Questions for Living

Many of you know that I like questions more than answers. And when I come across a good question, I almost always write it down. Imagine my delight in finding a bunch of questions written by Ellie Harris entitled “Questions for Living.” We learn by asking questions when we have the patience to grow into our answers. So here they are from the beautiful magazine “Bella Grace” (Spring, 2016). (I’ve italicised the ones I love.)

  • What do you want to be and who are you now?
  • What do you unequivocally believe in?
  • What was the last time you were your own best friend?
  • Have you found that something you are looking for? Do you even know what it is?
  • Do you welcome things you don’t understand and give room for clarity to grow?
  • Who or what do you wake up for?
  • What makes you feel like a child?
  • When are you in your past self? When are you in your best self?
  • Can you truly forgive others? Can you forgive yourself?
  • Whose voice brings you peace?
  • Have you decided what to be when you grow up?
  • Do you like what you’ve become?
  • What are you holding onto? Is it time to let it go?
  • What memory do you hold the tightest?
  • When is enough truly enough?
  • Why do you fear what you fear?
  • Why do you believe what you believe?
  • What makes you feel important?
  • What are you sorry for?
  • What is your most secret wish?
  • When is the last time you have a real conversation with God?
  • Do you wish you had a do-over?
  • How can you make this day not ordinary?
  • What you love about yourself?
  • What is the dictionary definition of you?
  • Are you living out of desire or circumstance?
  • Do you wake up thankful?
  • What are you waiting for?
  • Who do you love? Do they know?
  • If you could have a conversation with anyone, who would you want to talk to?
  • What is the last time you took yourself out for a date?

Here is something interesting – people with social anxiety can often “solve” it by digging a bit deeper and getting out of the superficiality of superficial conversation. I ask my anxious clients to pick 3 questions to ask a friend or a stranger and watch what happens.

The Body Song (Guest: Eryn-Faye Frans)

This past week, I had the privilege of introducing my family to Paddy and Carole Ducklow.  Back in the 60’s, when my parents left Texas to move up to Canada, Dad met Paddy in graduate school and they began a life-long friendship. My father wrote his first book in the basement of their home. He logged countless hours sitting out on their deck drinking beer and debating life, the universe and everything. Paddy flew to Texas to attend his funeral.

As a child, I have many memories of the Ducklow’s being a part of our lives. Even when the two men were living in different parts of the Lower Mainland, they always stayed connected. And then, several years before our family returned to Texas, they worked together at Burnaby Christian Fellowship. Dad was senior pastor, and Paddy was on staff as the church psychologist who ran a practice in the church.

One of the programs that they collaborated on during this time was a seminar to teach kids and their parents about the concept of “appropriate touch”. The kids and parents were split into different rooms and taught about issues surrounding personal boundaries, safety and communication. I was one of those kids, and my favourite part of the whole seminar was learning the song, My Body by Peter Alsop (which was thereinafter referred to by us simply as “the body song”).

Fast-forward 20+ years. My family is driving to the Ducklow’s house for the first time and I am explaining to my daughter about the importance of this family in my life. Having a vague memory of the body song, I decided that it would be spectacularly impressive if I could teach it to my daughter to sing for Paddy over dinner. Riley was very much into this idea (life is, after all, a musical for her) and enthusiastically embraced the task. The more we sang it, the more furrowed my husband’s brow became. He finally cleared his throat and said, “Uh, honey? I think you are not remembering that song right. I am pretty sure that’s not how it goes.” I pooh-poohed his concerns and, undaunted, Riley and I sang the song a few more times – to ensure that she really knew it.

When we arrived at Ducklow’s, the conversation inevitably turned to the body song. Actually, Eric brought it up because he was so smug in his assumption that I had the words wrong and thought it would be hilarious to see Paddy’s reaction. I was hesitant because I had an ever-growing suspicion that Eric was, unfortunately, right. Eventually, he coaxed Riley and me into singing it together.  So, in a vain attempt to prove that I was correct (or more that he was wrong) I belted out with great gusto:

My body’s nobody’s body but mine.

You touch your own body,

Let me touch mine.

There was an eerie silence that fell over the room for what was only a moment but felt like eternity.  Then the room erupted!  I thought Paddy was going to fall off the couch laughing. He fell to the side and buried his face in a pillow as he howled in laughter.  It was suddenly inherently obvious to me that I had turned a song on appropriate touch into one on mutual masturbation.

