It's time for a change. During the past two years, I have met with people almost exclusively by video, and I have decided to give up my physical office space. I will continue to meet with clients virtually. Some of you have already decided that on-line, or virtual, sessions work well for you and give you more flexibility in scheduling appointments. Others would prefer in-person appointments and will miss having that option. I have mixed feelings about this change, but I realized over the months that I really enjoyed working from home. If you decide to try a video session, I hope you will find that my attention is on you and addressing your concerns as always. Welcome to my virtual office!
If you're feeling overwhelmed by the current issues surrounding the coronavirus, know that you are not alone. I've begun to think of it as being on a ship, tossed by the waves, and trying to keep my footing. So much change almost overnight. It all became very real for me the day schools in our community were closed. None of us has experienced anything like this. We hear much conflicting information, but it seems clear that practicing physical distancing, hand-washing, sanitizing, and so on are important safety precautions.
As we physically distance, it is important to stay in touch with family and friends. Use the video applications that are available, phone calls, and emails. My family has fun with the app Marco Polo. It allows us to send video messages to each other. We are going to try Zoom to have a Sunday brunch "together". Good old phone calls and texting still work. I might suggest snail mail letters, but I think that is pushing it!
I have been reluctant to stop in-person sessions, but I am going to experiment with all-video sessions for the near future. It does not feel the same as in-person, but it may surprise you how easy it is to adapt. It has been shown to be effective for therapy. Ultimately, I hope to see you all in person once again. Ironically, some people are greatly relieved that they do not have to leave the safety of home to have therapy. So, a crisis has forced me to adopt a tool that I probably should have tried awhile ago.
Be well and be in touch.
Clients often talk about changes they want to make in their lives. Someone asks, "Why does it take me so long to come to a decision?" I say, "It takes as long as it takes." It is important to give yourself as much time as you need, especially when making important decisions about a marriage or other significant relationship.
Someone once told me that I am like a bear, pacing up and down the creek bank, trying to find the best place to jump in. Suddenly, there is a splash, and the bear has jumped! That may be true for many of us. The work to make the decision is internal and not visible to ourselves or others. Yet change is happening.
When we bow to pressure from others to make a decision we may face consequences that we have not prepared ourselves for. And others do not bear those consequences. When we know it is time, we can deal with whatever follows our decision.
Know that the way is not always clear, and clarity will come one step at a time, just as we need it.
I recently bought a used piano. It has been nearly twenty years since I owned a piano. I missed the pleasure of sitting down to play, letting my fingers hit the keys while my brain focused on other things.
Lily, my three and a half year old granddaughter, came to visit yesterday, and I asked her if she wanted to see the piano. She said, "No." So I carried her down the hall to show her the piano. She was not interested, suggesting that we read a book. We went back to the living room, sat on the couch, and read several books together.
Later, Lily wandered down the hall back to the piano. She climbed onto the bench, sitting with her feet tucked under her. She announced that she needed paper, which I correctly interpreted as music, as she smiled when I handed her a sheet of notes. She announced, "I'm the gentleman," apparently referring to the emcee who introduces the songs. Her hands moved in flourishes above the keyboard. She pointed to a bar saying, "We'll play this". She then spent a number of minutes moving her hands above the keys. I wondered if she would ever strike a key. When I played a scale, she said, "I can do that!" She didn't, however. Finally, her little fingers struck some tentative notes. I sat nearby, trying not to interfere.
As she became more adventurous, more notes were struck. Frequent breaks were taken, with Lily climbing off the bench, moving around the room, then getting back on the bench and playing. Eventually, as I sang songs I could remember (mainly Christmas carols), Lily accompanied me with confidence. It was a delightful way to spend time with Lily and the piano.
Sometimes life hands us more than we know how to handle At those times, we may feel numb, unable to name what we are feeling. This can be a coping skill that makes it possible to hold on to life when things seem hopeless. At some point, however, we begin to realize that we want to feel again. Here are several things to try if you are at this point.
