Don Paglia | Marriage and Family Counseling. Constellations Workshops


 Tip # 97:

“There’s no taking trout with dry breeches.”

Miguel de Cervantes

As a kid I was part of a small band of neighborhood boys that played together – street ball, whiffle ball, football – as well as other fun stuff that young boys do. This included things like fishing, camping, hiking, playing made-up games, and most importantly, building a fort out in the nearby woods.

We lived on a newly developed street next to a large wooded area that backed up to a local golf course. Houses were in various stages of completion on our brand new dead-end street. We dumpster dove after the workmen left for the day grabbing discarded scraps of lumber and other materials for our fort.

It was a pre-adolescents’ paradise. We constantly expanded our customized hideout, always improving it based on whatever items we commandeered from construction sites. Our fort was more of a clubhouse where we gathered. We loved thinking we were hidden from adults, as well as, girls.

It was during these formative years I concluded there were two types of people. Some of my friends told us about really cool things they intended to go do, or to go get. Usually this did not happen. Eventually we called them big mouths or dreamers. We mostly ignored them or made fun of them since they were all talk and little or no action. Then there were those other guys. Some in our group said very little about whatever they were planning. Instead they went out and did it.

It’s important to have dreams. It’s also important to take action(s) to bring about those dreams. Dreams without actions pretty much accomplishes little to nothing. Actions taken without a guiding vision can become idleness or just busy work. The trout are always there for the taking, but you do need to step up (or in) to take them. When it comes to trout fishing, if you want them you need to actually wade out into the waters.

Fishing, metaphorically speaking, means we often have to get our hands dirty. It means rolling up our proverbial sleeves and doing those things that can actually manifest our dreams.

So what stops us? What prevents us from wading out into the stream of life? In one word: Worry. Worry is a big part of our problem. We worry about all kinds of things that could possibly happen were we to take a chance and go do something we want to do. Worry and fear.

We have great imaginations, and this works both for us and against us. Too often we misuse our imaginations, especially when we do those worst case scenarios in our head. It requires us to use logic to defeat our worrisome tendencies. By logically knowing that our doubts and fears should not even be in our heads this becomes a great place to start.

We worry because we are intelligent. Therefore the way to defeat worry and fear is with logic. Our logic can tell us that we can calculate the odds of what we worry about to see a better horizon. So here goes:

  • 40 % of the things we worry about will never occur. Repeat: NEVER. It is a major waste of our energy to do so.
  • 30 % are things that have already happened. Worrying about them won’t change anything.
  • 12 % of all worries have to do with needless imaginings about our health. I have a headache so do I have a brain tumor? I have a scratchy throat, so do I have Covid-19? I forgot my password, so am I getting dementia? You get the idea. It’s worth checking these things out, but not worth worrying about them.
  • 10 % are the petty-little-nothing worries we have about what other people think or might think. Since we can’t do anything about this it is also a total waste of our energy.


  • This leaves only 8 % of our worries as legitimate concerns. It is this small percentage of things that are actually essential and legitimate concerns. These are the very things we can do something about, especially if we are not wasting our energy on all those other items.

In other words, stop wasting time and energy on things that are never going to happen or we cannot do anything about or we cannot control.

A personal example:

When my wife and I were getting ready to retire, I started worrying that we’d not be able to financially afford me no longer working full time. As we were getting closer to the final day of my job ending, I had a terrific breakthrough:

I reassured myself by recalling that my God had, so far, seen us through every single stage of our lives! We had managed to get married quite young, have children right away and eventually have six of them, purchase a home, purchase another home, and live through each stage of family life up until this new stage we were now about to enter: called retirement.

As I reminisced I reasoned that since my God had indeed always been there throughout all those previous times, there was no reason to think that now, suddenly, God would not show us the way in this stage as well. It made no sense to think otherwise. We were creative and resourceful and had always been willing to work hard, and to learn what we needed to grow and develop within each successive stage of life. This stage would be no different. So I relaxed. I more calmly stepped into this new stage of life to discover how this one would unfold and see what challenges and opportunities we would encounter. That was eight years ago. So far so good. In fact it has been a wonderful journey. 

