Tuesday, June 24, 2014


I had a pleasant surprise tonight when I attended The Jordanian National Orchestra Association's "An Evening in Amman." I thought I would take in the inaugural event for the orchestra to show support for the arts and just because I like live music. I have come to know several members of the orchestra fairly well over the past two months. I thought it might be a nice gift to myself to attend the concert as a send-off to the U.S.A.

Much to my delight, Queen Noor opened the show. She is a beautiful woman poised with elegant grace. She was accompanied by Amman's mayor, Mr. Akel Biltaji, who is a capable and gracious man and Dr. Tala Abu-Ghazaeleh, president of the Orchestra who was honored at the festivities.

I ran across many familiar faces and they were all smiling because the event was festive and upbeat. It is good to have the orchestra jump-started again. Everyone needs a little good music now and then. Oh, yes, the King Hussein Cultural Center was completely full. I will miss Amman.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Dana and The Rum

How is it that I can forget suntan lotion when heading into depths of the fiery furnace desert? I can’t believe it. In fact, my arms were burned just from the ride down to Wadi Rum from Amman.

Then when I walked barefoot to the pool I scorched the bottoms of my feet on the blazing hot sand and pavement. What a surprise when I jumped into the pool it was frigid. I would never have anticipated chilled water because of the strength of the sun.

After a refreshing dip I headed back to my bungalow only to find myself locked into the pool and I was not wearing a shirt. After a while I scaled the fence, painfully landed on my scorched feet, and went to take a warm shower.

After all, I’m heading out for a sunset jeep cruise. I asked for the sunset tour and he told me that sun sets at 8:30. I then asked when dinner was and he said 8:00, so I said I guess I’ll be missing dinner. “No,” he says, “the sunset cruise begins at 5:30 and ends at 7:30?” I simply replied, “huh?” and let it go.

This morning as I was leaving Amman, I pulled into the Taj Mall, but instead of committing my car to go inside the parking garage, I first wanted to find out if the supermarket was open that early. Eight security guards came rushing over because I did not point my car to go down the ramp. I got out of my car to ask them the question and the eight of them surrounded me because of this weird behavior. Finally, I got an answer. The market opens at 9:00, but since it is 8:30 I can park and wait half an hour. They could not understand I would not be doing that. I wanted to get on the road early. They insisted that I park and were perplexed when I drove away: Marselemeh!

Down to the Dana Reserve. Oh, I like this place. I wish I were staying for several days. It is just the type of natural habitat I like to visit. It was fantastic. The place took my breath away, but then I started talking to the Bedouin guide and I received an education. Enough said.

Yesterday was one wild day as well. I could not believe all the questions that came to me. I counted 30 received phone calls for the day, said two masses, had four appointments, and then had a lovely dinner. I enjoy Chinese food occasionally. I went to bed exhausted. Also, I received an education. This place gives me much fodder for prayers.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Dealing with a Difficult Person

Research shows that supportive relationships are good for our mental and physical health. However, dealing with difficult people and maintaining ongoing negative relationships is actually detrimental to our health. It’s a good idea to diminish or eliminate relationships that are filled with conflict, but what do you do if the person in question is a family member, coworker, or someone you otherwise cannot easily eliminate from your life?

The following are tips for dealing with difficult people who are in your life:

Keep Conversations Neutral 

Avoid discussing divisive and personal issues, like religion and politics, or other issues that tend to cause conflict. If the other person tries to engage you in a discussion that will probably become an argument, change the subject or leave the room.

Accept The Reality of Who They Are

In dealing with difficult people, don’t try to change the other person; you will only get into a power struggle, cause defensiveness, invite criticism, or otherwise make things worse. It also makes you a more difficult person to deal with.

Know What's Under Your Control Change your response to the other person; this is all you have the power to change. For example, don’t feel you need to accept abusive behavior. You can use assertive communication to draw boundaries when the other person chooses to treat you in an unacceptable way.

Create Healthier Patterns Remember that most relationship difficulties are due to adynamic between two people rather than one person being unilaterally "bad." Chances are good that you're repeating the same patterns of interaction over and over; changing your response could get you out of this rut, and responding in a healthy way can improve your chances of a healthier pattern forming. Here’s a list of things to avoid in dealing with conflict. Do you do any of them? Also, here are some healthy communication skills to remember.

See The Best In People Try to look for the positive aspects of others, especially when dealing with family, and focus on them. (Developing your optimism and reframing skills can help here!) The other person will feel more appreciated, and you will likely enjoy your time together more.

