.   I’m studiously maintaining my personal balance by practicing mindfulness, enjoying the sunny garden, and taking care of me by honing my skills on my ‘big 5’.   No matter what life throws my way, those are 5 qualities I value, personally, and cultivating them is worth my time and focus.