“Do They Still Play the Blues in Chicago?” Cue Up the Post-World Series Blues

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I am about to rain on the victory parade, but with a smile. I offer a few thoughts on the psychology of experiencing the first Chicago Cubs World Championship since 1908. Plus a word of condolence to the Cleveland Indians and their fans.

  1. Enjoy this now, Cubs Nation. Unless you are all immortal witch doctors, you will not be present at the first rainfall after another 108-year drought. The rain delay in Cleveland was a reminder.
  2. The faithful who gathered near Wrigley Field while the game was played elsewhere are a dedicated bunch. They paid attention to the score, drank, worried, talked, stood, cheered, and chafed their hands from overuse in prayer. They thought about the dead relatives who wore out their bottoms waiting in the station for the victory train that never came. They wept when the contest ended. To paraphrase what someone on Facebook wrote, “I guess now we have to start dating again.”
  3. My last post suggested rabid fans get to attach to something bigger by saying “we’re number #1” and holding up giant foam-rubber hands with the index finger extended. Well, who am I to take their joy away? I do realize, however, much as I’m pleased the Cubs won, “we” watchers didn’t achieve the victory: “they” (the players) did. Don’t believe me? Ask the boss for a 15-million-dollar annual salary, guaranteed for the next seven years, because of your contribution to the championship season.
  4. What is possible after the impossible? Red Smith, famous baseball writer, wrote about a different game in 1951: “Now it is done. Now the story ends. And there is no way to tell it. The art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again.”
  5. If the Cubs are more than a pastime for you, if you were resurrected from a miserable existence by the 2016 team, your life might just have peaked. Yes, the glow will only fade slowly, perhaps not disappearing until Thanksgiving or Christmas. Or maybe it will vanish on November 8, Election Day, and the inescapable reality of US political problems.
  6. Even if the Cubs win more championships, the experience of last evening was like lots of other “firsts:” first kiss, first child, first wedding. Magic isn’t easily duplicated.
  7. Rooting for the Chicago National League Ball Club, LLC guaranteed you a like-minded group of people who all shared the belief that no matter how fresh the carton appeared in the refrigerator, the milk would curdle as soon as you tried to pour a glass. To the good, however, you had millions of other humans for commiseration. You will now need either different things to lament or a personal surrender to optimism and a change in your philosophy of life. Yes, being positive is a tough job, but someone has to do it.
  8. You thought tickets to Cubs Park were expensive before?
  9. Listen to the old Peggy Lee song, Is That All There Is? Cubs fans are now like the dog which chased the fire truck its whole life and finally caught the big red machine, looked around, and thought “now what?”
  10. Hell just froze over, but was bumped from the front page by the Cubs victory.
  11. Everything happens for a reason. I thought I’d throw in this quotidian thought, since no matter the life event you are describing you can always utter the phrase. You could also say everything happens for a raisin, the wrinkly kind. If God didn’t have something better to do than decide it was finally time for the Cubs to become winners, he wasn’t paying attention. Can you receive an ADHD diagnosis and still be the deity? A rhetorical question.
  12. Here is another consideration on the subject of gods and reasons: atheist Cubs fans now own one less of the latter to justify their belief an all-powerful and all-good being can’t possibly be in charge. Cleveland Indian rooters who were religiously faithful until today will be seen fleeing the house of worship of their choice. Or going back in to pray harder. They now claim 68-years without a baseball crown.
  13. Don’t take any of the above too seriously. Except the part about enjoying the moment. Cheers, in every sense.

The photo of the 2016 Cubs World Series celebration is the work of Arturo Pardavila III as sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

Courage For the New Year

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Many of you, I suspect, have had a tough time over the holidays. Perhaps lonely, perhaps worried about what the future will bring. Many all over the world are yet unemployed or underemployed. Things have been difficult.

I offer you, therefore, an audio excerpt linked below, from a late 1941 speech given by Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister during most of World War II.

I hope that it will provide some solice and some reason to believe that a better future is possible.

Things were particularly dark for England in 1940. All of continental Europe had been conquered by the Nazis and night after night, the great cities of that island nation were bombed by the Luftwaffe, Hitler’s air force. The British Empire stood alone against the Third Reich and expected a land invasion. The United States had not yet entered the War and there was no certainty that it would.

Virtually no one thought England would survive.

