Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

I'm up with Alec's crusade...

Alec BaldwinAlec Baldwin appeared on an extended segment of the US daytime chat show The View, speaking about his new quest: to make significant changes in laws regarding parental alienation in divorce cases.

Remorseful about the unforgivably abusive message he left recently on his daughter's answering service that was heard by millions of people when it was released to the media, he said he sought more counseling (from Dr. Phil, no less); that now his mettle is steeled to take action to stop a process in which one parent is unnecessarily alienated from the other when it comes to custody battles.

Hear his apology for speaking so cruelly to his daughter and about his drive to help parents who are purposefully and without reason other than revenge alienated from their children here.

He explains that he suffers from parental alienation syndrome, which he believes drove him to say the terrible things he did to his daughter.

He says he and his legal team have tried to reach out to his ex-wife, Kim Basinger, through her lawyers so they could have a healthy communication for the sake of their daughter, but over the years they have refused.

Evidence and common sense reveal there are thousands, if not millions of children suffering even more than their custodial and non-custodial parents, for in the end it is the children who not only carry the burden of their parents' hideous dysfunction and brutal treatment of one another - especially when the child is used as the object of a custody tractor pull - but who go on to spread this monumental sickness in their own relationships as they mature.

Even Albert Einstein, arguably the most intelligent man in the world, evah, was not smart enough to avoid being an alienated parent. He suffered for years when he was blocked from seeing or communicating with his two sons following the separation from his first wife. The anguish he endured being deprived of his sons is outlined in his biography Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson.

It must stop. Now.

Alec is making it his mission, his legacy to do what he can to make things right, healthy and just - not only for the sake of the children in vicious custody battles, but for all the parents involved - many of whom will go on to remarry and parent even more children.

Alec's book on parental alienation comes out this fall. It does not involve his own personal battle, but is rather a treatise on the extent, seriousness and backlash from this barbaric situation that exists in the silence of too many darkened homes, in the tortured minds of too many children, custodial and alienated parents.

And it provides answers to heal this rift - revealing how the legal community and others involved too often incite and exacerbate the already miserable situation.

The thing about Alec Baldwin - whether you personally "like" him or not - is that he is a well-intended, rarefied force with which to be reckoned because he is willing to be vulnerable, to let us in, to be as honest as possible with himself and therefore others and to put everything on the line for a cause in which he believes.

Any actor reading this will recognize those are the very traits fine actors must possess.

And, I'd guess, a good parent.

He may be fueled by anger, but his purpose is positive, constructive and three-dimensional, unlike the structure of legal alternatives today for divorcing parents and their children. He's not against anyone, but for fair and just treatment of everyone concerned - especially for the sake of the children and therefore by extension the sake of the parents.

Alec says he is going to devote 3-5 years of his life to this cause, that he doesn't care if he ever acts again in this culture of tabloid press. He asked to be released from his hit show, 30 Rock, but (fortunately for fans like me) was refused by NBC. He did not want to hurt the show by all his bad publicity.

But. Know what?

Who ever released the infamous message?

As misdirected as he was in giving the tape to the media, he has set into motion massive attention to unleash the bedrock of a movement that will only grow exponentially to vindicate its target and unleash truthful testimony that has been locked away in bitter, weeping hearts all too long. The mole will find that his actions of embarrassing Alec will backfire in court and actually solidify the relationship between him and his daughter.

I suggest that after all the dust settles, Mr. Baldwin will not only rise from these ashes like the mythical Phoenix, but triumph in instigating innovative ways that we cannot even imagine right now to help our culture in the coming months and years.

You go, guy.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Old relationships (can) become new again

How do you handle the termination of a relationship?

When a relationship ends for me, I consider it dead - not the entire connection, just the part that didn't work.

So that intermediate "death" isn't necessarily its final demise.

But it is terminated completely for a period of time.

After some work, I realize that I understand that the way the relationship was constructed didn't work - and how to let go of it, reconstructing a new way to relate.

Whatever dysfunction caused the problems, poison or misunderstandings between the two of us, creating the elements that killed the connection in that form - those are in the past, at least for me.

To rehash nonfunctioning behavior patterns, "offenses," disputes, accusations (baseless and real), misperceptions and perceptions only keeps us mired in the past. But to recall the feelings that we don't wish to repeat? Those I find definitely worth discussing.

That to me is the process of forgiving. I choose to forgive because I don't like to live with anger or "hardness" in my heart. Whether I choose to reconcilliate - physcially reconnect - with someone who has treated me too badly to deserve reconcilliation is beside the point .. I have to forgive them and still maintain my distance. Forgiveness is for me, not for them.

As for true reconcilliation:

Renewing the relationship means creating a whole new experience with one another - an entirely new relationship - that hopefully will show the growth both people have undertaken since the original connection ceased to exist.

I tend to forget most everything that created original communication gulfs - unless someone is outright mean, or dishonest by ommission or comission with me. Those definitley need to be clarified and reconstructed.

