My Love Affair With Carl

I was first introduced to the ideas of Carl Rogers, the founder of humanistic psychology, when I was in university back in the ’90s. I had a psychology professor who made fun of Rogers and his principles.

These days, if I were to run into that psychology professor, I would strongly disagree with his criticisms. But that psychology professor has probably kicked the bucket by now.

Anyway, after reading On Becoming a Person, I have come to discover that I love Carl Rogers. His philosophy on relationships and personal growth align with insights I have gained from my personal and professional experiences.

Rogers On Becoming
Cover of On Becoming a Person
Photo by M. Fleming

In my personal relationships and in my work with students, I have found that individuals have enormous potential within themselves.

Rogers discovered the same:

Gradually my experience has forced me to conclude that the individual has within himself the capacity and the tendency, latent if not evident, to move forward toward maturity.

Let’s keep moving forward.

Nostalgia for Richard Marx and The Importance of Syntax

Ah, it’s great to have memories of a first love.

Her name was Sonia, and she asked me to dance in an elementary school gymnasium years ago. The song? “Right Here Waiting” by Richard Marx.

So you can imagine the fuzzy feelings that returned when I saw Buddy Daiquiri—played by Richard Marx—in the episode ‘Poison Fire Teats Universe’ of Life in Pieces.

In the episode, Buddy sings “Right Here Waiting.”

My eyes started to tear up.

It was the perfect moment to express my love to my soulmate. But instead of turning to my wife and saying, “There’s nowhere I’d rather be,” I hear myself saying:

I’d rather be nowhere.

It didn’t go over too well…I wonder what Sonia’s up to these days.

The Evening My Wife Burnt My Heart

There was nothing out of the ordinary that night.

Mind you, there was a new dish on the table that night, but that was the new normal. My wife had been experimenting with meals since she had been on a new health kick.

The night’s dish was vegetarian tikka masala.

The tikka masala was a lot spicier than the food I’m used to, but I was hungry that night. It didn’t taste too bad. In fact, I went back for seconds.

It was about 30 minutes later when the pain started. My chest was on fire. I gulped down a few antacid tablets, but the fire continued to burn. It burned long and it burned bright. Death was a possibility that night.

“Was there garlic in that?” I ask.

“Yes.”

“Onions?”

“Yes.”

“Tomato sauce?” I ask.

“No. Diced tomatoes,” she says.

“That’s worse,” I say. “Spices? What kind?”

“It’s called garam masala.”

I look up garam masala: acidic and may cause acid reflux.

That evening, my wife— the heart arsonist—mixed in all the ingredients that contribute to my acid reflux and ignited it with a new, near-lethal weapon—garam masala.

“Honestly, I didn’t think you’d actually eat it,” she says.

“I guess I’ll know for next time, honey.”

Reader’s Digest and my Worrying Mind

My wife makes fun of me as I pick up the latest issue of Reader’s Digest.

“You’re so old.”

“But I like Reader’s Digest.”

“Yeah, that makes you old.”

I think about this claim as I adjust my glasses.

“And those silver rimmed glasses make you look old.”

I worry about looking old. I worry about getting old. I worry about my life. I worry about my wife. Is she going through menopause? I worry about getting cancer. I worry about fake news. I worry about the amount of trash piling up in our country. I worry about earwax. What’s earwax for anyway? I wonder why I worry and how to stop.

Lego and Change

My 5-year-old son loves building with Lego, and for a 5-year-old, he’s pretty good at it. Sometimes, I’ll be staring at the instructions and he’ll already have the right piece in the right place. His mind sees how little pieces come together to make something whole.

My son recently had a birthday party, and of course, he got some new Lego.

“Dad, can you help me build this?”

“Let’s eat the birthday cake first.”

“Okay. Then can we build it?”

“Sure.”

We scatter all the pieces into an open container, open the instruction booklet, and start building. He’s very focused, but like most kids, his attention span is not very long. Sometimes, I look up and he’s no longer there. Other times, he’ll ask me to complete the creation.

The last time it was a dinosaur. Unlike my son, I don’t love building with Lego. Sometimes it’s painful locating a particular piece and figuring out where it goes. Anyway, after a little hard work I completed the dinosaur.

“Check it out, buddy.”

“Good job, Dad. Now let’s take it apart and build a different dinosaur!”

