Archive for ‘Family’

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 17, 2017

Will you be my friend?

by Rod Smith

I am very aware that people don’t analyze their connections in the manner I’ve described below. We’d have healthier communities and families if we did!

  • Will you search with me when I am searching, stand with me when I am standing, and drop to your knees with me in prayer if and when I need it? I will try to do the same for you.
  • Will you stand up to me with firmness and kindness when my many blind spots are blocking my thinking? I will try to do the same for you.
  • Will you join me and examine our connection (as casual acquaintances, colleagues, neighbors, partners, or spouses) so that we remain mutual and equal and respectful no matter the degree or significance of our connection?
  • Will you take time to listen to me? I will try to take time to listen to you?
  • Will you allow me my quirks and eccentricities and try to regard them as interesting rather than regard them as things you wish were different about me?
  • Will you seek my highest good as far as you are able given the knowledge we have about each other? I will try to do the same for you.
  • Will you try to be as unafraid of me as I try to be unafraid of you?
October 9, 2017

What did you learn from your father?

by Rod Smith

Nine things I learned from my father – and some of them not too well:

  • “There, but for the Grace of God, go I.” This he said when seeing anyone in a tight spot, self imposed or not.
  • “What if it was us, Mavis?” This was his appeal to my mother who tended to want to watch expenses more than he did.
  • Radical hospitality. Stories of our father opening our home to strangers were legendary.
  • “Make your words soft and sweet in case you have to eat them.” He used this when I was judgmental or harsh.
  • “Don’t carry your fish in a violin case.” My father despised all pretension.
  • “Build bridges; don’t burn them.” My father feared cut-offs.
  • “A man who is going the wrong way down a one-way street already knows it – he needs help turning around.” Forever benevolent, my father championed the underdog.
  • “Rather be fooled because you trusted too much than because you trusted too little.” And, sadly, he was frequently duped.
  • “If the child needs milk the child needs milk – milk is more important to that child than the money is to me.” He’d open his grocery shop at all hours of the night and give milk to the mother of a hungry baby.

What did you learn from yours. Let me know.  

 

October 5, 2017

Weekend superhero

by Rod Smith

The world is disturbed by threats of nuclear war. There have been horrific mass shootings, race riots, and re-emergences of violent extremes.

Entire regions of the world have been destroyed by hurricanes and earthquakes. Millions are homeless because of severe weather and millions more live as refugees fleeing oppressive political circumstances.

May we (you and I) deploy our most powerful individual forces. As limited as we each may be, the world needs a few superheroes and we can each in our own way be one:

  • Design and commit specific, routine acts of kindness and generosity. Make them pointed, uniquely tailored for someone in need. If possible, make your target an enemy and make your act anonymous. The “routine” will help us form healing habits. The “enemy” element will transform us into fine-tuned agents of grace

  • Extend your immediate community by embracing the stranger, the sojourner, the person on the fringe. Resist the urge to create him or her into your own image by expecting your guest to conform to your ways or to convert to your ways. Superhero hospitality accepts people exactly as they are.

  • In the spirit of St. Francis, indeed a superhero, may we seek to console and to serve rather than to be consoled and to be served. I know, I know – it wasn’t supposed to be a direct quotation.

September 24, 2017

Fine acts of parenting

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday 9/25/2017 / I have witnessed many fine acts of parenting:

  • The mother who sends her adult sons and daughters Mother’s Day cards with handwritten lists of joyous memories about what it has been like to be their mother. She has done this for so long that it was some years before the children (when they were children) even knew they were the ones who were supposed to send her cards.
  • The dad who traded in his own car and settled for a used car so he could give his son the sports car his son wanted.
  • The parents who each worked two jobs so the two sons did not have to assume significant debt to attend university.
  • The single mother who has the wherewithal to leave her daughter’s academic struggles up to her and who encourages her daughter to speak up about what she needs to her teachers.
  • The dad who packs his son’s lunch each day for school and who adds an extra pack for his son’s friend who once expressed to the boy that he wished that he too had a dad.
  • The dad who taught his son to share without ever saying it but by showing it at every turn.
  • The parents who never let drinking distort or shape the way they reared their children.
September 20, 2017

Teachers

by Rod Smith

My teachers have never left me. They hover in my awareness and continue their work despite the decades that separate me from their classrooms, lecture theaters, labs, fields, gyms, and studies. Almost all were highly motivated and loved their jobs and regarded it as a calling and I can still hear them calling me to adopt high standards for others and for myself.

The few who didn’t love their jobs, those who landed in the classroom somehow against their will or to test the waters of education, also hover. Their obvious boredom, anger, or their cynicism, were in themselves powerful lessons.

I find it incredible that the teacher with the parrot (Mrs. Bradman) who dogged my third or fourth year of school and the psychology professor who was so self-absorbed more than a decade later and my family therapy professors a lifetime later and nations apart and Mr. Morey, Mr. Graham, Mrs. Hornsby, and Miss Chadwick (I could go on) do the cancan in my frontal lobe at the oddest moments.

I know, I know, someone is going to write and tell me there is medication for my condition – but I think not.

I think it’s a testimony to the power afforded men and women who are teachers.

September 17, 2017

It’s not where……

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Monday

Thank you for reading my work. Really. I appreciate it.

Allow me to let you in a little.

I live in the USA, in Indianapolis, Indiana, to be precise. If you are reading this in a real newspaper you are probably somewhere in KwaZulu-Natal. I was born and reared in Red Hill, Durban.

If you are reading online you could be in any one of the 180-plus nations where people read this column.

Before you are overly impressed, in several of the 180-plus nations my readership totals 2 or 5 or even 8 people.

I am writing this particular column on the Saturday before you will read it on Monday. I am in a busy coffee shop on the very affluent side of our city. I drive here. We don’t live in this neighborhood. But, where we live is hardly poor. By American standards my sons and I are well off.

There are many days I want to be where you are. I miss the beaches, the weather, your naturally hospitable ways. I miss extended family.

I am sure there are times you’d like to be in the USA.

I’ve had this consistent thought since moving to the USA: It’s not where, but how you live that makes the difference.

September 5, 2017

When therapy works, and when it usually doesn’t

by Rod Smith

Therapy works:

  • When clients are highly motivated to grow
  • When clients are willing to take risks and do new things
  • When clients are willing to be vulnerable with the people with whom they share life
  • When clients are willing to face, rather than deny, necessary and inevitable loss
  • When clients establish a realistic view of what therapy can and cannot achieve and have realistic expectations of the therapist and the process.

Therapy will be an exercise in treading water and wasted expense:

  • When clients go through the motions of getting help without wanting either growth or change
  • When clients attempt to outsmart the therapist and therefore treat the process as a game
  • When clients have a distorted view of the power therapist have and an unrealistic view of what the process may deliver
  • When clients withhold pertinent information
  • When the therapist “pushes” or “pulls” clients against their will and in conflict with their abiding loyalties.