The Aftermath of an Accident

1273 Relax and Succeed - Dad there's been an accidentHe came in the door quite tentative, as though he was afraid of even being in the room. It was a kitchen, and his father was busy making a sandwich and was slightly distracted. “Hey Dad,” he softly interjected into the moment.

“Hey! How was the day?” His Dad spun his back to his son, opened the fridge, and started balancing a big collection of ingredients in his arms.

“You know, it was a day. Not perfect by any means. It had some parts that really sucked.”

His Dad smiled as he closed the fridge with his hip and turned back to making his sandwich. “Well, you know how life is. We don’t always get what we want,–[starts to sing it like Mick Jagger] but if we try sometimes…”

“Dad.”

[singing] “…we get what we need!”

“There’s been an accident–I was, I was in, an accident.”

The sandwich froze in suspended animation. Totally still, looking straight down at his bread, the father very evenly asked, “You’re okay. You’re not hurt? No one else is hurt?”

“No! No. No, I’m okay, everyone’s okay, the airbags worked and the ambulance guys said we’d all be okay.”

His father slowly looked up in a very slow, very scary horror movie villain-ish kind of way. “And you said something about… my car…?”

1273 Relax and Succeed - You get more apologies

His son gulped. “The car… the car is–I was in an accident. A lady, she was coming at me, and she was speeding and so I thought I had time to make the turn but….”

His father is listening in a very clinical way, and he responds likewise. His voice is unnervingly even. “Okay, well… if no one is hurt, and you’re not at a fault, then the other driver’s insurance will cover everything.” The son’s eyes bulge, and one might conclude that the official report may not align with his own. “The important thing is that everyone’s alright.”

“What if she lies though? It’ll be my word against her word, so…”

His father doesn’t take long to realise the son is delivering the truth in less painful portions. “Mmhmm. If the police can’t verify the stories they’re being told then who knows, right?” The ‘right’ part is goes with it’s own accusingly arched eyebrow. The father is barely containing an explosion of anger.

The son’s still too naive to notice his father is being facetious. “Yes! It makes me so mad that she might get away with that!”

“I can totally understand son.” The Dad slaps a piece of meat on the bread so hard it splatters his mustard, but he doesn’t even blink. “I can totally understand your anger. Your intense, burning, rage. It’s just so… intense, isn’t it? Isn’t it intense?”

The son’s starting to catch on and he realises he’s hiking pretty close to a bear. “Maybe I should just go and, and, think about this.” He gets an idea that he likes and runs with it. “Yeah! Dad, if it’s okay with you, it’d probably be good for me to meditate on how this happened to, you know, make sure I don’t do it again. I’m really sorry about the car.”

1273 Relax and Succeed - How much more grievous

The dad clears his throat, struggling through his pain. “Thank you. Ah, yeah. That sounds like a good idea. You go. And we’ll talk about this later when we’re both not so… emotional.”

The son eats it. He blew it and he knows it. Resigned, he looks his father in the eye. “Are we okay Dad? You and me? Is this too big?” The son looks genuinely scared.

The Dad sees his son’s character underneath his mistake. He’s still seething, he doesn’t deny that reality. But he can see that his son feels genuinely bad. The only explanation for that is that his son cares and shares his wish that it never happened. “Nothing is ever too big. Ever. Do not make me confirm that by having to visit you in prison. But even there–yes–I love you. But you’re right. This one is big. I am currently seething and I am barely not screaming at you.”

“If you have to I understand.”

“I would also be the first one to call the cops if you did anything serious.” The son puts his hands up. “How bad is it?”

The son grimaces. “I don’t want to tell you.”

“AH!” His father cries out in anguish and buries his face in his hands. Eventually, he slowly emerges by turning the act into a facial massage and a chance at attitude renewal. “Okay. Okay. Yes. Okay. Clearly Bad. Bad. It. Is. Okay. But you’re okay, everyone’s okay. That is the important thing. That is what’s important. It is.” He’s really trying to convince himself it is.

“Everyone is safe. All the people are good. It was just the things Dad. Only things, no people.”

