The old screen door slams behind me and the boards under my feet creak as I walk to the old wicker couch, whose basket weave also makes a sound as the weight of my body sinks into the red cushions. My cozy gray fleece jacket is all I need; the morning is pleasant enough to return to the porch. Beaming strongly into the yard, the orange-colored sun silhouettes a giant buck and his Christmas tree of antlers as he slowly grazes the smorgasbord of natural treats in my yard. The distant mountain is a light purple gray against the bright yellow-white sky.
Last week, I disappeared. I’m sorry I was not there for you. But I had a good reason. I am the father of teenagers, after all.
Advice comes as needed, as I alluded to recently in Butterflies and Angels. One friend, Dr. Dave, swooped into my life last week, as if knowing I’d need his advice soon. I had been talking about a stressful week at work when he told me that our natural tendency when we’re going through stress or crisis is to sleep less, drop our routines, eat poorly, and not take good care of ourselves. Entrepreneurs like myself tend to put in longer hours to solve a crisis. His advice: Take care of yourself. This is when you need sleep, nutrition, and exercise more than ever because your immune system is being attacked by stress, and it needs to be strong. Plus, if you’re not rested, not eating well, and not exercising, you’re not thinking clearly.
His advice came just in time to deal with another issue that was significant enough that I decided to drop everything I could in order to be there for my family. Though I try to give to others as much as possible, last week I had nothing more to give. I hope you’ll forgive me for not showing up in your mailbox. I don’t do it often. But I needed to preserve my energy, my resources, and my time. And I needed more time at the gym, working harder to make sure that the much-needed husband and father was showing up.
I’ve also been reminded that when emotions run high, we tend to grab at the first answer we come up with. My friend and mentor, author Keith Cunningham, taught me to never resort to the first answers, but to take time to think and come up with 100 answers — and never use any of the first 20, which are typically reactive. That, too, was helpful.
And times like these make our friendships that much more important because friends can offer non-emotional suggestions, solutions, and experience at a time when clarity isn’t present. Thank God for great friendships. To have someone to talk to, someone to listen, someone to offer perspective, ideas, and encouragement is so helpful. And when the world around you appears to be crashing down, they help point out that it’s not as bad as you think it might be. They help you see that the other side of it is right around the corner. Light always comes after the darkness.
Our other default thought in tough moments is often, “Why me? Why would God do this to me?” Thankfully I did not have that reaction this time, but I get it a lot. I think the answer is, “Why not me? What am I to learn? How am I to be made stronger?”
As I think about parenting, I think about the importance of pain. Keeping pain away from our children is not doing our kids any favors. Though I hate to watch my kids go through pain, sometimes seemingly unbearable pain, I know I made it through it. My parents protected me from some of it, but helped me get through much of the rest. It’s a reminder that blue steel is the strongest steel, because it has been forged, many times, through the hottest fires.
Why Be Angry?
I’m not sure where the idea started that we should be mad at God when our lives don’t go the way we want them to go. I think that, being a loving dad, I’m helping my kids when I allow them to go through pain and suffering. I’m there to step in if it’s life-threatening, I’m there to turn to for advice, but they will be stronger if I don’t rescue them. I think it’s showing incredible love to watch your kid go through a horrible thing — and let them go through it. It’s not easy. It’s painful to watch. I also don’t think it’s loving to solve every problem for them so their expectation is that life will be perfect. Pain happens to be part of perfection. Perhaps this sounds harsh to some, but the best thing we can do for our kids is help them be stronger, help them look at pain as part of life, and give them coping skills. That way when they face difficult times, like the ones we’re going through, they have perspective, knowing that it’s part of the process.
I’ve cried a lot of tears through my life. I’ve lost a lot of loves and it devastated me at the time. I’ve lost friendships. I’ve lost jobs, businesses, partnerships, and I’ve been on the edge of bankruptcy. I’ve had tough things happen, lost loved ones, and remember moments where I didn’t think I could get through the pain. Yet today, it hurts less, and I’m more prepared, more experienced, know it’s part of a process, and I know there is a bright light on the other side of the dark moment. Perspective is a wonderful gift.
