Monthly Archives: February 2014

what a difference a day doesn’t make

For an audio version of this post click on the link below.  If you are listening on a smartphone, you may need to scroll to the bottom of the message and look for the sound icon

 

 

Wednesday February 26, 2014

Yesterday was my 15th year wedding anniversary.  And I can say without a doubt, it has been the happiest 15 years of my life. Not every single day.  Not every single hour of the days that it is.  But overall- yup- hands down.

I’m married to my best friend.  He’s tall, I’m short.  He’s an introvert, I’m an extrovert.  He’s a geeky engineer- I’m a touchy/feely go to the emotions girl. We are opposites- but not completely so.  Because when it comes to ideology, philosophy on life and the role of family- we are about 99.9% in sync.   It’s not a cliché’ that we finish each other’s sentences.  And we very often read each other’s minds.  And like everyone else I know- we sometimes don’t communicate well with each other.

We got congratulated by family and friends.  Well, that was my fault.  I put a picture that my husband drew on his Ipad mini of a vase of roses.  He sent them to me late last evening.  Yesterday was a long day for me and to be honest, I had forgotten it was our anniversary until he said something to me.

GASP- go ahead- Gasp again!  MARY FORGOT HER ANNIVERSARY?

Yes, indeed, I did.  And did my husband mind? Not one bit.  Ben doesn’t naturally remember these kinds of things and so to avoid “getting in trouble”, I’m pretty sure it’s in his calendar on auto repeat.  He does this for me.  But it isn’t something that he needs to have “celebrated”.  And over the years, I have adopted his position on many events as the same.

I wasn’t troubled when I realized I forgot.  Because when it comes down to it, I like knowing we have been married 15 years.  The one day it happened on, doesn’t embody that significance for me.  I don’t feel a need to celebrate the one day-I am happy to be married to him 365 days (even the ones I don’t like him or he doesn’t like me).  The longer I’m in this marriage, the more the notion of singling out that one day seems odd to me.  And I’m not saying it has to be this way for everyone, but that’s what works for us.

During our first Christmas together I gave him a list and he shopped.  He was absolutely miserable.  And although he did it, he asked why he was supposed to fight the crowds, to buy things he would wrap and give to me, when I already knew about them.  He had a point.  The next year I agreed to try it his way and not have gifts with the stipulation that if I didn’t like it, we could change back.  I found I was really okay with the plan and we have maintained that strategy ever since.  It began to seem artificial to force a kind of celebration to give gifts that didn’t make sense.  On the other hand, we got completely stupid on the other end of the spectrum when it came to our kids and Santa.

So, there you have it.  Holidays have taken on a different meaning for me the further I go through life.  They now are a reminder of something, but the day itself isn’t the cue to celebrate.  I’d rather be excited about my marriage on 365 days then on one.

But I do have to say… I did love his drawing!

my wedding anniversery roses

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Excerpts from a session – Eating Disorders Part 1

to listen to an audio of this post click the following link.  If you are listening on a smartphone, you may need to scroll to the end of the message and find the sound icon.

 

These are my rambling thoughts from a recent session-   The subject matter was eating disorders and fear:

When Winnicott (my all time favorite theorist) discussed the primitive psyche  he used the word “annihilation” to capture the angst of the infant.  In other words, a baby doesn’t think, “whoa, if someone doesn’t meet my needs I’ll “die”.  They aren’t that developed.  They don’t know what life/death is.  Instead, they can only muster up “I’ll cease to exist”—and when they do, it is terrifying.

I keep a cartoon drawing in my office on the bulletin board.  It is of a woman looking at a mirror image of herself.  One version of the woman is pulling a string out of the other version, causing the latter to “unravel”.  I can’t remember what the cartoon was originally about, but I kept it because it so perfectly illustrates for me what happens when a person pulls out whatever is holding them together without first building anything else for support.  For example, one may hate their eating disorder, alcoholism, or any other malady- but it may very well be the very thing currently holding them together.  That same eating disorder, for example, may be the way a person organizes his or her day from the moment they wake, ‘til the moment they sleep again.  It tells them how to dress, who to be with or avoid, how to act etc.  Pull it out, and you get a jelly puddle with no reliable or predictable internal guide.  And that is in part, what makes many pathologies so hard to eradicate.

In the session that prompted this chain of thought, it occurred to me that the patient I’ll call Amber (all identifying information has been changed, and some dynamics altered to illustrate theory)has spent years successfully creating an “identity” that she feels legitimizes her.  It makes her feel productive- it is measurable by title, salary, awards.  And it is an identity that is culturally sanctioned.  In contrast, Amber did not grow up believing she was valuable.  She did not see herself as having much substance.  In her youth she turned to alcohol and drugs, partly to numb, partly to embody the state of feeling out of control- she was above the rules because she didn’t fit her world and the rules, therefore, did not apply to her. Her parents didn’t seem to notice.  They were waist deep in their own maladies.

