On Finding Forgiveness

“When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.” Bernard Meltzer Why is it so hard to forgive? We can carry our hurts and injuries like precious gems in a velvet pouch, admiring their many facets, their high cost, how they refract the light of what once was. We recall their origins, their rarity, how durable they are. How could I ever manage without them? Who would I be? Over time these gems take on a life of their own. As we protect them, they grow in power and value. We … Continue reading

Hidden Shame: A Curse and a Blessing

John Driggs

Hidden shame is a powerful emotional and physiological reaction. It fills our being in covert ways. It can cause us to become violent or withdrawn from life and it can prompt us to bring out the better parts of ourselves in ways we never expected. It is both a curse and a blessing. Typically we may have some glimmer of how it operates in our lives but mostly we’re unaware of how much of our existence is driven by shame. It is often the obscured answer to such questions as: “Why did he murder all those people? or “Why can’t … Continue reading

Restoring Resilience

“Resilience is our essential nature, woven into our being as a natural capacity to restore and recover so that we can experience the joy and well being that are our birthright.” Dr. Henry Emmons, MD What is resilience? Is it strength, persistence, courage? Do you think about your resilience or another’s? Is resilience acquired or innate? “Resiliency is the rapidity with which we recover from adversity,” according to Richard Davidson, founder of The Center for Healthy Minds at UW-Madison. It is a learnable skill. By strengthening that skill we can recover from adversity more quickly. We cannot, however, avoid it. … Continue reading

Is it Time to Retreat?

Retreat. Withdraw. Pull back. When armies retreat they fall back, de-escalate, leave the frontline for a place of safety and rest. Me, too. I go on retreat to regroup, refresh, rejuvenate. Our frenetic lives leave us fewer and fewer quiet places to retreat into. Electronic devices have marched into every room of the house. They ride with us, walk with us, sleep with us. News is broadcast all day. Phones ring, beep, vibrate incessantly. Even out-of-doors, too often machines swallow the stillness. It takes much more effort to retreat. And we need it more than ever. I contacted several retreat … Continue reading

Stepping into Life

Emily Roiphe Carter

When I hear the word retreat, I tend not to think of meditation, cedar scented cabins, or even a prettily situated lakeside bench. I think of troops of traumatized and malnourished shoulders slogging through mud to get back from the front lines, I think of standing in the doorway of a party and seeing some bad decision I’d made making his way to the front of the buffet line; I think of retreat as something to beat hastily in order to get somewhere I can I can let out that breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding. Like most people, … Continue reading

The Importance of Character and Why we are Blind to it

John Driggs

Good characteris doing the right thingwhen nobody elseis looking. When I first met Jamil I didn’t know what to think. He is a charming, funny and intelligent man from Somalia who is active in his community here in the States. He helps many of his own country persons to make it in America as he has done well himself and has a good civil service job. He came across as somebody I would like to know, particularly because I hadn’t known any Somali people before. I would often tease Jamil about his adjustment to our culture as he would with … Continue reading

Dry in the High Desert

At the age of 55 one should be running out of “re-boots,” the do-overs, the “new starts,” the major moves should be done with, and instead one should be beginning to observe what one has made of one’s life, using amassed experience in a new way, approaching what’s called “wisdom.” Then there’s the economy. It’s the economy, that implacable arbiter of who gets what and when, that decides when enough is not yet enough, and it’s that same economy that’s decided that I should move to Gallup, New Mexico for my husband’s new job. It’s a place that’s new to … Continue reading

Cultural Savvy, Staying Healthy in an Often Unhealthy Culture

Most of us don’t think about our circumstances. We are like fish swimming in a body of water that is getting ever more poisonous. We don’t see how sick we are becoming simply due to the toxicity of the water. Wea adapt to living with environmental hazards and minimize toxicity. After all, other fish swim in the same waters we swim in. When we eventually do get sick we blame or pathologize ourselves and don’t see the option of jumping to another pond. Few of us take seriously the harmful aspects of our culture and how we are poisoned by … Continue reading