1. Write thoughts in a journal. Include feeling words. Don't stop to worry about good grammar, spelliing, or punctuation. Just get it down.
2. Use a sentence starter such as "I am happy/sad/angry" when... and write as quickly as you can anything that comes to mind for at least 10 minutes. This process can lead to some surprising insights.
3. Take a plain sheet of paper and a pencil, crayons, or markers. Pick a color at random and apply it to the paper. Draw shapes, lines, blobs. Note the colors, the pressure you are using to draw, the feel of the pencil/marker/crayon against the roughness of the paper. Pay attention to the process of the exercise rather than the outcome. What are the colors and shapes communicating to you?
4. Draw a scene from your childhood. Pick the first scene that comes to mind. Sketch quickly without censoring yourself. What feelings surface as you draw?
Are there other things that work for you? I would love to hear from you, either by comments on the blog or by sending messages directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Well, the holidays are almost gone. I meant to write earlier in December to talk about how to enjoy the holidays without feeling overwhelmed. Too late! I guess I was already in the rat race.
I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the activity generated by family get-to-gethers, a sign of aging I guess. This year I told myself that I would focus on staying in the moment; rather than worrying about how things were going or what I should do, just observe and respond as things evolved. People came and went, gifts were opened, food prepared and eaten, clean-up took place. I did less "shoulding", should call brothers and sisters, should pick up the living room, should get the laundry started, should write the Christmas letter, etc., etc. You know...some of those things have been done, and some remain to be done.
The New Year weekend is yet to come. The final hurrah of 2010. As January arrives in northern Indiana, the winter seems to stretch on interminably. There's a let-down feeling as kids, grandkids, and other family members go back to their homes in other places. A teacher I knew used to say that she loved the weeks after Christmas because she could get a lot more teaching done without the interruptions of the fall holidays. There is comfort in the routine of the days. On the other hand, for one who enjoys change and the unexpected, it can feel like a long, boring time.
Some people write New Year's resolutions. I don't know about that. It's a process usually fraught with more "shoulds." However, if you can think in terms of planning to do something that you've always wanted to do during this year, it can become a "want to", something to dream about, anticipate, and look forward to happening. The resolutions to lose weight, save more money, keep in better touch with families may come later; for now, dream of something that will help you to anticipate rather than dread the remaining winter days. Marge and I are planning a weekend with the grandkids and daughters in Chicago in a couple weeks. Maybe there's a friend or relative you want to spend some time with, or a cabin in the woods that will get you away from the chores of home and into a peaceful,natural setting. Go down to Rieth Woods in the still of a snowy morning and listen to the sound of silence. Dust off a book cover, sit and read with a cup of tea.
For those of us who fight depression, it is important to have some activity mixed in with the sitting still. Set small goals for the day like cleaning one shelf rather than an entire cupboard or closet. Mix activity with quiet time. Call someone even when you don't feel like it. Let them know you don't want to talk long, just a little. Do the same at work...set smaller work goals for yourself and others for the time being. A small task accomplished will help build your energy to tackle bigger things.
The days are already getting longer, and by the end of January, spring will be just around the corner, won't it?
Yesterday morning my phone rang. Daughter Heidi said that Sam wanted to talk to Grammy. Sam is almost three. I quickly turned on my laptop and waited for the call. There they were, Sam and sister Lily, 17 months. They both smiled hugely. Then Sam turned his face sideways to the camera, stuck his thumb in his mouth, and stared seemingly into space. Mommy explained that he was watching cartoons, Team Oomi Zoomi to be exact. (Who can resist a cartoon with that name?) Lily continued to stare at the camera, more interested than her brother in watching us. Marge, who is Oma, happened to be going to work late, so Lily and Sam could say hi to her as well. After a couple of minutes, we all waved good-by and signed off.
It was a short encounter. It served its purpose. Sam and I got to say hi. I saw the faces of two little ones who grow and change so fast it is hard to keep up.
