"Sometimes the only power you have is to tell your story." -Evelyn Wilde

Friday, June 26, 2015

Love Wins

Hear Ye, Hear Ye! I can get a Pap Smear and Jeff and Steve can hire a caterer!!

What a week for Progressives. The Supreme Court made their decision on the side of justice, equality and kindness. The world seems like a better place.

Also in the news: Islamic Jihadists conducted attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait and nine peaceful souls were lain to rest near a church in South Carolina.

We couldn't even have a minute to celebrate, unburdened by the reality of  hate.

Why is the good and bad always a trade off?

Even in my favorite TV show, Orange is the New Black, the characters rapidly rise and fall between their best and worst selves; between that which is out of their control and that which they cannot abate within. It was as if the entire series was a study on the road to hell being paved with good intentions- and if you haven't seen it, do so right after you read this- what have you been waiting for?!

The yin and yang of life makes me wonder just how much is the law of the universe- the rough with the smooth- the balance of nature. And how much is us, struggling with change, clinging to what we know with a vice-like grip.

Change makes people scared. People can be scary. People live in piles of garbage, or hurt their own children, just to avoid change and stunt their own growth.

I've written before about the need to be right, and that arrogance certainly smacks of religious zealots of every denomination. But the sad and pathological acts of individuals, the hate rhetoric spewed by Republicans and Gun Rights advocates, that's not arrogance as much as delusional fear.

The killer in South Carolina, Dylann Root, was quoted as saying to his victims "You (Black People) are taking over this country." Clearly that opinion was not formulated with data. That was a point of view shaped by his community and family, by the common interest groups he aligned himself with, who portray the world through the lens of blame and paranoia.

Is it getting better? In so many ways it is.

Check this out, care of the Astrologer Rob Brezsny:

Big dairy company refuses milk from farmers who mistreat animals.

New Green Overpass Will Let Wildlife Cross 6 Lanes of Highway

Houston Nearly Halves Homeless Population In 4 Years

Or do you feel the same? Just turn on the TV or drive through Harrison, Arkansas with a rainbow flag and Hillary 2016 bumper stickers on your car. 

It's a blessing and a curse, this life of ours. As so many voices said today: "Love Wins"-- I just wish it didn't have to come at such a high cost to our humanity.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

You Can't Do That On Television

My earliest memory of television was when I was little girl living in Zambia.  I would sit too close to the screen and sing along with Kermit and his friends.

When we moved to America it was Saturday morning cartoons: The Smurfs, The Snorks, The Jetsons, The Flintstones,  the one where they were in ancient Greece, I forget what they were called, but I really liked them, too. 

You Can't Do That on Television, Degrassi Junior High, The Electric Company, Fraggle Rock, MTV- I saw the first video ever played- Video Killed the Radio Star- and did it ever.

I learned how drugs would fry my brain and why you should never accept a stranger's invitation for candy, or you will end up like Willis on Different Strokes.

I was groomed to fear high school;. Popular kids were so mean! I wasn't sure I had what it took to win them over.

I was allowed to watch Dallas, Northern Exposure and thirtysomething with my parents. I was so invested in Hope and Michael's relationship, 7th grade trivial in comparison.

I saw the first season of The Real World when people were not yet media savvy, so fights were more racist but less violent.

When I lived in Spain, I watched The Simpsons dubbed into Spanish interrupted by the Twin Towers falling.

When I was living in England, I watched hours of Scrubs . It was just always on. I grew to love it.

Now I watch TV so good they make movies look dull: True Detective, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Masters of Sex, Nurse Jackie, Downton Abbey, etc, etc, etc. I don't know how I made it through grad school or hold a job sometimes. We have Netflix in our TV, like, one button away!

Yet, as with any great love, there is a darkness. Entire networks which distort our perspectives, capitalizing on Axis II Personality Disorders with Circus Freak Show proportions. Or monetizing hobbies, making everything from cake decorating to grocery shopping competitive.

There are five, FIVE, shows on the TLC network with a connection to child molestation.

At the center of this hive is the Kardshians. A family of full, half and step siblings, who have invaded our psyche in such a way that I wonder if they even remember what life was like before a camera crew became a part of it.

