Sunday, September 24, 2017

the issue with solutions

I started therapy recently with a lovely therapist who uses ACT (that's Acceptance and Commitment Therapy --yes, I had to look it up) and Attachment Theory. It is amazing to me that I can talk about it. Back in the day, this meant there was something seriously Wrong with me, with a capital W; nowadays, I think it is viewed by more and more people as a positive thing --more importantly, I view it as a positive thing, and I'm not hurting anyone by doing it. I am dealing with what I carry around inside, whereas in the old days, I would have been expected to reach for Mother's Little Helper and soldier on.

So my lovely therapist asked me if there was anything that bothered me about our interactions so far.

"Um ...," I wracked my brain trying to think of something, "You haven't told me what to do? I mean, I know that's not what therapy is supposed to be about, but you asked me for something and that's all I could come up with!"

"That's good!" she said, being very lovely and accepting.

"I mean ...," I continued, because once the flood gates open, they tend not to close again very easily, "Actually, everything's been very nice, but I know that part of my issue is that I tend to be indecisive, and then people who know what they want make decisions in the interim, and I go along with it because it really matters to them and it doesn't matter as much to me, but then on reflection, it really does matter to me, and I would have chosen something different, or maybe something the same, but I essentially abdicated my responsibility for making my own choices because I am not quick in my decision making ..."

At that point, I had to stop to breathe.

If you have never been to therapy, that is how I see therapy. She says very little, and most of that 'very little' is questions, with the rest being acknowledgment of what I said. I fill in what would otherwise be large gaps of silence with what likely sounds like gibberish, but it does answer the questions to the best of my ability. The exchange leaves me feeling simultaneously stupid and better.

I don't believe that therapy will solve anything for me --that's what I've figured out. Then why do it, the pragmatists in the audience may be asking now? 

It's not because my therapist is lovely (although that helps). I think it allows me address the things that I try to ignore. Historically, I do not address things that bother me directly --I feel like I haven't tried hard enough to see the other person's perspective and I'm being selfish, and then, I take that out on myself. I let things go, and yet, they haven't truly gone at times. If I haven't let things go, even though I've tried to let them go, then what is that?

Maybe therapy isn't supposed to be about solutions. Maybe it's about getting to know yourself, because in a lot of ways, we are taught to ignore parts of ourselves that don't fit with the world's grand plan (or others' grand plans, if we're being truly honest). Maybe it's about dealing with things and then life goes on, or it doesn't go on and then everything falls apart and then life goes on again. Maybe I'm being too selfless, or too selfish, or something in between, or some combination thereof, all situation dependent. Who knows?

All I know is, therapy's okay --doesn't solve anything, but it's okay.



If anyone has questions about therapy, please let me know --I'm happy to share my limited experience. It doesn't solve anything, but it certainly doesn't hurt anything, either.

Friday, September 22, 2017

croissant lady

I am a flake. Not the semi-delicious Cadbury creation --a flake in the human sense. In case I had any doubts about my flakiness, I have it on good authority from sources outside of myself that I am a flake. Are you a flake, too?

What is a flake anyway? The definition I found on the Interweb suggests that a flake is a person who is crazy, eccentric, or unreliable. Based on recent use of the term 'snowflake', I would also add sensitive.

What is wrong with being sensitive? Or eccentric? And what the heck does 'crazy' mean anyway?

I get the thing about unreliable, but honestly, sometimes things need to fall apart because they do fall apart (see William Butler Yeats or Chinua Achebe if you are in doubt about this). And reliable in what sense? I've had the same job for 15 years and I pay my bills, if that's the metric you use to define 'reliable'. I'm sure plenty of flakes do (and the ones who don't, I can guarantee you, beat themselves up about it because they are sensitive, remember?). We also try to show up for people because we know what it is to need people --flakes are so full of empathy and emotion, it's hard to function sometimes.

