Archive for ‘Boundaries’

November 16, 2017

Lessons: what is life teaching you?

by Rod Smith

What is the year teaching you? Please, reflect and let me know. Here are a few things I am learning afresh and re-learning:

  • Trust broken is hard to restore. My experience is that forgiveness can restore broken trust but the ability to trust again can take a long time to restore. This is especially so with close friendships and infidelity in marriage.
  • No one is more important than anyone else. To be intimidated by another is a waste of opportunity and energy. Yes, we all have different roles. We are afforded a variety of degrees of power and responsibility that come with our varying roles, but using that power to lord it over another is the surest indication that the power is in the wrong hands.
  • Some individuals are so significantly hurt that the real person has disappeared behind shame, regret, and pretense. The defense has become the identity. The vulnerable person inside died a very long time ago and, sadly, will probably never be known.
  • Ignored conflicts and family issues that are unaddressed will remain and usually grow. The issues may change shape, may go into hiding, may remain latent for decades – but they will surface and get necessary attention.
November 15, 2017

Be more human

by Rod Smith

Slow down. Stop. Look at the beauty around you. Take it in. Breathe deeply. Treasure the moment. This will embolden you to….

Listen to others. Make eye contact. Don’t wait to speak or one-up things someone tells you with a better or more dramatic story. The person with whom you are talking probably wants human contact and meaningful connection and validation more than he or she wants a contest or a race. Listen to what people say and to what they don’t say. The latter may be far more meaningful and significant than the former. The person with whom you have this sacred moment is probably as lonely as you are, as afraid as you are, as desperate as you are, and as desirous of significance and validation as you are. Welcome this fellow sufferer into your circle – even if it for a few brief minutes – and make it unforgettable.

If you are talking to a child do what is necessary to be eye-to-eye and unearth the patience within yourself to treasure the moment and to ask questions and to engage the child on the child’s terms.

Indifference is a killer; engagement, involvement, and interest are its antidotes.

November 14, 2017

Inside / outside

by Rod Smith

There’s a cartoon I glimpsed that has stuck with me. The simple sketch and caption found an indelible place in my heart, mind, soul, spirit, brain, memory, or some combination of all these internal “places.” I list them all –I am sure there are more – because none of us know where within our complex human hard-drive these life-shaping things are stored.

“If you’re ugly on the inside eventually it will show on the outside,” the caption read. I thought of how the caption echoed Jesus who said, “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

Our lives are driven and guided by this inner-place.

In his new book, “Barking to the Choir,” Father George Boyle talks about the deep and hurtful matters in our lives that will be “transmitted” if they are not “transformed.”

He talks about the “language” of our lives – and how they can be lived from a heart of hurt and rejection or from peace and healing. He writes about burying over 200 victims of gang violence in his Los Angeles parish and about being treasured by his homeboys – the men and boys who have left their lives of violence and found lives of grace – as he continues his own battle with cancer.

If you are beautiful on the inside it will show on the outside.

November 12, 2017

Addiction

by Rod Smith

“My son (17) son is in grade 11 and addicted to marijuana. My husband and I have tried to get him to stop but he seems unable. He has made two or three attempts but these have not worked. He does not achieve well at school and goes out a lot. He insists on driving unlicensed. My husband and I seem unable to control his behavior. We are at our wits end. I feel that I would prefer him moving away and fending for himself once he turns 18. Kindly offer me some guidance.”

It is easy for me to identify with your feelings of helplessness. I have seen this many times and I feel perhaps as helpless as you do with some of the issues and struggles I see my own sons encounter.

There is something to be said for his two or three attempts at finding healing for his addiction. Were these things he tried on his own or did he get professional help? I’d suggest it’s impossible for your son to face these demons on his own.

I applaud and admire your willingness to see him move away when he is 18. Your insistence may well remove the structures than covertly enable his academic irresponsibility and his need for a cure seem less necessary.

November 8, 2017

Midweek family meal

by Rod Smith

A family of mom, dad, and three children (all the children under 8) and grandparents were eating near me in a restaurant. Dad was adding out-loud how much he owed each child as he or she ate at the rate of a dollar per mouthful. Mom was showing one child how it is possible to eat and not lose points in the game he was playing on his phone while he ate. The other two children – both younger – had apparently already mastered that skill on their devises. The grandparents looked on with that distant but mildly amused and resigned look.

I head off home and I wonder if I will write about this experience. I amused at what I have seen but also aware that whatever I write may come off as judgmental.

My house is almost dead quiet. My older boy microwaved something and taken it up to his room. I can hear he’s buried in some Netflix series. My younger son’s got a game going on in his room. The only sounds are his frustrations that some friend is not online at the moment. The state of the kitchen reveals he too has helped himself.

“Get off your high horse, Mr. Smith,” I hear yelled from somewhere deep inside my head.

