Category Archives: self-help

how to clean one’s office/room

 

 

I am planning a trip, in advance of which I am trying to clean up the so called “office”/study of mine in my home.

Fulfills a psychological need to put things in order before leaving, nicht wahr?

To paraphrase (with all due apologies) Shelley, a heavy weight of clutter has been oppressing me, has ensnarled and chained me.

 

 

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It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in one day cleaning wise if you put your mind to it.

I often think of what an admired former colleague of mine, Carol Boorstein, on the Communication Consulting team at The Wyatt Company once said to me: If you start cleaning, and you find something that needs to be thrown out or filed somewhere — dealt with — do not put it aside for later.

Deal it with it right then and there. No matter how trivial it seems to be. Decide what to do with it. Does it stay or go? and where should it go? No “deferred maintenance” allowed.

Has always worked for me. And, I am as dilatory, probably a lot more so, than the next person when it comes to “clutter management.”

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   March 2018

 

 

“your last ride”

 

Three months ago, I took a one week trip by train to the Midwest to attend a cultural event in Milwaukee. I had never been to the Midwest before (except for a one day business trip).

I spent time in both Milwaukee and Chicago.

I had always wanted to see Chicago. An acquaintance of mine who traveled a lot in his business career told me that it was not a particularly interesting city.

I found that it was a great place to visit. Milwaukee was less interesting, but pleasant.

Anyway, what I wish to mention in this post is that I met a fellow on the train who is in his early 40’s. We struck up a friendship over a long conversation during breakfast in the cafeteria car. We have managed since to keep in touch.

He has a day job, but has aspirations to become a writer. He is desirous of feedback from me about his writing and advice about how to start a blog.

We tried to touch base over the holidays but kept missing each other. He lives in Ohio, but he has family in New York City and visits here often.

I got a phone call from him today. During our conversation — pleasant as usual — we inquired about one another.

I told him that I was doing very well absent the usual problems that seem always to crop up in one’s life, like burdocks. You can’t be rid of them, it seems; there’s never any respite.

He laughed, in his usual good natured way. His reply was: “When you no longer have problems, you’re ready for your last ride.” He said this was how a friend of his put it.

Having problems, he said, is part of life; it means that you are ALIVE.

I loved the way he put it. “Your last ride,” to the cemetery. It may be a common expression, but I had never head it before.

Last ride. Problems are a part of life – intrinsic. Having and experiencing them mean that you are not, by the grace of God, dead.

I loved the thought and the choice of words.

 

— Roger W. Smith

      January 14, 2017

Roger W. Smith, “Reflections on How I Deal with Lingering Resentments”

 

 

This brief essay is concerned with the need we all feel sometimes to overcome ill effects and resentments from long past experiences.

One example may serve to illustrate what I am thinking about: my lingering resentment and anger towards my high school Phys Ed teacher and baseball coach, Robert C. (Bob) Gibson.

Mr. Gibson was the chairman of the Physical Education Department at Canton High School in Canton, Massachusetts. He was a very popular teacher and coach, but I can’t forgive him for the way he treated me when I went out for baseball in my junior year. He didn’t want me on the team and let me know it. It was really unfair.

I think he thought I was a scholar who had no aptitude for baseball, and maybe the fact that I wore thick glasses had something to do with it. But at least one teammate did wear glasses, and that didn’t seem to bother Mr. Gibson.

I was deeply hurt but was resolved not to show it or quit.

I can never forgive or forget the way he treated me. I never got over it.

 

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My older brother has commented on this and similar resentments I have from the past. He feels that I should be able to leave them in the past and move beyond them.

I am of two minds about holding past grudges.

By remembering past slights, I believe, and refusing to forget out about them, by stubbornly holding on to them, one is, in a way, protecting oneself against the possibility of future hurt. I am convinced that my good memory, if I may compliment myself on having one, comes from a strong desire to not forget what has happened to me, both good and bad, so that I can defend myself in the future against further hurt and emotional pain.

On the other hand, there does seem to be validity to what some mental health experts seem to say about trauma, that you need to be able to overcome it and let go, put it in the past.

I have recently read two books: Getting Unstuck: Unraveling the Knot of Depression, Attention, and Trauma by Dr. Don Kerson; and Walking Your Blues Away: How to Heal the Mind and Create Emotional Well-Being by Thom Hartmann.

Neither book is the sort that I would ordinarily take interest in. But I finished both.

Both authors make good points and also lapse, in parts of their books, into New Age psychobabble. But, some of the stuff they say seems to have validity. They talk about the need to be able to overcome the effects of trauma. Apparently, a lot of people don’t even know that it is something one has to learn to deal with.

