Thursday, September 16, 2021

What Is Your ________'s Life Story?

"Once they're gone, that's it.  Nobody comes back to chat or share anything with you in real life anymore..."

It's true.  Death is the ultimate one-way trip where there's no return ticket involved.  Depending on your own spiritual world view, death represents the end of everything, the beginning of something way better, or the beginning of something way worse.  When we die, whatever we have chosen to leave behind is all our loved ones have to remember us by.  In certain cultures, this "leaving behind" phenomenon is a huge deal.  Why do you think buildings and benches and hospital wings and charitable foundations are established?  No, I am not so jaded so as to believe that posthumas acts of benevolence such as these generally represent self-indulgent acts of malignant narcissism.  Except for the dude who just tried having himself killed so his kid could get a $10 million life insurance payout.  There are always exceptions lest us not forget....

Recently, I have had too many friends and clients who have faced or are now facing soul-wrenching family loss(es).  One of my best friends just messaged me this morning a journal that her father left for her entitled "What Is My Father's Story?"  He died earlier this week.  She has been reading it as she has been crying and remembering her father, who I also knew and who was a wonderful man, husband, and dad.  She screen shot and sent me his last words at the end of his book which said, "I'm sorry I couldn't stay healthy.  Dad"  

I told her that his book was the best gift, since she was always so busy working.  He knew she wouldn't read it until he was gone.  And that's o.k.  Deep and profound grief stops us in our tracks.  Her father's words are making clear for my friend exactly "who" her dad was from his own perspective---and what she meant to him as his only daughter.  That is something she'd never be able to understand on her own.  She knew him by being his only daughter;  he knew himself and how he felt about her for much longer.  I am grateful he knew to share what she may have forgotten or wouldn't remember about her dad both before and during their own "time" together as father and daughter.  She and I both recognize that his book now represents a legacy more precious than gold...or buildings...or anything else he could have left behind.

What is your father's life story?  Or your mother's?  Or your grandmother or grandfather's life story?  How about your own life story?  For those of us who are finished raising our children...and who perhaps have grandchildren or great grandchildren...wouldn't this be a great time to start penning your own life story and the love you shared with one another before it is literally too late? was the source of my friend's dad's "book" that he completed for her and her brother.  These prompt-driven journals are available everywhere for under $10.00.  Target, Meijer, Burlington Coat Factory, and Walmart are just some of the retailers who stock them.  With fall and winter fast approaching, I cannot think of another better time or way to share your own life's history or the history of now-deceased loved ones for the benefit of your "younger" family members!

If you are a writer by nature, you may not need a store-bought book to guide the re-telling of your own life story.  Blank journals are also sold everywhere;  you can also have a book created for you, using your text and photographs, through a variety of online sources for reasonable prices.  Just google "Create my life story book" and take it from there.  

I recently have been watching "After Life" on Netflix.  Created by British comedian Randy Gervais, I was extremely surprised what a tremendous series it is, given the subject matter and Gervais' own reputation as a very angry and spiritually bankrupted human being.  After Life is about a man named "Tony" (played by Gervais himself) who works at a schlep newspaper that features stories about completely ridiculous topics (like the man who, for a year, kept dropping his mail into a doggy poo box rather than a "real" public mailbox).  Gervais' wife is already deceased as the series begins, with every episode showing a clip from video taken for Gervais' benefit before her own death occurs.  Gervais' expression of every single emotion associated with deep and complex grief is beyond inspirational, encouraging, and motivational.  I know it sounds oxymoronic to put it this way, but it's true.  In this series, those video clips are used as the substitute for his character's wife having left him with a "book" to read.  

We all need to write our own life story's book.  We all need to perhaps consider penning our own loved one's "book" if they themselves are no longer here to write it.  We all deserve to have what we need to remember about who we loved and were connected to while we were we won't forget.  ...and so they won't forget either.

Today's blog post is dedicated to Rebecca...Kathie...George...Steven...and Donna.

Until next post...

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Stop. Ignoring. Reality.

It's way too easy to ignore real life and right now reality.  It actually takes a great deal of work to pay attention to the "now" moments in your own life---and then remember them!  It truly does.  And as the old saying goes, "What we forget, we will often repeat."  What that means is that it's much easier to forget what we don't want to have to face and then change (about ourselves of course!).  

To face reality is a skill.  Many of us have spent a lifetime revising and rewriting the narratives of our own lives so we don't have to be appropriately responsible for what we did by our own choice(s) and what ultimately happened as a result of those same choices we made....

