Why Our Heads Fill Up with Too Many Thoughts and What to Do About It

If it hadn’t been so annoying, it would have been hilarious.

Several months ago, the American Psychological Association Practice Organization (APAPO) started a new listserv. The problem was, they didn’t ask permission; they just automatically added everyone in the organization to the list. Then, several weeks later, they sent out the first email—a relatively innocuous, informational correspondence. Useful to some. Spammy to others.

And the listserv exploded.

mindfulness

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It started with a handful of people asking to be removed from the list. Then, people who weren’t annoyed by the original email got annoyed by the extra emails, and they began demanding to be removed, as well. Next, people who had ignored the first round of complaints got angry at the exponential increase in messages, and they too replied to everyone, lambasting the whole community. My inbox was overflowing, even though the APAPO had only sent a single email.

The problem wasn’t the original email; it was the reaction to it.

This is how our minds work, too.

Why Trying to Stay Married Forever Could Kill Your Marriage

marriage

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Before I got married, I was totally insecure.

And I thought getting married would finally absolve me of my torturously low self-esteem. I figured my anxiety would go away, because I’d no longer have to wonder if I was going to be loved forever. And I figured my loneliness would disappear, because we’d tangle our lives together.

I, um, miscalculated.

My fear and loneliness weren’t sacrificed to the marriage gods on our wedding altar. They survived our union. So, I did the only reasonable thing: I tried to guarantee our marriage would live forever, with anxious attention, constant conversation, and a taxing togetherness.

It wasn’t until later I realized: a marriage is like an orchid.

Orchids are a tropical, flowering plant, known for the vibrant color of their petals, their lush fragrances, and the vanilla bean they produce, which flavors our world. And, with the proper care, they are incredibly resilient—in the words of some botanists, “nearly immortal.” But they are most frequently killed by drowning. Anxious caretakers, aware the plant is of tropical origin, assume it must be watered all the time. In their attempt to ensure it will live, they accidentally kill it.

I almost killed my marriage by watering it too much.

The 7 Most Cleverly Disguised Pitfalls of Parenting

When our first child was born, I was terrified, because I thought I had no idea how to be a parent. I’m no longer as scared as I used to be, but I think that’s just because I’ve gotten used to being wrong. Turns out, you don’t really learn how to parent; you gradually learn, one day and mistake at a time, how not to parent. Now, twelve years later—almost a whole teenager later—I know I’ve fallen into some pretty common parenting traps. At least seven of them:

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A Daddy’s Letter to His Little Girl (About How Fast She’s Walking Away)

Dear Little One,

We have this unspoken ritual, you and I.

When we pull up to the curb at school, and you disembark for another day in kindergarten, we both know I’m going to idle there and keep an eye on you, until you disappear around the corner of the building. Some days, you walk briskly, never looking back.

Other days, you meander, turning and waving goodbye repeatedly.

Then, when we pulled up to the curb one morning last week, I said, “Sweetie, we’re here really early today; you’ll have plenty of time to play,” and you said something that squeezed my heart a little too hard:

“We have plenty of time for you to watch me walk away, Daddy.”

parenting

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Oh, Sweetie, if you only knew: that’s what I have done, am doing, and will be doing for your entire life…watching you walk away…

BREAKING NEWS: This Just Happened and the World May Never Be the Same

love

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(UnTangled News)—The global community was rocked yesterday by a divorce that may alter the course of humanity and the future of the planet. UnTangled News can confirm some basic facts:

For millennia, Love had been married to Power, clinging to Power and riding on his coattails, relying on Power to transform people and the world. Love was afraid to exist on her own in the world—afraid of what people would do to her and say about her.

But yesterday, something changed. In hearts and homes and villages and cities and nations, Love finally gave up on the relationship. Love just up and walked out on Power, ending their partnership for good.

One close friend of the couple, who goes by the name of Inertia, was quoted as saying, “They were always at odds with each other. They kept each other in check. While they were together, you got the sense nothing would ever change. And I kind of liked that. Now that Love is free of Power, I’m afraid she’s going to change everything.”

Reports from Around the Globe

Reports pouring in from around the globe suggest Inertia’s worst fears may be coming true—now that Love and Power are divorced, Love has been free to sacrifice and to lose and to be vulnerable and to invite and to release and to honor:

Why Healing Our Hearts Might Be Simpler Than We Think

broken heart

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I didn’t know the drinking glass was broken until I stepped on it.

My wife had dropped it a day earlier. It had shattered, and she had done a meticulous job of cleaning it up. But an impossibly small shard had wedged itself in the rug in front of the kitchen sink. Sticking straight up.

When my heel landed on it, the pain was exquisite.

It took a while for me to realize the shard was still in there, it took a while for my wife to dig it out, and it took while for the wound to heal—every step felt like I was wounding it all over again.

So, I started limping.

And it helped. It protected the wound from further injury and, within a week, my foot was healed. Because our bodies have been built to heal themselves.

Our hearts have been crafted that way, too.

This Could Be the Difference Between a Life of Suffering or Joy

suffering

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Three years ago, I bought an iPad mini.

I intended to use it, primarily, as an eReader. The idea of carrying all my books around in one place was a dream come true. The future was here—it didn’t have flying cars, but it did have portable libraries. And that was enough for me.

I’d be able to read whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I could highlight passages, bookmark and unbookmark pages, make notes and edit them, all without doing any damage to these lovely creations called books. I’d be able to increase the font, which would be better for my eyes. And I could read in the dark. Electronic books were cheaper and I could have them on demand. The joyful possibilities were endless.

Instead, I suffered.

Everyone has a different definition of suffering. I have about fifteen myself. But here’s one that is starting to make more sense to me:

Suffering is resistance to what is.

Expanded Wedding Vows for a More Complicated Generation

In the name of God, I, ____, take you, ____, to be my husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, until death do us part…

wedding vows

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Though I pledge myself to you today, my sense of worthiness will never depend upon the way you love me. I have a divine Light within me that exists independent of how anyone treats me, including you. You cannot make it brighter, nor can you extinguish it, no matter what you do. And you have the very same Light within you. From this day forward, I will honor your Light, and you will honor mine. This will become the rhythm of our marriage, and it will be called grace.

Though I promise to have and to hold you, I will not expect you to remove all of my loneliness. Because no human being can do that for me. Instead, I vow to make my loneliness available to you, to share it with you, not as a way of erasing it, but as a way to intermingle it with yours. In this way, our wounds will not vanish, but they will give birth to something new. It will be called belonging.

Though I promise to love and to cherish you until death do us part, I also swear that our marriage will not become the sole purpose of my life. Our home will not be the end all and be all of my search for meaning. Rather, it will be a safe place for each of us to dream our dreams, an open space in which to discover our passions, and an empowering place from which we can both launch ourselves into the world, to love and cherish it, as well. In this way, our marriage will become something bigger than itself, and that thing will be called compassion.

Today, I pledge this to you: I am not entering this marriage to lose myself, but I am also not entering into this marriage to hold on to myself. I’m entering into this marriage to live one of the great paradoxes of existence: that we are now merged as one, but also not. We are together and apart. Close and distant. United and alone. Fused and free.

Today, we pledge to let our marriage, slowly, over the course of years and decades and a lifetime, reveal to us one of the great mysteries of existence: every person is entirely separate from every other person, and entirely connected to everyone else, as well. And in this way, our marriage will become a part of something ancient and sacred. It is called unity.

This is our solemn and holy vow.

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The Thing We’re All Searching For (And Where to Find It)

peace

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The roller rink is one of those places time has forgotten and, as we pull into the parking lot, it seems this particular roller rink has been a little more forgotten than most.

A young lady stands behind the cash register. She takes our money, gives us our tickets for the skate rental, and then she walks around a wall and stands in front of the skates. (By the time I go to the concession stand for microwave popcorn, she’s staffing that, as well. By the end of the day, I’ll catch glimpses of her sweeping up. She’s a Jill-of-all-trades. It must keep the payroll down.)

It’s chilly in the cavernous rink and the ceiling is stained by decades of a leaking roof too expensive to repair.

Yet, some things are timeless.

The disco ball and the flashing lights. The playlist of pop hits from the previous year. The deejay. The rolling referee in black and white stripes. The cool guy zipping in and out of little kids, like a tiny human slalom course. My oldest son, rocking from skate to skate, mostly trying to avoid tomorrow’s bruises. My younger son, a little more practiced, clearly getting a thrill out of skating laps around his older brother. My daughter, clinging to both my wife and the wall, as she becomes less timid with each circuit.

And me. Dad.

Standing on the sidelines. In tennis shoes. Watching all of it.

Feeling this strange-wonderful thing creeping in and wrapping its warm tendrils around mind and heart. It’s not ecstatic but it might be joy. It’s not perfect, but it might be peace. The urge to check my phone for I don’t know what mostly subsides, and, for a couple of hours, I’m almost completely present.

I have no idea what to make of it.

My wounds are still there. My fears are still there. My questions are still there. Nothing special has happened. In fact, by most standards, it’s an excruciatingly mundane afternoon.

And yet.

I want to pause the moment forever.

How to Survive the Darkness of Depression

depression

Middle of the Night

It’s been a decade since my last depression.

Ten years ago, the darkness did a slow creep. Like the light in autumn—a few minutes less today, a few minutes less tomorrow—until one day, you feel like darkness is all that’s left. This time, though, it happened in an instant. On January 1. It felt like all the stars burned out at once.

Darkness is the absence of light.

When we’re depressed, we must hold on to this truth: depression is not something in and of itself. It is the absence of something else. This time, in the midst of my darkness, I knew depression was, simply, the absence of joy.

I knew it in the new Star Wars movie.