But by her early 20’s Amber buckled down and found a path to success.  She knew she was smart and she had a strong worth ethic.  She finished college, went to law school and joined a prominent firm.  She also focused heavily on her appearance making sure she looked the part.  Success came somewhat rapidly, and although she appreciated it, she has never rested on her laurels knowing that every new case or assignment could be the one that undoes her.  She believes she is only as good as her last “at bat” and can be easily disposed of.

There is of course some practical logic to Amber’s thought process.  The job market is tough.  Law firms have to win cases to be successful.  But when Amber thinks about her “annihilation” it is not her adult self that thinks in these practical terms.  It is her infantile self- coming to the surface- terrorized that her worth/her existence is an extremely fragile entity.  And in a sense, she is correct— but only because her “worth and existence” is tied to professional accolades and physical appearance- rather than a solid and core sense of who she is and why she matters.  It’s as if she understands that people recognize her by her face- but she is aware that her “face” is really a mask- If the mask is removed, no one will know who she is.  The mask in her case- is the identity of a professional, successful very thin lawyer.

Stay tuned for Part 2

 

 

 

 

Selling the Drama

Okay the title comes from one of my favorite albums by Live- But the subject matter today comes from the Olympics-

I’m somewhat of a fair weather fan- but I do like to catch a little bit.  My youngest son Andrew is pretty much addicted to watching and so I spent some time with him last night watching the men’s downhill and the figure skating.  There are a lot of great stories that occur during the Olympics- defeat, triumph, perseverance, endurance and so much more.

Last night a particular story really caught my attention.  And today there has been a bit of talk about it on the news as well, thus it obviously affected a lot of people much the same way.

So Bode Miller got his 6th medal.  That’s cool.  More than any other U.S. skier.  Also he is the oldest Alpine skier to medal.  Also cool.

But the attention getter wasn’t actually Miller, but Christen Cooper, a two time Olympian and silver medalist who interviewed Miller right after winning his Bronze.  Miller was obviously in an emotional rush from having just accomplished his feats.  But his success is also impacted by the loss less than a year ago of his younger brother Chelone.  The younger Miller, also a skier was a hopeful for Sochi as well.  He died of a seizure, not his first since sustaining a head injury from a dirt-bike accident several years prior.

 

Cooper met Bode Miller on the slopes.  She asked him  how he was faring emotionally with his brother not present.  He tried to discretely move the topic to the current events.  Cooper persisted as if she had no ability to read his attempted social redirection.    Finally, she opened up the big gun  (quoted to the best of my recollection) “So when you are out there and you look up at the sky, you seem to be talking to someone- What’s going on in your mind?”

With that Miller cracked.  He started to cry.  She moved towards him to give him some comfort- He turned away.  He walked away.  He dropped down on one knee trying to pull himself together.  A teammate approached him and was rebuffed by someone on the sidelines, the first person to see that Miller needed to be LEFT ALONE.  Finally, his wife arrived on the scene, embraced him and  shielded his face from the crowd.

I can’t imagine what was in the mind of Cristen Cooper to make her think this was an appropriate approach.  But at the same time, I can’t imagine why NBC chose not to edit the coverage leaving Bode’s tearful reaction to be dealt with privately.

There were plenty of things Cooper could have asked Bode Miller.  How does it feel to be the oldest guy out here? How do you continue to perform at this level?  How have the sport and the games changed over your long career?

But instead, making him cry over something that was obviously so deeply personal for him became the mission.  And the network found it appropriate and significant to make it a display and a highlight.

Miller came out afterward in defense of Cooper. He tweeted the response ” “Please be gentle w Christin Cooper, it was crazy emotional and not all her fault.”  What a classy guy.

My purpose here is neither to vilify Cooper or NBC.  Okay, well maybe a little bit, because frankly I found it revolting.  But it made me think about how “normal” it is to report and focus on the juicy stuff.   How many times did Justin Bieber get in trouble in the past couple of weeks?  How many stars go to rehab?  How many deaths occurred, houses burned down etc. etc.  Even my own blog in its infancy already contains a report about the death of a star.  Drama attracts.  Drama sells.

Okay realistically, no one wants to turn on the news to hear that “Mrs. O’Leary’s garden is producing a beautiful bunch of tulips this year.”  Or, little Nancy Turner got  her braces off and her smile looks fantastic now.  But do we really have to fill ourselves with a steady diet of other’s vulnerability and shortfalls in order to feel good, or at least “normal”?  More importantly, it is important- no  it is crucial that we are at least mindful of how much negativity we take in from our “regular trusted sources”.  How can one feel optimistic and hopeful in the world when we have spent much of the day feeding on negative messages.

