Posts Tagged ‘culture’

A True Confession About Friends

May 20, 2009

TwoWomen_1914

Artist: Diego Rivera

 

As I get older, I’m becoming more and more of a loner.  That is to say, I prefer my own company to the company of others. Given the choice of a visit with a friend, or reading or writing or creating, I will always choose the latter.  I’m going to say what is true for me, even though it sounds awful. After about a half hour visit, I get bored. Yes. I get bored. Because my mind drifts away to my interior landscape from which my creativity springs, and I want to get back to it. To whatever medium I’m working in. I don’t want to listen very long to  somebody’s daily travails or about their their kids or daily lives.  I feel trapped,  a captive audience.  Phone calls are the same for me. Maybe even worse. Because they have to be returned if I want to have any friends at all.

So why do I want them, you may be asking yourself.  Well…because I love them! And I care about them. And when the chips are down, they’re there for me and I’m there for them.  I think maybe  its just that in this fifth decade of my life, my identity is morphing into an artist and I have no patience for daily minutiae.

Also, the more I think about it, a man would never even write this post or have these thoughts. Men don’t chat about their daily lives. Most of the ones I know are very much bottom line kinds of people. Phone calls serve a function, as in : where are we going and what time are we meeting? Men do things together. Women seem to talk about things more. …A cultural thing, I guess.

 How could Psychscribe admit to such mean thoughts? Because it is my truth. Does this sound really awful?

If I Had My Life to Live Over

February 7, 2009

 

This is a well known column by Erma Bombeck, a very popular writer who was syndicated back in the days before the internet and died in 1996.. (Yes children, there once was a world without it when people couldn’t live without their paper newspapers!) 

Anyway, I thought I’d post it for anyone in younger generations, or other countries, who missed it. Its quite wonderful, I think. Hope you will too. Its called “If I Had My Life to Live Over”.  She writes:

I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the ‘good’ living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.

I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television – and more while watching life.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for the day.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn’t show soil or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I’d have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now go get washed up for dinner.”

There would have been more “I love yous”..  more “I’m sorrys”…  but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute…look at it and really see it…live it…and never give it back.

by Erma Bombeck 

About Erma from Wikipedia: “Erma Louise Bombeck (February 211927 – April 221996), born Erma Fiste, was an Americanhumorist who achieved great popularity for hernewspaper column that described suburban home life humorously from the mid-1960s until the late ’90s. Bombeck also published 15 books, most of which became best-sellers.

From 1965 to 1996, Erma Bombeck wrote over 4,000 newspaper columns chronicling the ordinary life of a midwestern suburban housewife with broad, and sometimes eloquent, humor. By the 1970s, her witty columns were read, twice weekly, by thirty million readers of 900 newspapers of theU.S. and Canada.”

Would You Have Cosmetic Surgery?

January 23, 2008

When I  was in my 30’s I swore I would NEVER, EVER get any “work done” as they say. It was a big political thing to me…and actually still is…the way the culture promotes…demands…. youth and beauty…. particularly for women… Its as if you’re really not worth anything without it.(Hollywood movies are a perfect examle of this). I loudly defied that value to everyone i knew…I loudly rejected it…not ME i said, blindly looking into my distant future…

Well now, 20 years later, I can see how much I’ve internalized that value…and to be brually honest with myself, I wish with all my heart that I could do the very culturally induced and encouraged medical mutililation (cosmetic surgery) that I protested and none the less inernalized! I cannot risk any unnecessary surgery due to my lupus, yet not a day goes by that I don’t lift my jowls and pull back my neck and think oh! How much better I woud look!

I read a quote somewhere like “Being beautiful is only difficult once you lose it”…I couldn’t agree more….

(This post is a response I made to a post in  Amberfireinus’s Weblog.)

Interracial Marriage – YouTube

December 14, 2007

I found some of these student interviews to be disappointing...but then again, what else was I expecting in today's world?  Anyone else have the same reaction?

Dying: A Family Rite of Passage

November 29, 2007

When my mother lost her father it was sad, but not unexpected. He was 80 years old, had had that lingering kind of cancer that old men often get, and there was plenty of time to prepare for his death.

