302. Forgiveness vs. Emotional Constipation


Lots of folks are stuck, or as I like to say, emotionally constipated. They can’t get past some hurt or offense, some slight or inconsideration.  So they slaver over their hurt like a dog with a meaty bone. Try to take it away and you will lose a limb. It does not make sense on first thought that someone would cling to a hurt as if it were a family heirloom. Why hoard an infection or grasp possessively  at cancer? The indignant victim claims “Justice! I want justice!!” but all they have is anger that distills into wormwood bitterness over time. One sip will blind even the man who has built up tolerance to lesser liquors.

Well, let’s look closer. When a person is hurt by someone else, there is a split second or more in which the mind determines what emotional reaction to display. Often the reaction  is limited to sadness (letting go of the hurt) or anger (gripping tightly to the offense). Sadness yields control; anger seizes it. If you visit a pre school, watch what reactions arise when one toddler takes another toddler’s toy. Tears or hitting, whimpering or screaming. But there are other combinations of emotional responses one can make, depending on maturity and modeling examples.

Now a concrete fictional example. My buddy calls and says, “Hey, I got free tickets to the Steelers game in Baltimore from my brother-in-law. December game. Wanna go?”

“Are you kidding?  Of course. What do I need to do?”

“Nothing. There are four tickets, so I’m gonna see if my son and grandson want to come along too.”

“Awesome! Keep me posted so I can keep my schedule clear.”

“Okay. Later.”

Time goes by. We chat here and there, but instead of getting clearer, it gets fuzzier. Eddie is vague and talks about if he gets the tickets instead of when. “What do you mean, IF?”

“Well,  Tom is backing up on the offer. He wants me to take his grandkids now.”

“Are they coming?”

“One of them wants to…”

“So what does that mean?”

“You’re out, man. Sorry.”


Here’s where the menu of options and combos arises.

1. Anger with some guilting attached.

“Bolsheviks, man! Couldn’t you have just not dealt me in to begin with?”

2. Victim drama and operatic exit.

“I can’t believe it! I mean, the hurt and betrayal are overwhelming. I have to go puke.”

3. Just tears and sobbing.

“No, sniffle, sniffle. How could you? No, uh, uh, uh, the hurt hurts so stinkin’ bad.”

4. Reverse energy attack.

“You spineless scumbag! You lied to me and aren’t man enough to keep your word.”

5. Pure guilt.

“After all I have done for you. I gave you blood, man. I gave you my kidney back in ’08. I want it back. NOW!!”

6. The fake with a twist of sour grapes.

“Oh, no problem. I wasn’t that interested anyway. I have a free community concert to go to that day anyway. No blood, no foul, man. It’s cool. Actually, I don’t like either team, you know. Plus, that late in the season they’ll be playing for nothing. Bunch of thugs anyway. No worries.”

7. Revenge.

“Oh I understand completely…which is why I am uninviting you to our New Year’s party. Yeah, just tear up the invitation if we send you one by mistake.”

8. Humor.

“That’s really funny, man. You got me going for a second. Pulling the rug out from under me. I mean it, you got me. A masterful ploy. Oh that’s too funny. You kill me. I get it. You punked me, Dude. Well done.”

9. Denial.

“This is not happening. It’s impossible. You are lying. I am going. I can’t hear you. Lalalalala.”

10. Passive aggression.

“So, okay. Um, but I booked a hotel room for that night, you know. Baltimore is sold out of rooms for that weekend. So, uh, if I cancel I’ll be out $160. So you’re gonna cover that, right?”

11. Self blame.

“I knew it was too good to be true. I’m a fool. No one really likes me for me. I’m a loser. I wouldn’t take myself to a pro football game either. I’m a waste of time and skin.”


Image result for psycho face  pictures

Not one of these reactions is a very healthy way out of the situation. Each of these options will keep the actor stuck in a place of bitterness and repetition rather than a healthy resolution. So I offer forgiveness as the preferred response to hurts.

The uninvited guy played by me… “Well, thanks for telling me. I can see it was hard for you.”

Ticket withholder buddy, “Yeah, I was dreading this scene. I’ve gone over it a hundred times and could not find a respectful way to tell you. I’m just sorry, man.”

“Okay, it really sucks. I was excited and told everyone I was going, you know, I really played it up.”

“Oh, no. Look, just tell them I blew it. It’s on me not you.”

” It’s not really. You got stuck in the middle. I’ve been in binds like that before. Remember that painting job I got into where the paint never hardened?”

“Yeah, what a nightmare!”

“It was my painting Vietnam. I got hung out to dry and abandoned by the paint guys. They could have resolved the situation easily, but they chose to lie to me. Thanks for not lying to me.”

“Whew. Are you pissed at me?”

“No. I’m disappointed and a little embarrassed, but I’m not angry with you. You are the messenger, Eddie. You are my friend. That’s more important than a stupid maybe awesome football game.”

“Thanks for handling this so graciously. I felt so stupid and rude. I told Tom I wasn’t going to the game.”

“No, don’t do that for me.”