But Churchill did and the Nazis were defeated.

In October of 1941, still prior to the USA’s entry into the war, Churchill was asked to speak to the students of Harrow School, an independent boarding school that was his alma mater.

What he had to say applies quite well to those, even today, who might fear that worse is to come in their lives, as well as those who despair over their current condition.

Listen to the first three minutes and ten seconds and take heart.

The entire excerpt is just over four minutes long.

Once you click on the blue link just below this paragraph, look at the upper  right corner of the page. Then scroll down and click on the Speech #33 (incorrectly identified as having been given in November 1941):

BBC Winston Churchill Speech to Harrow School

The image above is Winston Churchill on Downing Street Giving His Famous ‘V’ (For Victory) Sign, June 5, 1943. Sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

The Stories That We Tell Ourselves

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Therapists hear stories. Tons of them.

Everyone has one.

But the stories that are most important are those that represent the essential narrative of a person’s life. You might have just one such story, one that tells you how you see yourself and your journey through life.

It may not even take the form of a specific tale or recollection, instead describing a view of how your life has progressed.

Perhaps you think you are lucky or, alternatively, unlucky. Maybe you see yourself as a “mover and a shaker.”  Do you imagine a handsome and suave (or beautiful and charming) persona as you look in the mirror? Or someone who is lazy or hardworking or resilient or weak?

But even if there is no story attached to the qualities that you ascribe to yourself or to your life path, the character traits you claim still are central to how you see of yourself, something you refer back to repeatedly.

Nor does the story or characteristic even have to be true. It just has to be something that you believe is true.

An example. An old acquaintance thought of himself as a “lady’s man,” making such politically incorrect comments as this simile: “A woman is like a taxi cab — if you miss this one, there will be another one along in 10 minutes.” He was clever, energetic, interesting, and outgoing, but unremarkable in his level of success and appearance — not particularly tactful either. When a woman rejected him, he was usually undaunted.

This gentleman even had a theme-song, of sorts. It was the soaring horn call from the Richard Strauss orchestral tone poem “Don Juan,” representing the bold, dashing title character he believed himself to be. And so, ever on the look-out for attractive women, he did, in fact, have numerous love affairs. Many ended badly, and he was as often rejected as he was the person who terminated the relationship.

Another person, no less likeable or successful with the opposite sex, might have seen the identical romantic life as a disappointment. But, our “Don Juan” never showed regret, rarely was chagrined for long, and continued to pursue women with the vigor he had always demonstrated.

Well, you might say that our hero had little self-awareness and you might be right. But, the case can be made that he was more satisfied in living-out his romantic life through his chosen vision of himself — through the story he was telling himself about himself — than if he had defined his role in the story differently, or come up with an alternate narrative altogether, especially if it was that of the jilted, luckless lover.

Now, I am not recommending either this man’s approach to women or his less-than-fully realistic view of himself. Nor would I have been pleased if one of my daughters found someone like him appealing. But his view did enable him to have much romance and fun in his life. In other words, he would have told you that it worked for him.

Unlike our friend, I have seen people change their stories over a life-time. For example, from feeling unlucky to feeling lucky, or from being timid and unsure to becoming more bold, assertive, and capable.

It is worth asking ourselves what stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. Again, they might not stand up to external scrutiny, but they don’t necessarily have to in order to be useful. We frequently create self-fulfilling prophecies for ourselves, succeeding or failing because of what we believe will happen or who we believe we are. In large part the man in question had much romance because he believed in his “Don Juan” myth. Had he seen himself as an undiplomatic opportunist (something as fitting as his chosen vision), he would have had much less female companionship. Even worse, if he saw himself as a schlemiel.

Was his glass half-full or half-empty? That too is part of his story, and he certainly looked at life with a hopeful, optimistic gaze and focused on what was best in himself, not his weaknesses.

The person I’ve described had many, many friends and had much pleasure, not only with women. He led an interesting life. Even if it is not one you would personally choose, do not be too hasty to judge it (especially after I tell you that he was a loving father).

A great man?

No, but then, there aren’t too many of those.

But he was one who found a useful story.

Many of us do worse.

The above image is Don Juan and the Statue of the Commander by Alexandre-Evariste Fragonard, oil on canvas, circa 1830–1835; sourced from Wikimedia Commons.