Not that any of us ever acknowledged his demise or named the dread disease he lived with for so long. Until the day he died he spoke of getting well, would not reveal his feelings or let us tell him ours, and we all aided and abetted his fantasy.

He hid behind the wall of an impossible dream because he needed to, but that wall troubled my mother long after he was gone. It’s not just that I miss him, she would say. It’s not that I haven’t accepted his death. But it feels like there was unfinished business. Something left undone.

How well I remember the false gaiety of those last visits with him, the strain of false smiles and tears held in check. It seemed so unnatural not to acknowledge the obvious. The natural. But what else could we do? In a society in which every other bodily function is treated as a group rite of passage, from christening to wedding to baby showers and on again, the last one of all is oddly ignored, considering its inevitability.

We are taught to live well and love well, to birth well and parent well. No one teaches us to die well, or help another person to do it. When death finally comes we are poorly prepared.

Two years after my grandfather died, my own father was struck with a lethal, untreatable form of cancer. The doctors could offer us no type of therapy, no extra time, no hope at all. Here was the inevitable. Here was the shock. But here also was tragedy. My father was only 53 years old.

At first I wished it could be any other way. Why not a heart attack, an accident, something sudden? What could be worse than the horror of having to just sit there and watch him die?

We had so many questions.

Should we tell him, and if so, when? Might it not be kinder to protect him until the last possible moment from the anguish we already suffered?

And how would we handle him? We worried less over his imminent death than over the helplessness which must precede it. How would such a bull of a man, who hated hospitals and even aspirin all his life, handle such an indignity? He was not the kind of person who would allow you to feel sorry for him. He was a giver all his life who didn’t know how to take. Gifts embarrassed him and so did thank you’s.

What would become of our family without our hub, our rock, our peacemaker who held us all together? It was he we turned to with all our problems.

The answers, though painful as all growing is, turned out to be simple. We called a secret, emergency powwow of his brothers and sisters. It was the last family gathering from which he was excluded. A very wise uncle settled the hotly debated issue of whether he should be told by saying: “He’ll be leaving you soon enough. Why put a distance between you even sooner by pretending? You can put all that energy into helping each other get through this.” Once my father was told we decided together, with him, to treat his passing as the natural though untimely event that it was. He would do it at home, among his loved ones. Just as birth is no longer something that happens to women but a process they participate in, my father’s death did not happen to him. He died.

We never pretended that he would get well, or treated him suddenly differently because he was dying. More often than not it was he who comforted us, retaining to the end the identity of the father we’d known and loved.

This was a family that never learned to say good-bye. Anyone going away on a long trip would find, at the door, that everyone had suddenly disappeared. It hurt too much to take leave of each other.

Now, of course, we had to.

We wanted to. Each of us spent private time with him saying all the things you always mean to say to someone you love and somehow never do. And in those quiet, solemn talks, mostly filled with affirmations, he launched us. We flew.

My young brother came forward with a strength we had not known was there because we had not needed to look. Two grown daughters and a wife stopped being girls at last because the man who had always sheltered them needed women now. We learned to give, and he to receive.

His relinquishment of the outer cares freed him to undergo a long overdue spiritual journey, a journey he shared every step of the way. He groped for, wrestled with, and found his God, and left us with his finger pointed in the right direction.

We didn’t just sit and watch him die. We all participated. It was intensely painful, but intensely intimate. I learned more about my father in those last few weeks than I had in 32 years, or might have in another 32. There was a feeling of wholeness in his passing with, rather than from, us. It was as if old age and the wisdom that accompany it had been condensed, but not lost. I miss him, but not who he would have been. It could have been worse.

Feeling Sorry For Yourself vs Compassion

November 28, 2007

I have so many clients who come to me with  histories of abuse, tragedy or loss. They are usually in my office for something else: problems with the kids, finding or keeping a partner in life, depression,  etc.  The list goes on and on for what we shrinks call “the presenting problem”.  When a careful assessment uncovers the sorrow underneath, the silent sorrow that drives the current problem, they very often shrug it off.  Therapist empathy falls upon a stone wall.

