Words Are Things.

“Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.” 
 Paulo Coelho, Brida

I wanted to take a moment to consider the words/phrases/ideas/thoughts that have washed over me and shaped me.

The Good

You only live once – Trina

Trust yourself – My grandmother

My Dear, you have to learn how to take care of yourself – My grandfather

Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth – The opening quote in Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

It’s okay to be sad sometimes – My husband

What are your values, what is really important to you – Josh

Most people won’t remember this – My mother-in-law

I am so proud of you – My brother

Cry yourself to sleep all you want, you’re not going to that party – My mom

Don’t cheat, people won’t want to play with you if you lie to them – My dad

Think critically about this. It’s never simple – Dr. Krishnakali Majumdar

You have to always be examining your own biases and prejudices and how they influence your thoughts and behaviors – Dr. David Pilgrim

You have to use laundry detergent, not just fabric softener! – My sister

Don’t forget the spiritual aspect – Kevin

The Bad

Are you going to eat that?

You eat after 8pm?

Are you going to have another glass of wine?

What will your boyfriend think about this?

Shhh, your laugh is too loud

You’re too opinionated

You care too much

I think you are acting this way because your parents divorced

You grew up in a home with a lot of conflict and you don’t know how to communicate (that’s why my son hit you)

Relax

Calm down

Everything happens for a reason

Your writing is awful

I should give you the “I like to show a lot of skin award” – Middle School Teacher

I don’t know why you feel that way

You’re crazy

You don’t have kids, you don’t understand

Your husband wants kids and you won’t give them to him?

Are you some sort of lesbian?

Stop talking already

Summary

Words are powerful. What we say matters. I am not innocent; I know I have injured people with my words. The aforementioned phrases, both good and bad, left a permanent imprint on me. They shaped my experiences and I carry them with me.

What phrases shaped you?

Love.

“Words are things. You must be careful, careful about calling people out of their names, using racial pejoratives and sexual pejoratives and all that ignorance. Don’t do that. Some day we’ll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things. They get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally in to you.”

― Maya Angelou

 

 

Dust to Side Chicks

“You can taste the dishonesty, it’s all over your breath” – Beyonce

This is not a review or critique of Lemonade. I don’t have the skill set for that task. Frankly, I’ve listened/watched the album more times than I can count. I love it, I love how empowering it is, I love how honest and vulnerable it is. I love that it started so many different conversations. She’s most definitely the Queen. In fact, I’m listening to the album right now.

This post is about one of the concepts addressed in the album: Infidelity. I’ve discussed this topic before but I’m going to come at it from a different perspective this time. I want to address intuition. 

I am am firm believer in the scientific method. But, if given a choice between facts and intuition, I’m trusting my intuition every single time. In my experience as a marriage therapist, I work with infidelity every day. And, I always ask the question “How did you find out?” and almost every time it is met with “I just knew something wasn’t right.”

I believe the power of “I just know” is primal. When we partner, we create a life together that involves many moving parts (money, mortgage, animals, pets, retirement, furniture, history). It’s like a nest. Then, someone comes along and takes a look at the nest and thinks they want in on some of that life.

What happens next involves a lot of different variables, like: the strength of the relationship, openness, honesty, trust, security, boundaries, and priorities (to name a few). If the nest is threatened, the other partner can feel it. In some cases, people have identified the moment they “knew” and the other person admits that was about the time the other relationship crossed some boundary.

Historically, (evolutionarily) we needed that nest to survive and for our young to survive. So, of course, “we just know” if someone is threatening the nest. Although times have changed and we can survive the loss of the nest and even create new (happier and healthier) nests. Our instincts and intuitions are still wired to protect the nest.

Sometimes, we are paranoid and there was no actual threat to the nest. Some of us are hypervigilant when it comes to protecting the life we’ve created. However, infidelity is fairly common and the threat to the nest is real. This results in fear and rage (as highlighted in the visual album).

Let me briefly address the concept of gaslighting. This is what happens when your intuition says “something isn’t right” and the other person convinces you that you’re crazy or seeing things that aren’t there. I will expand on gaslighting in the future because it’s another common practice  used in relationships where one partner uses “you’re crazy” in an effort to maintain deceitful behaviors. It’s a form of emotional abuse.

Intuition and infidelity are complex issues that can be addressed from multiple perspectives. Let me end by saying, trust your intuition. But, before you go through their phone, ask the hard questions. Try to be direct. It’s messy to go the other way.

