Wednesday, July 11, 2018

I'm So Tired...

The Beatles' White Album is one of the best albums ever recorded. An overstatement? I don't think so. Are there valid criticisms? Yes, indeed. Is it still one of the best albums of all time? Absolutely!

I remember being fascinated as a kid with the variety of music on the album, and one of the tunes in particular that really captured my attention was the ballad I'm So Tired. The song, written by John Lennon while on retreat in India, is a lament about how exhausted he is after several days of insomnia, and features some pretty interesting rhymes, a good slow, flowing drum beat, and a bouncy, upbeat bridge. 

But what I found (and still find) most fascinating was the unintelligible mumbling at the end of the song, which some claim is either Lennon saying, “Monsieur, Monsieur, how about another one?” or the spoken words, “Paul is dead. Miss him. Miss him,” played backward. I guess the jury is still out on that one. 

I've written before about the importance of sleep on a person's physical, mental and emotional state of mind, and how this is especially important for someone in recovery from drug and alcohol abuse.
As a therapist, I work with a lot of folks with drug and alcohol issues, and I often point out to my clients that few things are more important for folks in early recovery than getting a good night’s sleep. And okay, I know it’s important for everyone, but it’s especially important for those in early recovery from a drug or alcohol problem. Sleeping well (operative word: well) is not something that happens very much when alcoholics and addicts are actively drinking or using, so making this part of overall self-care is essential.

Here are a few suggestions to help ensure a good night’s rest. (You know these already – just do them!) Turn off the lights and turn off the electronics. Make the room cool rather than warm. Don’t eat a lot or exercise right before going to bed. And don’t drink a lot of caffeine in the afternoon or evening. A general rule: 6 to 8 hours of sleep a night is a good goal for most people.

Getting a good night’s sleep gives the body and brain a chance to rest and recharge so that you can much more effectively deal with life on life’s terms. And as an added bonus: maybe you won't be so tired!

Thoughts? Say more about that...

Friday, June 22, 2018

A Little Help From My Friends

When I was in fourth grade I decided I wanted to be a drummer. This was based on the popularity at the time of The Beatles, and my thinking that if I could be like Ringo Starr I'd be really cool! Good plan. And, in fact, I went on to become a pretty decent drummer, playing in a variety of bands down through the years. Not so sure about the cool part, though. Oh well.

To this day I still think Ringo Starr was an excellent drummer -- not technically so much, but in the sense that he provided just the right background rhythm and groove for the band's music, which contributed to The Beatles' unique musical sound and style.

As far as Starr's vocal ability, well that's another story. Not exactly known for his great voice, he did contribute lead vocals to a handful of The Beatles' hits, not the least of which is the classic from the Sgt. Pepper's album, With A Little Help from My Friends.

I recently read the biography Ringo: With a Little Help, written by Michael Seth Starr (no relation), which clearly suggests that when it came to Ringo's own group of friends, he didn't always make the best choices or hang out with the healthiest people. In fact, for years he partied way too much with the likes of Keith Moon and Harry Nilsson, regularly abusing drugs and alcohol. And while Ringo and his wife, Barbara Bach, eventually found sobriety, his experience about the importance of hanging out with the right people can be a lesson to all of us.

In my work as a therapist and counselor, I work with a lot of folks with drug and alcohol problems, and when it comes to their social life, they generally tend to hang out with others who also like to drink and drug. (Surprising, huh!) So, one of the challenges for folks in recovery is learning to socialize in healthy and appropriate ways, which means establishing new groups of friends and acquaintances. While this can feel a little uncomfortable and awkward at first, it’s absolutely necessary for folks in recovery to make some new friends, as well as to reconnect with friends they knew before they started using. 

You can absolutely get by with help from your friends -- just make sure they're the right ones!

Thoughts? Say more about that....

Friday, March 23, 2018

It's Hard to be Humble

Mac Davis
In 1980, Mac Davis made it into the top 10 of the country charts with the song Oh Lord, It's Hard to be Humble -- a quaint country tune with a chorus that went like this: (Sing it out loud if you like!)

