COLUMNS Word & Wisdom

The Tribal Instinct… our need for others

When I was in grad school for my counseling degree, I remember a professor talking about how it is a human need to be “known.” We, as humans, have an innate desire to bond with others, share our stories, and express ourselves. To be known and appreciated for what we think makes us unique. (This also is the basis for many religions, but that’s a different column altogether.) This idea stands out for me because I see evidence of it in so many arenas. Art, literature, dance, music….all personal expressions of who we are. And then there’s FaceBook. FaceBook is a prime example of people putting stuff out there for others to approve (“like”) or  “share” with others.

Clients often come to counseling to seek relief from loneliness. Loneliness within a marriage… loneliness from death of a loved one… loneliness from some form of separation from others. All are a reflection of this need, a desire, to be known and cared for by others – or even by just one other human life form. Not just known but appreciated for our finest qualities but forgiven for our less desirable traits. Why is it so important? Where did this need come from? Since I’m fairly religious, I’m going to throw in the short version which goes like this:  Because that’s the way God made us. The long version is that it is a trait that probably once served our need for survival. My guess is that when people were utilized to their strengths, the survival of the group structure was maximized. Sort of like this – John is really good at shooting arrows, let’s make him leader of the hunting crew.  John feels happy that his innate skill is recognized by those he lives with, cares about and depends upon. Since he can’t do things like maybe make leather shoes, he’s grateful to do his part for group survival and in return he reaps love, acceptance, and maybe…. shoes.

Loneliness. It could be the sense that no one really knows or appreciates the “real” you. It could be a physical distance from others. The bigger and deeper primitive need  – subconscious, of course – is that we  (the human species) once depended upon approval and love within our group for physical survival. To be ostracized or abandoned by the group was tantamount to death by starvation or some other solitary fatality. We need each other, in other words. While these are not the days of rustic survival, the need for shared identity is ingrained as a remnant of survival skills.

I’m going to suggest that, like everything else we get handed in this life, loneliness has a place and purpose. It is a symptom that we are somewhat separated from sources of love (giving and getting). We live in a culture that values independence. People are quite well equipped to live solitary lives. Our primitive minds and bodies, though, have not totally weaned out the survival part that says:   “I am sure to die if I live alone.”

Maybe that’s why FaceBook is so successful It satisfies that part of our tribal-loving human nature. We get to shine our little light on a daily basis, if we so desire. We get mostly positive feedback- 5 likes, 2 comments, for example.  Our friend count is specific. Our feedback is nearly immediate. We connect.

Counselor’s words:  Being part of a tribe or group feels good and right on a certain level, but  being alone, feeling lonely,  is not the life-threatening event it once was.  It is a symptom of needing more appreciative connections with others. If lonely within a marriage, get counseling. Communication is key. If lonely in life, make efforts to connect with others. Share coffee or join a group that interests you. The connections will occur naturally.

COLUMNS Word & Wisdom

That First Cup of Coffee – I’m Still Here

There are days I open my eyes and honestly, I do not want to get out of bed. The day looms like a dark cloud. The things I need to tackle are dreary, taxing,  or just tough to achieve.

Unfortunately -  or fortunately – I do not have the luxury of pulling the covers over my head and cancelling the day. I can procrastinate some, but there comes that moment when I have to face the day.

Most mornings I have to tell myself,  “Get up and get your coffee, things will look different.”  Thank God for that first cup of coffee. My pug and doxie snuggle with me, lick my face, and I watch the news:  Austerity measures, big company downfalls, fighting in Syria. Stuff like that.

In my little world with my cup of coffee and loving dogs, roof over my head and time to watch TV news,  suddenly all is right. The phone call that I was dreading to make, for example, is now just a phone call, just something to do. There’s something to be said for just plodding along. Sometimes life is mundane or troublesome. The thing to remember is that is life. Part fun, part surprise, part…. mundane and troublesome.