Queen Bee herself, Kris

In the ongoing. contrived and "Momager" produced saga, the Kardashian's step father, Bruce Jenner, has recently come out as a transgender woman, whom we are now asked to call 'Caitlyn'.

The photo shoot for Vanity Fair has been published. The cover is provocative, sexualized, airbrushed to perfection. She/he looking like the best work a Boca Raton plastic surgeon has ever done. Several of those models were workshopped earlier this year on actual 65 year old women and can be seen at my local Neiman Marcus.

While I support Bruce/Caityn's process of discovery and am happy that he can finally feel authentic, what I do not love is the public relations machine at work to shove his "journey" into my life. A reality show on top of the two (or was it four?) other Kardashian shows already in rotation is currently being filmed. There was even a show on Bravo about the Public Relations Team that works for the Kardashians at one point- look it up- it was awful.

Does Caitlyn/Bruce Jenner deserve the Arthur Ashe Award for courage? Absolutely. Does the public deserve better examples of Trans, Gay, Bi, Lesbian, Black, Latino, Poor, Country, Angry, Grumpy, Dopey? Yes, we do.

I support Caitlyn, I just hope she is the beginning of what will be a less postured, more empathic lens of anyone struggling to be authentic, in life or on basic cable.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

You Don't Know Me

I finally went ahead and faced the fear. I gathered up the most personal and painful Blog posts from the past 15 years and entrusted them to a self-publishing website.

The result? Meh. My book looked more like the owner's manual of a Ford Fiesta with overlooked typos.

In my mania, I sent out mass emails to friends, mentors, basically everyone in my contact list. A week later I had to write back to sheepishly admit that, "Psych! That was just a test. If this were a real book, you would have been informed by press releases, not self-promotional Facebook feeds."

As I wait for the final (I mean it this time) edits from my Editor and Graphic Designer (also known as my sister), I have read two memoirs just to assess the competition. I was intimidated by both but found only one worthy of the reverence.

After finishing the first I was feeling something close to cocky "That chick has a TV show?@!" The other author, however, put me firmly back in my place; humbled by the wit and insight of one of my favorite women (Amy Poehler's book, Yes, Please, is fantastic. I gotta give it to her. I loved it.).

My memoir is flawed; redundant in the over-sharing zeitgeist I straddle, but it's mine, and despite the impulsive retraction and resubmission, I still want it to be known.

When I'm not writing about myself and the view from my subjective window, I am a Psychotherapist, in the last few months of a bloody long road towards Licensure. I've been working and studying for this career since 2007.  I could be a Nurse at this point, have a kid in first grade, or at the very least be tens of thousands of dollars richer. Yet, despite everything difficult, I've pursued my passion for Psychotherapy because I believe in the process; I know it helps.

In traditional Psychoanalysis the Therapist/Analyst was unknown to the patient, a tableau rosa, blank slate, sitting behind the reclined species, scribbling away on a notepad. Modern theory has focused more on the Therapeutic Relationship, as years of research have shown that it is actually in the connection between patient and professional where the conditions for healing can truly be conceived.

Yet I wonder just how much we should share with our patients. When I have been a patient, I ended treatment with Therapists for sharing too much of themselves: speaking about their "faith" or taking up my therapy hour with anecdotes about their dogs. I'm not there to chat! I just want one hour a week where I don't have to take an interest in another.

As a result, I try to limit my disclosure with patients because I respect their time and space, and usually recognize their enquiry as deflecting, projecting, getting uncomfortable, or just harmless nosiness. I'm not militant about it but I don't believe my opinion is relevant to their growth; it blurs the line, dilutes the concentration, and takes the focus off what they entrust me with.

Nevertheless, a Google search would connect anyone- patient, friend, foe- to the deepest places of my heart and the details of my life that I willingly share with the world. So how much of myself am I allowed to share outside of the therapy office?

It's a lonely field to work in, spending my days focusing on other peoples stories. I deserve a space apart from the patient/practitioner alliance that can be seen. But I have my doubts. I wouldn't be friends with a patient on Facebook, I wouldn't even approach them in public (although if they approach me I'd welcome the interaction), so I acknowledge and value the boundaries we adhere to but also recognize the grey space that can exist between them.

