Latest entries

Earning the affection and respect of a child changes his world — and yours

by David McElroy

Derrick with Bella

I had just gotten out of my car at home Tuesday afternoon. I was in a hurry, but I heard a child’s singsong voice before I could make it into the house.

“Where are you going?”

It was my 5-year-old neighbor, Derrick. He likes to come visit my dog, Lucy, when I have her out. He also likes to come sit on my porch and talk with me. It doesn’t matter much to him what we talk about. He also loves other neighborhood animals, including a calico cat named Bella, whose family moved away a couple of weeks ago. (As you can see in the picture, Bella tolerated him. Just barely.)

“I have some work I have to get done,” I told him. “I have to go inside.”

“Oh,” he said with quiet disappointment.

I looked down at him and he was staring at the ground. He had pushed his bike over to my house and he just stood there next to me for a moment before he suddenly spoke.

“Can you fix my bike?”

I’m not a very mechanical person, so I knew it was very unlikely that I could help. But he seemed to need something. Honestly, it didn’t really seem as though it was about the bike as much as it was about my attention.

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Thank you for being among my first million readers over last five years

by David McElroy

One million visitors

By the standards of a major website, this isn’t a big deal, but it’s a very big deal to me that this site has now had more than a million visitors since it started five years and one week ago.

I wasn’t sure what I intended this to be when I launched and it has definitely evolved through several stages. I’ve published 1,418 articles — not all of which I still agree with, because my own thoughts about what’s important have changed over the years. I’ve elected to leave everything from the past, even the things I wish I hadn’t written, because they show a lot about my own evolution. I haven’t been writing as much for the last six months to a year, but I have a feeling I’ll return to writing more eventually.

According to Google Analytics, I’ve had visitors from 224 countries in five years. When I used to write more about U.S. politics, my readership was about 75 percent American, but slightly more than half of my current traffic comes from outside the United States. Having readers from all over the world makes me happy.

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We’re happier if we learn to ‘sell’ ourselves to people who want us

by David McElroy

Mismatched

I have a bad habit of begging someone to accept me.

I don’t mean that literally. I don’t fall on my knees and beg. But on those rare times when I want something very badly — love, approval, attention, acceptance — I’m very likely to continue to knock on a closed door. I am so terrified of rejection that I’m unconsciously determined not to be rejected at any cost. So I’m willing to destroy myself in order for someone to choose me.

Although this can apply to a number of situations, I’m going to use romantic interest as the example.

Let’s say I fall for a woman. That doesn’t happen often, but when it happens, I fall hard. Some people believe there are many fish in the sea, but my own experience is that a woman who matches me is more like a mermaid or unicorn — and just as difficult to find.

If I spot one of these unicorns and express interest in her, she’s either interested in choosing me or she’s not. And if she isn’t interested in choosing me, that makes me want her more. I end up with a terrible need to win her — probably to prove to myself that I’m worth choosing, that I’m not someone who is going to be abandoned.

A rational and reasonable person would say, “Well, she isn’t going to choose me. Who’s next?”

Instead, something in me says, “I just need to show her how much I love her and how much I can offer to her. Then she’ll want me. Then she’ll choose me.”

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Serious medical issue will limit
my writing here for six months

by David McElroy

My hospital room

Eight days ago, I went to an emergency room because I was having trouble breathing. Tests determined I have bilateral pulmonary emboli, which is just a fancy way of saying I have multiple blood clots in both lungs. I’ve been told that such clots kill 30 percent of those who have them before they’re even diagnosed.

I was very lucky.

I haven’t posted any new articles here in almost three months. I’ve known something was wrong, but I didn’t know what. I’ve had extreme fatigue, lack of energy and a general feeling of full-time exhaustion. I woke up exhausted each morning. Just walking my dog a quarter of a mile would drain me. I’ve been doing the minimum I had to do to survive — and then simply collapsing at home.

I knew I’d gained weight lately from stress-eating, so I attributed the physical symptoms to weight gain and the mental lethargy to depression. But I now know that another problem was building, although it’s impossible to say when it started.

Blood clots in the lungs make it difficult for the body to absorb oxygen from the air we breath. The blood vessels in our lungs normally take oxygen from the lungs and move it to the rest of the body. Since the blood vessels of my lungs were becoming more and more blocked, my body was having trouble extracting the oxygen from the air I was breathing and sending it to my brain and muscles and other organs. This accounted for the fatigue, both mental and physical.

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My new photography portfolio website is live in a beta version

by David McElroy

David McElroy Photography

The site isn’t finished, but the first version of my new photography portfolio is now online at DavidMcElroyPhotography.com. The sections for homes and people are in pretty decent shape, but the variety is sparse in the animals and nature sections. So the samples on the site will evolve, but it’s a start.

The site will work on mobile devices, but it will look best on larger screens.

I’m available for freelance photography assignments, primarily of the editorial style for publications such as magazines and newspapers.

Mundane expressions of love matter more than the Hollywood versions

by David McElroy

Father and daughter

A family almost made me cry tonight — not because they did anything wrong or bad — but because of the love I saw they had for each other.

Most families tend to depress me when I observe them. The dynamics I see — between husband and wife, between parents and children — frequently range from shocking meanness to simple indifference. (I’m never sure which is worse.) Sometimes the man is a sullen bully. Sometimes the woman is a bitter complainer who’s eager to criticize everyone.

There are dozens of variations. The worst are the ones in which you can see confusion and fear in the faces of the younger children — and cynical copies of their parents in the older children.

I see so many families which are some version of this, where the ugly realities of choices they’ve made have left them resentful and hollow at best. They’re people who seem defeated by life — and who are determined to take out their frustrations on the people they live with. Because I see this so often, it makes me happy to see something which appears emotionally healthy and positive.

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Selfish? ‘I love you’ frequently says ‘I’m desperate for you to love me’

by David McElroy

Please love me

Why do so many people murder those they claim to love? Why do we call these murders “crimes of passion”?

Could it be that much of what we call romantic love is really the need to control someone else? And could it be that when most people profess love, they’re really saying, “I’m desperate for someone to love me. Will you be the one to love and accept me?”

Here’s the real question that’s been bothering me lately. Is love always ultimately selfish?

At heart, I’m a romantic, in both the narrow sense and the broad sense. I identify with the line in the Postal Service song called “Clark Gable” which says, “I want so badly to believe that there is truth, that love is real.” I’ve believed in love — and continued to believe in love — at times in my life when it didn’t make sense. I need love to be real. I need for someone who says “I love you” to mean that she loves and accepts me — as a person, the way I am, for better or worse — rather than it simply meaning, “I like the attention you’re giving me.”

I’ve always ignored evidence to the contrary and made the conscious decision to believe in people who’ve said they love me, even when the evidence suggested otherwise. Am I idealistic in the good sense and just waiting for real love to triumph? Or am I in denial and setting myself up to be disappointed in people who are merely serving their own selfish purposes — for however long I meet their needs?

I don’t know, but the question has been haunting me.

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Facebook leads to marriage for couple whose love never died

by David McElroy

Reunited couple

When James got a Facebook message from Wendy in 2013, he didn’t know what to think. More than 20 years after a nasty high school breakup, he was afraid she was still angry with him.

James and Wendy were high school sweethearts in Forest Lake, Minn., a small town about half an hour north of Minneapolis. They fell in love and seemed to have a strong relationship. Then Wendy got pregnant but lost the baby.

While she was in the hospital, a friend told her lies about James — that he was cheating on her and that he had told people she had had a coat-hanger abortion. By the time she got out, the angry young teen wanted nothing to do with James. She wouldn’t listen to his denials.

They graduated from high school together in 1991 and then went their separate ways. They both married other people. James spent years in the military. Wendy had three daughters and ended up in Alabama. By 2013, though, each was alone. That’s when Wendy sent James that Facebook message.

Wendy told him that she would be in Minnesota for a visit and she wanted to see him while she was there. James said he didn’t know what she might want — “Maybe she still wanted to tell me off,” he said — and he turned her down without much of an explanation.

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Missing someone creates incredibly intense physical sensations in heart

by David McElroy

Lonely night walker

It starts out as a vague discomfort. Your brain knows something is wrong in your body and there’s an immediate running monologue in your head.

What’s wrong? I can’t tell what’s wrong.

Maybe your heart beats a little faster. There’s a gnawing in your chest. There’s discomfort in your gut. It’s almost as though there’s something inside you with an urgent voice of its own.

What’s going on? Someone tell me what’s going on.

But you have no answer for the voice. You’re confused. You don’t know what you need. You don’t know what’s wrong. You just feel a growing sense of dread and panic. The sensations in your body are growing more urgent.

What do I need? Am I hungry? I must be hungry. I need something. What do I need?

The feeling of missing someone can create incredibly intense physical sensations in your heart and in your gut. The discomfort usually starts in the gut, but sometimes it starts higher — in the chest around the heart. It all works together, but you’re not even sure what’s going on. You end up guessing.

This is about her, isn’t it? Why am I thinking about her? Was I thinking about her or something else?

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Kind words can make big difference for stressed parents at Christmas

by David McElroy

Stressed mother

As I pulled into a parking place at Walmart Monday evening, I could hear crying and screaming. A woman and her two children were at the van next to me. The youngest child was crying at the top of her lungs. The other child was yelling. The mom was screaming back.

I immediately didn’t like her.

“Get in the car and stop screaming,” she screamed at one child. “No, you’re not getting that. Just get in there and shut up, both of you.”

I sat in my car for a moment, silently judging her for being out of control and screaming at her kids.

As I got out of the car and looked over at the woman, I saw someone who looked exhausted, angry and stressed. She didn’t seem like a bad person. She just seemed like someone who was overwhelmed and snapped at her children because she had reached the end of her rope.

There’s a part of me that has a whole bundle of pre-made judgments for someone in such a situation. Her children are out of control because she hasn’t taught them how to behave. She should know better than to yell at them like that. She should act like the adult. She should be in control.

The list goes on and on.

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Start over here

When this site launched in 2011, it was intended as a way to find others who were sick of partisan politics and wanted to connect with like-minded people who were ready to go beyond politics and find ways of escaping. It has shifted focus in ways that reflect my own shifting thinking. I’m less interested in politics and more interested in looking at the things that make life worth living, such as love, creation, self-understanding and connecting with others. Every article I have posted since 2011 is still in my archives, but everything I write is a reflection of my current thinking. Sometimes I’m wrong — and that’s fine with me — and I don’t always end up agreeing with what I wrote five years ago. For now, you can still read what I wrote about the site’s purpose in 2011, but I should rewrite this. Read more.

Contact David

David likes email, but can’t reply to every message. I get a surprisingly large number of requests for relationship advice — seriously — but I don’t always have the time to respond. Besides, with my own romantic track record, maybe my advice isn’t worth taking. I’d like to find a wife one of these days, so maybe I should add an “application.”
I’m currently taking a break from Facebook, but I periodically use Twitter, although I have very little to say that takes 140 characters of fewer.
On Twitter, it's @David_McElroy.
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