Friday, November 29, 2013


I consider myself a recovering perfectionist.  I don't think I can ever be cured of it, but I do what I can to keep this part from causing me unnecessary suffering.

Perfectionists come in many varieties.  I am not the type that is meticulous about my appearance or my house.  I don't spend hours on assignments or projects trying to get everything just right.  I am more of the variety that cannot tolerate failing, being terrible at something, or making a mistake. 

I was one of those annoying students who thought that a C was failing.  I didn't get many of them, but when I did I cried hysterically to my professor, begging for some way to redeem myself.  To this day, I think back on the one C I got in college and think, wow I wonder how my life would have been different if had I at least gotten a B in Anthropology.  And then the voice of reality kicks in and reminds me that it wouldn't have made any difference.

It's hard for me to do something I'm terrible at.  I once went bowling and played two games.  In the first game I scored a 16 and in the second one I scored a 31.  I'm pretty sure that most 5 year olds could score better than that.  And I'm sure that with practice I could improve my average.  But the thought of doing something where I am at risk of embarrassing myself is too anxiety-provoking, and it's easier to choose something that I'm good at like tennis.

Making a mistake--particularly one where I am chastised for doing something wrong--is the hardest of all.  As I indicated in a previous post, criticism sends me into a spiral of anxiety, self-doubt, and shame that far exceeds what might ordinarily be expected from the actual remark, which might be something as innocuous as "I thought that ball was in."  I never forget a mistake, and I try never to make the same mistake twice.

Blogging has been an opportunity to practice something that I do well--writing and talking about myself--along with something where I have no idea what I'm doing---promoting my blog.  While the writing part is going surprisingly well, the promoting part is a constant source of stress. 

For example, I did not realize that publishing multiple posts in a community in a short period of time constitutes spam, and when you do this the administer of the site will remove your posts.  Which means I broke the rules and have been punished accordingly.  Now I'm terrified of doing anything out of fear that I may unknowingly further violate protocol.

So I've decided to take a break from promotion and write a blog post instead.  This is the part I really like, anyway.  And I'm trying to remind myself that it is OK to make mistakes.  That no one knows what they're doing before they do it.  That it doesn't make me a bad person.  That I don't have to be perfect.

And then I took an Ativan, because that's what my psychiatrist told me to do when I'm having an anxiety attack.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


There was a time when I questioned whether miracles really occur.  I could not understand why God would intervene in some people's lives but not others in a way that appealed to my sense of justice.  Now I realize that you don't have to understand why for something to be true.

As I await my parents' arrival, I can't help but remember when they came to my house for Thanksgiving two years ago.  At the time, my mom was obsessed with learning how to type to prepare for the dreaded electronic medical records implementation. 

My dad was still in the midst of the worst depression he'd ever experienced.  He was somewhat better than he had been two years prior, but still a shell of the larger-than-life person I had known all my life.  Still, in his compromised state he decided that he, too, would practice typing.  I was encouraged by this, because in his darker moments he barely had the motivation to exist.

Several hours later, he asked me for help.  When I looked at what he was working on, I saw that he had been trying to log on to his email account all of that time.  I wanted to cry.  But at the same time, I admired his determination to master the computer, even though he was no longer practicing medicine and did not have to worry about electronic medical records, and even though his cognitive abilities were greatly diminished. 

I write a lot of blog posts about my affinity for challenges.  It is definitely something that has been instilled in me by my parents, whose favorite motivational poster says "Don't quit."  On that day two years ago I was thankful that the depression had not destroyed my dad's fight.  He was still a warrior, albeit a wounded one.

Last year around Thanksgiving, somehow the depression completely lifted after 3 years, even though nothing had changed in his meds.  It's as though his personality finally broke through and he was exactly the way he had always been, which was essentially in a sustained hypomanic state.  It was truly like seeing someone come back to life. 

These days, he is constantly on FB, commenting on people's pictures and posting copies of every photo album my parents own.  In fact, the only reason he is not on FB right now is because he is on his way to Knoxville.

My dad's recovery is nothing short of a miracle, and every time I think of him I say a prayer of thanks--even though he tells me that I need to lose weight and gives me appetite suppressants.  Actually, he read that post, so now he tells me I look good.  So I'm thankful for blogs, too!

