Quiet Is as Quiet Does

The title for this newsletter was inspired by that famous line from Forrest Gump, “Stupid is as Stupid does.”  I think that says it all, but I’ll go on.

I started writing this newsletter sitting quietly in the morning cool ocean breezes of our time-share on Hilton Head overlooking the ocean.  I was gazing at the surf and thinking about a dog that I saw the day before just sitting there in the surf.  I wondered if he experienced, with his God-given senses, what I experienced walking in that same surf or gazing into the distant sea. I suspect so.

I must say I do like just sitting around.  When we are on a beach vacation I do more of that than walking and biking on the beach, which I also enjoy.  I must have a basic “sitting gene” which allows me to sit for hours.

Now many of you know that my profession involves hours of daily sitting and listening, conversing, observing, and reflecting on how to relate. Having said all this, I had an arthritic foot problem requiring day surgery last week. When I return to the office this coming week I’ll be sitting like I always do, but with my foot elevated doing what seems to come naturally to me.

One of my other “quiet” pastimes since I’ve had my foot elevated is to sit and read all sorts of “must read someday” articles and magazines.  They seem to cling to me over time since, I must confess, I don’t have the “get rid of it” gene.  Amazingly, I’m not bored and have thoroughly enjoyed my reading, solitude and sitting time.  I’m not really any different now in this regard than when I was a child who would periodically get some winter sickness and have to stay home from school.   Then I just read my Grolier’s Book of Knowledge, which introduced me to a world way beyond the Chicago neighborhood I grew up in.  The quiet sitting, lying around gene was present very early and probably was one important ingredient for my professional choice.   Have you ever wondered about continuities in your own life?  This knowing centers me.

As my Mommy always said when learning something surprisingly new, “Who knew!”  I wasn’t looking forward to having a bum foot that would have to be elevated for days after my operation, but it gave me opportunities to just sit around, read eclectically in a manner I rarely have time for, and experience the full caring of family and friends.  Opportunities to learn something new that we can appreciate about ourselves and those we love can be rare indeed.  So while I’ll soon sadly end my sitting around for days on end I do look forward to activating my  “busy beaver” gene.  It’s strange how opposites combine.

I sit finishing the writing of this newsletter back in Illinois on my living room couch, overlooking our neighborhood park and the river that runs through it. Instead of observing the dog in the surf I observe the people walking, biking down our street or simply looking at the tree leaves in the breeze. Sitting, gazing, and observing the passing scene or my own internal experience is spiritual for me.

Realities and Illusions

This past month I’ve come across five quotes with similar themes.  I’d like to share them with you and ask you to seriously think about what they might mean to you.

It is faith which moves mountains because it gives the illusion that mountains move… Illusion is perhaps the only reality in life.

The truth deserves a bodyguard of lies.

Those are my principles and if you don’t like them…well, I have others.

Much of what we deal with in counseling has to do with discriminating between reality and illusion, and our wishes about what could be or should be.  This is particularly true when working with couples because the relationship is influenced by what’s in the recesses of each person’s private thoughts, their fantasies, and what their personal history has taught them to believe about themselves.

We (and our relationships) are often limited by who we believe ourselves to be.  Sometimes we simply prefer our own descriptions of personal reality. But those beliefs can be walls barring future growth.

I believe God created us to seek more deeply and to go beyond our walls, self-deceptions and illusions of what seems to be.  The quotes above have a certain cynical wisdom to them in that they suggest we prefer not to know the truth.

That thought is captured best in my fourth quote from Jack Nicholson’s character, Col. Nathan Jessep, in A Few Good Men. In his famous courtroom speech he said “You can’t handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls.”

Of course, Jessep was right.  Those walls may be our own illusions, which protect us as surely as Jessep self-righteously thought he was doing.  These quotes speak a limited truth, though.

Walls, illusions, and self-deceptions confine us as well as protect us.  History seems to show that walls or defenses can go up, sometimes for very, very good reasons. But, in safer times we must tear them down, in order to grow freedom within and between others.  Bringing down walls requires courage and strength of heart.  Realities can and do change.  We can protect ourselves not only with self-perpetuating lies, illusions, and endless adaptations of principle, but also with our truth and with our dreams.

A last quote:

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

Were you wondering who we were quoting?   The first quote is from Benito Mussolini.  The second, from Winston Churchill.  The third, from that cynical observer of the human condition, Groucho Marx.  And lastly, Eleanor Roosevelt.

Financial Intimacy

During the recent Christmas break I took the week off and couldn’t get myself to write a December blog because I slowing down.  The Sandy Hook massacre merited reference, but I felt stunned into silence. Kathleen Parker, a syndicated columnist, spoke my heart and mind in the column “Silence only Appropriate Response”

We spent the week doing what many people do at this time of year – getting together with family and friends and going to movies. We’re blessed to have our sons and their families here in Chicago and Naperville so we had our Chanukah and two birthdays in the space of a month.

At home I silently also worked on my cartoon collection gleaned from the newspapers.  That collection of cartoons on individual and couples counseling, patients, male-female relationships, men and our foibles, marriage, food and weight, stress, anger and spirituality took hours of my time given that I had 3 years worth of cartoons to catalogue.  It’s my thing, an outgrowth of something I’ve been doing since I was a kid.  I do appreciate the humor of absurdity and caricature which for me has its own spiritual perspective on life. The silence of doing this is good for my heart.

When I wasn’t in silent tenseness about the depressing news or enjoying family and friends over the holidays, I was my “busy beaver” self, paying attention to our year-end finances.  The same attention I pay to cartoons I pay to our finances (although luckily our financial picture is not as absurd as the cartoons that I collect).  This all leads to discussions with Raye about where we’ve been and where we are going in our finances and life goals.  Do you pay attention to where you’ve been and where you are going financially in some regularized manner and, if coupled, with your partner?  If not, perhaps you should consider how to increase financial security and intimacy with your partner.  Yes, “financial intimacy.”  Raye and I find it draws us closer, even when we have some tough discussions about what we want for ourselves in the coming years.

We manage a lot in our lives as you surely do.  We manage our finances, our home, our health, our relationships and psyches, our storage of “stuff “and information, and our time. We strive to simplify our lives and pay attention to what is important.  It pays to take time to find the humor in our private human comedy. God gave us this gift to do so, so open it up regularly in 2013.

In the spirit of lightness in this human world of self-importance and tragedy here are two quotes that stood out for me during my recent time away from practice. One is from that famous philosopher “Anon” which I’m currently keeping on my desk to deflate my ego:

It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.

The other is from the comedian, Lilly Tomlin, who said:

I try to be cynical, but it’s hard to keep up.