Monday, May 17, 2010


I met an interesting woman recently, a relatively new neighbor who spent 36 years working as a Clinical Psychologist.  She told me that in all those years of providing therapy to a wide range of clients, and even of training other therapists, she felt like she kept seeing the same things over and over again.  Whether the problem was depression, or anxiety, narcissism or neurosis of one kind or another, she felt like all the suffering could be laid at the feet of three simple thoughts:

(1)  "What if?" ... You know how it goes, that nagging doubt which circles around in your head, taunting you to try and reconstruct the past.  "What if I had taken another job?  What if my husband had not left?  What if I had gone in on that land deal 20 years ago?  What if....?" (you can fill in the blank)

(2)  "If only" ... Another useless obsession, the "if only" refrain goes something like:  "If only I had better hair.  If only I could get a raise.  If only I had more friends.  If only...."

(3)  "Comparison thinking" ... This is the "stinkin' thinkin'" which leads us into measuring ourselves against others, and typically judging ourselves, our possessions, our resources, our value as not measuring up in comparison to family members, friends, even total strangers.  "After all, if she could be a bishop at age 52, what is the matter with me?!"

I think my new friend is right.  While all of us may from time to time slip briefly into one of these patterns of thought, any one of them can become crazy-making if we make ourselves at home in them, allowing these thoughts to become the narration of our days!  So how about trying on some new thought patterns instead?  For instance, instead of "what if" I could say to myself "thank goodness", and thereby find the blessings rather than the regrets of my life. Instead of bemoaning "if only", I could narrate my days with "maybe" and make room for possibilities yet to come.  Instead of the comparison dance of death I could choose to do a little affirmation jig.  

It is a good exercise to engage in.  Because life itself has plenty of ways to drive us crazy, without help from my own stinkin' thinkin!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

New Glasses?

It has now been 7 weeks since my gastric bypass surgery, and I'm down 50 pounds and 3 or 4 sizes (depending upon the style and how stretchy the fabric is!).  That is a little less than halfway to my goal and is feeling great.

This weekend I saw a few folks I have not seen since before surgery.  They were all very enthusiastic and supportive of my weight loss, oohing and ahhing over how great I look.  And an interesting thing happened.  All three of these folks were convinced that I was wearing new glasses.  I had to keep assuring them that I have not purchased any new eyewear for well over a year and a half.  Finally, it dawned on me ... what is "new" is not my glasses.  What is "new" is my face!

Looking into the mirror daily I do not necessarily notice the changes taking place.  And it is helpful to connect with folks more objective than myself.  

I realize this is a good metaphor for much of life.  We drift along, consumed by routine and the occasional dramas of the day.  Even when we think we are living "in the moment" all sort of changes slip by unnoticed.  And it is helpful to connect with others who bring an objectivity we ourselves can only rarely muster.

Author Anne Lamott writes about a time when she worried about the safety of her son and his desire to go hang gliding one birthday.  She says that after she stewed and fretted about whether or not to allow this risky endeavor, she consulted a few friends.  In her words, "You can't heal your sick mind with your own sick mind".  It turns out that is what friends - relatives - colleagues - neighbors - even competitors are for!  

So maybe I do have some new "glasses"... if I can occasionally spend a few minutes looking through someone else's eyes.  For that may be the best way to get a good look in these days of re-birth.