Author: MaryCarey (Page 2 of 2)

Companger-when anger gets in the way of compassion

I saw someone who causes me companger.

Companger-when you know you should be feeling compassion but all you feel is anger.

I wonder, are some people here to test us, to see if we will take the high road, turn the other cheek, forgive and forget?

Nearly everyone I know has someone in their life who causes them to feel companger.  The person is infuriating and at the same time elicits feelings of sympathy.

Why do they continue to do these behaviors that are either destructive to themselves or the relationships they have with other people?  Don’t they see their role, their contribution to the drama in their lives?

In many of these cases there is some addiction—to shopping, eating, drinking, exercising, drugs, or some other compulsive behavior.  We know these compulsions must exist to assuage deep emotional pain.

We feel for them.  We want the best for them, but we don’t want to get caught up in their web.  We don’t want to be lied to or lied about or try to pretend they aren’t lying when we know they are.

You know you are dealing with a difficult person when they produce one of two emotions in you-anger or pity.

A friend of mine said these hurt souls need “space and grace.” Is that really the best thing, isolating them? 

Another friend speaks of not letting these challenging individuals vomit all over her shoes.  It’s a strong image—you are going through your life, keeping all your plates balanced in the air, and some person comes along with all their mixed-up emotions and throws up all over your shoes.

Maybe, “space and grace” is the kindest thing you can do for yourself.

From whom does my help come?

When I was a little girl, maybe six or seven years old, my family and I visited some relatives in Philadelphia, PA.  I was upstairs with my brothers and cousins and developed a nose bleed.  I was upset at the sight of blood and went downstairs, running to a relative for help.  Upon seeing me, this relative reared back her hand and slapped me hard across the face.

Others at the table where she sat were taken aback by her reaction, as was I.  I began crying, and she immediately explained that she thought I had gotten into my aunt’s makeup and had smeared red lipstick all over my face.  She didn’t realize I was bleeding, and felt badly about hitting me.

I share this story with you, because I feel we, like this relative of mine, have lost sight of what a cry for help looks like.  We aren’t reacting with compassion and a desire to understand, but rather with the same stinging slap I received as a child.

The election of Donald Trump is a cry for help from unemployed, or under employed white rural voters.

Players and band members sitting during the national anthem is a cry for help from people of color who are scared of their loved ones or themselves, dying during a routine traffic stop.

The speech from the cast members of Hamilton was a cry for help, asking our elected officials to acknowledge the racism, religious intolerance and misogyny experienced by our fellow Americans.

Women organizing to march in Washington is a cry for help against unequal pay, unwanted sexual advances and discrimination in the workplace.

Even the alt right, with its desire to develop a white nation state, is a cry for help as white people acknowledge their dwindling role as the majority in our country.

Clearly, there are several citizens who are not feeling a need to cry for help.  What race, sex and income group do you feel comprises the safest Americans?  If you can guess the answer as easily as I can, maybe we can all at least agree that while there is a percentage of our countrymen doing quite well, there are an awful lot of people who are experiencing a great deal of pain.

Maybe some of those people who are struggling will be sitting around your dining room table this Thanksgiving.  Maybe some of them didn’t vote for your candidate.  Maybe some of them don’t share your views.

What if, instead of arguing or choosing to ignore each other, we each asked, “how do you feel let down or left out?”  “What are your biggest worries?”  “What are your biggest fears?” and “What change do you hope to see?”

And perhaps most important of all, “what can I do to help?”

Many of our friends, neighbors and family members are issuing cries for help.  What if we lend our ears and listen to them instead of being quick to react and perhaps cause unnecessary pain?

On behalf of the Important

In October of 1995 I was working at a PBS affiliate in Pennsylvania.  On the third of that month, we all gathered together in one office to watch O.J. Simpson be declared not guilty in the murders of his ex-wife Nicole and Ron Goldman.

The trial had occupied water cooler conversations, dinner table discussions, print media, late night talk shows and evening news, except in one news outlet—The MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour. 

Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer never discussed the case.

Their lack of coverage prompted questions and criticism.  They lost viewers because people were eager to hear that day’s trial be recounted in detail on competing networks.

In an interview where they were asked why they didn’t cover the case, they said something worth mentioning on the eve of this historical election.

I’m paraphrasing, but what they said was something like, “We report the news that is important.  There are lots of stories that are interesting, and this case is interesting, but it is not important.”

