So Just How Important Is a Simple Act of Kindness?

John Driggs

Love is something if you give it away, Give it away, give it away. Love is something if you give it away, You end up having more. It’s just like a magic penny, Hold it tight and you won’t have any. Lend it, spend it, and you’ll have so many They’ll roll all over the floor. — Melvina Reynolds, first verses of the Magic Penny Song, 1949 Most of us think our small act of caring for a neighbor was no big deal, it was just the right thing to do at the time. Few of us even see our … Continue reading

The New New Year

“Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.” – Alan Cohen The cold of January hardly feels like a new beginning. The symbolic child heralding the new year looks more vulnerable than strong. Yet this lull between the holidays and spring’s new buds is a great time to reflect on what has been and what might lie ahead. My vacations often take me on hikes along mountain trails. I begin with energy and a plan. The early hours lead me through green, lush grasses and shrubs, where it is hard to see beyond … Continue reading

When We Live Without an Observing Self

John Driggs

The oblivion we once hid from danger has now become our invisible prison. — Anonymous Have you ever said “Why can’t he see what he is doing? Isn’t it obvious to everybody!” or “Gee I never saw it that way before. Maybe you’re right” Most of us have moment of cluelessness, especially in matters pertaining to ourselves. However when we are continually out of touch with seeing ourselves or not aware that we don’t see ourselves very accurately we have a serious problem on our hands. If this is the case for you then you are certainly in good company. … Continue reading

Enkindling Kindness

“Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Plato I have started tracking kindness – noticing her as she gently touches the ordinary of my day. I see her at the bus stop as the first grade big sister greets the eager-to-have-her-home little brother. I see kindness in the neighbor who mows two lawns beyond her own. I see her in the gentle touch of the care-givers at the senior housing when residents gather for weekly prayer. Kindness can be simple and fleeting – a quick recognition, a knowing smile, a gentle touch. Kindness can also be robust … Continue reading

Bookshelves

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” Cicero I resist joining the e-book fascination. I like my page turners with real pages, my underlines with real pencils and my coffee spills with real stains. I like the touch, the heft, the physicality of a book. Besides, books aren’t just to read. Some hide dried auburn maple leaves, a birthday horoscope from years past, a Chinese fortune too good to let go. Like my garden, my books multiply and grow, expanding into whatever space I give them. Unfortunately, I am in my thinning years–thinning my … Continue reading

When Good-Hearted Men Marry Selfish Women

John Driggs

“The Knife and the Wound Both Need Each Other.” — Sheldon Kopp, Psychoanalyst and Writer I’ve been married to Laura for 25 years and I’ve never been able to please her. We go for a period of time with things going well between us. Then out of the blue she gets bent out of shape over some imagined worry that preoccupies her. I understand that I may not be the most sensitive husband at times but Laura goes nuts and exaggerates how bad things are between us and rants for hours. She slams doors and usually wants nothing to do … Continue reading

I Can’t Go On. I’ll Go On.

Coiled. Mortal. The only thing I knew was that it was bright and I could hear the sounds of clattering wheels rolling over a tiled floor and people talking. Johnnie had his arm around me, holding me up while I walked. The usual feeling of realizing you’re dreaming or arriving back into reality after a black out; you’re just in the middle of some situation or other with no knowledge of, or interest in, what happened before this exact moment but this wasn’t exactly that so I said to him “what’s happening” and immediately his eyes got soft and his … Continue reading

Keep on Learning

 “We are by nature observers, and thereby learners. That is our permanent state.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson Fall is heralded as the season of new learning–time to put on the mantle of student for the return to school. While I love taking classes, trying new things and enhancing my skills, I am not limited to the school year. Summer offers rich learning opportunities, too. The natural world is a wonderful teacher. I walk through the woods noticing nature recycling, replenishing and renewing itself. The downed decaying tree becomes a “nurse log” full of spiders and insects that provide food for birds … Continue reading