“But it took me so long to build this one! Let’s just keep it for a while.”

“No, Dad. Let’s take it apart and build something else.”

It’s then when I realize it’s not about the creation. It’s about the creating. It’s not about admiring the creation. It’s about taking it apart and creating something better. It’s not about constancy, but fluidity. It’s about building something with the pieces we are given and once it’s built, using the pieces again to build something even better. It’s about improvement. It’s about growth. And it’s about spending time with my son.

Speaking in HTML

<blog>

<personal thought>Sometimes I wish people would speak in HTML.</personal thought>

<explanation>It would make conversations less confusing for me.</explanation>

<elaboration>I would know when people are being sarcastic. Or when people are withholding the truth. Or when people are hurt. All their words would be tagged with the subtleties of human communication.</elaboration>

<point repeated>Certainly, interactions would be less confusing for me.</point repeated>

<counterpoint>But I suppose there would be downsides. Interpretations, ambiguity, and poetry would be lost…</counterpoint>

<pun>Lost in a fog that would be mist.</pun>

<insight>And we wouldn’t be human if we spoke in HTML.</insight>

</blog>

 

Using “F” Words to Build Rapport with People from Other Countries

Over the years in my work, I’ve had many opportunities to work with people from other countries. It can be challenging connecting with someone from a different culture. However, it can be an amazing experience if we are open to learning and willing to build relationships.

I’ve discovered that having a genuine interest in an individual is one of the best ways to build a relationship. And when it comes to building rapport with people from other countries, I use three “F” words to stimulate conversations: food, family, and future. These conversation topics are helpful in bridging cultural divides and making positive connections.

Food. Who doesn’t like food? It doesn’t matter where you’re from, you eat. You may not like eating bland food as much as I do, but I’m sure you have a favourite dish. What is it? How do you make it? Describe it. I’m getting hungry.

Family. Most people can talk about their family. It might be a special bond with a sibling or a loving relationship with a parent. Sometimes you don’t get along with family members, but you still love them. If you ask questions about someone’s family and actively listen to the responses, you show that you care.

Future. Questions about the future are very relevant to students in college, the population I work with. But I see this conversation topic working with anyone from another country. Everyone has hopes and dreams. Why not tap into this core human quality and connect with someone?

I guess “F” words aren’t all bad. Food, family, and future: topics that help build relationships and help us realize we are more similar than different.

 

A Walk with my Son

“Let’s go see what’s over there, dad.”
“Okay, son. Do you think we’ll see any animals?”
“Maybe some bugs. But don’t squish ’em. We have to protect nature.”
“Okay.”
“I’m gonna drive a motorcycle when I’m bigger.”
“Cool. Can I go for a ride?”
“Sure. But you have to wear a helmet.”
“Of course.”
“Dad, some days I love you more, and some days I love mom more. I take turns.”
“Okay. Can you love us both?”
“Yeah…yeah, that’s good. Dad, do you want to have ice cream later?”
“Sure.”
“We can get some for my sister too.”
“Okay.”
“But let’s go for a long walk first.”
“Sounds good.”
“I love you, dad. BFF.”
“I love you too, buddy.”

On Being a Hero

If you’re lucky, there will be opportunities in your life to be a hero.

I was lucky enough to be given such an opportunity recently.

I wanted to taste the feeling. That is why I was purchasing a Coke© from a vending machine. Beside me, another individual was purchasing a bag of Doritos© from an adjacent vending machine.

doritos
A vending machine with Doritos at the top. Photo by M. Fleming.

My Coke© dispensed easily from the machine. I was excited to open happiness and make it real. My enthusiasm, however, was short-lived, for beside me, tragedy struck. The man’s Doritos© had not dispensed from the machine. The bag had fallen from its initial position and was stuck on a ledge.

The man’s face darkened. Oh, the disappointment and anguish. I felt his agony.

I saw my heroic opportunity and pounced. I tapped the glass. I tapped harder. The man’s face brightened a little. I saw a small sense of hope in his eyes. But the cheesy tortilla chips were still stuck. I tapped the glass harder. I stuck my hand in the bottom of the machine. It read, “push,” so I pushed. I pushed harder and harder. Finally, the Doritos© dislodged.

The man’s face lit up. The audience cheered. And the hero smiled.

Nothing feels more heroic than freeing another person’s Doritos©. So be mindful of the little golden things in life.