A Different Perspective

I came across this poem today.  Good food for thought on days when I think I’m right.

Possible Answers to Prayer
By Scott Cairns

Your petitions—though they continue to bear
just the one signature—have been duly recorded.
Your anxieties—despite their constant,
relatively narrow scope and inadvertent
entertainment value—nonetheless serve
to bring your person vividly to mind.
Your repentance—all but obscured beneath
a burgeoning, yellow fog of frankly more
conspicuous resentment—is sufficient.
Your intermittent concern for the sick,
the suffering, the needy poor is sometimes
recognizable to me, if not to them.
Your angers, your zeal, your lipsmackingly
righteous indignation toward the many
whose habits and sympathies offend you—
these must burn away before you’ll apprehend
how near I am, with what fervor I adore
precisely these, the several who rouse your passions.

Uncertain Times: Part 2: aka A Little Less of the “Mom” Face, Please.

The “mom” face.  My sons have seen it all too often.  It looks something like this woman’s expression:

The mom face.jpg

It’s a toxic mixture of anger, disbelief and negative assessment, sure to put everyone on edge.

My sons would all too quick to confirm that I can be a nag:

“Why do you wait until X O’Clock to start your homework?”

“Please do Y chore NOW so you don’t forget.”

“It’s your turn to mow the lawn.  You’ve let it go long enough. I want it done today.”

“I’m changing the Netflix password until you finish that paper.”

However, as I said in my last post, I know that for any of us, each day could be our last.  My increased awareness of living in uncertain times has made me a nicer mother.  My husband and I are still in the season of training our boys, so it isn’t like discipline and expectations have gone out the window. But I’m paying more attention to the emotional tone of how I interact with the boys, particularly when it comes to hello’s and goodbye’s.

I’ve always wanted home to be the safest place, the place they want to come back to, a refuge from the rough-and-tumble of the world.  So even though when they come in the door, I might want to say,”Your clothes weren’t in the laundry bin, so I didn’t wash them,” I wait.  First I say, “Welcome home!  Nice to see you,” and give them time to settle in before we have a discussion about domestic matters.

When it comes to goodbyes, I bite my tongue when I want to say, “Why can’t you get up 5 minutes earlier so you don’t miss the bus?”  Instead, I pocket the “taxi fare” I charge for a ride to school and play music that we’ll both enjoy for the 5 minute it takes to get there.  If I’m really lucky, those precious minutes in the car reveal something I might never have heard, and definitely would not have heard if I’d been a grumpy driver.

Small changes, to be sure.  But when so much is uncertain, I want the boys to BE CERTAIN that it is always good to be home.


Peace and Courage in Uncertain Times


zip line.jpg
Stepping out takes courage.

As the world becomes an increasingly and randomly dangerous place, it would be easy to let fear drag me down.  I send my sons off every day to a big, soft target called High School. Ted flew to LaGuardia Airport yesterday.  I went to a class in Chicago over the weekend and walked thru the Christmas market on my way back to the parking garage.  This summer Ted and I were in Paris, not far from where the attacks occurred.  We inhabit busy, crowded places where anything could happen.  I’m aware of thoughts like, “Maybe I shouldn’t go there.  Maybe we should stay home, minimize our exposure.”  For each of us, any day could be our last.  So far, I continue to go about my work and leisure activities and release my family to go off to theirs, but this awareness of fragility lingers in the background, diminishes my courage.

My friend, Stephanie, blogs about the journey she is on as her young son battles cancer.  She recently wrote on what she called “The Hardest Peace.”  I just discovered I mis-remembered the title to be “The Hardest Places.” That title may fit as well. You can read her thought-provoking words here: http://thegoodalllife.blogspot.com/2015/11/the-hardest-peace.html.  The part that resonated and stuck with me was about her ultimate hope being in heaven, not in healing.  She knows she may not have the happily-ever-after story she longs for.  Fragility isn’t in the background for her, it is in her face every day.  But she continues, one day at a time, to face what the day brings with a supernatural courage.

So I’ll take my cue from Stephanie. My story may not have the happily-ever-after ending that I long for.  But rather than succumbing to fear and withdrawing to some place of perceived safety or putting my hope in a politically or militarily procured peace or creating an arsenal in my basement, I will put my ultimate hope in the Prince of Peace.  In so doing, I can step out into the world with courage and peace.  I invite you to do the same.

How are you doing…really?

I want my coat back!
I want my coat back!

