I am not much of a sports fan most of the time, but I do love watching the Olympics, especially the winter games. One of the most thrilling of the winter sports, at least in my view, is the luge. I watch the athlete careen down the luge run at literally, break neck speed, with their legs held out in hair-pin formation. I think to myself, “Holy crap. That’s crazy.” Yes, they wear head protection but those hair-pin legs and arms are covered in space-age stretchy materials. And what about one’s neck? I know that I am not a physical risk taker, but it looks like a pretty dangerous sport major spinal cord injury potential not to mention the orthopedic horrors that could occur. Mostly, what I see on my television screen, however, is highly controlled chaos. These are highly trained athletes at the most elite level. By and large, they love what they do. They are driven to do it, to take the risk, over and over again. I imagine that mastering the luge feels like becoming a force of nature.

I love the mountains, looking at them, and hiking in them. I dreamed a few nights ago that I was driving to the mountains. There was compacted snow on the road. I was driving really fast and following very close. The car was flying along the road. In the dream I had some recognition that the conditions were dangerous but I was determined to make it to the mountains and uncharacteristically non-plussed about conditions. And I was getting to my destination.

This was not a normal anxiety dream for me. Those are the ones I have when “bad guys” are chasing me or when I am stressed about work, my anxiety dreams involve my finding myself, at my current age, back in college or high school, scrambling with my classes. “Oh no. I’ve had a class I forgot to attend all quarter! I must have failed it!” Because I have evolved, the latter dreams end with my realizing that I have a diploma for a Ph.D. Why would I need to be in high school or college?

This was a different dream. It involved anxiety but it also involved a kind of moving forward in life and enjoying it. I was really enjoying myself in the mountains. It was beautiful. And I don’t really think the dream was about my taking dangerous chances or being an Olympic level snow and ice driver. I think this dream reflects how I am coming to deal with the anxiety of my life.

In reality, I am not a very skilled or experienced snow driver. Seattle may be near the mountains but it is a temperate city, at sea level. I entrust the winter driving feats to my husband, who spent his teen and early adult years either living in Eastern Washington or driving back and forth over mountain passes, to visit his parents there. But I am learning how to drive through life, despite its break neck speed, the dangers, the hidden and out in the open.

I am not a person who seeks out danger. I am not a thrill seeker or a reckless person. The mountains can be a beautiful destination. Sometimes the mountains can be barriers to where we want to go. And some of those barriers are K2’s of our own making, towering anxiety without sufficient basis.

I don’t want to live a safe life in my own home. I want to see mountains. I want to enjoy the beauty in my life right now.

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As I’ve mentioned previously, my husband and I both love to write. And as luck would have it, we met in a college English Composition class. I read his short stories. He read my poetry. We talked about books. I remember guessing that he was an English major, only to be greatly surprised that he was completing a computer science degree and considering dropping the class due to his heavy course load.

Soon after our daughter was born, it was clear that she was verbally precocious. The day she turned 8 months old, it was finally clear that the “da da” she’d been babbling consistently for several days was, “Dada”. I remember the first time she said something intentionally funny. She pointed at me and said, “Baby” and then to herself and said, “Mimi”, her name for me at the times. Then she giggled like crazy and repeated the joke over and over. She was less than 10 months old at the time.

As she grew older, she regaled us with thoughts and questions far beyond her years. She “cracked the code” of reading rather early, reading her name through sight word recognition just before her second birthday. She went on to become a voracious reader.

So you would not blame us for expecting that a girl with such facility with language and so many interesting things to say would love to write. But she didn’t. I remember meeting with her 6th grade honor’s English/social studies teacher for conferences. She showed us a worksheet on which students were to answer short questions about Greek civilizations. Our daughter had originally started all of her answers to the “why” questions with “Because”. When her teacher told her not to start her answers with the word, “Because”, she just crossed out the word and left sentence fragments.

Even in high school, my daughter with an incredibly high verbal IQ would write as little as possible and use non-specific vocabulary or worse, non-words like “kinda” and “sorta”. Then there was her habit of not following the writing instructions. This was at times, unintentional and at other times, intentional. The latter writings had a definite voice and tone and it’s name was “smart ass”. Essays for final exams would start out as, “I know that this is not what you want me to write but…”

Every once in awhile, she would write something brilliant. Earlier in the school year she remarked to me, “Mom, I write two ways, really good and really bad.” I kept my response to a minimum but was encouraged to hear that there was perhaps some self-awareness in the works.

