Monday, November 10, 2008

Life Stories

I've been thinking a lot lately about the class I will take next semester, the counseling pre-practicum. I signed up for it this semester but ended up dropping it when I realized part of the class included taking the 200-question comprehensive final exam for the entire masters program. Nope, I am not quite ready for that. Another requirement for that class is to create a video (with a classmate) demonstrating counseling techniques. Since I am still pondering the kind of counselor I will be, I also didn't feel ready for that!

Yes, you might say the closer I get to the end of this program, the more nervous I become. On one hand, it is exciting to think that I've made it this far. On the other, the reality is I am now (supposedly) to the point where all that I have absorbed in all those classes is supposed to be distilled enough that I can say with confidence, "I am going to be a [fill in the blank] counselor," where [the blank] includes my counseling theory of choice. True, I am getting closer to being able to pinpoint what kind of therapist I will be, but nothing is set in stone yet.

My previous blog entry was about William Glasser's reality theory. Today, I will share notes I took last night about narrative therapy.

Narrative therapy involves hearing interpretive stories the therapist views as truth. Dominant culture narratives are powerful, and individuals "internalize the messages from dominant discourses and form their identity around the positions to live from that these messages offer -- even if those positions are not useful to the individual." [That sentence is not worded very well but is lifted directly from my textbook!] 

To me, this means we do things out of habit and because we've been conditioned to do them. Here is what Michael White, one of the originators of narrative therapy, believes: "a dominant discourse functions to perpetuate viewpoints, processes, and stories that serve those who benefit from that culture but that may work against the agency and life opportunity of the individual." 

Gerald Corey (in the Theory and Practice textbook) goes on to say "power, knowledge, and 'truth' are negotiated in families and other social and cultural contexts." He seems to really respect the individual in therapy, which serves as "a reestablishment of personal agency from the oppression of external problems and the dominant stories of larger systems." 

The stories each one of us tell about our lives are subjective; the realities in which we live involve people telling their own unique stories about the common lives they (we) live among each other, viewing the same world in different ways. The narrative therapist listens to clients' stories, trying to discern times in their lives when they were resourceful (living an alternative story, for example); he or she engages clients by using questions to facilitate their exploration. Of course, diagnosis and labeling is discouraged, as is "accepting a totalizing description based on a problem." 

The idea of influence mapping is significant, and so is the ability "to assist clients in separating themselves from the dominant stories they have internalized so that space can be opened for the creation of alternative life stories." This is basically saying the therapist encourages the client to detach from the old painful stories in order to begin creating more fulfilling ones. 

This fits right in with reality therapy, or "positive addiction" in the sense that there is more to life than just feeling less misery; to improve a person's life, he or she must do more than just "stop" feeling so miserable; "stories ... shape reality in that they construct and constitute what we see, feel, and do." Stories also "grow out of conversations in a social and cultural context."

We are all "courageous victors who have vivid stories to recount."

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Positive Addiction

These blogs can be so addicting! And not just blogs, the entire Internet is addicting. I know I am using the wrong word here for "addiction" refers to something that is harmful. Granted, Internet addiction can be harmful; but in and of itself, it is not. To the contrary, it has helped us connect to one another and to new ideas in ways we had never experienced in the past.

Yes, I am glad about the election results. I voted for Obama and so will either take credit or "the heat" for whatever becomes of the presidency, whatever happens to the nation as the result of an Obama presidency. This doesn't mean I will accept his actions or failure to act as
my fault or in any other way influenced by me personally. All I am saying is I did vote for him, am relieved he won, and believe that the work is only just beginning.

I am studying to be a professional counselor and am at a point in the masters program where I pretty much need to decide on, or at least
lean toward, a particular method of counseling. There are many, let me tell you. And they range anywhere from almost completely hands-off to hyper-annoyingly directive and meddlesome. Of course, I wish to adopt something inbetween these extremes; but the question of being directive or nondirective still remains. It is my opinion that the nondirective approaches are best for truly helping someone come to terms with his or her own life.

Right away, in the very first semester of the program and in a class focusing on the various theories, the idea of "reality therapy" struck me as worthwhile. First of all, the name resonates deeply. If we ignore reality, we do so at our peril, individually and collectively.
William Glasser is the person behind reality therapy, which started as control theory but then morphed into choice theory.

Dr. Glasser's thoughts on "positive addiction" intrigue me, although I believe the very word
addiction to be fraught with problems, namely the negative connotation of it. An addiction is, by nature, compulsive, needful, a habit characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal, and it specifically refers to something known by the user to be harmful. This is a dictionary definition of the word. I find that my desires for potentially harmful substances are tempered by competing desires to avoid those same substances. For example, I might want and crave a second cup of coffee in the morning or another glass of wine at night; but the part of me that wants to stay physically and mentally healthy might reject the idea and find a substitute, such as water or fruit.