I wonder what Jung or Freud would think of our Twitter feeding, status updating, self-publishing, modern world? Actually, I think I'd rather not know.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Bad Words

I didn't follow Lisa Adams on social media. I only heard about her when the news of her death from breast cancer appeared in my newsfeed. What drew me to Lisa was not her life or her story (although from what I have read since she seems like an amazing person) but her stand on the language used when someone is diagnosed with a terminal illness.

In their article on Adams the New York Times wrote about the "Pinkwashing" of breast cancer "...which painted a pretty picture of early detection while ignoring the ugliness of deadly metastasis." The "...disservice to the cancer stricken fostered by “fought to the end” battle metaphors as well as the concepts that a positive outlook or religious devotion could outwit cellular biology."

I would go further to say that the language we use in numerous contexts is that of battle and aggression. We "fight" and declare "war" on everything from terrorism to tweets. We "battle" and "confront" our illnesses, neighbors, strangers, pests, carbohydrates, moods and habits. Whether its drugs or Iran, the Senate or the Schoolroom, eczema or HIV, we are "waging war" in the most basic, everyday, examples.

We are an aggressive people by nature but the language we use, and is used on us, definitely gets into our heads, into our psyches, and encourages the worst in us. We are not told to "negotiate", "discuss", "contemplate", "disagree", or "struggle"- those are words used by the weak or worse even- the fucking French!! No, we are Americans; with enough faith, 5k walks and ammunition we can defeat ISIS, stage four cancer, and the weather.

Yet, if we are so casual about our language of aggression how can we appreciate the actual wars that are fought, and lives lost to them?

I read that Elton John and Dolce&Gabbana are in a "War of Words"  over differing views on babies. Luckily I can't afford any of their clothes because I am being cautioned by every mouthy celebrity with an "untraditional" family to #boycottdolcegabbana because of an opinion.

Lao Tzu is credited with saying "Watch your words for they become your actions." I would say that being more mindful of the language we hear and say is actually essential, not just for our happiness but our survival. Unlike much of what is written, I don't think that's even close to hyperbole.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Liars and the Dirty, Dirty Cheats

Did you hear? A dress, The dress, brought us to our knees last week. A need for certainty in an uncertain world was rocked by the realization that two people can actually view objects from very different lenses. Blue can be white. What the!?

We can't even trust Brian Williams.

Bill O'Reilly, well, come on, we expect Fox News to distort the truth- a fish gotta swim- but Brian?!!

It would appear that in our ever increasing evolution of ADHD and Mood Disordered living we are unable to process the big issues like ISIS or climate change, so the color of a dress or llamas on the loose are what we digest instead.

The bigger issues seem out of our hands, too divisive. A movie about a soldier can create enemies on the home front so of course colors and cat videos are where we seek safe debate. Especially as confrontation on-line is far less anxiety inducing.

My Granny used to say: "When it comes to taste and smell no one is right." Wise words indeed and that lady knew about the dangers of dogma. She was born in Palestine, well before the 1948 version of Israel. She also said that the Bible was made up of folk stories. The parting of the Red Sea, for example, "...any idiot could recognize that was just a metaphor for low tides." Although proud of being Jewish and Israeli she never lost the ability to recognize hyperbole.

Misrepresenting the truth is clearly not ethical but neither is it shocking. Especially in a 24 hour, ratings driven, if it bleeds it leads, exclusive, only, and most accurate news industry. People lie and embellish. Always have, always will. Children start the moment they can communicate. We aim for better versions of ourselves and know the destruction lies can wreak, from affairs to wars, yet we persist-- maybe we can get away with it-- for the Dopamine rush if nothing else.

Can there be honesty in a world without truth though? That question was asked at a lecture given by Fred Newman, Ph.D.  I attended in Manhattan back in 2003, just as the war in Iraq was launching. The Middle East conflict was used as an example: Israelis have their truth, as do the Arabs. Each 'truth' is as accurate as their experiences of the world.

