Kick It … or not

I remember, the year was 1987, and I was all too familiar with the hard pack of horseshoe beach that outlined three sides of the bay. I was a 23-year-old testosterone pumping machine. A perfect specimen for Dive School and my instructor’s job was to break the machine.

I ran that horseshoe six times prior, but on this Friday I was NOT feeling it. My fellow students did not care I had a hard week, they had their own concerns, and we all just cared about graduating. On that Friday morning, it was the same drill, run the three-mile horseshoe and then run back. We had a time of 45 minutes with the grace of 3 minutes. If you finished at 48:0001, you just kept running to the Dunes (obstacle course) because that is where you spent the rest of the day.

I figured I would take it easy and then kick it in at the pivot. Have you ever seen those Navy recruits in those Youtube videos running on the beach? One thing you’ll notice is no one wears a watch except the instructors and they don’t care if you finish in time. In fact, their job is to determine who wants to finish and move to the next level.

Long story short … I didn’t kick it. To this day, 35 years later, the lesson I learned that morning in February is always present: Kick It … or not

It’s not the Start but the Finish that Matters

This brings us to my favorite verse. The words are strong, of course, but it is the backstory that makes this verse strong for me. The Apostle Paul is writing to his protege Timothy, a young preacher, from a Roman prison shortly before his martyrdom.

Paul, seeing the end of his life drawing close, evaluates it from the perspective of his faithfulness to his task. It is always wise at every stage in life to look and prayerfully ask if you are fighting the good fight and running a good race. Paul sees the life of faith as a distance run with a clear path, and a clear finish line. Knowing what his goal was, he could confidently say that he had completed it. It reminds me of a John Cougar lyric. Imagine that, the Apostle Paul and John Cougar would be used in the same sentence.

The lyric is from the Scarecrow album in 1985, the song is Minutes to Memories:

The old man kept talking ’bout his life and his times
He fell asleep with his head against the window
He said an honest man’s pillow is his peace of mind

On a Greyhound thirty miles beyond Jamestown
He saw the sun set on the Tennessee line
He looked at the young man who was riding beside him
He said I’m old kind of worn out inside
I worked my whole life in the steel mills of Gary
And my father before me I helped build this land
Now I’m seventy-seven and with God as my witness
I earned every dollar that passed through my hands
My family and friends are the best things I’ve known
Through the eye of the needle I’ll carry them home
Days turn to minutes and minutes to memories
Life sweeps away the dreams that we have planned
You are young and you are the future
So suck it up and tough it out and be the best you can

The old man kept talking ’bout his life and his times
He fell asleep with his head against the window
He said an honest man’s pillow is his peace of mind.

My message to you. If you’re still in the race, Don’t Worry about what is behind you, focus on what is ahead of you.

What Are You Doing?

If you notice the date of the post before this, you, notice a three-year gap. I promise the next post won’t be another three years. No, it had nothing to do with Covid. I was completing my Ph.D. Yes, you will be subjected to parts of my dissertation.

I have wondered what separates Humans from Non-Human animals. Short answer: A LOT! Human beings are capable of self-analysis, mental time travel, imagination, abstract reasoning, cultural establishment, and morality. Over the last quarter-century, the dominant tendency in comparative cognitive psychology has been to emphasize the similarities between human and nonhuman minds and to downplay the differences. You will be surprised to discover that Charles Darwin cited morality as the main difference between humans and non-human animals. That’s right, the Chuck that led to the idea of survival of the fittest is the same Chuck who cited Morality as the main difference.

Let’s talk about morality: What is it? Morality is the differentiation of decisions and actions between those that are as proper (right) and those that are improper (wrong). That’s it, morality is knowing what is proper and improper and then acting. Let me put it this way, you walk out of Wal-Mart and notice they didn’t charge you for the chicken, you know the right thing to do. Did you go back and pay for the chicken? Morality is action. Doing the wrong thing when you know the right thing, is an immoral decision.

One thing we do share with our non-human friends, we are social. Humans are relational animals, we have a natural tendency to live in a society (sociability). We establish “one-to-one” relationships with others and form bonds with social groups to which we belong. Interpersonal relationships involve reciprocal knowledge, attraction, communication, dialogue, and the possibility of collaboration or cooperation.

