Posted by: Marie | December 2, 2014

(967) The power of a simple heartbeat – Part 1 of 4

Post #967
[Private journal entry written on Friday, October 5, 2012]

Today was therapy session day . . .

During the last couple of weeks or so, I’ve been trying to sit with the feelings I experience most evenings as I have down time and as I’m trying to go to sleep – specifically the feelings I try to numb with ice cream and TV and sleep. I’ve been trying to increase my tolerance of these feelings . . . sit with them longer and longer before the anxiety becomes too much and I have to use my numbing tools. I’ve been working on breathing and “letting go” . . . and sometimes I try to imagine that some kind and gentle man is lying next to me, telling me that I am safe, maybe reaching over to place a gentle hand on me in a gesture of assurance and comfort . . .

I wish I could hold onto that imaginary comfort of the “safe” man . . . but, as soon as I think about being that close to a man – even an imaginary man – for more than a fleeting second, I am engulfed in terror. I cannot imagine that experience ever feeling safe. It is something I crave, but I cannot imagine it feeling good in reality.

This morning, I woke up around 3 or 4am and I was experiencing full-on body memories. They were very intense due to the fact I was in a half-asleep state. However, I was able to stay with them and not totally dissociate.

I was experiencing vague images of an adult man (maybe my dad?) coming towards me. In response, my heart would take a huge leap and then start racing, my breathing would get fast – it felt like I couldn’t get enough air. I could feel terror rise up in my chest and neck.

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Photo by Martin Chen

It would take a few minutes for me to breath through it and get my breathing and heart rate calmed down. I’d tell myself that I was safe at home . . . try to get my muscles to relax . . . wipe away the tears . . .

Then, I’d apply lotion to the skin around my eyes. (I have very sensitive skin and whenever I cry, the salt in my tears irritates the delicate skin around my eyes; it helps to keep the area well hydrated.) I’d settle back into trying to sleep . . . then, a few minutes later, I’d get a flash of the image of someone coming towards me and the whole cycle would start over.

This would go on for 30-40 minutes, then I’d doze off for 30-40 minutes, then I’d have another round of body memory flashbacks. Around 7:30, as daylight was moving into place, it felt like the body memories might be fading a bit. My alarm was set to go off at 7:45am, but I didn’t really need to get up until 8:45am – I needed to leave at 9:15 to get to my 9:45 appointment with Edward.

Sometime during the dark morning hours, I decided that I would not try to “pull myself together” before the session. I was hoping I could stay in this emotionally raw place until I got to his office – I wanted him to help me deal with it. I didn’t want to pull back into myself and not have access to this rawness when I got to his office.

My plan for staying in this raw state was to, as soon as I walked into his office – before he got in there, to curl up on his couch, under my blanket . . . but, before I curled up on the couch, I would pull his chair closer to the couch . . . I was wanting to have him closer than usual . . . I felt the need to have him close . . . not touching . . . but close. I wanted to feel safe in that way. (Because, of all the men in the world, Edward is the man with whom I feel the safest.)

I made a mental note to take my blanket with me . . . and a pillow (I would need a pillow to stay in a fetal position for any amount of time). I haven’t taken my blanket with me to therapy for several months. But, I felt like I was really going to need it today.

I reset my alarm for 8:45 and dozed off again. I only have a faint memory of turning off my alarm clock when it went off at 8:45, but I must have. I woke up with start at 9:11. I had four minutes to get ready, feed my cat and pack my bag . . . and I knew that wasn’t going to happen. The good news is that I know I don’t have to “look good” for therapy. I only have to pull on some sweats, a t-shirt and some shoes and head out. I can show up a mess and he is okay with that.

I got dressed and fed my cat . . . quickly ran a comb through my hair . . . and I started grabbing stuff I needed for therapy . . . I packed my blanket and a pillow . . .

Then, I noticed my mouth was very dry and my blood sugar was starting to crash, so I grabbed a bottle of water, a protein bar and a soda (the breakfast of champions!) And, the skin around my eyes and nose was really irritated from all the sporadic crying during the night, so I grabbed my bottle of hand lotion and my box of soft kleenexes (Edward’s tissues are not soft and I had a feeling I’d need lots of them today) . . . finally, I had everything packed and I ran out the door . . . well, I stumbled out the door . . . I was still not fully awake yet and not quite running on all cylinders.

The brisk fall air hit my face as I stepped out of the house . . . we’ve been experiencing rather warm weather this week – almost warm enough to be considered an Indian summer. But, the temperature today is very chilly – it feels like it could start snowing anytime. I heard a frost advisory on the news last night for tonight . . . I can see why the advisory was put out! It feels like the first day of winter!

I thought about going back in for a jacket, but I didn’t . . . I didn’t want to be any later than I already was . . .

Anyway, the traffic angels were with me . . . there was very little traffic and I hit green on all the lights except two (I pass through about a dozen traffic lights going from my house to Edward’s office) . . . and I was the first car in line at those two lights so I was able to take off from the lights in a hurry. I made the drive in 23 minutes (left at 9:26, arrived at 9:49) . . . it normally takes 28-30 minutes. I was only four minutes late. And, Edward was still in session with another client when I arrived and didn’t come down to get me until 9:55 . . . so, it all worked out.

Edward offered to carry one of my two bags, so I gave him the bag with my blanket and pillow to carry.

As we climbed the stairs, I mentioned that it feels like it could snow. He said that he had seen a few snowflakes flurrying around early this morning – our first snow of the season. That was news to me!

While he took a minute to check his voicemail and email, I kicked off my shoes and curled up in the far corner of the couch, my legs under me and my feet off to the right . . . I propped up the weight of my body with my left elbow on the arm of the couch. Edward still had my bag with him and he hadn’t come into the inner room yet, so I couldn’t get out my blanket. But, I wasn’t really feeling the need to do so yet, anyway.

I didn’t move his chair . . . somehow, that was too scary . . . it wasn’t a scary idea when I was halfway in a dream state . . . but, it was too scary in reality.

A minute later, he came in with my bag. I’m sure he noticed that my blanket and pillow were in the bag – at least, I hoped he did so that he would have a clue what he was in for today – I know he is aware that I haven’t had them with me for months.

He set my bag next to me and settled into his chair. When he asked me how I was doing, I told him that, in general, I was doing well, but that this morning I was feeling emotionally fragile . . .

[Continued in the next post . . . ]

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Posted by: Marie | November 30, 2014

(966) Surprises

Post #966
[Private journal entry written on Thursday, October 4, 2012]

So, I noticed something interesting last week when I was making my weekly bank deposit . . .

The place where I had therapy with my first therapist, Mark, shares a parking lot with my bank . . . the two businesses are maybe 200 feet from each other. When I went to the bank last week, I noticed that Mark’s therapy office is vacant.

I haven’t seen Mark at the chamber of commerce events for the last couple of months . . . I assumed he was missing from action because of scheduling conflicts. But seeing his office vacant raised questions for me . . . so, I went out to the chamber website and looked him up . . . he is no longer a member. So, I guess he is going out of business . . .

I don’t want his business to not do well . . . I’ve never wished him ill. However, this outcome doesn’t surprise me . . . if he has been pulling the same kind of stuff with other clients that he pulled with me, of course his business wouldn’t thrive. I tried to tell him way back then that he needed to conduct himself differently, but he didn’t want to give any credence to what I was saying.

I wonder if he now thinks about what I said back then . . . probably not. He probably still has zero insight into his own behavioral patterns.

Well . . . I guess that means he’s pretty much out of my life for good. I wish him the best.

————–

This past week, One Brave Duck left a comment on my blog about honoring our brokenness by filling our “cracks” with gold . . . there is beauty to be found through this practice . . .

OBD’s comment

————–

I was watching Dr. Drew on TV this evening and he had Gloria Loring on as a guest. She is a soap opera star who recently wrote a book, Coincidence is God’s Way of Remaining Anonymous, about her dad raping her as a child, how that abuse affects her still, and how she is healing from it.

On the show, Gloria talked about how her body felt unsafe to her. Dr. Drew reinforced that concept, stating that it is common for someone to feel that way after being sexually abused, especially when the abuse occurred early in childhood. Gloria described how she has become more attuned to her body through yoga and meditation. Dr. Drew called that growing awareness “moving back into our bodies”.