I don’t know your pain, but I know you have it. We all carry things with us that we’ve never fully been able to get over. And we should not get over them … it’s that pain that molds us into who we are, makes us better, makes us stronger, though it does not seem like it at the time. But don’t be mad at the world, or the universe, or God. Be happy that you’ll grow from everything that happens. That no matter how horrible something is, even death, there is growth and value, and light at the end of it all. Embrace what you cannot change. Change what you can. Make the best of a bad situation. Somehow, just thinking this gets us through.
Look back on your pain. Chances are you’ll find lessons, growth, and outcomes that were benefits. Things you never would have otherwise known. Just like when we feel we’re not accomplishing enough, we benefit from looking back to see how far we’ve actually come. Looking back on pain helps us see growth and strength we would not have had.
Having experienced the major loss of my mom this year, that horrific pain brought important lessons, growth, and even special moments that would not have occurred without it. I embrace what we went through.
Pain is growth, lessons, and forging strength. Handle it with dignity and the peace of knowing that though it seems dark, there is light around the corner.
PS: In the midst of my pain, taking an escape moment, I decided to go Christmas shopping. It was very hard to get into the spirit with something looming over me. Yet there are people I love whom I want to give something special, not out of obligation, but because I want to honor them with a gift to show appreciation. It’s easy to fall into a Grinch attitude that you hate Christmas shopping and the pressure that comes with it. Instead, give of yourself, of your heart. Make something with your own hands if you can, at least as one gift. And think about the person and what really lights up their eyes — what do they get excited about? It’s not about the volume of gifts, it’s about showing you know them and are tuned in to them.
Other than her love, and our three amazing children, the greatest gift my wife ever gave me was an art lesson. It was great because she sensed that I needed to be creative, and she was right. That lesson 25 years ago resulted in a new career filled with painting, art, and creating a lot of things to help artists and collectors scratch their itch. Maybe an art lesson isn’t the gift for your special person, but if there is interest, I’ve listed some of the things we do that would make great gifts. I’ll explain each. But I don’t want Sunday Coffee to be a commercial environment, so please stop reading here if you have no interest.
This is a piece that is being reprinted while you are going through something personal. By the time you read this it might all be over. However, I am writing to you to say how lovely you write. I look forward to these writings, because they inspire me. I find myself agreeing with most of what you have written and pray you have come out the other side, by the time you read this reply
For some reason, I have known more pain than a lot of my peers but I don’t resent it. Like you, I was taught to weather the storms and soldier on. Come to grips with the cards you are dealt and move on. My coworkers observed to each other that the ones who have been through a lot seem to be able to find their balance quicker, than those who had easier childhoods. All of us marveled at that statement but we all agreed it was true of the group we worked with. I learned something about myself that day and so did my one other coworker who was being compared to the group along with me.
Thank you for these heartfelt messages. I for one, really enjoy your writings and sharing “real” life with us.
Eric, who knew you were going to become an important person in my life?! I’ve always been an artist in my heart and dabbled here and there, almost getting an associate’s degree in it i when I lived Tucson years ago. But it wasn’t until moving to San Diego because of a circumstance with an adult child ( one of the “hard things” you wrote about) that I discovered what a wonderful therapy it is. If always fine oil and acrylic, but in 2014 started watercoloring at the urging of an artist friend who saw I was drowning. It was a gift from God and a way to see beauty and color again in a world that has become hopeless and gray. I ended up joining the San Diego Watercolor Society, taking workshops, watching YouTube teaching videos every spare minute. Fast forward to Covid. That’s when I discovered Streamline Art Videos on Facebook and started watching the wonderful teachers paint and listening to their stories. Now reading your Sunday Coffee, I realize how God used you in a mighty way to rescue and inspire all us fellow artists, whatever stage we are in, and give us something to look forward to every day, encouraged us to keep creating, and speaking wisdom and Truth into a very hard year. You made it bearable. We all have struggles in life. God gets us through them, and he very often uses people. You’re one of those he used. Thank you for listening to the vision he gave to you. And thank you for your generosity and faithfulness doing these presentations every day. I know it was sacrificial and hard, but I wanted you to know – it mattered. God bless you!
