Archive for November, 2010

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“…would it not be likely that their lives are crap”?

November 24, 2010

Ever have a momentary experience with a very challenging person? 

My wife went through two of these in the last two days and came home upset as a result.  One was with an irreverent receptionist at a dental office who seemed to fancy herself for her brashness and exaggerated snippy and sarcastic comments, all in the paper-thin guise of humour.  She made derogatory comments about our dental insurance plan and a scheduling question.  My wife was so taken aback, that she didn’t even know what to say in the moment and just left.  You know those experiences?

The other was in a business situation in which someone threatened to diss our name in the profession we are in.  They made some completely unfounded accusations about us hiring someone away from them, when in reality, the prospective employee approached us and offered up this person as a reference.

What’s my point?  In debriefing these disturbing incidents with my wife, the question that begged to be asked was,

“If these  momentary experiences with these people were typical of how they are, would it not be likely that their lives are crap”?

It was only natural that my wife and I thought of several retaliatory comebacks to these people.  None of which we are following through on.  Why would we?  Their behaviours are likely to carry their own consequences far greater than any rebuttal or reprimand that we could give.  And how is it even worth our time or energy?  We have a tremendous number of priorities with family, business, home, and life.  Where does correcting, reprimanding, or telling-off a stranger fit amongst our priorities.  It doesn’t.

The threat to bad-mouth us was in all likelihood benign.  Besides which, who is likely to take seriously such an erratic person.  Especially if this behaviour is typical.  Is it not more likely that if she did say anything, that others would just roll their eyes, and dismiss her comments as more bitterness from a disturbed person.  And we have an otherwise flawless name in our profession.  Do we not have confidence in who we are and what  our capabilities are?  Are we going to be dissuaded by one unbalanced, rude, probably sick person?

And for the dental receptionist, we may simply and calmly either find a new dentist, or calmly describe the episode to the dentist at next visit.  Surely, this will not be the first this dentist has heard of the receptionists tone and behaviour.

"My life sucks and I am making sure it stays this way"!

Can you imagine what the families of these two people go through?  If the families in fact still have anything to do with them.  Their kids, their spouses?  Seriously, if these were just momentary samplings of their behaviours, what must it be like to be them or be around them continuously?  Clinically speaking, their lives must suck.

Recovery has taught me that I seldom need to retaliate and that the behaviour of the foolish and unhealthy will be its own consequence.  My main responsibility is to myself and my family.  I am not the equalizer of the universe.  I am not the messenger to all who for whom I have a distaste.  And if I have anything to say, it will more often be in a calm, collected frame of mind after processing the initial impact of the disturbing event.  In fact, I am less prone to using words at all, I would just speak with my feet and walk away, leaving them to their own self-imposed misery.

This may sound cold, but a much better alternative to investing time and energy into someone you may never see again or who is not looking to change.

Ciao.

Chaz

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A perfect day

November 14, 2010

How could a cold, rainy, dark, November day be perfect? When its spent on the sidelines of my son’s soccer game.

There I stood. It was well over an hour now and the field lights had come on. Soaked players sitting on the covered bench. Shivering with their sleeves pulled down over their hands to keep warm yet eager for their next shift.

It is a critical game for positioning for playoffs. We’re playing a team comparable in skill and standings. One of our team snipers, a kid from South America, just had fired a bullet of a shot from about 30 meters out whistling past the opposing goal keeper and rippling the mesh. His father standing beside me ecstatically cheering and congratulations his son in Spanish.

There I stood, on this cold, darkening, Canadian November afternoon, warm in my thermal boots, jacket, hat and umbrella, elated at my son’s team success that included an impregnable defense line of which my son is a part.  4 young teens that opposing teams dreaded for their ability to break up offensive plays.

My son, an average-sized new kid on his team, never backs down to any play or player.  His key skill is his ability to read the field, strip the opposing player, and put the ball in the right place for the midfielders and forwards to do their job.  Humbled by what he felt was a demotion to defense on this team he is new to this season, I was so blessed to be able to be there to support him through and help him understand the importance of proving himself in this role so he had a chance at the forward positions he excelled at on his teams in previous seasons.