Remember Who You're Dealing With 

Seeing the best in someone is important; however, don’t pretend the other person’s negative traits don’t exist. Don’t tell your secrets to a gossip, rely on a flake, or look for affection from someone who isn’t able to give it. This is part of accepting them for who they are.

Get Support Where You Can Find It 

Get your needs met from others who are able to meet your needs. Tell your secrets to a trustworthy friend who's a good listener, or process your feelings through journaling, for example. Rely on people who have proven themselves to be trustworthy and supportive, or find a good therapist if you need one. This will help you and the other person by taking pressure off the relationship and removing a source of conflict.

Let Go Or Get Space If You Need It 

Know when it’s time to distance yourself, and do so. If the other person cannot be around you without antagonizing you, minimizing contact may be key. If they are continually abusive, it's best to cut ties and let them know why. Explain what needs to happen if there ever is to be a relationship, and let it go.


Try not to place blame on yourself or the other person for the negative interactions.

Remember that you don't have to be close with everyone; just being polite goes a long way toward getting along and appropriately dealing with difficult people.

Work to maintain a sense of humor -- difficulties will roll off your back much more easily.

Be sure to cultivate other more positive relationships in your life to offset the negativity of dealing with difficult people.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Gone Walkabout

After a day of sorting so that I can pack, I started doing a watercolor of a nighttime seaport. It will take a lot of work but it is a nice scene to paint. After a disconcerting day because of all the transition stuff I’m doing, I decided to take a walk to the Abdali Project once gain. I’m trying to take in all the good things I can before I leave.

I was torn when I arrived at the new downtown complex because Australia was playing the Netherlands in the World Cup. I didn’t know which team to support. I’m delighted Australia is in the Cup, but since I’m one quarter Dutch and I chose the Netherlands in a pool to win in all, I found myself in a quandary.

I’m liking the Jordanian people more and more. I was listening to my IPod and letting myself be taken up by the music when I stopped at this station where children were doing supervised artwork. This older man smiled at me as I bumped to the music and he wanted to know if I was listening to Arabic music or Western music. I said both. I finally understand the types of Arabic music. I thought he might be Catholic.

We started chatting and he is indeed Catholic and he attends one of the churches where I say mass, but for the Arabic masses. His older son has a disability and the younger one is a dynamo. Both sons really love their dad. That is very clear and he is a kind, gentle man, very measured, and smooth speaking. It was a nice encounter.

I continued along and the security guards wanted to see me, including the security guard supervisor. I chatted with them – three in all – and then the Catholic family came over again. It felt like I had an audience around me. I keep meeting more and more people who know other people I know, but it is time for me to leave.

The security guards are very pleased with the new development project. They know this is going to be the biggest project to define Amman in their lifetime. They remarked that many of the people are here just to take a walk and to take in the beauty around them. I agree. They children and the adults alike like the water fountains and the little spouts that cool them down during the summer. People are smiling and laughing and so many people are mulling about even though a single storefront is not open. It is the first time they have public space that is wide enough for them to enjoy in safety.

They are learning how to spend leisure time. Quite a few are just enjoying the world cup on temporary screens or savoring an ice cream cone or having a simple meal. Most just congregate and meet others and enjoy catching up. They are just hanging out.

So many people are having photos taken of themselves. I don’t see that in other parts of Amman, but it happens here nightly. Even women who are covered head to toe are posing freely for photos. It is nice to see.

I hope employees are getting a just wage. The security guards say most Ammani workers get 300 JD a month and that is too low for most of them.

I also hope this project is not too small. Though there are three layers, once it gets occupied, the space will seem to shrink. Right now people are enjoying the spaciousness of it all.

I sat down near one of the fountains and about half an hour later I awoke as I apparently lay my body down for a nap. I marveled at that fact that I’m 5,500 miles away from what is called ‘home’ and I’m in the center of a city of 4 million people and I feel uninhibited enough to take a nap. That shows some comfort and trust.

Well, the Netherlands beat Australia during my nap.

On the way out I turned on my IPod again and was apparently singing because three covered women stopped to listen to me and we danced on the street corner and laughed up a storm. It was a good night. People are so good. 