What do you get when you combine Morality with Society? ETHICS happens. Specifically, you get relational ethics. Relational ethics is knowing what is the proper and improper way to treat someone and then acting. Think of it this way. Morals are an internal compass telling you what is right and wrong. Ethics is an external (society) compass of what ACTIONS are right or wrong. Let me put it this way, you walk out of Wal-Mart and notice that someone has a dead battery and you have jumper cables, you know the right thing to do. Did you go back and help? Relational Ethics is action toward one another. Doing the wrong thing when you know the right thing, is an unethical decision.

I am a father of 5. I try to be a moral and ethical man. I parent through example, meaning I demonstrate the behavior I want my children to learn. ACTIONS speak louder than words, meaning, I go back and pay for the chicken. If we walk out of Wal-Mart and notice that someone has a dead battery, we help, then I take my son to his basketball game. Petty obvious, any good parent knows this, but what about my duty to my children and spouse.

As a father and husband, Relational Ethics speaks directly to my duty to my wife and children. When I ask husbands/fathers what is their role. Almost every answer includes security. When I ask wives/mothers what they expect from their spouses, the answer almost always includes security.

What is security? It is the state of being free from danger or threat. I and my staff see people, young and old, who didn’t benefit from the state of being free from danger or threat. A sense of security is a fundamental need for human survival. The unpredictable challenges of life—such as hunger and violence can create overwhelming levels of stress and fear that can result in severe physiological and mental health disorders. Security helps to create a sense of control over uncertainties and potential dangers so that individuals can live freely and safely in a chaotic world.

In general, a responsive, loving, and persistent caregiver tends to help develop a secure sense of attachment within the child, who is, in turn, likely to develop an internal perception of the self as confident, competent, and worthy of love and attention. In contrast, a neglectful, distant, and inconsistent caregiver is likely to develop an insecure attachment within the child, who may come to view the world as a dangerous place and grow up feeling unwanted, unworthy, or incompetent.

What you need to know. What you do at Walmart is important but what you do at home is critical.

Everything Follows Something

Everywhere the human soul stands between a hemisphere of light and another of darkness; on the confines of the two everlasting empires, necessity and freewill.

—Thomas Carlyle

Freewill means we get free range. The idea is that we get to choose for ourselves. The choice then becomes personal, as in you choose how to think, act, and talk. With that said, you are responsible for what you think, act, and say. Unless you’re four years old, don’t blame others for your actions. Life is a reflection of those thoughts, deeds, and words that write your story. If you are unhappy with your current location, you are the one that is responsible for moving.

I listen to a father tell me how his family seems unmotivated and aimless. After about 20 minutes I said I asked “Whose in charge?” He wasn’t sure. I asked, “Why aren’t yo in charge?” You would have thought I threw a glass of ice water at him.

If you don’t want to take responsibility to change, the assumption is that you must not be that unhappy so quit telling me about it. Yep, I,m that kind of therapist. You are always in the driver’s seat, even when you don’t agree.

Freewill begs for action

One of the more entertaining things I hear is typically from atheists. I enjoy when they say, “How can loving God allow” (fill in the blank). It’s like my children blaming me for allowing them to make a mess of their room.The youngest daughter, Day, tries this logic once in awhile. She’ll say something like, “If you didn’t want me to … , then why did you let me … ?” To which her brother and sister smile reassuringly and say that someday she’ll understand. The world is our room. Don’t blame the Father for the mess. If you don’t like it, guess what? You have the will to change it, or you can blame another.

Here are three scenarios. One, God created the world, and there is no free will. God controls everything, and life, including us, is an illusion of free will. A second scenario is that God created the world with free range, so life is as we choose. The third scenario comes without God. We evolved into humans, and life is the way it is. The only scenario that escapes the realm of responsibility is that God created a world that he controls, and you are a child picking what is laid out for you.

The idea of bad things happening no apparent reason is scary. A free world is not predetermined. Free range means free choice and the ownership of the choice. It is an opportunity for the strong to take responsibility and become greater in the process. Overcoming fear is the largest hurdle to achievement. Each time you take control and overcome, you transform into something greater, whether you win or lose.

