Friday, April 30, 2010

What do YOU think? #2 - Credit

Friday, April 30, 2010

"Do or do not...there is no try."

These words were spoken by Yoda, Jedi Master in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Yoda was speaking to Luke Skywalker. Though I have never reached Master status in the Empire or anywhere else, I agree with Yoda.

It can be so easy to say we'll try to be less grumpy or more helpful or whatever. The trouble with trying to do something is that we have a built-in excuse if it doesn't work out. "Well, I tried. It's not my fault." Maybe not, but trying is not the same as doing. Trying can generate a sort of whiny feeling inside us, while doing engenders a feeling of strength...whether things work out or not.

If you want to change your attitude, then just do so. If you want to learn something new, get started. "Trying" is too tentative, and it can keep us from fully going after something. So listen to the Master: "Do or do not. There is no try."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

What do YOU think? #2

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Here's another quote for you to think about. What do you think the speaker meant? Do you agree or disagree? Do you know others who agree or disagree?
"Do or do not...there is no try."
In tomorrow's post, I'll give you the name of the person who made this brief little statement. In the meantime, you might want to mull it over.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sweet 16? Not Always

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

For the past three Mondays, I have caught parts of a radio program broadcast on Ideas in the Afternoon, a current affairs program of the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). The program was called "It's a Teen's World -- wired for sex, lies, and power trips," and it gave a disturbing and forthright view of teen life, by teens, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The implication is that many teens in North America (and perhaps around the world?) experience and exert similar pressures regarding sex and bullying -- which seem to go hand in hand for many.

Although my work is usually with adults, I feel it's important to point to this recent broadcast because of its implications for teens, their parents and for the adults those teens will become in a few short years. Sexual harassment, pressure, bullying and abuse have become commonplace, at least for many teens. The ineffectiveness of saying "no" is disturbing, especially in light of the education that many parents have had through the media and their own educations in the 70s, 80s and 90s. What is causing the apparently huge disconnect between these kids' current experiences and those of their parents? What is to be done to help teenagers find ways to openly and effectively deal with the huge pressures many of them live with?

Journalist Lynn Glazier has done an excellent job amplifying the voices of the young people who made this documentary with her. I strongly encourage you to listen to what they have to say. Click here to read about the three segments and to listen to them.

And then, whether you have teens in your life or not, give some thought to how you can help. Listen more carefully to teenagers. Find out from them what sort of help and support they need. Don't be naive, but also don't assume every adolescent deals with the sexual pressures portrayed in the documentary. Ask questions. Don't assume you know what their lives are like based on your own adolescent experiences. Don't assume you know what teens want. Listen to the answers. Find out if and how you can help...and then do those things. Keep at it for the long haul, as challenging as that might sound.

If kids and teens are going to have a chance to enjoy satisfying and successful adult relationships, they need to find ways to build respectful, fun and interesting relational foundations now.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Word Wonder -- resilient

Monday, April 26, 2010

1. Springing back to a former shape or position.  2. Capable of recoiling from pressure or shock unchanged or undamaged.  3. Elastic; buoyant. [from the little-used English word "resile," which is pronounced "re-zile" and comes from the Middle French word resiler. That comes, in turn, from the Latin resilire, meaning back (re-) and to leap (salire)]

So picture this. You stretch an elastic rubber band a little and it will, indeed , leap back to its former shape (or so close to it that no change is visible). Stretch it a number of times, and it will still be resilient enough to return to its former shape. But if you stretch it far enough and often enough, it will not be able to keep its elasticity. The rubber band will begin to show stretch marks. It might become unusable. When overtaxed, it will even break.

So it is with human beings. When trouble strikes, we are often resilient enough to bounce back, to return to our former selves. Whether we do so on our own, or with help from other people or a spiritual source, we can resume our former views and activities, with little or no lasting harm done.

However, when we are stretched repeatedly -- through abuse, illness, calamity, or loss -- we can lose at least some of our resilience. When that stretching is intensified by violence, chronic pain, malicious intent or other factors, the ability to bounce back decreases. If this goes on for a long time, we can be changed irrevocably, perhaps reaching a point where we simply cannot go back to our former hope, health or happiness.