Virtue Revisited

“Freedom works only in a culture already committed to virtue; it cannot work otherwise.” Aristotle Freedom is a word we Americans like to bandy about. Freedom to carry guns, to practice our faith, to speak, to assemble, to pursue happiness. Our freedoms are many; any attempts to limit them are met with strong resistance. While we are committed to our freedoms, I wonder if we are committed to our virtues. Even the word virtue has a quaintness about it, smelling a bit like rosewater as it sits upright on a straight backed chair, drinking tea from a hand-painted cup nested … Continue reading

Like Dolphins Made of Silver Light

This weekend I was scrolling through the video playlist on a field biology site I like to visit when I came upon a warning, “Elephant Calf Eaten Alive by Lions: Not For Sensitive Viewers.” I make myself watch these videos for two reasons: First, I have the irrational need to convince myself that it is not as bad as I fear, and second, because my father once told me that if one loves the world, one must love it with open eyes, accepting its horror as well as its beauty. I had briefly wanted to be a field biologist and … Continue reading

Perilous Self-Deception: When we have a distorted view of how much others care for us

John Driggs

Many of us fool ourselves into believing that other people care about us more than they really do. Or else we don’t grasp just how much some people have to offer us and push away real love. Too many of us are in a no-man’s land of self-deception when it comes to getting close to others. Some of us admit that we just don’t “get” relationships; others of us feel we are experts on relationships. Actually neither is true. Many of us have inaccurate ideas on how people feel about us but only later on know when we are truly … Continue reading

Change? Me?

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are going.” Lao Tzu “Everybody wants it to be different but nobody wants to change.” The pastor referenced the tension in the congregation. Few were happy; most could name someone or something that needed to change. Status quo held tight. Many years later I recall his words as I think about the changes I would like in my life. Do I really want it to be different? How much am I willing to invest to make it so? I like to take stock of my life as the … Continue reading

The Holly- Frazzled Parade

Emily Roiphe Carter

It’s that time of year already — the gatherings, the food, the family — and, what I’m personally looking forward to most of all. The resentments. Gathering over the Thanksgiving table, around the Menorah, the Christmas Tree, the Harvest Spruce, whatever, is the perfect time to take out all those unresolved little wounds and give them a polish. After all, there are relatives around you may not see again for another year, some may be older, some may be living overseas and who knows when you’ll get your next chance. Of all my most cherished resentments my favorite could be … Continue reading

Forgiving Yourself When Your Children Suffer

John Driggs

Imperfect as we are, parents today deserve all the credit in the world for raising children in challenging times. Many of us fret over how we’re doing as parents. Examining our part in our children’s pain can be the most painful thing we do in life. Seeing our kids suffer today due to our own failings is often more than most of us can bear. We can hardly stand to think about such topics. It’s especially hurtful when our children are aloof from or conflicted with us today due to the wrongs we have done them in years past. Often … Continue reading

Enough is Enough!

“He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.” Lao Tzu I am bracing myself for the onslaught of excess and scarcity. It is so easy to move from a sense of wonder at autumn’s abundant and bountiful harvest to feelings of inadequacy and deprivation. I speak of the advertising barrage that begins before Thanksgiving, pulling me toward the worst of consumerism. Black Friday’s shopping spree claws into Thanksgiving’s lavish feast–even before the leftovers are packed away. Like vultures, big-box merchants strip the meat off the carcass of Thanksgiving’s holiday. We leave gratitude in the rear view mirror … Continue reading

Tell Me A Story

“The story – from Rumplestiltskin to War and Peace – is one of the basic tools invented by the human mind for the purpose of understanding. There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.” – — Ursula K. Le Guin I have always loved stories. I remember standing in front of the bathroom mirror that fronted the medicine cabinet holding all the medical supplies for our one bathroom family while my mom “set” my hair. She took a small hank of hair, dampened it with her … Continue reading