Archive for ‘Difficult Relationships’

May 11, 2022

Love or “love”?

by Rod Smith

The “old” way of “love” 

  • Love as a bargain or trade- favors returned or unreturned determine the level of “love” and commitment.  
  • Love as a weapon or to establish and maintain power – inclusion if well-behaved, exclusion if not. 
  • Love as a face or image – a show of love offered in public contrasting greatly with what is privately experienced. 
  • Love as a teaching tool – it’s all about learning, shaping, seldom for enjoyment.
  • Love as punishment through withholding – a “I’ll show you who is in charge” distortion of love.  

The “new” way of love 

  • Love as service – the giver enhances the lives of others through chosen humility and service.
  • Love as a means to learning – the giver seeks to grow, therefore watches, listens with patience and care.
  • Love as an expression of spirit and soul expressed to all – the giver has made a decision to grow in love and has therefore recognized that none are on the “outside,” all are insiders.
  • Love as belonging – the giver desires to belong, not lead or organize or capitalize.
  • Love as an expression of mercy, forgiveness, deserved or not – the giver has acknowledged his or her failings (gross or benign) and has turned his or her back on harmful, selfish ways, while offering to all the grace he or she so badly also needed.
May 3, 2022

An invitation

by Rod Smith

Bring your brokenness and your regrets and your heartbreak and fall apart with rage and anger stocking the fire and I will listen.

I will try not to even attempt to quell your storm, extinguish the fire, quieten your rage and you will not fall apart or burn up or drown in the process. 

You will be on your way to falling together. You will be on your way to finding and making greater sense of who you are and “why” you are. You will be heading towards the center of your soul where you will discover, perhaps afresh, just how beautiful you are.

Then, not immediately but at some time, will you do the same for others? 

Perhaps even for me.

Will you form a wall of acceptance and empathy and challenge with your presence and your listening skills and your experience for others and perhaps even for me?

As “together” as I may appear, truth is I am perched upon my own volcano, climbing my own mountain of regrets, uncovering my own rage and anger and remorse and it is all, all of it, is toward myself and my selfish actions and my lack of foresight or insight and care for the impact of my actions upon others let alone myself.

May 1, 2022

It doesn’t have to be this way…..

by Rod Smith

There are overwhelming emotions – feelings, mind traps – most will face, to one degree or another, especially as we advance in age, hopefully grow in awareness, and have moved beyond the innocent, but necessary belief in our individual invincibility.

A sense of being disqualified – the lurking thought that the past denies a person access to possibilities. Being too bad, too reckless, he or she feels undeserving. The shame of being disqualified can become integral to a person’s personality and often confused with humility.  

A sense of living in exile  – the lurking belief that a person’s history, reputation, class, a lack of status puts him or her on the outside of groups to which he or she longs to belong. Habitual trepidation, fear of rejection, can become a skittishness so embedded it is assumed he or she is simply “the nervous type.”  

A sense of being forever unforgiven – the lurking belief that nothing a person can do will erase the mark deserved as a result of his or her own doing. This powerful shame can drive a person into silence and into literal isolation.

Listen, watch. Be a source of love and acceptance others so desperately need. You have it in you. No one needs to exist in these states of silence and desperation.

April 25, 2022

Self-talk

by Rod Smith

When you don’t know what to do, or you think you don’t, you probably do. Dig a little deeper. However new a circumstance may feel, it’s probably not. You, or someone you know, have been through this or something very similar before.

When you don’t know where to go you probably do. Seek old and trusted paths. Summons the courage. You’ve achieved the almost-impossible before. Get thinking. Plan. Inertia will get you nowhere, fast.

When you don’t know what to say it’s better to be quiet. There’s a lot of value in the axiom “least said soonest mended.” Speaking can seem a lot like committing. Hold onto yourself. 

When you don’t know what to think it’s time to step aside and look for the big picture. The big picture usually leads to healthier options.

When you’ve heard something you’d prefer not to have heard, or seen something you’d prefer not to have seen, it’s time to take a walk and allow yourself to think through all the consequences of what you will or will not do, and how you will or will not respond.

When you’ve said something you wish you hadn’t said, it’s time to apologize. No excuses. No qualifiers. No explanations. And, no waiting for the right opportunity. It’s now.

April 24, 2022

Planning your week

by Rod Smith

Foundations for a good week

Go-counter. Take yourself by surprise. Decide that situations that would usually get your goat will rather stimulate growth. Begin your week with a bird’s eye view of your life. See the whole rather than the anxiety-producing challenging details.

Have a plan. Planning and deciding what kind of person you will be is even more important your weekly schedule of events. It is possible to decide how you will behave even under trying circumstances. It is possible to make an emotional blue-print for the week. Decide things like: I will be forgiving. I will leave room for others to be as imperfect as I am. I will try not to over or under-react. I will listen more than I speak.

Tip well. Tipping is not about the service or the food. It is about you. You decide how generous and kind you will be under all circumstances. Regular tipping trains your eye for a generous life-style. The only question I sometimes ask is if tips actually end up in the hands of servers. Regrettably, there are some establishments that do not pass the whole tip onto those for whom it is intended. Please ignore if you live in a nation where tipping is not part of your culture.