“You’ve been makin’ your brags around town that you’ve been a lovin’ with my man
But the man I love when he picks up trash he puts it in a garbage can
And that’s what you look like to me and what I see is a pitty
You’d better close your face and stay out of my way
If you don’t wanta go to Fist City
If you don’t wanna go to Fist City you’d better detour round my town
Cause I’ll grab you by the hair of the head and I’ll lift you off of the ground
I’m not a sayin’ my baby is a saint cause he ain’t
And that he won’t cat around with a kitty
I’m here to tell you gal to lay off of my man if you don’t wanna go to Fist City” Fist City, Loretta Lynn

Why You Gotta Lie?

“I’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It’s awful. If I’m on my way to the store to buy a magazine, even, and somebody asks me where I’m going, I’m liable to say I’m going to the opera. It’s terrible.”
J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

I read an article yesterday about how almost half of the population in the United States would not be able to find $400 dollars right now if they needed it to handle an emergency situation. The struggle is real and so many people are faced with impossible financial challenges. What’s worse, is that we shame people for their financial challenges making it impossible for them to get the help they need.

I believe that this shame around life’s struggles and sufferings (financial and otherwise) is at the heart of so why so many people lie. Humans are wired for connection and we will do almost anything to establish and maintain social connections. Our social connections are valued at $133,000 a year (Barker, 2014). This means that having healthy and consistent social connections is worth it’s weight in gold. And, we will do whatever we need to do to keep those connections.

This sometimes involves lying about our lives. We’re petrified to say: I’m depressed, I’m broke, I’m unhappy, I’m scared, I’m suicidal, I’m in trouble, I made a mistake, I was fired, I had an affair, or I want out of my relationship. If we say these things we risk disappointing the other person and/or losing the connection. I would love to say that people don’t disappear when a friend or family member discloses a shameful vulnerability but it happens a lot.

A lot of people don’t want to be guilty by association. I can’t be friends with the broke person or the depressed person or the cheating person. What if others found out that I was your friend/family? I’d might lose my connections too, and that’s just not a risk many of us are willing to take.

The only option that remains is for me to lie to you about my life. I tell you I’m fine and life is good. I tell you that I’m on top of my game and there are no struggles here. I hide my pain and suffering because I don’t want to lose you. Then, the truth comes out, as it often does, and I’m labeled a liar in addition to my struggle.

I’ve been a therapist long enough to know that everyone does this in some way or another. Sometimes, the shame is so dark and so deep that the lies compound and the person lying doesn’t even know what’s true anymore. What I know to be true, is that if you have not dealt with your own life shames, you will not be able to deal with anyone else’s (Brene Brown). If you can’t accept that you are an imperfect person living imperfectly in an imperfect world, you will not have the capacity to hold the space for someone else’s imperfections.

So often we only ask “Why did you lie?”

without honestly asking ourselves:

“Am I a safe person to be honest with?”

“Would I respond with compassion and understanding?”

“Do I make fun of (trashy, weird, moody) people without consideration for my audience?”

“Have I ever left someone (ghosted) when they shared a shame/struggle/suffering with me?”

“Have I accepted my own human imperfections?”

This post is not written to excuse deceitful behavior. But rather to highlight that we’re all very complicated (so much more complicated than this post goes into). Ultimately we all want to be loved. Sometimes, we’ll sacrifice the truth if we believe it will keep us lovable and connected (and safe).

Love.

“The best lies about me are the ones I told.”
Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

Mind Your Own Underwear!

This transgender bathroom business is ludicrous. Listen, Caitlyn Jenner is not the first trans person. Trans folks have been around forever. Agree with it or not, it’s the way it is.

Picture this, I’m in line in the ladies room and some lady wants to be an awful person and she starts accusing me of not “really” being a “woman” and then what? Am I obligated to show her my business? Am I obligated to show her my driver’s license and share my personal information with this awful person to prove that I’m a woman?

What if she calls law enforcement? Am I obligated to show this person my personal information? I was just trying to use the bathroom and now we have a dust up over my genitals? The police are involved, this lady demands to know “what I am”

Okay, I can hear you saying “Sissy, you look like a woman!”

Do I? What does that look like anymore? I don’t want to be examined that closely in the public restroom. I don’t want anyone looking at anyone that closely in the public restroom. What if someone just wants to be awful and targets me for kicks. That happens and now that can legally happen.

You’ve been sharing a public restroom with trans folks forever and didn’t know it because they have always been here.

Do you want people examining you in the public restroom? Sizing you up? Trying to figure out “what you are” or “if you belong there”

This isn’t about pedophiles or predators, it is about personal privacy and personal protection.

