Sunday, October 4, 2015

Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream

A few months ago, I thought about starting a book about change. I even had a title for it, which I promptly forgot. But as it turns out, I wasn't procrastinating. I was living the book.

After 15 years as a psychologist, I've become a real estate agent. When I tell people about this transition, they usually look at me, like, "how did that happen?". And all I can say is, it started with a dream.

To be fair, it wasn't just one dream. It was a series of dreams, recurring dreams, that happened over the course of four or five years. The timing is a little fuzzy, as is common for dream infused information. Anyway, the story lines in the dreams were always the same. I was going back to high school, even though I already had my doctorate, and at some point or another, I would be sitting in class, surrounded by people scores younger than I, wondering what in the hell I was doing there. Often times, I would have forgotten to bring an assignment, or even to attend an entire semester of class. Most of the time, I was wildly unprepared for whatever was ahead of me.

I would wake from these dreams confused and disillusioned. In real life, I do already have my doctorate, and it isn't even partially paid off yet. Admitting that I wanted to go back to school, in any capacity, felt like failure. Looking back, this is probably why I couldn't "figure out" this transparent dream for almost half a decade. I just didn't want to see the truth.

So, what is the truth? The truth is that I am tired of being a psychologist. It's a really hard job. You work with people for months or years, and even if you are great at what you do, many people just don't get better. Doing therapy is like offering sugar-free snacks to a diabetic; she knows she needs what you are giving her, but it's not what she really wants. She really wants the sugar; the chaos of an abusive relationship, the drama of a horrible boss, or the cloud of a belief in what can't happen. And, honestly, I can't blame people either. Truly engaging yourself in the therapeutic process is extremely hard work! Ridding your life of all that stands in your way means that you must face your greatest fear. Yourself.

Don't get me wrong. I have had some amazing experiences as a psychologist. I've had clients who have bravely taken a front seat on the roller coaster and come out winded, and smiling, on the other end. In a few cases, I've heard from clients years after our work together ended, when they call to tell me how much a certain phrase I said helped them, and how well they are doing in their lives. I've also had clients who've challenged me to grow as a therapist and as a person. And for those experiences, I'm eternally grateful.

But still, I feel that it's time for me to move on. I'm tired of focusing solely on someone else's needs for hours at a time. I'm tired of holding my personal reactions, not to mention my pee, to make space for someone else's truth.

There was a time when I loved being there so fully for others. Come to think of it, that time was before I had kids. I'm sure that's not a coincidence! But now, at this stage in my life, I'm ready to do something fun. Is real estate fun? I have no clue. I will have to get back to you on that. But, at the very least, I've stopped having dreams of being in high school, which is quite a relief, considering how much I loathe florescent lighting. Although, I have to wonder: did I graduate, and if so, what is the next course in this school of life?

Yours in growth,

Monday, June 1, 2015

I Wanna See You Be Brave

The other day, I watched "Welcome To Me," a new movie starring Kristen Wiig. To me, she can do no wrong, so I was really disappointed when I realized that she thought she was portraying a character with Borderline Personality Disorder, when, really, she was more Bipolar 1 with Histrionic Features. At one point, her character lamented how she used to be called Manic Depressive, then Bipolar, and finally, Borderline Personality Disordered. While it is true that Bipolar Disorder used to be called Manic Depressive Illness, Borderline Personality Disorder is a totally different beast. Personality Disorders are much harder (but not impossible) to treat, and they encompass a person's entire way of being, while Mood Disorders like Bipolar Disorder, respond well to therapy and medication, and tend to have more specific triggers. 

It really bothers me when Hollywood doesn't do her research, especially about psychology which is already so misunderstood. But, despite the diagnostic confusion, I still enjoyed the movie, and it got me thinking about who is really crazy in today's society. Here's a hint: it's not who you might think.

One of the things that always strikes me about characters who are supposed to be mentally ill is how honest they are. They say things that most people's filters would catch and eliminate, or at the very least, dilute. Yet, heroines like Kristin Wiig's "Alice," are not concerned with what others think of her. She proudly wears socks with flats and tells everyone who will listen that she uses masturbation as a sedative. A "normal" person would never do either of those things, and while I'm not suggesting that they should, I am saying that I think we take the desire to appear well-adjusted way too far.

What would it look like if we answered questions honestly, instead of how we think the other person wanted us too? How would it be to get up in the middle of an uncomfortable situation and leave, instead of being polite and sacrificing our inner feelings? What would happen if we said no when we wanted to, and didn't pay attention to what society tells us to do?

Recently, I went against tradition and turned down an invitation to a family gathering that I knew would be incredibly stressful for me to attend. It was a new behavior for me, and I'm sure there are some who are not happy with me because of it. But it's come to my attention that, even though I've improved immensely, I still have the tendency to swallow my own needs in favor of pleasing others. And, at the same time, I'm realizing how much of my past did not serve me well. And so, from now on, I'm vowing to make decisions that are right for me, even if I fear the responses of others. I want to let go of the negativity from whence I came, and step into the light of the life that I've built for myself. I have my own family now, one that I made from scratch, and I finally feel that I am where I belong. So, instead of bending over backwards to please people who never really took the time to know me, I am now allowing myself to be free.

Free to love.
Free to live.
Free to say no when I want to.
Free to walk away from negativity.
Free to be me.

And just maybe, free to wear socks with flats.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Self Acceptance For The Rest Of Us

I just read a book, that will remain nameless, that really pissed me off. This book purported to be about self and body-acceptance, but was actually just about weight loss. Um, if you have to be a size tiny and undergo plastic surgery in order to accept yourself, you aren't quite there yet, Sister!

I'm not there either, but, at least I don't pretend to be. And sometimes, in moments when the sun is shining just right on my daughter's hair, I'm there. When I've succeeded at making my five-month-old baby laugh, I'm there. And when the right word just comes forth from my fingertips, I'm there too. But that's the thing about self-acceptance, it's not all or nothing. It happens in flashes, and in moments, sometimes so fleeting that you could almost miss them.

I've had my fair share of feeling the opposite of accepted. I remember being told to watch how many grapes I was eating, and to wait at least five hours between meals by well-meaning family members who were clearly not the most sensitive, or nutritionally-wise, people. I was teased over my weight, especially since I had the misfortune of a nickname, "Hayl," that rhymed with Whale. At that time, I didn't realize that to be called a whale was actually a huge, pun intended, compliment. It's hard to find a more intelligent, sensitive, and intuitive creature than Whale.

Interestingly, animal medicine teaches that Whale's message to humans is to love ourselves, something that we humans find incredibly hard to do. Whale also bridges two worlds by swimming underwater and breathing above land, teaching us to explore different forms of reality, and to bring consciousness to our dreams. The powerful sounds that whales make resonate healing and love to all within earshot. How different might my experience have been if someone had shared the true magic of Whale with me during those difficult times? How might I have become empowered, instead of ashamed, by being associated with this beautiful creature?

The good news is that it's never too late to have a happy childhood. And it's certainly never too late to learn to love yourself. But, as Anne Lamott says, loving yourself is an inside job. It cannot come from a certain weight, size, salary, house, car, romantic interest, or level of education. It can only come from within, and even then, it's a message that needs to be repeated about a zillion times before it can make any headway with TCV, (The Critical Voice). TCV is kind of like JTV, on all the time, and very expensive. Except, instead of costing money, TCV costs something much more valuable, your Self-Esteem.

And yet, when we learn to recognize moments of beauty, we solidify, amplify, and multiply them. When we can see ourselves as more than our Earthly bodies, we catch a glimpse of our true nature, which is astonishingly beautiful. Even if there are things about ourselves that we wish to change, it is essential to love those things first before real change can occur. Our wounds, our fleshy bellies, and our moments of impatience are the "Wholes"(see what I did there?) through which the light can enter.

I once read, that it is our very imperfections through which we can offer the most to the world. Whether by way of an imperfect weight or a dis-ability, or being a woman in an all male field, it's these perceived wrongs that make us the perfect balancing agent for a society that relies all too heavily on a mass delusion of perfection. Instead of tipping the scales even further toward compliance let's be different. Let's shine the light of love on those parts of us that society would have us believe are unworthy. Because as the great Martin Luther King, Jr. said,


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

To Share Is Human

I didn’t mean for it to happen. I only started reading "Fangirl" because I liked “Eleanor and Park” so much, and I had a feeling I couldn’t go wrong with Rainbow. (Yeah, in my head, we are on a first-name basis.) But then I found out that Cath’s, mom left her when she was 8, and that she never really recovered. That all of her relationships were affected, and that she was incapable of telling if a boy liked her, even when she was in college. And as if that wasn’t enough, I also found out that her Dad was bipolar, and that he used running to self-medicate. Oh, and, of course, she writes fan fiction, which I don’t do, but I do write for, which is pretty similar, especially since I use Dave Matthew's lyrics in many of my articles.

It was all just too close. It reminded me of how many things in my life were affected by the fact that my Mom left me. And how I hate that so much. How it shouldn’t be that an action by such a careless person could define any part of me. I’ve spent such a huge part of my life thinking that there was something wrong with me, and later, that there is something wrong with her. Okay, so I still think the latter.

But then, I decided to pull a card, and got the Wisdom/Gratitude card, Number 11, in the Native American “Sacred Path,” deck, and it tells me to be grateful for the knowledge that I have and to give thanks for that knowledge to complete the cycle of receiving it. And at first, I got mad, because I cannot be grateful for the fact that my mother left me, even if it did play a role in making me who I am. But then, I read the larger story associated with the card, and the fact that the author was talking about more of a knowledge of the way that the Universe works, rather than knowledge of a single, small event. Well, small in the cosmic sense. Because when you are 8, and your mother leaves, how much bigger of a thing could there be?

But Jamie Sams was talking about the knowledge that there are all kinds of beings in this Universe, not just humans. And that oneness is where it’s at. Looking at it like that, I can almost see some kind of a greater good aspect of what happened to me. Like, if my mother had never left me, then I would never have done so much deep personal work, which means I could never have been the spiritual teacher, (I say that Very Lightly), that I am today. But then that makes me feel like I’ve been sacrificed for the good of the whole, and I don’t think that’s the point either. Somehow, it must be that this has been good for me too. Right?

It’s just hard to see the good when so much of my life was filled with emotional pain. When, to this day, I struggle with an addiction to sweets and buying jewelry online. When I couldn’t tell my husband that I loved him until waaaayyyy after he told me, and I couldn’t tell him that I believed that we were meant to be a couple, until we’d been together for a decade.

But then, I have to look at the growth and how far I’ve come. Even that dismays me though, because I always wonder how far I would be if I’d had a better starting point. As if life assigned me the inside lane, which is the hardest to run because of the tight curve. But, I know it doesn’t really work like that. Or, at least I hope it doesn’t.

So, for today, I will be grateful for what, and who, I have in my life. I will listen to the cards and be thankful for the understandings that I have, even when, at times, those understandings has been painful. I will trust that everything that has happened in my life was supposed to happen, just as it did. That my experience was not a mistake. And, above all:


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

From Reluctance to Reverence: A Yogini's Journey

Image result for yogaEight years ago, when my husband finally convinced me to try yoga, I approached it with serious skepticism. Yoga, I thought, was for those who could not handle the weight and interval training that I was accustomed to. At that time, my yoga days masqueraded as my “easy” days. I had no idea that yoga would, one day, be the catalyst to a grand change in my internal landscape.

Since I was a teen, I’ve always exercised religiously. At times, I’ve even equated going to the gym as my version of going to temple, minus the yarmulkas, Torahs, and conservatively dressed devotees. While my methods for shaping my body have varied, (swimming, spinning, zumba, personal training, running, hiking, biking, etc) my goal was always the same. To lose weight. Only in the last decade have I dropped my preoccupation with appearance, replacing it with a desire to feel healthy; physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But it wasn’t until after I had my second child, four months ago, that I decided to take a leap, and make yoga my primary practice.

I’ve always known that good yoga is supposed to affect more than just the physical being. That it is designed to move a person into an alternate state of consciousness, where expansion and contraction affect more than just muscles and skin. But recently, the intellectual awareness that I have has started to integrate into my being, sinking lower, further, toward my heart. It’s as if something inside me has clicked, and the emotional and spiritual benefits of yoga have started to present themselves to me. I can’t take credit for discovering any of what I’m about to explain. All I’ve done is practice yoga daily. The rest has settled upon me like dust on a ceramic cat. Or a cat doing yoga.
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Okay, enough cats. For now. 

Some of the realizations that have entered my mind focus on generalization, or, the way in which the qualities that I am seeking through my yoga practice spread to other parts of my daily life. For example, I now understand that finding balance in Half Moon pose will affect the way that I balance activities throughout my day. That seeking stillness in Warrior Three will allow me to quiet my emotions when a triggering situation presents itself. That being upside down in Shoulder Stand will help to expand my perceptions to be able to look at things from a different viewpoint. And that garnering strength in Three Legged Dog will bring forth an ability to set boundaries in relationships, and say no when I need to. I don’t know why all of these insights are so surprising to me. Perhaps, it’s my tendency to compartmentalize and put everything neatly in boxes, each issue in it’s place. But learning that everything is, in fact, connected, in ways that I can barely comprehend, has a calming effect. Maybe I always had this knowing deep down, the way that the Moon knows that the Sun loves her. Why else would he dim himself, each night, to let her shine?

Image result for sun loves the moonImage result for sun loves the moonOther lessons have centered around the idea of letting go, and the paradoxical nature of doing less to experience more. When I relax into a Seated Forward Bend, it’s about letting my muscles release, which unexpectedly assists my body by improving various functions, including circulation, nervous system performance, and illness prevention. In fact, I’ve now come to expect that if I feel as if I did “nothing” in my practice, my body will respond by releasing fluids and expressing toxins. Where “No Pain, No Gain,” used to be my motto, “Let Go and Flow,” is now my mantra.

It’s astonishing, really. The change that this physical practice has had on my mindset. Instead of pushing to get to the next level, or forcing my will over various situations, I have learned, or, I am learning to believe in the old saying that all will be well in the end. And that if all is not well, it is not the end.

Incidentally, I still don’t consider yoga a workout. Instead, I consider it a work-in, one that I practice in a sacred space, complete with all of nature’s elements. I have a miniature rock garden, (Earth), a window, (air), a water fountain, (water), and a candle, (fire), all of which ritualize my experience, helping to bring me to a place of peace, and well-being. In turn, I aspire to recycle those positive feelings, sending them outward into the beyond where they are free, like the wind beneath a butterflies’ wings, to perform Mitzvahs.
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