The Dad sees his son’s attempt to paint it all as favourably as possible and that makes him madder. “Yes. Just the… just my… car.” He just wants the kid to take it! And he’d demand that if he was half good at doing it himself, but at twice his son’s age even he still sucked at just eating obvious responsibility. The whole reason was because people did care when they made mistakes. That made it hard to stay mad.

Suddenly the son turns and says very authentically, “I’m really sorry Dad. It was my fault. I wasn’t paying attention. I’m so sorry about your car. I know you really loved that old thing.”

“A lot of my life happened in that car.” His son just looks at the floor, understanding that it was more than a car that was wrecked. It was a talisman that helped his Dad find his way back to some cherished memories. The father clears his throat. “Okay. I am mad, you feel bad, that seems… appropriate. I would definitely like some time away from you though.”

1273 Relax and Succeed - Control your emotionsThe son puts up his hands again, guilty. “For sure.”

“Okay, good. Thank you. That will help. Please don’t ah… don’t try to make me feel better. I’ve just gotta–this is really painful, and I’ve just gotta feel that. If I don’t I’ll end up resenting you, and I love you, so that makes no sense. I can’t feel that love at the moment, but I know it’s there, so I’m going to trust the love I have for you and spend some time focusing on other things and eventually we’ll be able to sit in the same room without me picking at your smaller mistakes untiI I finally create an excuse to yell at you a bit. If and–no, when–that happens, please think of it kind of like a pressure valve. It’s better than a full explosion.”

The hands go back up again. “Totally understand. Perfectly reasonable price for such a big and horrible mistake.”

He’s still biting back a lot of fury, but he also proud of himself. “I like to think so.”

“No no–you’re doing good.”

“Really? Because honestly, I just want to kill you right now.”

The son grimaces. “I get it. I kind of want to be dead right now.”

Now the Dad grimaces a smile. “That helps.” He nods, with tense approval. “That helps; knowing you want to die.”

The son is entirely okay with that. “Good. Good. Yes. A slow and painful death. I deserve that pain.”

“You’re my son, I don’t know if I need the pain, but the death… the desire to die does make me feel a bit better. Thank you.”

“No problem. Thank you. This is…” The son motions to the space between them. “This is very reasonable.”

The Dad mock smiles. “Good. Good. Well, I think I should eat something–keep my blood sugars in alignment, you know. So, uh, you have a good day and we’ll, uh, talk.”

The son pauses. He looks at his Dad again. “Thanks Dad. I’m sorry.”

They have a moment where there eyes meet and they both know they’ll be okay. “Go.” The son half-smiles as he heads back out the way he came in.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Create More Unity in Your Community

1247 Relax and Succeed - If you want others to be happyWe evaluate, we name, we label, we judge, we value. Totally lost in ego, we use words like truth to represent what is really only our personal view. Reacting more to our own thoughts about things than the things themselves, we seek to remove all of our opportunities for personal growth by removing any and all offending ideas from our daily experience.

Is it any wonder that the world feels fractured when most individuals are walking through it with the constant urge to subdivide it down into groups rather than behaviours? How does it help to either subdivide or be angry at the perpetrator of domestic violence for instance? To be angry is to add even more negativity. It’s fine as an initial response, but once that washes over us our job isn’t to have a personal emotional reaction, it’s to do something constructive for our community.

Unity is created in a community when people from all walks of life can feel safe that they will be met with compassion and understanding when they’re struggling. That means the wealthy elderly lady walking her dog is equal to the strapping young man with the sort of childhood that leads him to be violent. People find it easy to be sympathetic to the little old lady even though (like every human being), she’s certain to have done some truly terrible things in her life. But our personal speculation about her will often be quite generous.

1247 Relax and Succeed - There are too many of usMeanwhile we have difficulty expressing compassion for a fearful or angry young man with equal challenges and his own set of mistakes. Our job isn’t to look at his clothing and terms of speech and his behaviour and then evaluate him, label him as an offender and his wife as a victim, and then dole out our compassion according to those judgments. Our job is to care about each of them in conjunction with their relationship.