That first cup of coffee…. is not my endorsement or ad for drinking coffee. Its my way of showing that sometimes our perceptions and worries can be  transient. From my experience, I found that my view of the world changes once I get up out of bed and start the day with my routine cup of coffee. Maybe your mornings start with a shower or breakfast or a cigarette. Whatever it is that gets you out of bed and into the world, works.  Use that knowledge to get you going when all you really want is to bury yourself in another round of sleep.

I heard an interview with one of my favorite authors, Augusten Burroughs. He said something that really resonated with me. He talked about how he waited after his relationship breakup for that time when he felt “healed” or better, and he realized seven years had passed! This Is It, he decided. If you get broken or hurt or somehow emotionally injured, you don’t want to just be waiting around for that day when you are miraculously healed.  It doesn’t happen. Life goes on. The new you – slightly scarred, slightly damaged – gets to continue living.

Many times during my business hours, I have to answer that question from Overboard customers, “How’s business been?” My response varies little. Usually its some variation of  “I’m still here.”

I’m still here. That’s my  mantra. I’m still here.

Counselor advice:  Be okay with just being alive. Let mundane and quiet times be. I like to think that those are the times when thoughts and psychic gears are working overtime, having a life of their own, creating something surprising. And remember – Just surviving at times is a skill, not to be taken lightly.

COLUMNS Word & Wisdom

Becoming… Myself

THE OLDER I get, the more I seem to be “more” of my younger self. I’m not always convinced that’s such a good thing.

In my twenties, I was alone, financially stressed and pretty much in survival mode. Guess what? I’m currently alone, stressed and somewhat in survival mode.

I tend to shut down a little when stressed, which translates into watching a lot of bad T.V. All the wonderful advice I hand out to clients such as exercise, calling a friend, writing down a few easily achieved goals, fall by the wayside. Yes, sad to say, I sometimes do not follow my own advice.

Spring is here though and while I may be a dormant couch potato, I’m not dead. I respond to sunshine, flowering fruit trees and a gentle breeze. I recently bought herb seeds:. Basil and thyme and oregano get started in plastic greenhouse and are then transplanted to the outdoors or given to friends. Even though my heart wasn’t into it when I picked out my seed packets, I did it out of tradition. I  know that in a few weeks I’ll get lots of satisfaction when those little green plants burst through the potting soil. My heart also wasn’t into clearing out the knickknacks from the corner curio shelf. The process elicited many painful memories. The figurine my mother-in-law gave me on my first Mother’s Day. A framed picture that causes nothing but heartache. Cleaing them out had to be done, but it was painful.

Ever since I broke my ankle last September,  my thoughts and emotions took a shift. I thought then that I had hit a new low in loneliness, but instead I learned a different lesson. People, friends and neighbors were there for me. I resolved then that when I was back to walking, Things Would Change. I’d weed out those parts of my life – stuff, relationships, and emotions – that had evolved into deadweight.

In some sense, what I was doing – and still am doing- is planting seeds for a better future. Loss and change is always stressful, which is why so many of us stick with the status quo. My seeds – my simplifying, clarifying and acknowledging – will eventually let me be “me” at my best. Meanwhile, I’m moving a bit slowly through this process.and it feels uncomfortable.

How about you? Are you up for a personal spring cleaning? Can you shed those things that take up all sorts of physical and psychological space? Are you willing to be uncomfortable? Are you willing to believe in yourself?

Something to think about…..

COLUMNS Word & Wisdom

Payoffs… (Why We Do the Things We Do)…

EVERY ONCE in a while, I wonder why I do some of the things I do to get through this life of mine. I work a lot. which dictates to some degree what choices I get to make. The money I make pays the bills but not enough for me to  make big changes in my life. I eat the same “mystery sandwich” everyday. I let the deli girls surprise me – hence, the mystery part to it. Why,  oh why, if some things work  and some things don’t -  why don’t I change the things that don’t.?