Recognizing a Narcissist

How to Recognize a Narcissist

Melissa Schenker (Huffington Post) Principal, Work/Life consulting firm
Have you heard someone be accused of being a narcissist, but realized that you don't really know what that means? You know it's negative. You may think that it probably means someone is egotistical, or self-absorbed. But how do you really know if someone is a narcissist?
Here are the basics you need to know:
A narcissist is a person with a personality disorder. A personality disorder is when a limited range of certain behaviors are applied to all of life's situations, and the result is unsuccessful long term relationships. Narcissism is not the only personality disorder. Narcissism is part of a few other personality disorders (particularly sociopathy/psychopathy and borderline personality disorder).
There is a specific definition and diagnosis used by the mental health community, but most narcissists are not officially diagnosed. Those of us who live and work with narcissists need to know how to recognize them. For most of us, it's more useful to know the basic patterns of behavior relied on by a narcissist. You can use this list to help discern patterns that likely indicate the presence of narcissism in people you wonder about.
An everyday narcissist relies on these common, basic patterns:
• Initial charm; chameleon like ability to adapt in order to please people
• Quick cementing of personal relationships
• Need for attention: Prefers positive, will provoke negative
• Brings conversations back around to self
• Likes to associate with those s/he (or others) admire or finds useful
• Attempts to control people and situations
• Emotionally not attuned to others
• Lacks emotional self-awareness
• Lacks curiosity about others; is a poor listener, doesn't remember things
• Doesn't handle disagreement well
• Unskilled in navigation of complex social/emotional situations
• Sensitive to feedback; may hear criticism where none is intended
• Blames others when things go wrong, claims credit when things go right
• Makes agreements to please people in the moment, doesn't keep them if the situation changes and it no longer suits him/her, neglects to inform others of change
• Seems to feel superior to others, to disrespect them.
This is not a complete exhaustive list, but it is a useful set of behaviors that are pretty easy to recognize. If you notice these behaviors in a person that matters to you (at work or home) then you probably want to dig a little deeper into narcissism and the other basic personality disorders. Rather than jump to conclusions based on this information, it's wise to keep your hunches to yourself while you do more homework. Never call a narcissist out as a narcissist, and don't spread gossip around your workplace or family -- doing so is likely to backfire on you.
Here are a couple of other facts about narcissism that are important to know:
-- Narcissism in adulthood comes from attachment issues in early childhood. An adult narcissist is a person who did not feel safe separating from their caregiver, and who did not fully individuate. As a result, they are merged, enmeshed, with the people in their adult lives. To a narcissist, you are like that original caretaker and your purpose is to help the narcissist navigate the world, and to help them get what they need. To a narcissist, you exist as part of them, not as a separate being of your own. 
-- A narcissist is not aware of having an internal framework of the world that is different from other people. (Most other people are unaware of this too, and so get confused and aggravated when dealing with narcissists.) A narcissist is not purposefully being disrespectful, aggravating or manipulative; s/he doesn't realize the effect s/he has on other people. 
-- People can be temporarily narcissistic when under a lot of stress. If the behaviors listed above happen for awhile, but aren't really the person's basic way of being then it could be due to stress or a medical condition.
-- To some extent, these behaviors are developmentally appropriate during the maturation process -- even into the early/mid-20s as a person completes the work of individuation.
It can be relieving to know the source of trouble in a difficult relationship -- recognizing the patterns is a first step toward figuring out how to take care of yourself. It's useful to be aware that you are very limited in your ability to change a narcissist. Change even be elusive when narcissists engage in therapy. Once you recognize the basics, it's helpful to learn more before deciding how to handle the long-term future of the relationship in question. You may react by wanting to flee, but thoughtfulness will serve you. Give yourself the gift of learning and skill building as you consider your options. What you learn can help you in this and all relationships.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


I am experiencing grief as I wind up my last couple of weeks in Amman. There's so much good work left to do here and so many more kind people to meet. I feel like I'm just getting an ear for the language and that I've turned the corner on the cultural hurdle. Leaving a place you love never gets easier.

I'll miss many friends, parishioners, the daily mass group, the choir and music classes, Dozan wa Awtar, personal friends, my art classes, neighbors, people I meet on the street. I feel badly for those with whom I have chatted about pastoral concerns. I leave them with God and others to make their way forward. I will miss the possibilities that I see for Jordan and Amman. I get excited when I see steps forward. I like watching the King and his efforts and I like seeing how Jordan is a source of stability in a world that is desperate for it.

With that said, I know I will remain in touch with many good friends and that our lives only move forward towards unity. I will keep in contact with many, but it does hurt to leave the daily ordinariness of life. I'm very excited about taking art classes and developing what lies within. Amman has given me many gifts and I feel very enriched.

We Catholics are a "both and" people, but not everything can be "both and." We cannot bi-locate.

World Cup

The World Cup has gripped Jordan and I love it. So many people are sitting outdoors and in local shops to watch the games. Flags of all countries are flying in many places in the city. Germany and Brazil seem to be popular. It is great to see the interest in a sporting event. You really must be outside the U.S.A. to see the power and popularity of the World Cup. My favorite: the Netherlands.