And it’s not simply the news.  It’s everywhere.  Marketing often focuses on something that is a shortfall, in order to make the product a solution.  I remember one night watching late night TV and thinking by the end of the infomercial, that I might need a garden weeding machine.  It was to solve the problems of my back caused by doing it all by hand with a hoe in rocky soil.  Fortunately, just before placing the order I remembered that I didn’t have a back problem OR a garden.  Nor, was I planning to plant one any time soon.  On the other hand, I do have rocky soil, so I am still vulnerable.

Yes it’s Sunday, and that means I have more time to wander through this post.  But in attempting to pull it all together now, let me get to the main point.  If you want to feel good, you have to surround yourself with positive, hopeful, optimistic people, places and things.  If you instead, surround yourself with negative, hurtful or critical people, it’s really hard to feel anything different than what you are taking in.  And you have to be thoughtful about what you are taking in.  Even well meaning, trusted people in your life can sometimes be the source of saying the not so helpful thing.  They might be uninformed, or having a bad day of their own.

Listening to yourself is the key.  Listening to your own voice as a louder tone than the ones you hear with your ears.   And that reminds me of the movie “The Help”.  Remember the mantra that Aibelene repeated throughout the book/movie to the little girl Mae Mobley?

You is smart, you is kind, you is important.

She wanted the little girl to know that at her very core in case anyone (most likely her mother) ever said or behaved in ways that suggested otherwise.  Aibelene wanted Mae Mobley to have that message as her very core and as the voice she would rely upon.  I hope it worked.

If you know that is your core and you live with that type of awareness, then you also have permission to let go of people, places, things, and sometimes just words that don’t fit your model.  You can acknowledge, just like Bode Miller did “it wasn’t her fault”.  He obviously knew that Cooper’s poor choice in interview strategy, was in fact just that”.  He elaborated that it was an emotional time and that the emotions were his.  He didn’t give her the credit for “destroying him” or even bringing him to his knees.  He held his head high and made the drama as less dramatic as he possibly could given the circumstances, rather than adding fuel to the fire.  And for that alone-  I think he deserved the gold!

 

 

iphone apps

Today i’d like to suggest two apps for iPhone/ipad I suspect they are available in android as well.

The first one is  IthoughtsHD.  This is a great little tool that I use on my Ipad-  It is super for someone who has a big project and the thoughts feel very scattered.  It is a mind mapping tool.  The way to use it is to start on one section  and then let it take shape like a spider web linking everything together.  It makes sense once you start to use it.

The other really cool part about this app is that you can email parts of it to yourself and it comes out like a “to do” list in bullet point format.

mindmap

 

 

 

 

The second app is great for budgeting.  With the popularity of Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace University, many people are back to using the tried and true “envelope” system for budgeting.  Only this is the updated- at your fingertips on your phone version.  I personally use this to keep track of certain areas that I want to be mindful of my spending…. like my crafting budget 😉

envelope

 

 

 

 

Hope you find these helpful!

Eclectic of Chaotic?

peyote orderAs many of you know I am a self-proclaimed craft-a-holic.  Last week I took a beading class to learn something called freeform peyote.  And no, this is not a drug fest.

I taught myself how to do regular peyote awhile back.  It is a very uniform, neat little stitch and it looks like this:

One of the things I like most about beading is trying new things and stretching my abilities and so I decided to try something called freeform.  This is where you mix up the beads a bit both in color and texture by adding different size beads.  And it means you can also mix in different kinds of stitches as well.

Only when I tried it, it looked like this:

While interesting, It’s kind of gnarly and twisty and won’t lay flat if it is made into a bracelet.

chaotic

So, after a few tries and having to sort out a zillion tiny little beads each time I ripped it out and started over, I decided to get some “education” from the pros.

After a couple of hours, here is my practice piece:

peyote flatNotice how the sections lay flat.  And even though there is diversity in bead size and color, there is still a more uniform look within.  It makes sense.

 

Now what on earth does this have to do with therapy you might ask?

Well, remember, my mind works in metaphor.  And as  I was learning the technique from the instructor, I started to recall my first theory class when I got my masters.  Alongside my classmates, I was exposed to a number of theories.  Many sounded interesting and there were useful takeaways in each one.  By the end of the semester many of us where calling ourselves “eclectic”.  And as one professor said ” a little of this, and a little of that”.  At that stage of professional development, eclectic really meant we did not fully understand any one theory.  We just liked the aesthetic or superficial level and ran with it.  I suspect it looked a lot my chaotic bead example above.  It probably looked good in a few spots, but when you put it all together and try to wear it, it just won’t do what it is supposed to.