My daughter tested into a college program that allows her to take college courses to finish up high school. And she also gets to keep the college credit! This means that she takes fewer courses as one quarter at the college is worth a full year of a high school class. Winter quarter started last month. When she told John and I that she was registered for TWO English classes (creative writing and English comp) as well as advanced algebra (math is her strongest subject, along with music), our hearts sank. Getting through one semester of high school English has always been arduous for her. And she accepts no help from us on writing; this is not new. It has been the case for as far back as I can recall.

Lo and behold, our daughter has met other students in college, who like to write. They take the creative writing class together and workshop each others’ work. Her friends not only tell her when they like or dislike her ideas, they tell her when she needs to follow the professor’s instructions! (Clouds part. Angels sing.) She works on her writing for hours a day. She says, “I didn’t realize I like writing so much.”

She has actually even started letting my husband and I read her papers. They are exceptionally good with precise and vivid vocabulary, thematic depth, and particularly good dialog. We are delighted. A couple of weeks ago, her professor handed back a paper to her personally and told her, “This is excellent. You are one of only two students who earned a 4.0 on this assignment.” My daughter, a 16 year old in a college class, earned the highest possible grade on a WRITING assignment. She was thrilled.

She still doesn’t want corrective feedback on her writing but I don’t offer any, anyway. She is learning that writing is a process of planning, revising, rewriting, re-planning, etc. She asks, “Did you like it? Are you proud of me?”

Yes, I like it very much. I am so very proud of you. I am so happy that you have discovered what we’ve long known. You’ve got things to say.

I am still planning to make a book out of my blog posts and photographs. I joked to my husband, “I don’t know why I haven’t finished already. I mean the photos are already taken and the writing is all done.”

He replied, “The writing’s not done.”

“Yes, it is. I just need to decide what posts will include, in what order, and what photos to put in.” (Not exactly, I actually do have some new writing to do. But I digress.)

“Well, you need to edit it. You have at least one misspelled word in every post.”

Well, of course I am planning to proofread my writing. Believe it or not, I see the misspellings and the typos quite frequently, too. They are a lot easier to spot AFTER I’ve published a post. It’s not just because time has elapsed since the writing of the post, either. I can actually spot them better on the published post than in the WordPress writing editor. It’s something about the font size and the color contrast.

I am not a consistently good speller. If I am tired, it’s worse. If I am surrounded by family activities and chores, it’s worse. And these are the times, my friends, when I write my posts.

I am also not a professional writer. Actually, let me rephrase that. I am actually not a professional proofreader, copy editor, or editor. I am a well educated woman who blogs. That is all. I don’t have a writing degree. I have no staff or publishing house. Also, I don’t care enough to proofread my work before I post it. I learn a lot in the actual writing of each piece and then I let it go.

I can, however, turn it out when I need to do so. Part of my job is testing children with learning disorders, which involves reading and scoring their writing samples according to a standardized rubric. They are short samples and I can find the errors in writing mechanics, grammar, and syntax as well as credit students for using detail, examples, paragraphs, and transition words to organize and develop the themes of their essays.

Some of the “kids” I test are actually college students. Many of the students I test are very smart and work very hard. And you know what? My writing is about 5000 times better than most of them, even accounting for age.

Most people are not great writers, from a technical standpoint. However, most people have something to say. They may have not mastered the medium, but they have a message. This is one of my jobs as a child/adolescent psychologist; I need to use active listening to understand the message.

When children start school, they quickly learn that the “good” kids know answers and have good manners. They are good at school. This carries on in life, with some complications in adolescence, when goodness means “popular” and popularity is defined differently at different schools as well as by individual subcultures of students within a given school. It’s fair to say though that it is pretty much considered a negative for students to fail school.

Recently, I attended a meeting, during which a special education teacher, told a high school student with rather severe learning disabilities, “You are not a test score. You are not defined by grades.”

This student tries really hard and has received additional support for many years. And still, she is having an incredibly difficult time passing classes.  I knew that the intention of the teacher was very positive. But in high school, students ARE defined to a significant degree, by test scores and grades. It is asking a lot from a teen or any person, who is failing over and over at a major part of life, to separate their self-worth from their efficacy in life.

