Archive for ‘Difficult Relationships’

June 16, 2019

Observer……

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

What’s on the inside is what’s important……

I observe and listen. I can hardly help it. With that I do try to reserve judgment and often question if my assessments are really a window into what I need to learn about how I myself treat others. I conclude that how we speak to other people and how we treat all other people is a window into our own being and says nothing about others.

• The man who is rude and demanding in a restaurant and who belittles the server is revealing volumes about himself no matter how poor the service or the quality of the food. The adult tantrum is worse than the service or food could ever be. There are kind ways to express dissatisfaction.

• The woman who gossips about her friends and badmouths their husbands but switches and is all polite and kind when in their company is declaring just what an unhappy person she is. Her inauthenticity will be her downfall.

• The coach (any sport, any level) who yells, swears, cavorts on the sidelines reveals nothing about the team but everything about loss of perspective and a refusal to grow up. Imagine how he treats those he loves!

As I said, I am constantly evaluating. “Am I accurate or peering into a mirror?’ is the question I ask myself.

June 12, 2019

Fathers Day – honoring absent or abusive fathers

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Wednesday

Fathers Day is coming……

Honoring parents appropriately is a healthy activity whether your experience of them was good, bad, really bad, or non-existent.

Since Fathers Day is almost here let me focus on fathers.

If you have or had a loving, present, involved father, you will have no hesitation or difficulty honoring him.

Let me address those who did not:

Your father, whether you knew him or not, is the most important man you will ever know (or not know). Like it or not, he’s breathing in you. His genetics echo in you. He’s in your mix. He leaks into your conversations. He appears in your dreams and aspirations, whether you know it or not.

His power over you is probably compounded if you reject him or the very idea of him.

You may ask, how do I honor a man I never knew, a man who rejected me, damaged me, or a man who – add your own experience….?

I’d encourage you to take time to acknowledge that, despite his flaws, fears, failures, even crimes, you do have life and you are a functioning person. You do have skills. You are here. You do have the capacity to see and enjoy beauty and the capacity to love, all of which would not be so without his contribution.

This is a very tough message, but honor him for your sake, not his.

[Seldom do I labor so long over content and even hesitate once it’s written. I expect some pushback but I’ve written what I truly believe. One good thing about a newspaper columnist is he or she is easy to ignore.]

June 7, 2019

You are already more healthy than you may feel or think you are…..

by Rod Smith

If you read this and you retain any comprehension of its contents and if you detect a smidgen of desire for greater emotional health, there are things I know about you.

No matter how confused you may feel or how complex your relationships or how “down” your deepest lows or “bad” your worst mistakes and choices have been, there are aspects of your life that are already healthy, successful, and highly functional. And, if you work at it, I know things can improve for you.

How do I know?

You are reading this! You’ve gotten this far in your life. To get to here, now, you have had to have had many successes along the way. To be able to open the paper and read you have already struggled and succeeded at so many challenges. You have already had to forge ahead and make your mark when others would have preferred you to do otherwise.

Identify your strengths and skills that delivered you to this point in your life (yes, make a list) and you will see your golden keys already within you for a better, greater future. Go ahead, accept your weaknesses but give them very little attention. Work on your strengths, not your weaknesses.

Your arsenal of inner strengths and resolve will deliver you into the land of greater promise.

June 3, 2019

Buck stop stock take

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday (getting it in early….!)

Buck-stop analysis – note to self and any who are willing to grow (up)…..

• I am the one common factor in all of my relationships be they personal, intimate, professional, or casual. If things are not proceeding as planned or desired I will take a good hard look at my role in whatever is happening.

• I cannot afford to be a by-stander when it comes to my own life. If I am passive and adopt a whatever-will-be-will-be attitude to others and to circumstances I cannot legitimately complain if I feel like a victim and others treat me as one.

• How I respond to what happens to me is often vastly more important than what happens to me. While I will count my losses and grieve when necessary, I will re-assess, learn from my errors and from others, and move on as efficiently as possible. Scar-counting and bruise-nursing and poor-me droning has a limited shelf-life and is exhausting to endure and for others to witness.

• Reinvention is possible. Many have achieved it in the past and many will do it in the future. If I am so-called “stuck” a little courage, sufficient desire, and enough clean pain, will probably be enough to launch a few healthy and new beginnings.

• If my gains (financial, status, or whatever) diminish or demean others I must desist and repent.

May 25, 2019

Do you live around excessive use of alcohol?

by Rod Smith

The Mercury – Tuesday

If you live around the excessive use of alcohol but are not the one who drinks….

Every relationship feels temporary.

If things are going poorly, or things are going well – anxiety is still ever-present. Conditions can switch in a heartbeat.

Everything seems to exist on platform of anxiety because “normal” feels as if things are about to fall apart.