A fool looks for any reason to escape responsibility. A wise person looks for each opportunity to take control. Only at the story’s end does a fool become wise. What is easily ignored in the beginning is painfully obvious in the end. Sadly, if the lessons haven’t been learned at that point, it doesn’t matter. Nobody ever escapes the consequences of their choices.

That’s NOT a problem

As a talk therapist, I understand  the power of words. I know the importance of choosing and using the right words because the use of that word can have tremendous influence on any given event or action. People come to me because, like any other health provider, they have a problem. As a talk therapist, my medicine is words. Let me show you what I mean.

You say, “I have a problem” and I say “Huh.” I know that anything becomes the thing you’re looking at. And now you’re saying, “Huh.”

prob·lem

  1. A matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome.

I want to talk about the last six words in that sentence:

needing to be dealt with and overcome

What happens when I introduce another word to replace problem?
cir·cum·stance
  1. A fact or condition connected with or relevant to an event or action.

Maybe a problem, whatever it may be, is nothing more then a circumstance. You  know, a condition; one that’s connected to an event or action. In this way the “problem” is a circumstance needing to be dealt with and overcome.

Right now you’re either tracking with me or think I’m choosing  different words to explain the same thing. I will share something I learned: Most of the time a problem depends on how you see it. Check out → Do U C what I C? The other times, it’s someone else’s problem that you decided to make yours 🙄

By viewing a problem as a circumstance, the problem less unwelcome or harmful. Those two words cause people to freeze and shut down their problem-solving.

Now this brings us to the action part of our series of events ➡ needing to

be dealt with and overcome. This is summed up in two words and they’re big ones. They are kind words most people struggle with for life: RESPONSIBILITY and PERSEVERANCE.

If I were walking along Myrtle Beach (that’s the beach for SWVA) and came upon

a lamp … My three wishes would be unlimited resources of my choice (you can tell I’ve given this some thought), accountability and continual self improvement (no quitting). Check out  → Back to Basics

It is likely that problems are just circumstance: A fact or condition connected with or relevant to an event or action.  In other words, the solution is found in resolving the relevant event or action. You know the saying: Be the change you want to see. Easier said then done; it takes responsibility and perseverance. The only two things humans struggle with more than sugar and bread. Check out → A Girl named Prudence

If you are the problem, and typically you are, viewing the problem as a circumstance changes you from the problem to the problem-solver. Isn’t that what any problem requires? A problem-SOLVER. That’s my job; to remind YOU that YOU are the solution to YOUR problems, difficulty, issues,  botherinconvenienceworryanxietydistressconcerndisquietuneaseirritationvexationannoyancestressagitationharassmentunpleasantness;  or whatever circumstance you find yourself in.

 

Trailblazer

In 1966 I was adopted. In 1976, at the age of twelve, I celebrated Americas Bi-Centennial in Michigan. In 1986 I was in the South China Sea with the Seventh Fleet stationed in Yokosuka, Japan. In 1996 I was in detox at the Newport Hospital in Newport, Rhode Island. Ahhhh, that got your attention. I was a drug counselor. In 2006 I was in private practice in Galax, Virginia.

Something interesting happens as you get older, you start to make out the trail behind you and can make out the path you’re on.. I am about two-thirds of the my way to the top of the hill and looking back is easier … I can see the trail, more like trail(s). Very seldom is there a single trail,  it’s more like a crazy network of intersecting trails that seem to be going nowhere.

In 2006 my eldest daughter was eleven and I began to focus on preparing my next generation of trail blazers. In 2016 my daughter took a break from college and started a two-year staff commitment with a non profit in Australia. She was, and is, blazing her own trail with the guidance and support of her mom and me. That same year my son turned eighteen and  thanked us for the advise and support but decided that he would blaze his trail completely independent of our support and guidance. I can appreciate this because I too made a similar decision. However, I don’t recall my choice  being as much a decision as a necessity, which explain being in the South China Sea in 1986.Driving - The Easy Way of The Hard Way?

Perhaps that’s it; choice is born more out of necessity than decision for some of us. In 1986 I was a sailor in Japan because I had flunked out of college and my girlfriend was cheating with my friend. In 1996 I was in detox at the Newport Hospital because in 1991 I received an injury that retired me from the Navy. But because of that injury in the North Arabian Gulf, I found the the only woman I would choose to blaze a trail with and from there my path had purpose.

