Tag Archives: happiness

Thank You, Daddy

daddy-kiss

Whether you’re a grown-up or a young child, your father probably occupies a special place in your heart. 

Over the years, my clients have shared many thoughts about their fathers with me. One client made me smile with this one: “I remember Sunday mornings listening to records and Dad dancing the polka in stocking feet on the linoleum floor in the family room!”

Can’t you just picture that?

Annette recalls: “I treasure the simple memory of Dad tucking us in bed each night and kissing us goodnight. And he was the one to get us up in the mornings and make us breakfast.” He cooked the evening meal, as well. She was especially touched by how he went out of his way to make their favorite meals.

Chad told me of his father’s endless patience: “Whether Dad was showing me how to throw a ball, helping me with my homework, or teaching me how to drive, he was always patient.  And when I got in trouble, or failed at something, Dad wasn’t the type to blow up. I can still hear him say: ‘Well son, what did you learn?’”

Claire loves that she can go to her dad for reliable advice: “What stands out about my father is how well he listens. I can talk to him about anything and I know I’ll get his undivided attention. I remember one time when I had been offered a new job and was debating whether to keep my present job—which I really liked—or take the new one. So when I shared my dilemma with my dad, he asked me questions about both jobs—what I liked about my present job and how different the new job would be. In essence he was causing me to weigh the pros and cons of each. He didn’t actually tell me what to do, but prodded me to examine all aspects so I could figure it out for myself. It fills me with a sense of security to know I can always turn to my dad and he’ll listen to every word.”

My own father never had much to say, yet somehow his love for his three girls infused the air with an ever-present soft glow. When he did share his thoughts, I could tell he was in the habit of doing some deep thinking when off by himself.

Dad was the playful one. I have precious memories of him playing hide-and-seek with us. He taught us how to swim, how to fish, how to plant a garden, how to dance and how to go after what we yearned to achieve. Like Annette’s father, he did the cooking.  When we came downstairs in the morning, a smiling dad and a breakfast of poached eggs awaited us. There were no exceptions. Even on Christmas morning, Dad made it mandatory that we eat breakfast before all else. Our presents would just have to wait. Seemed like hours! 🙂

Jan, another client, was moved to write about her late father.

“As I sit here anticipating my first Father’s Day without my dad, I wonder: Does everyone who has lost their father feel the same emotions I’m feeling?

“Before he passed on, Father’s Day meant worrying about purchasing the right gift and hoping it was something Dad would enjoy. It was trying to get everyone together and accommodating schedules. With five other siblings, this wasn’t always an easy task.

“My father was a man of few words. He had minimal education and worked construction his whole life. He worked many hours to provide for a family of eight. There weren’t many heart-to heart talks with my dad or one-on-one moments. Sometimes—I’m embarrassed to admit—I even wondered if my dad really loved me.

“But as I sit and ponder, I realize it wasn’t really about the gift I had to buy or the time it took from my busy schedule. Father’s Day represented the man in my life who was always there. He wasn’t going to divorce me or leave me. He was there for every holiday, every marriage, every divorce. Basically, Dad was there for every event.

“Although we didn’t spend a lot of time together and never talked about the latest topics, he was present and always watching over all of his children. More and more I realize there’s something comforting and important about the feeling of being watched over.

“Recently we buried my father, and as all six siblings stood watching over him in his final days, I realized there was no animosity between us. We were in total agreement in his last hours about how we would make him as comfortable as possible.

“It was the night my dad passed away that I finally realized what he’d taught me. He taught me how to love.

“And as I watched my five siblings gather around his bed that final night, I also realized they were given the exact same gift.

“Most importantly, I realized that with my brothers and sister in my life, my dad would always be there. I can now see him in each and every one of us.

“So here’s to you, Dad: You might not have taught me to put a napkin on my lap or how to write a letter, or to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ but what you did teach me was so much more valuable. Thank you for the gift of love. It outweighs everything else.

“Happy Father’s Day, Dad.”