To help we need to understand what in his life would lead him to be violent, and what in her life would lead her to stay for that violence. Our initial judgments are uninformed and useless. They happen inside our head. Even if they do externalize, they’re often just as ugly as what they’re judging.

The world does not benefit from our thoughts, it benefits from our actions. And that action should not be to judge and divide people into good or bad groups, our role is to support anyone struggling, whatever that struggle may look like. Right now, people are inclined to hate the very people that they should be loving the most.

1247 Relax and Succeed - Look out for each other

When we’re unhealthy and locked in ego we’re going to talk about how bad things are and who needs to change. We’ll start filling our social media with angry recriminations of this or that group, or we level this or that judgment about this or that social media post; or we comment on the news, on the behaviour of athletes, and politicians, and celebrities, and on and on and on. Meanwhile children watch us make those judgments, and we pass on to them a world more ever more steeped in the useless egocentric personal views that populate most people’s social media.

Those children deserve to see us offer them examples of where we find our own way past a negative judgment to find some positive sort of action, but instead we offer them endless examples of our judgments of how the world should be, or how it’s supposed to be. Even most television shows now involve someone actively judging someone else in a way that actually determines that person’s fate. It’s all built to appeal to our egos, not the unifying best that is at the heart of who and what we are.

We all have to drop that arrogance. It’s not our job, nor does any one of us know enough to be able to singularly know what the right answer is in any situation. We all need to stop casting judgments and making suggestions, and we all need to start getting to know our enemies better. We have to move toward the people we dislike the most, because the conflict is happening within us, not in the larger external world.

1247 Relax and Succeed - Compassion is a verbIt is we who must lower our sense of right and wrong and instead ask how we can help situations traverse the distance from tense and unpleasant to calm and rewarding. Remember, every time you either consistently negatively judge, or universally accept another person, you are engaged in the very deepest and most destructive state of ego. That’s like failing to throw a life preserver so you can instead scream at a drowning person about how they should have learned to swim many years ago. It’s cruel and it does not serve the larger community.

As Roger Waters said, (it doesn’t just apply to formal schooling), “We don’t need your education, we don’t need your thought control.” Indeed. Stop putting bricks of judgment between you and others. If you want to prove you’re developing spiritually, try tearing down your own wall, be vulnerable, and connect. Because while your judgments only serve to make the world worse, you compassion is the glue that can hold a society together through it’s most difficult times.

Trade in your judgments. Be a positive, constructive spiritual citizen in your community. If everyone learns how to do that, then when it’s us that’s struggling, we too will benefit from the compassion of those around us. Let’s all take immediate action to improve ourselves and the world in this way. I do hope you’ll join me.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Adult Parents Adult Children: It’s not always easy

1241 Relax and Succeed - Everyone grows at different ratesNow that Baby Boomers are the age they are, many are having to manage challenges relating to unsatisfactory relationships with their adult children, including complete estrangement. Things like the opioid crisis, shrinking job opportunities, and even anger over the parent’s past divorce or the child’s current one can all create rifts as the child–however old–works through their own personal issues.

The reason the Baby Boomers were less likely to hold their parents responsible for their struggles was simply because, at least the western world, the idea was that your accomplishments were always your responsibility, and so therefore they were also your own. Some families were naturally supportive and others offered little incentive or inspiration at all, but regardless the notion didn’t exist that a parent could or could not set their child up for success. Success was generally seen as a post-parenting adult pursuit. They were just supposed to keep you alive and make you into a responsible citizen.

Once psychology went from something philosophers studied to something that was used on laypeople, it took some time before people like Dr. Joyce Brothers popularized it on TV and then people like Benjamin Spock suggested there were better and worse ways to raise a child and suddenly a family was something to be analysed and graded and altered if it wasn’t thoroughly efficient at creating wealth and status and happiness. For the first time, a child’s adult problems could now be the parent’s fault. There was now a list of things that they ‘should’ have done.

