“Get out of my kitchen!”

That is the characterization of many of us home cooks who make meals for a crowd.

It is also the way my mother is characterized by one of my in-law’s. My response? “My mother doesn’t say it LIKE THAT! It takes a lot of concentration to cook for a crowd.”

The person to whom I am speaking has never cooked for a crowd though she claims membership in the “I cooked for a crowd group.”

She has not earned that membership, I’m afraid. Yes, I know this sounds presumptuous. Just know that I know this not to be the case.

In contrast, my sister-in-law, who hosts Easter each year, has earned that membership. She never tries to get people out of her kitchen. She is laid back. She is able to cook while talking to a house full of people. I think that despite the chaos, she is not really impacted by it the way the rest of us do. Not to say that she never gets uptight or angry about anything. But those things are not things in her kitchen.

I don’t like people in my kitchen when I am trying to make a meal for a crowd. Actually, that is not entirely true. If you know how to help without being instructed or getting in the way, that’s cool with me. I have a small kitchen and a little brain when it is focused on dinner making. My brother, James and my friend, Nancy know how to slip in and so things, as if I had psychically willed them to do it. Also, if you are wanting to keep me company and don’t ask a lot of questions that require deep thinking, you are also welcome in my kitchen. Sometimes, it gets lonely in ther.

Other people, they get in my way. They don’t offer to help. They are just vagrants in my kitchen. This is typically the role of some of my brothers. I tell them, “Out of my kitchen!” They scoot. They are used to our mother. Others ask to help out of politeness rather than skill. Or they have skill but are too polite to just start doing stuff.

I often think to myself, “I should do a better job at asking for and accepting help.”

“I should.”

“I really should.”

“Should” does not lead to a switch that we can turn off and on. “Oh, I should do that? Ah, here I go, I am doing it!”

Some very kind friends asked to help me cook for an upcoming dinner party. I did not say, “Get out of my kitchen!” I actually didn’t even think it. But I did think, “What is wrong with me that I can’t accept their help easily?”

I usually think, “It’s because my kitchen in small.” “It’s because I would rather do my prep ahead of time so I can visit.” These things are true, especially the latter point. I thought about it more. Really hard.

When I am driving in a car, I have a very hard time carrying on a conversation with the person who is in the passenger seat even if I like him/her very much and would like to socialize. I also don’t put the radio on when I’m driving, even when there is no one else in the car. I find both scenarios distracting. I don’t feel guilty about either situation. I accept myself for more own strengths and limitations.

I also take a lot of photos. That is, I take a lot of photos when I am alone. If I am in a social situation, I have an incredibly hard time remembering to take photos because I am distracted by visiting with people. I don’t feel guilty about this situation even when I had planned to take photos of the event. I wish I were better at doing both things but I don’t feel as thought I “should” be better or that I am letting people down.

I am a damned good home cook. But I am not an executive chef. Perhaps in time, I could train my brain to work that way, but right now and for the last few decades, it has not been that way. Most days of the year, I get no help at all. I do everything myself. I love to socialize with people. I love to cook. Both activities require a great deal of concentration on my part. I mean, yes, there are times in cooking when I am just standing around and welcome time to chat with people. But then there are the other times. And what is particularly difficult is giving other people directions when I am in the thick of things.

It is not that I am a control freak or not open to help.

I am just not that skilled. Sometimes I even write a list of things that people can do to help so that people don’t get mad at me when I can’t think of something they can do to help, when asked. This list, by the way, usually ends up being more work for me but helps assuage other people’s feelings.

As I said, I am a damned good home cook. Why should I feel less than because I have a hard time accepting help due to my difficulties with multi-tasking? Why should I feel that by taking on a lot of responsibility, I am somehow lacking in politeness or depriving others of their right to help?

Today, I am reminding myself of something. I am who I am, pluses and minuses. I may change over time but today, I know what I am able to do.

In the meantime, stay out of my kitchen unless I say, “Hey, keep me company” or “It’s time to eat. Can you help carry things out to the table?”

