Interview with Steve and Renee Crouch
Conducted by Aaron Jackson
AJ: I’ve heard you quote Syd Banks having said "Your thoughts are like the artist’s brush. They create a personal picture of the reality you live in." I’d like to take this time to get to know how some of those thoughts have painted the picture of life you both now live in…today.
RC: It would be best to start with where we came from when we first met because the thinking we had back then seemed to be the right thinking at the time considering the way we understood things. Boy does hindsight give you perspective you might not have in the moment.
AJ: Ok so tell me how you both met?
SC: We met while working in the same department at California State University Bakersfield. We had both been previously engaged and ended those relationship. My X gave me back my ring and Renee and I went Los Angeles to sell the ring. I decided to take her to dinner at a cool 50’s diner where everyone sang with a DJ, disco ball and a lot of humor. Renee left the table to use the restroom and I approached the DJ to tell him I wanted to ask the girl I was with to marry me and could he dedicate a song to her. Of course he said yes. When she returned to the table she was ready to leave. I suggested we just hang out for a while. The DJ dimmed to lights in the restaurant turned on the disco ball and called out her name. I prompted her to go up to the booth. Over the microphone he said, “Steven has a dedication he would like to make to you.” Her face turned red and gave me a death glare. He continued, “He says, ‘no ring, no money but will you marry me honey?” The place went completely silent until she gave her answer…YES! The applause almost drowned out the song I had chosen which was the theme song to the Beverly Hill Billy’s. We danced in front of a sold out crowd and were married 6 months later.
AJ: What did you do in the early years of your relationship?
RC: After embarrassing me in front of everyone he is lucky there were early years (laughs with Steve). We have worked together in the health care industry since the beginning of our marriage in 1992. Our consulting firm was responsible for building and managing locked psychiatric units in med/surge hospitals, managing emergency room physicians’ network, two large multi- specialty medical groups in Kern and Ventura Counties and we most recently worked as lead counselors in a private practice.
AJ: What life events influenced you?
RC: The worst a couple could image happened in 1999, Steve and I lost our son Carsen to a rare tumor disease of infancy. It was shortly after that our daughter Claire passed away in a late term miscarriage. Questions, anger, depression, tension, frustration, isolation, wonder, over thinking, whirlwind, total disbelief. We wanted to sue the insurance company, doctors, and the hospital. We wanted to lash out but we both knew at that moment we were not in the right space to do anything. It was about a year before we did anything.
SC: Together we decided to take our money and start a foundation in our son’s name, “The Carsen Russell Crouch Endowment” was formed. It was our desire to teach physicians the importance of grace and compassion when working with parents of terminally ill children. Little did we know our son’s endowment was pioneering in the field of what is now known as Pediatric Palliative Care. This endowment is the longest running endowment at the hospital.
RC: Curve balls kept coming. In 2002 Steve was diagnosed with various forms of testicular cancer requiring aggressive chemotherapy; 8 hours per day for 6 months. We would battle three more reoccurrences of cancer with the last one requiring the most viscous chemotherapy administered over 6 months but for 24 hours per day. On a happy note we were distracted with the arrival of two more children during this time completing our family of 3 healthy kids.
AJ: What do you think helped you through this?
SC: We had a lot sunbursts during all the storms and it was mostly humor that kept us sane. We knew we wanted to thrive beyond our life circumstance. Walt Disney once said “There is great comfort and inspiration in the feeling of close human relationships and its bearing on our mutual fortunes – a powerful force, to overcome the “tough breaks” which are certain to come to most of us from time to time.” Somethings that could pull us apart might be the same things that draw us closer to each other. That was our way of thinking
RC: Yes our thinking was something we became very aware of and the problems we had really looked the way they looked because of where it was we were looking at them from. Whenever either one of us was in a low mood we just didn’t feed that and make it something. The mood was a product of our thinking and it was a relief to see our low moods pass. I learned seeing Steve in a bad mood didn’t mean I needed to fix him or that his mood was something to take personally. I remember asking him, “You just tell me how long you think you need to be this way?”
SC: That was a game changer because I love a good fight when I’m in a bad spot. I can pout and dig in for the long term. Renee not joining in was curious to me. After some time I began to see my low mood was not a statement about our relationship or situation but a statement about my state of mind. I was seeing things from a very low vantage point and doing a lot to change it for that place. Once it clicked for me that it was all the DOING in that place that was the problem I was more able to pause and wait for a new feeling to show up. I think I just became more aware of the quality of my thinking and my desire to be well.
AJ: With all that you have learned and experienced what’s next?
SC: We left behind your old way of thinking and started to see life in a new way. It was a paradigm shift where we released old layers of conditioning to gain a new sense of hope and optimism. I think I had a fear stepping into the unknown but now I don’t worry about what I have to lose, but consider more what we have to gain. These moments of clarity or a rise in awareness created the insight for something new.
RC: We thought that if we could have this shift then everyone must also have the same opportunity to live boldly and passionately, it is whether they see the world being created from the outside in or the inside out. Once anyone sees the power of their own thinking and how it creates their unique perception of reality they are free. A friend of ours, Sydney Banks once said, “How can we stop negative, unwanted thoughts from entering our heads? We can’t. They come too fast and if you try, you will soon find you are on a fool’s mission. What you can do, however, is to realize that your own thoughts have no power of their own, only that which you give them. However, if you can see that they are only thoughts and you refuse to put life into them, they are harmless.”
SC: What’s next? Well we are okay with not knowing what’s next. Aristotle once said, “Nature abhors a vacuum,” the idea is that it is unnatural to find an unfilled space in nature and physics because something will always occupy its place. We have chosen to fill this space with what is that is good. We intentionally look for what is good. This is how we now approach every day of your life, so that every minute becomes an example to serving our highest good instead of merely getting by. We now know we were born resilient and seek to live the EMBRACED LIFE.