I feel like I've made a shift in my thinking during these past months. It seems that everywhere I go I run into someone I know. Instead of sitting in a restaurant and seeing all the people who smoke, I can go to a place, see a person I know who smokes. Somehow it makes a difference that smokers are not grouped into a category, but that they are individuals who smoke. Maybe I'll make the shame shift with drivers.

This week, the Abdali Gateway project opened the doors to the boulevard. Some patrons are visiting the shops that are not quite open, but are serving food and beverages. Most people go to watch the World Cup games, but it is great to see so many people finding pleasure in a spot of leisure. The Boulevard will be open for two weeks before Ramadan begins. I imagine the grand opening will occur at the close of Ramadan when residents move into the apartments. I like that the place is coming along and is a source of beauty for many. It is a great step forward to bring West Ammani people over to the City Center. It is all good stuff.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Onward and Upward: New Assignment

Two years ago, my provincial (boss) asked me if I would consider a ministry in Jordan as pastor of the immigrant Catholics for a year or two. I said 'yes' as our obedience and availability calls us to do. The two year term is ending and I will be leaving Jordan for the U.S.A. on July 1st.

My heart is saddened to be leaving very many wonderful friends and parishioners who have made my heart feel very tender. These friends will be with me always in prayer. I'm also confident that God works in ways by which I will somehow meet some of you again in the future and that makes me very happy.

One of the unexpected blessings of my time in Amman is that one year ago today I picked up a paintbrush for the first time in my life. I was surprised and well pleased with the results of my painting. My new assignment begins with a six month sabbatical to take painting classes at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. I'm looking forward to these formal classes and the chance to study a new aspect of my ministry.

Music, art, writing, photography, liturgy, and beauty are essential parts of my ministry and I'm grateful for the Jesuits for giving me a brief window to enjoy these talents and avocations. Blessed be God forever!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Bumps, Gates, and Pies

Ah, how often do you get to leave mass and have to wait for a herd of sheep to pass by the front gates?

Tuesday was one of ups and downs. On my way to art class, just as I was 100 meters from the studio, a young woman in her company truck hit me in my Kia. She said she failed to stop and she failed to look. It was her birthday and she was excited after driving around for an hour that she could find a parking spot. (There are many parking lots in the area, but people like to park right in front of the place they are visiting.)

She said, “I’m sorry. It was my fault.”

Words like that are seldom spoken. She was a very fine woman.

After art class, I arrived back at the Jesuit Center only to find that the guests of one of our programs had completely blocked the driveway. I do not like that so I let them know. They were not like the kind woman who hit me. They never said a word about their wrongness. They never apologized.

Frustrated, I baked two pies. One was blueberry and the other was peach and pear. They tasted good.

Then I went upstairs to paint. Since I was feeling alone, I painted a man standing at the edge of a forest at dusk. It said all I needed it to say before I retired in peace.

Monday, June 2, 2014

More on Co-dependency

What is codependency?

You have probably heard the term “codependency” used a lot, as it became a popular term in our vernacular sometime after the Alcoholics Anonymous twelve step recovery program was established in the late 1930s. The concept of codependency has been discussed and written about a lot in recent years, and you may run into various definitions of the term.

The original definition of codependency was the set of responses and behaviors people develop while living with a partner or family member who is an alcoholic. It is now generally accepted that codependency may develop in anyone living with someone who is an addict, regardless of which substance is being abused, or may even develop if you live in a household with someone who has a chronic mental or physical illness.

There are multiple “codependent” behaviors that can develop in a non-alcoholic, non-addict or non-ill partner or family member as a result of living in a home where alcoholism, drug abuse or other problematic issues are present. Over the years, the definition of codependency has expanded to encompass any dysfunctional pattern of living and problem solving that may have developed as a result of dysfunctional family dynamics.

One current definition of codependency describes a person who has too much emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, parent, or family member who has an illness or addiction. Generally speaking, codependency can be defined as a set of compulsive behaviors learned by family members in order to adapt in a setting where there is addiction, neglect, physical or emotional abuse, chronic illness or a dysfunction that creates an environment of significant emotional pain and stress.

What are the characteristics of codependency?

To understand codependency further, it might help to examine some additional terms that are used to describe codependent behavior. For example, a psychologist might use the word “maladaptive” to describe someone who has developed patterns of thinking and doing that are causing or perpetuating emotional problems, or preventing them from adapting appropriately in different situations. For example, a maladaptive person might avoid certain situations because they bring on feelings of inadequacy or anxiety. People who are codependent can sometimes become maladaptive. Are there any types of social situations that you avoid because they cause you discomfort or anxiety? If so, you may be maladaptive.