It’s not about you. It’s about me, doing the best I have with what I’ve got. Unless of course, you bring a bag of groceries to my house and expect to make something in my kitchen, from scratch. If you do that, you will get if not an “evil” eye, an “irritated” eye. Seriously? People, don’t do that. And if you need the oven or microwave to heat something up, it is very considerate to ask about this well ahead of time. It is even more considerate to make something that does not require use of my kitchen because people, two weeks before the event, I have already mapped out the real estate on my stove, oven, roasting oven, crock pot, microwave, and grill.

And guess what? Despite my potentially shooing you from my kitchen, we will all get a good meal out of it. It will be a win win win win win win win win win win win…

No, it’s not by posting too many cute cat videos or even by sharing political articles. Find a comfortable chair and take out a notebook. I will tell you how to post something to your breast cancer blog FB account and manage to get not a single, solitary “like”. The post got 8 clicks and no shares, either.

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a medical story about a new treatment for vaginal atrophy, a painful side effect of breast cancer treatment. As one of my girlfriends responded upon hearing about the condition, “That sounds like bad sex.”

Indeed.

Personally, I don’t want to have bad sex. Fortunately, vaginal atrophy has not been an impediment to this.

Not everyone has or wants to have sex. But really, aren’t there more of us who want to have good sex? Isn’t this a healthy part of life for many of us?

Now, perhaps you think that vaginal atrophy is not worth writing about because it is easily treatable. My understanding is that it is not. In fact, the only reason I know about it is because one of my girlfriends had it as a consequence of treating her genetic breast cancer in her 30’s. She was not shy about asking for help. She told me that none of her western physicians were able to help her with it. Then she asked her doctor who was trained in China from whom she was receiving acupuncture. Her doctor thought about it and said, “I’m not sure this work but I try.”

Things changed a lot so much so that when my friend saw her gynecologist there was amazement accompanied by a request for the Chinese doctor’s contact information.

Women, we deserve a chance at health, including sexual health.

Read the article here. Share the article.

I am on vacation with my family in British Columbia, Canada. Until yesterday, we were staying in Ucluelet, an incredibly beautiful place on the sea. We’ve spent a fair bit of time on boats. There was the Washington State Ferry ride from Anacortes, WA to Sidney, BC. There was a boat tour to see humpback whales, of which we saw several including one named, “Pinkie”. I thought, “Holy crap, please don’t tell me that this whale got it’s name to promote breast cancer awareness.” No fear, friends, her name is pinkie because she has a pink underside, which I was able to see with one of her great lunges out of the water. Unbelievable!

One of the boat rides we took was to Meares Island, off the coast of Tofino. It is a tiny island with giant trees. We spent two hours hiking on short but difficult trails before going back to the shore to wait for a small boat to take us back to the Tofino. Dennis, the captain of this 4-seater, was a character and regaled us with tales from the local area, most of which I believe were actually true.

Dennis pointed out a tiny island, “This island is for sale for $850,000.”

I don’t have that much money, but still, less than a million for a whole island? Plus, there is the Canadian/U.S. exchange rate, which today would knock nearly 25% off of the price. And it was a beautiful little place, not far from the large island of Vancouver. I could see two or three houses on it. What a deal. What a find. What an idyllic place to live.

I was gazing upon this little lump of paradise on a beautiful sunny day. Then I thought of living that close to the sea. Then I thought of the winter storms that are here. I also thought of the steep rocks on the side of the island. I wondered how many houses have fallen into the water! I suspect that keeping a house in shape there would cost a fortune, not to mention require a great deal of time and effort to maintain. Then there is the fact that it is located in one of the rainiest parts of the world.

Every moment and every thought were real. This island is idyllic. It is dangerous. It is costly. It is beautiful. It is miserably wet. This has been a wonderful vacation, by and large. I have reconnected with my family, with nature, with much needed rest and adventure. But travel is also exhausting and at times quite difficult.

Yesterday, I experienced the swell of good times, like catching a good wave of meeting delightful people and traveling through incredible natural beauty. But there were also times, when I got the shit kicked out of me, pummeled over and over, in that way that at the time, I fear that I will never get my head above water.

Fortunately, this did not last the whole day and even in the midst of my misery, at one point, I was able to shift out of it enough to get some perspective and hope that the situation could change. The wave that I was being pummeled by was the difficulty of parenting.

The sea is beautiful, powerful, and always changing.