This is where I remember a professor from college, when I was getting my Master’s degree in counseling. He talked about The Payoff. What’s the Payoff?” And that is the question that often should be addressed. What is the particular payoff to a certain mode of behavior, be it habitual or just plain not beneficial?  He  asserted that the reason people do things, especially repeat behaviors, is that the person learns that it works to get his/her needs met.  The Payoff

The payoff in itself is not a bad thing. Everything we choose to do somehow is based on some form of a payoff…. a reward of sorts. If we work hard for an employer, the payoff may be raises, good reviews and an innate sense of having done a consistently good job. If we volunteer, we feel connected and good about ourselves.

What about those things that keep people back, impede a life, so to speak?  When we see others exhibiting behaviors that seem to be sabotaging their jobs, relationships and general self-respect,  it is natural to say, “Why would someone choose to do… X, Y, Z?”  Addictions fall into this category. Behaving badly within relationships  is another area .

Payoff. In this economic climate, I like this term. It sounds appropriate. Kids learn quickly how to get a parent’s attention, and if the appropriate efforts don’t reap a proper “payoff” – attention – then they learn that bad behavior will lead to the attention they desire.  I learned that working hard has its payoff, although sometimes not in a monetary sense. I like knowing that I have what my relatives would call a work ethic, for example. I want to know that even if something fails, its not for lack of effort on my part.

When someone consistently seems to disappoint by not following through perhaps, the payoff to that person could be a sense of power disguised as free-spiritedness, or  it could be just plain inconsideration. For that person, the payoff would be the sense of doing what they want when they want. If I, for example, put a lot of effort into excusing that behavior so that I was not personally disappointed, I would have to look at the payoff that exists for me. And is it worth it?   The payoff might be a relationship that makes me work too hard . Is it worth it?  Maybe not. I need to be willing to lose relationships that don’t work. The payoff – maintaining a dysfunctional relationship – is too high in terms of integrity and sense of self.

I believe in looking at things as they exist.  Sometimes all pieces of the pie do not fit well together. My relationships are flourishing but work is suffering. Or all is well, but I find a person has lied to me, for example, which  will immediately throw me into a pit of despair.

All the examples I gave above are creative examples. I’m fascinated with the idea of payoffs, and in my free moments, I do indeed wonder what areas of my life could be improved.. I would love to weed out the disappointments and letdowns and sadnesses that sometimes visit me. But in the world of payoffs, I look at the scenarios and learn from them. I’ve learned that sometimes one can predict a payoff (from a repeat behavior perhaps?), and if its disappointment or sadness, I don’t want it.  If that’s the case, I get to opt out. The payoff then is …. a happier me.

COLUMNS Word & Wisdom

My Life… My List

I’M A listmaker. I make to-do lists, which include everything, from ”return library books” to “write novel.”  I make gratitude lists nearly every morning which includes the routine -”morning coffee’” all the way up to the stuff that gets taken for granted such as being warm and dry on a blustery, rainy day.

I started listmaking during grad school. My fellow grad school cohort, Sheri, used to write lists in between classes. I asked her what she was doing, how she did it and why she did it. It organized her and focused her energies. It acted as a reminder of her hopes and dreams. So I tried it. I started with  assignments, added to-do projects, and expanded it  to include hopes and dreams..

Listmaking is a useful skill during times of stress. When I sold my house and was moving, it seemed overwhelming until I made a to-do list. Lists can evolve into time-lines. Look at the items and realize that the third item down needs to be done soon, if not immediately. Last item should be done sometime in the next week. Items 3, 6, and 7 can go together and be done sometime in the next year. That sort of thing.

Why am I even writing about this??  Because when life gets overwhelming- and it has lately, and for many- there’s only so much one can do to deal with it, and listmaking is a tool. The act of writing relaxes. The act of thinking, of identifying things to do, things to be grateful for, things to aim for…. all create a sense of purpose and hope. It also gives one a sense of control.

So much can feel out of control! This crazy economy impacts mypersonal finances, which in turn impacts my personal life. I don’t eat out much and I limit my expenditures. My social life has sufferd. And when my pug had a bad limp, I was grateful that doggie aspirin fixed the limp. That made my gratitude list. Healthy pets always make my gratitude list.