Perhaps that’s it; choices born from decision carry us forward but choices born out of necessity put us on a new path. It so, everyday choices carry us forward from day to day. This is what they mean by living “One day at a time.” This philosophy is fine if you’re struggling to just survive. Sadly, I am aware that many in this world are doing just that. But in-order for us to realize are true potential and become more then we are today, we need to change paths (purpose). Most times this path change is born from necessity rather than decision, this is commonly known as “hitting rock bottom.” Sometimes, as a therapist, I use this tool to help people get on a different path. I know that this my seem counterintuitive but I assure you,  sometimes it’s a necessity.

Perhaps that’s it; all of us are surviving. Half of us will except guidelines and support while the other half will not. Of the half that will choose not to except the guidelines and support, half of them will make it to the path the rest of us are on. That puts 75 percent of us all rowing in the same direction (sorry for mixing metaphors).

The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.

Albert Schweitzer

Perhaps that’s it; we survive through the willingness to help each other.

– Reluctant Therapist

The VOID

There seems to be this void, an empty space that occurs between parent and kid. Typically this void appears somewhere around the kids fourteenth birthday. Just about the time you (the Parent a.k.a. “The Clueless”) is tired of the constant reminder that, “You just don’t get me.” This is the point of transition point the demarcation that separates parenting style, from controlling and guiding children.

My wife and I started parenting the same as other clueless parents, we controlled everything. Controlling is a management style often used by low level managers to insure that simple repetitive tasks are completed according to instructions. Tell me that don’t sound like parenting 101?

It starts with requiring our children tol master certain jobs like using the potty, brushing their teeth, bathing, changing their dirty clothes and putting those  dirty clothes in the laundry, feeding themselves, talking on the phone, completing chores, get a job, move out; you get the idea, the list is endless. If we didn’t do this our children would be dirty toothless naked beggars. Yes. I have met a few dirty, toothless, naked beggars. I am partially responsible for three of them. Parenting is extreme management.

Management styles are characteristic ways of making decisions and relating to those in your charge; those would be the dirty toothless beggars crawling around. Management styles come in two contrasting flavors, autocratic and permissive.

On the far end of the management yardstick is the autocrat. This is the bossy,dominating, high-and-mighty, magisterial person is calls the shots. Listen carefully to the murmuring, “If you want something done right …” Just a real fun person to be around.

On the other end there is the permissive. This person is not going to call the shot, even when you beg them to “Just please make up your mind.” Permissive is indulgent, lenient, lax. They too are fun people to be around, for the opposite reason.

These two flavors come with two options; paternalistic, and democratic. With paternal, imagine a father benevolently and often intrusively dealing with his children. My daughter recalls the latter, not so much the benevolence. The other is of course the principle of social equality. Democracy in the family, as in reality, is a noble principle but difficult to govern. The 1968 comedy Yours, Mind and Ours pokes fun at these two flavors.

If you wondering what style dominates, ask the kids. If they are 14 or older, they’ll tell you. If not they will let you know one way or another.

Our nineteen-year-old volunteered that we are soft on her younger siblings, I agree, we are more permissive. I am not sure of its due to age or exhaustion. Parenting requires sincere thought and attention, there is no casual in parenting. Unfortunately, we live in a world that values casual association and not secure attachment.

The secret to being an effective PA is love. Benevolence is a true desire to do well to others, including your spouse. It is secure attachment to the family. No one is an effective parent if they are not an effective spouse, but that’s a blog for another day.

I am in the middle of a struggle with my 16-year-old son who is ready to bridge the gap between control and lead. As a PA, I trained my son for this day.

It was my job to teach him the function of certain tasks and the importance of these tasks. I showed how he did them, when he asked why, I explained. I explain why he did them the way he did because someday he would be doing them without me. You guessed it; he is tired of being instructed on when, where and why. The struggle is with dad letting go.

He is on the edge of the void between control and lead. He wants to be in the lead and I truly want him to take the lead, but there is this void we both feel.