I like on that little island whether I pony up the $850,000 or not, whether I wanted to or not, whether I planned for this or not, whether it suits my lifestyle or not.

Sometimes this feels like the greatest blessing and sometimes it feels dark and scary.

I don’t know what today will bring. My family is sleeping in.

Today, I will remind myself that every feeling has a beginning and an end. Every feeling lasts only about 30 seconds as long as we don’t respond to it in a way that keeps it firing in our brain. When I think of this, I realize how powerful our brains are. Our brains can sustain a swell or break it.

This is not easy power to exercise but it is possible. This possibility creates a sense of safety and hope for me today. I will try to remind myself of this.

Today is my last full day of vacation.

I have only one more full day of sightseeing to endure or enjoy. To a significant extent, a powerful extent, I have a say in how this plays out.

In the meantime, I’m going to reconnect with some of my photos from the trip, which gives me joy and peace. Perhaps they will bring you the same.

 

DSC02421On the ferry from Anacortes, WA to Sidney, BC, looking toward Canada.

 

DSC02449Anemone from the Ucluelet Aquarium, a small gem, in which they catch and release animals from local waters, every season.

 

DSC02514Part of the Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet, BC.

DSC02545I was enchanted by these puppets, designed by First Nations artists. This bear, holding a salmon, was designed by a Haida artist. It contains a teaching, “Be strong. Take care of those who are less strong.” I thought it was beautiful and adorable so I bought it for my friend, Greg’s grandkids. Then I immediately sent him a photo of it so that I wouldn’t get tempted to keep it for myself. Then I bought one for myself a few days later!

DSC02596Cox Bay, Tofino, BC.

DSC02671Meares Island.

 

DSC02682 (1)An unexpected twist on a deer fern. Meares Island.

 

DSC02703 (1)Bald eagle, Tofino.

DSC02715Middle Beach, Tofino.

DSC02785Coombs Market, famous for the goats that graze on the sod roof. Alas, I was too busy socializing with my friends, Kathryn and Nel, below, to remember to take a photo!

DSC02790

Inspired by my fellow breast cancer bloggers, I have accepted the “15 random things about me challenge”. It has been fun to learn a bit more about my dear friends. Here goes!

1) I spent three hours in my yard today setting out soaker hoses and pulling up lilac suckers, which have not been tended to since before cancer. I am tired, sore, and have a blister on my finger. I am thrilled to have been able to work in my yard for three hours!

2) I was very much an “upright citizen” growing up. I didn’t get into trouble and was very responsible. I did have a mouth on me. (See item 6, below.) Nonetheless, Mom claims that I was “easy” as a teen.

3) My 80 year old mom has been blogging longer than I have about her love of family, food, music, and nature. She also uses her blog to display photos, which she then shares on Facebook. Check it out here.

4) I was a serious classical flute player until I graduated from college.

5) I have five brothers and no sisters. No, I was not spoiled.

6) My husband and I started dating in college. Before that time, we were friends. Since he does not recognize flirting, I finally just spelled it out to him that I was interested in dating him. His response, “You are a very nice person but you are loud and obnoxious.” For some reason, I persisted. We’ve been married for 25 years and together for 28 years.

7) I love music but I can’t drive with the radio on because it is too distracting.

8) When I was 12 years old, I decided that I wanted to get a Ph.D. some day. I liked school so I wanted the highest degree that was possible.

9) I hate scary movies. Always have.

10) I bought my wedding dress before I got engaged. In my defense, dress shopping and buying the dress, was my husband’s idea.

11) I am squeamish about many things though not spiders and not taking care of my drains, wounds, etc, after my breast surgeries.

12) I started this blog on the day I learned of my cancer diagnosis.

13) In my extended family, telling super embarrassing stories about one another is an act of love and we take it in that way. We do, however, have certain lines we won’t cross. Also, if the story if funny, we can get away with a lot.

14) Growing up, my family traveled a lot during the summer. My parents love nature and camping is a cheap way for a big family to travel. I did not ride in an airplane or stay in a hotel until I went on a school trip to New York as a senior in high school.

15) My husband and I once hitched a ride from Saqqara to Memphis with a Saudi Arabian pop star. Saqqara is not a big tourist site in Egypt and further, we were there during the off season. We were surprised, however, that there were no taxis for hire at Saqqara. The one taxi driver that was there was already hired for the day. But he very nicely found someone to give us a ride and he turned out to be a pop star.

