September 30, 2022

Tom Jones

by Rod Smith

On a personal note……

I went to a Tom Jones Live concert this past Monday night. 

Yes, the 82-year entertainer is going strong. 

I made the hour-long journey, picked up my son (24), and joined hundreds of middle and advanced aged fans waiting to enter the theater. 

At 7:30pm, using a walking stick, Tom Jones entered the darkened stage, sat on a bar stool and, accompanied by a pianist, sang a moving rendition of “I’m Growing Old.” 

This done, four other musicians joined him, and, from his bar-stool, Tom Jones unleashed the energy of a man quarter his age thrilling the crowd for two hours with many of his hits and other favorites. 

Tom Jones talked of his only wife whom he married at 16 and to whom he was married until her death at 75. 

He reminisced about Elvis and Las Vegas and how Elvis himself gave the title of the King of Rock to Chuck Berry. 

Tom was kind, gentle, and humble. 

I liked that he talked about hip replacements and the aches and pains that come with touring. I liked the fact that it connected me to the days when I was an ardent fan. 

But, most of all, I enjoyed watching my son sing and clap along and have a ball to music most young men his age offer no time at all.

September 21, 2022

Green and red flags in relationships……

by Rod Smith
  • She treats people well, especially people who can do little or nothing for her.
  • He has predetermined values and morals that he puts into practice at work and at home. 
  • She seeks ways to serve and include others, especially those who are on the fringes and are accustomed to exclusion.   
  • He listens without interrupting or trying to fix or make recommendations.
  • She is honest with details and is careful not to exaggerate in order to impress.
  • He is quick to listen, slow to judge, and calm in a crisis.     

Red flag behaviors in relationships 

  • He calls people idiots, even people he doesn’t know or has taken time to get to know. 
  • She cheats or cuts corners with other people’s money like expense accounts or office reimbursements.
  • He has the uncanny knack of making himself the center of discussions and interest in all, or most, of his business and social settings.
  • She gossips and spreads negative news about people who are unable to defend themselves.
  • He is rude and demanding with strangers, waiters, helpers and seems to use rudeness to impress others. 
  • She holds onto grudges for years and recounts them with ease.
September 19, 2022

Improve your functioning

by Rod Smith

Improve your levels functioning in surprisingly easy ways……..

Let your “yes” be your yes and your “no” be your no. Don’t agree to something under pressure from others or resist something under pressure from others. Own both. Similarly, let other adults make their decisions without pressure from you.

Do yourself and your family and friends a favor by removing all guesswork when it comes to relating to you. When it comes to spending time with you, be as clear as you are able about what you do and don’t want, what you will and will not do, and what you will and will not pay for. Expecting others to read your mind or anticipate your needs is foolish and it is usually the genesis of controlling behavior. It will lead to disappointment and misunderstanding. Suggest everyone you know learns to operate this way and you will be amazed at how much more refreshing being together will become.

Genuinely affirm others when you see attitudes and actions worthy of affirmation. Don’t deal out compliments for effect or to get your way or to get someone’s approval. Such manipulative tricks seldom lead to authentic and worthwhile encounters and relationships and usually pave the way to distrust.

September 18, 2022

From healthy assessment to judgment

by Rod Smith

I don’t know about you, but I know the exact moment I transition from healthy and objective assessment of other people and circumstances – all necessary skills for daily life and survival – into condemnation and judgment. 

It’s a flash of inner-reactivity and my prejudices assault me and can result in the loss of an opportunity to grow, to love, to embrace. The opportunity is displaced by drive to wipe the dust off my feet and flee.

It is in these moments, if I catch myself, if I stop, watch what I am doing, give myself time to reflect on my experience, I am made newly aware of how incredibly complicated and wonderfully made we are and how dangerous we can be. In a nanosecond an innocent bystander, someone I have never seen or met, can be inflicted with my prejudices, my unresolved baggage, most of it continents removed from my random victim with origins uniquely within me, decades in the making, before my target was born.

In a split second, if I am not careful, I am unloading my dissatisfaction about whomever and whatever from years ago onto someone I don’t know. 

“Grow up,” I tell myself, “and Go, stone no more.”

September 14, 2022

Client “conversions” I welcome

by Rod Smith

The elevation of the therapist – placing a therapist on a pedestal – converted to regarding the therapist as a man or woman with professional training who is also regularly challenged by life and relationships.

The search for a key, a silver bullet, a set of steps, a formula for success to “fix” life’s problems and dilemmas – converted to appreciating the beautiful opportunities for growth and insight and understanding; the appreciation that a “fixed” life is an illusion and, even if it were possible, it probably wouldn’t be much fun.

The belief in linear, cause and effect, family and personal issues – converted to the understanding that all things are connected, that all relationships impact all relationships, that human life and community is far more complex and beautiful than the result of an endless series of chain reactions.

The belief that undesirable adult circumstances are the direct result of poor parenting – converted to seeing that parenting is an important part – but only a part – of how things turn out for our children when they become adults.

The essential progress from blame and accusations – converted to “what’s my role in this?” and “how may I respond in new ways to open new paths rather than resort to playing a worthless blame game?”

September 13, 2022

Four levels of functioning

by Rod Smith

Here are 4 descending levels of functioning. 

