Posts Tagged ‘defining moments’

To My Everlasting Shame

February 6, 2009

I did not stay at my father’s bedside, to be with  him until he passed. There he was, right upstairs in the bedroom, while I hid like a coward downstairs and out of sight. We knew it would be that night. The doctors had called the family in and said so. 

All his brothers and sisters, the aunts and uncles I grew up with,  had been pretty much staying at my parents’ house for those last weeks.  The pasta pots were always boiling. They brought Italian bread and provolone cheese and sweet salami with big green olives. Most importantly,  they brought the black humor which is our family trademark , especially during our darkest hours.  It sustained us and carried us.

And yet, there was an age regression that took place for me. At age 32, they were still the grown ups and I was like a child again. That’s just how the dynamics morphed. When it was soon to be time, my favorite aunt had a talk with me and asked me if I really wanted to watch my father die. She explained to me, 32 going on 8, that dying was not like in the movies. It was quite a frightening thing to see.  She encouraged me to have my quiet time alone with him, now in a coma, and say my good-bye. I did so. Then I walked out of the room and all his siblings and my mother went in and the door was firmly closed.

And so he died with his wife, brothers and sisters all around and me nowhere in sight. They later said it was an awful thing. Blood and God knows what everywhere. Even his brothers were shaken by it. It was not something I should have had to see, they told me. As if they had protected me from something.

But not long after, I realized it was my own father’s awful thing. I should have been there. I allowed myself to be shielded by my beloved and well meaning aunt with childlike trust.  I should have been there. I was not a child. I was not, in truth, protected or shielded. I was written out of the last line of the last page of his life.  No, we wrote me out. 

And I am so ashamed, sorry, and regretful… What if my father knew or sensed I wasn’t there, right through the invisible walls of his coma? My shame is this: that I, his oldest and most responsible child, should have  accompanied him on the final stage of his journey. I should have been there. 

No tidy ending to this post. I should have been there.  

(This post was inspired by a poem by Cordie entitled:  If I had it to do all again)

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The Measure of Grief

February 5, 2009

 

 

THE MEASURE OF GRIEF

 

Twenty-five years ago today my father died.  

Even in my dreamless sleep I knew it.

 

I stumble out of bed  

where is my husband?

 

I want to hug him    

hug him so tightly

but he is gone

gone to work  

to work his ass off.

 

Gone.

 

I worry about his heart.

 

I want to hug my father  

(who worked his ass off).

I want to hug him  

hug him so tightly

 

but he is gone  

 

gone to rest    

to rest in peace.

 

I’d rather he were here, God forgive  me.

Yes.  I would rip him right out of paradise  if I could

to have him back here with the whole family

loving    living   YES , even suffering

but right alongside us where   think he belongs.

 

A quarter of a century.

One-fourth of a whole.

A quarter coin is so small really.  

 

A hole the size of a quarter 

is still in my heart  

big enough to kill me.

 

by Psychscribe ©2009

If I Were To Die Today (Part 3- Relationship with Self))

December 19, 2008

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Image copyright Jupiter Images 2008

Myself? I’m happy with who I am and what I’ve done in this life.  It took me a long time to grow up. Very long. Through one marriage and into the second, where I finally, finally grew my wings. (Thank to the snuggy, supportive nest my Alph made for me.)

I went back to college  pregnant with my second child and delivered her between semesters. Twenty five years later that child became my colleague and partner in our  psychotherapy practice. Imagine that?!! The joy I feel from this is beyond measure or description.  But more than that, I love that we are able to give our services to those who cannot afford it.  Kind of like Robin Hood. We get the max from our affluent clients and give it back, time wise, to our less fortunate ones.

I’ve learned to enjoy fun. I never played at all until a few years ago when I looked at some application which asked me to list my hobbies. I didn’t have any. For me, an A type, learning, seminars, learning, work were all I ever wanted to do.  (Tightly held secret: we shrinks rarely apply to ourselves the very things we try to teach our clients.)  It so bothered me that I thought: what have I always wanted to try? For me?  That turned out to be decoupage. Hours and hours of learning how to do it, but playing, enjoying the process, the creativity. Creativity had always been what sustains me, but I’d put it aside in my quest for achievement. Now I’m making jewelry. Another joy in the process. If my efforts produce lovely results, great! If not, I still had fun.  I’m also  waiting for my new camera to arrive (thank you, Amber, for putting the bug in me!) because I’m longing to express myself by capturing the other love of my life: nature.