1241 Relax and Succeed - If you've never been hatedWithin a few generations the unconscious families of the 60’s and 70’s gave way to the highly conscious–some might say overly self-conscious–parenting that is so concerned with micromanaging success that a new term was required: helicopter parent, which spawned the resulting term: adulting, to describe that period where the child becomes aware that they cannot be insulated from the responsibilities of life forever. Yet still today if a kid isn’t a Baby Einstein half the parents are worried they’ve destroyed their entire future already and so they try even harder.

Meanwhile the younger Boomers consider their parents in The Greatest Generation, and Millennials consider their Boomer parents, and both are either coming home or not coming home out of a sense of anger and disappointment. Now all of their personal struggles have been attached to all these new ideas about parenting that didn’t even exist when they were young. A parent can’t use 2017 techniques in 1970, and yet they will be judged by today’s standards, not those of the years during which the parenting happened.

1241 Relax and Succeed - Yes we are adults
The fact that this exists says a great deal.

In the 60’s western doctors were still teaching that it was unhealthy to show love to your children because it would steal their strength. Like today, those parents were following what they were being taught, but what they learned was from the infancy of the psychological movement and many mistakes were made. It’s no easy task. As we now know, what replaced it was possibly even worse, and efforts at improvement have instead lead to a record number of people who struggle psychologically.

In none of this has the parent really done as much wrong as the child’s perspective might lead them to imagine, which is why there is so much estrangement today. The kids who feel they’ve failed and are ashamed to come home, choose to hide. The ones who’ve been taught to feel that they were owed more either stay defiantly away in an attempt to exact some pain in revenge for the perceived mistake, or they come back angry wanting to know what deficit in their parent lead to such a huge mistake? That child will often get particularly emotional because if the issues aren’t with the parenting, then the fault will fall to the child, and that can be a terrifying responsibility to face.

1241 Relax and Succeed - One cannot be taught the valueA parent in 1960 couldn’t prepare their child for an internet, world any more than a parent today can prepare their kid for the world in Blade Runner 2049, or the one in GATTACA, because a kid born today is roughly the age of the lead characters in those films. Think about a world of robots and gene editing and uploaded consciousness and who knows what kinds of business and political structures; and then ask yourself if the parents of Boomers could prepare for a post-WWII world filled with divorce, women’s liberation, intercultural marriages, a health craze, and working online?

Given how old they are when they do it and what circumstances at that time are, and how much the world is changing around them, plus how uncertain the future has always been, no one can ever really know what a parent should do to prepare for a future that’s so unknown most of us can’t even begin to imagine it. Children will never understand the challenges of parenting until they are a parent themselves, and they will not understand what it’s like to be a senior parent dealing with adult children until they themselves have adult children. Experience is something that we have to wait to happen.

That’s why I like the Kierkegaard quote, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” And so, as tragic as some cases are, in every case a parent will have passed from this Earth before the child is even capable of fully processing what their relationship was. This creates poignant and sad events for people, but they are genuine events nevertheless. But they still are not signs of either a parent’s or a child’s failure. It’s simply how life is destined to go when parenting is seen as a subject-object concept that we should analyse rather than simply experience.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

The Bucket List

1238 Relax and Succeed - It is pleasant to have been to a placeMuch like the film The Princess Bride, I’ve haven’t yet ran into any people who disliked The Bucket List after seeing it. As with anything I’m sure they’re out there, but most people of all ages find that it has a stellar cast, a excellent script that is both funny and touching, and the final production all comes together quite tightly. It’s a very moving but highly enjoyable experience if you haven’t experienced its rewards yet.

While studios vy for our attention with giant, effects-filled extravaganzas, it’s always been humorous to me that these simple stories, generated by boring, elderly people, are the ones that sneak up on us and become beloved. It is fitting that The Bucket List is deceptive about its value, because it’s a great lesson regarding a common human mistake.

The film features Morgan Freeman as a very plain but dedicated family man who works as a mechanic, but who reads about the world with the hope of one day seeing its wonders. In contrast, his hospital roommate is played by Jack Nicholson, the extremely wealthy man who owns the hospital they’re in, and who can go anywhere and do anything, but his life is otherwise empty. Where one man’s life has depth, the other’s is shallow.

