Tips for Fishing and Living # 91

Tip # 91:

“Good things come to those who bait.” 

Author Unknown

This one is just plain silly. It’s a joke, of course. Typically jokes work best when they provide us with a surprise ending; something we were not expecting. In this case we expected the line to read, “…those who wait.” Instead we get “bait.” Funny, right? When this happens most of the time we’re left expecting a concluding drumming of the classic “ta-da!”

This may seem odd but in light of the recent terrible events in our nation’s capital I’m dedicating this entire Tip to humor and playfulness. Hear me out. I am doing so because humor and playfulness are absolutely essential ingredients for our mental health and well-being, as individuals and as a nation. It is not just some nice add-on or a nifty luxury, if only we have the time; no, I say it’s paramount, especially now. And I’m serious about this! The key to a healthy life is being able to take life seriously while not taking ourselves seriously. So here goes:

Q:           “Why did the chicken cross the road?”

A:            “Because she was no chicken.”

There’s a great scene in the old “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” movie where the two cowboys have been chased by the Texas Sheriffs’ pose. They now find themselves surrounded and trapped at the edge of cliff overlooking a river far below them. After assessing their desperate situation,

Butch says: “We’re going have to jump.”

The Kid replies: “I can’t do that; I don’t know how to swim.”

Butch says: “Don’t worry about it; why the fall alone will kill us.”

In working with couples I find it important not to take sides, and instead help each party see that both have contributed to their overall problem. It is much easier to see the wrong the other may be guilty of doing. Usually each one wants me to tell him/her “you’re right” and that the other one is to blame. Each would prefer dropping off their flawed partner, have me fix him/her, and then swing back to pick up the now repaired partner. Of course it doesn’t work that way.

I teach them the Pot and Lid Theory of Marriage, which says, “for every pot there’s a lid.” In other words in my best humorous way I attempt I to say “you got pretty much what you deserve.” This includes whether you think your partner is the cat’s meow or the horse’s you-know-what. Either way, you got what you deserve.

Most of the time our problems have to do with our inability to think rationally and to respond in a non-reactive manner. More often than not – especially when we’re upset and agitated – we don’t respond; we react. We’re so worked up that we’re seeing RED and we simply cannot take in anything that might provide us with a better and healthier perspective. This is where humor can serve us.

Another silly movie: Stripes. In this Bill Murray film the new age army drill sergeant has his young recruits sitting in a circle and has each take a turn telling a little bit about themselves. One young man starts by telling that he is from Texas and his name is Francis. Then he adds: “I hate my name Francis. Anyone who calls me Francis I’ll kill him. And another thing I don’t like to be touched…”and goes to repeating his mantra that he’ll kill anyone who goes against his demands. At this point the drill sergeant interrupts him and says,

“Lighten up, Francis!”

Many of us right now are similar to Francis. We are under tremendous anxiety and upset, which is why we need to “lighten up.”  This goes for all of us and has nothing to do with the political side you or I may take. The intensity to which things have gotten means we need to steady ourselves and be able to respond appropriately. I get that what I am suggesting may seem counter-intuitive.

In addition, we cannot work on lightening up; it’s an oxymoron. If one was to work on lightening up, I am certain it would not prove effective. It would be as effective as trying to not think about elephants. The only way to do this is to think about something else. If you tell yourself, ‘Don’t think about elephants, don’t think about elephants…’ you will ONLY think about elephants. Instead, think of, for instance, about rabbits. But to NOT think about elephants will only cause you to think MORE about elephants. If you doubt this: Try not thinking about hot fudge sundaes. If you do that for a ten minutes, more than likely you’ll find yourself heading over to the Ice Cream Shop.

Right now we are in the midst of some very serious stuff. We are in a global pandemic of crisis proportions with record setting infections rates and deaths; we have an explosive presidential transfer of power that has now been pushed into volatile levels and horrific violence and tragedy; and with the real possibility of more to come, and we have a large part of the population struggling with uncertainty and possible financial disaster. In addition we have also been confronted with the reality of systemic racism that has become more emboldened and overt.

If ever we needed calming, hopeful voices and clear, non-anxious leadership, it is now. We don’t need denial, and we do not need hyping our current anxiety already within society. But this is not new; we have been here before. And we’ve have had presidents that provided a much needed steady hand at the helm while we navigated these torrential storms.

 While I am not saying they were perfect leaders, I offer their calm as a valuable contribution at those moments in our history. I can only speculate how they remained calm as they attempted to lead. I am certain they used humor and playfulness more than likely to remain grounded themselves. Let me cite just a few:

Lincoln came into the presidency following three successive weak and ineffective presidents. Each was a peace-at-any-price, anxious man. One could say they were “fillet of backbone” leaders: James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce, and Millard Fillmore. Lincoln distinguished himself with a clear and well-defined stance. The heated debates with Stephen Douglas and Lincoln were over slavery and its place in the United States. Lincoln’s anti-slavery platform made him extremely unpopular with Southerners and his nomination for President in 1860 enraged them. Realize these debates were actually thoughtful essays and rebuttals that went back and forth over several months. As president he led our nation through civil war and the end of slavery.