It also doesn’t help that as educated people, we can sometimes bully others based on the way they express themselves rather than simply disagreeing with their message. This is often done in political arguments. For example, a member of the Tea Party carries a sign at a rally that contains a spelling error. We point out the error and say, “What an idiot.”

I have made statements like this many times in my life. I have made fun of people with different viewpoints based on their communication errors, whether spoken or written. A few years ago, I made a concerted effort to stop doing this. It’s not that I NEVER do it, but it is much reduced.

Our country has major problems in the way that it is governed. We have a system that seems to pride itself on fighting all of the time and getting nothing done.  People do it in their day to day life, too. It’s as if we chip away at each other, makes lists of errors, treating the very tiniest like they are the most grievous possible. Because we disagree with someone. Often we disagree because we do not believe the person to be kind or just and somehow this gives us a free pass for being unkind and unfair in return. Hurt and fear often underlie these kind of angry responses. I know for myself, I sometimes use anger to justify why my unkind treatment is deserved. I am trying to do this less and less.

I don’t know how to solve these problems but I can choose to try my best to not be part of them.

Never, never, never give up.
-Winston Churchill

Yesterday was Thursday, a clinic day for me. I had scheduled an interview with a 5 year old boy, a kindergartener at one of the local Catholic schools. I went out to the waiting room to greet his mother and him. “Hello, I’m Dr. Elizabeth.”

He looked up at me and I saw a black mark on his forehead. I immediately thought of Ash Wednesday, which had been the day prior. However, this was more of a defined mark than a smudge.

“Did you get a tattoo on your forehead for Ash Wednesday?”

And he had, a temporary one, in fact. It looked like the remnants of a larger tattoo, perhaps a red race car. The boy put it there because his ash smudge had worn off before he wanted it to.

I found this to be a rather delightful perspective and one that was very different from my time smudged memories of smudged foreheads past. I remember, as a teen, feeling very self-conscious about them. Teen like to call attention to themselves but typically not when it is an authority’s idea. I was taught that it was disrespectful to take the ashes off. They were to stay on until God, gravity, or the bed sheets, rubbed them off.

I was a pretty devout child and young woman.  But I do remember taking it off once. I don’t remember quite how I did it because I would have wanted to make it look accidental or gradual. “Mom, I slipped in the bathroom and a hand towel that brushed past my forehead, broke my fall!” You know, some lame excuse like that.

Ash Wednesday is the first day of the Lenten season, which last 40 days. A strong theme of Lent is sacrifice, namely Jesus sacrificing his life to cleanse humanity of sin. As such, there are traditions of Lenten sacrifice. People “give up” meat (terrestrial animals) on Ash Wednesday and Fridays of Lent. There are fast days when people eat less, and more simple food than usual.

Then there is the question, “What are you giving up for Lent?” When my mother was a child, it was common to give up candy for Lent. She used to tell us how some kids “cheated” by putting their candy in a drawer during Lent but then binging on it as soon as Easter came. I don’t remember what I used to give up but I know that I did it. I remember having mixed feelings about the sacrifices of Lent, about giving up.

“Given up” has so many meanings. However, it typically connotes a loss or weakness.

We have given up when we make sacrifices for the greater good.

We have given up when we view ourselves as helpless and neglect our responsibilities to ourselves and to others.

We have given up when we accept painful realities, lessening suffering.

Only one of these examples involves passivity and weakness. The other two sources of “given up” require fortitude.

I no longer follow most Lenten rituals but in my 30’s, I decided that I would use it as a time to “give up” on things that were adding suffering to my life. I have attempted to give up guilt and impatience, for example. I knew that I really couldn’t totally give these things up but what I realize now is that I was working on being my mindful, less judgmental of myself and others, and thereby more accepting of myself and others.

Cancer is by no means a gift, but it certainly is a time for reflection on suffering and acceptance. When I decided to study mindfulness nearly three years ago, I had a much narrower definition and experience of it than I do currently. And currently, I believe that I have just scratched the surface.

I give up for freedom.

I give up for peace.

I give up for acceptance.

I give up to be who I am and where I am in this given moment of time.

And then I do this over and over and over. For as many opportunities that I have to repeat myself, I am most grateful.