1238 Relax and Succeed - We must let go of the life we have plannedJack Nicholson is living the life we all believe we want. He has wealth, power, and the beautiful companions he surrounds himself with are easy to come by. But he’s dealing with a potentially fatal disease regardless, and all of his control of the hospital cannot help. Meanwhile Freeman feels like he’s dying with his dreams left inside of him, unlived. Nicholson has money, Freeman has dreams, and so despite the laments of Freeman’s wife and family, the two men set off together to tick off the items on their respective bucket lists.

Freeman’s wife is shocked he would leave his family considering his condition and potentially short time, but Freeman cannot escape the fact that he feels unfulfilled; that his life has been too small. In contrast, Nicholson appears totally fulfilled, but as the film progresses and the two men are away from home longer and longer, Nicholson begins to question the value of his life, as does Freeman. Where the rich man sees little, the poor man begins to recognise his wealth.

This is the nature of getting lost. It’s necessary in order to be found. People haven’t ruined their lives when they feel incomplete at 35 years old. They are on their way, first away from the relative peace and security of innocence, and eventually to boomerang our way back to what matters. We appreciate life when we are young and very old, but in the middle we’ll often get caught thinking too much and trying to achieve. The film lets us play out our dreams to their logical end, whereas we usually stop at the objects of our desires.

1238 Relax and Succeed - Fall in loveMoney, travel, achievement nor power can hope to bring us the peace, connection and value that comes from our relationships with those around us. As the old saying goes, they don’t put luggage racks on hearses. We all only have so much time. Sure, there’s things we want. But how many of us would trade the value already in our lives to get it?

Take some time today to really check in with your values. If you had six months to live and someone offered you the chance to jet off with no complications, no worries, and no financial strain, to experience all of your material greatest dreams, would you trade what you already have? Would you sacrifice that precious time by being away? For anything at all?

Too often we do as the Morgan Freeman character does; we live rich and full lives wishing for a rich and full life. Take the time. Look for what matters. And if we find it, we should be grateful that we began to realise that value long before our final departure.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

The Parent Trap

1224 Relax and Succeed - We must accomodateYou’re a parent and obviously you want to do a great job of raising your kid. Or maybe you know a parent who’s trying to do that. Either way, people have no idea what the future will look like so it’s essentially impossible to raise a kid for success. About all anyone can do is raise their children to be flexible enough that they can thrive in any future.

My grandmother lived on the prairies before steam powered machines hit the farms. One bad growing season and people in her generation literally starved to death in the middle of Canada. My parents both served in and obviously survived, WWII. Not all their siblings did as well. For my parent’s generation and all the generations before them, being a good parent was pretty straightforward: keep the kids alive, and try to teach them some basics about staying alive and getting along with others.

That was it. No books, no manuals, no classes. There weren’t different philosophies or theories to follow or adhere to. There were no real major rules to be broken as a parent as long as your kid wasn’t a criminal. And most people turned out pretty healthy and certainly happier than people test as today. Today it’s much different. Today there’s a lot of choice available regarding parenting styles.

1224 Relax and Succeed - A bad moment and bad dayStyles. Before, when two parents met for lunch, one parent could see the other parent’s kids were alive and they’d talk as two adults about things unrelated to their kids. Today people meet and fretfully discuss the latest article they read that either promises the path to certain success or that explains what is certain to lead to disaster. It’s all very binary, as though parenting is either good or bad when really it’s neither.

As much as we like to dress it all up in psychological terminology, “parenting” a child is really them just the kid mimicking or reverse-mimicking whatever the caregiver does. Parents are simply the child’s most common examples of human behaviour. So if someone truly wants to be a great parent, other than loving their child, they should simply let the child be and focus instead on being the best person–and best example–they can be.

Oh, and as you’re trying to be that great example, don’t forget that when you do set a bad example, you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it because that sets another bad example. Instead we should accept our responsibility and know it felt bad because it was out of alignment with who we really are. And if we have that feeling, then the child will be parented just fine. Accept mistakes as lessons and move on. Because even if that was the only skill you taught your child, they would have learned a lot.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.