So sorry to hear of the loss of your Mom. Losing a loved one is the hardest to endure; I know what that’s like. Regarding teens, I had four of my own, and then three Teen Grandchildren I helped raise. So please feel free to ask me any questions you may have. Lol. Wishing better days ahead for you, and for us all.🙏
Excellently done, very nicely written, I enjoyed each word and the opening paragraph put me right in the beauty of the porch. Thank you
I always enjoy your posts. I understand fully what you are meaning about life’s pain. If you live long enough, they will come. I have one son who is 34, those life lessons he had to learn while at home were difficult, but as you said, necessary. And unfortunately he developed some bitterness toward us his parents that he has taken with him out in the world. I believe that he will, in time, realize that we acted out of love for him. As parents, we do the best we know how and our children grow to maturity and realize this eventually. Some come to this realization sooner than others.
You seem to be a good dad and you are there for your family. This is the best thing you can do in life.
I did not miss your post last week because I was sick with COVID-19. I wasn’t looking at my emails. So, for me, you are forgiven for not posting.
WOW!! Thank you!
Thank you dear friend for your words of light and wisdom. As you have shared your many morning moments from your porch, my hope is that morning sitting on your wicker chair, embracing the healing sights in front of you,
R eyes , that moment of healing as a parent will be etched in your heart forever. Blessings and gentle breaths as you receive the light if healing..
Kathleen Stupfel Hickey 💞
A profound letter . I know this has been a stressful year for so many . At 76 I am retired and I find nature as a peaceful soothing pill.
You have made this pandemic a little less stressful with your interviews of art knowledge. Thank you for your time and thoughts.
You are special and I know you set a great example for your teenage kids.
This too shall pass.
Thank you Eric for taking the time to write. I enjoy reading your emails although sometimes I just don’t have the time. I have experienced much of what you have/are going through. I guess I’m about 10 years ahead of you. In spite of it all life is beautiful. I wish I had the resources to attend one of your awesome events or travel trips. But I am also happy to be where I am. Blessings on you and your family. Teenagers do grow up and actually become pretty remarkable people. The reward for not killing Tham at that stage of their life. An then they bring home grandkids!
Hang in there and enjoy the ride.
One of your best articles.
Like so many others I enjoy your coffee comforts
Thank you for all you do for the art community!
Blessings Eric! Knowing you are a blessing to so many others!
I hope all can be and is resolved for your family members. Thank you for a fantastic year of art instruction and community.
Eric, Thank you for sharing this. I have also am struggling not to be the rescuer and let my kids grow and deal with what they have to go through. Tough Love but I know that I would rather them have learned some of these lessons young and not when they are my age. You are an inspiration and a gentle reminder that sometimes I might just be on the right track.
Keeping you and your family in my prayers.
You are my Sunday light even I carry my own in my heart always.Wishing You and all You love health,happiness and lots of sunshine.Hugs for all Sylvia
Dear Mr. Rhoads,
Thank you so much for your wisdom, courage in all things difficult, and your wonderful abilty to communicate through the written word. I love reading these posts each week as insight into the self gives me courage to go beyond what I think I can do. I am a retired Interior Designer, and read a fair amount now that I have considerably more free time. Your weekly column gives me courage to keep exploring, doing, painting, and absorbing all I can from your column. Thank you for taking your time to share with your readers. We love it!
Thank you for. sharing. I didn’t. expect my last loss would make me stronger, but others have stepped up and helped me give.my life more focus. Fortunately we are artists! Sunday Morning Coffee gets my week underway. I love.being in the company of a fine writer. Bless you for being a part of my life.