It's been fascinating and fun to renew past relationships after a reasonable distance of time; when we decide to make a "clean" start. Misunderstandings and misperceptions tend to get cleared up, again reflecting the personal growth we've each pursued. Although I've gone in with no expectations, it has actually worked.

These relationships tend to be different - and closer than ever. I think it's because both people are equally invested in creating and maintaining a healthy relationship. We always seem to learn things about each other we never knew.

As it say, it doesn't work all the time. But when it does?


This is also true of my writing projects. I can decide one is just not working and ready for the bin; that's when I tuck it away in the "dead pile" and forget about it.

Then one day I can see how it can achieve a higher creative value for that "dead" project. Time and zen work together and come up with the perfect way to make that script, book, essay, column or article *sing!* And not necessarily in its current form.

But in order for the conversion to be successful, I must remain open to the original project that didn't work being revised into an entirely new form. A book manuscript might works more appropriately as a script and vice versa. A short story becomes a much more suitable poem; a poem makes a more fitting and excellent essay, and so on.

Amazing how art reflects life. Or how life reflects art.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

The flip side

When I'm feeling "down," I tend to want to enjoy a little too much comfort food if I don't stay on top of my feelings.

When I remain aware of my pain and breathe through it, I understand I need to eat well in order to help those painful feelings pass a little more quickly than they would if I'm also feeling badly about how I'm treating my body.

I'm so not interested in those feelings of hurt and sadness hanging around a long time. I know they have to be experienced so I can get on the other side of them and back to peaceful and happy - and the only way to get on the other side is to go through them.

Interestingly, Buddhism declares that the reason - and degree to which - we suffer emotionally is caused by our attachment to things and people.

The more we are attached to someone or something, the more apt we are to experience deep sadness, agony and other miserable feelings with their separation.

It's not that we should be free of attachment, but that we rather hold anyone and anything for whom we care lovingly with an open hand rather than imagining that we need to be so close we share the same molecule.

It's sort of like loving unconditionally without stalking the other person or allowing ourselves to be abused, disrespected or neglected.

The point is - no one can be happy 100% of the time, and it's important that we understand how to deal with the flip side - sadness, disappointment, lethargy, gloom, misery, melancholy or heartbreak.

I've learned when we take care of ourselves - as hard as that is during times of woe, the downside passes more quickly. Ultimately. The more we have the courage to experience the pain hitting us instead of trying to avoid it or souping up on our vices - the faster it transports itself out of our system.

I've certainly gone through this process more than I'd care to admit, but have to say it works.

I also know that if it lasts too long, professional help should defintely be sought.

But for the majority, letting ourselves sit with the misery so it can move on instead of fighting it or simply trying to entertain ourselves "out" of it generally works wonders.

Sharing with friends is also a great way to help the unhappy energy pass through a little more quickly. The British expression is, "a problem shared is a problem halved."

I guess the reason it feels lifted is that when we acknowledge the pain and its cause, indentify it and say it out loud, we can release it. Then we can investigate and understand how it happened and how we can prevent it in the future. Or how we can repair the damage, which perhaps is the most healing thing we can do.

As the sadness dissipates, there's now room for good vibes to take their place, and it's important to be with people who can give us positive messages about ourselves.

It takes courage to deal with difficult feelings - and it takes a champion mentality to confront them and then reach out to make an effort to make amends.

Back to Buddhism.

I believe what they mean is that if we don't allow our identity to become so massively enmeshed in someone else's identity or work, when we run into bumps in the road they won't be so deep they outright paralyze us.

People will always disappoint us, sooner or later.

The degree to which we suffer from that disillusionment depends on how deeply we've allowed ourselves to become immersed in someone else's expectations, world, identification or personality.

This is known as "maintaining our personal boundaries." Again, it doesn't mean we remain aloof. Quite the contrary it means that we communicate freely and truthfully, can love openly and honestly without letting another person become our diety, putting them and their needs or wants ahead of or above us.

The relationship is free of fear.

Two people maintaining their personal identities and boundaries have a rich, sharing, wonderful life indeed because there is no fear of loving, sharing, being open or caring because we are constantly learning and healing ourselves and the other person being compassionately empathetic with them.

If we experience ourselves enmeshed in someone or something else, losing ourselves in them somehow -- we leave ourselves open to pretty horrific pain. And it's impossible to do a thing about anyone else's behavior. They either genuinely care or they don't.

When boundaries are maintained and we've shared honestly, openly, unselfishly - we can recognize the danger signs and do someothing about it nearly immediately.

Nothing can protect us ultimately from hurt, sadness and other agonizing emotions from which we must heal. But as long as we have an awareness of our feelings and tools to deal with them, they don't have to hurtle us into pandemonium or hell along with behavior that is other- or self-destructive.

Here's a big virtual blog hug if you're suffering. ;-)

Be well.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Are you happy? (part deux)

Responses* to yesterday's happiness essay were twofold:

First fold: spot on! Great blog! So true!

The second fold is the subject of this blog.