As I watched the show, I found myself nodding my head in agreement over and over. I am dealing with the sense that my body is unsafe to me . . . it still feels very unsafe to me.

————–

I’m still struggling with how to handle things with Kris and Bella. Kris seems to be doing better, but still not as well as I’d like . . . but, she’s trying . . .

Two weeks ago, I texted a reminder to her in the morning about their lessons in the evening. Kris texted back, saying that Bella would still be doing her lesson that evening but that she (Kris) is having a hard time finding time to practice and would like to drop lessons for now . . . maybe pick them up again when her youngest child gets a little older.

It would have been nice for her to have decided that at least 24 hours before her scheduled lesson time, but . . . oh, well. It didn’t really affect my schedule that much as no one else wants lessons on Friday evenings.

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Photo by Martin Chen

And, they did show up, although they were seven minutes late . . . not a big deal as I didn’t have anything scheduled right after . . . I can live with that.

Then, this week, Kris texted me 90 minutes before Bella’s lesson and said she (Kris) had a terrible headache and wanted to reschedule to Monday at 11:45am, which is right after Bella gets out of her half-day kindergarten. I had that time slot open, so I agreed to reschedule the lesson to that day and time.

I had already decided that, after last week, I would charge Kris for no-shows. But, I didn’t charge her for this week’s lesson because it was due to illness, she rescheduled, and it was early enough that I could adjust my schedule without a problem. But, I still plan to charge for no-shows, in general . . .

On Monday, Kris texted me at 11:45 saying she was running five minutes late. She actually got to the studio at 11:55, ten minutes late. I wasn’t running a tight schedule, so it didn’t affect my schedule. I didn’t say anything . . . I appreciated that she let me know she was running late . . . it’s better than a no-show . . .

Kris didn’t come into the studio for Bella’s lesson. She stayed in their mini-van with her two younger kids because they could watch a movie in the van. I was actually glad about that because Kris is such a high-energy person that her presence in the studio causes Bella to get even more wound up than she is otherwise. The lesson was much calmer without Kris in the studio. I’m hoping Kris continues letting Bella come in by herself in the future . . . that would be nice.

At the end of the lesson, I sent a note with Bella asking if she could participate in the upcoming student recitals . . . the recitals are scheduled for mid-November, six weeks from now.

Today at lunchtime, I got a text from Kris stating that their family is going to Disney and they are leaving in the morning; therefore, Bella won’t be at her lesson tomorrow. So . . . I got a 24-hour notice this time . . . Kris is getting better at remembering and communicating . . . she’s really trying . . .

Oh, and, Kris said that Bella could participate in the recital . . . so, we’ll see how that goes . . .

————–

There has been some interesting developments with Renee . . .

At her lesson last week, she showed up seven or eight minutes late. I had a potential client coming in for an interview right after Renee’s lesson, so I had to knock five minutes off her lesson time so I wouldn’t run late getting started with the interview.

I inquired as to why she was running late . . .

Her parents believe she is coming straight from school to my studio. The thought crossed my mind that, if she runs late getting to her lesson, it could be because she’s doing something she shouldn’t be doing. If she is not coming straight to the studio from school, I feel like I need to report that to her parents. So, I wanted to know the reason for her being late . . . I needed to make a judgment call on whether her lateness was cause for me to report it to her parents, or not . . .

I don’t want to report it to her parents because I think it could place a wedge in the relationship between Renee and me. I want to trust her. I want to have reason to trust her. However, I recognize that she tends to be incredibly manipulative . . . she really is not very trustworthy . . . but I’m hoping that, by my treating her as if she is trustworthy, she will step up to that expectation. But . . . I’m still very wary . . .

In answer to my inquiry, Renee said that she had to stay after school for detention. I asked the reason behind her detention . . . she said she had been late to class a few times . . .

She explained that one of her teachers doesn’t dismiss on time which causes her to be late to her next class, which happens to be on the other side of the building. I asked more questions . . . how many times had she been late? (Three) Did she report to the principal that the one teacher is not dismissing the class on time? (Yes) How did he respond to that? (He said he would look into it.)

I came to the conclusion that she was not telling me the full truth . . . I suspect she did get into trouble for being late to class, and there may be some legitimate issues that contribute to the problem. But, I think she is not doing all she could be doing to get to class on time.

I also think it is rather suspicious that she was held in detention only long enough to make her 7-8 minutes late to her piano lesson. If she really did have detention, I suspect that they would have held her for something like 30 minutes, not just five or ten. So, that does not ring quite true for me.

I decided to not report her lateness to her parents this time, but I will most certainly keep tabs on it . . . it warrants close monitoring . . .

Anyway, during the lesson, I told her about the upcoming student recitals and I invited her to participate. I about fell out of my chair when she said she would like to participate. I never imagined she would actually be interested in performing! How neat!

So, we picked out two pieces for her to play in the recital . . . she picked a duet that she and I had played in a previous lesson – she wanted to know if I would play the duet with her in the recital – I said I would. Then, she also picked Ode to Joy by Beethoven, which she had not played before. We spent some of the lesson looking at the Beethoven piece, and she was able to play the right hand all the way through without a mistake . . . very slowly, but flawlessly. I was amazed!

Renee was so excited about the two pieces and about being in the recital . . . as she packed up to leave, she was beaming with excitement. Before she headed down the stairs to meet her step-mom, April, in the parking lot, she gave me a big hug . . . how neat . . .

I had another lesson with her this week . . . I was tickled when she showed up on time . . . that’s a good sign . . .

As soon as she got settled on the piano bench, I asked her how things were going with her grades, grounding, detention, etc. . . .

She said that she has been doing her homework and her grades are improving . . . and that her overall attitude is improving . . .

She said that she had pointed out to her dad and to April that her attitude was improving . . . that it has improved a lot since last year . . . her dad responded by asking her why she is still dressing Goth if her attitude was improving . . .

She explained to him that her style/color of clothing doesn’t necessarily reflect her attitude. I asked her to tell me more about that . . . I inquired if her clothes were more of a style thing (what she esthetically likes) or more of an expression of what is going on inside her. She said it was both.

I didn’t push her further on it . . . I just wanted to ask the question so that she might begin to think about the answer . . . thinking about the answer might have an impact on her attitude, her dress and/or her relationship with her parents. I figured my calling her attention to it surely couldn’t hurt anything.

I checked in with her on her feelings about being in the recital. She said she still really wants to do it, and she said that both her dad and her step-mom had asked her several times over the last week if she REALLY wants to do the recital. She kept assuring them that she did. She said she wants to invite both sets of parents/step-parents and her siblings, as well as her best friend. She said her best friend has never heard her play a “real” song and she wants her friend to see her play in the recital.

Since last week’s lesson, she had been practicing a lot . . . she was able to play both pieces, hands together. I was amazed. I told her that she is learning how to play so quickly, more quickly than most students. She was so tickled with knowing she was progressing so quickly that she told April about it when she came into the studio towards the end of the lesson. I like that April made a big deal of it . . . she gave her lots of energetic praise for doing so well.

I keep thinking about her playing in the recital . . . what it would be like for her dad to see her do something constructive and uplifting? What it would be like for her dad to acknowledge her progress and her success? I think that could be healing for both of them.

Thinking about that brings tears to my eyes . . . yikes . . . if I’m this emotional six weeks before the event, how big of a mess will I be at the actual recital?

I guess it doesn’t really matter, does it . . . ?? It’s not about me.

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Posted by: Marie | November 28, 2014

(965) Stupid homework

Post #965
[Private journal entry written on Tuesday, September 18, 2012]

I had a lesson with Renee today . . .

She came in a few minutes late and said that she had forgotten she had a lesson and had started walking home from school, then remembered she had a lesson, so she turned around and came back. I assured her it was no problem . . . we still had enough time before my next lesson to do the full 45 minutes.

Before we settled into the lesson, I asked her how she was doing. She said she was not doing very well . . .

She said she was getting bad grades and that, as a result, her parents had grounded her and had taken away her phone. When I asked her what was causing the bad grades, she shrugged . . . I pushed her a little bit for an answer . . . she finally told me that the classes are stupid, the teachers are stupid, the homework is stupid . . .

I could see that she was very much in her helpless stance and that she was shut down emotionally, so I didn’t push her further . . .