“I don’t want to feel sorry for myself,” they say.  And let me tell you, they really mean it that they don’t want to feel sorry for themselves. And I don’t blame them.  The words have such a negative connotation. That connotation has been imposed on all of us by our fast moving culture that wants people to “get over it”.   And so such words as “feeling sorry for herself”  evoke the image of a person who wants to wallow in misery.  No one wants to be that person, in their own eyes or in the eyes of others.  So walls are built to hide the feelings. Sometimes even from yourself.

But wallowing is one thing. Working to get through it is something else again. You have to get through whatever is behind the wall if you want your present life to improve.   Here’s the thing: you  have to feel it to get through it.   It is ok to have compassion for yourself and what you went through.  Compassion is a feeling of sympathy along with the desire or yearning to alleviate the suffering of another.  It is ok to extend the same compassion to yourself that you would to a loved one who went through the same thing.  You need to have compassion for yourself in order to allow yourself to feel the feelings and walk through, and beyond,  the pain.

That’s not wallowing. That’s doing something about it.  

Women and Self Esteem

November 20, 2007

What do you like about yourself? Are you proud of yourself? If these questions make you feel uncomfortable, or you cannot answer them, chances are that you have a problem with self esteem. Why is that? Why do so many of us basically dislike ourselves? Why are we embarrassed to “esteem” ourselves?

Before answering this question, we must first define self-esteem. Self esteem comes from the inside out. It means that a woman is not dependent upon anyone else to make her feel good about herself, because she already knows she’s fine just the way she is. She is confident and aware of her strengths and abilities. She wants to share them with others.

This does not mean she is conceited. She is also aware of areas needing work and growth. But that’s ok, because she knows she’s not perfect, and she doesn’t have to be. No one is. She understands that we all have our strengths and weaknesses.

Self-esteem is a core identity issue, essential to personal validation and our ability to experience joy. Once achieved, it comes from the inside out. But it is assaulted or stunted from the outside in. A woman with low self-esteem does not feel good about herself because she has absorbed negative messages about women from the culture and/or relationships.

The reign of youth, beauty and thinness in our society dooms every woman to eventual failure. Women’s magazines, starting with the teenage market, program them to focus all their efforts on their appearance. Many girls learn, by age 12, to drop formerly enjoyable activities in favor of the beauty treadmill leading to nowhere. They become fanatical about diets. They munch, like rabbits, on leaves without salad dressing, jog in ice storms, and swear they love it! Ads abound for cosmetic surgery, enticing us to “repair” our aging bodies, as if the natural process of aging were an accident or a disease. Yet with all this effort, they still never feel like they are good enough.

How can they? Anorexic magazine models are airbrushed to perfection. “Beautiful” movie stars are whipped into perfect shape by personal trainers, and use surgery to create an unnatural cultural ideal. But youth cannot last. It is not meant to. If women buy into this image of beauty, then the best an older woman can strive for is looking “good for her age” or worse yet, “well preserved”. Mummies are well preserved. Mummies are also dead.

Abusive experiences join with cultural messages to assault female self esteem. Abuse is pervasive and cuts across all socioeconomic lines. It invariably sends the message that the victim is worthless. Many, many women have told me that verbal abuse has hurt them far more than any physical act. As one woman put it, “his words scarred my soul”. Women whose abuse started as children have the most fragile sense of identity and self worth.

Poor self esteem often results in depression and anxiety. Physical health suffers as well. Many times, women with this problem don’t go for regular checkups, exercise, or take personal days because they really don’t think they’re worth the time.

Relationships are impacted as well. Their needs are not met by their partner because they feel like they don’t deserve to have them met, or are uncomfortable asking. Their relationships with children can suffer if they are unable to discipline effectively, set limits, or demand the respect they deserve. Worse yet, low self-esteem passes from mother to daughter.The mother is modeling what a woman is. She is also modeling, for her sons, what a wife is.

