Shower Door Messages and the Key to the Good Life

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This is the view through my shower door. Just what you wanted to see! You’re looking out to a window and a light to the right over the sink. The other day, I looked not through the door but at the door. I saw the word:


“Joy” written in shower drips. “Look again,” I said to myself. I saw:


I kid you not. I had to squinch my eyes to see “happy,” but it was there.

I’ve never seen words in shower drips before and have yet to find any since. I don’t know if my mind or eyes or heart or brain was playing tricks, but I’ll take those signs of joy and happiness.

This brings me to the finest TED Talk I’ve watched. It’s based on a 75 year Harvard study of life. Promise me you’ll watch to learn the secrets to joy and happiness, which perhaps you’ve known all along. Thank you, Robert Waldinger.

13 thoughts on “Shower Door Messages and the Key to the Good Life”

  1. This is a very interesting post, Barbara! I did, indeed, watch the TED talk video you included. The Harvard study is a most monumental study, as it is so rare to have such a long-term longitudinal study in human development. Yes, thank goodness, they finally decided to include women along the way! The insights are extremely meaningful. Perhaps of most primary importance is that the quality of our relationships, our connectedness with other people, enhances health and well-being; and, that isolation and loneliness throw us into a tailspin and painful freefall that can plunge us into the deepest despair and ill heath.

    Also, I appreciated your seeing the special signs in the shower drips. I also have found that we have insights and/or connections that come through to us in these kinds of “signs,” meaningful coincidences, etc. They can be most helpful in life in guiding us on our path!

    Very inspirational post, and got me thinking again about the field I was originally trained in, developmental psychology!


    1. Phyllis, So glad you watched the talk. I loved it. I like how bickering is okay too, because if these walls could talk, you’d hear a bit of that. I also liked that it’s not just romantic relationships that cause joy. I wish he’d stressed that even more.


      1. Yes, I agree. It isn’t just romantic relationships, or long-standing relationships with spouses, etc. that can allow us to feel connected with others and have a sense of quality in our relationships. Also, I have always appreciated Erik Erikson’s stage of “Ego Integrity vs. Despair” (a stage that many of us may have already entered or will soon!) One needs to feel that one is okay with what he or she has done in life, and how one has negotiated all of the outcomes of our interaction with others in life in terms of one’s own integrity.

        About bickering: Yes, I think that if it’s good-natured bickering, all is good! We must always keep an eye on the “quality” relationship end of the equation, though! 🙂


  2. What a wonderful TED talk, thanks for passing it on to us Barbara. As you said I think it is something we think we know but it is great to hear this fascinating study proves it.


  3. Well, I am sure we have moved on from this discussion by now!

    But, it still kind of “haunts” me in a way. I am not sure that I totally understand from the research how men and women really differ in terms of the effects of relationships (both spousal and other) on overall emotional well-being and physical health (from the Harvard study referred to).

    For example, in concluding that bickering is fine and can be okay, as long as the people in the couple feel secure in the relationship, are they just talking about whether men and women “avoid divorce,” or some other parameter? Are we really looking at whether they are truly happy with each other and their lives (and both women and men achieve physical and emotional health benefits? – that is, was there a breakdown by gender on this)?

    I will actually need to obtain all of these studies from the Harvard Study of Adult Development and read them to understand what the TED talks are all about in this regard. I hope that the study that began with only men and retained this perspective for so very long, may have some illuminating data on women, as well. I am feeling uncomfortable that there may be gender differences still left to uncover and understand.


  4. Looking forward to your new post.! Harvard study did indeed have much rich data about women.
    But, definitions about what it means in terms of “bickering” are not scientific in terms of the lack of specific definition within the research.


  5. Oh, well, this was my more more lengthy post, copied below: for some it may be interesting, and for others too much information:

    In reading the research that much of the TED talk may have been based upon, it does, indeed contain some very important data and findings with regard to women.

    From some of the content within both the talk and the research I looked at, it would appear that the talk is drawing (at least in part) upon: Waldinger, R.J., Cohen, S., Schulz, M. S., & Crowell, J. A. (2015). Security of attachment to spouses in late life: Concurrent and prospective links with cognitive and emotional well-being. Clinical Psychological Science, 3(4), 516-529 This is fascinating research, and I thought others might want a quick link to the research study above.

    However, the term “bickering” is never used in the original research (at least, unless I am missing something). Instead, it appears to involve how often there are disagreements with a partner “even about something small.” (p. 520).

    What was found was that marital satisfaction and daily disagreements were negatively correlated. That is, the higher the percentage of days (within an 8-day period) that a couple had disagreements, the lower the marital satisfaction; and vice versa, the lower the percentage of days that they had disagreements, the higher the marital satisfaction. This was a strong (high statistically significant correlation) for both men and women respectively.

    And, another important finding was that women and men with higher reported disagreements with their spouse, have lower attachment security (this significant association was even stronger for women).

    Married partners who are very satisfied with their marriage have disagreements with each other less frequently! This, of course, makes sense! Perhaps, they have less need to “bicker” (could “bickering” just be a way of trying to “let off steam” in a controlled and less direct way? So, instead of letting the whistling teapot howl on the stove, it never reaches a boiling point)? If so, better to get to the source of the conflict and resolve it for optimum living and life satisfaction; this way, life can be lived with more joy and happiness! (getting back to that key part of your post!)

    I think that what really needs to be focused upon in this regard to help women and men sustain or improve both attachment security and marital satisfaction is how to best resolve their conflicts. Looking forward to your post on “arguing”! Thanks, Barbara! Keep up these most interesting and intellectually stimulating posts (yaaay!!)


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