When I asked her what she wanted to focus on in our lesson, she again shrugged . . .

————–

Me: Last time, we were figuring out how to add chords to a popular piece . . . would you like to continue working on that?

Renee: I didn’t bring the music for that.

Me: Oh . . . did you leave it at home by mistake or are you not wanting to do anything more with it?

Renee: By mistake . . . I just forgot to put it in my backpack this morning.

Me: Oh, okay . . . that’s okay, we can do something else today . . . it would be good to spend some time today on the basics of reading music since we’ve spent a couple of lessons on chording . . . they are two very different aspects of music and it is good for you to have an understanding of both aspects. So, let’s practice some sightreading today! We’ll play some pieces in your lesson book.

Renee: I didn’t bring my lesson book, either.

Me: Okay . . . I have my own copy of it. We’ll use my copy.

————–

I pulled out my copy of the lesson book and put in on the piano’s music stand. I asked her to play though some of the simpler pieces at the beginning of the book . . . she responded by acting totally helpless and not capable of even finding the first note . . .

Hmmmm . . . I wasn’t sure what was going on with her . . . I wasn’t sure what the best response on my part would be . . . should I let her be in that helpless stance and gently inquire into what is causing it? Or, should I push her to do the sightreading so she can have the experience of mastery which, in turn, could help her move out of the helpless place?

I decided to address the helpless act head-on . . .

————–

Me: I’m curious about your behavior . . . we’ve made so much progress in your ability to play piano in recent lessons . . . I’m curious what is going on today . . . I know you know how to play this music . . . if you are stuck on something in particular, I’m more than happy to help you work through it . . . but I need some help from you to understand what’s going on . . . can you help me with that?

(Renee shrugged)

Me: Did something happen today at school?

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Photo by Martin Chen

Renee: It’s just the thing about getting bad grades . . .

Me: What do you think is causing you to get bad grades?

Renee: I’m not doing the homework.

Me: Why are you not doing the homework?

Renee: Because it’s stupid.

Me: Tell me more about that . . . what makes it stupid?

Renee: It’s boring . . . the homework is boring, the classes are stupid . . .

Me: Hmm . . . let me ask you this . . . I want to see if I understand what’s going on . . .

So, the classes and the homework are boring . . .

Renee: Yeah . . . .

Me: You are capable of doing the homework, but you don’t because the homework is boring.

Renee: Yeah . . .

Me: If you don’t do the homework, you get bad grades, correct?

Renee: Yeah . . .

Me: If you get bad grades, you get grounded and lose your phone, correct?

Renee: Yeah . . .

Me: If you buckled down and got the homework done, then you would get good grades and you would avoid being grounded, correct?

Renee: I suppose . . .

Me: So, it is more painful for you to do boring homework or to be grounded?

(She shrugged . . . and one leg was jiggling up and down with nervous energy . . . I could see that her mental gears were cranking at full speed . . . )

Renee: I suppose it’s worse to be grounded.

Me: So . . . would you maybe be willing to do the homework if it meant you avoid being grounded?

(Very long pause and more nervous leg jiggling . . . )

Renee: I don’t understand the homework . . .

Me: Oh! Well that’s a different scenario, then . . .

Any particular class?

Renee: Choir . . .

I wouldn’t have taken choir if I had known it involved all the dumb homework. I through we were actually going to get to sing. But, instead of singing, we have to take all these stupid tests on reading music. It’s stupid and the teacher doesn’t explain it well.

Me: What part doesn’t she explain well?

Renee: Well, the notes on the staff . . . I don’t know how to put letter names on the notes on the staff.

I told the teacher that I didn’t know how to do that, but instead of helping me, she said, “Don’t you play piano?” I told her that I did . . . then she said, “Doesn’t your piano teacher teach you how to read the notes on the staff?” I told her no.

————–

By the way, Renee is correct . . . I have not taught her how to assign letter names to notes on the staff without the intermediary step of referring to the keyboard. I first teach the association between the physical keys on the keyboard and the letter names. Then, I teach the association between the physical keys on the keyboard and the lines of the staff. Then, lastly, I teach the association between the letter names and the notes on the staff.

There are several reasons why I do this . . . one of the main reasons is because it establishes a spatial and directional relationship among the notes on the staff that I have noticed is unfamiliar to most elementary piano students. The most common complaint among piano teachers is that their students know a note on the staff is “C”, for example, but don’t know which C it is on the keyboard. By teaching the spatial relationships first, I address that situation. Furthermore, students with special needs or students who are just learning to read struggle to keep track of the order of the letter names, especially when moving back down the alphabet. So, I save that concept for last to give them time to develop those reading skills.

I have taught Renee the first two associations but we had not yet made it to the third association. Therefore, she is correct in telling her choir teacher that her piano teacher has not taught her that association yet. She could figure it out if she were sitting in front of a keyboard because she could find the note on the keyboard and then identify the letter name that way. But, she doesn’t get to sit in front of a keyboard in choir, so that doesn’t help her there.

So, in response to Renee’s comments, I validated what she was saying, and I explained what she does know and what is missing in her understanding. I drew her a diagram that showed the three circular relationships and called her attention to the part I haven’t taught to her yet. I made a point of telling her that it’s not that she can’t learn it, we just haven’t gotten around to learning it yet.

And, I offered to teach her that part in today’s lesson . . . her response was a shrug . . . so, I rolled with that idea and made it less of an option . . . I pretty much announced that that would be our focus . . . she didn’t resist . . .

We wrote out the sayings (the mnemonics) for the bass clef lines and spaces, and for the treble clef lines and spaces, and for the three leger lines above and below the grand staff. I broke the deck of flashcards into those five groups and she practiced naming the note for each group. Then, I started mixing them together . . . within 30 minutes, she was flying through the entire deck. She caught on so very quickly. I made a big deal about how quickly she was learning how to name notes . . .

It was awesome . . . by the end of the lesson, she had totally abandoned her helpless stance. She was laughing and giggling, and cutting up . . . she seemed to be really proud of herself for catching on so quickly. And, I think what she learned will help her in choir . . .

So, that was a good piano lesson! I’m tickled!

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Posted by: Marie | November 26, 2014

(964) Careful trespassing

Post #964
[Private journal entry written on Monday, September 17, 2012]

Yesterday, I spent most of the day with my mom. We had a very enjoyable time together

I went to church with her in the morning, then we headed out into the mountains to take in the fall colors – the aspen trees are turning and there are miles and miles of glowing golden aspen trees all over the sides of the mountains. It is breathtaking!

We meandered through the burn area from the massive High Park Fire that occurred this summer. We tried to find my friend’s house – the friend who thought her house had burned down but then later found out it had been saved by her neighbor. I wasn’t able to find her house because I couldn’t remember exactly on which mountain road it is located. But, I know we were in her neighborhood. The fire damage was shocking to our senses.

We stopped and had a picnic lunch on the side of the road . . . we couldn’t find a picnic table that wasn’t in use, so we just sat in the car with our feet hanging out the doors. It was quite windy, so that may have been the best option, anyway!

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Photo by Martin Chen

After lunch, we went in search of the burned home of one of my mom’s friends. The road was narrow and windy . . . although it was currently quite passable even in my little car. However, I could easily see how, with just a little rain or winter weather, it would quickly turn into a 4WD-required road. It was incredibly twisty and hilly . . . in many places, it was only wide enough for one vehicle and the crests of the hills created dangerous blind spots. There were so many dips and bumps that I was concerned about bottoming out my car . . . but it made it just fine. However, we weren’t able to find my mom’s friend’s house because the landscape looked so different. She had been there only once or twice before, and she wasn’t able to identify the landmarks she had followed before.

We were a little nervous about venturing into that particular area because we have heard a number of stories about people getting shot at for trespassing. I heard that a couple of people had actually died as a result of being shot while trespassing. As we were driving around, we saw many, many hand-painted signs nailed up on fence posts:

”No trespassing!”

”We have guns and we aren’t afraid to use them!”

”Don’t give us reason to have to protect our property!”

”Trespassers will receive no warning before being shot!”

We were very careful to not accidentally pull into someone’s private driveway . . . and we waved and smiled a bit at every person we passed. No one stopped us and no one gave us a hard time . . . I guess two ladies – one middle-aged and one elderly – don’t appear prone to trespassing and vandalizing, LOL. I imagine we didn’t look too threatening.