What about the kids? Do you want people examining your kids when you’re not around trying to decide where they fit? Developing kids and adolescents can look pretty gender ambiguous. I surely wouldn’t want someone looking at one of my nieces or nephews trying to decide “what they are”

Mind your own underwear. Stay in your own lane.

Love.

And All Good Things, They Say, Never Last

“Sometimes it snows in April
Sometimes I feel so bad, so bad
Sometimes I wish life was never ending,
And all good things, they say, never last” – Prince, Sometimes It Snows In April

Somewhere in the world there are VHS tapes of me and my high school friends dancing our bloody hearts out to Prince. We danced on beds, we danced in hallways, we danced on couches, basically, when Prince was on we danced. Tiffany would bring a stack of CD’s (with her always) she was ready to DJ any event (birthday parties, sleepovers, study sessions, classrooms, every single place) and Prince was always on the top of her playlist.

When you combine the raw emotion expressed through his music with my highly sensitive and emotional adolescent brain, I am certain that his music forged unique neurological pathways that are now deeply embedded in my brain. This results in a strong physiological reaction to his music. With the first note, I am immediately transported to a different place and time. My adolescent carefree impulsivity rushes forth and I am again, moved to dance. And, you cannot be sad or mad when you dance. Thus, Prince has single–handedly improved countless moments of my life.

I am always suspect of people who have strong reactions to a celebrity death. I mean, I didn’t know Prince as a person, my life will continue, largely unaffected by his death. For me, his death brought to the forefront how influential his art has been in my life.

Prince’s music has long been part of my life and will remain part of my life. But, now that he’s gone, I feel compelled to reflect on how much I was influenced by his brilliance. Music in general, factors in as significant part of my person and my life. And, if I were to compile a soundtrack of my life (which I’ve done a few times for fun), there would certainly be at least one Prince song on the list. If pressed, I would probably say Purple Rain would be the track tied to my 15-16 years of life. It still stops me in my tracks and gives me pause.

In 2004, I was dating a man who had access to a suite at The Palace of Auburn Hills (where the Pistons play). He invited me to see Prince at the Palace from the suite. Needless to say, I was a flutter with joy at this opportunity. I witnessed from my perch a little man larger than life make magic happen on stage. He was in a jazz phase and played more songs I did not know than songs I did know. I could care less, I was seeing Prince. When he played revised rendition of  When Doves Cry, I exploded on the inside, and that moment is one of my favorite life moments to date.

So, today, I will give pause and celebrate a man that brought color, dimension, and depth to what can be such a dark and flat world. I will reflect on the soundtrack of my own life. And, I’m going to dance my heart out.

Love.

“Honey, I know, I know
I know times are changing
It’s time we all reach out
For something new, that means you too” Prince, Purple Rain

My Love For You Saw Me Through.

“Life is a journey for us all. We all face trials. We all have ups and downs. All of us are human. But we are also the masters of our fate. We are the ones who decide how we are going to react to life.”
Elizabeth Smart, My Story: Elizabeth Smart

I had the wonderful pleasure of listening to Elizabeth Smart speak yesterday afternoon. Like most people, I followed her story from a distance. The horror of a child abducted from their bedroom in the middle of the night is enough to grab anyone’s attention. She spoke with such a softness about the unbelievable trauma she endured during her nine months in captivity. I was deeply moved by her resilience and grace.

What struck me the most from her speech was what she described as the moment she decided to survive. She spoke about the night she was kidnapped and raped for the first time and the unbelievable shame she felt after the assault. She thought about giving up and dying but then she thought about her mother. Her mother told her, after a particularly challenging day, that neither God nor her mother would ever stop loving her. That no matter what she did or what happened to her, her mother assured her that her love was unconditional. She thought about that love and decided that she would do whatever she needed to do to survive. And, she did just that.

It reminded my of Viktor Frankl making a similar decision as a prisoner in Auschwitz concentration camp. He brought to mind the face of his wife and his love for her. He thought of her and his love for her every time he thought about giving up. He did this even though he knew she was probably dead. He survived for her. And, she had not survived.

I am constantly reminded of how important our connections are in our lives. In my own life, there have been hard times, and I too brought to mind my loving relationships and it was those bonds that brought me through those times.

We must love one another unconditionally. We must reassure the people we love that we do love them unconditionally. And then, this is the hard part, we must show up for the people we love in all the ways we can.

Elizabeth Smart started and ended her talk reminding the audience that we all struggle and we all endure hard times. But, we all have a choice what to do with the what we are given. We always have a choice: bitterness, resentment, or Love. She also said that the love of her family healed her and that she was blessed to have had them. Faith and Love empowered her to tell her story and in doing so she has helped so many people.