***Epic FAIL***

Later in the evening, Paddy and Riley went to the computer and drudged up the words to this 1980’s song. Thank goodness for Google!

The true version of the body song can be found here and goes like this:

My body’s nobody’s body but mine.

You run your own body,

Let me run mine.

I will admit that the correct one is a much better version for Riley to be singing out in public.  But as I am not one to be easily dismayed, I will brazenly confess that personally prefer my version…even if you’ll never hear me sing it aloud ever again.

So inn the midst of all of this personal humiliation, I figured that I should try to redeem myself by unabashedly sharing the story with everyone and using it as a teaching tool to help parents talk with their children.

Eric, however, is still laughing.

(And so is Paddy!)

My Life Now: An Alliteration of “P”s

Thinking About My Semi-retirement

My name is Paddy. I have been a psychologist, pastor and professor, an alliteration of “P”s. These days I am mostly a fellow pilgrim in the practice of personhood, a new set of “P”s. And I am a Poppa to my 3 grandkids.

To change primary letters for a moment, I would like to learn how to be a friend. This does not come easily to me. I think that I want to be a good friend but I am not naturally wired for it. I am used to influencing more than anything else. It seems to me that women do things together (“Let’s go shopping for shoes”) but men don’t go shopping for a new pair of pants. Men compete with and dismiss each other, often humorously. We men find our social lives through occupations (what occupies us like computers and fishing trips).

Unlike many friendships that seldom appeal, I deeply enjoy and am challenged by the people I visit with in counselling. I think of therapy as confronting, sometimes confusing, frequently funny and always pressing into change. And counselling is also a safe place to tell the truth and to grow. I think it is here that I have the privilege of being most honest and of being me. I think of these people as “client-friends.”

Carole laughs at me when I say I don’t have many friends. But with these good folk I mostly do not practice personhood. I settle for superficial catch-ups and positive gossip. I don’t think that I am so good at being a friend.

 

Time-IN, Not Out (Guest: Kristin Vandegriend)

Time-IN, Not Out (Guest Kristin Vandegriend)

I love “time-in.” When Carole is cross with me, she doesn’t usually send me to my room, but sometimes she freezes me out with her pointy glares and chilly words. (She won’t like me saying this.) But usually she does a time-in – she lets me work things out for a bit and then we talk and plan for a next time. There is always a next time.

Kristin Vandegriend is a friend who is doing time-ins masterfully with her little girl. I guess this is best used in parenting. You can read about it right here:

Back in the summer, we came across a parenting concept called “time in.”  The basic concept is that when a child is struggling, what they really need is connection, not isolation and distance. Instead of punishing with a “time out” which is isolating, we respond with choosing to stay in proximity to our child until they can calm down and find a better way to cope. We had tried “time out” before, but with disastrous results.

Several weeks ago, our 4-year-old daughter was having a hard time at the dinner table.  She was crying, screaming and hitting, behavior that is not acceptable in our home. Both my partner and I tag-teamed in trying to lay down boundaries with her and set expectations for behavior. It was really frustrating to see her behavior escalate and I could feel that I was starting to get angry as well.  But in the moment, I thought about how she must feel when it becomes a 2-against-1 battle.  It made me wonder if what she was simply asking for was to be heard and to feel a sense of connection (plus it was entirely possible that she was just really hungry as well.) I took her onto my lap and simply helped her eat her supper.  She calmed down almost immediately and once the intensity was over, we were able to dialogue about what had happened and our expectations for her behavior in the future.

In other situations, I have taken her into her room, set a timer and simply been with her while she calmed down.  On rare occasions, we make several trips back and forth to her room as she tries to regulate her behavior.  We practice some breathing and we talk about ways that we can help calm ourselves down when we get overwhelmed with emotion.  We address the inappropriate behaviors and outline expectations for more positive behaviors.

I don’t know if this strategy has worked for us because of who my daughter is or who I am.  But when I think about when I am upset, what I really want is deep empathy, to be loved despite my failings and to know that I am not alone.  So it makes me think that perhaps that this might actually be a deeper human desire and that children, in particular, need to know that they are not alone despite the ways that they may act.

Here is a further article from Positive Parenting Connection.

Thanks Kristin.

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