Anyway, it was a very enjoyable day. Once we got back into town, I dropped my mom off at her house and then headed back to my little town . . . I had lessons scheduled for the evening.

As I was getting the studio set up for the evening lessons, the owner of the print shop stuck her head into my studio space. She thanked me for handling the carbon monoxide situation. She said she didn’t worry about me because she knew I’d handle it just fine.

I told her that I had left the windows open Saturday afternoon and then had closed everything back up Saturday night, and that the alarm was not going off when I came into the building on Sunday evening. So, apparently, the build-up had been from the carpet cleaning machine and not from anything else.

So, that was my Sunday . . .

————–

Today (Monday), Bella unexpectedly showed up in the evening and handed me a check and apologized for missing her lesson. She said her mom sent her up with the check because her mom needed to stay with the two little kids in the car. I thanked her for the check and told her I’d see her on Friday . . .

I didn’t say anything to her about missing the lesson because she’s not at fault . . . it’s her mom’s fault, and I’m not going to make Bella carry a message to her mom about disrespectful behavior . . . I’ll have that conversation directly with Kris when the time is right.

————–

This evening, as I was kicked back and relaxing, I was watching the TV shows Hoarders and Intervention. The people featured in the shows are people who are dealing with huge issues that are keeping them from living up to full potential. In both shows, there were kids being affected by the behaviors of the parents. It was tough to see how much the kids were suffering as a result of their parents’ behaviors.

As I was watching these parents engage in such terrible parenting behaviors, I kept thinking, “I’m so glad I don’t have kids . . . if I had kids, my kids would be experiencing stuff like the kids on the shows were experiencing. There is no way I could raise kids. I think I could do maybe 5-10% of what is required to do a good job of raising kids because I’m spending so much of my time and energy on simply surviving. There is no way I could get anywhere close to providing 100% of what kids would need.”

At about that point in my thought process, it dawned on me that being a CASA will allow me to do the 5-10% I am capable of doing without my taking on the entire 100%. It will allow me to do what I can do.

I do want to contribute to kids’ lives . . . I want to do what I can do . . . I want to be at least that much of a parent . . . and being a CASA will allow me to do that.

Neat.

(035)

Posted by: Marie | November 24, 2014

(963) A little mystery in the air

Post #963
[Private journal entry written on Saturday, September 15, 2012]

Well, I got to flirt with a whole crew of cute firemen today . . .

This morning, as I was getting my studio set up for the day’s lessons, I heard some people come in downstairs. I knew they weren’t any of my students . . . and the print shop isn’t open on the weekends, so there shouldn’t have been anyone down there . . .

Turns out . . . it was one of the employees of the print shop and he was with a guy who was cleaning a spot on the carpet in the shop’s retail space. I guess something had happened that created a bad stain . . .

Having determined there were no unauthorized hoodlums ransacking the joint, I headed back upstairs to my studio. When they started running the cleaning machine, the racket was very loud in my studio. Fortunately, they finished the cleaning within about five minutes. They were packed up and gone before my first student arrived.

When I finished my first lesson, I walked my student to the top of the stairs. As my student was descending the stairs, I heard an alarm sounding in the print shop’s retail space. So, I headed down to investigate . . .

It was the carbon monoxide alarm . . .

Hmmm . . .

I wondered how concerned I should be . . . if something bad was happening, it could get worse over the weekend . . . however, if it had something to do with the carpet cleaning, it would surely get better as the weekend progressed . . . although I couldn’t imagine what cleaning chemicals could be generating carbon monoxide . . . very strange . . .

(291)

Photo by Martin Chen

Now, the fire station is a block from the print shop, and the print shop does all their printing, so firefighters are at the print shop on a very regular basis. And a couple of the fire fighters run deliveries for the print shop on their days off. Additionally, the print shop owner volunteers a lot of time, energy and other resources to the fire department. Also, several of the firefighters’ kids have been my students, so I know several of the firefighters well . . .

All that to say . . . I knew I could call over to the fire department on their non-emergency number and they would be happy to unofficially help me out with whatever was going on with the carbon monoxide detector . . .

So, I called over there . . .

A very nice firefighter whom I did not know answered my call. I explained the scenario. He instructed me to take the monitor outside in the fresh air until it quit beeping, then, bring it back inside. If it started beeping again, he said I should call back and they would come over and check it out.

I took the monitor outside and left it in the fresh air for about 15 minutes, which caused it to quit beeping. Then, I brought it back inside and plugged it back into its usual electrical outlet . . . it remained silent . . .

About 90 minutes later, as I was finishing up my last lesson of the day, I heard the alarm go off again. So, after my student departed, I called back over to the fire station . . . the same nice guy answered the phone . . . I asked him if they were in the middle of eating lunch (it was lunchtime) . . . he said that they had just finished eating . . .

I asked him if it would mess up their plans for the day if they came over and checked things out . . . he said they would be glad to do that and that they would be at the print shop within a few minutes unless they got dispatched on a call before they made it over to the shop. I said that I’d stay at the shop until they arrived . . .

Well, they showed up within 10 minutes and pulled up right in front of the shop in their fire truck. Thank goodness they didn’t come with lights and sirens . . . but, when they got out of the truck, I could see they were in full turn-out gear, and that they were using their breathing apparatus . . .

It did feel rather strange to greet a crew of Darth Vaders at the door in my everyday outfit, breathing ambient air . . . oh well . . . I guess they were outfitted for a rescue in the event I passed out in front of them due to carbon monoxide poisoning . . .

They came in with their carbon monoxide meters and walked all through the building . . . they even went down into the crawl space where the furnace and the water heater are located. Despite crawling around all over the place, the only place they could find significant readings was in the area immediately around the carpet that had been cleaned. They were baffled . . . what in the world could be generating carbon monoxide in that particular area . . . ?? They opened the doors to see if bringing fresh air would cause the levels to drop . . . it did . . .

The commanding officer told me that levels of 200 or higher would cause someone to become very sick, very quickly. The numbers they were getting in the area of the cleaned carpet were around 40 or 50 . . . not enough to make me sick immediately, but it could make me sick if I stayed in that immediate vicinity eight or 10 hours (the levels in my studio area were only slightly elevated, not enough to make my students and me sick) . . .

He said that, if I were going to stay in the building, I should pay close attention to how I was feeling, and that I shouldn’t sleep there because I might not wake up . . . I assured him I had no intention of sleeping there . . . and that I had been planning to head home as soon as they left. So, he suggested I open all the windows and let the building air out, then come back later in the evening and shut everything back up, then see if the alarm goes off again during the night or tomorrow (Sunday). I told him I’d do that.

They packed up and I thanked them for coming . . .

I called the print shop owner (who also owns the building) and left a message about all that was happening. Then, I called the employee who had escorted the carpet cleaning guy in the morning and left him a message . . . and I called the other print shop employee whose phone number I had . . .

She answered . . . and she told me that cleaning the carpet in the print shop requires special chemicals and a special machine, and that special machine is gas-powered . . . they can only use it on the weekends when no one is in the building because of the carbon monoxide it generates . . .

Oh . . . well, that explains things!!

So, that means that the studio ought to be fine for lessons tomorrow if I air out the building this afternoon . . . at least, I hope so . . .

(034)

Posted by: Marie | November 20, 2014

(962) The dance of intimacy – Part 5 of 5

Post #962
[Private journal entry written on Friday, September 14, 2012 about a therapy session – continued from previous post]

————–

Me: I didn’t pay attention to what time we got started . . . how much time do we have left?

Edward: Oh, about 15 minutes or so . . .

Me: Okay . . . so, how would you like to utilize our last 15 minutes?

Edward: Well, in our last session, we talked a bit about the “parts” of you . . .

Me: Oh, yeah . . .

Edward: You so thoughtfully sent me a link for the post in your blog that described the parts as you had identified and named them a few years ago . . . I did read that blog post, but I’m having trouble recalling the parts’ names you used in the post . . .

Me: (Laughing a bit) Yeah . . . I’m having trouble remembering the names, too, so I wrote them down . . .

————–

I reached into my bag and pulled out a piece of paper on which I had made some notes . . .