Any expressed conflict, even the slightest disagreement, feels like relationships are about to unravel.

Everything is a trade. Nothing is really as it may seem. You have to look behind and beyond all requests, demands, and pleas, in order to see what it is that a person (any person) may REALLY want.

All love is held in suspicion and there is no such thing as unconditional love – love comes with a price and you are always the one footing the bill.

Even if repeatedly told that an issue, any issue, like causing someone to be drunk or trying to get someone to be sober, or feeling responsible for the lack of money in the house, or being the cause of the conflict in the house, is not your responsibility, or yours to fix, you nonetheless feel the pressure of all of it upon your shoulders.

Any of the above true for you? Please, reach out to Al Anon in your area.

May 19, 2019

Love others

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday

“Love one another.”

Sounds so simple. Like parachuting (“jump out plane”) and golf (“hit ball in hole”) and really good chess (“move pieces”); like ballet, and tap dancing, writing a book, and playing the bagpipes.

Just try it – anyone of these activities. All are more difficult than most imagine. “Love one another” is more challenging than all the activities I mentioned.

Perhaps you’ve discovered this to be true.

Try to enter the world of others, hear others, wash feet, hear people’s voices, I mean really listen and hear and listen and love and listen and serve.

Yes, serve.

Serve in a way that only empowers and doesn’t at all dis-empower – which is a skill really worthy of development.

Love and serve and help and support in ways that do not rob others of their dignity and yet does not create unhealthy dependency.

Serve in a way to enrich others.

It’s a tightrope.

And, forgive. Yes. Really forgive. Forgive with the love that covers a multitude of errors.

See the complexities of other people’s lives and do not walk away.

See the errors and unwise choices and the results of unwise choices others have made and not give up with a shrug or a contemptuous attitude.

Love when it is neither appreciated nor reciprocated.

Love even when it is rejected.

Love, even when the act of loving makes an enemy of the person whom you seek to love.

This is not uncommon!

“Love one another.”

This is perhaps the greatest challenge each of us ever faces.

*******

(Un)related pic…… I adore the picture but I love Thulani’s tagged comment the most:

May 16, 2019

What brings you joy?

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Friday

What brings you joy?

It doesn’t take much to please me:

• It brings me inordinate joy, even quizzical joy, to find a lost sock and to reunite it with its mate.

• It’s a shot of pure joy when either of my sons asks me how I’m doing or how my day is going.

• I really like it when friends, whom I introduce to each other, end up doing something wonderful together.

• Being in a position to send a little cash to another country to buy a third-world child’s soccer boots and a soccer kit and knowing the child will be part of a team delivers a joy I can hardly begin to describe.

• Having sufficient excess income to be able to tip well knowing the server is a single mother working several jobs to make ends meet is thrilling to me.

• Meeting the sons and daughters of couples whose wedding I performed and feeling somehow and oddly connected to their very existence makes me really happy, especially when they are unaware of the connection.

• It’s a huge source of joy to me when I see my sons being enjoyed by their friends and embraced by a community and valued by people I don’t even know.

Please, let me know some of yours.

May 14, 2019

Loss, grief, mourning

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Wednesday

Loss, grief, mourning

A few things I’ve seen, known, experienced about significant loss, grief, and mourning:

• Grief can go into hiding and emerge months, even years later, as something quite unexpected – like anger, disappointment and/or cynicism, or kindness, joy, softness, and appreciation.

• Time itself doesn’t heal, not usually. Some grief is never “healed” and some losses never find “closure” but the lack of both does not necessarily mean survivors will not or cannot live full, productive, beautiful lives.

• Replacing a loss with another person “too quickly” may we’ll be unwise, unfair, irresponsible (all things I’ve heard) but it doesn’t feel that way for the one who has suffered and insisting on it is usually alienating and counterproductive and rip already suffering families apart.

• Mourning has a life of its own, at least initially, and it’s best not tamed by the untrained.

• When a person who had suffered loss declares he or she’d rather not talk about “it” the desire is best respected.

• Our uniqueness as individuals is also reflected in how people respond to difficulties associated with significant loss and it’s ridiculous to approach a grieving person with a step-by-step generic packaged formula.

• Non-possessive warmth, listening ears, and a hot cups of tea may be the most powerful gifts a person can offer one who has suffered loss.

********

My evening walk

May 8, 2019

To Nate’s birth-mom, wherever you are……

by Rod Smith

To Nathanael’s mother, wherever you are……

On a weekend like this, with Mother’s Day getting a lot of attention, birthmothers who willingly or unwillingly placed a child for adoption might feel they have somehow disqualified themselves from the honor of celebrating Mother’s Day. Not so in my book.

There’s a woman somewhere in Indiana, whom I do not know, who has immeasurably blessed my life with the gift of her son. And now, the infant, bulging with good health in his dark blue sleepers, is asleep in a crib in a quietly lit upstairs bedroom.