Dr. Glasser describes how weakness is the cause of almost all the unfortunate choices we make. He also talks about attractiveness and how it wanes as our "negative" addictions increase in intensity. On the other hand, positive addictions strengthen us and make our lives more satisfying. But if we look at our actual lives, we often see distressing patterns in ourselves and in the people close to us. These are facts of our existence; they are our "reality" because we live with these people (and ourselves), and all of our lives become intimately entwined with each other. In the case of the people we live with, they are pretty much "in our hair"
all the time, even when they are not present.

The benefits of postive addiction are plentiful: confidence, creativity, happiness, and good health. Dr. Glasser asserts that there is more to living than just staying alive. And although this might seem to be merely stating the obvious, he goes on to say that we find this "more" through love and doing something we believe to be worthwhile. He relates accomplishment to pleasure and lack thereof to pain.

I think of the election results here and how so many people who worked hard on getting Barack Obama elected are now feeling a very well-deserved sense of pride and accomplishment. Again, that particular journey is just beginning. There is a lot of work to do. Where do "we" start; and specifically, where do each one of us start.

I enjoy reading Mark Bryan's
artist's way blog and surfed over there earlier today, when I was sitting and thinking about these new beginnings, both for the country as a whole and for individuals in our actual lives, outside the realm of politics. In one of his postings, I noticed he says basically the same thing as William Glasser about accomplishments. Mark says, "The remembered joy of creativity accomplished can help get me started again when I am stalled."

Now, this is not rocket science you know. It is common sense. But it is still good to be reminded of it. Thinking about positive feelings, I wonder whether these are sufficient rewards, in and of themselves, or if we really do need something tangible. Feelings can be so fleeting. Mark talks about consulting with a friend (a
great idea) when he is blocked and wants to get moving again. He says the quickest way out of his procrastination spiral (now there's a phrase worth remembering) is to "stop thinking of the project as a whole and just focus on doing the day’s work at hand."

All of this, from the political victory we just witnessed to the personal "victories" each one of us wants to achieve, is related. Private and public become mirrors to one another. Recognizing this fact helps us to be more effective, I think. And speaking of recognition, Dr. Glasser points to the importance of being
recognized for accomplishments, how failure to achieve this recognition can lead to misery. He goes on to say the "hang-up" over what to do and how to do it is rarely the real problem; we might understand perfectly well what it is we need and how we can obtain it, but the real problem, he says, is "we don't have the strength to do what will make us happy."

Isn't that interesting? We lack strength to do that which we know we need to do. When I think about the various problems in my life, I realize the best way to deal with them is with both honor and integrity. But if I don't
know how to get what I want and need and at the same time keep my reputation intact, then being "strong" is a moot point.

In any case, I do seem to be leaning strongly toward reality therapy as a theory of choice in my own professional life.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Blogs are like little villages where the people gather at some central location, a watering hole or a town square or maybe just some bar or café where all the locals hang out. And where is "out"? Outside of one's dwelling place, that personal space we call home? Oh, please. I really don't want to visit that idea of home again; it's a place that's eluded me for years, maybe even generations. And here I am talking to myself again, self to self. But that's okay, because you are doing the same thing: coming to another person's blog to see what that "self" has to say to your own self.

This morning I am compelled to look back at my childhood and accept the fact that there were things I was not afforded the opportunity to do. Rather than look back with regret at opportunities
missed, instead I want to examine what did happen in light of what I was afforded. As a child, I saw the world through child's eyes. So did you. Then we grew up into adults and began taking more responsibility for our lives. As children, we relied on our parents or guardians for most of our needs: food, shelter, and other sustenance. As adults, we either wing it on our own or we form families of our own. We marry, or not. We have children, or not. Regardless of these decisions, there is a person inside of us who is the same "little" person who existed inside of us back then, in childhood.

This little person is the one I want to get to know again, if at all possible. That unsullied innocent wide-eyed child who was surprised and delighted by so many things. The child my mother remembers riding in the grocery cart at eighteen months old, looking at a can of blueberries on the shelf and crying out, "Blue peas! Blue peas!" I had never seen blue peas before, and how exciting that must have been in the world of one so innocent.

Where did she go, that child? And what about the delight she used to feel at such revelations as the idea of, imagine that, blue peas! Am I even capable of that kind of excitement anymore, or has cynicism become so entrenched in my daily life that nothing really fazes me anymore?