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality

(c) 2016 Salee Reese

 

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Safe or Confining?

old shed

 

“Most people talk about fear of the unknown, but if there is anything to fear it is the known.”  Chopra

You know . . . there’s truth to that. Not long ago, I watched the movie Room. It’s about a mother and her son, Jack, who are confined to a shed they call “Room.” Jack’s mother was abducted by a man when she was seventeen. Two years later Jack is born. “Room” is the entirety of his world until they escape shortly after he turns five.

The world outside of Room is foreign to Jack. Even though he has an abundance of new people and experiences at his disposal, he would occasionally ask his mom if they could go back. That tiny world—including fewer freedoms—possessed a powerful gravitational pull.

Why?

The good ole status quo offers the security of the familiar. It surrounds us with predictability.

Jack mirrors our natural resistance to change, even if it would be to our advantage. Let’s face it, the familiar often wins out, whether it’s staying glued to an unfulfilling occupation, an unhappy relationship, a self-defeating coping mechanism, an ineffective way of relating, a limiting belief about something, or a fixed way of doing things.

The known seems safe. But that’s an illusion. In reality, we’re captives of a habitual and stagnating existence, and that spells confinement.

Why should we be lured by the unknown?  I like Chopra’s answer to that question:

“The known is the rigid pattern of past conditioning. The unknown is the field of infinite possibilities, that field of infinite choices which we can step into every moment of our life, when we go beyond the camouflage of our past memories, our conditioning.”  

Yes, we’re conditioned beings and it takes a lot of courage to venture into new territory—to leave our Room. But to be free we must.

 

(c) Salee Reese 2016

 

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Be Bigger Than Fear

Othersideoffear

 

To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose one’s self.

Soren Kierkegaard

Sad to say, many of us choose playing it safe over living fully.

Spencer Johnson, M.D., addresses this condition and offers a solution in a delightful little book, Who Moved My Cheese? The story’s setting takes place in a maze. Four characters, each desiring cheese—essential for staying alive, live in this maze.

Initially, all four hang out in Station C, a room where the cheese was plentiful. Therefore, no one had any motivation to leave Station C. An idle, settled-in existence suited them just fine . . . until, that is, everything changed: the cheese supply began to dwindle for no apparent reason.

Two of the characters, realizing that maintaining the status quo was riskier than venturing out, began searching for new cheese elsewhere in the maze. The other two, Hem and Haw, stayed put, torn between the need to seek new cheese and the desire to play it safe with the familiar. They let fear rule their destiny.

The story beautifully illuminates how we compromise the desires that spring from our core. Often preferring to remain snug in our cherished comfort zones, we have a tendency to resist change, even if our soul is suffering from malnourishment.

Figuratively, cheese can mean different things to different people. It can symbolize peace of mind, a rewarding job, a loving relationship, travel, health, a possession, running a marathon, taking up art—any of a myriad of things.

Johnson’s story highlights how our inflexibility can be our undoing, resulting in handicapping our spirit.

Stagnation occurs when we let fear rule us. Johnson poses this vital question in his book:

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Finally fed up with stagnation, Haw decided to release himself from fear’s grip. Hungry and weak, he took the courageous step of venturing into the unknown in search of new cheese. What he discovered was astounding: when you move beyond fear, you feel free.

Sprinting through the corridors, energized with courage, Haw was now thinking in terms of what he could gain, instead of what he was losing. Invariably, “he was discovering what nourished his soul.” It had to do with “letting go and trusting what lay ahead for him,” Johnson writes.

Interestingly, after finding the new cheese, Haw was happy and fulfilled—not so much because his belly was full, but because he was no longer letting fear control him. Taking a risk brought him to the wisdom that “the quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you’ll find the new cheese.” Haw wrote that statement—along with many other epiphanies—on the wall as he journeyed through the maze.

Recording his realizations on the walls served as a reminder to himself, but Haw had a secondary purpose in mind. He felt bad about his friend Hem, and was hoping the messages would act as a trail marker and also provide encouragement if Hem would choose to follow Haw’s example. He worried, though, that Hem would opt to stay hemmed in.

I like what Mark Twain had to say: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear.” We can’t ever expect to banish fear, but we can become bigger than fear. This was Haw’s ultimate triumph.