 

Okay, tag, you’re it! Time for you to write your 15 random things!

She’s 13 years old now. I first started seeing her when she was a bouncy, saucy, and distractible 7 year-old who was able to depict movement in her intricate drawings.

Yesterday, I saw her for the 53rd time since 2009. Most of those visits occurred in 2009. That is a typical treatment pattern, initially intense, followed by sporadic booster sessions. Adolescence changes treatment relationships, often from parenting-focused to an individual focus.

Unfortunately, not all kids are good candidates for individual therapy. There are certain prerequisites. I could go on and on. However, I won’t because the most important of these is that the kid needs to want to be there. This is not just practically important but legally important. In the state of Washington, children aged 13 or older have the right to consent to mental health services. Inherent in the right to consent is the right to say, “No, I don’t want to do this.”

Thirteen-year-old’s often do not want to go to psychotherapy. This particular girl had complained on two previous occasions. However, due to parental scheduling the visits were MONTHS apart. It’s important to give kids a chance to get used to seeing me again. But yesterday, she was still coming in with the attitude, “What’s the point of this?”

Yesterday, I spelled it out. I noted that when she was younger, she was enthusiastic about seeing me. I noted that currently, this was not the case. I reassured her that this was not a criticism, just an observation, and that I cared about her no matter what. I also explained her rights, now that she is a teen.

After two sessions of tight-lipped stone walling, she started talking. I knew I had used the skills called for by the situation, but I was surprised, nonetheless. I had mentioned the importance of having goals. She replied, “I can’t make a goal.” I said, “What would you like to be different in your life?”

“Nothing that I can change.”

“What would you like different about your life, without censoring your wishes?”

At this point, tears welled in her eyes. In all of the years that I have known her, I have never seen her cry.

“I wish that I never had ADHD.”

“I know. It’s incredibly hard to have something in your life that you can’t change. I imagine that people have told you that your life is about having tons of choices. But that isn’t true. You have choices about some things. Other things are completely out of your control. I am really sad that you have ADHD. I wish I could take it away from you, but I can’t. I can, however, help you feel better about having it. It is not an elimination of the problem but I can offer you the chance to have some peace with this. I can help you feel less hopeless about your future.”

Thus began a short but productive discussion. Maybe a step toward peace. Maybe the next step will take place during the next meeting. Maybe not. Growth often occurs in fits and starts.

It is so hard to have shitty unfair things in our lives. People die. People get sick. People suffer. People we love. Some of those people may even be ourselves.

I am sorry.

I imagine that people have told you than you have control over all of the events that have led to suffering.

That is not fair.

But nonetheless, there are opportunities for choice, for helpfulness, and for peace.

 

It is very warm and dry here for Seattle. I’ve captured some lovely summer sights on my walks around the neighborhood. I thought I’d share a few with you. I hope you are enjoying nature and the outdoors!

DSC02221

DSC02226

DSC02254

DSC02260

DSC02257

My teen had a somewhat tumultuous weekend. The ups, the downs, and the in-betweens. Usually, during low times, she clams up, goes to her room, and doesn’t share what’s bothering her. Later, she may share but not until it’s resolved.

My child, like a lot of teens, has had trouble finding a niche. However, she’s had trouble for some years and the trouble she has now is more than typical. She is sensitive, emotional, and outgoing. She is passionate about her friends and loves belonging to groups whether it is band, her circle of friends at school, or members of her choir. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of stability in her connections.

Yesterday, she told me that she felt sad. She didn’t tell me why but she was also asking me a lot of questions, which gave me hints into what might be bothering her. Talking to my kid is like talking to a butterfly as she flits in and out of the conversation as well as in and out of the room. I am no mind reader but I am a pretty good guesser. Nonetheless, a lot of the things I say to her are not taken well. We’d had a couple of good talks over the weekend and I thought I’d take a chance. Also, I decided to discuss things generally, instead of personally, something I know as a professional works better with teens, but I often forget to do as a mother.