I miss that kind of childlike enthusiasm and want it back!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Slaving Meat Wheel

Jack Kerouac once wrote that the "wheel of the quivering meat conception turns in the void expelling human beings" and all sorts of other creatures. I thought of another one of his lines, the last one in Mexico City Blues, 211th Chorus, today as I was finishing reading this article, by Robert Jensen. Kerouac wrote: "I wish I was free of that slaving meat wheel and safe in heaven dead."

The reason I thought of it is because Professor Jensen mentioned in the article that he wishes he had more courage to put his body on the gears of the political war machine that is "still grinding away, still grinding down people at home and around the world."

Think about that in light of what it really means. Do we even
know what it really means? I don't want to be ground meat! Do you?!

On the other hand, I appreciate Jensen's honesty. I went to see him in October 2001, at a "teach in" he held on a university campus here in my community. That was a true awakening for me; I felt relieved and happy that someone like him
did have the courage to speak so openly and candidly about what was, at the time, a very unpopular opinion.

Now, here he comes seven years later saying he wishes he had more courage. That in itself takes courage to say. He mentions a Neil Young song,
Let’s Roll, which is a tribute to the United Flight 93 passengers who intervened in the 9/11 hijacking of that plane and forced it down in Pennsylvania, and quotes the following lyrics from it:

No one has the answer
But one thing is true
You’ve got to turn on evil
When it’s coming after you
You’ve gotta face it down
And when it
tries to hide
You’ve gotta go in after it
And never be denied
is runnin’ out
Let’s roll.

I bought the CD that song is on recently, Are You Passionate? Listening to this song now, I wonder whether Young isn't merely referring to "evil" as something we need to "turn on" (or confront) within ourselves. Considering his overall political stance, or at least the one he seems to portray, it is difficult for me to imagine he had any intent here to promote the kind of violence Professor Jensen speaks so forcefully against.

Somehow, we seem to need a new language, and music might just be the bridge to it. Or maybe poetry can help us here. Was Kerouac correct about the slaving meat wheel? Are we really all just "Gnashing everywhere in Consciousness ... Illuminating the sky of one Mind -- Poor!"? It's an interesting and even amusing thought, but "safe in heaven dead" doesn't help us with the task of living.

Death is the big secret, and life the big mystery.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Poor Little Truth

This sentence comes from Bill Moyers Journal, September 12, 2008:

"We live inside a media hurricane, an unrelenting force of attacks and counterattacks hatched in partisan quarters and hurled into cyberspace with such velocity the poor little truth is blown away like signposts on the gulf coast."

One hardly knows where to turn anymore, with all the information being hurled at us from every direction. Where is the eye of this hurricane? And maybe the "poor little truth" really didn't get blown away after all but is somehow still swirling about in the storm of it all. Political agendas are, after all, political agendas. They are by nature at odds with each other; one pushes, one pulls, both polarize each other. It's just the way it is and cannot be "understood" any more than war itself can be understood.

Likewise, James Hillman might want to understand war, but this might just be wishful thinking in the way the SHAM* gurus wish for their Heart's Desire, or whatnot. And a "leap into myth" (as Hillman suggests) sure as hell isn't going to provide any sane answers. He expects his book, A Terrible Love of War, to pull us out of the predicament of accepting the unfortunate belief that war can neither be explained nor understood. Maybe it just is and that is the reality we need to accept: war exists and people are in love with it because of the excitement, the danger, the way it makes us feel alive, as if we are striving for something.

Is it winning we actually want, or ar we just in this for the ride? Can't we just enjoy the journey without thought to the destination, which might not even really matter in the long run? Attachment to an imagined destination can not only ruin a perfectly good journey, it can also lead to depression, create present chaos, and most of all distract us terribly from the present moment. Now. The culmination of what, at times, can seem like the miraculous.

How do we remember all this stuff? How to spell, form words and sentences, punctuation, what to say, how to say it, and all those other things (including pen and paper, not to mention all electronic forms of communication) that make writing and getting it "out there" to be read possible. No, it's not a stretch of the imagination to refer to the whole process as miraculous. Who are we, mere mortals, to fail to appreciate something we did not create: life. As artists, we "make" things, but our powers are quite limited, even if the things we do make are rightly incredible.