Counselor’s suggestion:  Make lists. Define the list- if you want-  “gratitude list” or “to-do list.” Sometimes just jotting down everything that comes to mind  randomly will start the list process, and it won’t matter what “kind” of list it is. You can always go back and assign items to one list or another,  in order of importance or not.

The lists are not to be used as something to check off or in any way add stress to one’s life. The physical process of writing list items is relaxing in itself. The items that show up on paper may or may not have been fully conscious ideas. You may be surprised to find “tap-dancing” or “save for world cruise” on your list. Finish this, start that. Save for this, check into that.  The only limit to anything on the list is your imagination. As we age, we find ourselves on a path that somehow surprises us. We’re not sure how we got to where we got and we’re not sure we want to be where we are…. but here we are. Jobs, homes, families, bills, health issues, death….. Creating a  list is a hopeful act. A list  can be reflective. A list gives some direction. A list helps you get from here to there. And ultimately, it helps you get to know – you.

COLUMNS Word & Wisdom

Last Thoughts of the Year

As I sit here in Overboard Games & Puzzles, waiting for customers to show up, I’m eyeballing the shoes I’m wearing, the ones I had to buy to accomodate the ankle brace.  They were fairly spendy and I balked at spending the money for them, but they are so comfortable and if I were going to walk, I needed shoes. I’m wearing a pair of blue socks that I knitted, a pattern of my own design, a simple sircular rib. A friend is coming soon and we will chat over the coffee he brings me. In the world of simple pleasures, I think I’ve mastered this area.

Life is not terrible, in other words. That doesn’t sound very optimistic, but maybe “not terrible” is also “pretty good.”  I’m not sure. It could be just semantics, and whether one sees the glass half full or half empty. In these leaner times, I have to search for a reason to feel gratitude. Hence, just sitting and observing – the comfort of my shoes. Handmade socks. A cup of coffee with a friend. And I’ll add this- the opportunity to write for others is a privilege. That’s what they must mean about “stop and smell the roses.”

Its hard to take advantage of the slow times in our lives. My broken ankle forced me to slow down. I had to prioritize and feel okay with the circumstances. There was nothing for me to do except make the best of an irksome situation. I’m not sure- if someone had said, “Tobi, you seem to have much discontent. Why don’t you take 6 weeks out of your life for some reflection? That’s right, hunker down on that couch and see how it feels to have limited mobility. Imagine never walking again….”

Pleased to say, I am walking again. Am I happy? I suppose so. Could life be better? Always. Am I working on it? Yes, daily. Having my somewhat boring routine back is comforting.  No bombs go off in my neighborhood. No threats to my safety. No disruptive drama. Just a slow meditative life. One where I can knit my own socks or write what I please or walk to work. Those are the gifts in my life. A quiet life, waiting for me to appreciate it.

Counselor advice: Whatever your life looks like,  figure out the parts that work for you. Chaotic life? Enjoy the busy-ness. Quiet life? Enjoy the peace. Things change .Expect change. Work with what is…. and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

COLUMNS Word & Wisdom

The Value of Options

I’m not talking about money. I’m talking about keeping options open, always having a Plan B. Every year about this time, I get a combination of holiday anticipation and dread. Maybe some of you know what I’m talking about and then there’ are those that might think that’s crazy. For those that think its craziness,, we will return to the idea of options before this article is done.

I love the idea of holidays. Thanksgiving with its food and family and hunkering down with that winter feel, and Christmas withs its cinnamon and Santa and surprise gifts:  What’s not to love?  But holidays don’t come easily it if you are the one in charge of making it happen. So every year I debate with myself about how much effort I plan to expend and what events I will definitely attend and which ones are purely routine and meaningless.

I do this every year. I look at all my options. There has been a year or two when I’ve let the holidays slide by, unattended by me.

Where’s the dread? The little kid in me pops up and reminds me to limit expectations. Keep Plan B clearly in mind.