Perhaps if we thought of ourselves like croissants, buttery in our lightness, prone to breaking off in leaves in response to the world around us, but still whole inside? Or some other better metaphor that would say we're not so bad, really? We're flexible, empathetic, responsive, ...

Flaky. It's not so bad.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

the Proust questionnaire (no. 2)

Next up, we have my friend Tela. She lives here in the U.S. (but on that other coast), and she is pretty amazing. She is a small business owner (technically, you are, Tela!) who grooms dogs.

I'd like to apologize for the bands that show up in these Proust interviews. Apparently, Blogger has issues with copying and pasting. Still good content, though! Get to know Tela ...



What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

Walking hand-in-hand through life with a partner who loves me as much as I love him.

What is your greatest fear? 

Failure


What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? 

My insecurity 

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

A judgmental, arrogant attitude/outlook that makes them believe they are always right.

Which living person do you most admire? 

My two sons. They have been through so much in their young lives and are still so willing to love. 

What is your greatest extravagance? 

My hobbies, show dogs and art supplies

What is your current state of mind? 

Unsure about myself and my future

What do you consider the most overrated virtue? 

Beauty

On what occasion do you lie? 

To spare other’s feelings or to avoid conflict

What do you most dislike about your appearance? 

My weight. I wish I was skinnier.

Which living person do you most despise? 

I don’t despise anyone, at least not that I can think of.

What is the quality you most like in a man? 

The ability to be in charge but not overbearing, as well as self-controlled, and intelligent.

What is the quality you most like in a woman? 

Quiet confidence and intelligence

Which words or phrases do you most overuse? 

I’m not aware any at the moment. Whenever I become aware of phrases or words I am overusing, I stop using them.

What or who is the greatest love of your life? 

Dogs and drawing are my greatest passions. As for who is my greatest love in life, I think it’s too soon to answer that question.

When and where were you happiest? 

Most recently was the times Jeff and I were together. Everything before has been so shrouded in tragedy, I can’t seem to remember my “happiest.”

Which talent would you most like to have? 

I have always wished to be able to write comedy

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? 

My timidity

What do you consider your greatest achievement? 

Not so much an achievement but having the privilege of being the person allowed to walk with my late husband through his illness and death. (There may be too many words in that sentence, but I don’t know how else to convey it)

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? 

A turkey vulture. They have the best life…gliding through the sky, nothing bothers them, food just laying around.

Where would you most like to live? 

I would love to live in a mountainside cabin

What is your most treasured possession? 

My pets, my art supplies, my iPad, and my car

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? 

Never finding love again

What is your favorite occupation? 

The occupation I most admire is medical doctors.

What is your most marked characteristic? 

Compassion, gentleness, and patience

What do you most value in your friends? 

Understanding and acceptance

Who are your favorite writers? 

I really don’t have a favorite writer

Who is your hero of fiction? 

Not so much a “hero,” but my favorite fictional character is Winston Smith in 1984. I identify with the way his mind works. He desperately needs to rebel, but is always aware of the risks and his ultimate fate….but he hopes, anyway.

Which historical figure do you most identify with? 

Job from the Old Testament

Who are your heroes in real life? 

The closest I have to a real life hero is my father. He is an Air Force veteran, a man of faith with a skeptical, scientific mind, and a sharp wit. He taught me to always think for myself, and gave me my sense of humor.

What are your favorite names? 

I like unique names.

What is it that you most dislike? 

I most dislike when people are cruel. Cruelty is never justified or necessary.

What is your greatest regret? 

Dating that awful boy in high school and allowing him to damage me so much.

How would you like to die? 

I would prefer not to die, but if I must, peacefully in my sleep.

What is your motto? 

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control

Sunday, September 17, 2017

the Proust questionnaire (no. 1)

Branching out today: 

I thought I'd try an interview because learning about people is something I enjoy. Being fundamentally lazy ...I mean, efficient, I figured I'd save myself a bit of effort and use a questionnaire developed by Marcel Proust, the French novelist. Why recreate the wheel when the wheel is already available on the Internet and it works quite well?