Oh Lord, It's hard to be humble when you're perfect in every way.
I can't wait to look in the mirror 'cause I get better lookin' each day.
To know me is to love me. I must be a hell of a man.
O lord, it's hard to be humble, but I'm doin' the best that I can.

Davis, who grew up in Lubbock, Texas, began his career in the 1960s writing songs for folks like Elvis Presley and Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. Then, in the 70s, as a solo artist, he rose to fame with pop hits like Baby, Don't Get Hooked on MeStop and Smell the Roses and One Hell of a Woman.
Me in the 1970s trying
to look like Mac Davis!

But for me (and others, no doubt) he will be remembered most of all for Hard to be Humble, a song that ironically epitomizes the exact opposite of what it means truly to be humble!

As a therapist, I work with a lot with folks in recovery from drug and alcohol problems, and for them humility is often a hard concept to grasp. Yet, it's of utmost importance -- because being truly humble is about getting off your high horse, recognizing that you’re no better than anyone else, and that you really do need to get some help! This is something, while in the throws of addiction, that's really hard to do. 

Step #1 in most 12-step programs is about recognizing that your life has become unmanageable and that you need to get some help. This is hard to do – at least for a lot of us. We have pretty good sized egos, and generally feel pretty good about ourselves. But at the same time, somewhere in the back of our minds – if we’re honest  with ourselves – we also wonder if we're really as good as we think we are. And therein lies the struggle.

One common description of the addict or alcoholic is that he or she is sort of like “an egomaniac with an inferiority complex.” That is so true!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Hold On Loosely

Back in 1981 I was working full time at a local hardware store and playing in a wedding band on the weekends. I had graduated from college, but had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up -- an issue with which I still seem to struggle from time to time!

In May of that year the southern rock band .38 Special had a top 40 hit with the song Hold On Loosely. Remember the chorus?
Just hold on loosely, but don't let go.
If you cling too tightly you're gonna lose control. 

The band scored another success the following year with Caught Up in You, and continued to tour well into the 2000s. But their signature hits go back to the early 80s -- some 35 years ago -- which makes me feel really old!

I heard the song Hold On Loosely recently and the lyrics got me thinking about how in our relationships the harder we push -- the more resistance we meet. In other words, the more control we try to exert, the less successful the results.

Now far be it from me to extract useful guidance from a rock and roll song that rose only as high as #27 on the pop charts, but I'll go out on a limb here: a lot of problems in our interpersonal relationships arise out of our need to control. Shocking I know, but it's true!

The fact is, more often than not, it's out of fear that we ramp up our need to control -- fear that things will spin wildly out of control if we don't tighten our grip. The reality is that when we recognize that fear and relinquish our need to control, then, and only then, is our stress reduced and our anxiety lessened.

Easier said than done, I know. And there are, indeed, times to step up to the plate and take charge. But they are the exception to the rule. So, in the meantime, take some advice from .38 Special and hold on loosely, but don't let go.

Can you say more about that?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

What, Me Worry?

When I was a kid I loved Mad Magazine. Every month my brothers and I would wait excitedly for the new issue to hit the newsstand so we could dive headfirst into our favorite features like Spy vs. Spy, The Lighter Side of..., and the Mad Fold-In. The front of the magazine, of course, featured freckled-faced coverboy Alfred E. Neuman and his trademark catchphrase, "What, Me Worry?"

The expression aptly describes the care-free and clueless persona of someone without a care in the world who lets life's troubles just roll off his shoulders -- an attitude toward life mirrored years later by singer Bobby McFerrin in his 1988 chart topper Don't Worry, Be Happy, and by Pharrell in the more recent hit Happy, from the movie Despicable Me 2.

Last Thursday, March 20, was the International Day of Happiness. "Never heard of it," you say? Well, I hadn't, either, but it's a day of global celebration established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012, which, in its resolution establishing the day, states that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal, and encourages the happiness and the well-being of all peoples. Can't argue with that!