We had our weekly “how to keep your shit together” class last Wednesday. We are currently completing a unit on emotion regulation, which basically centers on what to do when an emotion is so big that it needs to be reined in. The list of emotions that need regulating from time to time don’t include things like contentment. Instead, the list reads partly like the list of the Seven Deadly Sins with a surprise or two added: Jealousy, envy, anger, fear, sadness, disgust, guilt, shame, and LOVE, yes love. (Think of those times you may have had to break off a friendship because it was unhealthy.)

An emotion only lasts 30-40 seconds. Can you believe that? That’s not a very long time. They seem to last longer, sometimes hours or days, due to our response to them. If we are angry and start yelling, the yelling is going to keep the anger refiring in our brains. If we are sad and keep thinking hopeless and helpless thoughts, we also keep the sadness going.

We learned a particular emotion regulation skill, which is called, opposite action. It basically means finding a way to act in a way that is opposite to how your feelings prompt you to act. So if you are angry, instead of lashing out, you might be just a little bit nice by saying calmly, “I need to take a break from this conversation”, and leaving the room to calm yourself down. If you are feeling ashamed, it might mean that instead of isolating yourself, you go out in public and behave as if you have not violated whatever social norm your feelings are telling you that you have violated.

Opposite action is used when an emotional response does not line up with the facts of the situation or when our emotions are so high as to prevent us from functioning effectively. In respect to the former, have you ever felt guilty about something even though you’d done nothing wrong, but figured that you must have done SOMETHING because you felt guilty? That’s an example of an emotional response not lining up with the facts.

Opposite action also requires taking it all of the way. It means not only behaving in an opposite way but also making sure your nonverbal communication, your body language, facial expression, and tone of voice are opposite. Yes, this means faking it and there’s even the expression, “Fake it ’til you feel it.”

The acting part of this may rub people the wrong way. Personally, I kind of think about it like when we teach children to smile and thank their auntie with apparent sincerity when given a gift that they already have or don’t like. There are things we fake in order to prevent hurting other people. If we can use opposite action to disrupt the patterns we have of negative thoughts and behaviors, we can prevent ourselves from hurting our own feelings or of others. So this kind of faking makes sense to me.

It’s also kind of like a job interview. We may really want the job or we may not really want it. We may feel really nervous or unworthy. We may be struggling financially. But we put on our best face, stand up straight, act cordial and confident, and give a firm handshake. We act as though we like the person we are being interviewed by and are excited about the prospect of the job. And sometimes in the course of the interview as we learn more about the position and we may even start having some real enthusiasm or interest.

Everyday is like an interview with life. Each day I will work for jobs like compassion and  joy.

 

Several years ago, I visited a preschool as part of an evaluation I was doing of one of my patients. It is rare for private psychologists to include a classroom observation in an evaluation but given my specialty, I do it as much as I can because it provides quite valuable information. Although children may notice me or even ask me a question like, “Whose mom are you,” I am typically able to be pretty unobtrusive.

This observation was different. I remember sitting down in the corner of the room. And then I was promptly mobbed. I was surrounded by 3 and 4 year old’s. They were not, however, just asking questions. They were also grabbing my coat and touching my face.  It was slightly disconcerting. It made me feel badly for rock stars who are mobbed by fans, fans who act like they have a close and intimate relationship with them.

I am very good with young children. Ages 3-6 is actually my favorite developmental stage. And not the shy ones, either. I like the spirited kids, the ones who have trouble keeping their zest in check.

Unfortunately, unless their learn to manage their behavior and emotions, about half of the young kids who are considered a “handful” or “hard-to-manage” go on to develop more serious mental health problems. So that’s why I work with parents and teachers to help kids learn to control themselves better so that their zestful natures help them to be happy and connected little people at home, at school, and in the community. This kind of treatment was actually my original specialty, the focus of my dissertation and my post-doc, not to mention training with one of the national leaders in the field while an intern at the University of Florida.

About four years ago, I stopped taking new patients for treatment. I needed to keep my after school hours to a minimum so that I could be home more for my family. So, I do about 80% testing and the other 20% are long term patients with whom I’ve had ongoing treatment relationships or who come back on an infrequent basis. I never know when a kid is going to need to see me for treatment again. It can happen any time, which makes scheduling difficult. And to see kids during the school day for treatment means their missing a lot of school on a regular basis.