Holidays set people up, in a way. Family gatherings over a turkey dinner, for instance. For those with dwindling families, the holiday may highlight a sense of loss or an unrealized desire. In any case, holidays can trigger less than happy thoughts and memories. This year my son wiill be returning home for Thanksgiving with some friends. I’ll find a few new recipes to inspire my latent cooking skills.  Christmas? Tree? Maybe. Maybe not. Cards?  Big dinner? Who knows? I’ve left my options open.

Making life easier for myself is one of the ways I am obligated to take care of myself.  I get to pick and choose what’s comfortable for me. Sometimes spending a day home, alone, on a holiday, is easier.

I like to think its a conscious awareness of what suits me. Having Plan B can be anything:  A drive along the coast, attending a movie, cleaning out closets.

Holidays do not need to look like we see in the media. They can be  a day of one’s own, and may be a day of spiritual renewal or a day of quiet.

Options keep hopelessness at bay. Options validate one’s sense of freedom. One is not locked into one mode of expression.

Options: Invaluable. Priceless. The best gift you can give yourself.

COLUMNS Word & Wisdom

Forty Days in the Desert

I broke my ankle September 21, had closed reduction then had open reduction and pins and a plate put in on the 23rd in Portland. I sit here, about 2 weeks after the event, with a “boot” on my lower leg. I will going to and from work via Dial-A-Ride. Friends have walked my dogs, provided food. My life has ground to a standstill. I am physically debilitated, dependent and often on my couch in a bland unhappiness.

This is new for me. There’s not much I can do about any of this, except count the days. (26 days until I go for physical therapy, to start walking again.) Prioritze. Today I go to my game and puzzle store. So getting upstairs in a timely fashion to dress is on my to-do list. That’s my life.

But, like any solitary journey into a desert, there’s realities and thoughts that finally have time and space to come to the forefront.

Living in my house, on the couch mostly, I am aware of its shabbiness. At  this first awareness, I was dismal,  But after a bit I decided shabbiness can be resolved to some degree. Not today but soon…

Work. If I don’t go in to man the store, money falls behind. That might be something to address in the future, getting disability insurance. Work on a reserve savings? In any case, and like many of my peer group, I should not have to worry so much about money. A problem to be solved somehow.

If I complained about the everydayness of my life prior to this ankle break, and I did, I am learning there’s a new kind of everydayness. Getting out of bed and down the stairs is a hurdle. Getting a cup of coffee made and in a cup to the couch while on crutches is time-consuming and physically draining.

So I’m doing the countdown until I go for walking therapy. I will live with what is for right now. I will get through one day at a time, knowing that every day I am that much closer to walking. Knowing also that just getting through the day is about all I can do, and that’s okay.

Counselor’s advice:  First- don’t break your ankle! (Take care of yourself. It might make any healing an easier chore.) Be aware of your whole life. My home living space received minimal attention. I didn’t realize until I actually spent days on my own couch. Finally, I know I would not have survived, and I mean this literally, if it were’t for people. From the friend at dance class who drove me to the ER (and it turned out to be a day-long event) to my out-of-town friend who picked me up in Portland and announced she was spending a few days to tend to me, to the friends who brought me lunch, walked the dogs, checked my mail…. the list goes on. The human factor was comforting.

As alone as one may feel and appear, the world is out there.

Tobi Nason is a counselor in Manzanita who is currently nursing a broken ankle and resolving big issues while dozing on the couch…..

COLUMNS Word & Wisdom

Up and Down and All Around… (yes, our emotions)

Imagine three scenarios. First is a client who’s depressed because a boyfriend has left her. The next person is excited about her new job. She’s just started and its full of potential. Her happiness today seems unending. And the last scenario is a  friend who has a crush on a single dad who comes into her business world frequently. She tells me she almost wants to reach out and touch him. Just  touch him. She has an emotional crush on him.