I asked her to sit down on the couch beside me and this is what I said, “It is really hard in life to find a group in which you feel you belong. Sometimes, you discover a group and it seems perfect and wonderful. As time goes by, you form relationships and there are conflicts. People can try to exclude you. Then you can feel like you don’t belong anymore. This is really hard.” She nodded her head in recognition. I continued. “You will always belong in this family. No matter what.” She smiled, reached for my hand, and squeezed it. “Thanks, Mom.”

I said the right thing at the right time and place to help ease my child’s pain. It is the bittersweet spot of parenting in which I rarely find myself. I am grateful for this.

I have lived in the state of Washington for 40 of my 49 years. My parents loved camping and hiking. My husband and I love camping and hiking. Subsequently, I have spent a fair amount of time in the forested areas of Washington and our neighbor to the south, Oregon.

The trees of the Northwest are powerful, long-lived, and majestic. The inspire us with their appearance and are downright useful. They provide habitat for many animals, oxygen, shade, and prevent erosion, among many other things.

There are many uses for live trees. There are also uses for dead trees. The Northwest is a major supplier of lumber. Even nearby Tacoma, has the nickname, “Aroma of Tacoma” due to the odor of pulp mills, which is a perfume that no one would ever dab behind each year.l

Dead trees are incredibly useful. They are used to make paper, cardboard, and lumber. Lumber is used in construction. Lumber is even used to make toothpicks. We use a lot of wood in our lives.

Live trees are beautiful and useful.

Dead trees are useful.

Both statements are true.

There are also hard truths that accompany these truths, of which I was reminded during a trip to Oregon state last week.

DSC02140

DSC02141

The brown areas? They used to look like the green areas. This is what the forest looks like after a clear cut. Every tree is cut down within a particular area. Are there other ways to log that don’t involve taking down every tree? Yes, there are. But clear cutting still happens and from what I can see looking up at the mountain sides, it is still a common way of logging.

While in rural NW Oregon, I spotted about seven logging trucks just like this one in the span of about an hour while killing some time in the small town of Vernonia, which has a population of just over 2000 people.

DSC02138

Those logs are on their way to being made into useful products that we use on a daily basis.

But remember, there’s this.

DSC02140

The forest is alive with many living things, both flora and fauna, not just trees. And yet here, I just see a whole lot of dirt. There was an entire mini-ecology alive there. Now it is not.

Even clear cutting is not clear cut.

There are so many things in life that are not clear cut. Many truths are afoot in our lives, even truths that seem at great odds with one another. One term in psychology for this is “dialectic”, which is a foundational principle of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). There are a number of definitions for dialectic going back to ancient times. In DBT the dialectic is more closely allied with eastern philosophy, specifically dualism. I am no expert in this model but my understanding is that instead of looking at the world in terms of right and wrong, one looks at disparate positions and considers both to contain truth. To make a long story short, this can help people from getting stuck, move to acceptance, and get on with their lives. It does not mean not having an opinion or agreeing with everything.

I have been trying to engage more in dialectical thinking. Dialectics come up frequently in the breast cancer community. Cancer sucks! (True) Cancer is a gift. Lots of us have trouble with statement number two. But there are many people who do see their cancer experience as being a gift. From a dialectical perspective, I would work to accept both of those realities. I don’t have to agree. Both statements do not have to be true FOR ME. But I can accept that there is truth to both positions. For me, that is freeing. I can just be who I am and think the way I think without trying to convince anyone or feel invalidated by someone else’s seemingly incompatible truth.

Dialectics come up a lot in parenting a teen. My child has truth underlying wants and beliefs.  My husband and I have truth in our wants and beliefs. We work toward what is called in DBT, The Middle Path, the way that honors both sides of the dialectic. It is not a simple compromise but often includes compromise. It often includes a lot of creative problem solving, knowing when to flex, when to stay firm, and when to provide opportunities for growth and change.

Dialectics come up a lot in American politics, seemingly every single second of the day!

Last week, two amazing things in the U.S. occurred. The first was a national outcry against the continued display of the Confederate flag in public places in the South, particularly on government buildings. Personally, I hate what the Confederate flag represents in my country. I am glad to see that public opinion is impacting states to take it down.