I pointed out to Edward that, in the blog post, I had called one part “Mother”; however, at some point after I wrote that journal entry, I renamed that part to “Healer” because I found the idea of calling myself a mother figure was uncomfortable for me.

We spent a few minutes trying to map the personas and characteristics from my blog post to the framework of parts with which Edward is used to working. It was an interesting effort at first . . . I thought I might gain some insight from learning about his framework. But, I quickly lost interest as the part names and descriptions became more and more complicated . . . we quickly abandoned the effort and reverted back the names I had used in my blog post . . .

————–

Edward: I’d like to ask you do to something . . . I believe I can make this request of you without taking us back into the conversation about your feeling hopeless around dating . . .

(290)

Photo by Martin Chen

Me: Okay . . .

Edward: If you are willing to do so, could you imagine what the “healer” part of you might believe about dating? It might be challenging for you to hold the space of the “healer” and to think and feel from that perspective, but I’d like you to try to do that . . . if you are willing . . .

I’m not asking you to take it on as truth and to integrate it into your belief system; rather I’m asking you to imagine what might be possible.

Me: Sure, I can try to do that . . .

Are you wanting me to imagine a possible explanation for what has happened in the past or to describe what might be possible in the future?

Edward: What might be possible in the future, according to the “healer” part of you.

Me: Okay . . .

(I thought for a moment before answering)

Me: Basically, it would be a relationship like what I have with you . . . a relationship in which I feel safe and respected . . . and loved . . .

So, it would be a relationship like ours except it would be one I could take home with me . . . and we could get naked together . . . there would be sex that we both enjoy . . .

I mean . . . I don’t want to freak you out by saying that what we have is what I’m looking for in a dating relationship . . . I mean, I’m not trying to move our relationship into that realm . . .

Edward: I understand you mean that our relationship serves as a great model for the foundational components of a potential romantic relationship.

Me: Yup, that’s what I mean. . .

Edward: So, tell me more about that . . . what makes our relationship an ideal model?

Me: The most awesome part of our relationship is that I feel very safe . . . I can show up less than perfectly – for example, in my sweats and no make-up on – and I don’t feel judged and I know you won’t reject me because of that. Of course, I also am not trying to be sexy for you . . . I’m not trying to maintain my appearance enough that you’ll find me attractive enough to want to have sex with me . . . I don’t have to worry about that with you . . . so there is a freedom in our relationship that wouldn’t exist in a romantic relationship . . . in a dating relationship, I’d always feel pressured to be “sexy” and physically attractive.

Edward: In what other ways do you feel safe with me?

Me: I can say shocking things that might cause me to look bad . . . like unstable or without morals . . . and I know you will still hold me in positive regard . . . you won’t reject me because of what I say . . . there are no standards I have to live up to in order to be in this relationship.

I mean, there are boundaries, but the boundaries are part of what makes me feel safe with you. For example, I know there will never be a sexual component to our relationship . . . of course, I’m fully onboard with that . . . but, to answer your question, I feel safe enough with you to show up as the “real me”.

(Long pause)

Me: It’s hard for me to play with this possibility because I know it’s not going to happen . . . it hurts to think about it . . .

(Another pause)

Me: (Shrugging) I just can’t imagine a quality guy ever wanting to have a relationship like that with me.

Edward: The “healer” part of you did just imagine what that would be like. So, you are capable of imagining it.

Me: Yeah . . . however, unfortunately, my life experience has more influence than imagination on my beliefs about myself. I don’t want that to be the case, but it is when it comes to men and dating.

Edward: I understand what you are saying and I hear the frustration and pain it causes you.

————–

It didn’t feel to me like he was giving me a hard time or judging me during this last part of our conversation; it felt like he was trying to give me a way out of the psychological bind I’m in concerning dating . . . I’m so bound up in my hopelessness that I can’t see any possibility of a different reality. He was just trying to give me a doorway out of that impossible bind.

Unfortunately, I can’t walk through that doorway. My beliefs don’t allow for that. So, I’m working on accepting that I’m in for a life of being alone.

So be it.

At any rate, that brought us to the end of our time together. I had the sense that there is more he would like to do with the parts . . . maybe we’ll do more in another session.

We wrapped up the session and said our good-byes . . .

I found myself feeling a mix of emotions . . . I felt settled around the issue with Melodie, but sad around the dating thing . . . and I was also feeling very emotionally connected with Edward which always leaves me with a pleasant warmth inside . . .

As I was driving home, I got to thinking about the relationship I have with Edward and how it serves as a model for what I’d like in a romantic relationship . . . except that a romantic relationship would additionally have a sexual component . . .

Historically, it has always been the sexual component that made relationships unsafe. So, it is a bit of a paradox for me to imagine a romantic relationship in which I feel would safe but that would also encompass a sexual component . . . that would be a new and interesting experience . . .

Of course, it is an experience that I still believe I will never have. I wish I didn’t believe that, but I do. It’s the brick wall I keep smashing into whenever I try to move into that space of possibility. It sucks.

Anyway, this evening, I was scheduled to have a piano lesson with Bella. I didn’t send a reminder email or text because they showed up last week with a reminder, I was hoping they would show up tonight without a reminder . . . I figured I’d give it a try . . . I really don’t want to get into the business of having to remind my clients when they have committed to showing up for a lesson.

About 15 minutes before the 5:30 lesson time, I drove over to the studio, got the A/C and the lights all turned on, then sat and waited . . .

At 5:40, ten minutes after the scheduled start time, I called and left a voicemail on Kris’ cell phone asking what happened to our plan to have a lesson . . .

At 6:00, I gave up, closed up shop, and drove back home . . .

At 8:30, I received a text from Kris: “Omg we missed piano I’ll pay for today just slipped My mind so sorry. I’ll come by mon and make payment”

I didn’t even bother to respond . . .

Part of me is thinking that I have no reason to complain . . . I spent the same amount of time waiting for them as I would have in a lesson had they showed up . . . I earned the same money I would have earned had they showed up (assuming she really does pay me for the missed lesson) . . . and I got some administrative things done while I was waiting . . . so, what’s the big deal?

Another part of me feels very disrespected when someone doesn’t keep a scheduled commitment with me. It’s a respect thing. That bothers me more than the money part would, had they not showed and not paid. It is important to me that people keep their promises to me . . . that they show up for me. That’s what I value more than time or money.

So, anyway, I’m thinking we won’t be doing business with each other for much longer . . . I’m about done with trying to help her get in the swing of things . . .

And so, that was my Friday . . .

(033)

Posted by: Marie | November 19, 2014

(961) The dance of intimacy – Part 4 of 5

Post #961
[Private journal entry written on Friday, September 14, 2012 about a therapy session – continued from previous post]

————–

Edward: Does that mean that you could find a romantic partner if you lost weight and got into great shape?

Me: No . . . I don’t think that would make a difference. I think it would create the possibility of more dates, but it would not create the possibility of finding a life partner.

Edward: Why not?

Me: I don’t know . . . I’ve never been able to figure that out. I believe there really is no possibility for me to ever be in a healthy romantic relationship regardless what I might do to become more attractive and more marketable . . . I don’t know why that is the case for me . . . but it is my reality.

(289)

Photo by Martin Chen

Edward: Do you think the concept of organic unfolding could change that perceived reality?

Me: I think the concept of organic unfolding is very powerful . . . life-changing, in fact, for me. I think organic unfolding can be part of any and all of my relationships . . . professional, platonic . . . and it could be part of my romantic relationships if romantic relationships were a possibility for me. But, I don’t believe they are a possibility for me. So, that means organic unfolding won’t be a part of a romantic relationship for me because there will never be in a romantic relationship . . .

Does that make sense?

Edward: I understand what you are saying . . .

Me: Based upon recent experiences with married men, I’m learning that I have value as a person . . . that men value my company as long as there is not a romantic component in the relationship, as long as it is clearly a platonic-only relationship, as is the case when the guy is married.

But, single guys run from me . . .

(A bit of a pause)

Me: I believe that there are good men in the world . . . men who would be an ideal partner for me. However, for whatever reason, those men are not interested in me romantically. I don’t know why they are not, but they aren’t. I’ve tried to figure out why not, and to fix whatever the problem might be, but that hasn’t changed anything. So, I’ve come to believe that a romantic relationship is not an option for me. That’s just the way it is . . . I have to just accept it and build my life accordingly.