And wouldn't you know that my parents showed up right as I finish this blog post.  God has perfect timing. 

I even have a picture for you today.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Inner Critic

While I spend a lot of my time with the drill sergeant, the inner critic is my constant companion.  The two of them are great friends and they often like to show up together:  the drill sergeant will tell me what I should be doing, and the inner critic will give a running commentary of what a terrible job I'm doing.

Take this morning, for example.  I finally felt well enough to get out of bed and eat, so I was looking forward to making some coffee and oatmeal.  I even had enough energy last night to do the dishes.  One of the dishes was that plate that goes in the microwave that lets the food rotate while it cooks. 
So I was putting that plate back in the microwave, and I guess I must have hit the front glass on the door because the entire glass panel shattered, spraying shards everywhere. 

The inner critic had a field day with this.  Look at what you've done!  You're so uncoordinated, you can't even put the plate in the microwave without destroying the whole thing.  Now you have to clean up all the glass and you better make sure there isn't a single shard anywhere.  And now you're going to have to buy a new microwave so don't think that you have any spending money this month.

I am trying to practice acceptance of this part of myself but this one is tough because it just seems abusive.  It seems like the inner critic wants me to be perfect so that nothing bad ever happens, but that doesn't make me feel any compassion toward it.  I guess I need to think about this one some more.

The best I have been able to do is to channel my inner optimist to counteract the inner critic.  I've needed her a lot the last few days since I've been sick at home alone with no one to check on me.  Plus now I have two light bulbs out, so my place is even darker than it was last weekend.

So the optimist jumps right in whenever the inner critic talks and says things like, well at least the glass didn't get in your eyes and blind you.  Or you could have gotten cut badly and had to go to the emergency room.  And now you have a good excuse to call your friend over to change your light bulbs because he will have to install the microwave, too.  So really it all worked out for the best. 

Tomorrow I'm going microwave shopping.  I've talked to my friend and he's going to come over next Sunday and play handyman for me.  And I finally felt well enough today to play tennis and even had dinner with a friend.  All in all, after a shaky start, it ending up being a pretty good day.

So take that, inner critic!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Meet the Drill Sergeant

I am now about to introduce you to one of my most challenging parts.  I call this part the drill sergeant.  Many of you may have a similar part.  My drill sergeant demands productivity at all costs, and not in a nice way.

I am not a morning person, as I indicated in my first post.  The drill sergeant doesn't give a crap.  He (I think of it as a he) doesn't give a crap if it's a weekend, either; he still wants me to get up.  I don't listen to him, of course, but I pay the price.  For every extra hour of sleep I try to get, the drill sergeant yells at me, telling me how other people are up doing normal people productive things, while I am lying in bed wasting my life away. 

It doesn't matter if I don't have anything pressing to do.  The drill sergeant will make up random to do lists as though these things are of the utmost importance.  You need to wash those bath mats! There are scraps of paper all over the house that need to be put in the recycling!  I'm pretty sure there's a mug in the sink that needs to be washed!  Get up!

I have been sick for the last few days, which is very frustrating for the drill sergeant.  I always get sick at this time of the year because, despite my best attempts to manage the stress of my job, I still get exhausted and can't function.  The drill sergeant is frustrated because I was just two days from making it to Thanksgiving break, but I had to miss a day of work, anyway.  And I have to say, that frustrates me, too.  But what can I do?  I don't even feel like playing tennis.  Or eating!  If you know me, you know that's bad.

In my efforts to practice self-acceptance, I'm trying to get to know the drill sergeant better, understand his point of view.  I can see how he's trying to prevent me from a life of sloth-hood.  And I do have to wake up early to get to work.  And sometimes you really do need your drill sergeant, like when you have to channel your inner warrior on the tennis court.

So I've struck a deal with my drill sergeant.  As long as I am waking up when I need to, fulfilling my obligations, and being a productive member of society, he can be at ease.  But I have promised to call upon him when I am in need of some ass-kicking motivation. 

So far, it seems to be working.

This doodle reflects my less positive emotional state at the moment.  I think it looks like some kind of scary octopus with floating eyeballs, albeit in pretty colors.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Today I was looking for blogs on self-acceptance that are similar to mine, and there really aren't any.  Interestingly, most self-acceptance blogs specifically deal with acceptance of your body.  Apparently that's the main thing people have trouble with.  I guess I'm in the right business. 