The other amazing thing that happened was that the Supreme Court of the U.S. ruled that marriage between same sex individuals is not only legal in all state and territories, but that it is illegal to bar individuals from obtaining a marriage license. I am very happy about that ruling. It is a monumental step in civil rights legislation. However, there are many people, a vocal minority in the country, who are very unhappy about it. There are some who are even calling for acts of civil disobedience to defy the law. I have seen a number of people arguing against this. People should follow the law whether they agree with it or not, is the argument.

Meanwhile, an African American teacher was recently arrested for her act of civil disobedience, which was to take down the Confederate flag flying atop the SC state capitol building. She has been hailed by many as a hero. I actually agree that it was a courageous act of civil disobedience. It could also be argued that she could have waited to see what happened. Legal wheels and public opinion, were arguably already in motion to get rid of the flag. On the other hand, she kept the topic alive and that is of some value.

However, why is one act of civil disobedience okay and the other not?

We could say, “Well, the majority think the flag should come down so then it’s okay.” Well, when Harriet Tubman was illegally freeing slaves from the South, lots and lots of southerners were not okay with that.

We could say, “Well, I’m just right and the other side is just wrong.”

Our legislative branch has held this stance for awhile. The people we like keep saying things that we agree with. “Yay! I agree with that!” The other side keeps saying things we don’t like. “Boo, what a bunch of idiots.”

Meanwhile, very little decision-making is getting made and the decisions that are being made are being done in a very inefficient convoluted manner.

Trying to be right all of the time is just a bunch of talk and no action. There is not clear cut path. There is no absolute truth at least one that we can fully understand.

Working under the assumption that truth is absolute is not very useful.

The Middle Path actually goes somewhere.

 

My husband and I are on vacation on the Oregon Coast, just the two of us. We are having a marvelous time. We’ve hiked on the beach, in the forest, and along cliffs above the coastline. It is just the break we needed. An ideal vacation in an idyllic location.
It only makes sense that 100 percent of every moment of the vacation should be positively perfect, right?

If you’ve ever traveled or even lived for more than one minute, you know this is untrue.

It seems that during nearly everyone of our vacations, I am irritated with someone in my family, including myself.  Yesterday, I had hiked seven miles along the coast. We drove to little towns and through amazing farmland. I was tired and in need of getting out of the sun. We got back to our hotel on the beach. If we hadn’t already made plans to eat on the picnic table overlooking the beach near our room, I would have changed into my nightgown. My husband said, “Hey, let’s go fly a kite!”

I am a person of inertia. Once I am at rest, I have trouble changing gears. The day before, John had convinced me to go out at night to see the sunset after I’d already collapsed for the day. I got myself going and was so glad that I did. So in the spirit of being a good sport, I said, “Okay”, put on my shoes, and followed him to the beach. My husband asked me to hold the kite while he walked away, un-spooling the kite string. As he was getting farther and farther away, drowned out by the sound of the ocean, I thought, “What does he want me to do? What is HE doing?”

I have flown kites in my day. He was doing it “wrong”. The first attempt failed. Then I asked him, “What do you want me to do?” He explained the game plan. Communication, yes! Now we had a plan. I was game, so I thought, despite the fact that he was doing it “wrong”. I’m not unreasonable. The kite flying was his idea. That made him in charge and me, the helper.

We made our second attempt and it failed. Then I did something I rarely do. I accepted that I was too cranky. I didn’t tell myself, “You are being silly. It’s just a kite. You have no reason to be annoyed.” I told my husband, “Honey, I’m tired. I’m going to go rest for awhile.”

I rested for about a half hour and then we started to make a beautiful fresh seafood dinner. When I brought the food outside, I saw the kite flying, tied to the arm of a patio chair. We had a wonderful dinner. I don’t think John even knew that I was getting cranky. I let me be me, I didn’t invalidate my feelings, and gave myself the space I needed to return to being an excellent traveling companion.

This may seem like a small thing but I know that small irritations can turn into a bad day and bad behavior on my part. Invalidation, makes emotion bigger, rather than smaller. All emotions are understandable even if we don’t like them.

I know that my life is going to contain upsets, big and small. Sometimes I will make things better, sometimes I will  make them worse, and sometimes, nothing I do will change anything. But I am grateful that yesterday, I was able to take a step away from my expectation of perfection and just gave my imperfect self what I needed.