If you take a look at your life, you will notice just how many times you were able to get bigger than your fear. Up to this moment, your life has consisted of a series of advances that involved laughing at fear. You couldn’t have grown past playpen stage if you hadn’t exercised your courage. Just learning how to walk required you to overcome your fear.

Imagine the courage you mustered when you bravely raised your tottering self from a crawling position for the first time. That courage still resides within you!

Yes, we all have a Hem and a Haw inside. There’s always a part of us that wants to go forward while another part resists. But, in reality, we have little choice. The alternative is stagnation and a life without “cheese.” That’s not living.

(c) 2016 Salee Reese

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Gifts that Endure

family collage

A gift is defined by how it impacts the heart. 

Sadly, we’re hypnotized by ad campaigns that tie the act of gift-giving to the act of spending money. In fact, the more money spent, the greater the perceived value of the gift—and the greater proof of love.

Something has definitely gone awry when the measure of one’s love is determined by the amount of money sacrificed.

The word “sacrifice” is no exaggeration for many people around this time of year. Some have difficulty paying for heat and groceries. So, instead of joy in their heart during the holiday season, despair, guilt and anxiety fill the air.

Jerry is a good example. He’s a construction worker with four children. When I counseled him a few years back, jobs were scarce. I couldn’t help but sense his heavy heart as he talked about how disappointed he was with himself. Why the disappointment? Because he wasn’t able to buy enough “stuff” for his family. He was convinced he was a failure as a dad.

Another client, Nicole—a single mom—was equally distressed. She was laid off so her Christmas-anxiety was the cause of many sleepless nights and, like Jerry, she also felt like a failure as a parent.

How can Jerry and Nicole arrive at peace? I like what The Beatles had to say about that:  “All you need is love.”

As a therapist, I deal with issues of love and abandonment—stemming from childhood—all the time. But I’ve yet to encounter an adult client grieving over having received too few gifts as a child.

The fact that Jerry and Nicole are concerned for their children tells me their hearts are in the right place. The love—that precious commodity underlying a healthy parent-child bond—is more than evident.

In an effort to have them rethink their definition of a gift I asked them two questions: What would bring joy to your children’s hearts? Throughout the year, what do they ask you to do with them?

To get a sense of the sheer magic of those questions, imagine yourself at age eight and being asked by your parent, “What would you like us to do together?”

Our involvement with our children spells love to them. So my advice to Jerry and Nicole was simple: “Give them you.”

Sure, there’s a thrill—a rush—when receiving material gifts. But more often than not, they impact our pleasure circuits—which are fleeting—not our heart.

Ask yourself this: How many gifts do you really remember from last year? I would venture to guess that joyful experiences—involving people—remain memorable, evoking inner smiles yet today. Such memories clearly take center stage . . . because they impact the heart.

 

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

(c) Salee Reese 2015

 

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Freedom is Creating a Fabulous Elephant!

elephant 1

“It takes one a long time to become young.”  

–Pablo Picasso

I remember hearing about an 8-year-old girl who painted a picture of a fabulous elephant. What made her elephant earn the distinction of being fabulous? She used a wide array of colors.

Unfortunately, her teacher was stricken with an adult brain and was therefore incapable of seeing the fabulousness of that elephant. So instead of enjoying the unique creation, she felt it her duty to inform the little girl that elephants are not multi-colored.

The little girl had an immediate comeback:

“You don’t know elephants very well.”

No, we adults don’t know elephants very well—we don’t know a lot of things very well because our perceptual filter is so narrow. Children, on the other hand, are not confined to a rigid idea about reality. They don’t deliberately think outside the box . . . they just don’t see the box. The box doesn’t exist.

And for that reason, one could say they’re intimate with the realm of freedom. Writer and educator Ashley Montagu wrote about this rare freedom children so readily possess. In an article for Psychology Today titled, “Don’t be Adultish,” he suggested that we “preserve the spirit of a child, of youthfulness, inquisitiveness—the curiosity that is so evident in children. An open-mindedness that is free to consider everything, a sense of humor, playfulness—all these qualities we are designed to develop rather than outgrow.”

I like that. How unfortunate that so many of us mistakenly carry around the notion that we’re supposed to outgrow such traits. Doing so is something I call self-abandonment and a recipe for either a boring existence or depression.