Bill Moyers' perspective on the political atmosphere is, as always, insightful. I wonder about his thoughts surrounding Broken, though. His son and namesake wrote a chilling account of "addiction and redemption" in which he, Bill, played a major role. William Cope Moyers dedicates that book to both of his parents, "who have made the journey with me every step of the way," he writes. Addicts are at war, too. William found himself holed up in a crack house in October 1994 with a sharp, commanding voice outside the door summoning him, "the white guy." He was terrified, he said, and rushed around warning the other "crack heads" to be still and quiet. I can just imagine that scene, feel the terror, and wonder how different his experience was from that of combat soldiers.

Hillman himself is at war with various people, who he attacks in his book. He is brutal with Susan Sontag, for example. Is it simply because he wants her to be wrong, or does he have a real bone to pick with her. She says we "can't understand, can't imagine" the dreadfulness of war, how terrifying it is, how normal it becomes. And yet he took her words and built a book around them, a kind of monument to terror. He explains and describes "a terrible love of war," but does he truly come to understand it? If he has to get in another author's face with accusations that "she is wrong" and what she says "is unacceptable," then what is he showing us with his very actions? And what I am doing now is no different. The need to confront is a reality of war, too. He goes on later to talk about how all of nature joins the war: "The earth's resistance to war, its inhabitants -- rats and bugs and leeches -- at war with the warriors."

No, it's not about the booty of war, either, which the Celts threw into the water "to propitate the gods," to appease them and perhaps ask forgiveness for what they had done. That's just speculation, knowing what I know about human nature. Throwing their war trophies into a lake to propitate some imaginary gods might have been a sacrificial love offering, or something else. Here is one meaning of the word appease, "to attempt to pacify (an enemy) by granting concessions, often at the expense of principle." But would a warrior look at "the gods" as an enemy? Hillman's Jungian influence is especially evident here: "Below the events are the ancestors drawing new history into old patterns." That sentence itself, like this one, is part of an old (ancient) pattern. The collective unconscious, still churning away after all this time.

Just what is the connection between forgiveness and war, between betrayal and love?

Your comments are welcome and appreciated.

*SHAM, as defined by Steve Salerno: Self-Help and Actualization Movement

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Not For Sale

My book is about finished! Will wrap it up tomorrow. I did not plan on finishing it September 11th, but that's the way it goes. Timing is what it is. The illustration here is the book cover; it started as a black and white image I pulled off the Internet. I added (mostly) watercolor and a little marker (pink and the four comma-shaped dark purple areas). That's the title up above. Overall, I am pleased with it. The idea was to handwrite 100 pages then type them into 33 chapters. As of today, I have 32 chapters, 97 pages.
To be fair, here is our other kitty. They like their new floor cushions.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Strange Sentinels

I woke up this morning thinking about when this whole thing might have started, the disgruntled shtick. Babies cry when they get the urge to cry; usually, people don't question them. They answer.

At what point does a human, baby or otherwise, lose its credibility? Yes, I intentionally said it. Maybe the answer depends on how much learning has taken place in that person's life. The baby might have learned that crying gets him somewhere. He's going to milk that for all it's worth.

We all know about the boy who cried wolf. He lost his credibility when people realized he was full of false alarm.

Media sources need to be trustworthy in order for people to keep coming back to them. And I'd better say something to you that makes your visit to this blog worthwhile, too.

Credibility and trust are issues people like to lecture about. Stern parents warn their children about the consequences of being untrustworthy. Children listen and do what they were going to do anyway. Sometimes, the best we can hope for is that we can trust people to be themselves. This doesn't mean we escape trouble, of course. Just that we accept whatever a person does as we might accept, for example, a baby crying. Babies know nothing of missed opportunities. The only disappointment a baby really knows is that of discomfort. And who really can know and understand an adult's discomfort?

We have a cat who lives in a designated area. (Yes, that's him up above.) Even though he "knows" going beyond a particular door is off limits, he still stands there every day, crying. All it usually takes to calm him down is calling him over, petting him a little, and talking to him in a soothing voice. But he gets the urge to go to that door, again and again. He is very trustworthy this way; I would be surprised if he suddenly stopped crying at that door.

So, what kind of credibility do I have in this cat's eyes? He knows I'm the spoilsport who keeps shooing him away from there. Just as the cat can't (and won't) stop the urge to go beyond his boundaries, people are the same way. We'll push and push sometimes, until we either get "our way" or some kind of response: agreement, disagreement, or maybe just acknowledgement.

And yet why do we do this? Is it not enough to just be content, not strive for anything? No. We always want and need something. To be heard, or fed, or burped, or to move around outside the cabin, where it's not so feverish. And satisfaction is always temporary, too. The end of something means the beginning of something else. We might stop being disgruntled over the cat's behavior but then immediately pick up some new annoyance, a thing to complain about. So we scratch that itch and go on to the next thing. It literally never ends! We go to bed at night, needing that bed as much as we need to get out of it the next morning. And there's that cat again, waiting at the door to be scolded again, deterred from getting what he thinks he wants.

