i’m thankful for something i’m learning at work.  i’m a great listener and that’s a good asset to me as a therapist.  but i’ve come to the realization that listening is not the single most important part of therapy.  i have to have the background knowledge and training of course, i have to know what to look for.  yes, that’s important, too.

to backtrack, i’ve just been through a phase of feeling kind of incompetent:  i’m great at building rapport.  people feel accepted by me, they get comfortable, they like being with me.  but most people don’t wanna show you their ass, they want you to stroke their egos while they do a super job being a rose-colored representation of themselves.  i’m good at the ego stroking, but have felt stuck when trying to figure out what i can do about it.

i’m laughing to myself right now because what i want to say seems so obtuse, so not something that you normally affirm as a good thing.  but sometimes, as a therapist, i need to stir the pot, manipulate, mess things up a little bit so i can see why this sweet little carefully crafted mask sitting across from me is really here.

that’s my job.  that’s what i’m there for.  crazy!

i like when things get interesting.  last week i had a father and son who had been the perfect image of family cooperation flip out when i was laughing at the son’s solution to dealing with bullies (“say some yo mama jokes”).  and then today i had to whoop this little 9 year old girl’s ass at checkers so she would stop acting like the perfect little angel trying to convince me she didn’t have a dark side that her mom can’t handle.  she messed up the board, used verbal trickery and smoke and mirrors to try to convince me that her last move was three moves, and tried to force me to move my king-me blockers so that she could start winning again.  she showed me her ass!  now we can get somewhere.

i’m starting to remember why this job is awesome!

birthing a baby

when i went back to finish my undergrad in 2007, i had a really hard time sitting down to write papers. looking back i can see that it was a lot of anxiety, poor organizational and time management skills, and perfectionism. basically i was expecting to turn out a perfect first draft on the night before class. i’m a good writer and i knew that, but i wasn’t allowing myself the time it took to put some ideas down, step away, rework them, step away, come back, etc. as i began to learn how to do that, it became much more fulfilling and a source of pride to write good papers. it was around that time that i began to think about papers as birthing a baby. it’s all inside of me, based on everything i have learned and processed, it just needs to come out. not a perfect analogy, but it works for me.

i’m in the process of birthing my last big baby paper – my master’s thesis. i can honestly say i’ve been working on it since last fall. though come to think of it, it’s been a lifetime in the making. i’ve chosen a subject close to my heart: mixed-race identity development. right now i’ve got about 38 of the required 45 pages written, it’s really getting close. of course i’ve walked away several times, sometimes for months at a time. and that’s what it takes. getting really deep into it, and then getting some perspective. i’m really proud of it. i love that at this stage in education, you follow your interest and try to create some new thoughts, ideas, connections. so in thinking through my own experience, what i would’ve liked, and what i need now, i get to research and make connections and put my perspective into a big piece of work, a labor of love. and it’s almost done, i’m so excited!



today i’m grateful for the power of friendship.  i’m really, really lucky in that department!  i have a number of lifelong friends who are there for me when i need them.  yesterday a friend and i just went to the gym and had lunch but it totally renewed me.  alfred adler talks about social interest, and it has become very important to me.  people are social beings no matter how they may claim it’s not true.  for a person with hermit tendencies, especially when times get rough, it’s good to have proof again and again that connecting with a friend can change my whole perspective.  i’m really thankful for that today!

keep it together anyway.

in the season finale of greys, everything falls apart, the situation is just unreal.  meredith wants to lose her shit really bad, and christina tells her to keep it together anyway.

it’s the motto of this time for me.

it’s cervical cancer again for my aunt.  they had to give her a gastric bypass to give her a way to eat since a tumor was blocking her the route from stomach to intestine.  she stayed in the hospital nearly 2 weeks after that operation waiting for this new route out of her stomach to start working.  it was kind of a holding pattern, maybe even a weirdly merciful way to give us time to process the idea that she’s going to die.  in the hospital she could be taken care of, have the social workers talk to her about different options, give her time to decide if she’ll go back to work, retire, what will happen as far as insurance, income, life.

the first time around with cancer was incredibly difficult for my aunt.  the treatments laid her out, she has different allergies to medicine, and her body heals differently than others typical heal.  it was nearly unbearable for her to get through it the first time.  many times over the phone or when we would visit, she would exclaim through bitter, pitiful, heart wrenching tears that she didn’t think she could do this.  it was terrible to watch, i can’t imagine what it was to go through that.