“It’s not about you. I don’t like getting jerked around either.”

“So you’re really not going?”


“Can I have your ticket?”  (Followed by edgy laughter.)

“You suck, man, but you’re my buddy. Thanks.”

252. “Call the doctor or I’ll kill you!”

I tend to exaggerate, but my wife did say something like this to me this morning. You see  a month ago she’d written on a piece of gray cardstock that my doctor’s office had called me for a follow up appointment … because she does not want to be a widow at 58, especially since I have finally learned to dance with her and show some promise for retirement. I had faithfully used that reminder card as my bookmark for the past month. She bugged me a few times and I said that I would call the office to schedule, but here I am thirty days later, senseless and defenseless. She’s worried that I may have some hidden cancer that is eating me up, metastasizing as I am fantasizing about being younger and buffer than I am. I told you that I tend to exaggerate. Now keep in mind, my blogstas, this is the same woman who once told me to unloosen my belt and unthaw the frozen roast beef. To which I replied, “You want me to tighten the belt and refreeze the meat?” The current threat is ironic, I think.  It boils down to this paraphrase, ‘Prolong your life or I’ll end it now!’ In some strange way I think I still have to unthaw that meat and I am it, and I am scared.

So this  got me thinking about other ironic communications in my life. Years ago in Sunday School class our then single gun-toting cowboy Josh was famous for saying off the wall things that would occasionally make sense. His favorite color was/is camo. His favorite shoe?  Tony Lamas boots. Favorite truck?  Dodge Ram. I don’t recall the exact conversation, but Josh offered that the devil comes on like sheep in wolves’ clothing. He meant the opposite; however, he had such a history of twisted clauses and phrases that it was anyone’s guess which way he wanted it to roll. The imagery is weird either way, but I’d never heard of herbivores skinning out a carnivore for a new suit.

That is the beauty of irony; it’s completely opposite of your expectations. Shame on you for thinking that way! Incomplete communication is the heart of many trick questions. Here’s one that occurred to me. “Which one of the following months has 30 days in it– June, July or August?”  Well, they all have thirty days, but if you push and pull a bit, you can imply that the answer ought to be June alone. And that vague gap is what lawyers drive wedges into to end contracts or nullify agreements or just to be mean.
At the coffee shop this morning the Nation was meeting in earnest. Two games of chess were played satisfactorily. (I dominated.) However, Joel, the consigliere exchequer of the Nation, was making noises behind us, two tables thither. It’s cold this morning, which got me to bust out the Eddie Bauer down jacket, affectionately known as Mr. Fluffy. Joel has a bizarre attraction to my fluffy jacket like the old Charmin toilet paper commercials proclaimed, “It’s squeezably soft.”  He has heard me say that it’s $2.00 a squeeze if I’m in the jacket, and $1.00 a squeeze if I’m not.  Anyway, we bantered back and forth about his predilection and how it meets a primal mammalian need to suckle. I offered to clip a binky on my jacket for next week so that he could have the full experience. He declined saying it was too weird. To which I responded, “Why is it okay for lawyers to pinch and squeeze their customers, but when their customers want a piece of the action, it’s a no squeeze zone?”
Ah, the suckling irony of it all!
Earlier this week, Tuesday night to be exact, I worked until 8:30 p.m. and then checked my cell phone– three texts and three voicemails. I could quickly guess that Danny’s Garage meant my car was ready, so I began walking the two blocks to pick it up, hoping that the keys were under the mat as usual. Two texts were from my wife reminding me to pick up our daughter at 8:30. One voice mail was, I was sure, her attempt to confirm why I had not responded to either text message. I’d been fully engaged with clients since 2:00 pm without any break, that’s why. I hustled to pick up the car, then the daughter, and answered another voice mail with a live phone call. It was exhausting. Guess what? My wife was upset with me that I had not texted her back a simple “ok” to confirm that I’d received her three reminders. At 9 p.m. when I was finally eating supper, I did not have room in my brain to store her complaint. So I just stared at her like the substitute village idiot.
Fast forward to Friday afternoon. As I was leaving my office to pick up the dry cleaning and go by the bank, I noticed a reminder text from my bride to pick up our daughter after her work day. Though I already knew this and had it on my calendar, I panicked and fumbled with my phone. I quickly typed “k” to acknowledge her text and avoid future pain. But my phone would not let me send that. No, technology was using me not vice versa. I tried again as I was driving, which I think is a crime unless you have just picked up 30 pounds of dry cleaning.  I missed the k key and typed “LLL”. I was screwed. The phone tried to edit me and refused to send that also. Finally I typed blindly “PLO” and sent it by mistake.  Uh, what’s the deal here? I pondered how she would interpret this error… “Are you comparing me to a terrorist organization?”
Sure enough, an hour later she called to inquire about the PLO. I told her that’s how you spell “ok” when you are driving a five speed SUV and you are scared of your wife’s retribution. Okay, I guess sometimes the truth is the best policy. She chuckled and gave me three points for the effort. “You know you could have just waited till  you got home to safely text me.”
“I know, I know, but I needed to unloosen my belt and unthaw the meat before you kill me.”







