Archive for ‘Difficult Relationships’

August 3, 2021

When visiting Durban

by Rod Smith

Things I like to do when I come to Durban

I like to drive down to the entrance to the harbor and look for the spot where I spread my dad’s ashes. His descriptions of Pearl Gibson singing to the men passing by on ships going out to war were vivid, so vivid that when I’ve walked the pier it’s as if I can hear her singing “We’ll meet again.”

I like to drive through the city at night. Then, park on the sight of the snake park and walk down the beachfront to where the dodgem cars used to be. If my younger son is with me he usually rollerblades way ahead of me and we meet for ice cream. We get the one with the Cadbury Flake stuck in the middle. It’s a memory I treasure because I share it with him and because it’s reminiscent of days earlier when we walked that part 60 years ago.

I enjoy taking my extended Durban family out for good curry meals. They always know where the curries are hot! I enjoy the diversity of foods available in the Durban area. Then, I have never visited Durban without going to Mitchell Park to greet Gordon Michael who has served so many people so faithfully for so many years.

August 1, 2021

Addicts and addictions

by Rod Smith

Addictions and addicts are swamped in denial.

The use of any substance or participation in any behavior is a problem (is an addiction) for you if even one of the following is true.

As a result of the use of a substance or engagement in a behavior: 

  • You’ve lost, or come close to losing, a significant relationship or your  job.
  • You’ve had a run in with the law.
  • Your children are unsettled by your activities.
  • You have physical cravings when you have been without it for a few minutes or a few days.
  • You violate your values, or appear to have no values, to sustain your activity.
  • You build your life around something people who love you wish you wouldn’t consume or do.
  • Your life – finances, faith, and relationships – has become progressively unmanageable.
  • You hide or you lie about your whereabouts and/or behavior.
  • People who love you are put “on duty” and you expect them to lie for you.
  • People, especially those you love, are embarrassed by your behavior.
  • You hate a list like this list and hope certain people won’t see it.
  • When confronted with this list you argue about definitions, display anger or rage, or write the writer off as an idiot.

Please, get help, AA, AL-ANON, and similar organizations are able to assist you. You do not have to live like this!

July 27, 2021

Sons?

by Rod Smith

Are you ever disappointed in your sons? Do they ever let you down, are you ever angry with them? You write about them as if they’re perfect.

My sons are far from perfect. I’m far from perfect as a man and as a dad. I trust I have not given the overriding impression that we have an idyllic family. We don’t. As imperfect as my sons may be, I regard them as being close to perfect in my eyes. It’s the way I see them. It’s the way I choose to see them. My sons’ imperfections pale next to mine at their respective ages. They are both open and transparent with me in ways I never was with my own parents.

Do they ever disappoint me? Yes, but it is usually very short-lived. I’m usually quick to see that sometimes my expectations are unrealistic. Do I make excuses for them? Of course, I love them. I am blind to many of their faults and thank goodness they’re blind many of mine. Do I ever get angry with them? Far more than I’d like to admit. But it is almost always because I’m projecting something from my history onto their fairly innocent lives.

July 25, 2021

Inside out

by Rod Smith

Everything begins inside. Every act of benevolence, of mercy, human kindness, begins within whomever generates it. The head, heart, mind, the soul of the person conceiving it is where it begins. Then it can be developed and shared with others until it grows and even become a movement.

Destruction also begins inside. Deceitful plans, selfishness, begin on the inside. Such motivations may be born in desperation, hunger, jealousy, selfishness, or lust; nonetheless they come from within.

Many poor people will not cheat and desperate people who do not feed the desperation with immoral actions. The soul, that powerful combination of heart, mind, spirit is the rudder, that steers the ship. The inside, the inner person, is essential in directing a person’s life, and should not be ignored or denied.

When I avoid the messages from within, and walk towards that which I know is unhealthy for me, I’m deploying my own destructive ends. When my inner person says “yes” to destructive things, I know I’m creating a pathway to my own dis-ease and downfall. When I acknowledge the dangers thoughts and motivations lurking within me, and pay heed to the warning lights, I save myself from an awful lot of pain and anguish, and pain and anguish for others, too.

July 22, 2021

Tit for tat

by Rod Smith

“Return to no person evil for evil,” words penned by an ancient Saint, are as cutting and relevant as they ever were. 

“Cutting” because they can stop evil in its tracks, halt its progression. Relevant because we are all, at least anyone with a smidgen of insight and a dash of humility, will admit we are faced with evil options (self-centeredness, self-gratifying motives, win at all costs attitudes, dog eat dog philosophies) with regularity.

To be so is so “normalized” it’s even taught in leadership schools and business schools. Retaliation and vengeance, may be common, even instinctive, but are usually unhelpful if any healing is to occur.

They are agents of escalation.

Refusing to honor evil with a return act of evil is likely to be an agent of de-escalation.

“Return to no person evil for evil” has astounding power. It empowers victims and robs evil of its momentum.

Where and when will this craziness end? None of us knows. How will it end? None of us knows. I can only hope that vastly different challenges we all face will end with growth for you and for me because we walked the dangerous road of refusing to play tit-for-tat.