You are a wise man and seek wise counsel. We didn’t sign up for “ Easy Kids Only” when we became parents. Our job is to help them with all of their complexities, to grow and mature. We all fall when we are learning and it is the wise parent who is the steady rudder for their ship. Breathe deeply, know your truth, be a steady hand and be the example your children need. The sun will come out tomorrow, Annie sang!
Thank you Eric..it is so true we need to let our loved ones go through the pain as, like ourselves, we will survive..even though we don’t feel we will. May this next week bring you comfort in knowing you have given us the guidance we needed…God Bless Peggy
Your coffee time is so enlightening, I can always relate to everything you say. I’ve been through so much pain in my life, thought mine was the worst, nobody could hurt as much as me, but we all do through our various life experiences
Right on Eric. It’s unfortunate that more people have not learned the lessons you have shared in this issue. Thanks for sharing.
Eric, Thank you for sharing your sorrows and worries with us. Life is not all just the perfect, happy times. Sharing how we deal with the worst times will surely help someone else deal with their own tribulations. Keep up your good work that we so much enjoy and appreciate but, as your friend said, take care of yourself first so you are able to contribute so greatly to the art world.
Completely agree with you, and have also come to these realizations, myself.
To keep this short…would like to share two words with you…brought forward by one thought you shared:
“Why would God do this to me? Thankfully I did not have that reaction this time, but I get it a lot. ”
The word I point out here is “REACTION”. Compared to “RESPOND”. Do you know the difference? It is quite simple to understand the difference: Think of taking a medication. Do you “REACT” or “RESPOND” to it? One is negative, one is positive!
In all things I try to give enough time, so that I can RESPOND to what is happening! Take care, and God bless!
Always, Betty J Billups
I’m so sorry you lost your Mother. It is quite painful to lose someone you’ve been growing closer and closer to with each passing year. Your thoughts, dreams, and heart, will keep her memory nourished.
In lockstep with your difficult situation, I’ve found wise words via the internet from Dr. John Gottman, Eric Barker, and Dr. Sue Johnson.
You have many true friends you’ve yet to meet among the sisterhood and brotherhood of artists, some of whom are replying to this post.
“When you give love, you give it secondhand; you get to feel it first.” from Life 101
You are very wise and we are better for your insight.
Simply ….. thank you Eric. Big hug.
Thank you Eric. I hope that you are feeling better…recovering from the stress of life. If it’s any consolation at all, you have brought ‘light’ into my life by just being you. You are such a gifted artist, entrepreneur,… human being. Thank you for being here with us… for sharing your vision of art with us… I hope in some small measure, you can feel the sincerity of my caring thoughts for you.
Above all else, losing our mothers, the grief, the lifetime memories some not so good yet most of them precious, creates a major change in who we are. It also makes us realize that our family is paramount in our lives. I’m glad you were able to take time away from work. Everyone of we artists who follow you have enjoyed the replay of your daily videos.
I’m praying for you and your family. As I look back on my life I can attest to the fact that having teens was the most stressful part of parenting. Thank you for sharing. We love you!
Welcome back Eric
Hi Eric. I never comment on blogs but I am so appreciative of yours I just had to let you know how I feel! I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to see someone who is as successful as you are in your professional life actually choose to be authentic and real about their struggles in their personal life. You are my hero! I say this because I want to create beautiful paintings but also to encourage and pour into the lives of others. I’m a part-time counselor/spiritual director and fine artist and at times I am torn between where to put my time! It would be so much easier to choose one over the other and I feel that I could excel more if I didn’t live with this tension between the two. Your words of encouragement remind me that we are all not only artists but people with real issues that need to be worked on while we are still creating works of art! I trust God to lead me each day as to how to invest my time and this keeps me dependent on God. I’m praying for you and I’m so thankful for your wisdom and that I get to see all the lives you are touching as you share your journey! God bless you and your family Eric! Gratefully, Julie
Thank you Eric. I hope you are having a restful, joyful vacation. About pain, it is so hard to deal with but in the end, it makes us stronger and wiser when we are on the other side of it. My childhood was sad and I cried a lot and felt unneeded and inadequate. But I realize now it has made me a wiser and more compassionate person, plus an interesting one too.
