Monthly Archives: July 2015

Can we talk about sex?

Can we talk about sex?

Yes we most certainly can but we often don’t.

Guys, think about this scenario: -your wife makes you a new dish for dinner and afterwards she asks “How did you like it?” She wants feedback because she wants to know whether she should make it again or change it anyway before she does. You say things like “Needs a little more spice” and “I like this part but not that part”, or “It was totally delicious.” Hopefully you used phrasing that was clear, helpful, complementary and thoughtful of the effort she put into cooking the meal. She, on the other hand, is hopefully receptive to hearing the feedback because she wants to please you. If so, she can take the information you provided into consideration and next time make the meal even more delicious and to your personal liking.

Gals now it’s your turn. Imagine this: You go to your hairdresser and she says what “What would you like?”   Now admittedly there are occasional times when you don’t know and might tell her to surprise you. But more often than not, you have the placement of every curl down to a science.   In fact, you may very well pick up the hairdresser’s tools and show her exactly how you want it done.

 

I have long fantasized about writing a book or at least book chapters with the following titles: the male version would be, You Can Have My Penis But Not My Heart and the woman’s would be, You Can Have My Vagina But Not My Heart.   These titles represent for me the idea that, so often people give up their bodies without really giving to the other, what’s in their heart about what happens to them in terms of emotional satisfaction. More specifically in this blog it refers to the unwillingness to give of one’s desires that will result in satisfaction.

Of course food and hair are not as intimate as sex. On the other hand, food and hair are not as intimate as sex. That wasn’t a typo. The argument is that we don’t want to “talk” about something so intimate… but then why are willing to DO something that is so intimate? It’s easier to talk about things that are less intimate because we may feel shy or even embarrassed or we don’t want to upset the other person. Yet, the idea is, if we are engaging with something so intimate, we should be doing that with someone with whom we feel safe and very close. These are the people we need to trust and believe will trust us, thereby making talking a very safe act.

If we are having intimate relations with someone we believe loves and cares about us, then why would we withhold information that would enable him or her to make that the best experience for us? Similarly, why would we not seek out information from them to increase our confidence insuring our efforts are as close as we can get to providing them with the best experience.

This week, how about taking a risk and starting a conversation or two about S-E-X.

 

 

 

Commas save lives

As a Craftaholique, I’m always looking for funny T shirt sayings. One of my favorite finds is

Let’s eat Grandpa.

Let’s eat, Grandpa.

Commas save lives.

 

 

Such a small thing can change the meaning of an intention so drastically.

 

Communication can be a tricky thing. It is so often the presenting item for which, people come into my office asking for help. And, like the comma shift above, very often the solution they are looking for isn’t a major change, but rather a tweaking of smaller behaviors.

 

Two of these we can easily focus on are intent and tone.

 

Can you recall a time when you intended to ask someone a question, but it came out like a declaration? Often, you know that is what has transpired because, rather than answering your “request”, the other person goes into a defensive mode. You might reply with, “I was only asking”, which falls on deaf ears as the other person is walking away frustrated and mumbling “It sure didn’t sound like a question!”

 

I am so familiar with that one personally, that I often hear myself prefacing my speech with “This is meant to be a question, regardless of how it may come out!” I have found that doing so clarifies my intent and prepares my listener if I feel a little confused about how to get the question out. More often than not, my listener is more receptive and forgiving of my fumbling because my intent is deemed genuine.

 

There are many other examples where clarifying your intention upfront can be very useful, but your intent has to be sincere. In other words, saying , “I don’t want to hurt your feelings but….”, does not let you off the hook. Most likely, you know you are about to say something hurtful but you’re trying to get a pass.   Sometimes we feel we have to say things that will be uncomfortable for the other person to hear. If we choose to do so, then we have to acknowledge that there will be a reaction.

 

Another communication game changer is tone. Some people are lucky to have a more steady tone throughout most of their dialogue. I am of Italian heritage. We don’t have that genetic make-up. My tone goes up and down like a two year old playing on a xylophone. And, I’m lucky enough to have the facial and body movements to support the rise and fall so there is no denying what state I’m in when expressing myself. Helen Keller can read me loud and clear.

 

As a result, I have to work a little harder to make sure that my tone is expressing what I hope for it to. In other words, if I’m in a frustrated mood about situation “A”, and I try to express something to someone in situation B without making an internal shift, I’m likely to use a tone (with supporting features) that conveys an unrelated frustration. An easier way to say this is, man gets mad at boss and comes home to kick the dog!

 

Tone, however can creep in and wreck a discussion in far more subtle ways.

-asking a question with a tone of suspicion or disbelief?

