Thursday, March 4, 2010
If you happen to notice this after giving up on me in my long absence, please know I am forced to take a break from the blogging world because I have become completely overwhelmed with work responsibilities since I was cast on an upcoming television program as their mental-health expert - which I had them re-label as "Emotional Wellness Coach." The program is a women's health public service endeavor and will be aired on cable in a number of major US metro areas and everywhere via the internet. I will come back to this blog and give details when I'm allowed to do so. Meanwhile, forgive my retreat from this venue. I am writing a great deal for the tv program, filming, etc., takes at least one full day a week, and the rest of my life is pretty busy, as always. Let me give an update:
Business in my DC office picked up and I did not have enough time available in my shared office space. Not being able to afford my own office and my living expenses in two places, I got the idea that if I had the right office of my own, I could live and work in the same place in DC. A friend I've known for about 9 years had just advertised offices available in his suite, very close to the shared Georgetown office. The available office is perfect for me and so I broke the lease on the row house - moving out with the help of a dear friend - paying the upcoming months' rent, and forfeiting the deposit. I ended up paying rent/mortgage x6 that month between my Valley home and office, the row house, the old office, and the new place's deposit and rent. But the increased business and the savings of having only one place in the city should quickly make up for the losses.
Concurrent with my decision to move, the tv program asked if we could film some of my role in the show in my office - so the pressure was on to move and settle quickly! I saw the new place and made the decision to move on February 26th. I moved out of my row house that night, staying in the new place immediately. I then returned for EG's 5 year old birthday party the next day.
On the 4th of March, my next visit to DC, I had a pick-up truck loaded down with things to take to the new office, when I discovered that one of my cats, Mulberry, had snuck outside and had been hit by a car.
Having clients scheduled in DC, some with emergencies going on, I had to care for his body, suppress my emotions, and make the drive to DC. When I arrived I caught a UPS delivery man near my office and paid him to help me unload the truck. When I saw my first client in the new place that afternoon, I'd barely had time to wipe my tears (about Mulberry) and the sweat off my brow from carrying things up 5 flights of stairs (Yes five. No elevator.)
I had more clinical emergencies going on that week than ever before in my almost 14 years of seeing clients, and with the pressure of the move and the death of that sweet cat, I was overwhelmed. I should have post-poned a blind date that had been set up for that evening, but I had to be in DC. I had clients until 7:30 that evening and again the next morning, and was too exhausted to make the drive home, and back. To do that 6 hour commute would have been dangerous, but I contemplated it. I'd have to tell the girls about Mulberry over the phone, having made sure they were surrounded with others' support, in person.
And so, selfishly, I wanted a distraction, company, and the chance to meet this person, and I could imagine what the guy would think if I used a dead cat as an excuse for cancelling! So instead I showed up at 7:45 for a dinner date at a terrific wine bar/bistro - Vinoteca - http://www.vinotecadc.com/
with dark circles under my eyes and the need to interrupt things 15 minutes after meeting - in order to call my children and tell them about their pet. That was awful - their horrified sobs over the phone - my wanting to hold them - knowing I had a very long weekend of patients ahead - needing to hold myself together - desperately needing the money to cover my gamble on the new place - and ultimately to ensure my children's security, their future.
I'm so glad I did not eat alone that evening and that I met my new friend, M. Though he admitted later to thinking the date might end up being a "worst" because of my condition about the cat, he did not let on and was very warm and understanding. He is a person full of life and energy, he's funny, intelligent, creative, and wise. He is Italian, from Rome, same age as me, a veteran of the Italian Air Force, first Gulf War, and a single father to a one year old and a four year old. He has a good and interesting job in DC, he brings out the best in me, and we have had several marvelous weeks of dating . . . romantic evenings trying great restaurants around the District, walking together, holding hands, under dripping tree lights in the lovely courtyard at my new place - M asking, "Are you sure we're not in Rome?" . . . We're taking it slow, but it would sure be nice to be done with dating and to have such a wonderful companion in my life, long-term. I met up with him and his children one afternoon in Old Town, as his friend, and loved seeing his parenting side.
M and I are contemplating a quick spring break together. . .the French West Indies, perhaps . . .
My little darlings are doing good, following the great sadness about Mulberry, they recovered quickly, as children do. With filming television show taking so much time, I've been taking time off in middle of week and doing things with the girl's at school, like field trips. Here is a fun story of a recent (mis)adventure with them:
I'm in Target with my girls, shopping for my new place. The store is packed with people and my cart is packed with large items. We are in the section with office chairs and other furniture.