I evaluated a young child last fall. I provided a referral list of psychologists who do the treatment I recommended. I got an email from the boy’s mom about three weeks ago asking for more referrals. She had called everyone on my list and was unable to get in at a time that would work for her family. It just so happened that my treatment load was light right at the moment she emailed. Also, I remembered how cute the little boy was. For the first time in four years, I said, “I can see you.”

I’ve seen them 3 times now. For me, I am having the time of my life. Wow, I miss treating little fireballs! I actually don’t understand why so few people specialize in this kind of work. The treatment is evidence base and has been around since the 60’s. The technology is not rocket science. Well, maybe it’s 1960’s rocket science. But the kids can behave like rockets and rocket-shaped kids are admittedly, scary. And when one (or two or three or four) of these kids are in a classroom, it’s super scary.

One of the reasons that little people can be scary is that they move quickly. They exhibit frequent concerning behaviors. Their moods can change rapidly. They live in the moment. Their brains are also growing rapidly. These qualities, my friends, can be used a resources. This means that you can respond to them frequently in ways that teach positive behaviors like cooperation and flexibility and to reduce less adaptive behaviors. Little kids don’t tend to hold grudges. They can get over small hurts and small disappointments. Little kids usually love to have their positive behaviors and growth recognized by adults. Obviously, not all little people are like this. I am, however, talking about a sizable subset of children.

I’ve encountered a lot of mental health providers who prefer to treat adolescents because they are “easier”. “Are you serious? Teens try to kill themselves, take drugs, get into car accidents, and other dangerous things.”

Now some of this is our tendency as mental health providers, to gravitate toward working with the population with whom we have the most skill. And I’ve had little kids do dangerous things like jumping out windows and much more commonly, run around parking lots. But little kids are more easily supervised and kept safe using a few key strategies.

I suppose, however, that it can seem surreal to hear that a child had an hour long tantrum over anything, especially something like not getting the color drinking glass that he wanted. I remember the heartbreak of my daughter when she was about 20 months old after she accidentally dropped her sippy cup of water into the penguin exhibit at the zoo. “Sippy, Sipppppppppy!!!!” Her crying only got harder after the penguins started pecking at it! She kept calling for “Sippy” in the car and for quite some time after we came back home. The ridiculousness of this makes it a funny story years later. But at the time, she considered her plastic cup to be alive and to be a very important friend.

Little children’s anguish over things like not earning a sticker or getting their sandwich cut the wrong way or the inhumanity of being placed in time out, is real. But the anguish will not result in death and by learning to manage strong emotions, to learn that ever negative emotion ends and that there are ways to self-soothe, they will be happier and healthier. When I think of my own adult life and the times I have experienced high anxiety, anger, dread, and acute sadness, I see that although the feelings have always been real, the situation is often not as dire as it seems. Sometimes the problem is mainly needing to calm down. And even when there are other problems to solve, calming down is often the first step.

I am very glad for this little person in my professional life, even if he is a handful. He is already learning quickly as are his parents. And by seeing the resilience of this little fireball and the hard work of his loving young parents, I am re-learning a handful of lessons about life, change, and growth.

I remember reading Virginia Woolf’s, A Room of One’s Own, an assigned reading for a course I was taking at the University of Washington. I know it is a classic feminist text. I know that she was part of the Bloomsbury Group, a collection of intellectuals active in the early 20th century. I know that she wore pants at times. I know that she was played by Nicole Kidman in the excellent film adaptation of the book, The Hours, and that she died by suicide.

But frankly, when I read A Room of One’s Own, I missed a lot. I remember her paragraphs being reaaaaaaally long. I would find that I had decoded the words on two or three pages only to realize that I’d comprehended very little and was lost in this book long essay. I’d flip back through the book, begin reading again, and write notes in the margin, a critical thing for me to do when my mind wanders in reading.

But I did get her main message. She wrote about the importance of having time and space to write, something that most women not only did not have but were discouraged from having. A room of one’s own. A room to think and write and be. I also got that “a room of one’s own” has a figurative as well as literal meaning. We need a separate space and time for individuality. We need an identity apart from our relationships with others. As women, we need a relationship with ourselves that is apart from wife or mother. There may be ‘no “I” in team’ but there is an ‘I’ in “being” and all of us, male or female are beings.

As you know, I recently moved my private practice. One of the differences is that the current space has three offices instead of the previous two. That means all three of us, Jennie, Julie, and myself have an office to ourselves.