Maybe we are just gatekeepers, strange sentinels who grant and deny permission for this and that. And we're always expected to end on a happy note. What's that all about, anyway. We greet each other with smiles, hugs, and kisses. We leave each other in the same way. I am not advocating violent hellos or door-slamming exits. Maybe I'm just saying shaking up the routine could be useful.

Trust me, okay?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Anonymity Anonymous

I am kind of happy about this chapter, the eleventh in what will ultimately be a thirty-three chapter, 100-page book, tentatively titled Not For Sale. This is actually (also) an edited version of a paper I turned in for a class last night. The assignment was to interview someone with a job. (The class is in career counseling.) I interviewed one of the directors of a play my daughter was in a few weeks ago.

One of the outstanding characteristics of this book is that there are no names used, only titles. Places are okay, city and state names and such. But I wanted it to be free of people's names. Remember, the book is not for sale. And the article I turned in for class included names, of course.

Chapter 11

Interview Project. The textbook points out that a counselor’s work can significantly improve the client’s satisfaction with his or her life. Although the Director never saw a counselor to help her decide on a career path, it is clear to me she is quite satisfied with the direction her life has taken. She does not view what she does as a career, though; she thinks of career in association with promotions and such. As we talked, words like “amazing” and “wow” and “incredible” kept popping up.

Her journey toward becoming a theater director started in Strasbourg, France, which is near the border of Germany. Director got an early start in acting in junior high. She saw a poster saying the cast of a play was being formed and she wanted to be a part of that. “One of the teachers was a writer and director and had done a play.”

This brings to mind the pyramid of information processing. The lower level of the pyramid showing the theoretical components of cognitive information-processing theory consists of two parts, self-knowledge and occupational knowledge. Director remembered (self-knowledge) this person as being an early influence in her life, someone who possessed information (occupational knowledge) about something exciting to her, theater. Not only that, there was also the influence of community involvement. Director became involved in a theater group that was financially supported by the city and state. “This fantastic organization … was pretty much a theater company. [The founder] mixed people who were already actors with young actors, people who had never acted before.” It was a giant thing, she said. Nothing Mickey Mouse about it. This is how she grew up in theater.

Likewise, what she is doing now with her Theater Group was heavily influenced by her experience in France, where they had sponsorship. Whenever they would prepare for a new play, they would have free workshops with professionals who taught them voice, movement, clowning, improvisational, miming, and mask work. (Theater Group enjoys similar sponsorship from the city and other contributors, corporate and private donors.)

"We performed in French, German, and Alsatian, which is a combination of both. It is spoken near the border of France and Germany and has a lot of German in it. A lot of what we did was based on historical situations because our region was French then German, then French then German, and there was war and … it’s rich with drama and lots of things that happened. So, we would use one of those events as the basis of creation of our plays and which involved, by the way, the whole town. Like there would be an equestrian club, and if we did something about something back in the days when people rode on horseback, those guys were involved, so we had this giant effect … people on horseback and military music, people coming back from the war…. I mean, it was giant, things on a huge scale. It was quite incredible."

In the United States, language was more of a vehicle than a barrier for Director. She lived in a French-speaking house when she first moved here from France, on a scholarship with a College. Other people who were studying French would come to live at the house, either before they went to France or on their way back there. She compared it to a sorority or a fraternity house except it was for French-speaking students, male and female, and she was the head of the house.

I think of the idea of reframing here. Some people moving to a new country would be intimidated by the thought of immersion in a strange new culture and language, different from one’s own. In Director's case, learning the language was a part of her theater experience and helped her in communicating in English. She was cast in a play and said it was hard to understand, first of all, and then to portray, but that it was amazing nonetheless.

"What I learned right there and then was that the way [the Playwright] wrote, what he did, because of the type of words and sounds he used, being a foreign person, I could understand the emotions without exactly understanding the words. That was a big revelation. The sounds, the vowels, the consonants, just told me what was going on in the character, and I was like, wow."

This was also something new for Director's close-knit family, who supported what she was doing. Not only was she the first to leave the country, she was also the first one to make a life out of theater. She says everybody else was into flying. Her grandfather was a pilot. She and the other kids all grew up hearing about flying, but she was never interested. Now her aunt, who is an English teacher, started a theater group in her school and they have started performing. “She told me flat out that I had inspired her to do that, and that it keeps her going, really speaks to her soul.”