However, the comparison has to end here. We are not rubber bands, limited by our physical nature. In fact, we aren't limited by our emotional or mental natures, either. Human beings are often able to endure and surpass terrible troubles. Many somehow become more able to adapt and better equipped to move forward. No one knows why this is so, but many people know someone, or are the someone, who has done so. Though we may never know all the factors make some people so resilient, here are a few:
  • support from others     Be a helper. Reach out to somebody who's having a hard time. If you're the one having a hard time, learn to ask for help. We are social beings who flourish when we feel a sense of belonging and value; mutual support adds to those feelings.
  • a positive attitude     By focusing on your preferences and brighter outcomes, you will automatically spend less time mired in loss and disappointment. Picture yourself smiling, being relaxed, feeling good, instead of investing in your sadness, stress and despair. Hope grows when we invest our energy in positive outcomes. Confidence grows when hope grows. Interest and ability thrive in confidence.
  • spiritual connections     There is no prescription for this. You can foster belief in a god and a religion, or meditate, or allow the deep quiet inside you to grow by being with little children or in nature. Spiritual connection can come from creating or from enjoying others' creations. In any form, a sense of connectedness strengthens and deepens human beings.
  • acceptance     This is a tricky one, because some people equate acceptance with giving up or losing. They are not the same. Acceptance is related to trusting in a larger reality, a reality that can handle individual problems and roadblocks and apparent failures. Acceptance includes a belief in a better outcome, no matter how current circumstances look. It implies a sense of connectedness. On the other hand, giving up implies loss and a lack of value in oneself or the experience. It feeds and is fed by despair and isolation. Accept what is, rather than focusing on what if?.
  • gratitude     Appreciation helps us stay present in the moment, helping us notice what's going on inside and around us. A state of gratitude makes us stronger and better able to deal with difficult times.
These four factors are more complex than this, and more could be added to the list, but this isn't a book, so I'll have to leave it at that. In any case, you can increase your own resilience. It can take a short or a long time, but it is our nature to mend. What have you bounced back from in your lifetime? What will you do to increase your resilience?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Rethink Popular Sayings

Sunday, April 18, 2010

When someone is going through a tough time, or when talking to our children, we often offer advice in the form of common sayings:  Look on the bright side. God must have needed her more in heaven than we need her here. Every cloud has a silver lining. Life is short. It takes two to tango. Practice makes perfect. Though we mean well when we say them, we often use such sayings without even thinking much about their meaning or impact.

The trouble with this lack of thought is that it renders many such sayings useless or even harmful. They've become such clichés that they do little more than briefly disturb the airwaves -- unless they actually do damage. How can well-intended words harm anybody? By setting up unrealistic expectations, by glossing over a specific situation, or by ignoring the feelings of the person you say them to. Here's a closer look at few of the sayings I've sited above.

Look on the bright side. This saying is meant to help people focus less on the problem and more on hope and improvement. That's great...most of the time. But sometimes, before a person can look for the positive, happier possibilities, she needs to feel the sadness, anger or disappointment. She might first need somebody to listen so she can process the problem, which is an important part of moving forward. By tossing out this cliché, we might be ignoring what's actually going on for her right now, which can actually make it harder to move forward. Instead, ask questions about what happened and how she's feeling. Give her time to process events and feelings and be available, if you can, when she's ready to start looking on the bright side.

God must have needed him in heaven more than we need him here. When someone is grieving, it can be very hard to know what to say; we're afraid we'll make someone feel worse by saying the wrong thing. In some cultures and communities, grief is "supposed to" be expressed only briefly, if at all. Many of us don't like how we feel when somebody is unbearably sad, so we trot out clichés by way of comforting both of us. But the idea that God needs somebody in heaven can feel pretty irrelevant when your friend is in shock, horror and disbelief about his loved one's death. Offer your friend your caring presence, comfort and simple foods when he's grieving. If you're not sure what to say, silence is an excellent substitute.

Life is short. Intended to aid appreciation and endorse our choices, this saying is actually pretty negative. How about replacing it with something like this: Life is rich, so I choose to enjoy and appreciate it.

Practice makes perfect. A few years ago, I rewrote this saying to read "practice makes better" because the original form sets up unrealistic expectations. Of course, the intention behind "practice makes better" is to encourage effort and determination, which are admirable. However, it also gives the impression that if you try hard enough and are good enough and work, work, work, you can someday be perfect. For many, that's a scary prospect. We can be very good, we can become experts, but perfection can feel too huge to many, so they give up before they even start. Thinking of practice making us better keeps improvement within our grasp.

So, slow down and pay attention to yourself and others. Think about what you say before you say it, and you'll be of genuine help.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Change, Change, Change

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

For many years, I've heard advice telling me to be proud of myself and my accomplishments, to toot my own horn. Up until a couple of years ago, that was very hard for me to do, because even when I felt proud about something I'd done (and feeling healthy pride took me years), the toot-my-horn advice I've heard as an adult would crash into the don't-brag advice I'd heard as a child. Noisy mess, that.

But three years ago my first book was published with a mainstream publisher, and I had to learn to promote it. And, therefore, to promote myself. That was very hard because I felt so shy about the project and the accomplishment of our goals. I wrote the book with one of my brothers, who'd already published a book, so I don't think he had the same qualms about his second one.

Despite my shyness, though, I had to learn to mention it to people, because it was a helping book, and I wanted it to help people. So I learned, first, to respond when others asked about it. I learned to call libraries and set up talks I would give on the book's topic -- dealing with difficult relationships. My natural friendliness and enjoyment of public speaking helped me move to the next level of mentioning the book when people would ask what I'd been doing lately. I got used to hearing myself talk about the writing and publishing process and about my gratitude for the book's success.

