Archive for October, 2016

Dead things must be cleared away before rebirth has a chance to come

by David McElroy

dying-leaves

Autumn is about death and dying. It’s about clearing away things which are finished — before a period of dormancy and healing which can give way to rebirth.

See those yellow leaves which are slowly developing brown spots and shriveling? I’ve been watching those leaves and the ones around them for about seven or eight months.

A limb of a huge tree has a tiny offshoot which hangs near my front porch. Every time I leave the house, I see those leaves. I watched them grow from nothing last spring. As the weather started turning warm and everything in nature started coming alive again, I saw tiny shoots of green that turned into beautiful shade for my yard.

By summer, they were beautifully lush and green. They joined with thousands and thousands of other leaves to form an amazing canopy — seemingly just for me — and they were a delight to see each time I stepped outside and started down my steps.

But this is what they look like Sunday afternoon. Are they already dead? Are they still alive but slowly dying? I don’t know. All I know is that nature dictates that what was once bright green new life has once again gone through a cycle of amazing vibrancy and is now heading toward death.

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

by David McElroy

actor-in-silhouette

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

harsh-judge

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

28-tick-marks

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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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 rarely have the time to respond. (Sorry.) 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.”

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