Apparently, it’s a left brain-right brain sort of thing. You have to be able to call up the painful memories, get them out of your left brain, which is critical and unforgiving, and from there into your right brain — sort of upload and dump them there — which can deal with them emotionally, and then be able to let go, become whole and healed once again.

Something like that.

These things don’t exactly work for me, and I in many ways feel that I never want to let go of my anger at Coach Gibson. I don’t know. But I can see the validity of the point that these writers make: about getting over the ill effects of past mistreatment and saying, that was long ago, it’s time to move on, to move beyond them.

 

— Roger W. Smith

   December 2016

 

 

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Addendum: I was thinking today, for no particular reason, about this post, and I feel that I never should forget or forgive my coach’s treatment of me.

To others, the incident may seem negligible. To me, it wasn’t. Some hurts are shrugged off. Others, occurring at a particular time — say, in one’s youth, when can be particularly vulnerable — can’t. Other persons lacking empathy can’t see how a seemingly trivial thing can be a big deal, psychologically speaking.

And, of course, some major abuses or atrocities inflicted upon groups of people should not be forgotten and should be preserved in their collective consciousness.

 

— Roger W. Smith, August 3, 2017

 

 

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Addendum: A relative of mine posted a comment about this post on Facebook. His comment and my response are below.

 

Sometimes the best way to leave resentment behind is to realize that the offender is dead and no one else remembers the incident(s).

 

Roger’s Smith’s reply:

Perhaps.

But, your “offender is dead” point seems beside the point.

Does this mean that all past offenses committed in human history and experienced in one’s personal life get wiped off the slate after — and by virtue of — the fact that the “offender” has died?

Secondly, you make the point that “no one else remembers”? The incident I wrote about would, naturally, not be remembered by hardly anyone besides me. Again, this is beside the point. It was a minor incident in the grand scale of things, but I was deeply hurt by it.

I told almost no one, besides confiding it to my older brother years later. (I did so because he and I were talking about the coach, whom we both knew from high school.)

Have not you suffered hurts and indignities in your own life that have festered but which you may have rarely talked with others about, which you perhaps had a hard time dealing with, and which linger?

On Reading Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”

 

 rws-comments-on-how-to-win-friends-and-influence-people

 

I have just finished reading Dale Carnegie’s bestselling book How to Win Friends and Influence People, which was originally published in 1936. I took notes as I was reading and got a lot out of it.

The attached Word document (above) summarizes the things that I got from the book– namely, what struck me most, plus some experiences and observations of my own.

 

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My parents had a paperback copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People on our living room bookshelf in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I recall for some reason that the paperback was laminated (I think that is the right word) – it had a sort of plastic tissue overlay.

I made a stab at reading it when I was in the sixth grade. How to Win Friends and Influence People, I thought. I’d certainly like to know how to do that!

I remember reading a chapter which advised the reader not to talk about themselves all the time, but to show an interest in the other person. I decided to try this out on my mother.

We were gathered in the living room of an evening. I said to my mother, “So, how are you today, Mom?”

“I’m fine,” she answered.

“Tell me,” I said (or words to that effect), “How are you?”

She was nonplussed, but answered again that she was fine.

“Well, tell me about yourself,” I said.

The conversation had begun to seem a little odd to her. It went on very briefly, awkwardly, then ceased. My mother couldn’t quite figure what I was up to.

 

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Picking up the book now, I wasn’t sure what to think. I was reminded of an experience my hero Samuel Johnson once had as a reader.

Johnson once read a book offering spiritual guidance: A Serious Call To a Devout and Holy Life by William Law. Johnson told James Boswell that he “began to read it expecting to find it a dull book (as such books generally are), and perhaps to laugh at it. But I found Law quite an overmatch for me; and this was the first occasion of my thinking in earnest of religion, after I became capable of rational inquiry.”

Well, I wasn’t sure that I should take Dale Carnegie’s book seriously either. I am suspicious of books that are so popular, and of self-help books. Which it is. And, the precepts laid down by Carnegie could be considered simplistic – they sound good, but can they really be followed? It reminds me of another book that is somewhat similar: Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving.

When I read Fromm – as is the case with Carnegie now – I had a similar experience. I found myself saying over and over again to myself, “Yes, so true.” I guess what one might say is that the books are a lot more right than they are wrong, and it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of the many good things the authors have to say.

I do not know anything about Fromm’s background, and not that much about Carnegie’s either, but Carnegie’s precepts were grounded in experience, which perhaps accounts for their impact. And, he writes simply and clearly, a great virtue not usually observed.

 

—Roger W. Smith

    October 2016

 

 

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