It didn't take long for me to recognize that some big changes were taking place. I now talk comfortably (and gratefully) about this accomplishment and about the book that followed it and the one that's in the works now. I learned to feel comfortable with using gifts I'd been given and with receiving attention because of them. I still do internal doubletakes at what's going on, but I enjoy what I'm doing, and I love being able to write stuff that helps somebody in any way -- by encouragement, with a laugh, a good cry, whatever. It turns my crank.

So for me the moral of the story is to continue to be open to change, whether it takes place in myself or in the world around me. If I choose to, I can continue evolving, and -- good news -- I can enjoy it. Change can make me bitter, resentful and stuck in the past, or it can help me be more interesting, useful and conscious. I definitely prefer the latter. What do you choose?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

What do YOU think? #1 Credit

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Yesterday I started a new column called What do YOU think? in which I will quote someone I think has something interesting to say. I may or may not agree with that person, but that is not the point. I offer each quote to stimulate your thoughts and feelings.

Yesterday's quotation: "For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day, and from hour to hour. What mattters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general, but rather the specific meaning of a person's life at a given moment."

These words were written by Austrian Viktor Frankl, who lived from 1905-1997. He and his family were arrested and taken to a concentration camp in Bohemia. Frankl wrote the book A Man's Search for Meaning. Learn more about Viktor Frankl by following this link.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

What do YOU think? #1

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

What do YOU think? is a new occasional column I’m featuring on my blog. We so often see quotes by famous (and maybe not so famous) people, and though I think they’re meant to spark thoughts and feelings in the reader, I’m not sure that’s always what happens. Not with me, anyway.

Here’s what does sometimes happen with me. I read a moving or stimulating quote that sets off some feeling or thought in me, but then I read who uttered those sage words. And then I find it too easy to lose track of my reaction in light of the quoted person’s stature. I might dismiss my own response as being less valuable, or I might just be too lazy to pursue my own thoughts because I immediately accept the quoted person’s viewpoint. After all, s/he’s the expert...
So, I’m going to post quotes related to healing, relationships and personal growth, but I’m going to wait until the next day to give the person credit or mention when the statement was made. I encourage and challenge you to simply take the words at face value. Consider your own opinion, your own experience, your own interpretation. Write or talk about your response. Give yourself credit for your own viewpoint. Check back the next day, if you like, to see whose ideas you’ve been responding to.

What do you think?

“For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day, and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general, but rather the specific meaning of a person's life at a given moment."

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

April Showers & Other Good Things

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

It’s a little hard to believe April is here already, let alone nearly a week gone. It’s also a little hard to believe – and somewhat disappointing – that I couldn’t find any April celebrations sillier than April Fool’s Day. Guess that one has to carry the month. I hope you played a good joke on somebody.

Anyway, I've been unexpectedly without computer access for several days, so I’m running a bit late with my monthly list of observations. But here they are, listed with any websites I could find, in case you’d like more information.

• Sexual Abuse Awareness Month -- This link lists a Google search for this observation.

• Alcohol Awareness Month ( -- an American site

• Counseling Awareness Month ( -- the American Counseling Association

• Eating Disorders Awareness ( -- website for the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Eating Disorders

• Conflict Awareness Month

• Informed Woman Month

• National Child Abuse Prevention Month

• Couple Appreciation Month

• Reconciliation Day - April 2

• National Siblings Day - -- a Google search page listing many links

So, I hope you have a great April. Whether you follow any of these leads to relationship and personal information, I urge you to listen to yourself and others. Open up to change and to feeling better. Learn and do what you can to become a happier, healthier, more centred you.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fool's Day

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Flash back to April Fool's Days in the '60s. My brothers and I would get up early and play tricks on our dad -- sugar in the salt shaker, salt in the sugar bowl. We thought we were so clever! Then we'd short sheet somebody's bed or "string" somebody's room. Stringing involved a very large ball of string which we would tie to any available space...starting at the back corner of the bedroom. Then we'd wind the string around curtain rods and drawer handles, working our way backwards towards the door. There was a LOT of criss-crossing of string until we had a giant spider's web that ended on the doorknob. The better we were, the more tightly tied everything was, and the harder it was for the victim to get into his or her room. Great fun!

What's neat about these memories is that they exist.

Even in the messes of our often messy family life, we did have good times. It's important for me to remember that. Learning (and being willing) to do so helped me when I started to deal with the bad times.

I encourage you to look for the good times in your past and your present. Be real and honest about the messes, but don't focus on them so much that you're blind to the blessings.

And Happy April 1. Play a friendly joke on somebody. Smile when somebody plays one on you. I believe it all evens out in the end.