It’s a question a friend of mine taught me. Of course the trick in asking the question is waiting after you’ve said “really,” waiting to give the silence time to do it’s work and get to an answer deeper than “fine.”

One of the things I like about the Bible is that it often tells the story of how real people were really doing and what’s really going on in their lives. In one of his letters, Paul basically says to a guy, “Hey, Tim. When you come to see me, bring my coat, would ya? I left it at Carpus’ house.” That’s ordinary life stuff. I left my coat somewhere recently right before the temperature plunged below freezing for a week. I wanted my coat back, too.

In the wake of my husband’s brother suddenly dying of a heart attack at the age of 50, two months almost to the day after my father-in-law died, people often ask me how I’m doing. Unlike most days, no one expects me to say, “Fine,” but it can be hard to put into words how I am doing…really.

Paul puts expression to my experience again in his words, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” OK, I’m not being persecuted, or hard pressed on “every” side, but the other words fit.

The Psalms are another place where people put words to their experience. Some days the writers are basking in God’s love. “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.”

Other days…not so much.

One of what we in our family call the “whiny Psalms” begins with the words, “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” I feel that way sometimes. “How many deaths can a family take in such a short time? Please don’t let anyone else die.”

But even this whiny Psalm ends with hope:

“But I trust in your unfailing love;
My heart rejoices in your salivation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
For he has been good to me.”

I may not feel like singing right now, but I believe that one day I will again.

And that’s how I’m doing…really.

Turn self-doubt into affirmation of your unique contribution

I sat silently in a meeting recently, this mental chatter in my head:

  • What am I doing here?
  • I’m not good at big picture conceptualization like these people.
  • It’s better if I don’t say anything.
  • My best contribution is as scribe, writing down other people’s ideas on the whiteboard.

If I had let this internal commentary continue unchallenged, I would have withdrawn further into a discouraged silence and, dare I say it, a shamed sense of “not as good as them.”

The good news is that, after a bit of time, I was self-aware enough to notice what I was saying to myself, to notice it and question it.

  • Is it true that I have nothing to offer here?

That stopping, noticing, and questioning allowed the direction of my thoughts to change.  I remembered some things:

  • The framework for this part of the discussion came from a podcast series I listened to 6 months ago.  I contributed something long before today’s meeting began.
  • As the only therapist in the room, I have a unique “in” to the issues for which couples seek help.
  • There will be specific, detailed tasks that come out of the meeting that need to be done.  I’m good at those.

Remembering these things freed me from the shaming mental chatter, I valued my contribution, and I felt freer to engage in the conversation.

So let withdrawal catch your attention.  Challenge your internal commentary.  Remind yourself of what’s true and valuable in what you bring to the table.  Or am I the only one who does this?

A Great Date


Senior African American couple holding handsA long-awaited date-night at times creates anxiety.  “I want it to be special.” “I don’t want to get into a fight on the way to the restaurant and ruin the evening.”  “I don’t want to only talk about…”

A friend recently asked me and my husband for suggestions of questions she and her husband could ask each other so they didn’t spend the whole evening out talking about their new baby.  Your issue may be different: caring for an aging parent, your child’s school placement, a stressful issue at work.  Here’s a list of questions and conversation starters to make the most of your precious date.

How are you doing…really?  Then be quiet and wait for the answer.

What are you learning these days?

Ask specific questions about work or life: how did that meeting go? What are you looking forward to/concerned about regarding work?  How’s your mom doing?

Dig into your own life and identify things to offer to move the conversation: I was reading X and it made me think about…What do you think?  Did you hear about Y in the news…? I heard a new song this week. I want to play it for you in the car.  Talk/dream about your next trip together.

Speak out appreciations about each other regarding any topic.

If there is something you need from each other, make your request as clear and concrete as possible.

Decide ahead of time if you’ll do any business meeting-type stuff: finances, calendar, etc.

Make an agreement ahead of time about how much it’s ok to talk about your big issue. If you go over, be gentle with yourselves and change the topic.  And as you do talk about it, focus on what you’re learning about yourself as you are dealing with it.  You can talk about how the issue might be impinging on your friendship with each other, and how to get “us” time back.

Your date is also a great time to be “present.”  Find a place or activity where you can lose yourself in the moment.  Something you both love would be cool.  Whether it is to the food you’re eating, the movie you’re watching, the view you’re seeing, turn all of your attention to the present moment – the smell, sight, taste, touch, and sound of the place.  Notice it out loud – talk about what you’re experiencing.  When your big issue pops into your head, gently see it coming, and gently let it go.

And if all else fails, hold hands and take a walk.