In the workplace, women with low self-esteem tend to be self-deprecating, to minimize their accomplishments, or let others take credit for their work. They never move up. Finally, with friends, they are unable to say no. They end up doing favors they don’t want to do, or have any time for. They end up going where they don’t want to go, with people they don’t want to go with! A woman with low self-esteem has no control over her life. But that can change. These women can get help and emotional healing.

It is criticial to remember that no one deserves to be abused. If something bad has happened to you, it does not mean there is something wrong with you. The responsibility for the abuse lies with the person who chooses to hurt you. If you are presently being abused, you must put yours and your children’s safefy first. If you think you are in danger, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. You can choose your own identity. You can discard the popular cultural image and replace it with something real. As I read someplace once, “We are bound by our fate only as long as we accept the values that determine it.”

Nobody is perfect, but everyone is worthwhile. Believe in yourself.

What was your relationship defining moment?

November 17, 2007

Couples have an identity and therefore defining moments, just as individuals do.  A defining moment with my husband of 20 years took me, recently, totally by surprise. I  was going through the blues about the loss of my youth and youthful appearance. (Even therapists get the blues.)  He said, ” Well I think you’re still beautiful. More now than before. Because when I look at you I see all  of you … how you looked when I first met you, and how you looked over the passing years, and how you look now…like layer upon layer….all of you as one…”  I fell in love with him all over again in that moment, and I  believe it had to happen in order for our relationship to deepen to where we are now.

The Guilt Monster

November 14, 2007

Its a nasty little creature  but it does have a good  purpose.  Assuming you’re not a sociopath  you know what it feels like. We all do.  Who hasn’t done something wrong in this life and felt awful about it? We’re supposed to feel bad when we do something bad…. The healthy feeling of guilt prods us into making amends.  For example, you’ve had a lousy week at work and realize you’ve been very cranky  to your Person ( I happen to like this word much better than “significant other”. Its shorter and …well…more personal.) So when you realize this, and feel appropriately guilty, you apologize. Hopefully you have a healthy enough relationship that your Person accepts the apology and you’re both done with feeling offended and feeling guilty. And you move on.

But there’s another kind of guilt where the guilt creature turns into a monster that rules your life…not the kind that prods you to make amends, but the kind that takes over your life and relationships. A logical, cognitive solution that helps some of my clients, and maybe will help you, is this:

Imagine yourself in a court of law, where your guilt must be proven so that appropriate punishment, or amends, can be decided.  You’re the defendant representing yourself because no honest attorney worth their salt would represent you in this case.

Judge Judy, who has moved up to a higher court in her career (no I’ve never watched her in my entire life and I don’t feel guilty lying about this either) :  Ok, so its the State vs. You. What exactly is the crime we’re trying?

You (possibly stuttering at this point!): Uh, not a crime…..I just feel really guilty….

Judge Judy: Where’s your lawyer?

You: I couldn’t find one to defend me.

Judge Judy: Well why not? That tells me already that no one even thought you had a case.

You: Well….my therapist told me to come.

Judge Judy, rubbing her eyes: Oh my dear God,  why do therapists always send their clients to me? Do I look like a therapist????  What crime does your therapist think you commited?

You: Well….nothing…that’s why she told me to come here.

Judge Judy:  Fine.  So she wants me to do her work?

You: Well, actually I think  she wants me to do the work….

Judge Judy with a flamboyant  sigh : Ok, lets get on with this.  What crime do you think you committed?

You: Well, not a crime, exactly….I just feel guilty about….everything….

Judge Judy:  Could you give me an example?

You: Well, my son is unhappy a lot…actually he’s depressed…so I feel guilty all the time for being a terrible mother.

Judge Judy with confusion on her face: How old is your son?

You: 25.

Judge Judy (sighing and with even more confusion on her face) :  Ok…so….what exactly is the crime that I should convict you of?

You: Well, I didn’t say I committed a crime.

Judge Judy: But you did  say you feel guilty. Guilt by definition indicates wrongdoing of some kind.  What did you do wrong?

You: Well….I’m not exactly sure….but I must have done something wrong to be feeling so guilty.   If I’d been a good mother maybe he would’ve turned out happier.