DSC02039

DSC01987

In my work as a psychologist, I work with children and teens who have disorders considered to be primarily genetic in cause. Environmental factors play a role as well, but according to our current understanding, they are mainly factors that maintain or exacerbate symptoms as well as the pervasiveness and persistence of the resulting impairment in carrying out life’s activities and responsibilities.

About 90% of my patients have Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the primary treatment for which are stimulant medications, which can make an enormous positive difference in an individual who is responsibly diagnosed and treated. However, even with medication, ADHD can make what we typically see as moral and responsible decisions much harder to make. Environmental supports from parents, teachers, and other professionals can help and as children grow into adolescence, individual psychotherapy can also be useful in helping an individual who has trouble internalizing rules that are good in the long run but not salient right now and to use strategies to promote life skills and success. Nonetheless, based on current longitudinal evidence, individuals with ADHD, even treated ADHD, have a much higher rate of high school drop out, only a 5% college completion rate, and a higher rate of accidental death as well as suicidality, among many scary possible outcomes.

This is why these kids, teens, and young adults are the “it takes a village” kind of people. Actually, I believe that we all belong to the village and as social animals, we rely on one another and impact one another for good, for ill, or for nil. But these individuals are particularly vulnerable. They do not tend to be resilient. They need particular parenting and educational strategies that are often inconsistently or not available. They need effective healthcare that is often in short supply.

I consider myself to have been very fortunate for many aspects of my life that just happened to me. I inherited a strong mind, a basically happy personality, grew up in a loving family, went to good schools, and had my basic needs for shelter, food, and belonging more than amply met. I take responsibility for cultivating these gifts very seriously but I don’t for a minute take responsibility for having receiving this gifts in the first place. I got very lucky and have made very good use of what I have.

Consequently, I have a great deal of love and compassion for the individuals I see, even the ones who are honestly, not very likable. Some of them are not even very nice. Sometimes they are very likeable, nice most of the time, but do really impulsive awful things. A common characteristic of many, but not all, individuals is a lack of consistent self-awareness and a very difficult time connecting their actions to negative consequences. This is a neurological issue and it results in difficulties taking responsibility. It is made worse in that when they are aware of short-comings or consequences, they often respond with very harsh judgement of themselves. This lack of self-compassion makes it harder to own up to personal responsibility. All of this is compounded with the fact that medication often makes a big positive difference because it fuels the belief that control is external.

A common way of framing this tension is by saying, “It is understandable that x, y, or z is really hard for you but it is not an excuse. You are still responsible for your decisions and behaviors. We realize it is hard and that is why we are all part of your team to support you. But you are part of the team, too.”

Yesterday, another heinous racist hate crime, an act of terrorism against African Americans was committed in our country. Many of us are angry, grief-stricken, and overwhelmed with sadness and helplessness. We are trying to make sense of this.

I think we need to stop trying to make sense of it, at least in the usual way that we do. The easiest way to explain something horrible is to put it under someone’s control and the easiest way to do that is by laying blame at a particular person. Another easy way to deal with these kind of events is to distance ourselves from them, the “I am not that” approach. Another way we can deal with this is to feel really sad, angry, and anxious for a day or two, or even a week, and then move on to the next horrible news story, further cultivating cynicism and passivity.

It is understandable to feel overwhelmed by this, to be enraged, to feel impotent, to wring our hands in perpetuity. It is even understandable to feel paralyzing and unproductive self-recriminations about the ways that we have acted unkindly to others. It is understandable to criticize the behaviors of others, to join with others in demonizing people we don’t know who have done wrong things; with social media, we join in with the professional media in shaming people in a very intense and protracted way. It has become brutal in a way that makes me fear for our culture. The stockades of the Middle Ages come to mind. Stoning. Throwing acid in a woman’s face.

These are actions that understandably fill our need for agency at times when we can think of nothing else to do. I have participated in these public shame-fests. I have participated in cynicism in the place of effective action. I have participated in judgment that is inconsistent with compassion toward myself or toward others. I have participated in racism, some of which I am aware, and likely some that I have done without self-awareness.

I believe that I am a good person in the way that most people use the term “good person”. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t done harmful things to myself or others. It doesn’t mean that I have not contributed to a hateful culture either through action or inaction, the latter because I was either “busy” or clueless.

