Monday, November 09, 2015

Why I Cry

I thought maybe writing this little essay would answer a baffling question. Let me bring you back to Wednesday when I was innocently telling my supervisor how much I was looking forward to some events coming up in my personal life. Namely, Eli's senior recital (yesterday) and my nephew's performance as Don Quixote in his high school's Man of La Mancha (next weekend). As I was trying to say this I got completely choked up and had trouble speaking. In true counselor fashion, she gave me a moment and then asked what the tears were about. I haltingly replied that I often cry when I'm happy or proud. She went on to tell me a touching personal story about Man of La Mancha and helped normalize the emotion I feel when talking or even thinking about certain experiences, particularly hearing vocal music.

Fast forward to Friday afternoon when I was in a meeting and someone mentioned living in the 'mystery' of life, and embracing that. He described it as seeing a piece of art that moves him deeply and when trying to explain why, cannot. That resonated with me as I can't put into words why I cry when I even think about a church full of people singing Silent Night, my nephew singing The Impossible Dream, or a choir singing The Pasture. I have cried in band, jazz or orchestra concerts as well, but it's usually vocal music that pierces my heart.

At one point I thought I cried because I internalized the message, "It's not okay to be happy" or it's fraternal twin sister, "It's not okay to be proud." Sometimes I think it's because I am so unmusical. Or perhaps I took the Buddhist noble truth "life is suffering" to heart. Sometimes I use my cry meter to determine authenticity (eg. if I don't cry at emotional content, there's some insincerity going on).

I really appreciated the advice I got about how to "get through" my nephew's performance; I was told, "just cry." Regardless of what I do or how I look, I am going to bask in the beauty others make surrounded by my loving family. I may have to continue to live in the mystery of why, and stock up on Kleenex.

Sunday, September 06, 2015


Fear is something we all have, and we all learn to cope with in varying degrees. Fear can originate in direct experience, vicariously, and espeially through the media. Some of my earliest fears were caused by movies and television. While my mother famously protected me from "The Exorcist," I was able to access other just as terrifying images in the comfort of my own home. What is it that keeps us watching when we know we will have nightmares for weeks or years?

"The Night Stalker" TV movie and series was one of my favorites, but also completely anxiety provoking. Darrin McGavin was a cool detective tracking a vampirish evil monster. Couldn't stop watching...but carried a wooden cross throughout my teens.

One of my biggest fears growing up was that I would (accidentally) get thrown into juvenile prison. "Born Innocent" starring Linda Blair is where a 14 year old gets locked up in prison and some pretty disturbing things happen to her. According to Wikipedia, it contained "graphic content never before seen on American television."  Suffice it to say I was Scared Straight.

"Go Ask Alice" was another classic movie that exposed the underbelly of the drug culture of the early 70's. I was terrified that someone was going to slip LSD into my food or drink, and I would become instantly addicted and all a-shambles like the girl in the movie, sleeping in flop houses, never washing my hair, etc. This fear led me to give up my dream of becoming an Olympic figure skater in 2nd grade because I thought I saw a drug deal being made on the ice across the street from my house.

Then there was "Sybil" (anyone for breaking out into multiple personalities) and "Carrie" (horror at the thought of taking a shower at school). I am happy to report I have somehow put these fears to rest and am living a semi-normal life. Ironically, one of my main tasks as a therapist is helping others conquer their fears and demons. My advice? Adopt this well known slogan:

Fear = False Evidence Appearing Real

And if that fails:

Fuck Everything And Run

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Making :  senseless blog posts
Cooking :  nothing
Drinking :  coffee
Reading:  11/22/63
Wanting:  breakfast
Looking:  haggard
Playing:  DVDs
Deciding:  what to do today
Wishing:  I could see my kids today
Enjoying:  peace and quiet
Waiting:  for the rain to stop
Liking:  my husband
Wondering:  when I will get dressed
Loving:  my life
Pondering:  old age
Considering:  what to do with an extra peanut butter pie
Buying:  nada, I hope
Watching:  Orange is the New Black, season 2
Hoping:  to watch a home video today (I have about 10 left to preview)
Marvelling: @ the parking lot's disarray
Cringing: at the bugs coming out of the corn
Needing:  sustenance
Questioning: religious people
Smelling: cleanliness
Wearing: bathrobe
Following:  Pinterest
Noticing:  clocks
Knowing:  I am blessed
Thinking: too much
Admiring: real writers
Sorting:  pictures, movies
Getting: hungry
Bookmarking: Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff
Coveting:  nothing really 
Disliking:  whiners
Opening:  my bank statement multiple times
Giggling: at OITNB
Feeling: content
Snacking: wishing I didn't so much
Helping:  myself
Hearing:  golf in the background

Saturday, July 04, 2015

About Time

Pat had me watch a DVR'd movie called About Time, starring a little known ginger actor named Domhnall Gleeson. He actually played a Weasley in the Harry Potters, the sidekick in Unbroken, and recently, Caleb the main character in Ex Machina. It involves Tim (Domhnall's)'s ability to time travel. Only he doesn't use it in the usual fictional way to alter the course of history. He makes little changes in his own life, and sometimes goes back when he doesn't like the result and undoes the change. The overall message is to take note of the life you are living and make it count, enjoy it, improve it for someone else.

