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The Ripple Effect

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When I was a girl, I loved to play at my best friend’s house. She had this awesome farm on seemingly endless acres along with a pond and a nearby stream where we would spend the majority of our time skipping stones. We’d gather a bunch of rocks and stand by the edge of the pond and skip them over the water. We would hone our skills and see who could get the rock to bounce off the surface of the water the most times before it sank. I remember being entranced by the ring pattern that emanated out from the pebble as it dropped onto the water. Recently, while on a run, I passed over a stream and stopped on the bridge to enjoy the fall foliage for a moment. Below I saw tiny water bug and watched as it propelled itself to move across the surface of the water… making those familiar ripples every time it did so.

When I was a psychology student, we were asked to look deeply at a person’s behavior and what causes it, but I always found it be even more fascinating to study the effect we have on others with our behavior. I strongly believe in Karma, even though it is an intangible and scientifically unsound concept. In my opinion, we are all energy in both body and mind. I believe what we put out in the world is reflected back to us. What we do to, be it positive or negative, returns to us eventually and has a positive or negative impact on us. It’s no surprise then, that I believe this premise exists and operates similarly in our relationships with others, and that it can be seen in our partnership/relationship Karma so to say.

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It’s 7 a.m. We awaken to the security alarm blaring through the house. One of the kids let the dogs out without disabling the alarm beforehand for the 2000th time. My eyes are still bleary from sleep, and I fumble for the keypad and then the phone.  “Mrs. Heft, do you have an emergency?” says a voice at the alarm company. “Nope, just ‘testing’ your system, because you know we need to do this every couple of days!” I respond. The alarm company employee just chuckles. I make my way to the kitchen and I see the puppy with a piece of paper in her mouth. I immediately recognize it to be the homework assignment that literally took hours for my daughter to complete. It’s full of teeth marks and is a dog slobbery, slimy mess. Not only that, but I cannot catch her to retrieve it as she thinks it’s a fun game. My daughter enters the kitchen, sees what’s going on,  and begins to squeal about her paper. My husband emerges from the shower looking wet and cold. He is angry that the water is not hot because somehow we have failed to remember we are low on propane and now are completely out – with zero hot water. It dawns on me that, without a shower, I will be going to an early meeting with really crazy bedhead which I am oh-so-pleased about. Everyone is snarling and snapping at one another. Needless to say,  this day is not starting out well at all! We go on placing blame; say a few things that don’t have a “friendly” tone,  and scramble off to our day. Kids grumpy, husband cold, dogs dejected – and I’m having a really bad hair day.

We go forward carrying this energy into our separate days – not only with the bad start – but also feeling poorly about our exchanges with one another. They weren’t loving and caring – they were actually downright ugly. When you put ugliness out, you get it right back. It’s a terrible way to start the day and then it continues to ripple outward. When the one person closest to you treats you poorly it really has the power to negatively impact both of you in ways others cannot. It’s easy to lash out at someone who loves you because you assume that person is “safe”. It’s a conscious decision not to do this when life gets stressful and challenging. It's easy to do, not so easy to NOT do, and even more difficult to undo. Everyone gets weary and everyone has limits. Too many times of using your partner as your whipping post for any reason will end up creating resentment and distance between you. And both are incredibly lethal to any relationship.

I still love skipping stones. I especially love to watch the ripples because this slows down my mind and there is something very tranquil and calming about it. I try to make an effort every day to be mindful of the energy I put out when I interact with my husband,  and I take responsibility for how that energy ripples out to him and his life.

The ripple effect works both ways. If you give lots of love, are considerate, kind, respectful and caring, then it ripples out to your partner. And, as a bonus, all that comes right back to you – it’s all connected – kind of like Karma. Give love, get bigger love back – it’s a win-win. One last image I will leave you with today… when you drop a pebble in the water and the ripples spread outward, they also get bigger and bigger. The same thing goes for the kind of energy you bring to your relationship. So stop, think, and choose your actions wisely.