It's the concern that sometimes we indulge ourselves in the delusion that happiness is an excuse to do nothing. To simply accept everything going on around us no matter how dysfunctional, abusive or empty.

Um, no.

Genuine happiness means we know and are pleased with who we are, how we treat others and are treated and how we live. That doesn't happen if we passively let life happen without participating, therefore letting life itself pass us by.

In fact, the reason I believe that happiness should be such an important component of our lives is because when we are happy - we are true to ourselves, we're energized, we excel, we are industrious, we are caring, generous and loving, we are forgiving, we do what we were put on earth to do - for ourselves and others.

Fundamental happiness is created when we dig in, discover who we are (our true identity) - like and even love the person we find - recognize our life's passion, determine how we want to live, the type of people with whom we want to surround ourselves and how we would define our personal state of joy.

None of which necessarily comes easily or without cost.

True happiness takes courage.

Don't like your job? It's making you unhappy and you wish you could quit. Think of the courage it takes to speak up, to try creating a more positive atmosphere, better personal interactions and performing tasks in a way that would not only make you happy but please your coworkers and boss?

Most people would rather stand by and allow whatever miserable developments take place - and remain unhappy; quitely accepting a miserable working circumstance; waiting nervously to be laid off or transferred.

The worst dilemma takes place when there is a buyout.

A medium-sized local company - where employees were over the moon happy - was bought out by a very large company with the promise that the healthy positive working culture would continue as usual.

Loyalty and hard work were supported 100% by every employee at the company being bought out because they were included in all decisions that would affect them, people were allowed to be creative and were actually rewarded for speaking up about problems they saw or were concerned would grow. The very reasons the company grew so much, so quickly.

The pitch was that the financial support from the mega-corporation would only boost business, create more possibilities to be innovative, expand the number of employees, yadda yadda yadda.

I warned someone working at the local company that the buyout corporation has a wretched reputation of being greedy, cold, inconsiderate of non-executive employees and having serious customer service problems.

Despite that, my friend told me they were "guaranteed" that the fantastic working conditions, creativity and freedom at the company would continue. As usual.

Ouch. I knew avoiding the truth would leave everyone consummately unhappy. The mega corporation has a reputation of not just buying out companies, but of crushing them.

Sure enough, the megacorporation changed a healthy working environment from literally feeling lucky to show up for work (on time) into fear; employees no longer felt important or part of the process but just lackys expected to execute orders - and not very interesting tasks at that.

Mega corporation executives who knew nothing about the smaller, successful company or its culture were placed in key positions and dragged it down rapidly with their inappropriate rules and treatment of the employees. And last, but not least, these formerly happy workers found themselves fielding ridiculous customer complaints they never had to deal with as part of the original business.

The quagmire: whether to continue unhappily, to challenge The Powers That Be (which was seen as useless or they may be seen as a "complainer" or "troublemaker") or to quit.

Having experienced a genuinely healthy, happy working situation before the buyout, the vast majority quit.

Not everyone found employment right away - some remained happily unemployed until they could find a new position at a healthy enterprise; some became entrepreneurs, creating their own businesses - willing to ride the rough tide as they worked to establish themselves pursuing their passion.

In short, they loved themselves enough to find their passion, to love what they do, who they are with and how they live.

If simply showing up to do the tasks assigned for money so you can go home and live a rich, rewarding life makes you happy? Kewl. That's your definition of a happy life and you're living it!

Of course the same is true of relationships.

It can feel way easier to live from day to day without paying attention to your needs, wants or desires; without paying attention to your partner's needs, wants and desires; or without paying attention to your relationship's needs, wants and desires.

While you might present yourselves to the world as "happy," you know exactly what is going on behind closed doors.

I don't feel lonely. That is, I don't need to be around people to feel OK or not alone.

However, the only time I did feel lonely was when I was in a dysfunctional relationship. I felt extremely alone and unhappy.

It takes tremendous courage to step up and discuss these matters because it may mean the termination of the relationship.

True, but it can also work the other way. It can strengthen the relationship if both people are equally as invested in the relationship - finding new ways to make each other and themselves comforted and happy.

I confronted a relationship in which I lost trust - a relationship I did not want to lose, but the thought of being treated in a way I experienced as neglectful, untruthful and disrespectful was worse.

The relationship ended.

After grieving its loss, I found myself surrounded with people I not only trust, but who treat me very well, indeed.

I've also discovered happiness is dynamic.

The more we understand it, the more successful we can become at re-defining what happiness is, how it feels and what it looks like.

Being in touch with ourselves and our feelings can give us the courage to seek what we need to be happy - finding and living our passion and enjoying the company of others who share those values.

Caveat: The one person whom I have known to never recover from trauma and unhappiness is the adult who loses a child. No matter the age of the child, no matter the reason. To them, I can only say I hope you find some comfort in this lifetime before you, hopefully, join your child in a more peaceful, loving place.

*Please feel free to respond to my blogs by clicking on "comment." Thanks for the emails - they are wonderful! But feel free to share your thoughts with the community as well. Incredible readers from 68 nations read my blog!

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