So I am writing because I have been lucky to be added on to the Russia trip, and need to get a light easy to use easel with good space for setting out paints. If you could let me know when you return, I’d sure appreciate it.
My husband handmade a fabulous easel for me, which I will always use and treasure, but it is heavy and for a trip to Russia It is just too heavy.
Thank you and I am very excited to do this Russian trip, even though I have been there 3 prior times with unbelievable experiences, but not art focused at all.
Best wishes, Elaine Davis
Thank you for re-sending this wonderful post. Like others I appreciate the wisdom you share with us…its encouraging and helpful and often, personally, very timely. I pray for God’s blessing and grace to be with you and your family.
Thank you for the insightful and challenging comments. These have helped me look back and into the emotions I have gone through over the past many months and contained to go through. Your comments have been very healing and for that, I thank you. Allan
Good morning, and thank you for this wonderfully written analogy of living a life full of wisdom. When we listen to the inner small voice of God, there are lessons to be learned that should result in outcomes that forever bless the heart and soul. Only then can we stand firm and help others learn to follow that same intrinsic leading. I pray that you are blessed with peace, even that which goes beyond understanding.
Eric: You never have to be all things to all people, all of the time. Whatever was going on in your busy life, welcome to a new week and another shot at living life.
Thank you for all you do.
There is a tunnel at the end of the light, no wait, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Whatever. It’s the place you came from and the place your going back to, home. No worries, life is exactly as it should be.
Thank you Eric.
I hope all is well with you.(
Eric, Thank you for putting into words what I know to be true but must remind myself of so often. You are wise, honest and genuine to have these insights, and so generous to share them. I wish you strength, peace and joy.
Oh, how timely! God is so good, ALL the time! Every moment of crisis can bring growth! Thank you for your transparency and sharing your heart! I needed this advise/insight on caring for myself!!!!!!!!!🙌❤️✝️
Well said! It’s very difficult to thank God for all circumstances but repeatedly doing so gives great peace.
Well said, my friend! Well said! God bless you and your family and thank you for all you do for your family and for the art world.
Life is a dodgeball game!
Problems are always coming our way. Some are soft and slow and can easily be handled. Others are fast and hard and we get hit. It hurts. The consequences are we are out of the game for awhile. In the game of dodgeball, it your teammate gets hit and the ball bounces off that person and then hits you ….. you’re both out. You’ve become the victim because your teammate did not handle the problem correctly. Oftentimes parents pay emotionally and financially because their kids got involved in a bad situation. Because we love our children we step in to help out. Sometimes standing by and/or “tough love” is not the answer. We all feel each others pain. Been there, done that. Like a sore bruise that eventually heals, It too will usually pass.
Thank you for sharing this article with us. The challenges we face while we are on this earth have been a blessing to me. Initially I felt anger asking the Lord why me? I now welcome those challenges and thank God for them. No question life’s challenges have allowed me to grow emotionally and spiritually. Let us ” Paint On”.
Thank you for the reminders. Live and look forward to your Sunday Morning Coffee time. There is always insight there and understanding. I do appreciate the time and thought you deliver to us.
Eric, what words of wisdom you have shared here. As I read, I hung on every one of them. I will continue to share them with family and friends. Thank you.
what a lovely share and…so true.
This one really hit home. I too had a crisis with my teen two weeks ago. Things are slowly improving, and she is seeing a counselor now, but for awhile, everything else stopped and her issue consumed us all. Thank you for your words about pain and I hope you and your family are doing better.
Sending you and your family love and peace 🙏🏻
My prayers are with you and your family. Life is hard. But, you’re right in taking the approach that the pain is happening for you, not to you. This too shall pass and a new morning will dawn bright!
You do so much for other people! Take care of yourself. Know that God is with you and is the light in the darkness.
We all appreciate everything you have done for us artists out here during this trying year.