Anyway, I realized that the phrase self-acceptance only appears once in my entire blog, and that's in the little blurb on the top of the first page, so I figured I better correct that.  This probably should have been the first post, but oh well.  Better late than never.

I believe that, no matter how well-adjusted someone is, everyone has a part of them that tries to make them feel bad about themselves.  Call this part what you want--your inner demon, your inner critic, your superego--but there's no question that it's there.  And there are lots of other parts of us, too--children, warriors, and rock stars, just to name a few.  And just like in real relationships, sometimes these parts don't get along.

We are often at war with ourselves: there are parts of us that we do everything in our power to get rid of and hide from the rest of the world.  That's why people want and fear therapy at the same time.  On the one hand, we think, hey wouldn't it be great if I told someone my deep, dark secrets and she said I wasn't crazy?  But at the same time we think, but what if she does think I'm crazy? That would be terrible.  That's why it's always a courageous thing when someone goes to therapy.

Therapists have the luxury of hiding behind their professional status if they want to.  You don't want to seem too crazy, or no one will want to come see you.  But if you seem too perfect, then it's hard for clients to relate to you.  Although I want to be transparent, I know I err on the side of seeming perfect because it feels safer that way.

But as I get older,  I want to be more honest about who I am and accepting of all my flaws, and I want to do this in a way that inspires other people do the same.  It's always better to show someone how to do something than it is to tell them how to do it, so that's why I started this blog. 

Sometimes it's still terrifying to publish some of these posts, but when someone tells me that they  related to one them, that they think just like I do, then I know I'm doing the right thing.

Since some of you liked my last doodle, I thought I'd post another one for you.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


I am about to share with you my most shameful flaw so please don't judge me.  And this post isn't that funny.  (Although I always think I'm kind of funny, even when I'm being serious).  But it's the truth, so I have to say it.

I have been in a relationship non-stop since I was 14.  That's 30 years of relationships, and not just to one person.  So no pearls for me. ( That's the 30 year anniversary gift, in case you didn't know.  I just looked it up.)  And sometimes the relationships were slightly overlapping towards the end.  And often they were not very good relationships.  And I knew this at the time, but I stayed in them, anyway.

In my defense, the marriages were both relationships with two very good guys, but that doesn't guarantee that a relationship will work, as I indicated in my previous blog.  But most of the other relationships were not very good.   I stayed in them because 1) I'm drawn to guys who need psychological help and 2) I am terrified of being alone and am in need of psychological help myself.  My attitude was that something was better than nothing.  I didn't have any empirical evidence to support this, but that's how fear is:  it feels true, even when it's not.

So in addition to channeling all of my energy into my long-standing dream of becoming a writer, I have also decided to be alone for the first time. 

A lot of my married friends say, oh I would love to be alone.  I look forward to the times when my husband and kids are not in the house.  I, too, appreciated my alone time when I was in a relationship.  But it's different when you go home and no one will be there, and you don't know if or when someone will ever be there.

It's different when you could fall and hurt your back and not be able to reach your phone and call for help and people might not notice that you haven't been around until you stop showing up to work for a few days.  Then they would have to send someone down to find you because you're not answering your phone.  That's not the same thing as having a break from your husband and kids at all.

Last night I tried to change one of the flood lights in my bedroom, but I couldn't reach it.  I tried to use that thingy that allows you to reach light bulbs that are really high up but the floodlight was too big.  I probably wouldn't have been able to get the thingy to work, anyway.  I considered getting out the ladder but that would definitely result in bodily injury and/or death.  I don't want to call one of my guy friends and ask them to come over and change one light bulb, so I'll probably have to wait until several bulbs burn out and exist in semi-darkness in the meantime.

Don't get me wrong--I know that in the grand scheme of things, I'm a very lucky person.  I have a loving family and a great group of friends, I can support myself and I love my job, I have a nice place, and I am hopeful that at some point another relationship opportunity will present itself.  Still, there's no amount of self-talk that can change the fact that sometimes it sucks to be alone.

I'm a big proponent of learning how to sit with negative feelings.  This is what I tell my clients all the time.  I'm often amazed that they start doing it because I tell them to.  Sometimes they're better at it than I am.  I'm amazed that I can give them the courage to break up with their boyfriend or girlfriend, even though they were terrified of doing so.  At those times I think, why is it that I can help them do it but not myself?  It doesn't work to be your own therapist, apparently.

