Friday, November 27, 2009

Back when we were young . . . and stupid--A Thanksgiving Story

It was 25 years ago this week that C took me home to Houston for Thanksgiving with his family (my family was going out to West Texas for the week and I had to be back in time to work. Or at least that was my excuse . . .) We had only been dating since the late summer and only exclusively for 3 months. Before we left for Houston, I was telling my roommate that I thought that C was getting pretty serious, that it seemed strange to be going home with him for a holiday. She told me that I was being dramatic, that three months wasn't very long, that I could always slow things down if I wanted to.

Suffice it to say that I apparently didn't want to. On Thanksgiving night, C and I stayed up late talking. He ventured the first question casually: where was I thinking about going to graduate school? Did we have any schools in common? And then, as the conversation got more serious: how soon could I graduate? Would I like to get married?

Turns out, I did. We kept talking, our plans for the future getting more and more elaborate. I went to bed eventually with my head swirling with romantic dreams. I woke up in a sheer panic. Oh, my God, what have I done?

Apparently, that night, I made the best decision of my life--without even knowing it. I was 20 years old. I had been at Baylor for less than a year and a half. If you've done the math, you've realized that I was exactly at the place in my life that Mowgli is now. I had no idea. We say all the time: we were young and stupid but God was good. So so so very good.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Robert de Niro's new movie Everybody's Fine isn't getting great reviews, apparently because it doesn't ring true, it isn't realistic. Duh. The plot of this movie--the demanding, neglectful father visits each of his four children one by one in an effort to reestablish a relationship with them after their mother dies--is pure fantasy. In fact, I would venture a guess that this is the ultimate fantasy, one that trumps any scenario involving superheroes or Angelina Jolie in a bikini. The fantasy is that Dad will eventually get it, that he will see the pain he has caused, that he will reach out to connect and that he will take responsibility, thus freeing the adult kid from the shame of not being good enough for dad all those years. (Disclaimer: this isn't my own personal fantasy since my own dad didn't cause me a lot of pain and he is great about connecting in loving meaningful ways and he definitely takes responsibility. But I promise, if there were more dads like my dad, I would have a hard time making a living.) I'm glad the movie isn't believable because if it were, there would be just be more pain--why can't my father do something like that? why can't my dad say those things? Every now and then I have the rare opportunity to ask a father to write a letter of blessing and affirmation to a child, usually a son. I can't even express how healing that is to the child. But dads also say they will and then never get around to it. Or they try to bless but they just can't hold back the judgment. Oh, but when it happens, it's like magic.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Like everyone, I'm sad about the massacre at Ft. Hood. Learning that some of the dead and wounded were recently returned from overseas was almost too much to absorb. I understand how an unstable, paranoid person becomes obsessed with killing a public figure. I understand how an immature person, in a fit of rage, kills an intimate partner. I even understand how someone can nurse a grudge long enough to become murderous. What I absolutely cannot understand is how someone goes out and kills strangers who have never done anything to him personally. It just doesn't make any sense to me. Which I guess is a good thing.

Here's another thing that makes me sad, although in a completely different way. Just about an hour ago, the CNN commentator said, "We're still trying to determine the shooter's nationality . . . " and I've heard several others say almost exactly the same thing. Let's all take a minute to remember that this shooter, like McVeigh and Klebold and Harris and most of the others, was an American. He may turn out to be a particularly evil or sick American but he is one of us. There seems to be this pervasive sense that there are "real Americans"--white, Christian, native-born--and then there are "not really Americans"--in this case, brown, Muslim, born to immigrant parents. It reminds me of the appalling moment 20 years ago when the chief of the LAPD referred to "black people" and "normal people." If we're going to be the nation of immigrants that we've always been, we've got to figure this out, even when one of our own has committed the ultimate betrayal.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

One thing at a time

I think I have self-induced ADD. I don't want to take lightly the struggles of people who actually have the neurological disorder that causes attention deficit but I think I have a similar behavioral disorder and I think I brought it on myself.

I seem to have completely lost the ability to do one thing and focus completely on that one thing. (One exception: seeing clients. I have an almost creepy ability to be fully present to clients while they are sitting in my office.) I read a little bit and then remember something I have to do. I start to check email and want a snack. I start to cook but during a lull, I'll open a magazine. I address envelopes or iron or pick up clutter while I watch TV.

Almost 15 years ago, I developed a seizure disorder that required me to take high doses of a really potent medication. For almost a full year, I couldn't do two things at once. Multitasking was impossible. I couldn't even doodle while I talked on the phone or write letters during the commercials on TV. For that year, my world was very small (for half of it, I couldn't even drive.) My pace was very slow. Even the smallest tasks took every bit of my attention. I don't want to go back to that, but I do want some of the mindfulness that I had back then.

Brain-based psychological studies tell us that multitasking is really an illusion anyway. Apparently, people who think they are good multitaskers are actually unitasking really fast. The brain is not able to do more than one thing at a time; it can only do one thing at a time really fast. And people who describe themselves as effective multitaskers are actually less efficient than the plodders who do one thing at a time.

The problem with ADD (even the self-induced kind) is that it inhibits "flow," that super-creative state that we get into when we're fully absorbed in what we're doing. I need less productivity in my life and more flow. I'm intrigued by the idea the flow is the antidote to some kinds of stress. So, the new experiment is to do one thing . . . then do another thing . . . then another . . . one thing at a time.


Life is short and we do not
have much time to
gladden the hearts of
those who travel with us.

So be swift to love and
make haste to be kind.

Go in peace.