I have also mentioned that the rent for the new office space is nearly three times what the old office space was. Granted, the old office space was really inexpensive. But this is an increase that is easily noticed, especially since I hold the lease and it it the full rent that is automatically drawn from my bank account every month.

There is also the fact that although I work five days per week, I only see patients on three days per week. In the past, I have only had access to my office space for those three days. Now I have access every day of the week, whether I see patients or not.

There is an allure to subletting my office to another psychologist. This would reduce my monthly rent. At this point, however, I am strongly opposed to this. I have been reminded again and again during the last few years about how little control I have over my own life. I made what I thought was a beautiful workspace for my past office and I didn’t mind sharing it. But we lost it due to our lease not being renewed. I have now created another workspace and it, in my eyes, is lively but restful. And I want it to myself. I want to be able to go there any time I want to do report writing, pick up the mail, or just know I could go there anytime. I want to be able to get there in the morning and know that the room is exactly as I left it the night before. This is not because I am a control freak. It is just nice to know that this very thing is possible. It is also nice to know that if my life goes sideways again that I will have the flexibility to schedule patients on different days of the week. I will not be boxed into three days.

Yes, it is expensive but it is worth it at this point of time. I want my own time and my own space.

My money or my mind.

Before: The waiting room. This is how the waiting room looked the month before we started painting.

Before: The waiting room. This is how the waiting room looked the month before we started painting. The woman in the photo is my friend, Jennie.

Before: My office when it was used as a lab. This is the first glimpse I got of the space before we signed the lease.

Before: My office when it was used as a lab. This is the first glimpse I got of the space before we signed the lease.

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After: The waiting room.

The hallway to my office. I loved the wall stickers!

The hallway to my office. I loved the wall stickers!

Make yourself comfortable. This is the sitting area for interviewing, psychotherapy, and explaining test results.

Make yourself comfortable. This is the sitting area for interviewing, psychotherapy, and explaining test results.

Testing area.

Testing area. The wooden piece is front of my desk is a folding desk. I unfold it to combine with my larger desk top to make large enough surface for my testing materials.

I made a removable cover for the air conditioner because it was ugly. I bought the owl clock because it was handy and adorable.

I made a removable cover for the air conditioner because it was ugly. I bought the owl clock because it was handy and adorable.

The chicken and tree decals were inspired by the feeling of boredom I felt when I sat in the chairs across from the door of my office.

The purchase of the chicken and tree decals was inspired by the feeling of boredom I felt when I sat in the chairs across from the door of my office.

It is easy to be harshly judgmental. It makes life simpler. It places a distance between ourselves and someone else’s suffering. If I can find a way to justify someone’s suffering, it buffers me from the reality that bad things can happen to anyone.

As a child clinical psychologist, I see aspects of people’s family lives that are largely invisible to outsiders. I consider their revealing these hurts, fears, and faults, as a sacred trust. This translates into a strong sense of responsibility to respect my patients and their families. I do, however, have to make judgments and interpretations in order to make diagnoses, treatment plans, and to carry them out. Sometimes I have to share difficult views, things I consider to be hard truths.

Honestly, sometimes I get frustrated with my patients, especially their parents. Those are the times that I try to reflect and observe. Why I am so frustrated? What can I do to get back to a more balanced place, the place that is necessary for my work as well as for my personal happiness?

I’ve had a couple of conversations with a friend of mine, also in mental health, about how we just don’t know what goes on in people’s lives, even those that are close to us. We just don’t know what challenges with which a person is dealing. Some of this is due to shame and stigma. Some is to protect loved ones from harsh judgment and bad treatment. Other times, we just can’t function on a daily basis if we advertise every hurt and pain. For mental health, a balance must be attained in order to live in reality. No one’s reality is all suffering, though some people have much more than their fair share.

I have been working on my judgment of myself and others in my personal life as part of my mindfulness practices. Stress and working too hard is a trigger for me to be very sensitive and hurt easily, to which I am apt to respond with harsh judgment. I can see the changes I have made in my life to decrease this but understandably, it still occurs. Harsh judgment is not something I will likely ever eliminate from my life. It will wax an wane in my own mind. My hope is that my periods of being “stuck” in it will be less frequent and of shorter duration.