But now I'm ready.  I'm going to face sadness and loneliness and fear if it kills me.  I am going to find out whether or not it's true that it's better to be in a bad relationship than none at all.  Obviously it's not true, but like I said, fear is not always logical. 

And it's going OK so far.  Sometimes it does suck, but it's not as bad as I thought it would be.  Because when I was in a bad relationship, I still felt sad and lonely and afraid, but I also beat myself up for staying in a relationship just because I was afraid of being alone.  It's much better without that last part.

The thing I miss the most is having someone to talk to--someone to share how my day went, to talk about the book I'm reading, or to share any deep and meaningful revelations I've had.  But now that I have this blog, I have all of you to listen to me.  And that helps a lot. 

And you know what else?  My neighbor called me this morning to check on me because she hadn't seen me in awhile and wanted to make sure I was OK.  I was afraid she was going to tell me she hit my car or accidentally opened my mail again or try to get me to come to church with her, because those are reasons she has called in the past.  But no.  She was checking on me.

I take that as a sign that God is looking out for me.

I read this blog that said that if you want to get people to read your blog you should have photos to keep it interesting and not to use other people's work.  I'm not sure how you take a picture of solitude, so I thought I would post one of my doodles from last night.  Please don't judge my drawing, either.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Unlike the men in my family who can draw and sculpt and make replicas of batman masks out of construction paper, I am not artistically-inclined.  I can't even draw a straight line.  Or a round circle.  I knit, but you just have to follow a pattern.  And I make jewelry, but for some reason I don't think that counts, either.  And I was an English major and love to write, but I don't think I'm creative enough to write a novel, so I just write about myself. 

This past weekend I went to an eating disorders conference because that's what I specialize in.  This year I decided to do all the touchy-feely workshops rather than the research ones.  My favorite workshop was the one on art therapy.  We had to do 6 different drawings of a bunch of doodles.  Then we had to pick the 2 that we felt the most strongly about.  Then we had to tear out the shape of our body for the #1 pick and glue it to the #2 pick.  This was supposed to tell us something about ourselves.

I'm all about symbolic expression, but I was a little skeptical that this exercise could reveal anything meaningful about me.  But then she showed us examples of self-portraits from eating disordered patients, and it was remarkable how much they revealed their struggles with their bodies, food, and emotions.  Then she asked for volunteers to show their art work.

Ordinarily I would be too self-conscious to show my work, even if it is just a bunch of doodles.  But Ibo really wanted to get some feedback about my self-portrait.  I thought that it might have something to do with being stressed out, since there was so much going on outside of me in the picture--almost like colorful asteroids knocking me over.  And I had just gotten the rejection email minutes before the workshop, so I figured that must have played a role, but I wasn't sure how.

After the workshop I asked her for some feedback, and then I spent some time looking at my self-portrait.  I can't explain how I came to this conclusion, but the drawing made me realize that I needed to stop doing the freelance writing job--which really fascinates me.

Maybe creativity is like athleticism:  we think it's some innate ability that we either have or we don't, but maybe it's possible to get better at it.  She recommended that we take time out every day to play by doodling pictures, and I thought that was a great idea. I have been doing it every night before I go to bed. If there's any chance that it can help me get my blog turned into a book by enhancing my creativity, then I'm all for it!  I have no idea whether it's working, but it does make me feel like a kid again.

I am so proud of my self-portrait that I've shown it to a few friends, and one of them said that it's multicolored/multifaceted, like me.  I really love that interpretation!  I am open to other interpretations, too, if you have one.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


I captained 5 tennis leagues this year, which most people would describe as an exercise in torture.  Rescheduling matches is a pain, and it's hard to make everyone happy, but for the most part I enjoy it.  I see it as an opportunity to be a sports psychologist. 

One of the messages I try to instill is the idea that, just as we all have inner children (Sophie, for me) we also have an inner warrior.  Granted, some warriors are more deeply buried and out of shape than others.  For those players on the team, we have the Warrior in Training program (WIT).  A good time to channel your inner warrior is when there is a crucial point, like serving at 30-40 at 3-3. 