Peter is successful at work and home. He has ups and downs but generally Peter is able to handle everyday pressures at home and at work. Others regard Peter as calm, “together,” and thoughtful. 

Patricia is very successful at work but her success is very costly to her family. There are frequent conflicts at home over Patricia’s work and her family relationships are frequently tense as a result of her career. Patricia’s family would hardly recognize her at work. Her colleagues would never believe how different she is at home from how she is at work.

Paul is deeply roped into his family issues and conflicts and is continually distracted and cannot give his best at work. His career is in jeopardy because of the domestic demands upon his life. Thinking about his home and family exhausts him.

Penny attracts conflicts, critics, enemies at both work and home. She is overly reactive, short fused and highly sensitive both at home and work. Penny is often in tears or on a warpath. Penny frequently complains that life is not fair.

With a little self-reflection and with taking personal responsibility, Patricia, Paul, and Penny could be “up there” with Peter. While each allows the winds of career and home to shape their every move and mood their debilitating struggles will persist.

September 12, 2022

Plan your (necessary) difficult encounters

by Rod Smith

There are helpful and simple (bit not easy) ways to avoid “relationship erosion”: 

Let’s imagine you are facing a difficult meeting or discussion, from intimate to casual, formal to informal. 

Decide how you will be, not how others will be, or how you wish you could be, decide how you will be(have). This takes time before the meeting where you give deep thought to how you will be (behave) and assess how you have already behaved and how your behavior has perhaps played a role in the problems you are facing. 

If you refuse to plan and prepare, you are likely to fall into old traps and habitual reactivity which will only prove to erode your situation further. If you prepare well and you “hold onto yourself” in the meeting it is very likely you will be delighted with the results. 

As you plan, resist all balme, all finger-pointing, all rehashing the past, no matter how justified or convenient it may be to do so. 

Assess how it is that you got yourself into this situation (whatever it is) and work from there. Blame and finger-pointing results in others being defensive, an unhelpful stance when you want to build rather than destroy relationships.

Remind yourself that you are the common denominator in all of your relationships.

September 11, 2022

You are more than you appear to be….

by Rod Smith

I resist stating the obvious but you are much more than meets the eye.

We just are.

The iceberg metaphor is true for us all. There is a lot more going on beneath the surface of our lives than others, and even we ourselves, are able to see, let alone understand.

Sometimes the “iceberg” may feel like a volcano and your behavior is curt or erratic and you are short-tempered. Sometimes the “iceberg” is a secure yacht on a very calm ocean and you are friendly and relaxed and a model of kindness.  

It may be comforting (or discomforting) to know we are each a mass of compounded generational history perched on mountains of successes, failures, flaws, aspirations, losses and disappointments. Beneath the surface are jostling urges and surging tides coming from three or more generations of unresolved family conflict.

You are probably much more capable than you sometimes reveal. You are probably more loving and kind than some circumstances reveal you to be. There are things you’d like to say under some circumstances and pressures but you hold your tongue, cautious for how what you’d really like to say will be received or perceived – but you can’t really explain your silence.

“Don’t mess with my ‘iceberg,’” may be all the explanation you need.

September 9, 2022

More on grief

by Rod Smith

Respect the grieving

The power of grief should never be downplayed or underestimated. Severe loss can leave a person in a state of shock for years and he or she may never recover if recovery means returning to the way things were before the loss.

• It is unwise to suggest a person move on, get over it, or has had enough time to grieve.

• Listening is useful and helpful and can provide tremendous support even if very few words are exchanged.

• Time passed does not equal grief diminished. A loss endured years ago can seem to rise up out of nowhere and hit a person afresh as if the event just occurred. It is as if grief is time-locked, living within the griever, and has a life and power of its own.

• A person who has grieved for years is probably an expert at understanding the grief process. Understanding does not mean the griever is on top of it. Insight and understanding do not equate to completion or the diminishing of the power of loss.

• Attempts at logic do not usually provide comfort. Grief escapes and logic.

• The “experienced” griever (who wants that title?) will often develop the ability to detect inner-rhythms of grief and know which days will be better than others.

September 8, 2022

The power of thank you

by Rod Smith

When Nathanael turned eleven I saw very clearly the power that comes in a good, honest, appropriate, thank you. 

Having gone a little over-the-top for his big day, we were exhausted. But, the day had finally ended and the last of the guest-children was out of my hair and my sons were in their rooms and almost asleep and I was sitting downstairs taking stock of a full, satisfying day when I heard the birthday boy – each boy has very distinctive sound trails – coming down the stairs. 

Ever so quietly, almost sheepishly, he put his head around the door.

“Thanks, Dad,” he said, “thanks for an awesome day.”

We hugged. 

My heart burst. 

While I have diligently taught my children to express gratitude, I was not waiting to be thanked. I had simply done what dads do for their children’s birthdays. 

His acknowledgement hit something deeply within me. 

While it became very obvious that I needed my eleven-year-old son’s recognition for a job well done, something deeper was going on within me. 

I knew what it was. 

He, at 11, had done what I was unable to do until I was very, very much older: acknowledge my dad, look him in the eye, throw my arms around him and express my thanks to him for all he had done.