My prayers are that all is well for you and yours, that this break from your “Sunday Coffee” is giving you the time you need for. . . . whatever. You are a kind and joyful part of our lives. Thank you for your “Coffees” , for sharing your thoughts, wisdom and insights and for all of your work in the Plein Air movement. We deeply appreciate you. Especially right now when something is requiring this break, Please take care of you.
Good morning, I am writing because I just want to say I miss the weekly emails.. when they were current and not reposted I had a feeling that I was being connected with and shared with at that moment in time. It was personalized. I realize and have no complaints that Eric needs a break or may have personal things he needs to attend to.. but I don’t bother to read these reposted emails.. they aren’t even relevant to the time of year etc. It is a disappointment. I personally would rather not get the repeats and just a note stating Eric is on break.. or something of the sort. You could link to a post that might be interesting to folks.. I don’t want to unsubscribe if there is plans to write current events. The human factor is missing and thats what was appealing about the Sunday coffee posts. . So I hope Eric will start writing again.. its been a number of weeks.. I hope all is well and that we will see the Sunday coffee posts come back to life. Thank you
Always, Always the best information!!!
Amen – Love and Merry Christmas!!
Eric, thank you for opening up and sharing your troubles with us…. I Sincerely hope you can get thru this ( I know you will) and wish you the speediest of jounreys! Your words are very wise indeed and I enjoyed reading them and taking them into my psyche.
I will share them, they are worthy of sharing.
Wishing you a successful outcome to whatever the issue is, with much love to you and yours… .
its tough being a teen and even tougher being a parent of teens! Especially three at once!
Happy New Year!
Oh Eric! What an incredible post!! – ,it is eminently wise; you share with us the best of what it means to reach for God, the best of what it means to be fully alive and present and human!! So honest, it feels like touching heart to heart and pain to pain. I’m one who freaked out on you a couple of weeks ago, because you touched my pain (Parked to die) when I wasn’t prepared for it . Had tucked it away. But now? Now, I feel like you are a brother. We are the same. I hope that I did not cause you pain with my response, back then. But if I did, I am sorry. I think I will employ the 100/20 rule from now on! And not go off like a loose canon. And please know that I admire you and respect you highly – I did before and continue to do so now! Am stopped in my tracks with admiration for your courage and openness in sharing your thoughts and life with us. Your writing today is more than amazing!!
I just Love You!!! Not like a wife but a friend!! An art friend plus a human that just gets me!! So funny how this world goes round. We are all connected! I had a similar bah humbug mood!! I bought myself a cute knitted Santa hat!! I got smiles and found myself smiling. My day got better! Amazing how smiles are contagious! I met up with one of my friends who never had children! I found myself whining about my children. I actually told her “ children can bring such pain “. She should be thankful! Ick. I said that!!! Yes I understand completely about not allowing our children to fail. My youngest and really only baby, says and expects more than he should. He is now 32. A good man. But I find myself wishing I had taught him better! So I assume it’s never too late. Boy it is harder for me than him. I love him dearly and never want him to feel pain. But I cannot. I have blamed God. And you know He can take it!! He knows our heart. He knows our weakness. At this time we celebrate His birth! Thank you for coming to live as a human. Taking our ultimate pain-or death and giving us that believe eternal life. I thank Him for all my gifts! I will try and do better! Merry Christmas to all! Peace, Comfort and Joy always Cheral
Glad you are back. I literally grab a coffee and open my email to see what you have to say and to receive the encouragement that you offer to all of us every Sunday.
I will keep you and your family on my prayer list.
Me too !!
Thanks for sharing and being so honest in Sunday Coffee. Bob and I always enjoy spending time with you each Sunday.
Today we could feel your pain and the difficult time you’re going through. Yes we’ve all been there and yes we do become stronger and from everything we learn, but it’s not easy as we’re going through it. Knowing the sun will shine again and the gift of hope that all will be good again, is wise to remember.
Writing down three things every day in a gratitude journal is a great way I like to start my day. We’re sending our prayers and blessings your way.