The levels of warriorism have evolved over the years.  Last year I had an asthma attack during a singles match.  I'd had a few of them before but I just assumed I was out of shape.  But my friends saw that my lips turned blue and I was wheezing, so after the match they told me I was having an asthma attack and that I should have retired.  It was this match that made me finally go to the doctor, which is how I found out that, in addition to allergies and exercise-induced asthma, I also have GERD. 

For these reasons, I no longer play singles.  But at the time, I just thought I needed an extra-strength dose of warriorism.   I channeled my inner drill sergeant (we all have one of those, too) and started yelling at myself:  soldiers in the jungles of Vietnam didn't get to quit.  They had to deal with fatigue and lack of sleep and mosquitos and rain and fear of getting killed.  So what if you can't breathe?  So what if you're losing?  So what if you can't move?  You still have to finish the match!

My friends thought is was so funny that I used soldiers in the jungles of Vietnam for motivation that this became our new rally cry.  Before a team mate got on the court, we would yell "jungles of Vietnam!"  Later this got abbreviated to jungles for short.  I even got my team mates pins to put on their tennis bags with the word JUNGLES on it in an army-looking font. 

I also found some monkeys and apes, so I bought those, too.  I would have preferred a variety of jungle animals, but it was pretty amazing that they sold apes and monkeys at all, with exactly 12 per pack--one for each team member.  Even more amazing is that I was able to pick a monkey that represented each player.  So then our rally cry became ape and monkey calls for those team members who can imitate them.  I can't so I still yell jungles.

The last level of warriorism is when you are in the trenches of the jungles of Vietnam.  This would apply when you've lost the first set and are down match point in the second set.  Or when you haven't slept in over 24 hours and have to play at districts in the deciding match, which happened to me this past summer.  Because it requires you to channel so deeply, this level should only be used in dire circumstances.

I remember at the end of that match, after mentally preparing myself for battle the entire day and spending a good amount of time in the trenches, I was shocked that we still ended up losing.   Then I realized that in war, there are warriors on both sides, and half of them will lose.  In fact, a bunch of warriors on the winning side will get killed, too.  So it's not a fail-proof strategy.

Still, if I'm going to be in the trenches, I'd rather be there with my warrior in charge than any other part.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hard Core Fan

I often get asked why it doesn't depress me to listen to people's problems all day.  I guess it's because I find people's stories fascinating--a puzzle to solve.  And I genuinely enjoy getting to know someone who is ready to deal with their problems.  It takes courage to acknowledge that you need help and to do something about it.

But probably the biggest reason why it doesn't depress me is because I am an optimist.  I believe people can change, can make their lives better.  This comes in handy when you're following a losing team.

My brothers and I are avid UVA fans because we went there.  It's different to be committed to a team because you went there or because they're from your state than when you choose a team because they're good.  Anyone can cheer for a winning team.  Being a hard core fan, on the other hand, takes dedication, patience, and optimism.

One of my brothers is such a hard core fan that before the game he spends weeks researching the stats of our team and of our opponents, checking out the scouting report, the spread, comparing how our offense matches up to their defense and vice versa.  And he always has these grand predictions for the season.  In fact, it borders on being delusional, but in a good way.

For example, this year he predicted that we would be 8-5, which includes a win at a bowl game.  At best, we will win 3 games, and that will require some divine intervention to win the last one since we're clearly so sucky.  I remember one year when we had a similar season, he had an epiphany as we watched another loss.  He turned to me and said, "you know, I'm beginning to think we're not that good." 

This year as we sat through the Duke game, which we lost splendidly in the 4th quarter, in the midst of frustrated fans cursing our coach and quarterback as they exited the bleachers, there was one woman who perkily said "see you next week!" to the usher on the way out.  My brother and I were struck by how unfazed she was by the loss.  We realized that we had briefly waivered in our faith in our team and channeled another source of optimism to motivate us to have hope that we could win the next weekend.

And then we lost again.  And again.  And again. 

We had another conversation about that perky woman and concluded that she must live in Charlottesville, so she could afford to be optimistic because it probably only took her at most 30 minutes to get to the game since there is no traffic and no problem parking.  We, on the other hand, had to drive 2-3 hours, spend money on gas and food, and make the long drive home in a bad mood. 