Another trait or characteristic that codependent people may develop is compulsive behavior. A compulsive behavior is loosely defined as any persistent or unwanted action that one is unable to stop, such as compulsive or repetitive tidying or other cleaning. Some people become compulsive shoppers or compulsive gamblers. Usually the compulsive behavior stems from a compulsive thought pattern.

Codependency symptoms can include:

Being a people pleaser and lacking assertiveness, which may involve being unable to say “no” to people or going out of your way to accommodate others

Being indirect or untruthful about your feelings, which may be because you’re afraid to upset someone else by expressing your true thoughts or feelings

Avoiding your feelings or denying your feelings, which may be illustrated by a problem with intimacy, a reluctance to get close to someone, or an inability to trust another

Having low self-esteem, which translates to feeling that you are not good enough or are somehow unlovable or inadequate and can lead to being controlling or a perfectionist

Over-controlling, which may manifest as having rigid and limiting patterns in your own behaviors, such as perfectionism or hyper-cleanliness, or trying to control the behavior or actions of those around you

Is there anything wrong with being codependent?

Codependent people have a greater tendency than others to get involved in unhealthy or "toxic relationships." This is when a partner is unreliable, emotionally unavailable or unstable, or overly needy/clingy. If you are a codependent person, you may repeatedly enter relationships with these kinds of people. Once you are in a relationship with such a person, even if the relationship is clearly unhealthy for you, you don’t end it and the cycle repeats.

In fact, codependent people have a tendency make a relationship more important than their own health and well-being. That is, you may be the one in the relationship who does everything to make it work—you work hard to provide what your partner needs, or to control everything within the relationship—without addressing your own needs or desires. A one-sided relationship like this is toxic, and leaves the codependent partner ultimately unfulfilled and disappointed.

Even when a codependent person encounters someone with a healthy outlook and healthy boundaries, the codependent person may still demonstrate codependent behaviors within the relationship—because that is the only pattern of behavior in a relationship that he or she knows. Until the codependent person recognizes his or her own patterns of codependency in relationships, he or she will not be likely to get involved with people who have healthy boundaries.

Codependency can, therefore, create problems that continue long after you have the left the environment that caused you to develop codependency in the first place. If codependent people can't learn to recognize their own codependent behaviors, and get help in stopping or reprogramming those behaviors, they will repeat old patterns in each new relationship.

How do I know if I'm codependent?

There are a few signs or patterns you can look for in your own behavior and past relationships to help determine if you are codependent. Generally, if you feel like you crave other people's approval and validation, if you feel that you’re not truly living your life and going after what you want, or you're feeling unfulfilled in relationship after relationship, and your childhood included some of the emotional stressors or family dynamics we described above, you may be codependent.

Isn't everyone codependent to some degree?

It is possible that many people were not taught to be assertive or to talk about their feelings and ask directly for what they need, so it may appear they have behaviors we associate with codependency. However, it is probably overstating things to say that unassertive people are codependent, or that all mothers and their children are codependent. Further, many people are unfulfilled in their relationships because of other factors beyond codependency.

How do we become codependent?

It is generally believed that we become codependent through living in environments or families with dysfunctional dynamics that hinder our healthy development. The dysfunctional dynamics have often developed in response to some problem such as alcoholism, mental illness or chronic physical illness. Sometimes codependency can develop in families where there are stringent rules. Problematic dynamics or rules set up within families that can cause codependency may include rigid: an environment where problems are not openly discussed, perfection is expected, communication between family members is indirect and often conveyed through a third person, there is pressure to make one's parents, being playful is discouraged, selflessness is expected,
and one shouldn't cause waves or upset the status quo.

This type of restrictive familial environment families can negatively affect a child's self-esteem and coping skills. As a result, children can develop ineffective problem-solving strategies, or unhealthy behavior characteristics and “non-helpful” reactions to situations in adult life which can lead to codependent behavior.

Oftentimes, a part of being codependent is a resistance to being able to HAVE FUN AND PLAY! So part of recovery from codependency is learning how to let go and have fun. Therefore it's bound to be liberating, and fun as we learn how to let go and play.
Can counseling help treat codependency?

If you have codependent tendencies, individual or group counseling can help teach you to be assertive, and to become a better listener and communicator. Counseling can help you recognize your codependent behaviors and help you work on developing new, healthier behaviors and coping skills.

Codependency counselors need to present good boundary setting and healthy habits during sessions with clients.