This all ties into trait and factor theory, too. Although Director did not receive any kind of formal assessment or career counseling, she gained her own self-understanding (step one) and knowledge about the world of work (step two). Observing firsthand how a successful theater group came to be, and being a vital part of that success. The major goal of career counseling, according to trait and factor theory, is step three: integrating information about oneself and the world of work.

One piece of information Director discovered about herself was that much to her surprise, she actually does have what it takes to teach. “It’s the last thing I would have ever wanted to do,” she told me. But the opportunity to teach came up during her experience with a Theater Group in Massachusetts.

She was there for the summer of 2001 and was performing in two shows in the morning while teaching elementary school aged children in the afternoon. “I realized one of the reasons I didn’t want to teach is because I was scared, scared of the kids.” But it must not have been too bad because when she began working for her present Theater Group in Dallas, she realized she really enjoyed it. “They immediately got me to start teaching [Playwright's] plays. A lot of the tools I used I learned at the other Theater Group.”

Another thing that surprised Director is her transition from acting to directing. “I always thought I wanted to be an actor, and that’s it,” she said. It turns out, however, that she really did have a knack for coaching actors, which she got to do at one of the Dallas community colleges. Director came to the Theater Group through another actor, who she had worked with in another of Playwright's plays in 2002. This was also a play she had the opportunity to direct, five years later, with the Theater Group. It was a big revelation to her, she said, when that actor invited her to co-direct a play with him. This was in 2005, which was also the first year my Daughter acted in the Theater Group's summer performances. This summer, they did the same play Theater Group performed the year Director began helping the actor Friend, in 2004. Afterward, he proposed co-directing with him. She said they worked for two years together. Then, when he told her he would not be there the next year, he said, “I think you’re ready.” And that was her big revelation, she said. “I am!” She co-directed two plays and then directed two on her own after that.

Some things are more enjoyable than others. But sometimes the difficult parts of her job ultimately lead to rewarding experiences. She told of a challenging situation that got resolved by the transformation of one of the teenage actors in this year’s performance, someone who went from being disruptive to being frightened to being confident. The two of them had an emotionally charged conversation that included her telling him she appreciated him, giving him a clear picture of what she was looking for and what she expected of him, and a final warning about repeating the kind of disrespectful behavior that had gotten him into trouble in the first place. In the end, he was overcome with gratitude for her giving him the opportunity to act, despite the problems he had created for the rest of the cast and for her. (She said she had stayed mad for an entire weekend.) “I thought he was just unhappy about his role,” she told me. “But what was really underneath it was that he was afraid.” After their talk, however, “he walked tall and straight, he was a changed person.”

I found it interesting that while Director had previously been afraid to teach children, it was ultimately the fearfulness of one of her own students that led to something rewarding in her own career, such as it may be. In fact, “jumping off the cliff” is something she encourages in young actors.

We ended our interview talking about values. This paper has gotten long enough as it is, but I am including the transcript of our conversation in this folder as a resource. She basically values exploring humanity and revealing herself in her work. Actors will hold their hands to the fire whereas people in regular life will pull away from it. Such expression is like therapy, she says. “It gives words to your emotion, to people who may not have any other way of expressing … and, there you go. Speak it.”

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Started a new project, another month-long book.

Here is an excerpt:

We are all spotted and inconstant. When souls are knit together then later "unknit," those souls change; they cannot possibly exist as they were before the knitting took place. The transformation of a soul unknit from another can be either hideous or beautiful, depending upon both the quality of the soul itself and of the soul to which it was knit, once upon a time.

If it were possible to learn how another person looks and with what art that person sways the motion of another's heart, then more people would get their true hearts' desires. But it cannot and must not be, for what one person hears is not to be known by any other person.

"The course of true love never did run smooth." This is to be expected; therefore I shall and must wait for the courseness of that certain course to reveal its meaning. All people are vessels through which spirit flows. A face differs from a face; but in the end, each one is just a face.

The opportunity to disentangle from materialism never arrives. Why look for it? We will always need something, eventually. Take this cup from me now, but you'd damned well better give it back to me later when I need it again.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Be Your Own Guru

Regarding yesterday's posting, which sounds a little more disgruntled than I feel today, I have decided to go through the book again to remind myself exactly how I can be my own guru. Really, I have a great deal of respect for the person I sort of criticized for merely selling products related to a really good book she has written. More power to her! At this point, however, I cannot afford the package deal she is selling so am going to go back through the book, doing the practice exercises as she suggests.