Judge Judy: Did you take algebra in school? From what I’m hearing, a + b is not equal to c here.

You: Excuse me?

Judge Judy:  You have not convinced me with any logic at all that you are guilty of anything. Feelings do not necessarily imply cause and effect. What has your son  chosen to do about his depression? Does he see a therapist? Is he on medication?

You: No….

Judge Judy: Why not?

You: He  just….won’t….he flatly refuses.

Judge Judy: Are you supportive? Do you love him?

You: Of course!

Judge Judy: So what are you guilty of?  (She raises her hand in the air, to stop any possible interruption). And please don’t tell me about his childhood stuff.  That’s your stuff you’re consumed with here, not his. He’s a man now and its his choice how to deal , or not deal with,  the effects of his childhood. Did you do the best that you knew how when you raised him? Have you apologized  for any serious mistakes you made?

You: Yes! But if I could, I’d go back and do things differently now….

Judge Judy: Wouldn’t we all…thus the old saying “if I knew then what I know now”….But you have not convinced me of any crime worth the guilt you’re carrying on our back like a boulder. What was your crime? What should I convict you of?

You: I could’ve been a better mother.

Judge Judy:   I cannot convict you of youth and imperfection. Would you convict a mother of that?

You: No…

Judge Judy: Then what are you guilty of?

You: Nothing….

Judge Judy: Whose responsibility is it for your son to get help?  Can you pick him up and carry him into a therapist’s office? Can he still fit into a car seat? How big is he?

You: Too big (and now the light dawns…)

You grab Judge Judy’s gavel and slam it yourself.  Case dismissed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So think about it…if you will….and tell me….of what crime have you convicted yourself?

4 Get Aids Virus From Organ Donor

November 13, 2007

I just read this news story and can’t help but think of what a defining moment it was for each of these poor people when they got their organ transplant and with it the AIDS virus.  I picture the individuals and their families initially  filled with hope when the patient’s name came up on the recipient list. I see a falsely positive (intentional irony here) new defining moment for all involved: meaning a future, or at least a longer one. Then  instead they are informed of the virus and the moment is defined entirely differently.

Do you feel guilty saying no?

November 9, 2007

A defining moment for me was when I learned the secret. I overheard a woman I admired, a former boss, responding to a request for her time  with the phrase “that’s not gonna work for me”.  She didn’t make up a million excuses for giving her time.   She didn’t recite a list of activities that would prevent her from doing what someone had asked.  What a beautifully honest response. Maybe it wasn’t gonna work because she’d planned to spend her time staying in with a good book that night.   Think about how important your time is. Your sands in your hourglass. 

It was a defining moment for me because until then I didn’t know how to say no.  I didn’t know how to set a boundary between my needs and wants and those of others.  It was a big moment on my journey to define myself.

I know we hear the phrase a lot. Its no longer original.  (Though in my opinion whoever first said it and set it in motion deserves an award of some kind.)  But its usually used when two people in the business or professional world have their schedules in front of them and are trying to arrive at a mutually agreeable appointment.  In the personal realm its a different story. At least, according to what I hear in my office. I hear way too many people telling me they went somewhere they didn’t want to go ,with someone they didn’t want to go with.  When asked why, they will sheepishly tell me they feel guilty to say no to just about any request.  

The guilt thing is something else again. Another post for another day.  All I can tell you is when I coach people to begin to use this simple  phrase in their personal lives, they see it really works for them. Because usually there is some family member who is accustomed to arguing or debating or insisting that they do something according to their agenda.  This phrase stops them dead in their tracks. How can any reasonable person argue it? Ah, but so and so is beyond, beyond  unreasonable, you think? All you have to do is never veer off the “that’s not gonna work for me” path. Don’t explain or make excuses because then they’ve engaged you into your former pattern and before you know it you’ve given up more precious sands from your hourglass.  Once my clients learn to use this phrase  they feel happier, less stressed, and are on their way to defining themselves.

So now I’ve shared another defining moment. Please think about it and tell me, if you will, what was yours?