Learning to Pivot

By Stu Jaffe

Said the little boy, “Sometimes I drop my spoon.”
Said the old man, “I do that too.”
The little boy whispered, “I wet my pants.”
“I do that too,” laughed the little old man.
Said the little boy, “I often cry.”
The old man nodded, “So do I.”
“But worst of all,” said the boy, “it seems
grown-ups don’t pay attention to me.”
And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.
“I know what you mean,” said the little old man.

-The Little Boy and the Old Man, by Shel Silverstein


In my years as a therapist, I’ve noticed that when I help a client find a way to respond positively to life’s difficulties, the client benefits -- and so do I. On the heels of the NBA Finals, the word ”pivot” comes to mind. When we encounter obstacles in life, it’s often helpful to reassess the direction in which we’ve been moving. Is a change needed to resume a positive trajectory? 

Sometimes, simply talking through a problem is the right approach - but often, I find it useful to share a poem. 

While meeting recently with an older adult client, I shared Shel Silverstein’s “The Little Boy and the Old Man.” This client happens to be dealing with incontinence, and when we read the pertinent lines together, we both smiled. Before we knew it, we were both in tears. 

Despite the simple approach of Silverstein’s poems, I often find powerful insights in them. I’ve shared them with children and with adults of all ages, and they often lead to a more meaningful discussion.  

If you haven’t explored Silverstein’s work, I encourage you to spend some time with it. If you find it meaningful, consider sharing it with your child, with your parent or with any other friend or loved one. Who knows where it may lead - possibly to a conversation that has been difficult to broach but needs to be addressed?

I also would encourage you to begin writing about the obstacles you face - whether in poetry, journal entries or even a list. The written word can provide us a new lens through which to view the challenges we face. We can’t always avoid obstacles in life, but we can resolve to view them from as many perspectives as possible, then do our best to pivot and keep moving toward the positive.

The licensed clinical social workers of CJFS provide confidential professional counseling for groups and individuals of all ages. For more information, please visit https://cjfsbham.org/professional-counseling/ or contact Stu Jaffe, stu@cjfsbham.org or 205.879.3438.