See, here I think is what bugged me about the idea of having to buy more stuff in order to get the most out of what she is offering. First, I resented that the book promised to teach me everything I needed to know. In fact, when I finished reading it the first time I was satisfied that it had done exactly that. So, when an e-mail comes along suggesting that I need to also purchase videos, I thought, "Wait a minute. Why is the book not enough?" (Go back and read what I wrote yesterday for more thoughts about it.) Next, it bothered me that even after buying the additional materials, I still would not have personal access to the author.

In reality, this is asking too much! There is no way she can have a personal relationship with people who read her book and would like to talk with her about the ideas. Not for free anyway, and I am just in no position to pay for the kind of mentoring I would like from her. Besides, she is not offering that kind of support because a person in her position could not have any kind of a normal life and at the same time give such intimate personal support to her students.

So! What all of this is saying is that I have faith in the book and am going to work through it again. The author has a forum at her website and it looks like I found a few others who are just starting to work through the book, too, so we can mentor each other, I hope.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Paying for a Guru

Or maybe I should have titled this "Praying for a Guru." The funny thing is, what I have to say today is about someone who has been touted as the ideal person to teach you to be your own guru. Yes, that's right. I'm not going to name names here, am going to keep this completely anonymous. But let me be clear. What this be-your-own-guru Guru is now doing is selling a big huge package deal, complete with videos and who knows what, all to convey the same information that was previously conveyed in a book! Now, if you read the book then that should have been all you need to do in order to learn how to be your own guru. But no, the book apparently is not enough. But ... I thought ... wait ... didn't that book have it all? Why is the person who wrote the book now selling videos promising what the book promised? Are the videos for people who can't read? Are they for people who, for whatever reason, are inspired more by a voice talking out loud within earshot than by that very same voice speaking inside the covers of a book? I don't know. And I'm really not "knocking" this person. (Oh, who are you kidding? You are too knocking that person.) Okay, so I am. So what? What I am really trying to do is figure out whether I want to buy this new package deal or not. In other words, I have the book. Do I need to see the movie, too? Didn't I already learn how to be my own guru? I thought so.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

No Ordinary Moments

(Click on the image for an enlarged view.)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Theatre of the Absurd

Don't have too much to say today, the weather here is too nice to be sitting inside at a keyboard typing for too long, but this week I have been thinking about the connection between Theatre of the Absurd and fascism. Yes, of all things! Well, what got me started on this was my friend Gary (who doesn't have a website and so I can't "point" you to him) mentioned he had taken a course in college about this and was, for whatever reason, thinking about it one day this past week. Well, I mentioned it to my theatre-wise daughter and sure enough she had some thoughts about it, namely that Luigi Pirandello, one of the playwrights who influenced others who came to be known as absurdists, had given his Nobel medal over to the Italian government "to be melted down" for the sake of helping out with that country's annexation of Abyssinia. Not sure what, if anything, this is worth to you, but there you have it, my contribution for today.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Telling Stories

I do not understand this world at all. One of my friends is in what I view as a horrible situation, faced with poverty unless she does something that will eventually create even more hardship and difficulty, especially for her children. It is complex and complicated and I do not wish to discuss it here, just want to acknowledge it and to wish my friend well, hope she finds a way to "fix" the situation and live in relative comfort with the outcome. Enough on that subject.

I have enjoyed reading true crime stories for many years now and thus when I discovered that Steve Salerno had not only written one but one that took place right here in Texas (crime central), I checked to see whether the book is available in the library where I typically check out such books. Sure enough, they had Deadly Blessing and I brought it home this past Saturday. It's good, real good. And the family dramas that unfold on those pages are ones painfully familiar to me; they remind me of many situations in my own life, like power struggles and influence garnering.

One of the reasons I love crime stories is because they help me put my own life story in perspective. Another reason is they help me see how stories told are not just about the characters that "people" the stories but also about the storyteller. This goes for fictional stories, too. Maybe especially fictional stories, because sometimes the best way to tell one's own story is by projecting emotions and thoughts onto made-up people. This way, we don't slander anybody but at the same time we get whatever point we need made across.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Really glad to see Steve Salerno adding a new posting to his SHAMblog. I discovered his book not too long ago and then went searching for him on the Internet. About that time, he was wondering if he hadn't said all he had to say about the whole SHAM phenomenon. The questions he raises are interesting ones indeed. And SHAM is one of the best self-help books I've read in quite some time! Not the kind of response Steve is looking for, probably, but there you have it. The book helped me see some things more clearly and also opened up some new avenues of thought.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

We met on the courthouse steps ...