What’s the similarity here? All are in the throes of emotion. They exist, but yes, the emotions will pass.  They will either wither away as time goes on or be replaced as new events occur.

Emotions come and go, rise and fall. They  are transitory. They are temporary visitors, so to speak. But  in the midst of them, be it depression or happiness or attraction, it can feel all-consuming. It can feel like one will or could die from the pain of loss or from the all wonderfulness of happiness. It’s a feeling.  Repeat:  A feeling. I could say, Just a feeling.

To some extent, people  learn to handle feelings. From the time we are children, we are encouraged to modulate our feelings. Feeling angry, frustrated? Yes, a temper tantrum might be the immediate response of a toddler but we are taught to handle that emotion better. We are rewarded for not kicking out heels and wailing. It gets even trickier. In some families, members are discouraged from acknowledging sadness or grief. We all learn certain behaviors that allow us to mix well with our immediate society. But sure enough, no one emotion rules day in, day out.  Happiness dulls. Sadness lightens. And every other kind of emotion does the same…

Some people have a hard time with emotions. Three year olds, for example. They are just learning the power of anger and frustration. A certain personality disorder exists that also makes emotional control difficult. Those with the disorder run with every emotion as it presents itself. Excluding those two groups, the rest of the population, depressed, happy or on a flirtatious high, need to practice modulation as opportunites occur.

Okay. How’s that going to happen?? Well, it takes practice. Sort of mind over matter. Recognizing how one wants to “behave.”  Realizing that the emotion of today may not be the emotion of tomorrow. Life offers surprises that shift things around. Learning that most emotions don’t reguire any special action. Depressed? It may be temporary and pass. It may even morph into anger. In any case,  counseling is always an option. Happy to the max? Yes, but… a few weeks later you will be happy but with some reality thrown in. . Feeling love for someone? Time will tell if its reciprocated. If anything, its a nice way to find out more about oneself… what type of person is attractive to you, for example.

People don’t like feeling sad or angry. Even an extra dose of happiness can be almost uncomfortable. But it would be a dismal place, indeed, if we didn’t feel things. Our gut reactions to things were once part of our survival systems.  Instincts, in other words. A person’s emotions give us information about our world and ourselves. Its important, maybe not for survival anymore, but for well being, to take note of our emotions. Fear and disgust are immediate warning signals. Sadness and anxiety are like the yellow traffic light… slow down and look around…. you may need to stop doing something. Anger may need reasonable and well thought out actions. And love feelings just need to be analyzed as a reflection of oneself.

COLUMNS Word & Wisdom


I’M WATCHING parts of the Blues Brothers movie, and it is tweaking an emotion that has lain dormant for a while. I call it “the carefree, life-is-fun emotion.” I remember feeling that.

I have remnants still lingering in my system.

Somehow over the years, life got so serious. Bills, divorce, broken relationships, loss….and lots of work. Yet, the spark for silly fun is still within.

I learned a lot in grad school about personality development, needs, motives, and desires, relationships. Yet, nowhere did I hear about any psychological need for fun.

I propose that there is.

Oh, wait, Aretha is about to burst into “Think.” I may have to get up and dance.

Okay, I did, and it was darn fun.

Back to the serious stuff of writing this column.

I didn’t realize how under-used my fun cells were. Laughter has always been touted as something healthy to do…..

Carefree. I had a few months of “carefreedom” in my early twenties. At the time I had few responsibilities and the summer weather in Connecti- cut was glorious. My red VW bug and I and a friend or two would travel to a river for a swim. We’d jump in from a bridge, in our clothes. We’d dry off just laying in the grass. We’d go have a beer or two at a local bar, eat fried shrimp and wait for the band to arrive. I smile when I think about it.

Could I do that kind of thing today? Would I? Would I jump from a bridge, get sun-dried and go to any eating/ drinking establishment? Most likely, no to all. While it was fun then, I would probably hurt myself if I tried it these days. And maybe get arrested for jumping off of a bridge. Then I’d get drunk on beer while waiting for that band to arrive. My clothes would be all wrinkly and boy, it would not be a pretty picture at all.