And that’s the same thing I’ve told you before . . . I don’t know that there is value in rehashing this same issue over and over again.

(Edward watched me thoughtfully for a moment, then he shifted the angle of approach . . . )

Edward: From where do you think you first received the message that you are unlovable?

Me: Well, of course, from my dad.

Edward: Tell me about that . . .

Me: One of the things he harped on a lot is that he believed I needed to be less independent. He said that men don’t like independent woman and my being so independent would make it very difficult to find a husband.

Edward: So, you were supposed to be obedient and compliant?

Me: Yeah . . . exactly.

There was a point in my teen years that I realized I had a choice to make: I could be compliant and less independent, which would more likely allow me to become a wife and mother . . . that would make me attractive to a guy . . . or, I could be who I naturally was . . . a free spirit and out-of-the-box thinker, and not attractive to guys.

I chose the latter . . . and I accepted that the price of that choice would be that I would be alone – un-partnered – for my entire life.

Now, as an adult, I can see that my dad was wrong . . . well, he was correct in saying there are guys who would have been more attracted to me if I were submissive, but I most certainly would not have been happy in a relationship with a guy like that. But, he was wrong to encourage me to show up in a way that is not natural for me. And, he was inaccurate in his indicating that all men want submissive wives.

However, there were a lot of years between the time I made that choice and the time I figured out that my dad was wrong. During those many years, I lived under the powerful influence of his teaching. The belief that I am unlovable because of who I am is deeply engrained . . . due to my dad’s teachings on the matter and due to many other experiences that have influenced my perception of my worth as a person.

The belief that I am unlovable and that I will never enjoy the companionship of a life partner is so deeply engrained that it feels impossible to shift that belief. And, my life experiences, including my present-day experiences, provide overwhelming evidence to me that the belief is accurate.

I’ve played with the idea of “faking it” until I “make it” . . . in other words, as I interact with men, I’d behave the way I’d behave if I did believe I am lovable. Then, I wouldn’t appear desperate . . . and maybe that would help me attract a romantic partner. I doubt it would work, but it’s the best plan I’ve been able to come up with so far.

But, even if I could pull that off, it would eventually come to light that I believe I’m not lovable. As soon as that came to light, the guy would lose interest, I’m sure. There is no way I could keep up that charade for very long, nor would I want to.

So, I feel pretty hopeless about the dating thing . . . I see no way to shift my current experience. I seems less painful to simply not encourage myself to hope for a different experience. I believe it will be less painful if I just accept my reality and create the best life I can despite my reality.

Edward: Ouch . . .

I can feel so much pain underneath your words . . .

(I nodded my head)

Me: Yeah, there is a lot of pain there – a lot of hopelessness. But, I don’t think talking about it in therapy is going to help anything. It’s just something I have to deal with, so I’ll deal with it.

Edward: Am I understanding you to say that you don’t want to talk about it anymore today?

Me: Yeah, you’re understanding me correctly . . . I don’t want to talk about it anymore today . . . or for that matter, any day. There are better uses of our time together.

(Edward again studied me carefully for several moments as I stewed in my frustration, staring at the floor and flicking the rim of my coffee mug with my thumbnail. When I was sure he was going to leave the topic of dating alone, I glanced at my sticky note and realized that we had covered everything listed on it . . . )

Me: We could move onto a new topic . . . we’ve covered everything I wanted to cover . . . what would you like to talk about?

Edward: We can move onto a new topic, if you would like . . . I most certainly will honor your preference to stop the discussion about your belief that you will never find a romantic partner . . .

Me: Thank you.

Edward: However, before we move onto a new topic, I’d like to check in with you concerning your emotions. I’m sensing that so many strong, raw emotions are coming up for you. If you are willing, I’d like to take a moment to tend to those emotions, which we can do without returning to the discussion about dating . . . may we tend to those emotions before moving onto a new topic?

————–

Edward’s gentle and caring attention to my uncomfortable emotions broke the hard shell I had defensively put in place during the discussion. Once again, I felt safe, and I felt deeply connected with him. My defenses simply disintegrated and, in an instant, I felt my heart bloom open again.

I think this ability to generate such a deep and authentic sense of connection is what is at the core of Edward’s effectiveness as a therapist. It blows me away every time that sense of connection is renewed between us because it is something I’ve never experienced before in my life, at least not at this level.

That sense of connectedness is what my soul longs for . . . and it’s what I get to experience with Edward on a regular basis.

Of course, my tears welled up in response to his tender care. We paused our conversation so I could sit with those emotions for a few moments . . .

After a bit, the intensity of my emotions faded a bit, and I got the tears and snot wiped off my face . . . we sat without speaking for another moment or two. Then, I glanced over at the clock . . .

[Continued in the next post . . . ]

(032)

Posted by: Marie | November 18, 2014

(960) The dance of intimacy – Part 3 of 5

Post #960
[Private journal entry written on Friday, September 14, 2012 about a therapy session – continued from previous post]

————–

(Edward waited patiently as I thought my thoughts . . . then he checked in with me . . . )

Edward: Where did you just go?

Me: I was processing what you just said . . . that you are disappointed in George’s response . . .

Your being disappointed validates my disappointment. It makes it “okay” for me to feel that way.

Edward: It is very “okay” for you to feel that way. Your disappointment is very valid . . . and appropriate.

(288)

Photo by Martin Chen

Me: (Nodding my head) I’m beginning to understand that . . .

(Thoughtful pause)

Edward: How are you feeling about that validation?

Me: It feels good to me.

Edward: Is there anything more you need for me to say or do to support you in the process of embracing that validation?

Me: No . . . I’m still processing it, and I don’t need anything further from you right now around it . . .

Edward: Okay . . .

Me: Would it be okay if we moved to the next topic on my sticky note?

Edward: Sure!

Me: I wanted to give you an update on the CASA stuff . . .

Edward: Oh, good! I was wondering about that!

Me: So . . . each year in July, I set up my teaching schedule for the upcoming school year. In order to arrange my schedule around the CASA training next fall, I’ll need to know whether I’ve been accepted into the training program no later than July 1st. The CASA volunteer coordinator told me that I would need to turn my application in by May 1st so they have time to process it by July 1st. So, that’s the plan.

Edward: Are they going to be able to create an alternative training schedule for you?

Me: No . . . they are still saying there is no wiggle room in the schedule. I’ll just have to take a hit to my income for those three weeks. It’s okay . . . I’ll find a way to make it work. The volunteering won’t impact my teaching schedule, just the training. It will be a one-time deal and then the volunteer schedule will work well for me. I can live with that.

Edward: It seems they could meet you partway, at least . . .

Me: They say not . . . but, it’s okay, I’ll figure out how to make it work.

I know that there will be some challenges around being a CASA . . . not just the time demands, but also dealing with what I will be witness to as I work with the kids. I’m sure it will be triggering for me, maybe even traumatic for me.

So, in order to be prepared for that, there are some things I want to have in place by the time I turn in my application on May 1st . . . some self-care practices and some additional structure in my business . . .

I’ll need to save up some money so I can withstand the loss of revenue next fall . . . I’d like to have $1,000 saved up by then. That means I need to have $500 of it saved up by May 1st. If I don’t have that much saved up by May 1st, then that will be a cause for concern about my ability to be ready to start the training program in the fall.

I also need to have some things like exercising regularly, eating well on a regular basis . . . healthy coping strategies in place that I use as a replacement for the binge eating I do now . . . those things need to be in place – really integrated in my daily life – by the time May 1st rolls around. I don’t think it would be wise to think I’m going to magically put those practices in place once I start the training . . . I feel they need to be in place by May 1st, otherwise it may be wise for me to delay submitting my application until they are in place.

And, there are some things I need to accomplish in my business before I start the training . . . I need to streamline my business and teaching processes as much as possible, and there are some piano techniques I need to develop some more in myself before I start volunteering . . . I don’t think I’ll have as much time and energy to dedicate to my professional development after I become a CASA, so I need to get a lot of it done before then.

Edward: It sounds like you plan to be very busy between now and May 1st . . .

Me: Yeah . . .