April 18, 2022

Briefs

by Rod Smith

How people treat you (at least after a very short while) is up to you. Once they’ve revealed limitations on understanding boundaries and good manners it’s up to you to self-protect and determine your limits.

How we can treat ANYONE is how we can treat EVERYONE. If a man is capable or ripping off a stranger he’s certainly capable of ripping off his mother.

If you don’t determine who you are in any relationship the relationship will do it for you. Get in first and you’ll save yourself a lot of energy and trouble.

Don’t work too hard or expend more effort than person with whom you want to relate. Mutual and equal won’t come later if you sacrifice your integrity to be accepted.

Surrender all control over all the adults in your life. It’s work enough to be in charge of yourself and trying to control others suggests they’re incapable and you are.

Try to quit reading between the lines or expecting others to. Friendships are not guessing games and your friends are not mind readers.

If you enjoy and love who you are you give others a fighting chance to enjoy and love you too. All relationships are (first) inside jobs. Get to work.

April 13, 2022

Texts, calls

by Rod Smith

“Dad, you know you and Nate often call me at the same time,” remarked my son Thulani.

I found this amusing since it is a phenomenon I have observed but not in the manner he intended. They do it to me. Often. It is as if they plan it and calls or texts arrive from both sons when I cannot take either calls or respond to texts. Both sons can be in different parts of the USA and I in a third, distant location, and they will both text or call at the same moment.

I could probably write an analysis of why this occurs, but I won’t. I will only comment that there is an inexplicable, irrational connection among us; a bonding, sometimes a binding, and often it’s blinding. Reaching out to me are expressions of love (sometimes) and anxiety (often) and a search for safety and predictability (occasionally) even when the call or the text is spurred by blinding frustrations or irritations. Also, it pleases me when I find out my sons talk to each other even if their communications appear to be short-tempered or scathingly playful. That they connect without me, without my suggestion of provocation, is heart-warming. It gives me hope to know that they are friends and their friendship may continue after I am no longer in the picture.

April 12, 2022

Crippling cohorts

by Rod Smith

There is a Crippling Cohort within many clients: Blame, Regret, Unresolved Conflicts, Uncried Tears and Unlived Dreams. I capitalize the labels – I am sure there are more – for these five live within as alive, functioning beings.

They rarely show their unified front but prefer to visit their host as individuals when risk and adventure are required or when new possibilities offer promise. They pop up. They remind the host about past failures. They sneak from behind the curtains of memory and wave to remind of times when things did not work, when plans failed, when others were untrustworthy, when word was broken, when people delivered hurt and pain rather than love and kindness.

These cohorts are unusually cooperative with each other. They spur each other on. They can be so active that their pessimistic unified internal twist and draining presence can become what the host considers normal, a lens through which sees life.

Despite their hold they can be enduringly unarmed.

“I will not blame others. I will not be a victim of regret. I will do my part in bringing healing to unresolved conflicts. I will allow myself to grieve. It is not too late to live my dreams,” is a simple confession, if exercised daily, is a good place to start on the road to hope and freedom.

April 11, 2022

The Tree

by Rod Smith

When a mammoth tree fell across our home a few years ago, almost splitting the home down the middle, I had no idea what a favor the downed tree would do for me. Seeing the damage I took a walk in the rain to adjust to the challenges I knew I had to face.

The challenge was not only in the trauma of the tree splitting the home. I would have to deal with an insurance company notorious for resisting obligations. When this is over, I decided while walking, I will be proud of my behavior and of how I have treated everybody concerned.

“The Tree,” was a landmark experience. While negotiating with the insurance company and the rebuilding and was not without significant tensions, I held my own and I did behave in a way that now makes me glad.

On that walk I decided I would not be a victim to a storm, a fallen tree, a broken house, a tough insurance company and cut-throat builders.

“Remember the tree” I tell myself when I am tempted to react like a victim. Am I always successful at this? No, unfortunately, I am not. When I am successful it certainly results in a better outcome for all concerned.

I’d love to hear of your similar experiences, landmark moments that made a deep shift within you that is paying off to this day.

April 10, 2022

Facing Fears

by Rod Smith

An early step – I will not say a “first” step – to facing our fears and having some handle on conquering them is to establish exactly what they are. I believe none of us can face, conquer, or successfully negotiate what we cannot name or refuse to try and name.

Our labels or tags – specific or generic – on our fears might not be accurate, but locating and naming them helps make them seem manageable. 

Until we ourselves are in the driver’s seat of our lives our fears will be quite willing to do the steering and they are erratic and untrustworthy and dominating guides.

They are unlicensed to drive.

Let’s name, list, write about our fears as honestly and brutally as we know how, so once identified, they may take their seats where they belong, which is certainly not at the head of our respective tables.

It is amazing how, once identified, they scurry.

Another helpful step in the fear-facing process is to remind ourselves, you and I, just how far we have come, and that this too, shall pass, and we will all emerge stronger, wiser, kinder people because we faced fears and refused to let them have their way.