How lucky we are to live in times when we can communicate so easily. When my ancestors came over from Switzerland over 200 years ago, and when later generations moved west state by state, they left with some certainty that they would never again see the faces of those they left behind. They could write letters, of course. I think about that, and what we are losing by not leaving the written record that letters provide. It is simply a reality that things change and we leave some things behind even as we gain opportunities thorugh the use of new technologies.
A friend mentioned that his niece can communicate with her family from France at no cost! It's real time with facial expressions and all. It's a way to maintain and grow relationships with little ones who are years away from letter-writing. I love seeing those little faces!
Thanks for the affirming comments on my first blog! It's encouraging to know that you are reading and adding your thoughts.
Heather mentioned being a late bloomer. I own a book called "Late Bloomers" that includes vignettes of a number of famous and lesser-known people whose greatest achievements occurred late in life. (I would tell you the author, but that would require looking through my bookshelves.) I read it at one of those many times when I questioned my career choices. It was encouraging to read about people who accomplished great things in their 70's and 80's. It helped me to feel less frantic about "finding answers" to my questions.
Who wants to wait until they're that old before they do great things, you ask! Well, I think that we all have a need to believe that what we are doing has some greater purpose, some meaning in the greater scheme of things. The fallacy is in thinking that what we're doing currently doesn't really matter. Most of us aren't involved in earthshaking assignments. We do a lot of "monkey work" no matter what position we hold. My challenge to myself has been to focus on doing tasks to the best of my ability, particularly those tasks that involve interfacing with other people.
My Bachelor's degree is in Elementary Education. I spent two years as a first grade teacher before starting a family, and (with a great deal of relief) resigning from my job. Later jobs included being a fulltime mom, working for an insurance agency (Mennonite Mutual Aid), selling real estate, substitute teaching in middle and high schools, and working for a manufacturing company as a production scheduler. I've often felt apologetic about my work history. The longest time I've spent at any job has been five years. Yet, each job provided experiences that ultimately helped me to become a better person, and a better therapist.
Therapy has been the best fit by far. It brings me into contact with all kinds of people, challenges me to listen critically and ask questions that move someone to a different place in their thinking. There is variety in the day to day. I am moved by knowing that the quality of someone's life is better because of therapy.
What's your story? Where has your life taken you? What's getting in the way of your making changes that you'd like to make for yourself? The first step is naming what you want, being willing to tell yourself,"what if...?"
For almost seven months, I have had a wonderful and fearful opportunity...to re-form my life as an independent businesswoman, a therapist with a growing practice, a 50-something, starting over, continuing on.
The businesswoman who got out of bed at 5:30 every morning has been replaced by a woman responding to a less pressured lifestyle by "sleeping in", sometimes until 8:30 (don't tell!). Walking on the treadmill has once again become part of my daily routine. Coffee is enjoyed cup by cup as I wander throughout the house, picking up, watching Morning Joe, reading email or pages from my latest read.
The dogs follow me from room to room. They have their favorite spots; as I settle into the big chair in the living room, Leslie is on the ottoman, Kate behind me. Following me into my office, Leslie again finds her spot under the desk while Kate parks herself nearby on the rug.
On-line connections have become increasingly important as there is no immediate, daily interaction with coworkers. My use of Facebook has surprised me; I've found that I enjoy knowing everyday things about people I almost never see. Cousins who are a part of my past and present, former coworkers, email buddies, new friends and acquaintances, my neighbor, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews, mother.
Establishing an independent practice sucks up worktime. Meeting with current and new clients, networking, marketing, setting up partnerships with insurance companies, navigating the Medicaid maze; it is a challenge to set priorities when everything is important. Time with clients is the best, making the other tasks worthwhile.
Finally, I have always enjoyed writing, and a client encouraged me to start this blog. So here we are, and I look forward to sharing more with you and dialoguing with you here, another part of my extended community.
I have been a therapist for seventeen years. My other roles include being a mother of three adult children and Grammy to seven active grandkids.