-offering a compliment with a trace of sarcasm or feigned enthusiasm

-providing support while distracted with something else.

 

In any of the examples, the way to improve our skill set begins with mindfulness and expands with practice. An exercise in mindfulness includes noticing the reactions others have to our declarations, and even asking for feedback when we aren’t sure. Obviously, those around us don’t want to be our constant communication coaches, but when asked with sincerity, our request for feedback may also be viewed as a genuine interest in knowing the other person’s experience communicating with us. They may even appreciate our desire to improve our skills in interacting with them. However, even when we don’t ask for feedback, we can step back and notice whether their responses to us indicate clarity of understanding what we thought we were attempting to communicate.

 

Practice means to start with clear intentions and be thoughtful about our speech rather than to give license to whatever we want to say when we want to say it.   The following quote* sums it up:

“If you propose to speak, always ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind?”

 

So, while commas may save lives, a little extra care in communication may save relationships!

 

*There is a debate as to the origin of this quote. It may be Rumi, Buddha or someone’s Aunt Ruth who stitched it on a pillow, but it is clearly not mine.

 

 

 

 

Who am I?

Most of you know me as a therapist; some as a relative, a neighbor, to others; a friend. The people who spend the most time with me know me as a wife and mom.

When I’m working as a therapist, I have an uncanny ability to remember minuscule details of people’s lives and stories. I sometimes file a piece of seemingly innocuous information into some complex storage system in my brain and can readily call it to the surface without even trying. But, when my alter ego of wife or mother takes charge, I can’t remember where I laid my keys down five minutes ago or which names I originally designated for each of my children.

As a relative to my husband’s family, I can often see things with a kind of clarity not available when viewing my own siblings. As an acquaintance, I’m more detached to various circumstances than I might be with a friend.

When I dress for work, I at least make an effort to put some thought into whether or not my shoes match, or if my hair has been at least touched within the past 24-48 hours. Going to the grocery store is another matter. If you run into whichever personality of mine that shows up there, it’s anybody’s guess. The best you might hope for is that I’m fully clothed and have shoes on as the store requires.

I suspect your many personalities have their own definitive characteristics as well, separating one from the other, and at times blending as beautifully as a Monet painting. I don’t imagine I’m all that unusual in my distinctions, nor do I suspect my own “ multiple personalities” as I describe them, would line up with the DSM. So my purpose in babbling about this isn’t to highlight the fact that these dichotomies occurs but rather to illuminate the notion of whether or not these personalities are congruent with a center core. And, to increase one’s awareness of what degree to which the balance of their presence or absence in the bulk of your day is satisfying to you.

I remember a time a few years ago that I found myself spending what seemed like an awkward amount of time in one of those cheap import jewelry shops. It seemed awkward in that I seemed to have a sudden need to buy a bunch of “bling” when I’m not really a bling kind of girl. Yet it seemed at the time, imperative that I get the junk so I went with the impulse. Upon further reflection, what I realized is that my mommy self had begun to obliterate my girl self. At that point in time, my boys were moving out of toddler stage to becoming, well… boys.  Meaning, there was a sudden surge of testosterone in my household, leaving very little hint of anything girlie around and I was feeling the absence. If I had figured out this need a little earlier I would probably have saved a few dollars and some closet space.

Life can often take twists and turns that result in some of our parts being thrown around carelessly, and in some cases, they are even sadly discarded. And the result can range from mildly disturbing to near terror. I’ve met people who were knee deep in relationships with others before they woke up and upon further reflection, realized that they had nearly suffocated some part of themselves at the first encounter.

Fortunately, our parts tend to remain intact—even when we try our hardest to obliterate them in the service of others. Almost like weeds that pop up through the cracks in the sidewalk, they yearn toward the light to be known to us. And they try to get our attention through behavior.

The next time you find yourself engaging in behavior that doesn’t seem to make sense to you, its time to ask the question “what part of me is trying to find a voice.” But it’s probably a good idea to have that conversation with yourself when others aren’t around. 😉

 

 

Fleeting emotions

I want to share an insight this week. Actually it’s a revisiting of a lesson I learned several years ago when my first son Alex was a baby. Most mornings Alex would wake around 4 or 5 and I would pick him up from his crib, bring him to our bed and nurse him back to sleep.

On one such morning, I went through the same routine not unlike so many others. What was different however, is what happened next. As Alex snuggled up to his father, I lay there watching the two of them and became overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. I looked at them both slumbering and thought “This is the most perfect moment of my life! I have everything I could ever imagine right in front of me!” And so I watched. And I watched trying to soak up all of this perfect joy.

And that lasted about 15 seconds.

