If I Can Change, So Can You!

Almost a dozen years ago, I appeared in Richard Linklater’s movie Waking Life as a nihilistic character known as Self-Destructive Man. Imagine my surprise when 60 Minutes did a story in mid-January about Jared Loughner, the Tucson shooter, and mentioned he was obsessed with the movie.

Then they showed my scene, as if I may have been an influence on him. This was a huge shock, and I didn’t want 60 Minutes to have the last word. Fortunately, Jim Swift of KXAN was interested in my side of the story, and filed this report:

Former actor stunned by 60 Minutes story: kxan.com

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Battle vs. War

A friend of mine, we’ll call her Mary, is a single parent, a business owner, and the mother of an angry teenage daughter. Naturally, she needs a place to vent, so we talk a lot about her situation. Lately the daughter, we’ll call her Jane, has decided she’s not that interested in school. She stays up late, says she feels sick, and if she does make it in to school, sleeps through most of her classes. They are engaged in a classic power struggle, and their relationship has deteriorated precipitously.

On a recent weekday evening, Jane and Mary were in the living room sort of watching TV, and Jane was on her cell phone with her boyfriend. The boyfriend is problematic; he has dropped out of high school, is living at home, and his mother has pretty much thrown up her hands in terms of trying to impose any structure on his life. He has become Jane’s support network when she is fighting with Mom, so naturally Mary sees him as the enemy.

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Inspiration

Headed in the right direction?

Ancient writers believed that INSPIRATION was a state of being filled by Spirit so that one’s thoughts and actions were divinely guided. While our modern definitions tend to be more down to earth, inspiration is still a lofty concept. The Random House dictionary calls inspiration an “animating action or influence,” while the World Dictionary defines it as “stimulation or arousal of the mind, feelings, etc., to special or unusual activity or creativity.” So inspiration is more than something that makes us feel good, it is something that causes us to act in ways above and beyond our normal realm of activity.

How often we feel inspired has a lot to do with how often we seek inspiration. I find that most parents, teachers, and counselors I know expect the teenagers in their lives to act as if they were inspired, while they themselves rarely show any trace of this vivifying force. Many of us who wear our tension and anxiety in our furrowed brows and clenched jaws demand certain behaviors of teenagers without modeling any motivation in the supposed fruits of those behaviors. What they hear is “You need to work hard so you’ll get a good job, make lots of money, and be happy,” while what they see is “Life is a never ending series of frustrations and hardships that keep us too busy to possibly notice whether we’re happy or not.” Why in the world would they follow our edicts when the results we’re modeling look completely undesirable?

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Facebook, The Final Frontier

me-and-ms-in-dc

I love Facebook. It’s enabled me to connect with people whom I had long ago nearly forgotten, to see pictures of old friends in their current configurations, and to meet new people who are kindred spirits and quirky characters. (It has also sucked away hours of time that should have been spent more productively, but that’s one of the many challenges we all must learn to deal with in this brave new age!)


As a high school guidance counselor, it has also presented me with some of my greatest challenges in terms of how to deal with kids that are being mean to each other in ways that I couldn’t have imagined when I was in high school. Whether it is setting up a fake page posing as someone else and making them look like a fool, or girls pretending to like some lonely boy only to get him to confess his undying adoration before squashing his heart, or posting Photoshopped images that enable anyone with minor tech skills to make anyone else into anything they want them to be, or making crude and nasty threats to students at other schools so that extra security has to be hired prior to athletic events, the Internet has radically altered the landscape that teens inhabit.


The fact of the matter is that the tools utilized by teens – whether it’s cell phones, laptops, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, IMs or iPods – have created a virtual Wild, Wild West in which very few rules are written, much less applied with any effectiveness whatsoever. Teenagers figured this stuff out long before we did, and now they have set up their own outlaw outposts on the Internet and we adults come along like a bunch of rubes from back east, telling them they need to clean up their acts. The truth is, most teens have already been at this for a couple of years, and only recently have most of us responsible for their welfare been taking a noticeable interest in their activities.

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Balance

justiceThere’s a lot to be said for the concept of balance — it’s important to be aware of it in our own lives, and in the lives of those around us. Being in balance in your own life is a key to helping others recognize when they might be out of balance.

In working with teenagers and their families, I find that it’s easy for relationships to get unbalanced quickly, and without anyone recognizing their own part in the imbalance. One of the key ingredients is balancing acceptance and change. In other words, what parts of my life can I learn to accept, and what parts demand that I make changes?

I’ve been reading Ready or Not, Here Life Comes, by Dr. Mel Levine, and he articulated this concept of balanced relationships between teens and parents better than I’ve heard it anywhere else. He has a number of spectrums, I guess you’d call them, which provide clear guidelines for families to assess areas of their relationships which might be unbalanced. To see these, read on!

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What If . . . ?

what-if-front-showcase-403-x-4031As the New Year approaches, it’s a wonderful time to reflect on what’s gone well in the past, and what changes we’d like to see in the future. “What if . . . ” questions are great tools to envision better lives and a better world. Here are a few of mine:

What if there was a vision of hope so compelling that all of us couldn’t help but see and share it?

What if we were all striving to uncover our highest selves and share them with the world?

What if our burning quest was to discover authentic love and radiate it into the world?

What if we didn’t trust our heads anymore but listened instead to the silent wisdom of our hearts?

What if we could all suspend judgment just for a minute? What if it happened at the same minute?

What if we all twittered what if questions for a day?

What if you added a what if question to the comments right now?

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Let Love Rule

Cosmic Love Transmitter

Cosmic Love Transmitter

Today at the Church of Conscious Harmony, Tim Cook returned to one of his favorite themes. He refers to it as “dogball theology” — and to illustrate the concept, he uses one of these:

We Are All One

We Are All One

The idea is that the ball represents God, who is One, and that each of the little spikes on the ball represents one individual. The little cap of color on the end of each spike represents an individual’s unique personality — though we may be different colors and located on different parts of the ball, we are still part of the unified whole.

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Filed under Personal Development, Practice Love, Religion