Love is magic, love is power, love is everything.

Love.

“For the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that Love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Pablo Neruda: The Great Lover of Love.

I love poetry. Love, love, love poetry. I was having drinks with a friend years ago and we both agreed that the world would be a better place if we all read more poetry. He recited T.S. Eliot from memory and I responded with Maya Angelou and Pablo Neruda.

We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. – T.S. Eliot

NPR reported today that there were newly discovered works from Pablo Neruda. They’re unsure as to whether or not he wanted them shared and usually I think that we should respect the artist and keep what might have been intended to be private, private. This is why I felt so uncomfortable with Harper Lee’s, Go Set a Watchmen being released.

But, I can’t deny that I am extremely excited to read the newly discovered works of Neruda.

Let me share with you some of what was released (courtesy of NPR)

“Never alone, with you

over the earth,

crossing through fire.

Never alone.

With you in the forests

finding again

dawn’s

stiff arrow,

the tender moss

of spring

With you

in my struggle,

not the one I chose

but

the only one.”

That poem reminded me of one of my favorite poems of Neruda’s (both about his wife):

Sonnet XVII

“I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way than this:

where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep. ”

Pablo Neruda

Love.

 

Hillary Clinton, Anita Hill, Monica Lewinsky, and Me

“I admit I made mistakes, especially wearing that beret. But the attention and judgment I received, not the story, but that I personally received was unprecedented. I was branded as a tramp, tart, slut, whore, bimbo, and of course That Woman. I was seen by many but actually known by few. And I get it. It was easy to forget that That Woman was dimensional, had a soul, and was once unbroken.” – Monica Lewinsky

Let me share with you at shameful moment from my past.

As a young Republican, I stood proudly in front of my Civics and Economics class and slut shamed Monica Lewinsky for having the audacity and lack of self-worth to sleep with the president, I then shamed Hilary Clinton for standing by her man, and I did all of this without an ounce of understanding that talking about these women this way was an act of violence towards myself and all the women in the classroom in front of all the men.

You see, we can not attack another woman without personalizing it in some way. For me to declare verbal war on these women meant that I had to believe, on some level, what I was saying about them. I had to believe that I had the right to judge other women for their choices related to their sexual and relationship decisions. I didn’t understand that I was buying into, without question, the sexism and misogyny that I was being spoon fed. Importantly, I didn’t understand that telling those stories about those women would directly affect how I felt about myself. 

“I became the messenger who had to be killed”. – Anita Hill

Once upon a time in a land far away, I had a boss that felt it was acceptable to comment on my appearance and intimate life on a regular basis. These interactions left me feeling gross and helpless. What’s worse, is when I talked to some people about these experiences, I was literally met with “you’re not that good looking” as a response. At the time, I agreed and thought I was being too sensitive.

But, I wasn’t being too sensitive. Instead, what I was doing, is talking about the thing women are not supposed to talk about. I don’t know a woman that hasn’t experienced some level of uncomfortable conversation related to appearance or sexuality but we’re supposed to just shut up and take it. My mistake was that I tried to talk about what was happening and it was met with a reflexive “shut the f*ck up, you’re going to ruin this for the rest of us” response.

Undoubtedly, it was the message I internalized about women so early in my life and proclaimed proudly in front of a classroom that caused me to second guess myself. I had this realization listening to a the podcast Stuff Mom Never Told You and the topic was Anita Hill.

I was about ten years old when Anita Hill was interviewed by congress so I don’t have much memory of the interviews when they were actually happening. But, her story enraged, saddened, and resonated with me on Sunday. At one point, I marched off the machine I was working out on and walked over to my partner to loudly exclaim “Did you know Clarence Thomas’s wife called Anita Hill in 2010 asking her to apologize?” To which he nodded yes and continued to work out. This was unthinkable to me.

So much related to the rhetoric surrounding Anita Hill, Monica Lewinsky, and Hilary Clinton upsets me but I think some of the worst of all of it is the female cannibalism. I think that when women shame other women or tell them to shut up (explicitly or implicitly) it cuts us deeply and wounds us permanently. We need to learn that this is not the path to success. Men do not hold the key and we do not have to allow them to treat us any way they want to get where we need to go. We can do this for each other (e.g., Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Oprah, Barbara Walters, Amy Poelher, Tina Fey, Margaret Cho, Ellen Degeneres, Jennifer Lopez, and on and on and on)

I know now that my boss was extremely inappropriate with me. It had nothing to do with how I looked or how I acted. It had everything to do with power. And, he had all of the power. In that case, you gotta know when to hold um and know when to fold um and I folded um.