I once had a friend
relied on this friend
to be there
to care
without judgment
minus condemnation

But something happened

And still to this day
it puzzles and
angers me
(is she afraid of anger)

Amazes me because that
rift didn't have to happen

Its ripple effects have
been devastating

I lost something precious


I cast no blame
no judgment
no condemnation
upon her for this

And yet still I wonder.

Saturday, June 07, 2008


Nice to hear from Robin again! And is good to be here today, in this blogspot. Have been visiting Steve Salerno's SHAMblog lately and thinking a lot about the things he says. Even though he is (apparently) closing up shop, there is plenty of good material to read through over there.

Today, however, I share a ... mm, not sure what to call this as it is not really a poem but a word stream. Yes, that it is what it is, a word stream inspired by a conversation about Bo Diddley, may he rest in eternal peace.

sad sounds from a person who lives despite consequences
who chooses those dirty deeds (done dirt cheap) as if there
were some other choice but to waste words on fetid breath
but hell, we all know it's not the words but the dance that matters
scowling at the moon, we dance our gipsy
danse, twirling 'round
angry that no words will do but making do with that nasty dance
tastes good feels rotten gets going to become ripe like fruit again
sworn to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, a witness sees
watching melancholy out of eyes colored the same, seeing
fairly clearly, accurately -yes- and this means i recognize
my brother my sister we chose thus and seeing our own
reflection looking back looking up toward that same scowling moon
wind screeching all around and yet today only happens once
in this lifetime and still the cheerful message drones on and on
even though it shows what nobody really wants to see but if i
keep it to myself any longer or any farther down this endless road
then i might just implode into myself, and we know how tragic that can be
yes if it rains the parade will still go by even though we're all wet
the water reminds us the parade is not a charade but a gift like
wild horses running free across the landscape of dreams aplenty
okay so they won't come true i can still dream them can't i
and help myself to a piece of that pie the yummy yummy pie
the grand old pie made with a tasty upper and lower crust
if we all must eventually settle on rock bottom and yes we must
it is from that position we realize up ^ looks utterly best and that
we really do all of us get what we deserve and nothing less
now is not the same as here for now is gone the instant you say
now for now is no more but here is being present despite the fact
the mere fact so mere that it dissipates into the thinnest of airs
that now just passed away in time that might still exist even though
the eternity in which we love and love forever it seems is within reach.

Friday, June 06, 2008

So, ...

What does it really mean when someone is "too controlling." The control freak always gets a bad rap, and yet I wonder how a person exists without being "controlling" to any real extent. I mean, even when "losing" control and throwing a temper tantrum or whatever, a person controls a situation by making a big scene in it.

Something disturbing happened last night at the grocery store with my daughter. We went up to the deli counter to get some sliced meat and cheese for sandwiches. When the woman came to wait on us, I noticed right away that her face was bruised, especially around one of her eyes. My first thought was that a boyfriend or husband had hit her. But of course I didn't know this for sure. In addition to being bruised, her demeanor was also very disturbed; she was literally on the verge of tears and had either been crying or was about to start at any moment.

Bad situation there, her on the job out in public with this private "problem" that made probably everyone she came into contact with that day more than a little uncomfortable, the ones who noticed, anyway. My daughter wasn't paying attention and so didn't notice her. I said, very quietly while the woman was slicing our cheese, that it looks like she's been battered. My daughter thought I spoke too loudly (although I'm pretty sure I didn't) and told me to "not talk about it," that I would make the situation worse by (obviously, she thought) talking behind the woman's back, which is in essence what I was doing.

Later, after thinking about what had happened, I had to agree with her and wished that I had said something directly to the woman instead of just pointing out her injuries to my daughter with a whispered, "Did you notice..." Just a simple, "Is there anything I can do to help?" or "Do you need help? (probably better) would have been more appropriate.

I still wonder, is that woman in danger? But back to control, think about what happens when a person loses control and thus "gains" another kind of control.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Long time no ...

Yes, it has been a very long time since I wrote in this blog.

Today I offer this, a simple story. I hope you like it.

There once was a word who went missing. Not a single conversation anywhere contained this word, although it had been there many times before. Where did the word go? Nobody knew and, of course, no one could say. The children were the first ones to notice the absent word. Something was amiss in the classroom; things just weren't the same. The wise people were the first ones to figure out the missing word, to actually name it. But because they considered knowledge of the word a great and glorious secret, they kept it to themselves. After all, if they actually spoke the word out loud, the mystery would be solved and the drama would be over. It was more fun to watch the people keep guessing about this confounded word. They never told, just kept it to themselves. To this day, the word is still missing from the story, "The Case of the Absent Word."