Archive for September, 2013

The Importance of ‘ME’ -just me!

September 25, 2013

     In this morning’s Express/News I read a column by my favorite ‘advice’ columnist – Carolyn Hax – who sends advice to people – advice which can be transferred to many of us even if we’re not in the life-position of the questioner.  Carolyn relates a sad tale of a woman who was married (even though she knew at the time this was not a good fit and she admits this was a ‘ . . huge mistake’) for four years and now when she dates, she finds characteristics of her former husband in her dates and feels a huge ‘NO!’ sign go up before her like a red flag and she can’t seem to shake this.  Carolyn gives good advice suggesting that her earlier relationship was as if ‘ . . she dived into the deep end of pool without knowing if she could swim and now when she dives in all she can think about is the last time she dived in and sank like a stone’.  And, then adds this little gem:  “ . . please find you before you go looking for someone else”.  

        I thought, “Wow!  How many people plunge into a situation, experience failure, and then hang onto that failure for the rest of their lives?”  So, how do we ‘find ourselves’ enough that we can let go of these mis-steps and get back to living fulfilling and comfortable lives?  Some thoughts occurred to me and I’d certainly like to have your reaction to and responses to these thoughts:

    *“Our dependency makes slaves out of us, especially if this dependency is a dependency of our self-esteem.  If you need encouragement, praise, pats on the back from everybody, then you make everybody your judge.” -Fritz Perls.  All of us know people who cannot function without the praise or approval of others never realizing that at some point they will probably want to decide for themselves the degree of their self-worth.   Successful parenting means ‘freeing’ your children to live happy and productive lives while deciding for themselves what level of achievement is desirable.  Helping them to evaluate themselves will allow them to ‘walk with’ and ‘work with’ others knowing all the time that they are not dependent on approval from their bosses, directors, principals, or department heads. Should you believe that you cannot function without the praise of someone else, you will indeed remain a slave to that person.
    *“I’m OK; You’re OK!”  This piece by Thomas Harris was popular from 1967 when it was published and lasted for two years on the Best Seller List.  Harris identifies four life positions:  1) I’m OK; You’re OK; 2) I’m not OK; you’re OK; 3) I’m OK; You’re not OK; and 4) I’m not OK; You’re not OK.  Those living in the first of these do not need continuous pats on the back from others – they have learned that they’re OK without that.  Those who remain needy of that praise from others, start in the life position of “I’m not OK . . “.  And, referring back to Hax’s advice to her writer, we might want to find ourselves as someone who knows ‘I’m OK!” and I will live my life is such a way that I can recognize others’ OK’ness as well.
    *“The Gestalt Prayer”.  This little piece expresses the idea that it is by fulfilling their own needs that people can encourage others to do the same.  When we enter into relationships knowing that our own needs are met, we can concentrate our energy and efforts toward appreciating the reality of walking with someone with no need to become dependent upon us. When people find each other from this life position (“I’m OK; You’re OK!’), it’s beautiful.  The Gestalt Prayer (Fritz Perls:  1969): 
I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.

You are you, and I am I,

and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.

If not, it can’t be helped.
(Fritz Perls, “Gestalt Therapy Verbatim”, 1969)
    *“On Marriage” by Kahlil Gibran.  So, let us look once more at the advice of the author of “The Prophet’ who tells us regarding one of our most important relationships – marriage that we must stand together, yet . . . well, let him speak to you:
                   On Marriage
 Kahlil Gibran
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.


Saying No Says I Care!

September 13, 2013

     I’ve had some time to think in these last couple of weeks, have worked with a few groups of people who work hard to create a better world for themselves and those around them.  And, I’m going to just chat with you a bit today on a  thought which pops up often in my work with ‘helpers’!  This train of thought started for me when my daughter Katie wrote on her ‘Father’s Day Card’, ‘.  .  .  you taught me the importance of saying ‘No!’.  .  ‘.
    First of all when we care for our children we say ‘No!’ to let them know we care.  Saying these things to children communicates an important message and you’ll be able to see what it is immediately:
    -“I don’t care where you’ll be tonight.”
    -“I don’t care who you’ll be with tonight.”
    -“I don’t care what time you come home tonight.”
    -“I don’t care how you dress tonight.”
    -” I don’t care what words you choose to express yourself.”
Sure!! The message is contained in those first three words (four if you think of ‘don’t’ as two words!)  Is that the message we adults want to send to our kids, our grand kids, our students, our co-workers?  I don’t believe for one minute we want to send that message through to be repeated over and over and resulting in kids growing up with a belief that ‘ . . no one cares for me . . ‘.

