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.

Betrayal

When does the truth expire? Maybe your friend said they’d make you Assistant Manager when they got made Manager. Maybe your parents promised to let you participate in something and then prevented you from attending. Maybe someone said they love you and now they don’t. Why did these people lie to you?

933 Relax and Succeed - With gentleness overcome angerThe truth is they didn’t lie to you. They said whatever they honestly felt at the time but for this to make sense we must lose the false notion that people are their names. Names are labels. In the moment people are their behaviour. So people in a state of ego will easily assume that you are not your history but rather you are your most current behaviour. Friends are the people who see past that to who you generally are.

In the case of the friend at work, their professional identity is suddenly completely transformed and so then is their relationship to you. That’s also when they start to find out the responsibilities and limitations that go with their new job–and that might or might not include hiring you despite what they may have wanted to do or thought they wanted to do.

In the case with the parents I’ll use me as an example. My parents were strict but fair and their rules were reasonable. One night–thanks to a pretty girl–I was out past my curfew and my parents decided I couldn’t go to a drum clinic I had bought a ticket for and really wanted to attend because it was being taught by a musical hero of mine. No go.

933 Relax and Succeed - I never knew how strong I wasMy parents hadn’t lied to me when they made that promise. The difference was, when I asked them the question I was following all of the house rules like my siblings. Later I wasn’t. And so the other me who was theoretically home on time still did theoretically have the ticket. I just currently wasn’t that kid to my parents and I accepted that I deserved the adjustment in the definition of me.

In the case of a relationship the trick is that the changes often happen slowly. A couple marries because they have fun together and they say their vows sincerely. But after a few years of nightclubs she wants to have kids and be a stay at home Mom, which is great, but after a few years goes by you have a wife at home desperately missing the adult time that work provided and so she’s not looking or feeling very sexy or fun.

Meanwhile the husband is stretched financially and his schedule is crazy. He’s always frustrated or upset and he gets impatient and disconnected. Slowly she becomes bitter about the lack of help and attention and he becomes bitter about the lack of gratitude and affection and suddenly they look at each other and see a completely different person; someone they’re not in love with. No one means for that to happen but without vigilance it will. Our relationships with other beings should always be very conscious.

933 Relax and Succeed - Unless you're one ofBy being more receptive and less punitive we will encourage a more secure environment in which people can risk making their apology. And until we all get there as a culture,it’s a lot easier to survive a hit of betrayal when we learn that the vast majority of it is really just a misunderstanding created by the concept of time and the vagaries of a symbolic language.  There are genuinely deceptive people but you can feel sorry for them. It just keeps catching up in all sorts of weird ways. But most people are sincere when they make a commitment to you, so before you get upset it might be worthwhile to look at both what society and the relationship have been going through. It might just place events in a temporary context where they make more sense.

Betrayal can be dangerous because it can play on the mind for many years if permitted. Because these stories involve people close to us we run into a lot of links to them in our memory all that time. That just gets us to replay and replay the same angry narratives and all it does is eat us away. We are better to never develop the feeling, but to do that we must not blame another person when we feel that urge. Instead we must keep an open mind that everyone may be innocent to a degree.

We all need to carry less fear and anger and hurt and blame and we must seek out more excitement and joy and compassion and connection. Look at your life and see where you spend time invested in negative energy and instead of just replaying those old stories yet again, consider looking at what happened again from the other person’s perspective. You might just find that seeing things their way could be what gets you feeling better. Happy meditating.

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.

Other Perspectives #81

761 OP Relax and Succeed - There are two sidesThere’s two sides if there’s two people. There’s three sides if there’s three people. And four for four. etc. etc. No two perspectives are identical. You’ll even change your own perspective over time because we all unconsciously edit our memories based on our history, which is always changing. We each learn to see the world in different ways because we’re all focusing on different things and we’re all giving them different values. So is a concert good or bad? That question has little meaning because it can be someone’s favourite band, but if they broke up with their longtime partner just beforehand then the concert is reduced to a painful reminder of a lost love, whereas for another person this is the first show they could ever afford to go to and they don’t even care which band is playing they’re just so excited to even be able to afford to go. And those individual perspectives will cause them to see absolutely everything differently. They might even use the same words and sound like they mean the same thing, but words are extremely flexible ideas. Is “justice” punishment, revenge or rehabilitation? As always–everyone will have their own view. So when you hear someone tell you what happened, what they really and truly mean is that they are giving you their impression of–or perspective on–the parts of it they were able to even perceive. And while they may not be lying, the fact remains that their personal view has no way whatsoever of ever being able to represent a larger truth.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, mindfulness instructor, coach and communications facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

Friends for Life

A good percentage of people have a fix-it parent; that person who perpetually offers advice that no one asked for. They’re generally people who try to create peace by trying to create predictability outside of themselves. They couch it all as advice, but really they’re the type of personality that is often more comfortable when its telling other people what to do. It’s all well-intentioned and in all likelihood a lot of it is useful and true. But all that advice doesn’t add up to what a friend can give you in no time.739 Relax and Succeed - friendship will not stand the strain

Deep friendship is a state of unconditional love. Unconditional love is love without conditions. Conditions are limits or rules or things we’ll tell ourselves a story about. And we’ll do that right up until we exact some kind of cold-shoulder revenge after which we’ll stop telling ourselves that story and we’ll start telling ourselves a more satisfying one. But those narratives, rules and limits are all creations of the mind. They are all thoughts you have about the other person and your situation but they are all based on your personal perspective and priorities.

Friends love us enough—they see enough good in us—that we are invincibly connected. They can make it through any external disruptions because they believe in the core of us. They know where our balance point is, even when we’re profoundly off balance. As soon as we stop moving violently they step in and hug us with words, silence, or arms and soon we are at peace and are gaining perspective. This is the great value of friendship: their peace of mind leads to enough space for us to go through an experience and come out the other side without feeling judged.

739 Relax and Succeed - Maybe the most helpful thingDo you see how love works? You don’t need to build bridges of love toward people. You need to take down your barriers of judgment. Right up until you get to the last one: the idea that you have to know the person. Friends are great examples of how powerful we are because they are the only people we listen to for listening’s sake. And if we’re real friends the only time we offer advice is when we’re specifically asked for it.

A lot of people say their spouse doesn’t listen to them. Well then you probably don’t listen to yours, but you do probably listen to your best friend. Start paying attention to where your brain is at with the friend. Because that open non-judgmental state of mind is what allows the love in you to shine through unimpeded. Practice knowing that feeling. Know it well and conjure it up in other areas of your life. Before you know it you’ll be facing lineups, flight delays and irritable people with grace and humour and everyone will be talking about what a great listener you are.

When we look at it closely our friends are our friends less for what they give us and more for what they accept from us. If two people can still see the best in each other during their darkest times then there is no real reason for that relationship to ever be undermined. Fairweather friends need you to behave in ways that they find acceptable. They’ll be great right up until you disagree with them. But a true friend loves and accepts you regardless of your views or behaviour. And that simple lack of judgment is at the heart of what makes any relationship great.

Call your best friend, thank them for doing what they do and then have yourself an awesome day.

peace. s

Other Perspectives #61

651 OP Relax and Succeed - Hurt me with the truth

We say we would prefer to always have the truth but we only say that during those times when we’re stressed by the act of not-knowing—when we’re stressed by our own wandering imaginations. In day-to-day experience we learn early-on in life that we’re likely to be punished for wrong answers. So people learn to give no answer, or intentionally ambiguous answers, or they state outright lies—yes, you included. You couldn’t find one person on this Earth who hasn’t done that. It’s human. Life is complicated. And people are fundamentally decent and we cannot always see their changing motives. So the real truth is, if someone has a choice of telling you the truth, but that means they have to watch you be hurt or angry because you’re hurt, then they’re not going to want to do that. Not when they could lie to you and have that pain deferred to a later date. None of these acts are horrible in that they are always motivated by an effort to get along. Yes, it’s true that these actions can inadvertently be cruel. Nevertheless, it’s still an inevitable part of life. People can make us all of the promises in the world but we won’t really know what anyone will do until we watch them live any particular moment. Because that is when we all decide how to live our lives, and in real-time people are far more likely to avoid your pain than incite it. If we accept this as fundamentally human it seems less like a failure and more like the poignant recognition of a basic human frailty. After all, we’re talking about the birthplace of many of music and literature’s greatest artworks. It’s important to forgive others because we’ll need that same forgiveness on occasion. So don’t try to live in a world made of ideas and don’t ask others to live there either. Live with human beings instead. It’s messier in many ways. But there’s still nothing better. 🙂

peace. s

Note: Everyone who posts or shares a quote does so with the very best of intentions. That said, I have created the series of Other Perspectives blog posts in an effort to prevent some of these ideas from entering into people’s consciousness unchallenged. These quotes range from silly to dangerous and—while I intend no offense to their creators—I do use these rebuttals to help define and delineate the larger message I’m attempting to convey in my own work. I do hope you find them helpful in your pursuit of both psychological and spiritual health.