Before MSNBC, CNN, Fox New and the myriad of other news outlets came into being, there was a half hour or an hour evening news broadcast on CBS, NBC, ABC and PBS.  The producers for these shows had to gather all the countless news stories of the day and decide which ones merited ninety seconds to three minutes of coverage.  It was an extensive culling process and the majority of the stories never made the air.

Then there was the explosion of cable TV news outlets with twenty-four hours of air time to fill.  It was the perfect place to air all the news stories that had been previously been edited into extinction.

Imagine trying to fill 24 hours with information.  It may not have seemed daunting, but then we watched as media mega star Oprah Winfrey launched a network which airs countless hours of reruns and refurbished crime stories.

It isn’t easy to fill twenty-four hours and maintain high standards.  What was once deemed interesting but unimportant suddenly makes the cut.  Sometimes it’s the lead.

So many of us are unhappy with the media.  We feel they are biased-they are.  We feel they don’t show the complete story—they don’t.  We feel they are trying to influence the election.  I didn’t think that was necessarily true until I heard Katie Couric respond to a comment that her interview with Sarah Palin had ruined McCain’s campaign, and she said, “thank you.” 

Media outlets are giving us what we want, what we will tune in for, listen to, read and share.  We go to the ones who share our views.  There used to be the Fairness Doctrine which required broadcast licensees to present the news in a manner that was honest, equitable and balanced.  The FCC eliminated this doctrine in 1987.

If you feel the country has gotten more partisan, it has.  It began in earnest with the repeal of this doctrine.  If you don’t like the media, know that they will change when we change what we want to see, hear and read—or when the Fairness Doctrine returns.

Until then, what’s interesting will win every time.


Standing for a Mediocre America?

I love my kids and hold them to high standards.   I never stop reminding them of their manners, and always expect high grades and responsible behavior.  I hold a beautiful vision for their lives and do everything in my power to make sure they stay on the right track and have a good future.

Your kids? Not so much.

It’s not as though I don’t care about them.  I hope they do well in school and stay out of trouble.  I hope things turn out okay for you and your family.  However, if your child comes to my house and doesn’t clear their plate from the table, I won’t make them stop what they are doing and return to the kitchen.  I expect excellence from my kids; I’m okay with your kids being mediocre.

I’ve been thinking about these different standards I have for my kids versus yours and how it’s rooted in my love for them and my high expectations for them.  I call them out when they make mistakes and I am kind of famous in this house for, “not letting things go.”

I’ve been thinking about this ever since watching Colin Kaepernick, other players, band members and cheerleaders kneel or raise a fist during the national anthem.

I have been wondering if their actions during the national anthem don’t make them the most patriotic people in the stadium.  What if they love America more than the rest of us combined?  What if they are treating America the way I treat my children and the rest of us are treating America the way I treat your kids?

What if all of us standing are content with mediocre America?  What if those people kneeling are not letting our country off the hook so easily when it isn’t living up to its ideals?

Half the kids in our country can’t read their classroom materials.  Are all of us who stand with our hands over our hearts saying, “hey, that’s pretty good.  Half is well, half.  Good job America!” the way I might tell your son, “Hey, a C is passing!”

Are all of us standing for the national anthem okay with the shooting of unarmed children and adults?  Do we think, ‘well, the occasional killing isn’t so bad as long as it doesn’t get out of hand?’  Do we think average is good and those who hold their fists in the air aren’t willing to settle for average?

The gap between the ultra-wealthy and middle and lower income families has never been greater—are all those standing before the game who aren’t in the 1% thinking things are just going to work out eventually and believing the Citizens United decision, allowing the ultra-wealthy to sway political campaigns isn’t affecting them too much?

Women are paid seventy-eight cents for every dollar a man makes.  When women stand during the national anthem are we saying, “keep trying America—you can do it–one of these days or centuries, men and women really will be equal?

Some people say those kneeling are being disrespectful to the military.  Twenty vets who fought for our country kill themselves every day.  When we stand are we saying, “I’m sure someone is working on that, plus it’s only twenty?”

Who really loves America the most—those of us standing and accepting mediocrity or those kneeling, holding America to a higher standard?

The Math of the Difficult Person

Difficult people have their own math equation.  I’m not talking about moody people or people who don’t agree with your politics.  I am talking about the people in our lives who send us to the therapist’s couch, the ones who leave you feeling infuriated and wanting to cut off contact because there seems to be no way to achieve a healthy relationship.