Therefore, Dr. Newman concluded, debating the veracity of the truth is futile. It is in 'honesty' where peace and compromise can be found. In other words, the better response is not "I am right and you are wrong because..." but "I think this because...and realize that is influenced by..."

The need to be right leads us into Twitter arguments with strangers at best and deadly conflicts at worst. Truth is subjective; influenced by bias and memory. Honesty, however, is found in our better natures; in our ability to empathize and speak from a place of vulnerability, not certainty.

You want certainty? Death and taxes are certain. Everything else is a construct; a mixture of timing, privilege, culture, choices, attractiveness, power, money, diet, luck, etc, etc, etc.

As any long-term couple will attest, being right is not nearly as satisfying as being happy.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

African American

When my sister applied to college in 1996 I cajoled her into an experiment: choose one application, keep every detail exactly the same, but one - check the box for 'African American'.

She never stated that she was black, just African American, which she, well we, both are. We were born in Lusaka, Zambia and moved to America as children.

My sister was actually accepted to a great school, but my parents, aware of our stunt, made her refuse their myriad offers (scholarships, housing, clubs) so she went to the same average, commuter school as I did.

I wasn't trying to make a point about Equal Opportunity back then, just the limitations of political correctness. Especially in the mid to late 1990's when we, as a people, were struggling to accept Madonna much less Obama.

Almost 20 years since, the system is still flawed. Some areas of the country have achieved huge gains; a child born (in a major city) in the 90's probably sees race in a different way than I do, albeit through a screen. Yet my sister could apply for Grad School today and still receive far more benefits as an "African American" than if she applied the same semantics to a job application.

While some areas of society bend and shape shift to accommodate minorities, mostly in education; from gifted programs with a different "under served population" criteria, to colleges, desperate to meet their diversity targets.

The world around us, however, still sees a black man as a suspect, a mixed race president as foreign, and a white lady with a passport stamped from Africa as a "Missionary or something?"

African American in title alone, I will never understand the experience of driving or job seeking while Black. I won't even pretend like I do. But I do know that opportunity and equality are not found in polite language alone.

I am African American: I moved to America from Africa when I was five. Trayvon Martin was from Florida. Eric Garner was from New York. Tamir Rice was from Ohio.

It's time we stop using African American as a polite salve we place over an American wound that has yet to heal.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Even Therapists Get the Blues

Depression for me is a window film, clouding the light from getting in. It's a mean girl, pointing out my flaws. Depression is a predator, patiently stalking for the right conditions to strike: stress, fatigue, lack of exercise and too many carbs. Somehow it always knows.

Ruby Wax understands. She is an American who has made her success is Britain as a Comedian and Writer. Like many funny people, the laughter comes from a dark place which she recently wrote about:

...Some part of your brain is trying, as it always does, to find a reason. For other illnesses when you feel sick there's an explanation - you might say to yourself, "Of course I feel terrible I have an infection, a virus, cancer" (pick one). With dementia at least you might be the last to know that something is wrong, but with depression you're completely aware and cognisant that you're gone and what's left of you is on auto pilot that tries to steer you into the bathroom and find food and that's about it.

I'm a trained Psychotherapist. I know the patterns, chemistry and treatments yet it still catches me off guard once I've realized Depression doesn't care about a wall of certificates and diplomas.

Sometimes I sit across from clients and want so much to say "Me TOO!" Of course I don't, but when I feel this way I resist the same insight I give to others: meditation, medication, exercise, gratitude, volunteering, support. I try to deny, numb, or diffuse the symptoms just like everyone else.

In Addiction treatment this idea gets turned on its head; the majority of people in Recovery will only trust a therapist who has their own addiction. A "normal" person is often viewed with suspicion.

While our own experience does make us more relatable to others, if we insist upon shared experience (as a condition for accepting support) we would certainly exhaust much of the help that is offered.

A professional doesn't have to experience something to know about it-- many male doctors have delivered babies. We all have our version of struggle though, even those who help and heal.

All this is to say: I'll never tell you in our sessions that I really know how hard it is. I also know it gets better and how to make that happen. I just don't always follow my own advice.

Get help: