Archive for ‘Grace’

December 17, 2017

Wedding plans…..

by Rod Smith

“I’m 28. I will marry a wonderful woman in August. My mother brainwashed me with venom about my father for 24 years. He lives nearby. I hardly know him. I think I want him at my wedding. She is threatening to boycott if he is invited or there.”

It’s your wedding. Except for your mother’s friends whom you want included, the invitation list (under these toxic conditions) is none of her business. Allow your mother hostage power now means you can expect her to try to wield similar threatening power over other matters in your married life.

The good news is you have several months to complete important work with both parents.

Contact dad. Invite him into the slow, deliberate process of deeper, appropriate, father-son intimacy. (Use your own words). Suggest a bi-weekly breakfast and tell him there will be no talk whatsoever about your mother. After a few breakfasts include the “wonderful woman.”

Stand up to your mother. Tell her you want her at the wedding but it is an invitation she may always decline. Include her on other plans – the challenge is to not alienate your mother but to clearly define your response to her controlling ways.

Defining yourself to both your parents will do more for your long-term fulfillment than anything else you do.

December 13, 2017

Definition of family…..

by Rod Smith

When my first born was a few days old a woman whom I had known for a few years, and was really well-meaning, arrived at my house and suggested I give the baby to a real family.

Her understanding of the context and reason my son’s birth mother choose me to be his (solo) parent was very limited. While the immediate (minimal) shock and pain of that encounter has long worn off (and healed), the exchange – which happened to be the first of many strange or unexpected encounters – did give me what I believe to be a greater acuteness or awareness of what it is that makes a group of people family.

I’d really like to hear your views. Here are a few of mine. A family:

  • Is a place where people are most often related by marriage or blood but often they are not.
  • Is a place where people, who usually share space (but not always), are enduringly committed to each others highest good even if and when the highest good is painful and costly.
  • Is a platform where people can express their differences without being alienated or made to feel bad or wrong for expressing or embodying differences.
  • Is a place where members feel safe (mostly) and when they don’t (feel safe) they can say so and someone in the family will listen and hear and try to understand.
  • It’s a place where, if someone doesn’t feel safe and says so, the person who listens and hears will be able to help discern if feeling unsafe or unsure is appropriate. The process of growing and learning can be very unsettling and feeling unsettled can lead to increasing feelings of vulnerability.
December 9, 2017

Of course I believe in Santa

by Rod Smith

I saw Santa at the Children’s Museum with a feather of a child pleading her case. They were locked in discussion, a confessional of sorts, as she entered into detail of her every Christmas wish. Hands, eyes, and all of her face enticed Santa closer lest he miss a detail living so clearly I her head.

“Oh, you want, oh, I see it. Why yes, of course. Perfectly,” Santa said, his voice tapering off into her ear, “I will see what I can do about that.”

Then she nestled into his side, her shoulders comfortably enveloped by his plush red suit as if to declare her mission accomplished. He was a perfect depiction of everything I imagined him to be and the sight easily immersed me in the voices and music of my own Christmases past.

Santa came all year round to our home. I’d look through the window in April or mi-August and Santa would be strolling up the driveway on his return from visits to every home on the street. He’d be wearing dad’s shoes and one of his ties underneath the tatty red coat, but I knew better than to expose his identity. I wanted to believe in Santa and he I turn needed me to believe. Such faith had rewards and I knew better than to dash my own hopes. I wasn’t ready to lose my trust in Santa for anyone and certainly not by my own hand.

He couldn’t resist visits to the whole neighborhood and would drop in from time to time and inspire children toward good behavior, perfect obedience and remind them to count their blessings one by one. At every appearance in our home we’d sing “The Little Boy that Santa Clause Forgot” and we’d all have to cry. He insisted on it.

The lines “he didn’t have a daddy” and “went home to play with last year’s broken toys” really got us going.

It was clear he sang to all the children I the world who’d had to skip childhood and known poverty, children who’s fathers had gone to war or whose fathers or mothers had fled their families.

Donning the suit, surprising the children, was Santa’s way of making the world right.

His visits created intrigue in the neighborhood, and to every child he repeated the promise that this Christmas, no child of his street would be forgotten. As far as I could tell none ever was.

The last Christmas we had together was in August of 1994. We were riding in a car and in the curves of Bluff Road when spontaneously he began to sing, “Christmas comes but once a year.”

The car became a holy place as I heard once more of the boy who “wrote a note to Santa for some soldiers and a drum and it broke his little heart to find Santa hadn’t come.”

The tears we both shed required no encouragement for we both somehow knew this would be the last time he’d sing this nostalgic hymn.

Now, to this old song is top of my list of Christmas songs.

The melody emerges randomly in my awareness, most particularly when faced with children who are in need, and I have had to silence it at all times of the year.

It was the little girl’s confidence, Santa’s grace, and the loving parents looking from the side that caught my attention last week. As she touched his flowing beard and told him her every Christmas dream I was listing my own requests with childlike zeal. It gave me renewed hope that you and I, the real Santas of the world, could deliver a more hopeful tomorrow for “those little girls and boys that Santa Claus forgot.

First published December 9, 2000 in the Indianapolis Star     

December 6, 2017

The two E-s

by Rod Smith

Enabling is rampant in many families.