After the game, we had dinner and a DVD planned at my house. I realized at that moment that this was a perfect day. It didn’t require my son to be the star of the team. It didn’t require that we be standing in a tropical paradise. It didn’t require that we had reservations for the best restaurant in town or a trip to Disneyland. Dad’s hamburgers and a DVD were all we needed.

I looked around in the closing minutes of the game in which we won 1-0 and what felt like currents of gratitude flowed through me. In that moment, all the amazing blessings in my life at that moment began to come to mind and I felt overwhelmed with how remarkable life was.

Ironically, the state-of-the-art turf field is located only blocks from where I used to hook up with drug dealers a few years ago. Only a few years ago, I was not in a physical or emotional state to care for my kids. And now feeling a flood of elation over life on life’s terms better and more pure and trustworthy than the cocaine rush and alcohol numbing of years ago.

I could now be there for my son to watch and help him grow and mature as a contributing member of a dominating soccer team and life.

I used to mire in self-pity over only seeing my kids once or twice a week. Now, I feel like the most blessed twice-weekly parent on the planet. I am able to do more with and for him in a couple of days a week than many parents do full time.  I love the life I am blessed with. I take less and less for granted. Even a cold, rainy, November day is something to be grateful for.

Ciao.

Chaz

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Fortressing a limp

November 6, 2010

Why is change so rare and difficult? I heard a fascinating interview with a doctor this week. He gave an analogy about people who would come to him with back pain who he helped by treating their feet.

Why? Because in these cases, he discovered that the back pain originated in a foot problem, which was compensated for by the ankle, which then was compensated for by the knee, then hip, and by the time they did anything about it, their back had joined the chain of compensating adjustments and now was hurting.

The patients had re-arranged most of their body to keep the untreated foot problem alive. They altered the way they stood, walked, sat, and slept to facilitate the foot problem. They unknowingly built a fortress around the original hurt and protected it with everything they did.

Treating the back did not have longterm benefit. The problem kept reoccurring because the cause was the untreated foot. He analogized this to problems in our lives where we experience a hurt or problem such as a childhood trauma or dysfunctional conditioning by our family, then slowly and silently begin re-arranging our life to suit the hurt; often for decades or a lifetime.

Over years, we have actually created a network of supports to enable the hurt to continue and affect us. We unknowingly choose and get into habits of thought and behaviour that help keep this damage alive. We choose people, build relational dynamics, occupations, living environments, and daily routines that also nurture and protect the hurt. We fortress it. Or we let the untreated hurt destroy our relationships and hurt others. Why?

Perhaps simply because it’s familiar and in a paradoxical way, comfortable? And why can’t we detect it to any degree that we can bring about change on our own? Perhaps because it is so woven into our psyche, it has become effectively permanent (so far).

Then, when one part of the compensating behaviour is challenged (the knee-limp), it upsets the whole dynamic (foot, ankle, knee, hip, back) so we resist it. We may be fearful or confused by the new awareness so we retreat to the comfort of the familiar, even if it is only kind-of working.

After years or decades of this protective behaviour, we have a well-rehearsed limp; physically, emotionally, relationally etc.
It is no wonder that we recovering alcoholics, ACOAs, codependents, ragers, etc. cannot affect change on our own and that the journey of change requires time, effort, and lots of support. Equally sick people in our lives often resist change as much as we do because it takes them into the less familiar as well, so they may not want us to change. And they too have fortressed in their limps with compensating behaviours.

I am grateful today for the numerous voices that I can listen to that help me see more of the root causes of my problems, rather than just the symptoms. I am grateful today for the company and influence of healthy people who are also on journeys of recovery, who don’t need me to continue limping in order for them to remain comfortable. I am grateful today to God for bringing these people and circumstances into my life to help break the fortresses around my pains and dysfunctions. I know a freedom and contentment like I have never known. I feel like a freed captive.

Ciao.

Chaz