Grace and Bob
Great article, thank you. This year my family lost many loived ones. Not my immediate family but cousins, aunts and uncles and still difficult. Their grief is deep and I can relate after losing many close to me over the past years also. I had a great support group that I too developed through my art friends and in just practicing my art, my own form of meditation and escapism. My aunt who lost her husband of 60 years was especially struggling with grief to the point of attempting to end her life. Luckily with her children’s intervention and therapy she is better but the true miracle is her introduction to art in her assisted living home. I recently went to visit her and she proudly showed me 3 of her paintings she did in her art class. She beamed for the first time in many months and said she wished she had taken up doing art many years before, She lived worldwide with my uncle who had been an executive with a major airline and collected beautiful art pieces from everywehere but she said she had never considered taking it up for herself until now. So at 92 years old she has had her life renewed with hope and beauty and we thank God and art for that!
Hi Eric, thank you so much for this Sunday Coffee chat. It means so much to me and I am sure to many many others as well. You are a real blessing! May God bless you, your family and all your ventures. Wishing you the very best for 2020! Kind regards. Johan. Pretoria, RSA.
Eric, as I read your blog today I was reminded of the many times I’ve felt hot tears on my face or at such a loss in a dark time. Thank you for being real, raw. Your courage to press “Pause” and reflect is where I too have found peace. I believe God is gracious and leads us out of these places…even if they are of our own doing. I’m saying a prayer for your family today that each of you will find the grace to bind together during the storm and everyone will learn more about how to navigate life in strength…true strength where peace and understanding rise to the top. Thank you for reminding us why we care, why we give, why we should pause.
May there be some Merry in your Christmas.
I too missed last Sunday, but here we are and moving forward.
A very Good Friend gave me a little saying at a time in my life that thing were going bad and up-site down and I keep it were I can read it.
When Life puts you in tough situations, don’t say “Why Me” say “Try Me”
We are stronger then we think!
Your email message made me think about the time my youngest son at a teen was arrested and because he was a juvenile, I had to appear before the judge with him. As one of the local probation officers who supervised adult felons, I was already familiar with the process of court which gave me the advantage of knowing which attorney to hire, but I knew this was an experience from which I could not protect him. He was, literally, old enough to know better; and there were going to be consequences – very long term consequences. His attorney was able to strike a very good deal with the prosecuting attorney, and since this was his first offense, he was permitted not to go to detention. He was placed on supervised probation (not with my office, but with the community corrections probation office)and had to complete a year of community service and write a letter of apology to the court. .
He also had to attend counseling sessions and so did I. That was perhaps the toughest part for me, to attend group counseling with my own clients whose own teenagers had gotten in trouble. It was humiliating but also enlightening as I learned absolutely that even though we all had a different approach to parenting and life, we had all ended up in this same room together every week for six months. My approach to parenting was no more effective then theirs and I’m not sure that any of us came out convinced that there was a better way.
To this day, my son struggles with life. He rarely asks for help. He becomes angry when I offer it. Overall, this has been the most painful part of raising this young man. Having to let him go has been heart breaking. He knows I’m here. He also knows that I will not give him money, but I’ll occasionally pay a bill for him directly to the person or company he owes. I might meet him at the gas station to fill his tank. I won’t give him cash, but I’ll purchase groceries for him if he asks. He moves from dead end job to dead end job, but doesn’t want to hear about my suggestions for finding something that might help stabilize him. Admitting I might be right is too painful for him. Most difficult are those nights when I know he is sleeping in his car because he got evicted yet again. But we cannot take him back into our house because he refuses to respect our rules.
So, here we are; 12 years later, and I still lay awake at night sometimes worrying about him. My other two are doing well, are married, have steady jobs with options for promotion, raising kids of their own and they wonder why their little brother went off the rails.
As a retired probation officer, I used to wonder why my clients often could not make their way no matter what help and guidance they received from their families, friends and the many social organizations available to them. I no longer wonder. I just know that some folks won’t recover from their own self-inflicted pain. But I know that some do. I’ve seen it. And so I have hope that my own will awaken from his own private Hell one day and discover that he can still find happiness in life.
