Archive for October, 2021

October 28, 2021

It’s you; it’s me!

by Rod Smith

There’s a common denominator in all of your relationships: it’s you. I am the common denominator in all my relationships. This obvious truth is hidden from some, and an even startling truth when discovered for others.

“I’ve never thought of it that way,” a client might say. “Are you sure?” another may question, as if this is some form of heresy. Yes. I’m sure. And, the realization and embracing of this fundamental truth – and doing something about it- is yet another means of taking personal responsibility for our lives.

I have no doubt this is a monumental burden for some when understood, and, nothing within me wants to “blame the victim.” There are groups and individuals so downtrodden and so “owned,” that such thinking seems impossible and such thinking may be considered blasphemous. I grieve when encountering such individuals and groups. A flame burns brighter in the one who sees this invaluable nugget. It may take a while for it to become a fully fledged sustaining fire.

But, it will. Usually. At the core you (and I) will be even more beautiful than we already are (yes, all humans are beautiful) when we see and embrace the fact that we are each the common denominator in all our relationships.

October 27, 2021

Grandmother Love

by Rod Smith

Babies bring cataclysmic shifts to families. 

Hours after my son Thulani was born I knew I would choose a grandmother for him.

I called my friend Judy from the hospital very early in the morning of the baby’s first full day and informed her I had chosen to adopt a baby and that I would like her to be his grandmother.

Judy was an outspoken member of the church and whom I had gotten to know well through the death of her beloved husband. She would freely recount how I had deeply angered her when I asked her if she was ready to bid her beloved Dick goodbye as he approached death. 

Within days we buried him.

My “insensitive” question at the hospital was what she said she really needed to hear. Judy would usually then proceed to brag that she was the only “no vote” when the congregation made the decision to “import” me from South Africa.

“There’s no one here in the USA? We have to bring an African, really?”

Soon after my early morning call Judy marched into the hospital ward, sat, motioned for the baby, held him, embraced and welcomed him. 

“I’ll be Nana Judy,” she said, then shifted into action. Hand outstretched for my house keys she asked which bedroom would become the nursery.

Within hours it was.

Nana, propelled by an eight pound baby, could make things happen.

October 20, 2021

Children and Voice

by Rod Smith

Teaching and encouraging children to speak up and to speak out and to voice their likes, dislikes and opinions, and to do so from a young age, will make a remarkable difference to a young life. Please, let the days when children were “seen and not heard” be gone.

Of course, if it is you, the parents who are encouraging a child to speak up, the child will also do so with you. This is something you want. It may not always feel comfortable or convenient but you are teaching an amazing and wonderful life skill to be used for the long haul. Learning to speak up and to speak out, to “self-advocate,” is a good thing for many reasons.

If your child can speak up to you, resist you, discuss matters with you, debate with you, he or she will be able to do so with anyone and will go through life unintimidated. Surely, you, the parents, want this? Helping a child find his or her voice – the ability to articulate wants, thoughts, what he or she sees, feels, and what he or she doesn’t want, think, sees, or feels is at least as important as being able to read, write and count.

It’s a gift of pure gold.

October 7, 2021


by Rod Smith

When men and women allow another to come close and then have expressed their deepest thoughts, I have discovered a few common fears. I have identified them within myself and in extended moments of vulnerability I shared with others:

The fear of exposure, of being discovered as a fraud, fake, failure who has been able to masquerade successes. The fear of abandonment, of discovering no one stayed or remained faithful to friendships, to the continued enjoyment of familial connections, formal and informal. The fear of aloneness, discovering there is no-one in your circle, your corner, there is no-one on your team. The fear of total dependence, discovering you are in the hands of strangers, helpers who talk loudly, speak in commands; regard you as needy flesh, a man or woman without a story, without a rich history. The fear of unfinished business, the inability or lack of opportunity to find completion, to close the circle, to express regrets, to ask for forgiveness; to be surrounded by people for whom being right, being correct trumps being reconconcialtory or expressing mercy.

You and I, dear reader, can be the antidote to those who harbor such fears, and offer mercy and kindness in places where there sometimes appears to be an absence of both.

October 6, 2021

Let words lead you…..

by Rod Smith

When writing about anxiety (yesterday) I suggested taking time to “write yourself” to the source of your anxieties, to use paper and pencil to “deliver” you to its origins. The free flow of words that may lead you inward, offer insight into your fragility, shed light on your amazing strengths, uncover your undermining uncertainties.

Notice, there’s no technology involved. No computer, no phone. I’m asking you to dive inward into yourself, not into the web. I know this is countercultural for those who are rushing through life, seeking the next experience, chasing “likes.” It’s also counter-cultural for those who believe the solution is imported, downloaded, rather than latent, already within. Searching for something “out there” can exacerbate the very anxiety you seek to lessen and harness.

It takes time to build upon the words and make them into sentences, then paragraphs that will lead you to important crossroads of your history. Go there. It’ll be tough. Painful. But, it may also be freeing. You don’t have to be a writer to do this. Just put one word in front of the other until you have a sentence, then sentences and paragraphs which will deliver you to the core of your being, a beautiful place, I bet, if you get yourself out of the way, let the words take you where they know they need to go.

October 5, 2021

Dealing (where you can) with anxiety

by Rod Smith

Chronic anxiety, the persistent form that cripples day-to-day functioning and is not “pinnable” on a specific situation, requires professional help. Seek it out. That said, there are a few simple  – I did not say easy – strategies to combat distressing levels of anxiety as described in yesterday’s column. 

  • Do a little personal searching. I think of it as an “internal google” search. Take time aside and with pencil and paper in hand, ask and answer the questions: “Where is this worrying coming from?  When did it begin? If it was a river, where is its source?” Fill pages with the thoughts that follow. There is no quick fix to lurking anxieties. Writing them down and answering the questions will expose their identity and potentially loosen their hold.
  • Write down the cut-offs in your life. Who in your family is estranged from you and what are the reasons as you see them? This is not a call to judgement. Look not for whom is to blame. Write down the cut-offs and the logic or lack of logic behind the cut-offs and some of the anxiety you feel is likely to loosen and lessen. We are designed to be in groups, packs which we call families. When the pack is disturbed the individual is too.
October 4, 2021


by Rod Smith

There are several expressions of anxiety and some which I am sure you will recognize. 

Your bank app is showing a depleting balance. Pay day is a stretch away. You feel a sweep of worry run through you. Your mind hovers over a few possibilities. You recall another source of income. Anxious feelings dissipate. 

This situational anxiety is “normal.”

You haven’t heard from your adult daughter for a few days. She usually is in constant contact. She texts. She calls. You know things are not going well for her at work. There are a few unusual pressures on her marriage even though she has not told you or shared any details. 

Worrying about her is starting to get in your way. You can’t think about too much without thoughts of her well being wanting to invade your thoughts. You text her. She calls you back. Everything seems fine. This anxiety is born of familial connection. 

Your actions have taken care of it. You can get back to your life. 

Some people are worried for no apparent reason. It is like an anchor around the heart. Needs are met. They have enough. But anxiety, from an unidentifiable source, is crippling.

This is chronic anxiety.

This requires professional help.