Monthly Archives: May 2009

Quote of the Week

We tell lies when we are afraid…afraid of what we don’t know, afraid of what others will think, afraid of what will be found out about us.  But every time we tell a lie, the thing that we fear grows stronger.
               – Tad Williams
                  Fantasy and science-fiction novelist

Knowing is Better Than Not Knowing, or Why I “Push” Some Callers to Discomfort

Researchers at the University of British Columbia studied people who had undergone genetic testing to determine their risk for developing the neurodegenerative terminal disorder known as Huntington’s disease.  Did you know (and can you believe) that those subjects who learned that they had a very high likelihood of developing this horrendous and ultimately fatal disease were “happier a year after testing than those who did not learn what their risk was.”

Many of you probably think that not knowing would result in more happiness, but you’d be wrong.  According to Dr. Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University, “…when we get bad news, we weep for a while, and then get busy making the best of it.  We change our behavior; we change our attitudes.  We raise our consciousness and lower our standards.  We find our bootstraps and tug.  But we can’t come to terms with circumstances whose terms we don’t yet know.”

Even those of you who listen to my program regularly may be shocked when I tell somebody their mother or father or spouse or even their child is a bum.  You may wince when I have them scream out how righteously angry they are at parents who didn’t protect them.   You may also sometimes recoil from your radio when you hear me push and push and push a caller until they reveal their innermost horrible truth.  Perhaps you’ve seen me as cruel…or hawking for ratings stemming from the drama.

The fact is, that as a professional psychotherapist I have long realized the value of dealing with the truth – as ugly as it might be.  I’ve seen and heard people fighting to keep ugly truths submerged as though it protected them.  In fact, the energy that goes into burying reality is huge, and not available for healthy living.

Not everyone who calls is willing or ready for this evolutionary leap in their lives.  Sometimes, they have to think about it more and come back later.  That’s fine.  The seed is planted.  I don’t see my job as making every caller feel happy at the end of our brief conversation.  I see my job as one of freeing them from their own personal jail of denial and avoidance, all of which lead to depression, anxiety, and poor (very poor) choices in life.

Knowing is always better than not knowing.  Several recent callers have demanded that I give them some magic to get their loved one to stop smoking or stop being obese.  I tell them to give up that ongoing, unpleasant battle, and simply enjoy the time they do have with that person.  Accepting what is out of your control opens you up to more happiness, because you are left with dealing with “what is,” instead of fighting to have it be something else. 

You can wrap your arms and joys around what is.  You can’t do the same thing with what you wish was the truth.

The Aftermath of A Shark Attack

I have often told callers struggling with their fears (real or imagined or exaggerated) that next to character, I admire guts.  Actually, having the fortitude to face the things we’re afraid of is a measure of character.

A few weeks ago, I was out for only the third time on my new paddleboard.  I was balancing well, in spite of passing motorboats leaving scary wakes in my path.  I was in choppy waters, which was not that smart at my level of experience, and feeling great about what I was doing, when-BAM-I hit the board full flat and hard on my left side and slid underwater.  I was stunned, cold, and worried about becoming a shark snack.  I swam quickly back to the board, pulled myself up, and lay there shaking with cold, shock, and fear. I pulled my knees under me, then got my feet down as I poised in a crouched position, and then stood straight up and paddled nervously for another fifteen minutes.  The point of these actions was that I knew that if I just swam ashore, I might never get on the board again.  My left ribs hurt tremendously, and I’m still healing.  But for me, the main point was getting back up then and there, and scowling directly into the face of fear.

This is a small step for a girl like me.  A much bigger step for a little girl is the story of Bethany Hamilton.  She nearly lost her life in a vicious shark attack while surfing off the coast of Hawaii almost six years ago.  The shark attack happened while she was lying on her board with her arm dangling comfortably in the water.  The shark ripped her left arm off just below the shoulder, and she almost died from blood loss – the shark left a sixteen inch “bite” on her surfboard.  Grisly, to say the least.  By the way, they caught the shark.  It was a 14-foot-long tiger shark, which weighed 1400 pounds.

What was Ms. Hamilton doing just a month after that shark took her left arm?  Re-training herself to surf competitively with only one arm.  Her positive attitude won her a 2004 EXPY award from ESPN for “Best Comeback Athlete of the Year.”  She’s now ranked among the top ten professional women surfers in the world.  With one arm.

Does this mean she has no fears?  No.  “When I’m feeling scared, I just sing a song or pray…or I just try to ignore it.  It’s always in my mind, and it always will be, but I’ve got to keep my mind on having fun and just surfing.”  She says she sees two or three sharks per year in the water and heads in if she gets scared or thinks she sees a shark.  She doesn’t go in the murky water after a storm.  In other words, she uses the common sense that all surfers should employ.

She travels the world for surfing competitions, and for causes in which she can help children with fears – like going to Thailand to help young children devastated by the tsunami disaster.  With her unique experience, she has something very important to say about overcoming fears, much less overcoming fear of water.

I’ve always said that one of the best learning tools in the universe is to read to yourself and your family biographies of people who have fought inner and outer demons and prevailed.  This is one of those stories.

And you don’t have to be afraid of the ocean to benefit.  Life has its disappointments, assaults, devastation, frustrations, challenges, and bad luck.  That’s just life.  What you do after that point is the measure of your life.

When Grandma Has A Baby

A 66-year-old British woman (yup – 66!), unmarried (of course), went to the Ukraine and paid doctors over there to impregnate her with fertilized eggs.  The eggs were donated, as was the sperm, but the uterus – zapped with a regimen of necessary hormones – was hers.

She is due to give birth by Caesarean section next month.  Wow.  What a medical miracle!  We have the technological know-how to allow a woman almost 70 years old to “make a baby” for her very own self!  Personally, I would have suggested a shih-tzu for her case of loneliness instead – she and the dog might live the same number of blissful years together.