I hope you and yours are not experiencing anything quite as painful as all this, but if so, please know you and yours are not alone and there is actually hope, no matter how long it takes to get there.
Cate, I’m really sorry you’re having to watch your son struggle so! I can relate….have one of our own. We’ve had hope dashed time and time again but it always rises to the top for “one day”. What a gift to have hope! We’ve had wise counsel from many including Dr. Henry Cloud. If you’re unfamiliar look him up online. His advice has given us the courage when we were in a fog about how to best love our son. I hope your beloved son will find his way to living wisely soon, very soon!
I will look up Dr. Cloud. Thank you for the suggestion.
Great sharing and lessons from your life to mine Eric. Thank you so much for your wisdom, humility, and strength in sharing. So much we always have to learn every day if we but continue the challenges and joys of living moment by moment.
Merry Christmas Eric…
Thank you for sharing each week. I love your mix of humor, life lessons and art inspiration. I’ve taken a number of art workshops this past year and the most significant lessons learned are about anything but “art.” I’ve observed how I react in certain situations and with certain types of people and learned a lot about myself. I’ve listened to artists describe the creative life in truly spiritual terms that really spoke to my heart. I’ve been through a lot of difficulties in the past 10 years, and these lessons were what was needed, more than art instruction!
You have been a part of those life lessons learned. Thank you for sharing your heart each week. You put a lot out there for your readers and probably wonder if anyone is listening — we are! Hang in there and keep learning and growing — and sharing it with us to inspire your readers on our journey.
Dear Eric, Oh my goodness; watching our children go through pain is excruciating but it is a part of the most wonderful and terrible job in the world. It ruins our own lives for a while but we have to love them through to solutions and it can take awhile.It’s the time that young people become addicts to avoid going through to the other side of difficult life experiences. I know because I went through some of them as a teenager and tried addiction when I couldn’t face my life as it was. I had one parent who was an addict and one who loved and believed in me and she is the one who ultimately won my attention and gratitude. All along I was an artist, all my life since I could open a box of crayons and hold a pencil and she saved every creation and believed in me even though I think I must have been one of the toughest children to love that there ever was. I have one daughter now and have gone through this process of watching and loving through the painful times, sometimes from a distance which is the hardest. I have to let her fail and what I have learned is that rising up from failure and terrible pain is the way that she acquires her sense of self and confidence that I could never give her. It’s a gift that only they can give themselves. My art and now painting have saved my life and beyond that given me a personal joy that not only can connect me to other people but is infinite in what it supplies to me in solitude.One thing that I have learned over the years in parenting is that our kids really do listen and watch us handle life so on that note I believe that you are on a road to raising very happy successful people. Hang in there and yes, take time to refresh yourself. It’s the only way to go on being there for so many!
Your words on Sundays these past 2 1/2 years have been a significant part of helping me to sustain the loss of my dear husband in 2017. Grief is an unbalancing of the strongest character, and indeed the associated stress causes us to suffer health and emotional issues that work to compound the sadness. I have experienced all this (while trying to paint) these past many months. Your words every Sunday have been ‘spot on’ in helping me understand what I face and how to survive.
Your absence last week I also noted, and understanding who you are, knew that it was probably personal and required all your focus. I hope that all is resolved and there is a good outcome. Thank you for all you do and have done for the art world. And, thank you for going beyond that and guiding us with your words and insight to better experience our human condition. Blessings to you and all of those you love for a wonderful Holiday and Happy New Year!
Dear Lynn, I hope you are feeling stronger; better able to find some light as you grieve the loss of your husband. With deep sympathy, Nancy
Thank you so much for the update, Eric. I was quite worried when your post failed to appear last week, because it’s something I wait for and read eagerly every Sunday morning. I’m sorry that it was indeed something serious, but very relieved that you’re still there and keeping on. Wishing you strength!