As a psychologist, it is understandable for me to see yesterday’s terrorism as a mental puzzle to solve. But none of these understandable beliefs, actions, or conditions are an excuse for not taking my own portion of personal responsibility for being a part of a culture that can be hateful, cynical, passive, selfish, violent, and oppressive.

I am not responsible for the whole problem but I can take responsibility for my contributions to it. These are the steps I have decided to take:

1) I do not consider myself to be a racist person as a trait. However, I accept that as a human being, aggression and dominance are part of me and that I am not immune to the socializing impact of institutional racism. I accept that I can be a good person and person who has done racist things.

2) I accept that I have benefited from institutionalized racism due to the privilege afforded members of a dominant race

3) I will exercise self-compassion despite my moral and ethical failings.

4) I will work to be less judgmental, of people I know and of people I don’t know.  In terms of social media, this means objective criticism of ideas or behaviors but not of people and that said criticism needs to fuel a positive purpose.

5) I will work to help children and families be healthy.

6) I will work to maintain my own mental health.

7) I will work to treat cynicism as understandable, but as being incompatible with compassion and effective change, nonetheless.

8) I will work to promote unity instead of division in my culture.

9) I will work to elect individuals who promote unity and fairness instead of division.

10) I try to listen to others with different viewpoints and life experiences with an open mind.

11) I will accept that complexity is common in the very situations during which I feel the urge to simplify to make myself feel less overwhelmed.

12) I will expect myself, despite my best efforts, to fail from time to time. I will work at these times, to keep trying.

I may be wrong in my arguments, in my beliefs, and my actions. That does not make me a bad person. My imperfection and the limitations of my own mind to understand all of this is understandable. But it doesn’t take me off the hook.

It is understandable but it is not an excuse.

Stop making sense.

Start making change for the better.

eduardo libby: photography blog

Writings about the art and technique of photography. Mostly with Nikon equipment.

KomenWatch

Keeping our eyes and ears open.....

4 Times and Counting

Confessions Of A 4 Time Breast Cancer Survivor

Nancy's Point

A blog about breast cancer, loss & survivorship

The Rebuttal from Uranus

The critical review and analysis of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.

After Twenty Years Cancer Research Blog

Exploring progress in cancer research, care and prevention

My Eyes Are Up Here

My experience with breast cancer

Woman in the Hat

Cancer to Wellness in 1,038,769 Easy Steps!

art of breast cancer

the art of living and dying, while trying to keep them separate

Dglassme's Blog

Wouldn't Wish This On My Worst Enemy

SeasonedSistah2

Today is Better Than Yesterday

Telling Knots

About 30% of people diagnosed with breast cancer at any stage will develop distal metastasis. I am one.

The Pink Underbelly

A day in the life of a sassy Texas girl dealing with breast cancer and its messy aftermath

The Asymmetry of Matter

Qui vivra verra.

thechymeeradiaries

or a young woman's journey through breast cancer

vaguear

Just another WordPress.com site

Fab 4th and 5th Grade

Teaching readers, writers, and thinkers

Fighting Back

Taking on all things that they don't tell you about

Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

making sense of the breast cancer experience together

MAGSBLOG

A breast cancer experience in cartoons

cancer in my thirties

I was a mom to twin kindergartners and had just turned 34 when a breast CANCER diagnosis completely changed my life...

The Breast Cancer Warrior

Finding opportunity through adversity

Telling Knots

About 30% of people diagnosed with breast cancer at any stage will develop distal metastasis. I am one.

Not Down Or Out

It could be worse. I might not be laughing.

Entering a World of Pink

a male breast cancer blog

Luminous Blue

a mother's and daughter's journey with transformation, cancer, death and LOVE

I'm getting my boobs chopped off

One girl, two boobs, a genetic mutation and a big decision

Fierce is the New Pink

Run to the Bear!

My Lymph Node Transplant

One woman's quest for better health... living with lymphoedema

Gluten Free Gus

Baking Joy Into Every Gluten-free Bite

gregsmithmd

mental health musings

The Sarcastic Boob

Determined to Manage Breast Cancer with the Same Level of Sarcasm with which I Manage Everything Else

FEC-THis

Life after a tango with death & its best friend cancer

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 375 other followers