The mood of the movie (the content, the music, the setting {England}, the odd choice of actors) was rather melancholy and reminded me different moments I've had where I wonder at the confluence of events that brought a particular group of people together at the same time and place. It usually happens at less everyday events such as a concert at ISU, an out of town ball game, a play, etc. where we are having a collective experience but are not otherwise connected. It reminded me that this fall will be the last of Eli's college music performances. Other parents will one day populate the CPA for their children's concerts. I won't be in that time and place again.

Tim also uses time travel to relive precious moments, notably at the end of the movie, which made me unbearably sad. Haven't we all had times we wished would never end...I've often thought I would like to go back and spend one hour with my babies again. Or my toddlers, teenagers, young adults.

Sunday, June 21, 2015


Reading is many things to me: an escape from boredom or stress, an education on history and the diversity of people, an elaborate fantasy world, a moving picture more vivid than HD. I can live in a book the way Miss Suzy lived in a dollhouse (one of my favorite childhood picture books about a squirrel who snuck into an attic to live). But most of all, reading is how I define myself.  Not only do I snobbishly categorize myself as a "reader," reading has helped me more than anything else learn who I am and who I want to be.

As a child, I was more of an indoor kid, and since our TV was kind of jankie, and my house had an endless supply of books, reading was the habit I formed. Since we didn't have many kids in our neighborhood, I spent a lot of my time reading. I was lucky to have a cousin Amy who not only handed down cool California clothes, she sent us the latest books. I was the first girl in 6th grade to have "Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret." That was how I learned about puberty, boys and social interaction.

As an adult, I retreat into the fantasy world of books to escape stress and anxiety. Nothing captivates and distracts me like a 3000 page Ken Follet triology. I felt I could relate more to my grandfather who served in WWI after reading "Fall of Giants." I had little school training (or memory) in history, so I have filled in the gaps through historical fiction, one of my favorite genres. Sometimes I get mixed up on whether I have seen the movie or read a particular book, so vivid are the pictures I draw in my mind.

I am in awe of writers who can take ordinary words and combine them in an extraordinary way. It's fascinating how endless the arrangement of the English language is. I love to write down similes and metaphors from books that I find genius:

"Her voice, like some confused child, made my throat feel as if it were splintered by razors."

"The place was radioactive with memories." 

"He looked over his bifocals and rearranged some throat phlegm." 

Books are my friends when I have moved to new locations where I didn't know anyone and many other lonely moments of my life. I can curl up with a good book on a sunny day as easily as a rainy day. "Bridget Jones Mad About the Boy" had me laughing out loud and "Dark Places" had me internally vomiting but unable to put it down. The funny friend and the scary friend. "The Day I Went Missing" was the how-not-to handbook for my profession.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali in "Infidel" helped me justify my belief that abuse and violence against women should not be tolerated in the name of religion or cultural diversity. Augustus Waters in "The Fault in our Stars" taught me I don't have to make a large mark on the world; my small mark is good enough. Marie-Laure in "All the Stars We Cannot See" gave me hope of a resilient, long life in spite of the most profound losses. And these are just a few of the recent lessons learned.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Divining Hour

My favorite time of day is between 3 and 5 o'clock on the weekends. All the busyness of the morning errands and rituals is over, my afternoon nap has just ended, and I am still fuzzy from awakening not quite sure what day or time it is. Relieved or longing for a moment more in that dream world. A diet Pepsi is bringing me slowly back to life, and the evening is not yet encroaching on my conscience, or is it conscious? Dinner plans are percolating in the back of my head, and I might take a stroll outside if the sun is bright and warm, stopping to feel the warm bricks on the buildings of Randolph Street. My cashmere sweater, puffy coat and fleece gloves are a bit much on this particular day. The clocks on the Square are confusingly disparate, leaving me wondering what time it really is, or temperature. I wish someone would come to the door selling Girl Scout cookies.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Head or Heart

From The Handsome Man's De Luxe Cafe:

I know that I am making this decision from the heart. I know it is the wrong thing to do. 
No, said Mma Potokwane. It is never the wrong thing to do. Never.

This exchange made me think immediately how I always make decisions from my head. I often write out a Pro and Con list when making a big decisions, and I became enamored with the Decisional Balancing Scale that I learned from a therapeutic workshop. My heart tends to be sadly pushed aside as reason and intellect and rationality seem a better basis for action.  

Recently I have been working with Dialectical Behavior Therapy which promotes a Wise Mind approach. Combining the Reasonable Mind and the Emotional Mind will result in a good decision or reaction to situations. This therapy was designed for people whose tendency is towards emotional decisions and reactions. The opposite of me. But when they talk about how your emotions can be a valuable asset to listen to, I have to agree.

I can think of a few times I have consciously let emotion guide decisions. Those that come to mind are when I have decided to break rules or ethical standards because I "feel" it is the right thing to do. For example, I have loaned money knowing I would probably not get it back, or done something that may be perceived as enabling because the person was down, or old or whatever.