On Love

BALONEY MOUSSE. I DO NOT love the baloney mousse.  But it has helped me to clarify my risk-taking travelling rubric. Consider it if it’s: 1) safe 2) kind 3) creates a spark (of joy, fun, curiosity, or thrill) 4) is not too disgusting. Often for me, the weirder and less conventional, the better. The regional whipped meat product did not pass #4, but sometimes it’s hard to know about food beforehand, and being in Bologna, it seemed important.  Live and learn.

SPACE. I DO love my partner, Mark. We are together in the Dolomite Mountains for our 20-year wedding anniversary, 2 years postponed. Our love story began 25 years ago in the mountains of Africa, with me as the initiator, and him as the responder.  That sums up a lot about our relationship. I used to think that I wanted someone who was the life of the party, larger than life.  Until I realized that when I am with people like that, I shrink.  Mark gives me the room to take up a lot of space. He is steady. And patient and easy-going and open minded and kind and isn’t a critic. In life, I do not like to compete for attention. I WILL EXPAND TO THE SIZE OF THE SPACE GIVEN. He gives me space and grace and support along the way. Such a gift.

WILLING. Perhaps what I love most about him is that he is willing. When I want to rearrange all the furniture in the house, he says “Okay.” When I want Thursdays to be soup night (and he cooks), he says “Sure.” 11 years ago, when I told him that I wanted to start a business and spend 17 weeks/year out-of-state for a couple of years, he said “Let’s make it work.” 25 years ago, after 3 months of dating, I asked if he’d get round-the-world plane tickets with me. He was game. We adorned our backpacks, hitchhiked, worked on farms for room and board, and got comfortable with each other’s stink. And loved it.

CREATIVE AND SOMEWHAT CRAZY. When I am at my best, I lean into creativity. I make up games and experiments and ask questions. Thinking of it now, many of my decisions over the years follow this safe/kind/spark/disgusting rubric.

As a teenager at church summer camp, I soaked the linoleum hallway in an uninhabited dorm wing with water for the longest indoor slip-n-slide. We all took a collective shower first, with our clothes on, and slid and laughed for hours.

Lisa and I would approach strangers at the Friday night ice skating rink pretending like we knew them. “Sam!” “You aren’t Sam? Sam Mitches?  My mistake.” We thought we were hilarious because it brought a thrill and sounded like Sandwiches. I think you had to be there to find the comedy.

In my 20s and backpacking on the South African Otter Trail with Mark, I challenged us to hike without pants for a mile. I laughed until I fell over, multiple times. (Thankfully we didn’t see anyone.)

Living in California, I challenged an intimate group to a fully clothed pee-your-pants contest. (It was hard! One of my stranger ideas, but rest assured that we took showers immediately after, and memories were made.)

As a parent and when they were young, the kids and I would paint each other’s faces weekly with watercolor paints. Full-face tattoos. And we’d get out rolls of butcher paper, bottles of tempura paint, and they would feet-paint beautiful designs.

Now, when teaching Ethics, I will “accidentally” mark my face with dry-erase marker to see how quickly anyone addresses it and how they do it. My aim is to teach that speaking up quickly is often an important part of confronting unethical behavior.

BEHAVIOR CHANGE. I see similarities in my personal risk-taking Safe/Kind/Spark/Disgusting model to the more widely accepted way that we teach about behavior change with the SAMER model.

  1. Small (make it small and easy to achieve success)
  • Anchor it (connect it to something else)
  • Measure what matters
  • Enjoy it (don’t forget this part)
  • Redesign (after it gets going, when and how might you want to redesign it?)

As I write about travel and love and meaningful memories and rubrics and change, I am reminded about how I operate best.  With freedom and adventure and the space to expand. How do you operate best?


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