Active addicts are notorious for ignoring reality.  No kidding.  Why would anyone who is addicted to some substance, some process, or a combination of them ever "want" long-term sobriety as a permanent lifestyle change?  Uh...that would be a big HELL NO!  (Like Amy Winehouse sang before her death ten years ago...)  It's much easier to just pretend everyone else is crazy or lying or "out to get me" than to face what we'd rather not face about the soul-destroying power of addiction.

My own (now deceased) and only sibling's life and history serves as a meaningful example of this.  I have mentioned him before in past blog posts;  he was a beautiful baby boy, born six years after me.  My mother adored him.  My father....well, he was in his own world as many men were during that era in our history (early 60s).  He worked, she stayed home.  Unfortunately for my brother and I, our mother was not a "traditional" mom.  She herself had a myriad of mental health issues stemming from her own combind history with repeated abuse and neglect within her own family of origin.  My father, by the way, was from a foreign country and grew to become a terrorist fighter during World War II, though I know he would never have called it that as I just did.

But I digress!  My brother, as adorable as he was as a young boy, was also the quintessential "mama's boy".  Not a good plan when our mother herself was highly dysregulated when it came to her emotions and her ability to manage stress in her own life successfully enough.  Needless to say, she didn't pay much attention to reality unless it was directly affecting her---and in a negative way.  I am thankful she didn't drink or do drugs of any kind, but her behavior definitely was that of what we used to refer to as a "dry drunk".  As soon as you did anything or said anything to set her off, she did go postal.

My brother was a highly sensitive person, even as a child.  He didn't thrive in chaos, drama, and mayhem.  He preferred peaceful surroundings, just as I myself did.  I believe our father did also, except he took it to an extreme by shutting us all out as soon as he came home from work each day.  You know, the dad who "retreats" for hours until it's time to go to bed.  Except our father didn't have a basement, or another "room" in the house, or even the garage to retreat to.  He went to a corner donut shop and basically spent most of his adult life as a married man and father over there whenever he wasn't working!  Grant it, I am grateful he didn't drink or do drugs either, but to say he was "emotionally unavailable" to my brother as a male role model is truly the understatement of the universe!  Our father was just not around, period!

My brother was also whip smart, even as a pre-schooler.  I taught him to read before he was four years old.  I remember thinking his future was going to be bright. 

By the time I was bounced from our family home at age 18, my brother was 12 years old.  I understand it was during this time he began to dabble in alcohol and weed.  I remember coming to visit and the whole utility room smelled of weed.  I asked my mother why it smelled like weed, and her first response was "That's incense!"  Yeah, o.k.  I fell off the turnip truck yesterday even back then?  (Not!)  By the time my brother graduated to his own "drop down" service ("customers" would come along side my parents' house...and my brother would "drop down" the weed to them from his attic bedroom window), our mother was completely aware of his shenanigans.  I wouldn't be surprised if she took a cut of those profits also.

I, myself, informed the police about this lovely side hustle my brother had established for himself, but the police in our town had other, more important issues, to contend with at that time.  Or so they said.  And we wonder why "now" in 2021 how adult children end up running the households of their own elderly parent(s)?  My brother was doing that since the late 70s just sayin'!

My brother never left my parents' household until they were both deceased and he was forced to leave due to nonpayment of rent (where he and my father had lived until my father's death at age 94).  My brother drifted from couch to shelter to fleabag hotels in our beloved "D"---and that's when he met someone to take him on.  They were together for six years before my brother was given fentanyl in some weed he had purchased.  Whether he knew there was fentanyl in there or not is debatable;  I believe it didn't matter.  My brother was slowy killing himself by inches anyway since 7th grade;  by age 57, he was obviously tired enough that it didn't matter to check himself before he killed himself...

I know this is a difficult narrative to read.  It should be.  Seems like I've been hearing a lot lately about the wreckages ongoing alcohol and drug abuse has caused in so many otherwise seemingly "normal" families.  Being a chronic drunk or pothead or pill popper is NOT "normal" people!  It's a coping mechanism to help you IGNORE REALITY.

So, this all begs the question:  "What reality ARE you ignoring?"

Just asking!

If you have no clue, maybe you need to contact someone like myself or an addiction specialist to help you find the answers to that question.  Just a suggestion....

Until next post....


Friday, July 2, 2021

Truth Default Theory in Practice...