No wonder we grownups are inclined to turn to the bottle, the pill, wild parties and so forth to remedy this sorry condition. But, as we all know, those things are merely band-aids. They’re no substitute for reclaiming our lost self.

Think about it, do children seek out the substitutes? No. They don’t have to. They’re neither enslaved by convention or weighed down by adultishness.

The child within each of us contains the seeds for authentic happiness.

The path to reclaiming that inner child looks different for each of us. I had conversations with Drake, Bud, Jane, and Garth about walking that path.

There can be no change, no opening to a new way of seeing and being as long as we continue to tightly grip that which is no longer working. We have to be willing and ready to let go.

And we attain the know-how for doing that by becoming young again—young enough to be able to paint a fabulous, multi-colored elephant!

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

(c) Salee Reese 2015

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Missing Sasha

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just a dog2

Sadly, Carrie’s four legged friend passed away.

When she told me about it a day later, she struggled hard to fight back the tears. She was surprised to be so affected. After all, it was just a dog, right? Wrong. Psychological experts are increasingly acknowledging the importance of pets in our lives. Indeed, they provide companionship, loyalty and even love—all qualities of a true friend.

To move through the grief, I suggested that she write a letter to her furry pal. She did, and I was so moved by what I read, I urged her to let me publish it. I explained how it could help many, many people who have suffered the same loss. What’s more, that single letter described so perfectly the special bond between humans and pets.

She agreed to having it published. Here it is:

Dear Sasha,

I miss you!!! I am writing this letter to let you know how much you have meant to me. You have only been gone for a little over 24 hours and I miss you everywhere. I miss you at your dog bowl and at your bed in the closet. I miss you at the top of the stairs barking because you were no longer capable of making the long journey down. I miss you licking your paws endlessly and begging for the crust from our pizza on Sunday nights.

But most of all I miss you by my side. You have always been there when I was sick. You never left my side for days when I was down and out.

You were such an inspiration to me. Loyal till the end!

You were the smartest dog I’ve ever known.

You made us laugh so many times. Thank you for that. You will be missed by all.

I miss you so much.

Your jealousy of Amy [Carrie’s daughter] has always made us giggle. Seven pounds of dog trying to wedge in between us lying on the bed.

As I write this letter to you, I am realizing how much you made us all smile. In today’s world, you don’t always get a lot of that. Did I mention I miss you?!!?

Thank you for being my best friend. Sometimes I feel bad for saying that because most people consider their best friend to be a girlfriend, mother or spouse. (Humans!!!) My criteria for best friend is: faithfulness, understanding, loving, being accepting, never judging, taking care of my needs, listening to my problems. Yes, you meet all the qualifications of a best friend. I hope I was the same for you, because you gave me such great joy.

As I sit here and write to you, I feel as though I’m 10 years old. Not only were you my friend, but you were everything to me that my parents weren’t.

With you, I never felt alone—never felt judged. You were always on my side, always protecting me, and always standing up for me.

Did I mention I love you??? It’s lonely here without you. Some day there may be another dog in our home but he or she will never, ever replace you. I love you with all my heart.

Until we meet again!  I wish you Godspeed.

Love you forever.   ~ Mom

If reading this brought a tear to your eye like it did mine, good for you. 🙂

I welcome your thoughts!

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

(c) 2007 Salee Reese

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No Limits

 eagle

There are those among us who put things in clear focus even when not intending to.

I cross paths occasionally with a woman confined to a wheelchair. Several years ago, she lost the use of her legs due to a car accident. I chuckle over that word “confined” when I describe her because nothing could be further from the truth. The agility I witness as she opens doors and maneuvers corners and tight spaces puts me in a state of awe. She whizzes from here to there with that wheelchair like it’s an extension of her body . . . not a hindrance. Actually, it’s an extension of her spirit—free and determined.

And … AND, I might add, she does all that with a baby strapped to her chest!

The world sees her as confined. She doesn’t. Therefore, she isn’t.

My client Bob was just waking up to the fact of his wheelchair-less confinement. You can read about it  here.

If we believe we are confined in our life—in any way—we are.

 

What do you think? How do we needlessly limit ourselves?

 

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

(c) Salee Reese 2009

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