at that time, i stayed drunk.  i was convinced she was going to die at cancer diagnosis.  my uncle, her husband, had died in 2005 after beating his own cancer.  it’s not always the cancer that gets you.  it’s what can happen to your weakened body and its systems afterwards.  so in my consistently drunken haze i prepared melodramatically for her death.  and she didn’t die.  there have been a few scares since.  i would get all worked up along with her.  but eventually i made a decision for myself, in many areas outside of this, not to pre-mourn.  just wait for the actual test results before you freak out.

the results are in, it’s time to freak out.  and i allow it, at the right times.  i cry like a baby sometimes.  the shock is wearing off some now.  i think at this point she has decided not to seek any treatment.  i don’t blame her.  she says the doctors must think she’s crazy, declining to try new medications and experiement with treatments.  but i admire her.  there’s something very lovely and powerful about taking your life back into your own hands.  she says, and i agree, that it’s kind of ridiculous the way technology prolongs life these days.  and what would her quality of life be anyway if she’s recovering from treatments with no guarantee of it helping (second round of cervical cancer doesn’t have a very high recovery rate).  so we’ll see what happens.  in 2 weeks she’ll go back to the oncologist and see what they have to say.  in the meantime, my cousin has decided to get married this summer, so we’ll have something happy to look forward to.

life is so different from one month ago.  thinks can change in a heartbeat.  another month from now, i’ll be done with grad school, there will be a wedding around the corner, and i don’t know how my aunt will be.  originally they gave her 3-4 months from diagnosis.  we’ll have to see.  we didn’t know whether to tell grama, she can’t hear at all anymore so it wasn’t a moral so much as physical dilemma.  i went to visit her on her birthday last week.  i brought flowers and gave her a manicure.  being there, telling her about my aunt didn’t cross my mind because it just wasn’t a possibility – we can’t communicate anymore.  she talks and i nod or shake my head.  this lack of communication frustration soared to new heights when grama leaned over to me, twice, and asked if i knew that she was planning to kill herself.  since she can’t hear me, all i could do is go numb and shake my head.  she has no means or ability, but what a fucked up thing to say.

keep it together anyway.

i’m doing my best.  the good times have me practicing excellent self care:  eat right, run, go to work, give only what i can, get enough sleep, text, call, visit, do it again.  worse times i watch endless hours of tv while playing games to keep my mind occupied, eat shitty, shove off exercise, text back, hermit, sloth, numbness.  get up the next morning and try again.  i’m thankful to be going through this without alcohol.  it would only be worse, more melodramatic, and guilt-ridden on top of that.  so i focus on feeling sometimes and not feeling other times.  getting my work done, going to class, working on papers.  keep it together anyway.  it’s amazing how one foot still goes in front of the other.  life goes on.

the circle of life can kiss my ass

(from 5/7/12)

i have a nearly 94 year old grama and i certainly thought she would be next.  we got the terrible news yesterday that the stomach blockage that brought my aunt to the hospital last week is cancer, most likely a recurrence of cervical cancer.  hundreds of tiny massess are all over her stomach and intestines.  it’s not operable, we’re waiting for a biopsy to see how treatable it might be, but it’s not looking hopeful.  she’s 58.  she’s like my second mom.

i don’t like goodbyes.  i try to avoid them.  i outrun them whenever possible.  i cried every day for a week over leaving my last job, saying goodbyes little by little to my coworkers at the restaurant.  the thought of a long goodbye makes me want to vomit.

yesterday sitting with my aunt when she got the news, all the thoughts that go through my mind…  be strong.  fuck strong, be real.  cry.  it’s ok.  be there for her. be present myself.  cry uncontrollably.  swollen eyes and face.  cry some more.  stop crying.  laugh.  make a joke.  laugh together.  cry together.  call my mom.  watch her tell her kids.  cry some more.  listen to her make plans.  wonder what’s going to happen.  why is this happening?  i hate this.  why her?  what am i going to do?  what’s going to happen to our family?  i’m going to lose grama, too.  i’m the only one left who’s gonna take care of business.  how am i going to watch her die?  listen to her apologize for leaving us.  watch her cry.  cry some more.  i fucking hate this.  if i ever get married and have kids, they’re not gonna know auntie barb.  my cousins are losing both their parents before mid twenties, before marriage, before kids.

i’m very sensitive sometimes to the passage of time, watching life.  i feel it so deeply sometimes, just observing it.  sometimes it’s lovely.  and sometimes it just fucking blows.