In my doctoral program, one entire class was devoted to learning how to break down a theory at its fundamental origins and to understand it from the base up.  Our final project was to compare and contrast two theories in this manor.  This exercise taught me that very often, to subscribe to one theory means to exclude another because they are actually in conflict at the origin and thus if practiced faithfully, one can’t move in two different directions simultaneously.

Why is this important?

Again, because of the richness of the metaphoric value.

In learning the bead technique, I realized that you can’t take something to the “next level” until you appreciate the importance of the solid foundation.  This is true in beading, in developing theory, and in life.  Simply throwing something together without a thorough understanding and respect for the foundation gives you chaos.  Some chaos is more attractive than others, but it is chaos nonetheless.  And depending on what elements in the environment test the chaos, it may eventually fall apart.

Learning this new technique reminded me that chaos can in away be planned for.  It doesn’t mean that one has to become rigid and in control of every step.  Rather, it means that if you follow a few basic guidelines, there is still room for creativity and individuality, but it is truly more of an eclectic blending of strategies that are genuinely understood, rather than blindly pulled out of a hat.  When you in fact, do genuinely understand those strategies, you can better anticipate where they will lead and perhaps intersect with other strategies.

Freeform peyote bracelets by people who know what they are doing are some of the most gorgeous and creative pieces.  If you want to see more, just look at google images or pinterest to see more.

When I ask people to write a life or marriage “philosophy”, I am asking them to try and get a picture of what they want the finished product to look like.  That answer should dictate the strategies rather than the other way around.  Simply sticking in things as you go along is far more likely to yield one a hodge podge that may not “fit” very comfortably.  Therapy and or coaching is a way to sort out some of those beads and try a more educated technique.

 

My favorite stories

I just added some of my favorite stories like Eleven, Blind Men and the Elephant and The Starfish story to the Support Header on this site. These are stories I often refer to during the course of therapy. Now you don’t have to search for them or rely on my inept paraphrasing– they are right here for you whenever you want them.

Another one bites the dust… Sadly

Yesterday I was driving along when a newsflash came across my phone announcing that Philip Seymour Hoffman had died from an apparent drug overdose. Wow- Really? He had checked into rehab a couple of years ago and everyone believed he was on the straight and narrow. They found him on the bathroom floor with a syringe in his arm suggesting otherwise.
I’m not going to bash PSH. Let the poor man rest in peace from whatever demons tortured him. What I find troubling is that he is one in a long list that keeps growing. It’s certainly not that he didn’t know better. I suspect he knew all too well.

And so do I… and so do you… And yet- why is that we continue to do things over and over that we know without any doubt are harmful or even lethal to us? The obvious answer– we are human. But there are other humans that don’t, or at least not as often.

We can say it is our bad childhood, our bad marriage, we went to the wrong school, not enough money, education…. Another long list. But at the end of the day it really comes down to something very simple-although not easy- And that is that we have to make a decision every single minute of every single day- to live well or to not live well. To be our best self- or to not be our best self. And so often, we have created lives so full of noise, distraction and patterns that allow us to feel like we don’t have time to think through those decisions. Instead we just move like a pinball from bumper to bumper in a way that appears to be directed by everything and everyone except us.

Looking at only the day Hoffman died and saying it was from a drug overdose, I think does him a disservice on so many levels. But certainly not the least of these is discounting all of the events that led up to that fatal decision. Was he troubled? Maybe. Or did he just not want to feel some type of pain? Did he mean to end it all or was he just trying to get relief?
Addictions, vices, provide a temporary escape from the reality and hardness of life and that of course, is what makes them so attractive and appealing. Some are more temporary than are others. And we “treat” them by focusing on the symptom. We educate ourselves about the perils of alcohol, drugs etc.
But the symptom, I think isn’t the use of our vices– rather, its our unwillingness and fear to not use them. It’s our insecurity or disbelief that we will be able to live well if we meet life head on-on life’s terms, rather than on terms we feel are “fair” or desirable.

Someone told me once that “if you do what you are supposed to do, when you are supposed to do it, things generally turn out okay”. I believe there is a lot of merit to that- but it’s not full proof. Sometimes you can do everything you are supposed to do, and things still don’t turn out like you think they are supposed to. Then what?
Then what is that we need a plan B that is based on the 3Rs– Not reading riting and rithmatic, but Regulation, Resiliency and Reverence.
Regulation- how much do we really need? Do those needs come from an internal voice we recognize and trust?
Resiliency- Can we handle getting our needs met? Can we handle it when they don’t? How do we react/respond when needs are met and not met?
Reverence- Do we have a good balance between the desire to get our needs met and the needs of those around us? Do we appreciate what it means to have our needs met. Does it satisfy us?

More on this at a later date;-)