Still, my brothers and I plan on going to the showdown against Tech on Thanksgiving weekend.  I'm prepared to throw some punches if necessary to avenge any negative comments launched against my team in the event of a loss.

And if we end up being 2-10, then I can take comfort in the fact that basketball season has begun, and we're supposed to be good at that.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Learning from the Past

You know how you keep making the same mistakes over and over again, even though you know it's the wrong choice?  Freud called this the repetition compulsion:  we're replaying some past conflict in an attempt to master it.  These days neuroscientists talk about well-worn neural pathways that were formed early in life.  No matter what theory you use to explain it, there's no question that it happens.  And while it's possible to break these patterns, it takes a lot of effort to do so.

I found out that my second article was rejected for publication.  I'm not used to failing, so it was a bit of a blow.  But unlike the first time, instead of rushing to eradicate this blemish on my record, I decided to do nothing.

And then I thought about how many hours I've spent writing these dumbed down relationship articles for less than minimum wage.  Ordinarily I would keep trying to prove that I can do it, I can give them what they want.  And I could master the art of answering questions like, "What do you do if your boyfriend is mean?" Or "What's a cute text I could send to a shy girl to let her know that I like her?"  But why?  It's torturous to give such superficial advice.

So I made an unprecedented decision:  I decided to cut my losses right away.  Me, the person who climbs psychological mountains for fun, knits complicated patterns, finishes tennis matches when I'm having an asthma attack.

I finally get what they mean by the phrase "pick your battles."  I always thought it just referred to being selective about the things that you want to argue about.  Now I understand that it means that you have to save your energy for the things that are worth fighting for.

I have always spent my energy fighting for other people--my friends, my family, my clients, my romantic partners, random people who ask me for advice when they find out I'm a psychologist.  For the first time in my life, I've decided that I'm worth fighting for, so I'm just going to focus on what's best for me.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Body Image

When I was 0-22 years old, I never worried about my weight.  I was naturally thin and my parents were always telling me that I ate like a bird.  But then something happened when I graduated from college:  my clothes no longer fit.

At first I thought, no big deal.  I'll just start exercising, since I never did.  But I continued to gain weight.  So then I thought, I'll just exercise every day and watch what I eat.  Still gained weight, but more slowly.  Finally, I resorted to obsessing about being fat 24-7, exercising every day, and watching what I ate.  Again, very slow weight gain plus a lot of suffering.  Maybe my metabolism started slowing down at 23.

Ironically, all of that time that I was gaining weight, I was still pretty thin.  Until I reached 40.  Now I look like I thought I did all of those years that I obsessed about being fat.  I know I'm not fat, but I've gained enough weight that my dad told me that I needed to eat less and he mailed me some appetite suppressants.  And I would still like to lose weight, although I'm not as motived as I was when I was younger. 

I specialize in eating disorders so I never do fad diets, starve myself, throw up, or anything else that would make me a poor role model.  Plus I love food.  So here are the middle-aged strategies I've tried for weight loss, based on effectiveness:

Not Effective:
  • Buy a gym membership and never use it.  I know a lot of people do this, but I obsess about money and I used to go to the gym every day, so I really thought it might work for me.
  • Obsess all day about exercising and when you get home fall asleep on the couch instead. 
  • Try to eat the recommended 1500 calories for weight loss and then binge at the end of the day because you're starving.
  • Stare at your gut in the mirror every time you go to the bathroom.
  • Eat fast food for dinner because you hate grocery shopping and cooking.
  • Play tennis as many times a week as your body will allow. 
  • Use a pedometer and obsess about getting steps.
  • Don't look in the mirror.
  • Don't look at any pictures or videos of yourself and only take head shots.
  • Look at pictures of other people your age who have gained weight so that you realize that this is just a part of getting older.
  • Cut 500 calories out of your 3,000 calorie diet.
  • Go on the GERD diet where you have to cut out all of the things you love to eat and avoid eating 3 hours before bedtime and before exercising. 
I am happy to say that I'm slowly losing weight at the rate of about .25 pounds every 2 months.  No one is going to use me as a poster child for weight loss, but as I say to my clients, something is better than nothing.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Can Love Conquer All?

My first writing assignment was accepted for publication!  Woo hoo!  I have to say, this is a lot like writing papers for English classes in college--something you wouldn't think someone would willingly subject themselves to for a measly $2.50 an hour. 