July 20, 2021

A shift in dialogue

by Rod Smith

Good morning, please, tell me something beautiful. Tell me of private acts of kindness you witnessed. Good afternoon. Tell me something uplifting, about a moment you saw “unlikely” happiness. Good evening, let me tell you about the goodness that surrounded our lives today?

When I, your distant columnist (Siri tells me I am 14,225K from Durban’s city hall), try to promote such dialogue, I am not suggesting blindness to your difficulties or that I deny the challenges I face.

Difficulties are obvious, glaring, they are in our faces.

The beautiful, uplifting, the goodness surrounding you and me are often subtle; working, creating, and loving, beneath the surface. The bully is easy to see. He or she is unmistakable, completely lacking in creativity and subtlety. The humble often does his or her work from a hidden place. Beauty is often created in private, shared only with those who are very close. Kindness is often most tangible in one-to-one encounters, known only to the giver and only sometimes to the receiver. Tell me your beautiful stories, please. I long to hear. Tell me about the goodness that surrounds you, gives you hope for tomorrow. Good morning, good afternoon, good night – whenever you are reading. It’s a good day because none of us is alone.

July 17, 2021

South Africans….

by Rod Smith

Be careful when you inflict evil upon South Africans. They will almost always unite across every conceivable barrier and return your evil with graciousness and kindness that will sizzle the goals of your dark motives.

Watch out when “Boer maak a plan” and “Ubuntu” combine. The tenacious combination that will explode into widespread love and success. These two concepts (inventiveness under pressure and working together for the communal good) come from extremes, sometimes enemies, but will unite and come for you and accost you with so much kindness that you will come to regret your unimaginative evil (it always is) and wish you’d seen what they already know: good defeats evil every time.

The majority of South Africans are unusual that way, they go into retreat after an attack but it should not be confused with defeat. They are planning, uniting, then they will share, serve, clean, sing, pray and dance in the streets and grace will prevail.

Choirs will sing in the most devastated areas. Meals will be prepared for the very people who destroyed and looted. There’ll be widespread repentance and resilient love will emerge from this horrible circumstance. You watch, this looting and destruction, will turn into love and rebuilding and the plans of the disruptors will be successfully derailed.


July 16, 2021

You are unique – thankfully

by Rod Smith

Fall on your knees: you may have noticed with a sigh of relief or an edge of frustration you are one of a kind. There is no one quite like you, not even close. Your profile may reveal familial similarities but you are unique and you know it.

You draw connections, see parallels in ways you know are a little crazy. Words, music, aromas, one-liners, associate across decades and you resort to momentary introspective giggles because sharing whatever you just thought or saw or felt would take too long to explain and it would be meaningless to anyone else breathing.

On top of that your head is full of what ifs, not regrets, but possibilities, hopes, aspirations. Periodically you think you’re going to burst with ideas, love, passion, when you sneak a glimpse of how beautiful the people in your life really are and how much talent they ferry around everyday.

There are creeping regrets. You have to fight them off like an invasive species. But, truth is, they earned their place but some have overstayed their welcome.

Fall on your knees in thanksgiving. There is only one of you.

July 14, 2021

Good will prevail

by Rod Smith

In times of disruption and stress the really important things become vividly clear and what is not has a way of dropping from our individual and group awareness. 

The new and expensive kitchen countertops become what they ought to be, a backdrop to vital conversations. The new car, the one you wanted to keep spotless, becomes a means to ferry food to neighbors. The Wifi speed ceases to be about gaming or Netflix, but a means to efficiently update family and friends around the world about your safety and wellbeing.

Going to school, being present in a classroom, having a teacher live in front of your children becomes a pleasurable thought, something for which your children and you may now ache. 

The Spar sign you spy on the way to search for a tank of petrol is a warm reminder of how things used to be, just a few days ago.

But, things will come together. Order will be restored. Good outweighs evil with surprising regularity all throughout history.Rebuild, replace, restore; restore, replace, rebuild. Good outweighs evil with surprising regularity all throughout history.

July 13, 2021

Oh, South Africa

by Rod Smith

I’m sure you’re feeling anxious today. If not anxious for yourself, perhaps for your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren. You’re worried about what’s happening today and what will happen in the future if all this chaos can occur today. Perhaps you’re feeling fearful today, wondering if normalcy will ever be restored, if widespread civil decency will ever once more prevail.

The thought and the question you find hard to expel may be “will things ever return to order?” I’m sure you’ve wondered how a place with such natural beauty of sea, clear skies, subtropical plants and beauty, and, more often than not, such incredible weather, can be accosted with such random and indiscriminate horror.

I will tell you, dear reader, that from my safe distance it’s understandably easy for you to dismiss my expressions of empathy and want to see through them.

Truth is I’ve had a sleepless night (almost, at least). There is a clinical definition for the guilt I’m feeling from this safe distance while family and friends and readers are threatened and, yes, I’m feeling it and feeling it powerfully.

May grace be yours in the midst of all you are having to endure.