What about the child?  What about being born to a woman who could be your great-grandmother and statistically will not live to see you finish puberty or high school?  Well, that doesn’t seem to matter – it’s all about what the adult wants and not about how children pay the price.

Yes, I know – parents of any age can die from cancer or car accidents, and, of course, that’s true.  But this woman’s chances of dying before her child reaches adulthood are pretty clear.  And with no daddy in the picture, what does this child do for family?

The so-called “Octomom,” Nadya Suleman, also wanted what she wanted, and now many children suffer not being able to get to a teat because there are too many competitors, and they have no dad to comfort them, either.

I’m so proud (yeah, right) of women who have taken on the mantle of “I am woman, hear me roar.”  They serve to make the example of how low women and humanity can go in diminishing the needs of children because of their own wants.  Shameful!

Quote of the Week

I have never been able to think of the day as one of mourning; I have never quite been able to feel that half-masted flags were appropriate on Decoration Day.  I have rather felt that the flag should be at its peak, because those whose dying we commemorate rejoiced in seeing it where their valor placed it.  We honor them in a joyous, thankful, triumphant commemoration of what they did.
               – Benjamin Harrison
                  23rd President of the United States
                  In office 1889-1893

Decoration Day was established in May, 1868 to decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers with flowers.  Now known as Memorial Day, it’s celebrated on the last Monday in May, and commemorates U.S. men and women who died in military service for their country.  Please remember our fallen servicemen and women this weekend.

Commemorating U.S. Men and Women Who Died in Military Service for the United States of America

Fleeing From Life-Saving Cancer Treatment

Police authorities are on a nation-wide search for a mother and her 13-year-old cancer-stricken son who fled after refusing chemotherapy that doctors say could save the boy’s life.  The two left their Minnesota home after a doctor’s appointment and X-ray showed his tumor had grown.  A court has issued an arrest warrant (ruling the mother in contempt of court), and has ordered that the boy be placed in foster care and immediately evaluated for treatment by a cancer specialist . 

His parents insist on alternative medicines, citing religious beliefs.  That led authorities to seek custody, as the court ruled that the boy’s parents were medically neglecting their son, as his form of cancer is considered highly curable with chemotherapy and radiation.

The parents believe in the philosophy of the Nemenhah Band, a Missouri-based religious group that believes in natural healing methods with herbal supplements, vitamins, ionized water and such.  However, lately the dad has jumped ideological ships and is now agreeing that his son needs the best treatment with a doctor of medicine.

All over the blogosphere, you can read arguments as to whether or not the court should be able to countermand the parents.  My opinion?  Absolutely yes…when it is clear that the child is in imminent harm and there are the means to rescue him.

This child is in imminent harm because of his parents and the cancer itself.  Since the cancer is likely curable, it is unconscionable for his life to be taken by parents who choose some extreme religious views which put their child on the road to death.  Secondly, the child, 13, cannot read due to some learning disability.  I question whether or not the parents helped him with that problem either.  Since the boy cannot read, he is relying on the “wisdom” of his parents, who are not giving him the truth, which is “chemo will save you and herbs will let you die in pain.”

Personally, I am very respectful of most (not all) religious views.  I am completely disrespectful of religious views which result in taking the life of an innocent – in this case, robbing the life of an innocent child.

The Joys of Parenting, from a Stay-At-Home Dad

I got this after I read a letter from a stay-at-home mom on my radio program:

Dr. Laura:
I am a 26 year old Stay-At-Home Dad who never wanted children, and until I saw my daughter for the first time, I was terrified that I would resent her for changing my life in a way I’d never planned (and yes, I do appreciate the irony of my situation).  I have served in the military, managed people, and worked as a laborer.  I have done many difficult things in my life, but being a full-time parent is easily the most difficult (and most rewarding) job I have ever had.  My daughter is the light of my life, and, despite my earlier fears, has only helped to strengthen the relationship I share with my wife.

[Recently], you read an email on your program from a stay-at-home mother titled “Staying Home is NOT a Sacrifice!”  I was awestricken, and admittedly, at the end of the letter, I cried.  I’ve been described as “unemotional” on more than one occasion, and was even surprised at myself with the chord that letter struck for me.  While I have never considered giving up my career and my life as a childless young adult a sacrifice, I’d also never put it all into perspective for myself.  I am surrounded by people who have shown nothing but great respect for my wife and I for the fact that we live a much different lifestyle than we did prior to our daughter being born, so I am personally (and thankfully) unfamiliar with the hostility that stay-at-home parents receive.  And while I doubt that the people who would hear or read this woman’s letter would disagree with her, I, as a man and father, would like to add a little reinforcement to this woman’s declaration.  Staying home is NOT a sacrifice!  The reward of staying home with the kids is not only the end result of children having full-time parents, but in the act itself.  We are not giving anything up to be with our children; we are getting so much more from them than we would otherwise.

It’s unfortunate to me that not everyone can enjoy the special bond that a stay-at-home parent forms with their children, and I wish that the whole world could see my little girl run at me full-bore, and crash head-first into my legs, begging to be picked up, so that she can give me a big sticky kiss and bury her face in my neck.

Yes, I do sometimes miss skipping town for the weekend on a moment’s notice to go drinking or fishing.  Yes, I do sometimes miss having the money to go buy a new toy whenever I feel like it.  I do sometimes miss being able to make love to my wife anywhere in our home at any time.  But one sticky kiss from my daughter is worth infinitely more than every beer I don’t have, every record-breaking fish I don’t catch, every new toy I don’t buy, and every intimate moment that has to wait until the baby has gone to bed.

A proud, stay-at-home Dad