Back up, remember the darlings' father has recently had surgery on his Achilles tendon. He has moved from a wheelchair, to crutches, to still limping about in a cast across this whole blasted blizzardly winter. (Karma for making me a soccer widow all those years?) Seriously, I've tried to help by increasing my chauffering of the children duties, carrying in a few of his groceries, and offering assistance, but he's proud of being independent inspite of limitations, so that it hasn't been a top issue for ME. So he's had a wheelchair at work and has been wheeling about in an office chair at his home. He's used the desk chair so much, the arm has broken off, but it still works.
So here are girls and I in Target and one of them announces loudly: "Mommy, you need to get daddy a new wheelchair." And my response as I focus on lamps or something I need for my office is: "I'm not buying your daddy a wheelchair." Innocent response from a young child who routinely manifests her thinking that if I'm at a store, whatever is needed or wanted by anyone can and should be purchased immediately: "But mommy, his is broken". Me: "Honey, I'm here to get stuff for me, I'm not buying your daddy a wheelchair." Four year old: "But mommy, how is Daddy supossed to move around?" At that point I look up from my lamp comparisons and notice the scores of shoppers surrounding us, staring with dropped jaws.
Really, folks, I can explain. . .
Hopefully none of them were potential clients. "Yes ma'am, I'm a very empathic psychotherapist. I will help you deal with your grief about the loss of your ability to exercise, like you once did, since your hip replacement." Great marketing in a small town, just fantastic. Next time I'll be sure to put sandwich boards over the kids, before we go out in public - something like "Mine or my mother's behavior in public has absolutely nothing to do with what life wisdom and guidance she can offer you as a client. Please call ........"
So, for now, I'm signing off. I've seen 30 patients since Saturday, it is Tuesday afternoon. I need to do laundry, and cook, and sleep as well as preparing for the filming of this weeks' episode. Feel free to keep in touch, and I will resume blogging when I can.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Fire and Ice
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
On my birthday, over a week ago, for the first time in recorded history, there was snow in all 50 states, if you count snow capped mountain peaks in Hawaii (Haleakala, Hawaii pictured above.) Meanwhile, the Winter Olympics were going on in British Columbia, and the US was actually having to send snow to Canada because they did not have enough for the events. I don't have television, so I haven't seen much of the Olympics. At a friend's place the other evening, I did enjoy watching some Ice Dancing and the Women's Skeleton.
I had the opportunity to do the Skeleton on the track in Calgary, about nine years ago. What a thrill; though I spent more time signing waivers than it took to descend on the sled! I have been to 7 of Canada's provinces and to 49 states, Hawaii is the only state I'm missing. I'm hopeful for a vacation with a romantic partner there someday. I just have to finish interviewing applicants and hire someone for the position. (Please note, cooking skills required.)
I've been makin' bacon (ok, burning it) and eggs for my younguns and just generally enjoying a lazy Sunday morning, reflecting on the week, catching up on reading other's blogs,the news, listening to my 9 year old practice piano, and looking forward to a day of flying around these beautiful snowy mountains, doing aerobatic stunts, like the one EG calls the Negative G Remover (a Maneuver that temporarily defies gravity, removing one from their seat), and landing at a local ski resort's airstrip for some tubing with my daughters and one of the best friends ever, BB. (O.K. - here are pictures, I wrote in the morning, added photos at the end of the day.)
It has been a quite difficult week, actually. I'm distressed, worried about my mom who has just gotten a diagnosis of chronic pulmonary embolisms (emboli?). She is just 57, and I hate that she is struggling so much, so young. I fear her loss. My dad died 10 years ago. He was only 51. I feel powerless to do anything at all to help my mom. Here is a picture of her with my youngest, about 4 years ago.
The week was also laden with heart wrenching client trauma: Haitian earthquake relief workers returning, more war stories (Afghanistan), children's deaths, suicides, rapes, so much suffering. I feel at times eviscerated. There is nothing left in me to give. Compassion fatigue is the clinical term. By the end of this week, I was on the verge of tears constantly, such that any personal emotional provocation nearly sunk me. This is a time when having good friends, moms, sister to talk to is critical. Thank you each and everyone.