Here is the link to the article:

I did not write any personal info in this article, so I will give you some background on how I came to the conclusion that love is not enough to overcome any obstacle in a relationship. 

My first husband and I were very much in love.  I'm not sure I will ever love someone else as much as I loved him.  The odds were stacked against us--he used to refer to himself as a poor, half-breed bastard--but neither of us was the type of person to shy away from a challenge.  There were many people who thought that our relationship wouldn't last, but there were also a lot of people who thought we were the ideal couple.  We worked very hard to save our marriage, but in the end love wasn't enough.

It was a sad lesson to learn, since I have always been a romantic.  I believed that differences in race, class, religion, and family background didn't matter, that stereotypes weren't true, and that even though you had a crazy childhood with lots of traumatic events, you could still have a healthy relationship as an adult as long as you loved each other.  And maybe those things are still possible, but they haven't been possible for me.

But I'm not sorry that we tried.  I'm not sorry that we got married.  I believe that love is a gift, and there are no guarantees that you get to keep any gift forever.  Some people never get to experience the kind of love we had, and I got to have it for 12 years.  And for that I am still thankful.

And I am open to the possibility of loving someone like that again.  I am not going to close my heart off because of how painful it was to lose him.  Love may not be enough to conquer all, but it is still worth fighting for.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Housekeeper for a Day

I can see why parents say that having kids provides hours of entertainment--expensive entertainment if you ask me--but entertainment nonetheless.  That's one advantage of being an aunt: you get the entertainment for free.  Or at least at a reduced rate.

When my niece Sadie came up to visit last weekend she was obsessed about raising money for this school project in which her class was going to make a donation to some place in Africa so that they could build a well and have fresh water.  At first I thought she said a whale and I couldn't figure out how a whale could survive on fresh water in Africa, even with the most generous donations.

Rather than the usual route of selling candles and tin cans of popcorn, the kids are supposed to earn the money through performing chores, so Sadie was anxious to get back to my place and clean. In fact, she was so exited that she followed me into the bathroom when we got back, asking me for assignments.

So first I asked her to water the plants. I had to show her where the watering can was and she asked her dad to fill it with water and then I had to show her where all the plants were.

It took her less than a minute to water them.

Sadie:  What else can I do?

Me: You're done already?

Sadie: Yes.

Me:  Did you get the plants on the other wall?  (My brother points out the wall.)

Sadie:  Of course!  Now what can I do?  (I make a mental note to water the plants tomorrow.)

Me:  Why don't you put these magazines in the recycling bin? (I show her where the bags are and her dad shows her where the recycling bin is.)

Me:  You forgot a magazine.

Sadie:  I'll just stick it back in the magazine rack.

Me:  That's not really helping me.

Sadie:  I'm afraid to go in the garage.  It's dark and scary.  (I walk with her to the garage and turn on the light.)

Sadie:  Now what can I do?

By this point I realize that whatever task I give her is going to mean work for me so I'm reluctant to give her any more assignments.

Sadie:  I can cook you something.

Me:  What can you make?

Sadie:  I can get you a bowl of cereal.

Me:  That's ok. I'm not hungry.

Sadie:  I can vacuum.

The rug does need to be vacuumed.  But then I envision having to get the vacuum out, move the furniture, show her how to turn the vacuum on, help her push it, and then put everything back in its original place.  I'm too tired to vacuum so I hand her the Swiffer instead.

It takes her a minute to do my entire place.

Me:  Are you sure you got every room?

Sadie: Yes.

Me: What about this room, and this room?

Sadie:  Of course!

I'm not convinced she actually cleaned anything so she sweeps the living room again. She takes her time and does a better job.

Me:  You seem to be enjoying yourself.

Sadie:  Well I have to raise money for the poor!  Is there anything else I can do? This is fun.

By now I'm tired of cleaning so I give her the $5 and commend her for her noble goal. She runs to her dad and excitedly gives him the bill for safe keeping.  He is on Skype with his wife so Sadie tells her mom that she just raised money for building a well in Africa so that they can have fresh water.

I enjoyed being a part of her first lesson in being helpful to people in need and admired how she really took it to heart.  It was definitely entertaining, as well as good exercise.  And the memory of the housekeeping incident will keep me entertained until I see her again. All for the bargain price of $5.