November 7, 2017

Anxiety – chronic and situational

by Rod Smith

If you find yourself identifying with the chronic list I would strongly urge professional help. Please, if you use my list at all, use it for yourself, and not to identify others.

Two kinds of anxiety: chronic and situational

Chronic:

  • You worry and you don’t know why – it’s generic and floating; it’s not connected to anything specific.
  • You worry even when things are going well – there are times when you worry about having nothing to worry about.
  • You worry as a way of life – when people tell you they are not in a state of constant concern you think they are surely in denial.
  • You worry about everyone you love and regard the amount of worry as proportional to the depth of your love.
  • The rumbling feeling of anxiety feels like it is deep inside you and has lived in you for as long as you can remember – it’s as if you were born with it or it came from another life.

Situational:

  • You are facing an examination, a tough conversation, or an important interview. You know the tension will ease once you get started or once the trial is over. Your worry is attached to something real and when that is dealt with the worry will ease and then be gone.

 

November 6, 2017

(Extended) Family leadership

by Rod Smith

Every extended family (usually) has the need for a leader or leaders. He or she may vary as needs and issues change. The role may be offered through covert means – a sort of passive pressure – or readily announced and openly assumed.

That person may be required to:

  • Initiate meetings and facilitate conversations where there has been a falling out.
  • Empower family members to take a hard and loving stand against cruel or harsh treatment at the hands of another member of the family or even someone outside of it.
  • Go first – and be the first person in the family to travel or to go to university or to branch off into an area of interest or study that no one in the family has done before.
  • Go back, and visit childhood places and long-lost relatives and to hear the family stories that may have never be heard.
  • Demonstrate grace, generosity, and forgiveness in a family that may have for many years traded in selfishness, resentment, and judgment.
  • Speak well and kindly of those family members who for whatever reason have been rejected by some members of the same family and be willing to reach out to them in order to draw them back into the fold.

 

If it is you, may you have the courage and the wisdom to exercise your calling.

October 25, 2017

Double whammy…..

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Wednesday

Over the almost-30 years I have lived in the USA I still miss KwaZulu-Natal.

When the snow is deep at my front door I miss your weather. I miss watching rugby but only when Glenwood is playing College. When I am in some Midwest Indian restaurant I crave a bunny on the beachfront.

I always want to be there when there’s a significant family event.

This week I’m facing a double whammy.

My Australian brother is visiting Durban for the first time in many years and he’s there to celebrate my sister’s 70th birthday.

As a child I could never have predicated or imagined the gift that my siblings are to me. Individually and together, they are among the most generous, kind, entertaining, and friendly people I have ever met. I am frequently stopped in my tracks when I witness and experience their enormous love and commitment to character, honesty, and generosity.

Sometime I will write about their generous ways, but for today, I will leave it at welcoming dear brother to Durban and hoping that Jennifer Joy Arthur has a splendid 70th birthday.

Just so you are all fully aware, we’re expecting our first snow this weekend.

October 22, 2017

Monday confessions

by Rod Smith

Of course I cannot do all of the following – but reading them through each day helps set my daily trajectory, especially on a Monday. My ardent hope is that reading this list will do the same for you:

  • I will be proud of my behavior when I review it at the end of the day.
  • I will take full responsibility for my actions while anticipating that others might not do the same.
  • I will pay my way, live within my means, and seek and act on opportunities for generosity.
  • I will be kind no matter what.
  • I will seek to be as low maintenance as possible.
  • I will try to know the difference between what are my responsibilities and what are not, with the understanding that some things are everybody’s responsibility.
  • I will give others the benefit of the doubt.
  • I will allow people to escape their reputations even if their reputations are well earned.
  • I will speak up about what I want or don’t want so that others, even those very close to me, will not have to spend any energy guessing or interpreting my behavior.
  • I will remain out of control and unpredictable; I will break my own rules and habits without hurting anyone and without damaging any treasured relationship.
October 18, 2017

You day will follow your mind…..

by Rod Smith

Your day will run much like your mind runs – positively or negatively

Versions of the following have occurred this week with clients:

Jane unexpectedly sees a friend, Sally, at a distance. Sally appears to ignore Jane. Jane ruminates deeply about this.

  • Jane feels rejected and wonders for hours, or even days, what she did to offend Sally. Jane can’t let it go.
  • Jane assumes Sally simply did not see her, or, if she did, Sally was too busy to talk.

Francis hears about close friends who had lunch together without her.

  • Francis is immediately debilitated. She feels betrayed. Francis knows they were talking about her and she is sure she was the reason they met.
  • Francis tells herself her friends are as free to meet and exclude her, as they are free to meet and to include her.
  • Francis assumes her friends are planning a wonderful surprise party for her.

I’d suggest that hidden within each of us is a healthy self. It’s a self that can be pushed and pulled to run with the negative or to run with what’s healthy and positive. It’s the often-miniscule inner choices that make all the difference to the shape of your day (week, month, and year).