"Truth default" is a cultural term now being bandied about after Oprah featured author Malcom Gladwell on a recent episode her Super Soul Sunday broadcast.  In theory, truth default is a term being used to explain how we (humans) tend to default to our own benvolence-based-truth-as-motive to explain (to ourselves) other people's observable behaviors.  According to Gladwell, we are generally quite bad at discerning when genuinely nefarious motives are attached to both the verbal and non-verbal communications of others.  We tend to ignore what is actually being expressed verbally and nonverbally because it's easier to "truth default" than to confront the facts of the situation/interaction we find ourselves involved in.  

Pointing to the characters from the iconic television series "Friends", Gladwell mentions how the actors did a tremendous job presenting authentic emotions through non-verbal communication...while at the same time verbalizing polar opposite messages.  Emotions such as confusion, self-doubt, anger, fear, loneliness, shame, guilt, and hurt:  all of these less-than-desirable emotions were presented skillfully (and non-verbally!) by the cast of Friends in most every episode. Yet what was said to accompany these unspoken expressions of emotion were most often the polar opposite.  If there ever was a way to teach "passive aggressive" behavior (and the confusion it causes!) to humanity via television, "Friends" would win that award hands down!

Truth default is much easier to pursue than practicing genuine discernment in the context of potentially challenging social interactions.  Gladwell, whose most recent book is entitled "Talking to Strangers", references the case of Sandra Bland.  (Look her up on google for the details...)  It is so very true that when we don't stick with the facts of ANY interaction we have with any body in real time, we can get into serious trouble, as Bland's case exemplifies.  Whether our benevolence-based-truth-as-motive is our default go-to strategy, how does that work when nothing we are experiencing in the present moment is making sense and seriously messes with our sense of personal safety.  Think of it this way:  what would you do if there was a knock on your door...and suddenly five uniformed strangers busted through it with guns drawn screaming at you "GET DOWN ON THE FLOOR NOW!"?  Unless you or someone in your immediate family is a drug king or queen pin;  sorry WRONG *$)#_@ HOUSE dudes!  But tell those five strangers that when their own adrenaline is pumping like a gushing oil well.  This is one of those moments when truth default theory definitely goes sideways, upside down, and out all windows!

I am reminded of the woman with three minor children who still claims "my ex is a decent man...he wouldn't harm our children.." as this man hasn't seen ANY of his children in months and keeps stalling on wrapping up the details of a trust established for one of them (with special needs).  How much more evidence does this woman need to turn her own truth default switch off for once in her life?  Well, as she herself indicated, "It's easier to think of him as a better man than to face what a mistake I made by marrying him.."  Yep.  That sounds about right.  Our pride can surely prevent us from seeing the ugly truth of having made a poor choice in a life partner---and the unfortunate consequences associated with such an ill-fated union.

Speaking of which, how about Bernie Madoff (mentioned during the Oprah interview with Gladwell) who is an excellent example of how to have wasted truth defaulting in practice while ruining one's own life by believing this guy---about anything!  Madoff, as we all now know, was a pure sociopath who presented like Yoda to his friends and family choosing to "invest" with him.  Now that he's dead, everyone has come out of the woodwork to talk about how he was so "monstrous" and so "evil" to perpetrate such a massive fraud on so many who otherwise trusted him completely with their life's savings.  I say Bernie was no dummy.  He knew that his schtick would definitely appeal to certain pidgeons in certain of his close intimate relationships.  He (or she!) who wanted to make really big money with a not so equally big effort on their own part attached (aka "research"!) represented Bernie Madoff's best patsy.   And so would their family members and their friends, etc. etc. etc.  Madoff was selling magic...and his clients bought into that magic hook, line, and sinker.  He knew.  And they knew too, while their own truth default switches stayed stuck in place when it came to "Bernie!".  They just couldn't believe "he" himself was the one who would shank them from top to bottom in the end.  His one son committed suicide, the other died of cancer at an early age post scandal, his wife disappeared into oblivion where she still remains...and that's just for starters.  Bernie Madoff's legacy taught all of us that the truth doesn't matter when money is to be made and had by one man at the expense of all others...

When we stick to the facts and evidences of what we have experienced with the people around us, in real time, we will be more free to discern "who" we and they actually are under the actual circumstances we share.  No one is perfect, yet many are perfectly imperfect in the way they treat others on a regular basis.  When we don't see these perfectly imperfect people for who they genuinely are as we come across them, that's when our truth default meter will take us into some very dark places. 

Until next  post....