Carefree. That state of laughing spontaneously. Of being right in the moment. Of finding joy and humor suddenly, unexpectedly.

I have that possibility still in me. I now have to figure out how that looks these days.

As always, if I can pass something on to you, the reader, it would be this: Re-define your idea of fun. If it correlates with carefreedom (yes, its a word I made up) then figuring out how that can happen without being hurt, arrested or drunk is something to think about. I find dancing to Blues Brothers songs fun. Flirting is fun. Being silly is fun. And I can do it all in the course of a normal day.

Its ironic that I own and operate a game and puzzle store and yet found myself so alienated from my own feeling of fun. Yet, fun is part of what I sell. Fun with family and friends.

Like discovering I’ve put on 20 lbs. and that I need to watch my diet, I am making serious efforts to have fun. I am going to work at this fun stuff. … no, I’m having fun with you. No serious efforts here, no working at it. But definitely more dancing, joking, silliness, flirting, and loving life in general.

COLUMNS Word & Wisdom

Betrayal, Anyone?

BETRAYAL is such an ugly concept. Trust and innocence go by the wayside. Pain and grief take their place.  So many versions of it exist. Marital, friendship, business relations, confidential partnerships – all have the potential for betrayal. Many a great drama  (think Shakespeare!) has been built around betrayal, probably because it deals with unmet expectations, lies, deception, and ultimately a loss of some kind, be it love, innocence or even life.

It’s a topic that is only shared between confidantes, perhaps. I share my story, you share yours. It can be such a painful subject that to revisit the psychic scene can be choosing to revisit an unresolved experience. One’s blood pressure rises. There is also the idea that to be betrayed implies some sort of ignorance, a blindness to the facts. A certain shame for having been deceived sets in, as if some one smarter would have seen it immediately or some one more worthy would not be subject to betrayal. We don’t understand it so we analyze it endlessly and find ourselves baffled. It is often not something one wants to acknowledge freely to just anyone at all. But since one’s ability to trust has suffered a blow, trusting again – even to share one’s story -  is fraught with hesitation.

I remember someone stating to me that it was not my fault if someone worked hard and succeeded in deceiving me. That made me feel better. In any betrayal, I always have whined, “How could I not know? Why did that person lie to me?” etc. Silly me, I took it personally.

Now that I am older and wiser…. yes, go ahead, laugh with me at this point.

The older I get, the more protective of myself I get. I also feel free to place back on others that which belongs to others. Betrayal belongs to the betrayer. I realized I had the freedom to move forward. The betrayer has to carry that burden for a long time, maybe forever.

Why am I writing about this now? I realize the media exposes betrayals. I realize I react. I have an emotional reaction to betrayals that play out in public. (Specifically, the latest Schwarzenegger thing is out and about, but a few years ago, Enron scandal also impacted me. Betrayal by any other name…. )

Arnold (as in Schwarzenegger)  did not know that his actions would impact me so. And probably millions of other folks.  His shoddy behavior clicks in with previous personal betrayals, ones that have left nicks and scars on my heart. Did he really think no one would ever know? Did he think his wife was stupid? I don’t know, but there’s great arrogance behind such a double life.  My heart gets heavy automatically.

So, thanks, Arnold, for refreshing my memories about betrayal. It feels icky. The betrayer, Arnold, is icky. Makes me get depressed for all of humanity. I will have to take myself out for a hot fudge sundae, just to feel better.

After a few moments of this fleeting wave of emotional yuk, I remind myself, cognitively, that betrayal involves secrets, selfishness and a certain arrogance. I, and most people, can move forward from its impact. Those that practice betrayal get to live with themselves forever.

And that, my friends, makes me feel much better.