I do not mean to imply we blindly stepped into this stage passively. We had worked hard, managed to save some for our later years, and had also built upon some investments. We have always lived within our means. We had converted our first home into an investment property, and I continue working part time doing what I have always loved to do. Without worrying we have been freed up to be engaged in the managing of this stage of our lives as it now unfolds.

I also think that retirement is a misnomer. Time is precious and finite. At this stage of life it seems more so. All of us still have much to do. We have an obligation to give back to others; to pay it forward, as the popular saying goes. There are generations not yet born, that will be shaped by the moves we make today and the actions we take, no matter our age, physical condition, financial situation, color, gender, emotional state, or our beliefs. What we do matters to all of us.

I am still discovering what I am presently called to do. I am open to seeing new possibilities. Right now, one of the things I am committed to do is helping couples and individuals create an awesome life. And as they do so, they, in turn, offer so much to others. Sometimes I ask married couples to bring to our sessions a photo of their children. Then I point to the photos and say, “I am working for your children; that’s who I am committed to helping.” I am helping these children by getting their parents to be adults who are each more capable of being responsible, mature citizens who know how to take care of themselves in the world, and who also know how to love their children’s father/mother.

As we sadly enter into the one year mark of this global pandemic, with the staggering death count of over 500,000 deaths here in America alone, and as we slowly pull ourselves through this terrible crisis, we need to reflect. Some questions we may wish to consider:

  • Who have I been during these troubling times? How have I shown up in this time of this global pandemic?
  • Have I become a better person for it? Have I diminished my capacity to be a life giving individual? Am I operating the same as I was prior to the pandemic?
  • What have I learned about myself and what I can take from this atypical time for the future?

Perhaps a useful way of focusing us with practical steps for us to go about making a difference is to utilize this process for our consideration (Adapted/modified from previous work in Catholic family ministry):

  1. Start with an awareness that understands. This basically means for our purposes we first broaden our understanding of what is going on around us and within us by using sound and intelligent information. This requires active listening. This listening needed must be a perceptive listening, trustingly, and compassionately listening to what people are saying and, more importantly, meaning. The core to perceptive listening is doing so with great reverence and respect, as well as, without judgment.
  2. Bring a genuine caring that enables. Such caring is forward thinking and is committed to enabling others to bring about positive and productive results. Caring that enables doesn’t leave others feeling passive and powerless. Instead it fosters activating their gifts and strengths, as well as, their problems and needs. This caring is one of empowerment. Also it is about bringing a genuine affirmation that we enable others. Often this requires us to validate our own and other’s successes. We are more likely to build upon past accomplishments.
  3. Build up with an agency of service. As an example, today there is a huge need to feed the hungry. Therefore, soup kitchens, places providing meals, and food pantries are rising up from people committed to serve. The point is that we match our gifts and talents with the felt needs and concerns that arise.
  4. Build upon the three previous points to create structures that facilitate. Sometimes we build structures that debilitate rather than facilitate. We have institutions that may have begun by facilitating the needs of people, but have devolved into being primarily focused on sustaining the institution itself. Also this one is not about building buildings; it’s about arranging various elements that can be put together in order to more effectively carry out our intentions and purpose. A simple example is this: If I, Don, am willing to meet with married couples I must be willing to offer some evening hours to accommodate the reality of working people. Today it means I must also be willing to meet with them online.

I contend we are each here to make the world a little bit better than what it was before we got here. We do so by utilizing our various gifts, talents, experiences, and leanings. We cannot do everything; but we can do something. Together we can do much. 

To go beyond wherever we currently are we need to be creative. “Creative” means I don’t know anything yet, but suddenly I have the insight for the next step, only the next step. This requires surrendering and a letting go of our attachment to illusions: mostly our fear. Then we enter into a movement without knowing exactly where it will lead us, but knowing it is leading us to a new place where everything is good.

We ought to be more than ready to re-immerge from this unpreceded winter’s slumber with new urgency and greater conviction to make a difference. It is time to participate in our democracy. It I time to participate in community.

Put on your waders and head out to those fishing streams to live a fully engaged life. It’s time to stop wishing and go fishing. I think we’d do well by realizing that what we are fishing for is love. It’s also what we bring along with us. It is in everyone, if only we learn to look closely.