Time Out

My life is sort of built around simply being available- as a therapist, as a caregiver, as a medical experiment…. As a result, I have a lot of downtime. This provokes a lot of envy from my friends and acquaintances, but I have to say, it’s not all that. I spend a lot of time trying to keep occupied, but there are only so many times I can vacuum the living room and clean the toilets. I’m bound to stay in the house or very nearby because of my caregiving responsibilities, and that makes my life very challenging some days. For a person very used to being active, even hyperactive, who enjoyed travel and constant stimulus, it’s quite a change.

The funny thing about it all is that the adjustment that seems to help most is taking time to be less active.

I am often at my best when I’m busy- my synapses fire more efficiently, I have a certain endorphin-related good feeling about life and myself in general when I’m doing things I find worthwhile and fun. I can find the reverse happening when I’m not finding what I’m doing worthwhile or efficient or fun, which, in my current situation can happen fairly often. Because of some of the little people in my life, I’ve become aware of this great thing parents use for their kids called a “time out”. That’s where the kid gets to spend time thinking about his/her acting out behavior and gives the offending minor (and the parent) time to cool off. Although never having experienced the benefits of such a system in my own childhood, I’m a fan. Seems a much better way to live than frustrating corporal punishment that creates frustrations and resentments (on both sides) that, while ensuring my work as a therapist for years to come, seems a bit excessive.
Anyway, my time out works in the same way.

When I feel overwhelmed or cranky or whiny or frustrated, I go to my time out place, and I just sit, and breathe, and think about three great things in my life right now. It usually only takes a few minutes, and I feel more focused and clear and grateful and renewed.

Whoever popularized this whole time out concept for kids might make a fortune marketing it for adults….
Or, maybe, that’s me….

Soft vs. Tough

I’ve been listening to commentators talk about President Obama’s speech in Cairo this morning, and it seems to me there’s a problem.
None of them seem to be able to finesse the distinction of diplomacy and the rhetorical devices of openness with the swaggering tough-guy image the U.S. has across the world.
It’s almost like your Uncle Mike, you know, the Marine, the one that swears and spits and builds his own cars, suddenly wanted to dance for the Bolshoi. Very confusing.
But maybe it’s not Uncle Mike’s fault. Maybe it’s our fault for not getting to know him better. Maybe all those things can live together in the same person. And, if I believe, as I do, that people are constant surprises, my own flexibility makes or breaks my experience of others.
There’s an old saying from somewhere in my memory, perhaps Native American that says something like: The oak is mighty and strong, but the great wind that fells it does no harm to the willow, which knows how to bend.
It’s our perception of the rest of the world that must bend, and vice versa. I believe, as a nation, our perception of what constitutes strength must evolve from guns and clubs to intelligent conversation between adults- from force into true power.
The power that comes from knowing someone better.