I also utilize my own therapy and supervision to absorb the overflow. My sister is a constant source of support. BB is a tireless confidant. (In case you're wondering, BB & I tried the romance thing, but I've found that with him as a friend I can love him unconditionally. As boyfriend/girlfriend - we were oil & water, cats and dogs, all the cliche's - it was fabulous in some ways, but in important others, it just did not work. I am grateful to have him in my life in ways that do work.)
I have new neigbors who are becoming good friends, too. GW moved in right across the street and we were saying initial hellos and were surprised to find out we are both psychologists practicing psychotherapy. (My two other closest neighbors coincidentally play in the community band with me.) Last night we went out with GW and her boyfriend for a very fun dinner at a Hibachi place. EG was enthralled by the chef's food aerobatics - particularly his creating a volcano from an onion.
GW and I discussed how being a therapist, listening hour after hour each week to others' lives, creates a need in our off-time to be a bit narcissistic. It's my turn to be heard some, when I'm off work! And we talked about how our expecting our patients to disclose so openly elicits within ourselves a freedom of speech and sharing, perhaps an openness that other, non-therapists would not find comfortable. Privacy? I have to worry about it too much with others' stories. This self-disclosure is also part of the recharge process, for me; I empty out the overflowing tanks and make room for more. If I can cathart all of this about myself, it refreshes me enough to keep going - keep containing clients' stories and pain.
Another bonus to my energy store: a budding friendship/romance was recently tested and has resurfaced. This person has been my muse. Each encounter with him seems to recharge my creative batteries. I need to thank him for his wisdom, his effortless and nearly constant subtle humor, and his shared, vulnerable, humanity . . .oh, and for cooking Southern comfort food for me when my strength falters. I wrote the following to my muse:
. . .So, I really long for physical contact, giving as much as receiving - it seems the only unguent for all the emotion that I take on each week . . . I give a lot to my daughters, but also want/need adult, mindful contact - the feeling of someone's skin - someone warm and breathing, sighing, snoring, the simplest touch is curative for me. When I'm beside you, maybe just our feet touching or my hand on your arm, I'm in touch with life, it is not removed. I am part of the world, grounded that way. Sometimes when I'm in the office sitting across from a client in so much pain, I feel almost as if I'm floating above the scene - so that I do not become overwhelmed in empathy and can continue to access the knowledge, skills, etc to help them in the way they need help from me. It is hard to be so close and yet so distant from 20 - 30 human beings each week. I don't know if someone who is not a therapist can understand what I'm talking about. . .
For my blog follower, James, who felt my cliffhanger was unfair: This is the same muse who inspired the letters copied in California Dreaming post. I told you the story was ongoing - who knows where, but I'm gaining a lot just by having this person in my life for whatever season(s) he remains, in whatever form our relationship evolves.
It has been nearly 50 degrees Farenheit at my home today. The ice is melting. Much has calved off the roof and re-covered previously cleared pathways, so more shoveling is in the forecast. However, it is going to thaw, eventually, this tundra will be no more. The permafrost will recede into a muddy soup, and then, I'll probably miss it. A few more things I want to say before I sign off:
Remember that anger is usually a mask for hurt. Hurting people hurt people.
Every relationship, every person you encounter leaves a mark on you, and you on them. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. Almost any ice can be melted with a healthy amount of forgiveness. Not every relationship need return to previous incarnations, but any relationship that has impacted us deeply may have a place in our lives. (There are obvious exceptions, but I'm speaking generally.) Reconnect, forgive, love your history, it has made you who you are now.
Saw at ski resort restaurant at lunch today. Being Important is Nice. Being Nice is More Important.
(look at the skiers on the slopes in pictures above, they look like tiny ants!)
And finally, more lyrics/poetry, shamelessly copied but with attributions to the source.
Everybody Get Together
Love is but a song to sing
And fear's the way we die.
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry.
Though the bird is on the wing
You may not know why.
C'mon, people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another right now.
C'mon, people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another right now.
Some may come and some may go
He will surely pass.
When the one that left us here
Returns for us at last.
We are but a moment's sunlight
Fading in the grass.
C'mon, people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another right now . . .
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
I've been terribly remiss in my blogging. There have been two blizzards since my last blog. Above are photos of the paths to my two offices - several days after the last big snow. Every task of my day-to-day living has been redefined by the "Snowpocalypse, or Snowmaggedon", as this winter, can boast the most snow in recorded history for the region.
This particular blog piece has been in the works for a couple of weeks, taking a backseat to shoveling, saving my home from the ravages of ice, having the darlings out of school, and a bit of dating adventure/(misadventure? :) . . .This writing was inspired by photos retrieved from my cell phone after it took a plunge and was on the blink; so many of the pictures here are candid shots, the ones for which I'd never have the camera ready, but since I'm on call 24/7, I could capture the moment.
