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.

April 6, 2022

Detoxing your triangles

by Rod Smith

We all live within intricate networks of triangles. They can be empowering platforms or viscous traps. Most, thankfully, are somewhere in between such dramatic extremes. Here are a few ways to detox your many triangles and keep them beneficial to you and your family:

  • If you have an issue with someone address it directly with that person and avoid speaking about your issue to others. This is “sending your mail to the right address.” 
  • Be responsible to others and not responsible for them. Honor all the adults in your life by relinquishing responsibility for them and by being responsible to them.
  • Get out of “the middle” and then stay out of the middle of relationships of which you’re not a part. Inserting yourself into things that are none of your business will run you ragged until you’re fully depleted. The estranged relationship your siblings endure with each other with each other is an example of a relationship that is none of your business.
  • Avoid entangling yourself with relationships that pre-exist your involvement – if it (the issue) started before you it’s unlikely to end with you.
  • Be aware of invisible loyalties that come with being family and blood – they will usually escape reason and, if you involve yourself, will turn on you. When it comes to family and blood ties, people seldom employ logic.
April 4, 2022

On the fly….

by Rod Smith

Of course there are social pleasantries like, “how are you?”, and, “how’s your day?”, and, “what’s going on?”. These are expressed in colourful ways around the world according to culture.

The problem is we often stop there. We seldom get beyond social politeness, dig a little deeper, spend a little time connecting with others, even with those whom we love.

I’m guilty of this.

“On the fly” pleasantries keep us, well, on the fly!

When we do take time to hear each other out and not talk over each other‘s thoughts or sentences and are careful not to interrupt each other, we increase our mutual potential to discover the gold within every life.

When we do take the time to hear each other out we might discover unfinished grief that makes “on the fly” understandable, necessary and “helpful.”

When we do take the time to hear each other out we may discover the unmet goals and dreams and the discovery may give rise to some understanding as to why some people appear to behave in such peculiar, often angry ways.

All behavior has meaning.

Until we stop and listen we will understandably attribute meaning to the behavior of others that says more about ourselves than it does those whom we may judge after shooting them“on the fly” pleasantries.

It takes guts to be known and perhaps even more to know.

April 3, 2022

How are you?

by Rod Smith

Monday morning heart-check: 

How are you? How is your heart this morning? I am not referring to the fist-sized organ in the center of your chest as crucial as your physical heart certainly is. I mean the scrum half – the quarterback – of your life. I mean the seat of your emotions; the “black-box” of who you are. I am asking about the center, your head-office, the magnificent place where your thinking, your memory, your planning, converge; the switchboard where you make sense, or try to make sense, of what you have felt, feel right now, and will feel in the future. I mean the place to which one may refer when one says one “fell” in love.

Yes, that place within you: where soul, spirit, mind, memory, ambition, regret, remorse, joy, sadness, grief and passion all gather within you and sit around the conference table and often compete to make you who you are – with some seeking to have the loudest voice and the most say. How’s that place coping within you this morning?

Which or who do you permit to dominate?

“Fine,” or “well” or “ok” will hardly suffice and it is hardly a fair question to ask in passing.

When someone asks me how I am I will sometimes ask if he or she has the time and the interest and the guts to hear my answer.

March 27, 2022

Inside job

by Rod Smith

Peace, goodwill; listening, kindness; generosity, respect, safety, and mercy, all these wonderful community builders, things that make life around us richer and more trustworthy and enjoyable, begin with you and me.

They are inside jobs.

We cannot expect the world to deliver to us that which we are not willing to offer.  

It is irrational to want something in the broader community that you and I are not willing to pursue first within ourselves.

If you want to live in a generous world, be generous.

If you want to live and know mercy and kindness, express both to all whom you know.  

Show what is possible in your every encounter.

If I am harboring anger and resentment toward another how can I wish for a world where people are kind and forgiving? I can hope and hope for a kind, forgiving world, but I am making it impossible while at the same time spreading the opposite of what I hope for.

I see this time and again, and sadly, within myself within the contradictions I know that live within me. 

Then, when I confront myself with the truth of which I am fully aware, and face these contradictions within myself and am on occasion successful in doing so, the result is sheer joy.

March 22, 2022

Stay out of control! What do you mean?

by Rod Smith

A reader asks why I so often write “stay out of control.” Am I endorsing chaos?

I am hearity amused. Chaos is the last thing I want. I have spent a career listening to women (mostly) and men (often) describe how they have confused trust and love with manipulation and submission.

“I trusted him because he said he loved me and he said a man is the ‘spiritual leader’ of the woman.”

Such statements usually precede horrific stories of stalking, jealousy, and determining how she should dress, who she cannot spend time with, and which of her families she may not see.That is the kind of control I want people to “stay out of.”While my illustration is extreme (although not unusual) my suggestion is that all reasonably sane adults manage their own lives all the time. Why not? Why surrender God-given autonomy to anyone ever, I don’t care who they are or how much love is purported to be involved. Love never robs others of their autonomy. Not ever. If you take responsibility for your adult life, make your own decisions about your life you will authentically be in a position to deeply love and unreservedly trust to the fullest extent of your choosing and stay out of control.

If you have a better definition of adulthood and selflessness I would love to hear it.