If I should die today, my career goals would have been accomplished. I would die knowing  that I became the therapist I always wanted to be, who  helped a lot of people. The ones whose heartfelt thanks cannot begin to be measured and who I will never, ever forget. The ones who trusted me with their pain and their wounds, who inspired me with their courage, and who taught me so much. 

Have I become the woman I wanted to be? Well that, too, was an evolving process.  First I wanted to be a homemaker and stay at home mom. When that changed and I wanted to get an education and a career, the trouble started in my first marriage. That’s not what he signed on for. And in all fairness, that’s not what I’d originally agreed to.  We were so young. We just couldn’t navigate these choppy waters. We were only 21 when we married for goodness sake! Babies! What did we know about relationships? Giving?Flexibility? Growth and change? Nothing. Nothing at all.

It was a very painful divorce. Volatile, yet so sad. But as Carol Burnett once said, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. 

My onset of lupus and subsequent stroke have actually been blessings too. Not a life lesson I would  have chosen, but they were not exactly electives in the school of my life.  I’ve had to learn to rely on others which has been a humbling experience. A giver all my life (parentified child) it has been hard to learn to receive. Also…very nice…and quite beautiful.  And, of course, having come so close to death, I’ve learned to appreciate every moment of every day, and to thank God for the gift of my life. 

I read somewhere once that we’re bound by our fate only as long as we accept the values that determine it. I never forgot that. In fact, reading that, and getting it, is probably what changed my life. I got rid of my culturally imposed role of what a woman should be, and I learned to define myself. My self. MY self.  

I learned that personal authenticity is my primary value, and always will be. 

So if I should die today, I would die happy with my journey. Happy that I died as ME.

My Son is Engaged!

November 15, 2008

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Photo copyright Jupiter Images 2008.


He officially proposed yesterday, after he took Mom and his sister ring shopping with him. I am so happy he has found a girl who really loves him, and better yet, laughs at all his jokes. (This is very important to a guy like my son) .

What a creative proposal he came up with. He pulled over to the side of the road – a rainy night – and told her he thought they had a flat tire. She totally disagreed with him that it felt like they had a flat.  He pretended to find one in the rear, and got her to come out and look at it, obviously acting all annoyed at the situation. When she got out of the car he was on his knee, in the rain and mud, with the ring box in his hand!

This is the first girl who he has seemed truly happy with, which of course makes his mom so happy (he’s 33 for goodness sake!). She’s shy, lovely, and this is not her original country. She was born in Ecuador, which is very cool. 

Well, that’s my announcement for the day 🙂 Other that when it rains it pours…my daughter just got married on Sept. 19th!

What is Your Core Value?

January 11, 2008

 Here is my core value: personal authenticity.  It hasn’t changed in over 20 years, though I do believe for some people the core value does evolve, morph into something else…  I think the core value is most definitely connected to our personal defining moments……so I need to think about which of mine this springs from….. Think about it if you will and tell me, what is yours?

How I Do Not Define Myself

December 23, 2007

So how do we define ourselves?  I posted that question when I started this blog. I asked if it was by our roles, our relationships, our work… I didn’t get many responses and I can see why – that’s not exactly an easy answer! Sounds like it ought to be the topic of a term paper.  So I think its only fair  to muse a bit on this myself…

When I was a child,  of course it was by relationship.  I was a daughter.  An extension of my mother and father and my wonderful extended family.   I was also an avid reader and writer from the first day I learned to sound out my phonics. Later I became a friend,  a wife, a mother, and a Christian. And those relational definitions of myself satisfied me for many years. But then depression crept in like a cold dark fog,  and with it a long, long search for my own identity. I wanted a definition of myself created by myself,  not one that I had blindly accepted from my culture.  I began to feel that  those roles did not define me…they described me. 

So then I went through a phase of believing you are what you do. I mean I really did believe that.  I went back to school , pregnant with my second child, and  I was also a student. And that satisfied me for a while. I felt a lot better about myself, because I am an intelligent person and I liked that label. I defined myself as a learner. I also had to read and write a lot, which was what I’d had a passion for from the age of six.