————–

I noticed that Edward’s response was rather noncommittal. Sometimes his feedback will indicate that he fully supports what I’m planning. Other times he’ll express concern. But, this time, he did neither.

That causes me to wonder if he thinks I’m being unrealistically ambitious with my plans. Or, maybe he is taking a “wait and see” attitude . . . maybe he is thinking he’ll be available to support me in whatever way it turns out I need to be supported. I’m not sure what he is thinking . . .

————–

Me: I’ve already starting taking some of these steps . . .

I know I’ve told you about how I’ve gotten triggered when I’ve tried to implement healthy habits in the past . . .

(Edward nodded)

Me: Well, I’m finding that I’m not getting triggered this time around. I think it is because, before, I was always trying to improve myself so I would be “attractive enough” to be able to date . . . you know, to have a fair shot at actually getting asked out on a date.

This time around, I’m doing it so that I can be in a better position with my physical and mental health as I take on additional challenges and stresses. I’m not doing it in order to become a “better” and more lovable person, I’m doing it for myself, for my own health and comfort. Having a more grounded motivation seems to remove the triggers. So, I’m having an easier time with making some lifestyle changes this time around.

Edward: Tell me more about what is triggering for you when you attempt to implement healthier habits for the sake of becoming more suitable for dating . . .

Me: I believe that, in order to attract a man, I have to be nearly perfect . . . I have to be an ideal weight and I have to be in great physical shape . . . my appearance has to be “pulled together” and polished anytime I’m in public . . . and part of being “polished” would likely involve wearing at least some make-up . . . I hate wearing make-up . . . it feels so fake to me* . . . I’ve pretty much decided that I will never wear make-up again . . . well, other than what is needed to cover up my acne . . .

*(Editorial note: If I were a guy, I’d probably refuse to wear ties for the same reason . . . I’m just saying . . . )

Of course, in order to date, I’d have to get my skin care routine perfected. And, I’d have to have the binge eating and the skin picking under control . . . and it would be a waste of time to enter the dating scene until I have all of that “fixed” . . . and I had better have it all so much under control that there is no danger I’d slide back into my old habits after I started dating someone . . . because then the guy I’d be dating would no longer be attracted to me and would bail . . .

I get triggered because I know I’ll never be able to live up to that standard . . . and yet I ache so much to be in a relationship that I’m willing to keep trying . . . I know I will never be able to live up to it . . . but I keep trying because the only other option is to give up on dating all together . . . which is where I’m at with it right now, anyway . . .

But, with CASA, there is room for me to be imperfect. The kids I’m working with won’t care how heavy I am and they won’t care if I have a zit on my face . . . the judge I’m reporting to won’t care if I binged on ice cream the night before . . . I’ll still be accepted as I am. So, any improvements I make to how I care for myself is only for my own good . . . to improve my own quality of life. I can still be effective at being a CASA even when my practices falter, and the kids will still want me in their lives. There will be room for me to be imperfect.

Edward: Do you think that you really have to be so “perfect” in order to find a romantic partner?

Me: It seems that many people find really awesome partners despite being anywhere near perfect . . . but, in my experience, men are only interested in women who are sexy . . . as in skinny, well-dressed, well-groomed . . . they only want to date women who are really attractive. As long as I’m overweight, I’m invisible to men.

So, while I logically know my belief is not so realistic, it seems to be realistic in my situation.

————–

[Continued in the next post . . . ]

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Posted by: Marie | November 17, 2014

(959) The dance of intimacy – Part 2 of 5

Post #959
[Private journal entry written on Friday, September 14, 2012 about a therapy session – continued from previous post]

————–

I told Edward that I wanted to give him an update around the concept of “organic unfolding” that he had presented to me at our last session. I told him that there had been many “ah hah!” moments for me since then – points at which I caught myself doing exactly what he had described – researching potential beaus, classifying them as viable or not, deciding what characteristics I could tolerate and which ones I couldn’t, creating a plan of action around what I would have to “become” in order to be “good enough” to attract them . . . oh, my goodness . . . I do it all the time! I haven’t been in the habit of just enjoying the company of these men, not worrying about what should occur next and how quickly it might occur . . .

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Photo by Martin Chen

Edward commented that my relationship with my dad had not allowed me to learn how to interact with men in a way allowed for that organic unfolding – that I had had to orchestrate my interaction with my dad very carefully in order to psychologically survive my childhood. I agreed.

I went on to tell Edward that I’ve been taking a more playful stance in the way I think about interacting with potential beaus and it is opening up a whole new way of being for me. It also is affecting how I’m interacting with my students . . . I’m being more conscious about giving them my full attention, listening carefully to their stories before we settle into their lessons (like I wish my dad had done with me) . . . and I’m finding I’m enjoying the company of my students even more than before (if that is possible).

I asked Edward if he remembered the email I sent to George and then forwarded to him (Edward) in which I had written a relatively casual email asking George for the opportunity to get to know him a bit on a personal level. (I had written it with the concept of “organic unfolding” in mind.)

————–

Edward: Did George ever respond to your email?

Me: No . . .

I’m not surprised, but I am disappointed. It would have been fun to sit down with him, one-on-one . . . I mean, it would have been fun to try out the “organic unfolding” stuff with him. However, he never responded . . . but, I’m not surprised.

Edward: Tell me more about that . . .

Me: I guess my disappointment is tempered by the fact I never allowed myself to develop much hope. I knew from the git-go that he probably wouldn’t respond . . . I knew the chances I would ever get to sit down and have a meaningful conversation with him was pretty much zilch.

Edward: Did you really not have any hope?

Me: I had strong feelings for him . . . or, for the person I thought he might be . . . but, realistically, I knew there was really no chance anything would ever come of it. So, I really wanted something to develop, but I knew there was no chance it ever would.

Edward: So, why did you bother sending the email to him?

Me: I had nothing to lose . . . and I was hoping I could prove myself wrong. Because I knew there was no chance, I never let myself have much hope, which means that there isn’t much disappointment now, either. It’s just . . . well, it’s just par for the course.

(We sat without speaking for a few moments . . . I think Edward was waiting for me to say more, but there really isn’t more for me to say . . . this is just the way things are . . . what else can be said about it? It is what it is. I really don’t have more to say on the subject beyond what I’ve already said in the multitude of conversations we’ve had about it . . . I truly don’t have anything more to add.)

Edward: Is it possible that your beliefs around what is “par for the course” are inaccurate?

Me: Of course it is possible. I think it is most likely the case that my beliefs are inaccurate when applied to most people’s circumstances. However, I think my beliefs are very accurate when applied to my circumstances.

Edward: What causes you to say that?

Me: I have decades-worth of evidence.

Edward: Such as?

Me: Such as what happened with George . . . and what happened with Luke . . .

Whenever I try to connect with someone I think I might like to date, the same thing happens over and over and over again. I have no positive experiences to help balance out all the negative ones. It’s not like I just need to wade through the 90% of the experiences that are painful to get to the 10% that are healthy and healing and uplifting . . . there is no 10%. There is no 5% and there is no 1%. There’s only 0%.

(Long pause . . . )

Me: I understand that I’ve created a belief and now I’m going through life looking for evidence to prove that my belief is accurate . . . I mean, I understand that is the explanation that shrinks use to explain how I’m framing this. And, by seeing it that way, I should be able to frame it in a different way and hopefully generate different results.

However, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, and it does so for 35 years, I don’t think I’m crazy to call it a duck because it probably is a duck . . .

Edward: A very old duck . . .

Me: (Cracking a smile) Yes, a very old duck.

(After a thoughtful pause) Sometimes you have to just call it as it is. At some point, you just gotta stop pretending things are someday going to be different. You can waste a lot of time and energy pretending something is going to change when, the truth is, it’s not going to change.

How many more years do I have to continue pretending this is going to change for me? Isn’t it okay for me to just accept things as they are and quit fighting to change it?

I was just hoping that I could have an experience with George that was different from what I’ve always experienced with men. He seemed like the kind of guy that could – would – interact with me in a way different from what I’m used to.

At least I now know what kind of guy he is . . . that he wouldn’t be careful about how he relates to me. Even though I had hoped for something better, at least now I know the truth about him.

Edward: I, too, am disappointed that he didn’t respond to your email, even if was only to say that it wasn’t feasible for him to get together with you right now. I’m disappointed that he didn’t at least acknowledge your reaching out for connection. I, too, thought he might be someone who would be responsive to you at least at that level. I’m surprised that he didn’t respond at all, and I’m disappointed.