COLUMNS Word & Wisdom

Memory… of the Way We Used to Be

“THE PURPOSE OF MEMORY is not to remember accurately – it is to envision and plan the future.”  This quote is from “Bozo Sapiens- (Why to Err is Human)” and also states on the next page, that we should not fear the loss of memory, but the loss of its purpose – which is to engage in new experiences. We need, according to this book, we need to put ourselves in new situations, ones where new responses are required. Travel, new people, volunteering – all are suggested to keep our memory cells purposeful and exercised.

In short – try those things that will force you to respond creatively. We all knew that on some level, didn’t we?
As I write this, I write as if you, the reader, and all the other readers, have similar mindsets as me. I assume we share some common ground. I assume we share a certain collective sensibility.

Memory is two-fold: Collective and personal.  As a citizen of the U.S. we have a shared history. As a resident of Manzanita, certain events from the past are part of  our Manzanita memory  bank. And then, there is the personal. The stuff that differentiates me from the next person, you  from the crowd. The moments from childhood that signal the end of life as you knew it are yours alone. The moment you knew you were heading towards divorce is probably specific and unique. Our memories are selective.  So over time, certain memories get simplified and smoothed over,  like  pebbles in a stream.
We hang onto our memories as if we ARE our memories. We worry about losing our memories, especially as we age.  Our memories are formed imperfectly and our memories are selective. Siblings will argue over the details of any one event and have vastly different memories of the same event.

We live a fine line between being “one of the crowd” and a “nice-enough oddball.”Its the tension between wanting to be known and loved and the other – not really a part of the immediate society. We fear being alone and we fear standing out in a crowd. Memories remind us of who we are, or rather, who we think we are.

New experiences, people.  New experiences will continue to redefine the you that is the personal you.  Get out there and do stuff. Try things. Be silly. Be brave. Be you.

Your memory bank will thank you one day.

COLUMNS Word & Wisdom

We’re Back!

I like that phrase. In this case, I’m referring to Hipfish. I am just so pleased it is back up and running. Not sure how Dinah did it. Does it. Keeps on going. Keeps on moving. Its admirable. Feeling pleased is a pleasant emotion to have these days. When things seem tough, and every day events around the world  are sure to depress, I find it inspiring to see one, such as Dinah, pick herself off, get the dust off and start in again. Thanks, Dinah, for demonstrating such grit.

I think you have to recognize something, such as perseverence or stamina, in order to admire it. I admire those that can survive with grace.

For a while there, maybe in the ‘80’s I wondered if we were becoming a nation of whiners. Striving for all the wrong things. Overextending in unhealthy ways. Whining when glitches and problems arose. Money solved a lot of problems back then.

This past year put most people to the test. Be it destruction of a facility via fire or foreclosure or job loss, we’ve had to somehow come face to face with serious stuff. I also have to note: I didn’t hear a lot of whining from those most hard hit. One friend who lost his house stated it may have been ultimately a good thing. He found living debt-free to be a freedom he hadn’t had when house payments and repair bills held him hostage. Another friend found her job loss tto be the impetus for starting her own business, something she wanted to do for a long time. These are not just happy stories. In interviews with tsunami survivors, it was impressive that, despite the huge losses of homes and people, to be alive seemed miraculous. The bottom line of being alive was something for which to be grateful.

Bottom lines:  We finally are getting to them. Less frivolous spending of time and money. Less whining. Less yearning for an imaginary life and more appreciation of what is. More real. The ability to process the odds and ends in life and still end up feeling like its all okay, is  a process of maturation. We’re growing up and maybe just growing:  Growing more real, more spiritual, and more compassionate.

We’re a nation that likes tangibles and statistics. We quantitfy. We add up. We put a number to our net worth, our credit worthiness, and think it somehow shows us where we “fit” into this big society of ours. We even look at our Facebook count as if it might hold some useful info. (It doesn’t.) I suggest we take stock of those things  that we had all along but have no quantitative value – strength, stamina, compassion and hope.  Money and stuff comes and goes. The real deal remains. Character endures. We always knew it. But now, we really really know it. And it is priceless.

Tobi Nason is a Manzanita counselor. She can be reached at for feedback or ideas. Welcome back, Hipfish!