Albert Einstein has shared some powerful words with us: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” and “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
Elegant, round, large, profound words.
And pretty simple, right?
I was listening to a friend today talking about a couple she knew who are in a polar relationship with some conflicting dynamics. As an outsider, my perception of Major Problems was glaring and blaring. The relationship sounded as if it had the words Selfishness and Dislike and Disrespect stamped all over it. And before I go further, I want to say that I am not proud of my initial reaction to the story. This couple in no way deserved my hasty judgment.
The husband stayed at home with the baby. The wife didn’t like it when the husband wanted to get out for a few hours in the evening for some alone time. After all, as he said, “I can only clean the house so many times during the day.” The wife, being the breadwinner, quashed his request to take the car and go have fun. Well, the wife didn’t want to be left all alone with the baby. So? The husband stayed home, deferring to his wife and ignoring his wish to be around adults with whom he could talk and share . . . all which emphasized the core problem that his wife was someone who he didn’t qualify as being an “adult with whom he could talk and share.”
You get the idea. It was easy for me to sympathize with the husband. I don’t know why I found myself rooting for the him, as I am guessing that the wife has her own personal emotional challenges regarding the relationship. I was surprised when I felt myself getting emotionally involved in the story and siding with the husband. I started saying things like, “Wow! Let the man go out and have a little fun.” And . . . “She sounds like a control nut.” And then . . . “Why do they even stay together if they are so unhappy?”
I caught myself mid-comment. All of this, coming from someone who was a Master Enabler and Chronic Co-Dependency Queen in relationships past. As I heard the words coming out of my mouth, I thought back over the years when I stayed in relationships that were no longer in our respective best interests. Relationships where we no longer cared about growing or contributing or loving one another. Relationships that focused on Take and no Give.
It is always easy to look at others’ relationships and “know what I would do.” It is also easy to look back at my own personal hard times and now know what I would have, should have, could have done differently.
Hindsight is a lovely thing. It is the frosting that covers the burnt cake called Delayed Action. In my situation, the obvious thing to do in these relationships was to cut the cord and repair to a different bubble, a different space. A paradigm shift was certainly in order. By staying in “the same level of consciousness” that created the problems, I was exercising my Rights of Insanity . . . by “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
As you can easily imagine, consequences were paid and lessons were learned. Changes were made and “different results” were wrested from me. Not always a happy ending at that time but a different ending, nonetheless.
I have certainly chosen Insanity, by Einstein’s definition, and stayed far beyond the expiration date that was stamped on the underside of a few relationships. There are times when I don’t like to admit this . . . times when, now having moved on and past, I don’t really care about the outcomes that took place . . . times when I feel as if these relationships have helped me to build healthier, positive relationships in the present. There are times when regrets have dogged me and times when regrets have vanished into the stratosphere without a hint of a vapor trail. Times when my past feels as if it has been a surreal dream and times when I simply don’t think about it at all.
I laughed at myself when I told my friend, “Aren’t I a fine one to be saying what this couple should do?” The truth: I don’t know what they should do. I have barely been cognizant of what it is I should-would-could-can-will do. Einstein’s words inspire me to reach for a different level of consciousness, even if it might mean digging myself into a deeper hole or painting myself into a corner or climbing up to the roof and pushing the ladder to the ground.
It takes courage to stretch for a different level of consciousness. Shakespeare wrote in Lady Macbeth, “”But screw your courage to the sticking place, And we’ll not fail.” Lady Macbeth is saying to stretch, push, and pull your courage as far and deep as it will go — just as one does when screwing a screw into a wall or a beam. You keep screwing until the screw simply won’t accept one more twist of the screwdriver. Sometimes you have to go that deep. And to know when to stop.
Anyone who has tried to screw a screw into a wall stud knows the difference between trying to do so into a piece of welcoming straight-grained wood and into a gnarly knot. You start to twist the screw in and then . . . nothing. Stopped at mid-screw. You know you have hit a knot. Depending on how badly I want the screw to be in that exact spot for various functional or artistic reasons, I persevere. I really reef on that screwdriver. I break a sweat or I invite a blister.
Other times, I back the screw out and try a different spot with the hope that I will find straight grain. Eventually, success is mine and the screw is in the wall — and not necessarily where I originally wanted it. All that remains is to fill the holes that litter the sheetrock and dab some paint over the dried spackle.
One time I tried to install a toilet paper roll in my powder room. Something this elementary. By the time I completed the job, the wall was simply riddled with false starts. It remains a testimony to not reading the directions that came with the device. The T.P. holder is crooked and rickety. I think I am the only one in the house who can change a roll of toilet paper and not have the dang holder fall off the wall. It is also a testimony to remember Lady Macbeth’s words and to rise to courage.
But it is Onward, I say. The next time I hear someone telling me a story about another couple’s relationship, I am going to stop my ears and remember Albert Einstein, Lady Macbeth, and the hideous mess I made of my powder room wall. All is well but all will be even better if I prevent myself from making hasty judgments by resisting my Rights of Insanity. Thank you to Albert, Lady Macbeth, and Home Depot. Life is good when I heed the words of the wise: do something different, don’t resist change, don’t listen to my judgmental self, be courageous, and abide by a different level of consciousness.