Category Archives: Commitment

Lessons Learned from Shooting Pool

I thought I’d continue with the theme of new beginnings during the first week of the new year by telling you a “biggie” for me – something I had to learn at a deeper level than just on an intellectual level.  I took up the game of pool about a year ago.  And like everything I do, I jumped into it “full bore” and with ferocity unmatched by any other living creature.  I practiced hours every day in this mad-like rush to conquer this goal as soon as I possibly could.

In general, my enthusiasm and full commitment pay off in learning and conquering new goals, but there are some that actually require a dispassionate approach.  That was tough for me.  I got thoroughly emotional whenever I missed even one shot!  I quit several times out of utter frustration. 

Fortunately, I have a great coach/teacher who keeps trying to get me to be quite robotic.  He has me do what amounts to a ritual routine with each shot:  look at the shot and imagine it happening as I put chalk on the cue tip.  Then, put the chalk down and I pretend I’m doing the shot once or twice in the air, then get way down on the table and do practice motions up to the cue ball and then fire.

Once I am down, no more thinking, moving, judging…just faith that my mind and body have this covered. 

This took the better part of a year to learn.  But it works.

The too easy frustration with myself comes from a most critical father’s constant berating of me, and taking up pool has helped a tremendous amount with getting rid of that knee-jerk response. 

I was setting up my weaving loom the other day, and everything was going wrong.  The set-up looked seriously trashy.  But instead of getting down on myself (like I would have done before), I just smiled, leaned over, cut it all off the loom and threw it away.  I walked away feeling quite accomplished!  Why?  I just accepted that sometimes it doesn’t work – thrown away yarn is not the end of the world – and having the calm to make that decision to come back and loom another day is a big victory!

I hope this story helps you.

Your Words Have Changed My Marriage

This is from Michelle:

Dear Dr. Laura:

A few weeks ago, you had a caller who was contemplating divorce, because her husband wasn’t being nice and, in turn, she wasn’t being nice to her young son.  During the call, the little boy started crying and to calm him, she picked him up and he immediately stopped.  You told her of the power of a mother’s arms, and you told her that if she would just treat her husband the same way, he would melt just as her son did.  I thought about it, but forgot to do anything, and then I listened to the program again this week.  It was like you were personally talking to me.

I have been married for 16 years to a wonderful man who has been the sole financial provider for all that time so I can be an at-home mom to our teenage son and daughter.  While I always thank him for making this possible, unfortunately, my attitude has been ‘well, while you were at work all day, I had to deal with very important things like toddler meltdowns to teenager meltdowns.’  But your words changed all that.

Last night, my husband arrived home after a business trip to find out we have some unexpected, high medical bills for our son (he has special needs so, while this has happened before, now is a particularly hard financial time).  Instead of me attacking my husband and telling him I had to consent to all the tests which resulted in the bill, I took your advice.  I held him in my arms and said:  ‘This must be so hard for you, when you work so hard and you plan all the finances for our family, to have something so big come up when you don’t expect it.  I really appreciate you supporting this family, and I feel our kids are so blessed to have you as their dad.’

Dr. Laura, he melted, just as you said he would.  We went on to have a lovely night, planning how we would pay for this bill and then talking about other things.  If I had not taken your advice, we both would have been angry and sulking and it would have lasted for days.  You reminded me that even though my sweet husband is a big, strong provider, he still needs compassion and comfort.  How blessed am I that I could provide that for him.

Your words have changed my life and my marriage, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Keep helping people do the right thing.

Timeless Lessons from A Classic Story

I have watched film adaptations of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in all its incarnations many, many times, and I recently watched the 2005 film version again. I love the film…no matter what criticisms may be about a portrayal or a performance. I clearly have a profound attraction to this work.

First and foremost, I love the utter regard the men had for women, which is evident from how they addressed them: “Miss…” (and their first names if they were single) or “Mrs….” (and their last names if they were married). Men bowed upon entering and leaving a woman’s presence, and women curtsied, even under unpleasant conditions. Flirting was ever-so-subtle: a look, a light “accidental” touch of a hand. A man romantically yearned for and tried to earn the affections of a woman. The sweetness of the regard for women in this era (particularly in upper and middle classes) was something to be admired, and something we now miss. There was a clear distinction between a “good” woman and an easy, loose woman or whore.

