Monday, November 21, 2011


Whenever I hear someone say the words, I can't imagine how someone could..., I pause and think, "Hmm... could I imagine that?"

I can't imagine how someone could be so coldhearted as to not have shed a tear while listening to her heart-wrenching story!

Hmm... Maybe she was distracted by the story's inconsistencies? Perhaps he was trying to hold it together, to be stoic? I can imagine that.

I can't imagine how someone could be so stupid as to turn down a scholarship to such a wonderful college!

Hmm... Perhaps he believed he had better opportunities taking a job pursuing his passions? Maybe he didn't understand what the scholarship and education would mean to him over the long haul? I can imagine that.

I can't imagine how someone with ample resources and access to doctors, nutritionists and physical trainers could fail to lose weight and get into shape!

Hmm... Maybe he doesn't actually want to get into shape? Perhaps he finds eating more appealing than walking? I can imagine that.

I've never come up with a "can't imagine" scenario that I can't actually imagine. However, there are some that come close. The scenario that has expanded from a transitional-phase to the-past-25-years-of-my-dad's-life is a good example.

It's 1987. We're gathered at a lavishly appointed dinner party celebrating my dad's retirement. He's 59. His kids are grown. He's got plenty of money and a loving partner. He's got impeccable credentials and a great network. He can do pretty much anything he wants to do.

25 years later, the "can't imagine" scenario reads something like, I can't imagine how someone with the world at his feet and nothing to hold him back could squander it all and do absolutely nothing with his life!

To be clear, the "do absolutely nothing with his life" would be my dad's description. While 'nothing' may be a bit overly dramatic, I would agree that his level of accomplishment divided by his potential for accomplishment does approach zero. Further, if you couple all he had going for him with his nearly obsessive desire to do something significant and meaningful, it's pretty tough to imagine how he wouldn't have done more.

The scenario does come pretty darn close to one I can't imagine. So, what's that tell me?

It tells me that I have to do more if I want to understand my dad's situation, at least, if I want to help him with it. I have to put myself into his shoes so-to-speak, to get inside his head, to... you get the picture.

Of course, all that's easier said than done. My mind is overflowing with ideas and things I want to accomplish. I can't imagine not knowing what to do with myself. I can't imagine having no interests and passions. I can't imagine spending hours watching television or reading books. I can't imagine watching and reading about others doing rather than doing. I can't imagine being bored.

That's a lot of "can't imagines"; they're all "can't imagines" for me. I can imagine others having no ideas or passions, living life voyeuristically, or being bored. I just can't imagine me doing so.

Therein lies the disconnect. If I can imagine something for others, but not for myself, how can I relate to them or their situation? What method can I use?

I have to dig deeper. What would cause me to run out of ideas? What would cause me to prefer watching to doing? What would cause me to be bored?

Hmm... OK, 'bored' is a good trigger. I can imagine being bored if... I limited myself to the pace, passion and expectations of others; ...I only did things I could do with someone else; ...I paid attention to what others called reasonable; ... it were important for me to fit in and be accepted.

That's a step in the right direction. My conjectures may have nothing to do with my dad's motivations, but they're better than "can't imagine", a starting place. One thing is for sure; if I stick with "I can't imagine", then the likelihood of me ever understanding and helping is severely limited.


Happy Monday,

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