My daughters love to hate one another. They can squabble and fight and even injure one another on almost a daily basis.
And yet, they can be so sweet and loving to the other, and God forbid anyone else threaten the sister!
When there is a difficulty, like the death of a pet, their solidarity stands in stark contrast to the bickering that dominates most days.
My relationship with my sisters was much the same. Now in adulthood, my younger sister is one of my best friends, though I would never tease a girlfriend as rudely as I do her, and she me. (Above, I'm pictured with my younger sister on a camping/hiking trip in Glacier National Park, in 1999, and here is a photo of me, my mother, and my younger sister at Thanksgiving, 2009.) I have brothers, too, who are much younger. I learned a lot about parenting, looking after those two during my teenage years. Now they are fascinating young men who I look forward to knowing more as adults.
This blog entry is dedicated to siblings. (The youngest of my three sisters pictured left.) Below are some recollections from my childhood, regarding my sisters, and I'm including a good bit of photographic evidence that siblings do, indeed, love one another.
Around 1980: I remember sobbing as mom left for a long shift on a weekend, begging her not to leave. I stood at the window, wearing my nightgown, the one she’d gotten for me when I was in the hospital; it now came down to my knees instead of my ankles. When mom worked, my older sister (With long, dark hair in the picture above, and the one below) was in charge of “babysitting” my younger sister and me. The oldest would have been 11 or 12 at this time. She would lock us out of our single-wide trailer and not let us back in, even to go to the bathroom, for hours on end. My younger sister started taking off. I was usually too scared to go with her and would stay in a favorite tree. I worried terribly about my little sister and felt sick. I was angry as hell at my older sister and would throw rocks at the trailer to disturb the quiet she said she needed. On weekends, my younger sister would be gone all day sometimes, and I would putter around in the immediate vicinity of the trailer, bored, worried, and angry until my imagination would overcome this and I would drift off in daydreams, often of how I would avenge my mean and betraying sisters. I would outdo them, they would see. I would leave them behind in the dust. Lock them out of my house. They were not really in cahoots against me, but sometimes it seemed that way. The older would just order the younger to help hold me down and tickle me until I cried. I dreaded being pinned down and humiliated. I was very ticklish and felt so out of control. My younger sister caught up and surpassed me in size at a fairly young age, despite that I was almost four years older. I was scrawny and tough, but together, they out-did me. The oldest was extremely spiteful and hateful in her pre-teen years. I was the most likely target for her rage and if I told on her, I was called a liar, or, even if mom believed me, I was a tattle-tale. She was very good at being sneaky. So I didn’t usually speak-up.
My little sister, a kindergartener, meanwhile, became a master storyteller, and on her forays, would beguile neighbors into free meals and toys, coming back a pretend orphan or victim of a terrible illness, but also a victor, sometimes even bringing bribes so we would not tell on her for being gone so long. When she did hang around, we would play together, pretending, creating elaborate worlds of make-believe where there was lots of food, fun things to do, where we were grown-ups and in charge. A few times we took off together. We’d venture across the road and pick handfuls of wild violets from an empty lot, or we’d sneak across the fence into the neighboring trailer park and climb into this wonderful rope hammock together, swinging between two trees..."
Many of my clients bring sibling issues into the consulting room. This work is rich with opportunity for personal growth, as well as positive changes in families. It is with our siblings that we first learn to relate with others, as caretakers are perceived as an extension of self in early life. Much of our development of identity happens through our comparisons and contrasts with our siblings or close in age peers. The closeness and conflict are both critical in building our personalities and lifelong coping skills. As adults, sibling relationships evolve, and often end up being the longest term relationships we have. Taking care of these bonds between sisters and brothers, is paramount.
"To the outside world, we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other's hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time."
"Sibling relationships - and 80 percent of Americans have at least one - outlast marriages, survive the death of parents, resurface after quarrels that would sink any friendship. They flourish in a thousand incarnations of closeness and distance, warmth, loyalty and distrust."
~Erica E. Goode, "The Secret World of Siblings," U.S. News & World Report, 10 January 1994
With love to each of my five siblings, and to my two daughters - encouraging you to nurture what you share. The years of distance between you now seem at times a gulf that cannot be bridged. As you age, this gap will seem trifling, and your common history will bind you, like no other tie.