I have worked on being more compassionate and accepting of myself. I have worked on being more compassionate and accepting of my husband. Now I find myself struggling with harsh judgment of my teen daughter. If I am quite honest with myself, I am finding parenting at this time of my life, to be ungratifying, not to mention the times when it’s just scary. As a parent, I am generally much above average in acceptance and patience. I know my daughter loves me, but she mostly pays very little attention to me except to ask for things and typically responds with irritation when I talk to her, regardless of the subject. I know to a large extent that this is developmental and a common feature of mother/adolescent relationships, but it is still very painful. I love my daughter and I like her a lot. I would like to be a part of her life that is not so stressful to either of us. Right now there is no ease in our relationship.

I have also worked hard on backing off, reminding her less, and better respecting her independence. I think I have done a really good job with that. I guess I had a fantasy that if I did that, she would re-engage with me and our relationship with be not only less conflict-laden, but emotionally closer. That may still happen but it hasn’t happened yet. I know that it could be much worse but for me, thinking about how much worse things could be, typically does not work as a form of self-encouragement.

I just don’t know what all my daughter is dealing with in her life. And I really want to know but I can’t. I can work to accept this but all of the positive thinking in the world is going to get me to be happy with this. But acceptance is a peaceful place and there is healing there for both my daughter and for myself.

I am grateful for my blessings, really, I am. And I have a multitude of blessings. I work hard to be a happy and balanced person. Most of the time my daily life makes sense to me. Most of the time my responsibilities feel bearable. Sometimes, like today, I feel worn out. I feel like I am living a life that requires 150% of me. People, each of us only has one whole self, which is 100%. 110% only exists on those stupid business motivational posters.

One of the things that I tried to change about my life after my cancer diagnosis is expecting myself to work near 100% capacity every day. I need to rest like every one else. I need balance and rejuvenating experiences.

I have been working myself hard since November. Really really hard. My family life has been hard and my work life has been hard. My health, thank goodness, has been good.

When I was younger, working more than is healthy, held certain seductive powers. I felt accomplished, strong, and self-sacrificing, the last of which giving a moral edge or some kind of “get out of jail free card”.

It’s so easy to work too hard. It’s hard to rest, to have ease. I hate that. I hate that having ease takes so much damn work. Easy shouldn’t be hard but it is.

Last year, I had two periods, each a few days long, when I felt transported into a fun, easy world outside of my work and family responsibilities. Both times, I spent time with friends and mostly without my family. It was fantastic. It was easy. Then I got back to my normal life, which although rich with blessings and meaning, landed on me like a ton of bricks.

The work on moving my psychology office occurred over two major holidays, some tough parenting issues, and financial stress. It took a lot of time and money in amounts far exceeding what I wanted.  Although I am very happy with the outcome, I am worn out. I need a break. Yesterday, I was working on some summer plans. They became complicated quickly. At this time and place in my life, it hit me hard and I was sad. I was disappointed. I was sad and disappointed not with myself or anyone else, but with the lack of ease in my life. I was teary when my husband came home. I explained in a few sentences. He totally understood; after all, we share a life together.

It’s not easy to be easy. I guess I will keeping working hard on that.

I knew I was close. I’d been peeking online on Jogtracker.com for my total miles walked. It was taking forever, like trying to find the exact time when the odometer numbers on the old cars would all flip at once.

Then I busied myself with my office move. Today I took a peak. Sometime in the last two weeks, I made my milestone. I hit the 2,000 mile mark on my walking since December 2012.

You may recall that last year, when I was exactly at the 1000 mile mark, I found myself accidentally parading around the neighborhood in my underwear, after experiencing a hot flash, taking off my shirt, and walking a good block or two before discovering that I had not put on a sports bra that day. I was walking around in a regular black bra, purchased at Target. Oops.

This year, I passed 2,000 miles without really thinking of it. This is comforting in a way because things we do that we don’t think about are habits. I was trying to build regular exercise into my routine. And I have, I walk habitually. But this also leaves me every so slightly on guard. Without mindfully and actively engaging in exercise, I run the risk of getting out of the habit. Habits, unless they involve addiction, need a little nudge to keep them going.

So today I take a pause and reflect on 2,000 miles walked in a little over two years. It’s a lot of time that I took for myself to take care of myself over the past two years. I can honestly reflect on how I feel and how I live my life and conclude that this has been time very well spent. Not to mention the fun I’ve had taking photos, the cats I’ve met along the way, the increased time with my husband when e joins my walks, and the most excellent coffees I’ve sipped on my journeys.

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