Thanks, Birthmother. Your gift to me, I know so painfully offered by you, has vastly enhanced my life and life of the baby’s older brother.

You do not know him as he is now, but of course, he is very real to me. I know his sounds that announce when he is hungry, and I know when the dog has entered his room by the unashamed thrill in the child’s voice.

I know he is real to you, too, for you carried him within your womb. Now, and I am only guessing of course, he is probably real to you in the manner the baby of a distant relative might be to me. I know the child exists, but I do not have the smells and the sounds that make him a person. I hope it is something like that for you. I hope you are not daily in pain over your decision to give him to me. I want you to know he is safe, and, although I do not know you, I hope you are, too.

You are “mother,” and even though the boy is very young, I regularly tell him everything I know about you. I tell him that you carried him to full term; that you spent hours at his bedside in the hospital before you signed the papers consenting to his adoption.

A nurse, who would not describe you to me or tell me your name or estimate your age, leaked that she watched you sit lovingly with your son for several hours while he was in intensive care. She said your love and your anguish were very evident. She told me she watched you place a final kiss lovingly and gently on his brow, as if to say goodbye for years, but not forever. She said she watched you turn for the large glass double doors of the hospital ward and walk away to your hard life.

We do not know each other, but we do have something in common. I have your child. He is here. He is growing up under my roof. You completed all the paperwork, and now he has my last name and the first name I chose for him because no other name would fit.

I want you to know that he stands up by himself now. He walks holding onto things. He likes to play, and his favorite game is crawling away as quickly as his little legs will carry his little body when he sees me coming to do one of those repetitive parental tasks like change a diaper or wipe a nose.

Thanks for trusting me with your son. Thanks for believing a single man could do it. On this particular weekend, his first Mother’s Day, and on a day when his image and memory must surely visit you more than it does most days of the year, I want you to know the baby is safe with me. He is deeply and profoundly loved and widely celebrated.

Your gift to me is of immeasurable worth, and the world is better off because of women like you. Thanks, Mom. You are his mother. He carries you around in his being as indelibly as the memory you doubtless have of carrying him within you for nine months. You have richly blessed me, and I am very proud to be the parent of your beautiful son.

First published in The Indianapolis Star, 2003

May 6, 2019

Not all mothers get to celebrate Mothers Day

by Rod Smith

As Mothers Day approaches…..

Mothers who have chosen adoption for their babies are often ignored on Mothers Day.

How their hearts must ache.

This coming weekend an unseen army of brave women will quietly witness families rightfully celebrating Mothers Day – and find no place at the tables with the children whom they generously offered, for whatever reasons, to families eager to rear their babies.

I admit my awareness of birth mothers is acute.

These women, women who are often shamed, labeled as irresponsible, hard, or uncaring, have radically shifted my life. Each of my boys’ mothers fought untold difficulties while carrying her child to full term, in full knowledge other options existed.

Despite abandonment, derision from family members, financial difficulties, and who knows what other social pressures (and I don’t know what each faced) each delivered a beautiful baby and made the hard choice to forever enrich my life by allowing me, a single man, to adopt her infant son.

You are not forgotten – not on Mothers Day weekend or any other day.

You are so deeply etched into their individual psyches and into our family experience that you are regularly part of our awareness and conversation.

So deep is their desire for you, so deep is the urge for a mother that my boys have often called me “mom.”

I have never stopped them.

I let it go because I think I know what it’s about. It’s honoring or obeying primal urge. It expresses a heartfelt longing. To stop them, when each was first learning to talk, seemed unwise, as if I were stopping something deep, powerful, unstoppable.

I knew each boy was boy looking for the mother he had never known.

Of course it has gotten us a few strange glances at times. A five-year-old yelling, “Mom, zip me up,” at the urinal in an international airport can turn heads when it’s (of course) the men’s room. When my older boy, now 21, expressed his frustration while standing at his locker at middle school over something we’ve both mislaid, his loud, “But Mom, it must be here,” addressed at me did get some quizzical stares from peers.

“Mama” or “mom” and even “mother” seemed to come as easily as rolling over, as cooing, as first steps, and as all those things that come with early development – and so I let it go.

It seemed as if “mother” and all forms of Her names were buried within to emerge and be attached to the nearest, warmest person no matter what gender.

Yes, the woman waiting your table at your Mothers Day lunch, the teacher whom your child adores, the woman co-worker who goes silent for no identifiable reason or who appears to be sometimes lost in another world when the conversation turns to babies or showers or Mothers Day, just may be a member of that unseen army of birth-mothers – who do not acknowledge the day.

She may be one of the gracious, brave women who have made Mother’s Day complete for countless women around the world and given a man like me the unique pleasure of sometimes being called “mom.”