That distinction is gone today. Now, women put down good money for music that represents them as whores without pay. So many young men are casual about women and sex in general, and sex is a casual expectation almost always fulfilled.

Young women scoff at dignity and modesty as just stupid, prudish, sexist notions. They “shack up” with some dude without a marital commitment, yet expect the love and respect, fidelity and loyalty to exist without the spoken vows, only to be disappointed, hurt, and generally confused.

There was a recent film comedy, called “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” in which Matthew McConaughey (in a twist on Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”) got to go back into his life to see all his old girlfriends. There was one scene in the television ad for the movie which showed a seemingly endless dining table filled with hundreds of girls. Obviously, this was meant to show how shallow and manipulative he had been. To me, it just showed how many stupid girls there were (and are), “putting out” in a situation where there was clearly no respect, regard, or intent.

Men used to have to ask a woman’s dad for permission to “court” her, even when the woman was an adult! Now, all he has to do is show her a bedroom, back seat of a car, or a motel room, and the date is sealed. When men had to explain and express their intentions, they had to take the whole activity of dating much more seriously, as there were personal and social consequences to misleading a young lady. That reputation would annihilate any chances he might have had of marrying a good woman. He’d have to move states or provinces away. Now? That kind of rakish reputation makes girls/women want to line up to get some from an infamous entity.

The women’s revolution did not raise any consciousness worth elevating. It mostly diminished a woman’s sense of herself as special, minimized her value in the minds of men, put sex on the level of animals, created a nanny/baby-sitter/institutionalized day care financial boom (as women gave up the blessing of nurturing their own children), increased the use of abortion as a birth-control technique when an accidental pregnancy occurred with a guy who did not want fatherhood, created perpetually unhappy, angry, nasty wives, and made it very difficult for “nice girls” to be respected and cherished.

The last scene in Pride and Prejudice between the two now-married lovers has them discussing what she wants to be called by him when he is not using her given name. He suggests one name, and she rejects it sweetly, because it is what her father calls her. She then asks him what he will call her when he is angry. He, not being able to envision that situation, talks to her about always letting her know how lovingly important his happiness in wrapped up in her…forever…and he kisses her gently about her face as he says “Mrs. Darcy” over and over again. He gave her his heart, his life, his vows, and his name. And, in that era, giving a woman your name was the ultimate public and private statement of his total commitment to her, which makes that scene so moving to most of us, and infuriating to feminists who see that scene only as ripping away the woman’s identity.

I always cry at the end of the movie.

I cry also for what women have given up in exchange for wanting to have it all and not be subordinate to a man. I don’t know…I kinda think being on a pedestal is not subordinate. But what do I know? I’m only a recovered feminist.

Resisting Irresistible Impulses

I always look for patterns in callers’ questions, because I’m interested in what that pattern means in terms of what folks have come to believe…and why.  A persistent thought seems to be that impulse is irresistible.  That means, if you feel like a burger or a cigarette or a roll in the hay with someone you know you shouldn’t be with, then you have some kind of addiction, which means a disease, which means out of your control.

That’s a darn good rationalization…but it ain’t true.  The only irresistible impulse is one which hasn’t been resisted, and that is most definitely (but not simply) a choice.

I say “not simply,” because resisting impulses is difficult and sometimes painful.  Generally, such inappropriate behaviors have the purpose of 1) immediate gratification of feelings, and 2) hiding you from other emotionally distressing thoughts and feelings.  That means that, if you resist the impulse to drink, eat, or have a sexual fling in the office stationery closet, you will be left with the anxiety or sadness that resides within.

It is clear, therefore, that the emphasis should be on dealing with the not-so-well submerged anxieties and sadness.  For example, a man called recently to say that he is mean to his wife, criticizing anything he sees around the house.  I immediately suggested that he saw the cluttered kitchen counter as a sign his wife didn’t love him.  Now, you’d think that was a ridiculous leap, but it was “spot on.”  He (after some nagging from me) offered that his mother had not been, well, “motherly” and loving.  To this day, he has his wife do things to prove/make up for the lack of affection and attention he missed as a child.  Did he know he was doing this and why?  Yes for the “doing;” no for the “why.”

I suggested he go home with a flower in hand and tell his wife that he needed her to hold him.  I told him that’s what “his woman” was for.  You can always hire a maid, but you can’t hire someone to really love and care about you.  He was treating his wife like his mom, when he really needed her to be a wife with loving kindness.