Today, for the inaugural Proust questionnaire (at least on this blog), I am interviewing Michael Topic, whom I have actually interviewed before in a different time called early 2016. The world was very different then. It will be interesting to see if his answers have changed. Michael is a creator (I don't know what else to call him!) who lives in the UK. So, here we go: get to know Michael.



1. What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

Having the ability to create without worrying about finances, with those I love near.


2. What is your greatest fear? 

Losing my creative abilities.


3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? 

The inability to influence people with new ideas they need.


4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Needless overcautiousness and conservatism. I also dislike heartless people.


5. Which living person do you most admire? 

Can't think of a single one. People in the public consciousness are often badly flawed - even the brilliant ones.


6. What is your greatest extravagance? 

Musical equipment.


7. What is your current state of mind? 

Jaded, but quietly determined.


8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue? 

Resisting change in order to look wise. That's just posturing, but at a horrendous cost.


9. On what occasion do you lie? 

When telling the full truth would be needlessly hurtful.


10. What do you most dislike about your appearance? 

My weight got out of my control because I blindly followed orthodox, official nutritional advice, which turned out to be pure quackery. I'm getting it back to healthy.


11. Which living person do you most despise? 

There are so many world leaders, corporate heads and authority figures that fall into this category.


12. What is the quality you most like in a man? 

Gentleness.


13. What is the quality you most like in a woman? 

Compassionate intelligence.


14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? 

I'm blind to my own overuse of cliches. No idea.


15. What or who is the greatest love of your life? 

My wife and kids.


16. When and where were you happiest? 

When making music, wherever I get to do that.


17. Which talent would you most like to have? 

I wish I could cause positive change without so many people wanting to stop me at all costs.


18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? 

My tendency to get snarky when highly stressed.


19. What do you consider your greatest achievement? 

Fatherhood.


20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? 

Someone enlightened and wise.



21. Where would you most like to live? 

In a world that thought differently to this one. The obsession with money-making spoils everywhere.


22. What is your most treasured possession? 

My late father's snare drum and his favourite drum sticks.


23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? 

Feeling rejected and irrelevant.


24. What is your favorite occupation? 

Making and learning.


25. What is your most marked characteristic? 

Passionate enthusiasm.


26. What do you most value in your friends? 

Playfulness and loyalty.


27. Who are your favorite writers? 

I read so much, that there are too many to list, but also too few that truly stand out.


28. Who is your hero of fiction? 

I don't really believe in heroes, but I liked how the Hermione Granger character was written.


29. Which historical figure do you most identify with? 

Carl Sagan


30. Who are your heroes in real life? 

To me, there is no such thing as a hero, but I like people who tend to have moments of lucid insight and exhibit fearless integrity. Even heroes are vulnerable and human.


31. What are your favorite names? 

The names we gave our kids. We thought long and hard about those.


32. What is it that you most dislike? 

Greed.


33. What is your greatest regret? 

Spending so much of my life working extremely hard for arseholes.


34. How would you like to die? 

Peacefully


35. What is your motto? 

Imagine, invent, inspire, create, encourage, enlighten and edify.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

file under 'will never be published' (no. 11)

It's been a while.

I'm very rusty at writing at the moment, which leaves me feeling particularly rickety. Feeling rickety is fine if you're a swing or a gate, I suspect, but as a human being (at least, I think I still qualify as one of those), it's not the most pleasant feeling. One feels one could fall down at any moment, and falling down is not an option, so ...


File Under 'Will Never Be Published' (no. 11): The First Cold Read

Background: There is a fun short story competition I used to enter from time to time. I won it once --this was another entry for the same competition. The contest no longer exists, which is a shame. It was good fun.

For this particular month, the entrants were provided the opening phrase, “I looked into her eyes and I could see the anger that she was fighting to contain, but then …”. I don't know why, but the phrasing bothered me. The entire short story came from improvising after that initial annoyance. Writers get their inspiration from odd places sometimes. I get my inspiration from odd places sometimes. There's nothing wrong with odd, but there may be something wrong with run-on sentences.