But sooner or later, I had to graduate. And off I went into my occupation, degree in hand, a “professional”.  Now I know who I am, I thought.  When the buzz died I continued, and continue, to take more postgraduate training.  And I still get that buzz from learning.  The only thing is….I’ve also  learned that my occupation does not define me either. I am not what I do. True, the occupation I’ve chosen  says some things about the kind of person I am, but it doesn’t define me. 

All I know for sure is that I am a wife, a mother, a friend, a therapist, a  learner, a writer, an artist, a soul searcher, and a Christian.  But none of those define me. How can they? Isn’t the human soul  greater than the sum of its parts?

How Do You Define Forgiveness?

November 30, 2007

 An awful lot of people say things like, “That’s ok ….what you did….its alright. I forgive you.” Think about it. How often do you hear someone profusely apologizing, and the other person saying “No,  that’s ok! Don’t worry about it!”  The injured party is actually trying to make the person who hurt them feel better!   Actually, most of the time, its not alright. It could be something as trivial as someone stepping on your toe – that’s not alright. It hurts! Or someone accidentally spilling coffee on  your white shirt.   That’s not alright.   It burns AND ruins your clothing.

It is not ok to hurt someone intentionally or otherwise. (Bear with me please, I will get to my definition of forgiveness in a minute.) This becomes an important concept in my work with couples. Or adult children of alcoholic/abusive/fill-in-the blanks damaging parents.  I do believe forgiveness is neccessary in a wounded relationship in order for any healing and growth to take place . But to say or mean it as I’ve described it actually minimizes the painful behavior by implying, in essence, that it wasn’t that bad (when it was).  It also minimizes the very person doing the forgiving.

A better concept, I think, is this: When hurtful behavior has occurred, an emotional debt is owed. Just ask anyone you know who has gone for months, years,  resentful of wrongdoing by a loved one.   They’ll tell you how much they are owed. They will also tell you how impossible it would be for the person who hurt them to pay them back.  And they are right. By now the emotional debt is probably higher than the gross national debt. Forgiveness in my mind is being willing to write off that debt and start over. When you say “I forgive you” its about wiping the slate clean,  accepting the apology and remorse of the  person as they are now, having renwewed faith in the person, and moving forward.  It means you’ve processed the hurt,  felt the emotions, and started healing. These words should not be said prematurely in an anxious attempt to make things better because to do so will make things worse.

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.

Funeral Procession Defining Moment from NinjaRyder

November 16, 2007

“I was driving back to my old apartment one afternoon and I had lived one block away from a church. That day I was stopped as a funeral procession exited. I waited and watched the cars go by, trying to see the kinds of people who were a part of this. However, the procession never stopped. I saw every kind of person imaginable.

I was probably there for a good seven minutes and I started to get a chill down my spine at the length of this procession. I felt this surge through me and I had a “defining moment.” I wanted that to be me! Not to pass on, but to have known and touched that many people in my life.

Ever since then I have had this drive to want to help people and I am making the time to have that happen. I’m becoming more social and more outgoing. I do volunteer work and donate to charities I believe in. I know the names of my neighbors. And I want this to increase as my life continues. I want to be an outstanding member of my community. I want to change things.

So at my eulogy? I don’t think it matters so much what they say, but how the people who are there remember how I personally affected them.”

NinjaRyder
November 16, 2007

A Reader’s Hot Sand Defining Moment

November 16, 2007

“It’s taken some time but I think I’ve finally decided what was the first defining moment in my life. When I was little, every summer my family would rent a house at the beach. One morning when my father, sister and I were headed onto the beach, the sun was so hot it made the sand too hot for me to step on. I told my dad and sister this but unfortunately they didn’t think the sand was hot so they kept walking towards the water. I was stuck. I wanted to swim but did not want the hot sand to burn my feet. I stood on the deck for a few minutes trying to think of what to do. I finally figured out that I could slide my feet through the sand so they would not have to touch the top part of the sand that was so hot from the sun beating on it. This is my first defining moment because it was the first time in my life I had to figure out how to handle a situation without anyone else’s help. While it seems like a silly childhood memory, when faced with challenges in my life I often remember this moment and it helps me think of how to face the challenge without ‘burning my feet’. ” Written by Cheryl in a previous comment.

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.