In sum, I am so sorry that I spoke so poorly and shamefully about Monica Lewinsky and Hillary Clinton. I know that they were not directly influenced by my actions but I was spewing hate and shame and for that I am sorry. And as for Anita Hill, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Love.

“[L]et’s be honest here, Hillary Clinton is Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. She’s going to keep coming back, and they’re not going to stop her.” ~ Ken Rudin (NPR)

Dear 15 Year Old Sissy.

Dear 15 Year Old Sissy,

I see that you are busy on your teen line talking to your friends. Perhaps, someone called the operator to bust into your conversation and see what is taking you so long to end your conversation. Sometimes you turn the ringer off so you can read some Maya Angelou or American History. Sometimes you turn it off so you can take naps. I suggest you keep the naps up because sleep will never come this easy again.

I am not going to tell you the things that are coming for you. I can’t bring myself to shatter your adolescent comfort of pizza, popcorn, boyfriends, sleep-overs, and friends. I will tell you that friendships you make now and over the course of your life will sustain you so I’m glad you made your relationships such a priority. Your friends will be your family.

I wish I could tell you to go downstairs and look at your parents as they are right now. I know they’ve made a lot of mistakes and you resent them. But, please just put the phone down and walk down the stairs. Maybe your dad is embarrassing you dancing like Carlton from The Fresh Prince and your mom is cleaning (again). I don’t want to regret taking those moments for granted anymore: so go watch them be parents. It will be nearly impossible to remember what that was like in 20 years.

If I could whisper something in your ear, it would be “It’s going to be okay even when you have no reason to believe this to be true.” I’m not going to tell you what is coming for you because it would terrify you. And, you have no need to be scared right now. Right now, you are too busy borrowing CDs from Tiffany or watching Menace 2 Society with Trina. Maybe you’re calling Billy or Nate and asking them to pick you and take you on an adventure.

I’m not going to tell you that everything is going to fall apart and you’re going to feel like you are drowning for years. I’m not going to tell you that you will lose everything you thought was yours to have. You will realize that nothing is yours to have and everything is borrowed. This makes things and moments so much more precious to you.

I am going to tell you that in ten years, you will walk down the hall and see a handsome man sitting at a computer and you want to talk to him. Doing this is the best decision of your life. Talk to him, ask him out. It is scary and out of character for you but it changes everything. You will find that you’ve been crossing paths for most of your lives and never knew it until now. You will believe in serendipity because of this.

I am going to tell you that it’s okay to cry for days on the bathroom floor and it’s okay to take medication to make the bad a little less bad. I am not going to tell you to be brave because you don’t give yourself any other choice. There will be times where you believe that you will never feel good again.  I mean, the kind of good where you feel a deep sense of contentment. But, one day on a warm afternoon you will be walking your dogs and contentment will pour over you. It will take your breath away. I will tell you that when you arrive at that moment the beauty of your life will overwhelm you.

I’ll see you when you get here.

Love.

 

 

 

Restless Life Syndrome

“I’m restless. Things are calling me away. My hair is being pulled by the stars again.”

Anaïs Nin

I’m stuck. And, I have no idea what I want and why I feel stuck. I spend my days with other therapists who specialize in asking the perfect questions to get someone unstuck. Despite their best efforts, I can’t figure it out. In fact, I think they’re avoiding me in an attempt to stop the conversation.

I am fantastic at spelling out all the things I do not want. But, I have a terrible case of restless life syndrome. The daily grind is hard on my soul. But, I love my job and I love what I do. Do you see where this is problematic?

It’s not that something is missing. The parts are all there. If I step back and look at my life, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Nevertheless, I feel restless. It’s not boredom. I don’t have time for boredom. I’m not unfulfilled. I seek out fulfillment on a daily basis.

Perhaps, I’m having a vacation/adventure hangover. But, I’m not the kind of person that wants to travel the world with a backpack. I mean, I refuse to sleep in a tent ever again.

My brother and I had a long talk about our “faith systems” this morning. We are incapable of talking about the mundane. If you give us fifteen minutes, we’ll be exploring the universe and the illusion of time. It’s one of my favorite things about him. We’re desperate to know more about everything.

I bring this up because I feel like screaming to the sky and saying, “What is it? What am I missing?” I’ll give it a try but I won’t scream, the people in my office are already avoiding me.

Maybe I need a good book, or a stiff drink.

Love.