Latest entries

If I perform well enough for you,
will you give me love, approval?

by David McElroy


For just a couple of minutes, I was on stage. It was a small audience, but I was in tune with them and I was tailoring my lines to what they responded to.

They laughed. They smiled. They seemed genuinely appreciative. I felt warm and satisfied — as though I was being fed something incredibly nourishing — because they seemed to like me. I felt happy.

And then I walked off that stage. I left that checkout counter where two employees had been my audience. I walked out of the grocery store where I had given my impromptu performance. And as I walked alone to my car in the cool October night air, I felt really good.

I reflected again on my need to be fed by other human beings — and my need for their approval, love and understanding — and how I can be briefly satisfied even by such brief and insubstantial interaction when what I truly need isn’t available.

It’s a terrible thing to need other people’s approval.

There’s a lot of psychology behind that need. Many things seem to go into creating such a craving. I’ve spent the last 10 years thinking a lot about where that emotional hunger in me came from and how to deal with it in emotionally healthy ways. I’m not ready to talk publicly about that personal psychology, so that’s not what this is about. This is about the ways in which my personal needs — some of them healthy and some of them unhealthy — intersect with so much in modern media.

Even though I struggle with feelings of creative inadequacy, I’ve accepted internally that I’m an artist. For the last year or so, though, I’ve been struggling to accept my need to be a performer — and I trace the unhealthy branch of that struggle back to my need for approval.

Perceptive women in my life have noticed this and we’ve talked about.

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Self-compassion is difficult when harsh inner judge condemns you

by David McElroy


For a moment Thursday afternoon, I didn’t even feel like myself. I felt angry because I wanted to control a situation that I couldn’t control.

My anger turned to ugly words. I didn’t lash out very much. It was just a couple of sentences, but I was completely wrong. I had enough sense to realize — even as I was speaking — that I was handling a situation poorly. I walked out before I could say anything more and make things worse.

I went and sat down in a room by myself. I was flooded with a variety of feelings. I was angry, frustrated, hurt and — within a minute of so — ashamed.

It doesn’t matter what the problem was or what caused it. I’ve been thinking ever since then about a terrible pattern that I see in myself every now and then — not often, but more often than I like to admit.

When I am feeling especially needy in the emotional sense, I start to feel the need to be controlling. When I need something emotionally that I can’t get by myself, that turns to frustration and I express my frustration by trying to control others around me. Something about taking control can let me feel less needy — as though I’ve found a way to force my will into reality.

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Mom finds 28 reasons to put phone down, pay more attention to sons

by David McElroy


No loving parent ever decides that Facebook and other social media are more important than his or her children. Loving parents just don’t consciously decide such things.

But some people let tiny decisions add up — one after another — until they’re putting the online world before the children they love. Not in big ways. The children are still being fed and clothed. They’re still getting where they need to go.

But some parents end up depriving them of the most important thing they have to give — their loving attention.

Brandie Johnson of Lakeside, Calif., realized recently that her boys needed more of her attention — and she realized that was going to require that she put her phone down more often and pay more attention to her real world than to her virtual world.

Last November, Johnson decided to do a small experiment with her sons. I’ll let her tell her own story, which she shared on Facebook that day and which finally found its way to me on Tuesday.

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Now that his wife is gone for good, man is left with memories and love

by David McElroy


The man startled me at first, because I was standing in the middle of a cemetery and I didn’t see or hear a car. But the dead never bother me when I come to this particular hill for sunset pictures — and Alan didn’t bother me, either.

He stood silently just a little above me on the hill as I shot pictures of the sunset. I rarely see people there this late in the day, although it’s happened before. Most people seem to leave long before the sun starts sinking toward the horizon. Most don’t seem fond of cemeteries at night.

But Alan stood there watching quietly, seemingly absorbed in his own thoughts.

After I took a few more pictures, I looked over my shoulder and greeted him. It seemed uncomfortable to be so close in such an unusual place without at least acknowledging the presence of a living person.

We introduced ourselves and remarked idly about the beautiful sunset we were watching. Then he mentioned having been in the same spot this morning at sunrise — and I couldn’t help but ask more.

Alan’s wife died about a month ago. Her body is buried just down the hill from where we stood.

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Intense emotions let me feel alive
— but hurt comes along with joy

by David McElroy


A friend was telling me Wednesday afternoon about some terrible pain she’s going through. A long-term relationship ended for her not long ago and she’s hurting.

She knows the relationship needed to end, but she’s still devastated and hurt. It’s hard to adjust to the change. Everything feels wrong. She feels empty and alone. And she fears she might always be alone.

As I considered the hurt she was experiencing, I found myself thinking — not for the first time — that human life would be so much easier if we didn’t experience emotions.

Things would feel so much better for her — at least for right now — if she didn’t have to feel anything. If emotions just didn’t exist. She could live her normal life. She could feel better about her future. She could see herself as I see her — as a smart and beautiful woman with whatever future she wants to have.

But, instead, she is in the depths of despair.

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If you vote, you’re my real enemy — no matter who gets your vote

by David McElroy


If you don’t vote for the Crips, that just gives the Bloods more power. So you must vote for the Crips.

If you’re part of a gang, other gangs are your enemy. If you’re a Crip, the Bloods are the enemy. And vice versa. You can’t understand that all gangs are the enemies of peaceful people.

If you’re part of a crime family, the competing crime families are your enemy. You don’t understand that all criminals are the real enemy of decent people.

If you’re emotionally committed to being a Republican, you see Democrats as the enemy. For Democrats, it’s the other way around. You might see faults in the politicians on your side — mostly because they don’t agree with you about everything — but you believe they’re infinitely better than the politicians on the other side.

So if you’re on either side of that political divide — hating Team Red or hating Team Blue — you can’t understand that the entire political system, which is based on deciding which politicians get to control organized violence in order to rule everyone — is the enemy of all people who wish to be free.

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Words of appreciation can have power to connect us and heal us

by David McElroy


Never doubt the power of the right words to make someone’s life more pleasant and more bearable.

I’m in a pretty lousy mood tonight because I have an unexpected problem on my hands that I have to solve. After dealing with a series of one problem after another for more years than I like to remember, it’s been a relatively minor thing tonight that pushed me over the edge toward the pit of depression and irrational anger, a place I don’t want to go.

In the long term, I’m still on track to fix the problems in my life that started six or eight years ago after I withdrew from politics, so I know this is just one more minor hurdle to overcome. The issue wouldn’t even be that big a deal for most people, but it was the proverbial straw to break this camel’s emotional back.

I found myself feeling bitter, angry, frustrated and defeated — as well as empty and alone.

But in the midst of feeling these horrible emotions tonight, I’ve gotten messages from two people which honestly help.

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Can love last? Couple holding hands as her death approaches give hope

by David McElroy


It’s easy to be cynical about love today. It’s easy to conclude that love can’t last. And then something comes along that makes you think maybe love can last — connection can last — until the very end. Just maybe.

Nine days ago, a woman posted this picture on Reddit. Her simple caption said, “My Grandma, 96, with my Grandpa, 100, hours before her death this weekend. 77 years of marriage.”

I don’t know where they lived or what their names are. I’m not sure that even matters. The story is universal. The desire to be loved is universal. The desire to have someone to hold onto — in honest connection — is universal.

Most marriages I see are pretty terrible. Most relationships I see are just as bad. Most people don’t know themselves and they don’t know each other. They marry the wrong person. They live entirely different lives that are connected only by children, if at all. And most of them refuse to do anything meaningful to end their misery and learn how to make better choices.

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2-day-old baby reminds me that miracles still happen every day

by David McElroy

Newborn baby

I met Titus late Friday afternoon. He’s just 2 days old, but he’s already a miracle.

Titus is the first child of my neighbors, a young doctor and his wife, who’s a nurse. Even though they’re both in the medical profession and understand the process very clinically, it’s been obvious how their coming child was affecting them emotionally. They were excited and I’ve been excited to watch them go through it.

Jennifer wasn’t due to give birth until Sept. 9, but she told me weeks ago that she was certain the baby would be here by the end of August. She was right.

When I saw Ben Tuesday evening, he was carrying clothes to the car. He told me that Jennifer was already at the hospital and would be induced starting late that night, with delivery for sometime the next day. He was just grabbing a few things they might need. As I watched him drive off, I found myself feeling excited and nervous for them.

They came home sometime Thursday afternoon, but I didn’t see either of them until Ben was outside Friday afternoon when I pulled into my own driveway.

He told me Jennifer was fine and that it was a boy named Titus. (They had intentionally not known whether it was a boy or a girl.) Titus was in a window when I saw him. He had been placed into the sun’s rays for warmth.

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Goodbye, Charlotte (2009-2016)

by David McElroy

Charlotte on my desk

I lost my friend Charlotte Thursday evening. She was only 7 years old.

When a young feral cat gave birth to four tiny kittens seven years ago, Charlotte looked different from the beginning. It was hard to decide what color to call her. But however you described her, one thing was clear. Among the four little sisters, she was the alpha girl.

Charlotte was tiny but she was fearless. When the other cats would run or hide from unfamiliar things, she would stand her ground, typically looking on with a bored indifference that seemed to be her way of indicating lack of fear. Her only real enemy was the vacuum cleaner.

Before we knew she was a girl, an ex-girlfriend decided this kitten’s facial markings made the eyebrows look like those of a Vulcan from Star Trek, so she was initially known as Mr. Spock.

One of her sisters died very early. In the picture at the bottom of this article, they were about 6 weeks old. The gray one which was second from the left in that photo died shortly after the picture was taken. There was never any warning and I never knew the reason. The vet said it sometimes happens that there is something genetic wrong and it just catches up with them shortly after birth.

The remaining three girls seemed to love books — mostly for sleeping — so they were named for the writing Brontë sisters. As the alpha, the former Mr. Spock became Charlotte, the oldest Brontë sister. The gray one on the right in the photo was named Emily. The black one became Anne. Read the rest of this entry »

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.
You can check out pictures of my cats by following the McElroy Zoo on Instagram. I rarely post to my other account on Instagram, but if you like shots of nature, follow this account.

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Comments are not presently allowed. They've been allowed in the past, so many older articles have comments. I haven't found most public discussion to be generally useful or healthy, so I have disabled comments for now. I might revisit this policy in the future.


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