————–

When I heard those words from Edward, I felt a wave of surprise come over me. It took me a moment to figure out why I was experiencing surprise . . .

Then, it dawned on me that I have been carrying a belief that it was unreasonable and silly for me to hope that men might acknowledge my attempts to connect with them. I’ve been carrying a belief that the norm is for men to ignore less desirable females like me and that I was living in a fantasy world to think that they might actually see me and respond to me. I’ve always believed that I’m desperate, and that my attempts to connect are ignored because that is the normal, expected response to desperate behavior.

However, Edward’s words indicated that it might be reasonable for me to expect men to respond to me in a way that acknowledges my efforts to connect and that shows appreciation for my efforts. His words indicated that such a response would be the minimal behavioral standard, that a man who ignored me would be behaving in a disrespectful and boorish manner, and that it is reasonable and normal for me to feel disappointment in response to that disrespectful behavior.

In other words, the problem is not in my reaching out for connection, the problem is in the quality of men’s responses.

Wow.

That took a moment to sink in.

[Continued in the next post . . . ]

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Posted by: Marie | November 16, 2014

(958) The dance of intimacy – Part 1 of 5

Post #958
[Private journal entry written on Friday, September 14, 2012]

Today was therapy session day . . .

So many things have been happening lately and I found myself wanting to tell Edward about all of it. Some of it is not so critical to my healing and therefore using my precious session time to tell Edward about it might not be the best use of our therapy time. But, I see him as a friend, not just as a therapist. Because he is a friend – maybe even my best friend right now – I want to share the details of my life events with him.

I know, I know . . . thinking of my therapist as my best friend is probably treading on dangerous ground. But, that’s the reality of the situation. I think it is okay as long as I keep in mind that it is a one-sided friendship with an incredibly unequal power distribution, and a friendship that can never exist outside of the therapeutic dynamic.

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Photo by Martin Chen

I get all that . . . and yet, I still say that he is probably my best friend right now. And that speaks more to the state of my social life than it does to the appropriateness of my feelings towards him. I’m far more concerned about the former than about the latter.

But, I digress . . . so back to the therapy session . . .

Because there were so many things I wanted to talk to Edward about, I wrote them all down on a sticky note and took the sticky note into the therapy session with me.

At the start of the session, Edward and I went through our usual greetings routine. I asked about his Labor Day weekend and he stated he had spent the holiday weekend with his wife’s family. Then, he asked about my trip to Red Cloud with Melodie. I laughed as told I him that the trip was the first item on my list of many things to cover today . . . I showed him my sticky note and the all the topics it listed . . .

I shared the highlights of the trip with him, and told him about my frustrations with Melodie . . . and I mentioned that we had hit a deer and that I had slowed down before we hit it due to my premonition, which allowed for there to be no damage to the car.

As is usual whenever I talk about my paranormal experiences, I worried that Edward thinks I’m loony for believing I have these experiences. I guess I’m still testing the waters with him . . . I always approach such topics with hesitation because I’m always watching his reactions for any sign of disbelief or patronization. But, he showed none; rather he simply showed genuine interest in my story.

After sharing the more superficial details about my trip, I swung back around to the topic of my relationship with Melodie. I told him a bit more about the efforts I had made to build a stronger emotional connection with her on the trip . . .

————–

Me: She is good about listening and providing emotionally appropriate responses back to me, but that’s as far as it goes. She seems to have nothing to contribute along the same vein. I think she doesn’t operate at the same emotional level as I do . . . I wish she could participate at that level . . . but, she can’t, it seems.

So, here’s what I’m struggling with . . . I’m wondering if my relationship with her is one that I should continue . . . as in, is it serving me well? Is it worth the time and effort?

(Thoughtful pause)

Me: I guess I don’t know how to go about making that decision.

(A longer pause)

Me: The value of our relationship is in our shared history rather than in our present-day experiences . . .

She is a good friend . . . she has a big heart . . . she is very generous . . . we laugh a lot when we are together . . . you know, we get silly sometimes . . . and I need moments of silliness in my life . . .

I enjoy the trips we take . . . we do stuff we both like to do . . .

(Another pause)

Me: When I think about cutting off that relationship . . . actually taking steps to end it . . .

(Suddenly becoming emotional) I just can’t imagine doing that . . .

She’s been in my life forever and ever and I really love her . . . I love her like a sister . . .

(Smiling a bit through the tears in my eyes) Well, like a really annoying sister . . .

Obviously, my proactively ending the relationship would be painful for her . . . but, it would be painful for me, too, because I value what we have had in the past.

Edward: (Softly) I can clearly see why you would be hesitant to end it . . . and why you might want to continue it . . .

Maybe, instead of thinking of it as either continuing it or ending it, you could think of it in terms of allowing it to continue while acknowledging its limitations. She obviously is a good friend, the relationship obviously has significant value to you, and you love each other a great deal. However, it’s a friendship that is not able to meet all – or even most – of your relational needs. And, that is okay. It doesn’t have to . . . no one relationship can meet all of someone’s relational needs.

Me: (Raising my eyebrows in agreement) Yeah, you make a good point . . .

(We sat without speaking for a few minutes as I digested what he had just said. His words settled easily into my soul . . . his suggestion felt “right” . . . in fact, it felt so right that I could feel a sense of resolution start coming over me.)

Me: Yeah . . . that makes sense . . .

You know . . . all of this has caused me to become more attuned to what is important to me in relationships . . . I really do value having that kind of two-way exchange of emotional expression in my relationships.

I wonder why she doesn’t have the ability to operate at that level . . . maybe she just doesn’t experience strong emotions like I do . . . I mean, maybe she doesn’t struggle with depression and feeling over-whelmed . . . maybe her emotions are just more mundane and stable. Maybe she doesn’t struggle with her emotions.

Well, she does have strong emotions at times . . . not surprisingly, she was very upset when her mom died and when her sister died . . . but, mostly she is just excited about the little day-to-day experiences that she has . . . she’s always talking about social events or outings with her husband . . . or a neat movie she watched . . . she always has stories to tell . . .

Edward: Do you think she doesn’t periodically experience uncomfortable emotions such as frustration . . . or maybe loneliness . . . or anger . . . ??

Me: Apparently not much . . . maybe some in passing . . . it seems like she has dealt with stuff from her past and that she is in a really happy and content place in her life. I don’t think she is lonely . . . she and her husband are like two peas in a pod, they seem really content together.

Edward: Obviously, I don’t know her, but I’m guessing that she is not as happy and content as she makes it appear. I suspect that she is hiding her true emotions . . . maybe from others and maybe even from herself.

Me: I guess that could be true . . . I guess I’ve always assumed she was happy and content.

Edward: How would you describe her life?

Me: Well, they have everything they need . . . they have each other and they have the time and money to do enjoyable stuff together . . . she has a cushy job that she enjoys . . . they have a pretty relaxed and cozy life . . .

But . . . it does seem . . . well, her behavior with me would indicate that there is still some unresolved stuff going on with her . . . something is driving her to be hyper-vigilant around me, always wanting to take care of my needs, to find ways to prove to me that she is smart and capable and valuable. She is always watching for my approval and/or disapproval . . . and that stance cannot be comfortable for her.

And, when I did put some boundaries in place during our trip, she became even clingier and she became defensive . . . and that indicates some unresolved stuff . . . so, yeah, she probably still experiences pain around whatever is driving that behavior . . . she just never talks about the pain.

I’m guessing that she hasn’t resolved whatever in her childhood created that behavior, and she is now recreating the same dynamic with her husband and with me. And that means she hasn’t matured much beyond what I experienced of her in college.

Edward: So, there’s a significant difference in the rate each of you is maturing emotionally.

Me: Yeah . . . but it’s not like a snobbery thing . . . that I’m better than her or anything . . . I’m just further along in the maturation process . . . but, I’m not better than her . . . I don’t mean it like that, for sure . . .

Edward: I know you don’t mean it like that.

————–

We paused again to let our thoughts settle . . . then I asked if he was okay with me moving onto the next item on my sticky note . . . he said that would be fine . . .

[Continued in the next post . . . ]

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