178. Tangled words, wires and narratives

In my line of work I hear a lot of stories, so many that it’s easy for wires to get crossed and confabulations to occur. It’s as simple as confusing song lyrics when our order-seeking brains close loose data points into coherent narratives. For years I thought the chorus to John Lennon’s “Across the Universe” was “Jack-a-roo Day Ohhhhmmm”, and referred to a little boy version of John Lennon day dreaming. Wrong! The lyrics are “Jai Guru Deva Om”, a meditation mantra of sorts. According to a reproachable source I found on-line–

So all together it means, “I give thanks (victory) (salutation) to Guru Dev (or heavenly teacher), om”.

Well that’s a different twist to the same sounds I heard. Despite my forced framing of the lyrics, I could not redefine them. It reminds me of our Japanese exchange student Yushi and his lovable language concoctions. My daughter Grace came home from high school in 2005 talking about this exchange student who was like a lost puppy, who was living with a retired dentist, and could we keep him? We had a spare room since Erin was in college. We met Yush and found him to be very much like an exotic lost puppy. We accepted the challenge. Yush’s English was spotty at best. His most common expression, uttered after a fruitless search for English words, was “Sumsing”, accompanied by a nasal laugh over a wide helpless grin. Even now, years later, when there is a quiet moment in our family, and someone asks another, “What are you thinking?”, it’s not unusual to hear the reply, “Sumsing”. Followed, of course with a snorty purse dog laugh.

He loved sports greatly but did little academically. He and I played basketball and chess; we watched a lot of sports on television. And we went paintballing once then to an Orioles/Red Sox game in the spring of 2006. Yush was a character in his own way. One night as we sat down to dinner of chicken, green beans and rice, Yush looked to me and said, “Missa Hahny, you got riscence?”

I was perplexed but began using context clues to complete the pattern.

“Do you mean rice, Yush? Would you like some more rice?”

“No, riscence. You got riscence?”

“I’m not following you, Yush. Are you asking about a special rice with incense? Like an aromatic basmati rice?”

“No, no. When you do counseling, you got a ricense then?”

“Ohhhhh, you mean LICENSE. Yes, Jackaroo, I have a license.”

It must have been around New Year’s when this conversation took place. I told my friend Dave about it. The next weekend when all of us went to visit him and his family over the holidays, he had a welcoming sign on his front door that said,


As I said earlier, Yush and I played a lot of chess. One day he moved all his pieces directly in front of my pieces so that no movement was possible. He said, “I win.” Sometimes he’d stack the pieces, putting a pawn on top of a rook and declaring it a queen. It didn’t help his game. He lost a lot of chess games that year. Meanwhile we watched playoff NFL football games. One Monday on the way to school, he asked me, “Missa Hahny, why blacks always win?” Once again I put his words into a previous context. I thought about the games we had watched the day before and pondered a nonracist answer that made sense. “Well, Yush, there are Black players on both teams, so Blacks will always win.”

He smiled at me and what I thought was a nice politically correct answer.
“No, I mean in chess. Why blacks always win?”

That’s when I realized he was jerking my chain. “You little crustacean. Because I always play black. That’s why.”

Image result for highway sign bridge freezes first pictureYush laughed his little chihuahua dog nasal laugh at me. Like the 90 degree day in May when we were driving to a picnic for the exchange students. We crossed a bridge that had a sign posted: “Caution, bridge freezes first”. He turned to me and asked, “Missa Hahny, you sink bridge will be freezed?”

Yush joined the tennis team at school, but he often forgot to stay for practice. If he remembered to bring his racket, he forgot practice. If he had his racket and remembered he had an away match, he missed the bus. The only proof I had that he actually did sumsing with the racket was he sporadically hit balls against our two garage doors. Thump, thump, thump, while our border collie Nick retrieved any misses. Then it was ON, because Nick would not easily release the retrieved tennis ball unslobbered. But I think that dogs speak all languages, and he and Yush communicated better than any persons did.Image result for border collie with tennis ball pictures

Yush loved eel. We went to a Japanese restaurant in a nearby larger town and that was his first choice. His smile and eyes and sighs of comfort all matched up that night. It was home cooking, baby. I’m afraid that many nights there was loneliness and feeling “otherly”. He liked our dog Nick and the t.v. character Mr. Bean, neither of whom said much. Oh Yushi! I think he was a lost puppy in Tokyo too. His lack of work ethic frustrated his successful father who told me I should be glad I had daughters and not sons to raise. Years later in a Christmas card Yush asked, “Why am I still small? I have no girlfriend” as if I could answer that question and state of being. My best answer is “Sumsing”…Chihuahua, huahua, huh, huh, huh.

Image result for multicolored beaded necklace picturesConnecting the dots is how we make meaning out of disparate details, dots, words, symptoms, signs, etc. We pull the thread of coherence through these bouncy beads in an attempt to make patterns, units of order, and ultimately a slice of reality that fits the larger pie of reality we already know. We often get it wrong, isn’t that right Yush?