    And, now, the unintended consequence:  Have you thought about this?  When we tell our kids ‘No!’, we teach them that when they are confronted with some of life’s most awful and unimaginable circumstances, they have our permission to say, “No!”  Growing up in this society our kids may be tempted to ‘join the crowd’ even if the ‘crowd’ is a gang or a cult – the invitations to belong are strong and we need empowered children to be able to say, “No, thank you!”  In today’s world many of our kids see examples of drug mis-use and abuse and may receive the invitation to ‘ . . try it, you won’t be unhappy again. . ‘.  Lucky are the children who have learned early on that it’s OK to say “No, thank you!”  Every television channel today shows scenes of sexual freedom – even the basic NBC, CBS, and ABC yield to showing much that leads our kids into the belief that ‘free sex’ and ‘hooking up’ and dressing in sexually explicit clothing is the norm, and the cable channels – – well, what can I say???  These are powerfully influential forces on our kids and are accompanied by friends inviting our kids into some behaviors which one day were thought to be inappropriate at a very young age.  Thanks be to God that there are some parents who believe that our children in the face of these influences can say, “No, thank you!”

    Parents teach much by their examples to children and in these areas where children have to decide important issues in the absence of the influence of parents. Won’t you rest more easily if you’ve armed your children with the knowledge and confidence that they can say, “No, thank you!”?

Musings on gratitude

September 4, 2013


    Have you given some thought to the importance of gratitude – the art of being grateful, thankful, showing appreciation for a kindness shared?  The words ‘Thank You’ are so important and still we often forget how important they are and today I’d like to encourage anyone reading this piece to find some way to demonstrate your gratitude to someone close to you, a child who will show much gratitude in return as well as learn from your example, or even to someone you barely know who deserves to have their actions appreciated.  This morning, as I do a couple of times each week, I shared a short time with my neighbor, Kevin, at a little ‘hole-in-the-wall’ Mexican restaurant.  We take turns (informally) picking up the check which is not very much and on this day it was my turn to pay the bill while he covered the tip for our waitress.  We chatted on our ways to our vehicles and parted – he to go to his work, I to go home.  I wasn’t even two miles down the road when my phone rang – it was Kevin:  “I was so busy talking, I forgot to thank you for buying our Tacos!”  Imagine that – what a nice gesture!
    So, do you say thank you often and to many people?  I remember a story I used long ago to make this point of being grateful for even the littlest things.  Seems there was a family who owned a cow and during a special time she gave more milk than her family could use and that family recognized that down the road, on their way to work, lived a very poor family.  “We get extra milk every morning and every evening, would you like to have the extra milk?  We could drop it off on our way to work.”   The poor family was ecstatic at this benevolent gift from a neighbor.
    Then, there came a time when the man  with the cow was laid off and instead of driving to work, he worked at home.  The poor neighbors were told that they could still have the milk, but that they would have to come to get it.  They were just incensed – the audacity, they said, that this rich family could no longer drop the milk off at their place and they refused to get it for themselves.
    And, then there are some who will say ‘thank you’ for every little kindness shown. As in this story which I’ve repeated many times and at times have been asked the point of the story – you won’t have to ask that. “Some neighbors of my grandparents’ gave them a pumpkin pie as a holiday gift. As lovely as the gesture was, it was clear from the first bite that the pie tasted bad. It was so inedible that my grandmother had to throw it away. Ever gracious and tactful, she still felt obliged to send the neighbors a note. It read “Thank you very much for the pumpkin pie. Something like that doesn’t last very long in our house.”– Krista Rose.
    So, my challenge to you today is that you’ll use the words ‘Thank You’ at least twice during this day and if you go well beyond twice, give yourself a pat on the back – you deserve more than that!!
    Thanks for listening! and, have a great day!