He Can’t Stand Her Clutter

Dear Vicki: My sister recently shared something that has me really upset. After less than a year of marriage, her daughter and new son-in-law are having marital troubles. Betsy is a nurse, Stuart is an architect, and the problem is that Stuart has very little tolerance for clutter around the house. But sweet Betsy excels at creating clutter because she loves her doll collection and has plastic sacks of projects (sewing, knitting, etc.) strewn all over. Really, the few times I’ve visited I have to agree that their house was sort of a cluttered mess. But my sister said that the final straw was when Betsey wallpapered Stuart’s home study with a cheery floral print. Apparently, Stuart not only didn’t like her choice of paper, he was also quite miffed that she left the ladder and brushes in his study. I love my niece, and she seems very happy in this marriage, so how can I help her? Signed, Anxious Auntie

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Dear Anxious Auntie: The issue of “clutter” is an age-old problem that frequently defies definition because one person’s cozy decorating is another’s overwhelming clutter. As individuals, we have fairly ingrained behaviors regarding how we manage our personal space. But when we marry, or even just decide to cohabitate with a group of friends, we suddenly merge two (or more) personal spaces into one. Sometimes that goes smoothly, but usually it’s a humbling lesson in the art of compromise. How many marriages hit the rocks because the cap isn’t on the toothpaste? How many squabbles stem from dishes left in the sink? The short answer is a lot, so let’s see what we can do to prevent Betsey and Stuart from becoming another statistic in the category of failed marriages.

Based on your descriptions, it seems likely that Betsey is a primary Earth personality and Stuart is a primary Metal personality. Nurses are walking examples of the tender caring that Earth people love to shower on others. And Stuart’s skill at architecture speaks to the logic and rationality inherent in Metal people. The good news is that they are in love. The not so good news is that Earth and Metal people will usually clash on what they want in terms of the look and feel of the space they inhabit.

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A New Year Blessing from the Five Elements

Dear Readers: Thank you so much for your enthusiastic support of this blog. I deeply appreciate both your letters and comments, and also the opportunity to share with you the wisdom embodied in the Five Elements model. This deceptively simple model not only provides us with a window into the workings of the universe, it also helps us better understand ourselves, and our relationships with the people in our lives.

As we say goodbye to 2017, I offer you The Five Elements Blessing. May we honor the gifts of each element equally in ourselves, and others, during 2018.

 

The Five Elements Blessing

 I wish you the hope and optimism of Water:

May you bring truth to the people in your life.

I wish you the success and productivity of Wood: 


May your accomplishments foster peace. 

I wish you the joy and celebration of Fire:

May you be surrounded by inspiration. 

I wish you the caring and connection of Earth:

May you offer compassion to those in need. 

I wish you the knowledge and understanding of Metal: 


May you provide the wisdom of the past to the future.

 

Happy New Year! Let’s make it a year of fulfilling relationships, love, and kindness for all!

Vicki

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Winter Solstice and the Five Elements

Dear Vicki: The Winter Solstice is approaching and I’m dreading it as the start of winter. The dark and cold make me very unhappy. But my sister (a writer) loves December: The darker and colder, the better for her. I think she’s crazy, but how can we be so different when we’re just one year apart? Could this have something to do with our elements? I don’t even know what element I am. Signed: Dreading Winter

Dear Dreading: Winter Solstice does herald the start of winter in the northern hemisphere; December, January and February are usually the coldest, darkest months here. But within the Five Elements model, Winter Solstice represents a pause in the constant cycling between light and dark. December 21 is the shortest day of the year and the longest night. Beginning the next day, the nights shorten and the days lengthen. So if you hate the dark, Winter Solstice is good news for you because beginning December 22, the days get longer. But the cold? Well, that’s around for several more months.

To answer your question, how we respond to a time of year absolutely can have to do with our element, especially since each element has a seasonal affiliation. On the surface of things, it seems logical that an element would resonate with their own season, and that can be true. But it isn’t always so straightforward. If someone’s primary element is unbalanced, they may not do well with their own season and may really need what another season has to offer. Let’s look at how this might work and perhaps you will recognize yourself.

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The Five Elements: Thankful for Each Other

Dear Readers: In the USA, tomorrow is a day of Thanksgiving. And while the exact origin of the holiday may be unclear, the intent of the day still rings true: there is always something to be grateful for in our lives. Be that health, friends and family, success in whatever way we define it, or life itself, gratitude is a state of mind that’s a universal part of the human experience. It turns out it’s also deeply embedded in the Five Elements model. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. After all, a model that claims to be no less than a complete explanation of the workings of the universe will have to contain gratitude. And it does.

In the Five Elements model, each element owes its existence and ability to function in a balanced manner to the other four. And in a very profound way, when one element receives help from another, the receiving element pays it forward, so to speak, by doing the same for a different element in the system. If Water is running low, Metal sends energy to Water. And Water will do the same for Wood, just as Wood will send energy to Fire, Fire will send it to Earth, and Earth will feed it back to Metal. It’s a neverending flow of giving that’s a key hallmark of the Five Elements model.

The other hallmark of the model is the ability of each element to ensure that no element overdoes it. If Wood has too much energy, Metal will reach across the model and decrease the excess. This guarantees Wood’s survival and in gratitude for that service, Wood will do the same for Earth, just as Earth will decrease excess for Water, Water will decrease Fire, and Fire will return the initial favor back to Metal. And while our “more is better” culture usually sees a decrease in something as bad, in reality it’s crucial for survival. There is joy in the model at both increase and decrease. But does that translate to people? I can answer that with an unequivocal, “Yes!” Let’s take a look.

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The Holiday Season: What Matters to Each Element

Dear Vicki: “I’m devastated that my grandchildren won’t be here for Thanksgiving. How could their parents decide to take them to Hawaii?”

Dear Vicki: “I don’t want to go to the company holiday party. Can I get out of it?”

Dear Vicki: “My husband is obsessed with finding the perfect gift for his best friend. How can I convince him that’s not the point?”

Dear Vicki: “I want to host the family holidays this year. I throw better parties, but my sister says they’re too loud. Who should win?”

Dear Vicki: “My wife and I have always had a quiet ceremony on New Years Eve, but now she thinks we should go to her best friend’s house instead. Really?”

Etc.

Dear Readers: To paraphrase A Tale of Two Cities, the holiday season is the best of times, and the worst. The holidays celebrated from November through January, replete with tradition and meaning, guarantee that fun and ceremony will likely end up co-mingling with pushed buttons and dashed expectations. “We’ve always done it this way; that matters to me” must dance with “We’ve always done it this way; I think it’s boring.” To help you navigate the holiday season and keep your relationships harmonious, I offer a brief summary of what will matter to each of the elements, and what won’t. There are also a few suggestions regarding ways to keep the season happy for everyone.

Water People: Odd as it may seem, the hustle-bustle of the holidays sits in Water time, which is winter here in the northern hemisphere, a time for quietness and contemplation. This energy of going inside sets the tone for Waters’ lives, so don’t expect your Water friends and family to start acting like Fires just because the holidays are here. On their own, or in quiet talks with others, Waters will emphasize the meaning of the season and how it relates to the bigger picture of almost everything. Ultimately, they might be willing to participate in events they deem important, but you may still need to coax. If and when they do show up, help them feel welcome and part of things by finding a small group of people with whom they can enjoy deep discussions. I know one woman who invites several philosophy junkie friends to her family party every year to help keep her Watery uncle engaged. Be gentle with the Waters and remember that if things get too intense, they might float away to a quiet cove for a while. Let them. And holiday season or not, remember that time alone will still be of paramount importance to your Water friends and family.

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