FDR came into his presidency following an overwhelmed President Hoover. Roosevelt gave us his fireside chats on evening radio from 1933 to 1944. He calmed the Nation as we needed to get through the difficult banking closures and the Depression.

Ronald Reagan was tough on communism while he kept us out of war. Almost everyone liked Reagan, although not so many admire him. There were numerous scandals within his term of office, yet he offered America a fatherly/grandfatherly figure who, perhaps, made many feel safe and secure at a time of global unsteadiness. He spoke decisively while in a way many Americans could relate to and found comforting.

There were those 13 days in October 1962 where the world held it’s breathe and hoped for a peaceful end to the Missile Crisis in Cuba. JFK had to deal with this extremely serious situation; as we were on the brink of a nuclear war. Kennedy had to not only deal with the Russians, but also his cabinet, and the hawks in the military and in the Congress. He had very few confidants to seek counsel with during these intense days.  At several points Kennedy is found saying humorous things, we can only speculate, helped him remain calm in that intensely anxious situation.

One reporter claimed JFK allegedly told his former mistress that the Cuban Missile Crisis may never have happened if Fidel Castro “had more sex.”

Kennedy continued to keep his cool, even when criticized. The hawks viewed JFK as indecisive or, worse, spineless. Hardly. He was evaluating his choices as the world could not afford another Bay of Pigs. At one point Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtis Le May challenged JFK, saying,

“You’re in a pretty bad fix.”

Kennedy shot back, “You’re in there with me.”

At another one of his briefings he stated:

“I hope you all realize that there isn’t enough room in the White House Bunker for all of us.”

Few of us will ever face such global crises as these presidents did. But we all have, from time to time, serious and confronting issues to handle. I say the key, in addition to factual information, is Play. Play gets us out of our reptilian brain and back into our mammalian brain – the locus of our reasoning, logic and problem-solving capacities.

So play together, and play alone. Cultivate enjoyment with yourself, your partner, family members, work colleagues. See play and humor as the way to open your capacity for intelligent actions. This applies for everyone.

Couples need to stop thinking they are supposed to be in a serious relationship. Couples say this after they get engaged. They tell others, “So now we’re in a serious relationship.” No! Bad idea. Prior to engagement they only knew how to have fun and enjoy themselves. Married couples make things even worse by almost totally stopping fun all together. Big mistake.

I’ve assigned married couples to institute date night as a regular, on-going basis. Go out alone as a couple, and do not take the children’s issues or other problems with you. Leave all that home. Go have a fun dinner or do some fun activity. Even in our pandemic world there are ways to be creative with inserting fun into one’s relationship. Don’t stop sending wonderful love letters, texts or cards. If you do send them do it more than just for Valentine’s Day, birthdays and anniversaries. Do it for, well, “just the fun of it!”

I see couples who are so serious and so caught up in issues – issues like trust. They think this is the issue, but I read it as a symptom. Right away, I know this couple to be emotionally stuck together. It’s as if, if one of them gets cut the other one is supposed to bleed. They don’t know where one ends and the other begins. This is a sign of anxiousness – a red flag. The red flag is how serious they are being.

Couples who are each moving along with their lives don’t really focus much on trust. They trust themselves to know how to play and how to grow. They tend not to confuse caring with anxiousness. Most assuredly, they tend to be people who know how to parallel play.

As children we parallel play and was what we were supposed to learn and develop. For the most part we knew how to do it. When we were two or three years old we knew how to play and this made us very attractive. As we were having a good time playing often the other children around us would stop doing what they were doing to watch us, and some even began to take part in our play. We knew something then that perhaps we’ve forgotten, but this could be extremely useful today.

People who master the art of playfulness are magical to observe. There is a twinkle in their eyes. They are light without becoming flippant. They are people who are flexible while remaining solid and grounded. They are grace in action.

Am I being too serious right now? I’m just trying to get you to take on the seriousness of play and humor!

So here are a few suggestions for a more playful lifestyle:

  • Stop working on your relationship; instead have a commitment to have more fun.
  • Learn to play more in all the areas of your life.
  • Look for the absurdity of life and get in on the joke.
  • Observe the delight of two year olds playing; and then find ways to imitate them.

Yes, we are going through a very tough time. This is precisely why we need to remind one another we are:

  1. Going to get through these troubling times,
  2. The terrible pandemic will end, and
  3. All the dysfunctional ways we’ve been awakened to are opportunities for us to grow and evolve.

We must not paralyze ourselves with our past mistakes by panicking. Rather, it’s time to go get that old hula-hoop out of the attic and take ‘er for a spin. Or go find some silly putty and start copying the funny papers.   

Here’s one not-very-related final joke:

A Rabbit, a Priest and a Minster walk into a bar. The priest and the minister go over to a small table and sit. The Rabbit walks right up to the bar and orders a beer.

The bartender give the Rabbit his beer and says, “So what do your friends want to drink?”

The Rabbit replies, “How should I know, I’m only here because of a typo.”

Instructions for making SILLY PUTTY:

4 oz. Elmer’s White Glue.

1/4 cup Cornstarch.

1/4 tsp Borax.

1/4 cup Very Hot Water.

2-5 drops Food Color.