After that, I got up and went on with my day a little dumbfounded as to why the sensation of reaching nirvana seemed to occupy my attention span for only about 15 seconds before becoming “over” it. Well, not over it exactly, as I still remember it very clearly. That said, it wasn’t something that entranced me to the point of choosing to gaze on.

So the lesson I learned was this. Emotions; all emotions, positive or negative rarely, if ever seem to have the power we ascribe to them. We are simply incapable of sustaining them. That is both the bad news (when we want it to last) and the good news (when we fear they will overwhelm or destroy us).   I suppose this coping mechanism is built in to our species DNA for survival the same as needing to pee is.

The reminder lesson came this past week with child number two. Andrew was at cello camp in Bloomington. It was his first time away from home and the camp lasted two weeks. Okay, it was my first time away from Andrew that long and it was excruciating for me. When I went up to visit, he stayed at the hotel with me instead of the dorm. So this idea I’m about to try and describe to you happened a couple of times over that visit.

I noticed when I first got to hug him, I hugged really hard. There is that sensation when you first make contact, that is new and fresh and seems to touch parts inside of you; even parts that aren’t making physical contact with the other person like warmth in your toes or joy in your heart. But it dissipates quickly. And if you try to hug harder or longer, the feeling doesn’t increase. Then, I noticed at other times, when I went to kiss him that, if I pressed my lips against his cheek the same thing occurred. The “reward” came in the first few seconds of the kiss. After that, pressing harder or longer just seemed weird or mechanical, like lip skin touching face skin, rather than the adoration of a kiss.

So I came away reminded again of the gap between our desire for wonderful things to last forever and the disappointing reality that they don’t, or maybe “can’t” is a better term. But like most things, the disappointment comes from expectation and ignorance rather than the events themselves.

If we could feel that level of joy all of the time, would it really mean the same to us? Remember the wisdom of the Budweiser Super Bowl commercial that tugged at our heart strings? The commercial featured a song by the group Passenger, “Let Her Go”. While it played, a man ultimately feels such joy reuniting with his horse after the two had been separated for a time. It was the absence that made his heart grow fonder.

The following excerpt from the lyrics are relevant:

Well, you only need the light when it’s burning low, Only miss the sun when it starts to snow, Staring at the bottom of your glass Hoping one day you’ll make a dream last But dreams come slow, and they go so fast

If we don’t expect the good to last forever, and can instead, appreciate it for what it is in the moment, we can greatly reduce our disappointment. And the flipside is that if we can remember that pain too, will not last, we can greatly reduce our fear.

How about practicing this week a willingness to let feelings come and go naturally without having to either hold on tightly or push them away.

I’d love to hear your stories about your experiences in this area.

 

 

 

Break out the sparklers

It’s been such an odd weather year in St. Louis (and elsewhere), that it hardly seems that summer has begun. Yet, the fourth of July is nearly upon us. Hopefully the rain will enable a few safe celebrations ahead with family and friends for all.

The fourth of July is a time to celebrate the freedom in our country. The freedom that so many of us, myself first on the list, often take for granted.

We are a free nation. And while fifty percent of us disagree with whoever is in political office, we are still free to exercise our voice. I met a young woman from Bulgaria over the weekend who told me she had yearned to attend the camp she and my son were enjoying this year, but had not been able to obtain a visa for the two years prior. To send my son Andrew, all I had to do was write a check.

To camp or not camp is hardly worth dying for. But it is one of the many decisions, from how to educate our children to whether we can or will own property which, we have the right to decide, primarily because someone did die for our choice. Take an extra moment this weekend to thank those who have served and continue to serve for us.

There are many organizations that send cards to active service men. Others that send care packages to troops. These are easily accessible, and help let service men and women know that someone is thinking about them.  Consider passing out small gift cards, even in 5.00 increments at the airport or restaurants to those you see in uniform. At very least, openly express your thanks. Each time I do this (which is not often enough); I’m met with enormous gratitude. It should be the other way around. Whether or not you agree with wars we fight, it is always appropriate to appreciate those who are putting their lives on the line. They are the ones making a sacrifice to fulfill decisions made by the politicians you may or may not agree with.

And how about internal freedom? Are you living a life free to enjoy who and what is around you? Or have you bound yourself by arbitrary rules that keep you confined to a routine, a rut, an outdated self- perception of yourself? Worse still, are you condemned by an outdated perception that you believe someone else decided for you?

How about lighting a sparkler or two this year and taking a moment to celebrate with gratitude the life that is yours? Even if you are not living exactly as you hope to at this moment, consider gratitude for the fact that you have the option to hope, dream and make changes to get you to where you would like to be. Happy Independence Day.