It can involve:

  • Covering for someone so outsiders do not notice or find out about his or her undesirable behavior (drinking, gambling, addictive habits).
  • Relaying lies to a workplace – calling in to say he or she is ill when he or she is unable to work because of the addiction.
  • Permitting, turning a blind-eye, cooperating, letting things go unnoticed to keep the peace or because it feel easier.

Enabling behaviors are often subtle way of disguising who it is in a family who is in need of help. The enabler often appears to be the strong or the healthy one. Control is the name of the game – and family life can feel like one.

Empowering is common in healthy families.

It can involve:

  • Getting out of each other’s way so people can learn from errors and get credit for their successes.
  • Allowing natural consequences to follow choices so people can learn just how powerful really are.
  • Trusting and believing in each other even when things do not go to plan or appear to be falling apart.

Empowered people require the company of other empowered people and all require a strong sense of self. Freedom to discover and to learn are the hallmark of the empowered.

November 30, 2017

Toward being more human

by Rod Smith

When referring to my brother’s generosity I wrote that I believe generosity is among several of the most powerful human abilities. I’ve seen it time and again do its fabulous work.

Here are more of what I believe to be innate human capacities.

Exercised, they make us “more human.” Neglected or ignored, I believe they render us rather cold, even inhuman:

  • The capacity to forgive even the most grievous offenses – yes, of course it’s hard, but NOT doing so may be even harder.
  • The capacity for empathy – to see and understand, but of course, not necessarily agree with, the perspective of another, even that of an enemy.
  • The capacity to influence for good (and, to influence for ill is bundled within the same set of human strengths). We have the power to influence – let’s hope it is used for good.
  • The capacity to learn from mistakes and errors, and to learn that it is possible to not repeat them.
  • The capacity to move up the brain and therefore allow ones self to think more objectively, engage in better long-term planning, and form the habit of responding rather than reacting.
  • The capacity to listen more than to speak. If we listen we may actually learn something – when we speak we are usually repeating what we think we already know.
  • The capacity to calm the ego rush – or the ability to see and understand that being right or recognized or winning doesn’t come close to the joy of learning to be loving.
November 26, 2017

Picking up pieces

by Rod Smith

The Mercury / Tuesday

I’ve seen women and men painstakingly pick up pieces of their lives after a broken marriage.

This is necessary, natural, and understandable. Deep love, when it ends, at least for one party, is scarily disorientating.

Some never recover. A broken heart can really cause a slow (or a quick) death.

Perhaps you are you tripping over evidence of a terminated relationship. Letters, photographs, or books seem to appear from nowhere and evoke fresh pains or salt for the wounds.

A purge may be necessary, but it’s not for all.

The loot may be all you have. It can become a crucial stepping-stone to greater health. Or it can be a debilitating anchor.

I’ve been confused about why some friendships have ended. I examine memories for clues to what, how, and why things went wrong.

There are times this is unnecessary.

My damaging role is painfully clear.

The pain I caused is deep for others and obvious to me. And, my own and deserved pain is utterly near.

What do we do with our pain – deserved or not?

Options are unlimited once confession occurs.

Confession, of course, does not mean mutual forgiveness is inevitable. It’s not.

Options broaden with confession and commitment to learn from the past.

November 22, 2017

A brother’s gift…..

by Rod Smith

I’ve never been impressed with personalized car license plates unless they were particularly clever or humorous.

Until now.

The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles accepted my request for “BROGFT” to declare my brother’s gift.

The brand new Mazda 6 in our family is a no-strings-attached gift from my Australian brother.

May every Mazda you see remind you that such brothers and sisters exist. The beauty in the car is more than its sophisticated engineering and sleek lines – I hope your knowledge about my gift provokes the generosity that also exists in your family line. My car is not just a top-of-the-line Mazda. It’s the fruit of years and years of my brother’s part-time, self-funded education and then years and years of very hard work – shared. It’s more than a car with a leather finish. It’s a symbol of love and generosity. It’s more than a replacement for the ailing and beloved diesel, manual, 2003 Beetle – it’s a symbol of the “opposite spirit.”

In a world where it seems everyone is holding on to everything a stashing for personal gain, I have a brother who is not.

Go, and do likewise.

#Mazda #Gift

November 21, 2017

That sane inner-voice…..

by Rod Smith

What’s your inner-voice saying about your diet, spending, gambling, or your role in your family conflicts? I bet you hear or feel the nudge of your inner-voice when you speak harshly to others or are hard or cruel. I thoroughly believe that many of our interpersonal troubles come from the unwillingness or the inability to hear or trust our inner sane voice.

There’s a sane and beautiful person living within you and he or she is trying to get through to you.

If you think things through you will agree that you know what’s good and right, and what is not. I believe we know when we are using others for our own purposes and when we sacrifice their best interests for our own.

We know what to eat and what to avoid.

I know if I am lying or twisting truth in my favor.

Even the most hardened of liars is aware of it – even if the “skill” seems “second nature.”

Of course there are men and women who do indeed have schizoid conditions and to whom this column would not apply – but the vast majority of us have a sane inner-voice that’s aching for a hearing.

Listening in, acting accordingly, would save us an awful lot of pain, trouble, and therapy.

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.

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?