Living a Meaningful Life

  “Being empty is a lot like knowing the words to a song but not knowing the music. Feeling full is just the opposite. You know both the words and the music to the song and are able to sing them aloud with your whole heart.”   “I don’t know why I’m I so unhappy. I’m proud of being successful. I make a comfortable living with a good job. My wife is gorgeous and we are reasonably happy together. Our kids do well in school. We have savings for our retirement years. We go to many parties with our friends … Continue reading

Retreat: Regaining Perspective

When I visit the Minneapolis Institute of Art I always stroll through the Impressionism Gallery. I love the spontaneity and movement of impressionist art. It piques my curiosity as to how it is put together. What is the magical technique? I pick a composition and view it from various angles. First I look from the center of the gallery, scanning from left to right, top to bottom, taking in the whole impression. Then I step in to focus on a particular detail or interaction or slice of the scene. Finally I retire to the back wall and view it from … Continue reading

Being Used is Different from Being Loved

John Driggs

“It’s not the pretending, but the pretending that we are not pretending that hurts us.” — Sheldon Kopp, psychoanalyst and author Most of us at least intellectually understand that real love is different from exploitive caring. Caring for someone because of what they do for us is not the same as caring for someone because of who they are. However such clarity soon fades when we become emotionally vulnerable in relationships. Often then, the mind cannot see what the heart already knows. Inevitably heartbreak happens in exploitative relations. Often what hurts us the most is not having our hearts broken … Continue reading

Color me Alive

“I prefer living in color.” —David Hockney We just finished a simple bathroom fix, nothing so daring as ripping out and starting afresh. The swirly tan plastic tiles that cover the bottom half of three walls stayed – I have taken to thinking of them as vintage. The wall paper had to go, vintage or not. Vintage tile, vinyl floor, painted walls. Since sparkling ceramic tile, heated floors and giant tubs were out of our project scope, we opted for color. The built-in vanity was sturdy enough to accommodate the new oval sink and a fresh counter top. Its former … Continue reading

A Long Life. Living in The Blue Zone has its rewards

A long healthy life is no accident. It begins with good genes, but it also depends on good habits.” — Dan Beuttner A favorite aunt of mine turns 100 in February. She was born in 1917– the same year the U.S. entered World War I, women suffragettes fought for the vote and a first class stamp cost three cents. She’s lived through a lot, including the roaring 20s, the Great Depression, World War II, the moon landing, the turning of the millennium – times of trial and times of celebration. She remembers it all clearly. My aunt is still in … Continue reading

Managing Stress in an Impaired Culture

John Driggs

“You are not entirely your circumstances. Work on your own life and happiness. Never give up. For starters, embrace the miracle of love, love strong enough to guide or drive one into the great estate of maturity, or, to put it another way, into the apprehension and acceptance of one’s own identity. Do this with everyone you meet, where possible and with cautious respect where impossible. Your worries will be birds that take flight and unburden your shoulders.” Adapted from a quote by James Baldwin, 1964 In case you haven’t noticed it already, we’ve just had a very traumatizing presidential … Continue reading

Can I Leave my Partner After Years of an Unfulfilling Relationship?

John Driggs

Our greatest life decisions are always made on the basis of incomplete information. ~Sheldon Kopp, psychoanalyst and author Probably the most difficult decision we’ll ever make in our lifetime is deciding to stay or leave a life partner when the relationship has been continually unfulfilling. Certainly the right decision is generally unclear to us. Most of us can’t even stand the thought of ever separating from a loved one even when we are continually unhappy. We automatically put our own happiness on the back burner and stay loyal to the bitter end. We deny how bad things really are. This … Continue reading

Keeping an Eye on The Big Picture

I very much enjoy my new home group, and I don’t particularly mind that they wind up with The Lord’s Prayer instead of the Serenity. The sound of human voices in worship is always stirring, and the prayer is poetic, its rising cadence leading up to the climactic phrase about power and glory forever and ever. I can’t, however, make myself say The Lord’s Prayer, because it’s a Christian prayer and I am not, either culturally or spiritually, a Christian. I understand that we are human, and live human lives, so our spirituality is likely going to be determined by … Continue reading