In a recent post on The Positivity Blog entitled, "How to Stop Worrying: 9 Simple Habits," Henrik Edberg offers helpful and practical guidance on how to decrease worry and reach a higher level of happiness and well-being by utilizing, among other strategies, the disciplines of mindfulness and good, basic self-care. It's worth checking out.

Many of us, I  guess, would like to worry less. I know I'd like to! But the reality is it's not always as easy as repeating a McFerrinism like, "Don't worry, be happy," or as simple as adopting a clueless and naive, ignorance-is-bliss attitude as a coping mechanism for maneuvering our way through the obstacles of life. Rather, it requires being honest regarding those things about which we worry -- naming them for what they are, and recognizing when it's realistically within our control to do something about them -- and when it's not.

Say more about that...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood!

Today is Fred Rogers birthday! It's also the first day of Spring. And it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood!

I feel a connection with Mr. Rogers because 1) he was a Presbyterian minister, as am I; 2) he was a musician, as am I; and 3) he liked to wear cardigan sweaters and sneakers. Okay, well, two out of three ain't bad!

And even though I was 11 years old (and practically an adult!) in 1968 when the television show Mr. Rogers Neighborhood first aired, I still have fond memories of Mr. McFeely, Queen Sara, and the opening theme song Won't You be My Neighbor. I also remember well Eddie Murphy's parody of the show on Saturday Night Live in the early 80s, which Rogers himself allegedly described as "amusing and affectionate." Murphy's parody was funny stuff, I think, albeit a bit edgy!

In recognition of Rogers birthday, PBS Parents posted the following quote from Mr. Rogers regarding his philosophy about children and sense of self: "You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are."

As a therapist and counselor, I often work with clients who struggle with low self esteem -- a less-than-positive sense of self based on the perception that who they are as individuals is just not very good. Often these perceptions are the result of past experiences that have left them feeling like they're pretty much worthless and don't have much to offer the world. Conversely, when children are taught to feel good about themselves -- that they have value and deserve to be valued -- they tend to make better choices in life. And so, it follows that if we teach our children to have positive self regard, that goes a long way toward helping them make healthy, positive choices in life. I think Rogers understood that. It was surely reflected in his work.

Rogers made the world special. And you know how? By just being himself.

Can you say more about that? I knew you could...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Believe in Music

Believe it or not, I owned this record album! That's right. No lie. I really did! The album is Believe in Music from the fine folks at K-Tel. And contrary to what I had heard on television warning me that this album would not be available in stores, I did, indeed, purchase it at a record shop in the local mall.

The title track on this excellent 1973 compilation -- and I'm using the term "excellent" fairly loosely here! -- was I Believe in Music by Mac Davis. The album also included classics like Brandy (You're a Fine Girl) by the Looking Glass, Climax's Precious and Few, and Robert John's version of  The Lion Sleeps Tonight. And come on, you have to admit: it doesn't get much better than that! (Click the link above for a YouTube sampler of the album.)

Mac Davis's song, I Believe in Music, contains the following lyrics:
Music is love, and love is music, if you know what I mean.
People who believe in music are the happiest people I've ever seen.
So clap your hands and stomp your feet and shake your tambourine,
And lift your voices to the sky; tell me what you see.
And okay, so it's not the greatest song ever written (or even close for that matter!), but it does capture well the idea that music can make us feel happy and good -- good enough, in fact, that we want to to clap, and stomp, and shake a tambourine. I can work with that!

A recent article in Science Daily entitled, Trying to Be Happier Works When Listening to Upbeat Music, cites research by Yuna Ferguson, who says, "Our work provides support for what many people already do -- listen to music to improve their moods," In two studies by Ferguson, who performed the study while she was an doctoral student in psychological science, participants who listened to music successfully improved their moods in the short term and boosted their overall happiness over a two week period.

In other words, music can lift our moods. And while I've known that for pretty much all of my life, it's nice to have science back it up, as this study, and countless studies before it, does.

Is music a cure-all for folks who suffer from serious depression? Absolutely not. But for many of us, who find ourselves feeling a little bit down from time to time, a strong dose of some feel-good, up-tempo music is often just what the doctor ordered.

What do you think? Say more about that...