You get love by being open to it, and by being loving in return.  You do not get love by eating that cake, smoking that joint, drinking that beer or overpowering those who care about you. 

Resist those impulses.  Yes, it’s painful and difficult, both physically and emotionally, but the ultimate reward is the very thing you’ve been trying to get (just all in the wrong way), and that thing is LOVE.

The Sad Tale of Steve McNair and Sahel Kazemi

I get calls all the time from young, emotionally hungry young women (girls, actually), who think that an older, often married, man really loves them.  It makes me so sad in my heart to hear these young women denying reality and setting themselves up for hurt.

20 year old Sahel Kazemi thought she had it made in the shade, because a celebrity, a former NFL football star, Steve McNair, took her partying in VIP rooms and on vacations for eight months.  She believed him when he got her on his condo bed for sex that he was going to leave his wife of twelve years for her.  He didn’t.

And then, one day, she saw some other young thing – probably another girl believing she was the one who was special to McNair.  So, one night, when McNair was sitting on his sofa, likely asleep, she shot him twice in the head and twice in the chest.  Then she sat down next to him, positioning herself so that she would fall into his lap, and shot herself (according to FoxNews). 

Here was an attractive young girl (she had just turned twenty), a teenager, a high school dropout who had moved with a boyfriend at age 17 to Nashville from Florida.  When she was 9, her mother was murdered, and, born in Iran, she and her family were persecuted for their religious faith.

This is a lot of turmoil and chaos and hurt for a young girl, and it is sad that so many family members and family friends tell this upbeat story about her, surprised that she would do such a thing.  She was clearly emotionally tortured and vulnerable, needy, and naive.  Her life began and ended in violence.

Men like McNair make me sick.  I am sicker still, reading sycophants talk about his actions on the football field, as though the admiration he earned for running a ball around a field should count for more than the human lives he betrayed.  He had a wife, with whom he had two sons, and two more sons from I don’t know where and I don’t know by whom.  He was a 36 year old man who had been given great opportunities and huzzahs for his accomplishments. His response was to cater to his childish needs to “do” young women who (without question) would simply adore him. 

It is sad that this ended in death for him and a naive and needy girl who believed that without him, there was no purpose in life. 

It is sad that, as I speak, older accomplished men in business, politics, clergy, academe, and medicine are doing the exact same thing, in order to fulfill their needs to receive a naive reverence, to feel youthful and important in the reflection of a young woman, or because they feel entitled to spoils because of their celebrity or wealth or power.

I warn young girls every day to live a life of integrity and modesty with morals, so they won’t be used in such a way.  Sometimes, though, a girl is so damaged that shortcuts seem the only way.

This time, it resulted in death seeming the only way.

When Someone Believes in You

There’s an interesting program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro that aims to keep 12 to 18 year old girls in school, minus the sad drama of pregnancies or abortions.

The program is sponsored by College Bound Sisters.  Girls in the program attend 90-minute meetings every week, at which they receive lessons in abstinence and the use of contraceptives, and they receive one dollar per day that they are not pregnant.  The money is deposited into a fund that’s available for collection when they enroll in college.

Obviously, there are many who will say “Hey, bribery is not the correct way to handle such behavioral issues.”  But slow down and think about it – when a 12 year old believes that one dollar a day is a great incentive, it tells you two things:

1. the gentle maturity level of such young girls
2. how so very many young girls are hungry for direction

Keep in mind that 3 out of 10 young women become pregnant by age 20, and the costs associated with teen pregnancies exceed $9 BILLION annually.

So, what’s their track record?  According to the co-director of the program, 6 of the 125 who have been enrolled for 6 months or longer have gotten pregnant or otherwise dropped out since it began in 1997 (and it only costs $75,000 – not billion – to operate the program).  Recent graduates have left the program with up to $3,000 saved up for college.  Basically, the representatives of the program say “If someone believes in you, there’s no end to what a lot of people can accomplish.”

This reminds me of a patient I had years ago, who went from “ditzy” behavior and drug addiction to clean and sober.  She completed college and advanced nursing training, and has been employed ever since.  A little ego in me caused me to ask here, “What made the difference here?”  I thought she’d point out some brilliant intervention of mine.  Nope, not at all.  She pointed out that I had believed in her when no one else did, that she had respected me, and I respected her potential.  That made the difference in her outlook and choices.

So, when you’re confused as to how to really help someone, just believe in them, and let them know it.

Bribery?! Haven’t We Been There, Done That?

The Health section of The New York Times on March 2 debated the usefulness of bribing school children with money, toys, candy and electronic gizmos to have them attain better grades.

When I was in school, it was cute stickers and the pride of getting a good grade that you could brag about that made your parents all sorts of happy.  The good grade was the proximate award for all the hard work.  Getting the reputation as being smart was a good thing, and becoming valedictorian was great, as was qualifying for scholarships of all sizes for college.  Spending a lifetime knowing you worked hard and earned what you had the hard way was the long-term reward.

Now, some geniuses want to rob children of all of that.  These greater minds than ours want children to fight for things of substance (money) rather than for things of glory (purpose).  Not all endeavors have a high rate of financial return:  a hospice worker helps the dying and their families face their fears of death; a fireman runs into burning buildings to save complete strangers from a horrible death; kindergarten teachers introduce our children to the world of budding independence, self-confidence, social maneuvering and the alphabet…and that’s only a few examples.

Frankly, we need more kind and compassionate people than we do more “A” students in this world, as it turns out that the greatest thieves (many CEOs, crooked politicians and Ponzi scheme giants), terrorist masterminds, and general sociopaths all have very high IQ levels and got great grades.

How about us giving financial rewards, candy and electronic gizmos to kids who go out of their way not to bully, tease, steal, lie, sexually harass, or sexually act-out?  Or to those who won’t drink or take drugs or steal or backtalk their elders? 

Would that work, I wonder?

Am I Anti-Female?

“I love your show, but it makes me CRAZY when you subscribe to the double standard that men get a pass on being sexually cavalier but women are to be thoroughly and soundly condemned.  Why, oh why, don’t you condemn the men as much as the women?  Why aren’t they just as ‘piggy’ and deserving of condemnation?  That societal attitude encourages men to attempt to use women sexually as their birthright and also encourages women to be insecure and distrustful of sex in general.  You’re putting a sexual burka on women overall with that attitude.

I’m not advocating casual sex.  I’m condemning the acceptance of a double standard.  Come on!  There are two sides of that coin and each should assume major responsibility for engaging in casual sex.  Until the act is equally condemned, how can women take those rules seriously?”

This is a recent email from a listener taking me to task for what she perceives is a sort of anti-female, double standard mentality. 

First of all, God and nature are responsible for the reality of a double standard.  Women have breasts from which to suckle the baby born from their uterus after a nine month gestation.  Women’s high-pitched voices and hearing are geared for the infant-mother bonding that miraculously takes place right after birth.  Women’s temperaments to nurture, cuddle, coo, and protect are hardwired into their psychological programming.  Women are different from men.

There is no question that men more easily dissociate love and sex.  Young males in particular are open to sexual experiences for the challenge, orgasmic satisfaction, and status among other males.  These qualities are not synonymous with femininity.

Women give themselves sexually to men out of love, a desperate desire to be wanted and loved, or for money.  It is not typical, as it is with men, for a woman to feel proud of the number of men who have penetrated her; and the only women who look for the sexual challenge are those so twisted with anti-male rage that domination of a male is a form of psychological rape which satisfies that neurotic anger.

Males are generally out of control every which way until they fall in love and take on the obligations and responsibilities of a man committed to a woman and family.  All the research demonstrates that men who are married make more money, are healthier and happier, and function better socially than “loner” men.  In fact, the deranged males who perpetrate horrendous acts of violence are generally such loner males with no families to make them feel important, give them purpose and direction…and love.

Women are the taming and socializing force in society.  Men will only do what women allow.  Remember the ancient Greek classical play “Lysistrata”?  The women in the town refused to have sex if their men continued to participate in war and violence.  Poof, all the violence stopped.  Women have always had the power over men; but feminism got women off the track of realizing that, and on the track to only hating or disdaining men.

Now, women have largely become “pigs.”  Instead of embracing modesty, pride, values, and self-value, they parade around showing their bodies like Playboy bunnies, have sex before “hello,” shack up with men without marital commitment, make babies on their own (declaring that men/fathers aren’t necessary), use abortion as birth control, and don’t imagine feminine sweetness has any place in marriage and are bored with sex with their husbands but turn on to every other Tom, Dick, and Harry.  That is why men have little respect for women these days.