Three years ago my daughter began the trek across the void to the other side. It was my wife who felt the anxiety as she let my daughter take more of a lead. This is what I know, it is gender specific.

So there it is; a void, a space between the child who is taught and the young adult who is ready to lead.

This is hardest part that challenges me, the clueless parent: Did I do my job? When I let go, Will they stick to the path? Will they pedal harder uphill? Will they persevere?

It is not distrust of them; it is my distrust of me.

Out of Gas

“By perseverance the snail reached the ark” ~ Charles Spurgeon

I hope the snail was notified first, if anyone deserves a head start, it’s the snail. The average snail about town moves at the lightening fast speed of 2 feet every 3 minutes. At that rate, it takes five and half days to go a mile.

arkIt gives a new meaning to, “Walk a mile in my mucus.” When word came down for the animals to high tail it to the ark I imagine John Q.  Snail mumbling, “Oh Brother!”

Something incredible happens each Sunday morning across America; 40 percent of us go to church, sixty percent if you live in Mississippi and twenty if you are in Vermont. Over a third of the herd gathers to pray, that is 125 million people putting on their Sunday best. When I say “best” I, unfortunately, am only talking clothes. What is worn in church is a persona. It is a shell that changes depending on the crowd. A church sanctuary or synagogue is the premiere spot for, what is known in the business as, “observing human behavior.”  For an hour or two everyone seems to play so nice in the sand box.

My friend’s wife accused him of acting as a “Sunday Christian.” These are the one lacking PP. Cody, being the man he is, was convicted by his hypocrisy. He did something to fix the problem; he adhered to his faith by filling the cracks so there was no room for doubt. The good news, everyone has the ability to Do the same. The bad news, they Don’t.

Each Monday, my son Elijah and I hit the weight room. When I was Elijah’s age my dad listened to country music and it was painful. I don’t know if country music has changed or I am turning into my father but today I like country music. I’m not sure which disturbs me more, getting old or turning into my father.

When not harassing each other between exercises, we watch music videos. It’s not so much watch as mock. One morning a song lyric caught my attention. “Yeah we cuss on them Mondays and pray on them Sundays.” I did one those head jerks towards the T.V. The kind that says, “What did you say.” It has come to my attention that after hitting your fifties, you have the right to be cantankerous. So I will not spare you the commentary on not only accepting but praising bad virtue.

We do pray on Sunday and cuss on Monday. What’s sad is this is shameful not boastful. I guess it’s boastful because you Don’t care about the hypocrisy. Maybe you’re Dazed and are unaware. I am ashamed when I cuss on Mondays. You won’t catch me singing about it, even if I could sing. Again, in case you missed it, hypocrisy is defined as the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense. Also, make no mistake; I am a hypocrite at times. And when it happens I take immediate corrective action. It’s a matter of talking the talk but not walking the walk. A hypocrite is a fraud, a deceptive bigot. When you pray on Sunday and cuss on Monday, pray for strength (perseverance) that you may adhere to your belief (persist). Do not sing about it because you are praising your hypocrisy. This is a case of shut up, sit down and pray some more. Sunday morning 125 million people come to worship to pray, that’s the good news. The bad news is 60 million hypocrites leave.

My answer to 60 million hypocrites – choose. Either you’re in or out. No one is 100% but you do give your best effort. Show it in your actions. This is the effort to preserve daily for the goal of integrity. No one is going to be perfect, all I ask is do not quit the fight to be better.

I would rather 25 percent of America attend church; this would be the one’s stuck to their belief, then a diluted 40 percent. The problem, hypocrisy is deception; it weakens a belief with doubt and turns a belief into distrust. The problems are the one-third Dazed see hypocrisy instead of integrity. The largest threat to my son’s faith is not unbelievers, it is hypocrites. This is the message from the snail; slow and steady. If you cannot be the snail; get out of the race.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up ~ Galatians 6:9

Faithing the Facts

Faithing the Facts

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible”   — Thomas Aquinas

Fact: If you are reading this right now, which is true, you’re intelligent.

Fact: Intelligence is a combination of knowledge and experience.

Fact: Greek word ψυχή means spirit or psyche, scientifically described as “support system.”

Fact:The need for rules is a clear indication we have freewill.

Fact: You are an intelligent spiritual person with freewill.