At the end of the day, at the end of your life…

November 13, 2007

How would you like to have yourself described in your eulogy? What do you want people to remember that you did?  (An authentic eulogy, not the kind that’s so generic you know the officiant pulled it out of a drawer because no one could think of anything nice to say!) I do not lay claim to the originality of this question. We therapist folks often use it to get people thinking.  Because when you think about the answers to these questions, you begin to define yourself as you’d like to be. And it becomes possible to begin new defining moments as you redefine yourself.

What would you like to believe about yourself?

November 13, 2007

 Who has time to think these days? Who has time for introspection?  One reader, spingshiny writes “in these days of chaotic living, I seldom get the time to reflect on how I would define myself! I simply dont know. I would like to believe certain things about myself but are those qualities and attitudes the real me? I dont know.”

So think about it, if you will, and tell me….what would you like to believe about yourself?

So how do we define ourselves?

November 12, 2007

We have so many roles, personally, professionally, relationally.  Do we define ourselves by some of these, a combination of these, or something else at our core?

Think about it…if you will…and tell me what you think.

Defining moment right now

November 10, 2007

I have NO time to write, rushing out for the evening, husband giving me the countdown: “15 MINUTES TILL WE HAVE TO LEAVE!” now, all of a sudden I just got the “5 MINUTES I’LL GO WARM UP THE CAR!” but my fingers itch, no COMMAND me to jot something down in my blog before a day passes and I’ve missed an entry. (This after less than a week since I started this thing.)

I am a blogger.

Did you recognize your defining moment when it happened?

November 7, 2007

Mine was just a dream…or so I thought. At that time in my life I was very depressed and pregnant with my second child. I dreamed of an empty classroom with sunlight streaming in and I felt happy  in the dream. So happy. And then I woke up with a longing I didn’t know I had, which was to go to college. So I enrolled and gorged on the courses, pregnant and with a four year old besides.  That dream ultimately led me, sixteen years later, to my current profession as a psychotherapist.  The thing of it is you often never know until later, much later, just how defining certain moments can be.  Sometimes a dream really is a dream.

That was my first defining moment. So think about it, if you will,  and tell me…what was yours?

Jimiyo’s comment and my response

November 6, 2007

In his comment, Jimiyo writes of his struggle for personal authenticity. Always feeling like an artist, knowing he is an artist,  but also feeling forced to go corporate in order to make a living. He has many defining moments in his story, but the one that stands out for me, the snapshot from  his life movie that seems to be his first defining moment, is when he writes:

“Then my grandfather died.

Something about having someone relatively close to you die  makes you question your purpose in life. Soon after his death, on my 28th birthday, I looked around at the

sales office lit by the dull, buzzing fluorescent lights, listening to the chatter of sales pitches, the frustrated tones of rebuttals to all the repetitive common objections that

used to suck the life out of me.

I looked around.

My heart paced.

I wanted to vomit. “

This is what I mean by defining moment. After that, he pursues his soul’s longing without fear and in doing so defines himself, measuring his success by his own standards.   This is also an inspiring comment, and my first one, on my first blog. Thank you, Jimiyo.  Perhaps you’ve given me a defining moment here. I love who I’ve become, but there’s more…there’s more…there’s a writer who has remained silent for too long due to other defining moments….but God they’ve been great….

Defining Moments Defined

October 31, 2007

Ok, straight off I need to disclose that I’m a therapist. I know its in the tag line but I want to emphasize this because  it just feels fair  (and legally sound) that you should know. I decided to start this blog because I’m a junkie for defining moments and I want to hear yours.  I am not here to help, or give advice. I won’t, and can’t, be doing that.  What I will be doing is commenting upon, and maybe analyzing, the themes that come up. I will offer my biased opinions based upon my professional training and my life. I hope you will offer yours. It should be interesting and fun.

It works like this: you look back at your life  so far as if it were a movie. You see the star  and the supporting actors. The script was partly written by the screenplay you landed in, and partly written by you. Yes you. Unless you arrived on this planet as a rock,. 

So anyway, to find your defining moments you watch the movie of your life and you stop it HERE,  and then THERE, into  still shots….which of course stop time…….  and you capture, perhaps for the first time, one of the moments that had to happen for you to become the person you are today.

The cool thing to me is how these defining moments change in our memories and perceptions…. …that’s ok, that’s fine.   Blogs are not written in stone and neither are our definitions of ourselves…The journey outward means nothing without journeying inward as well. Come back later and tell me other defining moments, that piece together the story of your life…

Think about it, if you will, and tell me one of yours….