The First Cold Read


“I looked into her eyes and I could see the anger that she was fighting to contain, but then …”
“Run-on.”
“What?”
“You’ve got, like, three sentences going there. It’s a run-on.”
“Fine. I looked into her eyes. Stop. I could see the anger that she was fighting to contain. Stop. But then …”
“That should be a comma. It was only two sentences.”
“What should be a comma?”
“I could see the anger that she was fighting to contain, comma, but then.”
She stared at him.
“Fine. I looked into her eyes. Stop. I could see the anger that she was fighting to contain, comma, but then …”
“Don’t you feel like this has been done before. I mean, it’s a cliché, isn’t it? The guy does the wrong thing, the woman gets angry at him but keeps it all in, the guy realizes it too late ...”
“It’s not a cliché. It’s a common conflict, and stories need conflict.”
“Yeah, but it’s the easy way, isn’t it?”
“You know what? Never mind. I’m going to work on the story. I needed to edit it before I read it to you, anyway.”
She began to turn in the chair.
“No, it’s good. Keep going. I want to be supportive. Go on.”
She stopped.
“Okay. I looked into her eyes. I could see the anger that she was fighting to contain, but then …”
“Do you need to use the word ‘that’?”
“What?”
“I could see the anger that she was fighting to contain. Does ‘that’ need to be there? I could see the anger she was fighting to contain makes sense, even without ‘that’. Saves you a word.”
“Okay …”
She hit the delete key with excessive force four times.
“Is everything okay, honey?”
“Mmhm. Why do you ask?”
“You seem upset.”
“Upset? No. Why would I be upset?”
“I don’t know. You wanted to read me what you wrote, and I’m listening, but you seem upset.”
“No, I’m fine. I think I’m going to do some editing.”
“But you wanted to read me what you wrote. Are you sure?”
“We can do it later.”
“Okay. You’re going to edit, right?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You said you were going to edit.”
“Yeah, so then why did you ask if I was going to edit? Are you saying it’s bad?”
“No! I was just asking! Wow. You know what? I’m going to go watch some TV.”
She watched as he walked through the doorway.
Once she heard the TV turn on in the other room, she turned to face the computer again and began to type:

I looked into her eyes. I could see the anger she was fighting to contain, but then, suddenly, I met with a fortunate accident; it was fortunate I had the accident, or else, she would have killed me.


Monday, September 11, 2017

are you your disability?

"Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. An impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations." 


-the person who makes up definitions for the World Health Organization


I think about disability a lot. Why? I just do. Pretty sure many people don't think about it at all, so maybe I'm overcompensating? Somebody's got to think about it, right?

Tonight, I'm thinking about it in terms of labels and identity.

What is a "disabled person"? Looking at the WHO definition above, a person with a disability has an impairment (or health condition) of some kind --cognitive, sensory, motor, etc. There is generally something the person can't do as a result of the impairment. Sometimes that thing the person can't do is an activity; sometimes, it's more broad participation in life type stuff. There are disabilities based in chronic conditions, or that come and go with conditions that improve and worsen at various times, or that are based in parts of the body that are missing, or that there are too many of, or so on and so forth. Disabilities can be based in genetics, or they can be based in something that happened yesterday. Disability is a very complex thing.

It's hard to think about people being defined in terms of what they can't do. To be defined by one part of who you are as a person, and for that part to be something that isn't [fill in the blank] enough? It seems overly restrictive.

That's when we wander over toward differently abled and "I don't see the disability". In its own way, this seems restrictive, too. Don't stare. We don't talk about that. Move along --there's nothing to see here.

I'm all for treating people like people. I'm all for acknowledging differences. I'm all for identifying ways in which we are the same. 

And I'm all for listening when you communicate about what's important to you. You may or may not be your disability. More than likely, it's not an either-or thing.

I'll let you decide.