In a healthy relationship there will be problems caused by both people in the relationship.  When problems occur—someone says or does something hurtful—the person who is hurt will begin the equation with, “It hurt my feelings when you said, did, X.”  This may be called the accusation.

The other person may respond defensively, may say, “I didn’t mean that,” or may just say, “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings when I said or did Y.  That wasn’t my intention.”  This step might be called the acknowledgement.

The first step, X is sharing how you are hurt; the second step, Y, is acknowledging the person has been hurt and your role in it, and then there can be Z, forgiveness which then allows the offender to feel redemption.


Accusation + Acknowledgment =Forgiveness and Redemption

Difficult people follow a different path, and it never leads to Z, the good stuff of forgiveness and ultimately, redemption.

You might offer your accusation: “I was hurt when you weren’t honest with me on Saturday.”

Difficult people, rather than acknowledge the hurt they caused, choose one of three paths I have identified.  You may know more-

Path A Bring up ancient hurts

“You were hurt?  Do you know how I used to feel when I was a child and…?”  This is the diversion path.  It has nothing to do with the current situation and is meant elicit a pity response from you and cancel out any problems you may have with the person.

Path B Bring up old grievances

“You were hurt?  When I called you in 2003 you said you were going to help me with (fill in old grievance) and you never did.”    The difficult person has nurtured this wound for years, waiting for the perfect opportunity to spring it on you in the hopes it will cancel out any problem you have with the person.

Path C Death Threats

“You were hurt?  I wish I was dead, had died, plan on killing myself.”  This is the atomic bomb; when the going gets tough, pull out the death threats.  Once again, this response is meant to elicit pity and turn the conversation towards the needs of the difficult person and of course, cancel out any problems you may have with them.

They don’t acknowledge anything they may have done to fracture the relationship.  Without this acknowledgement, the problem is left hanging in the air.  Forgiveness and redemption are not available.

X Accusation + Path A, B or C= Unresolved problems

Something tells me this has to do with shame.  Maybe they are carrying around a heavy bucket of shame.  It sloshes around as they walk.  It is already so filled that they can’t take in your accusation.  They are all full up on mistakes.  They can’t acknowledge anymore.

What I would offer the difficult people:

The bucket you were given may havebeen filled by someone who lacked the capacity to forgive themselves, so they filled it with their own shame and then yours.

You can be the author of your own forgiveness.  Favorite prayer- I am not willing to forgive, but I am willing to be made willing

The people who accuse you don’t do it to hurt you.  They do it to repair a break in the relationship.

Grace isn’t just a girl’s name.

Why can’t we do just do things my way?

This is a true story.

 There is a farmer who goes into a workshop every day.  In this workshop he makes perfectly wooden spheres.  This is a very complicated task requiring knowledge of hypotenuse’s and cosines and other geometric terms whose meanings escape me.


This gentleman, while known for his wooden spheres, is also known for what happens on his farm.  People of all walks of life, going through various struggles from homelessness to drug addiction and just failing to thrive as an adult, come to his farm.  They spend time there, they work there, and they get better.

He doesn’t advertise any special service.  He isn’t a rehabilitation center.  His farm is just known as a place where you can go when you’re feeling broken and in need of repair.

The successful rehabilitation of formerly broken individuals attracted the attention of local mental health professionals.  They visited, observed, took notes, tracked progression and came away with their results.

It wasn’t what they did on the farm.  There was no group therapy or special diet.  The secret was in the woodshed with those spheres.

The farmer told them, “Every day, I go into that workshop and I work my will on those wooden spheres.  That wood bends, and is sanded and carved to do what I want it to do.  When I leave there, I don’t try to work my will on any of those people.”


Apparently, my friend, who works in the mental health field, felt I needed to hear this story.  She had listened to me explain that if only my kids would do what I know what would be good for them, everyone would be happy.

I truly felt I knew what was right for my kids.  Okay, if I’m being honest, I still do–  I’m just more open to believing they too might have some insight into what’s right for them as well.

It’s taken me awhile, but I get it.  Kids aren’t wooden spheres.  I need a separate workshop where I get to “work my will”  Lately, it’s been drawers.  And cabinets.  And closets.  And spinning/barre classes, although in those classes, I might be the wooden sphere.