Those are the facts. We know that Intellect and Will are meant to be together. They are Soul mates. Get it? Soul – mates, as in Soul, Intellect and Will. Never mind. Suffice to say they are designed to complement each other but don’t always agree. Like men and women, they may appear unbalanced but do balance each other. Working together they make a great team for good. When not working as a team – stand by. Intellect and will are engaged in this dynamic, complex interaction.

I imagine the two of them making an appointment to come in to my office. Intellect makes the call. It is always intriguing discovering who makes the call. In this fantasy, Intellect is efficient, functional, organized, practical and rule-based. Will is more whimsical, impractical emotional, and spontaneous. Intellect reviews each option without emotion before making a choice. Will is all about feeling. Intellect follows procedure whereas Will is not known for staying with the plan. Intellect tends to be less passionate. Will on the other hand is victim to passion and tends to put less thought in a situation. In a word, Will is spontaneous. Intellect is at the other in of the fun meter at – purposeful. The two represent the yin yang of male and female energy.

The Intellect is boss to the Will but she has power to influence the Intellect. My wife says, “The husband is the head but the wife is the neck.” They both need the other to survive and know it. It adds a bit of comedy to the love hate relationship.

Note: The aforementioned drama is acting out inside you and me. The struggle appears each time you need something you really don’t want and want something you really don’t need. That feeling is (Will) crying for attention, pointing out how much you want and need a thingamabob. Then that little voice (Intellect) says “No,” you want it but don’t need it. Just as often, it happens in reverse. The Intellect says, “let’s go for a run like we decided” and Will answer, “Oh! You were serious about that?”

This Intellect and Will dance started in the Garden of Eden. The intellect knows what fruit is forbidden and why. It stands guard protecting the rule of obedience. Temptation seduces the Will into a false sense of desire. From this point Intellect and Will dance for control, if doubt is allowed to break in. It weakens Intellects argument, giving Will an opportunity to turn the head in a different direction. This is the essence of the Fall and the theology of sin.

                              

The blueprint for success depends on whose driving. The design hinges on thinking before acting. In other words, Intellect over Will equals success. Sin is most likely to occur when Will overrides Intellect.

 

The trinity of Soul – Intellect – Will is built upon a moral compass. Therefore, the state of the Soul determines what you think. What you think determines what you Do or Don’t.

Listen

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” -C.S. Lewis

Mr. Lewis reminds us to shut-up and listen. Recently my family had the opportunity to purchase a building that would fit perfectly into our lives. The owners lowered the price to an amount, I boldly said “We can do it.” Then I checked with God.

My family was happy, I was happy and the owners were happy. Both Christian families assumed the whispering of God in the deal.

On Monday, with a smile on my face, I entered the mortgage specialist’s office. An hour later I left with a tight lipped grin. On Tuesday the Realtor came to the house. The beautiful house with an authentic Appalachian bridge access was “unique.” Unique in this context is similar to “unfortunately” in editor’s response to a query letter.

After the Realtor left, the tight lipped grin was replaced with a frown. My family was not happy, I was not happy and the owners were not happy. My first reaction is to charge ahead to make everyone happy. That is the wrong reason. As a Christian I should shut-up and listen.

Rational meets Emotion

There are times when my wife (Tori) and I are on the same page. This is a wonderful moment when our discussions flow, it is a time when see the same thing the same way. Then there are the other times when we are like a Congress, stuck, unable to understand the other. It is not, after 21 years of marriage, we don’t know each other. The culprit is our state of mind.

Being a therapist has its advantages. One is the ability to observe behavior from the safety of the Third Person. It is like the grandparent that enjoys the grandkids all day but doesn’t have to put them to bed. Being the third person I observe as the couple work through the issue. During times of blockage what I discover is Emotion meets Rationale. One is coming from a rational state and another from an emotional state. Neither of these is exclusive to Men or Women. There are times when Tori is being rational and I am emotional and the other way around. It seems it has more to do the emotional connection to the issue, some one is always more emotionally attached then the other.

From what I see Emotion to Emotion leads to a fight – not productive. Emotion to Ration is 50/50. The best seems to be Ration to Ration. Keeps this in mind the next time there is an issue that will not resolve.