Meet the Should’s

I had known some of the lesser should’s—I should have slept more last night, shouldn’t have brought that up, I should let him know—the minor leagues.

In 1999 I met the World Champion Should’s when I became a parent.

One day I wasn’t a mother, and the next, I was the mother to two very sick, neglected and very malnourished kids, about to turn two and four years old.

We became parents in Ukraine and had to finalize our adoption in Warsaw, Poland.  Something occurred in Warsaw that I didn’t know then, but understand now, to be foreshadowing for the next sixteen years of our lives.

After staying in a very run down, depressing hotel in Kiev, where our phone was a party line and there were two cots for Dale and I to sleep on, we were over the moon to stay at the opulent Sheraton in Warsaw where, when we checked into our room, we saw a bottle of wine a friend had sent.  

We were brand new parents with our beautiful kids and everything seemed perfect.

Our older son, who was nearly four, but spoke no words, saw the bathtub and became very excited.  I drew a bath for him which he lingered in and loved.


I watched my son in the bath while my husband watched our younger son in the room.  My husband poured a glass of the wine and called the friend to thank him.  I went out to take a picture of him on the phone, smiling, holding his glass of wine.  We were a happy family.


Then parenthood happened.

As I returned to the bathroom there was a scream.  Ethan had somehow slipped forward and banged his head so hard on the spout that a huge bruise immediately began to form.   Four years in an orphanage, and not a mark on his body; less than 48 hours with us, and he has a golf ball on his head.

 My husband came running in the bathroom to see what happened.  Upon his arrival to the bathroom, we heard a cry from the room.  Our younger son had gone to the desk where Dale’s glass of wine sat, picked it up and poured it over his head.


These three events-me taking the picture of my smiling husband, Ethan smashing his forehead into the faucet and Thad pouring wine over his head all happened within ninety seconds.

I shouldn’t have left Ethan to take the picture.  Dale shouldn’t have left Thad to come check on Ethan.

That was the night our should’s and shouldn’t’s began.

It would be years before I met their arch enemy:  compassion and forgiveness.

They’re leaving me

I talked myself down from the ledge at least seventy-five times this week.  The talks come about because of one recurring, torturous thought: “They are leaving me.”

They are my children who are leaving for college in one week.  They are healthy and relatively happy.  Life would seem to be good, and yet I find myself so overcome with a combination of fear, panic and sadness, that I’ll be driving down the road and let out a gasp, a cry, a sound, but no tears, just an aching sound with severe face contortion.  I can’t even cry.

What is so scary about them leaving me, and why have I been feeling it, although to a lesser degree, since I first took them to kindergarten?

I have seen Grey Gardens, I don’t want them to stay home and keep me company.  I want this next step in their lives.  I am happy for them that they will be enjoying four challenging, transformative, memorable and fun years.

So why is their leaving keeping me up at night with a racing heart?

The best I can come up with is this incredibly powerful protective instinct. Before kids, I had never known anything like it.  Being responsible for other human beings who are so vulnerable, is all consuming and completely overwhelming.

I remember hearing an interview with Maya Angelou where she spoke about a mother’s instinct.  She related a story about when her grown son was in Africa, on another continent, and got into a car accident.  He was going to be okay, but she somehow felt responsible.  That’s motherhood.  It makes no sense, but most moms hearing her story completely understand it.

Once you get into the groove of parenting though, you get used to being on high alert for dangerous situations and anticipating problems.  You get so good that eventually you don’t believe anyone, including your children themselves, can take care of them the way you can.

My kids are going to be two hours away, completely gone from my watchful eye, taking risks I would never have allowed, walking streets late at night completely unaware of possible dangers.

They are leaving me, and I won’t be there to protect them, and everything about that feels very wrong to every cell in my body.  How do I deal with this sadness, worry, anxiety emotional combo?

I yell at my children.

I yell because I am “future angry” with them—that is when you are angry over their potential bad behavior.

For example, I saw a car with sorority letters in the back window, zig-zagging, at a high speed, through traffic on Rt. 40.  Now, I need to go yell at my children about driving safely.  That’s future angry.

There are so many reasons to be future angry—walking home alone late at night, not getting proper nutrition, not getting enough sleep, not washing their sheets, drinking too much, no studying enough, not wearing shoes in the shower, etc.

It’s like the first time you hire a babysitter, only worse, because they are the babysitter.

And that thought sends me right back up to the ledge.




Page 2 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén