She wrote: “…as a jewelry artist of 20+ years, I’ve never had a studio space. I’ve always created jewelry ad hoc on my lap since 1999 when I began. I like having the TV or an audiobook going in the background while I create (tell me a good story!).”
My binge watching is really binge listening. It’s background comfort and distraction noise while I am doing other things…like my covid-craft projects, or paperwork, or culling through a life-time of “stuff” in an effort to use this time wisely. Like continuing my age-appropriate down-sizing.
I sound like a hoarder…and truthfully, I guess I actually am. I save even the most unlikely scraps of memorabilia…you know, just in case. Every photograph, letter, trinket, ticket stub and card, represents something meaningful, an important memory in my life.
I blame my Grandmother. She saved everything too. Like many in her generation, who survived the (first) “Depression”, she had more rubber bands, and scraps of used tin foil than god.
When I was a child, and basically had no one else who cared about me, I would spend hours at Gramma’s feet while she did pretty much what I am doing now. And every unlikely saved item she touched had a story. Each time she threw something away, she first thoughtfully caressed it, then reverently told me why she saved it.
And the things she kept, she would carefully wrap or fold before putting in her grandmother’s beautiful, carved wooden “hope chest”. Those things elicited a less emotional and much more fact-filled explanation, her justification really for keeping them.
“This was your Great Grandmother’s bonnet. She wore this in the covered wagon trip from Missouri to Salt Lake City. This has great historical value.”
I learned from both categories of her “things”, the trash and the treasures. I learned about our family, our history, our legacy…and, these downsizing events with my grandmother helped me finally understand my Mom.
This whole preventative isolation thing has me thinking about some monumental things; like mortality, aging, and use of my remaining time here…some of it, quite frightening and very painful. I know I am not alone in this…
Thus, the needed relief of instant, focus-shifting, binge-watching in the background.
When I started this Spirit Lifters series, using the word “grounded” in my titles was because that’s what my doctor told me. She said, in her straightforward way, “you are in all the highest risk categories, not just for contracting this virus, but dying from it so if you want to survive, you are grounded for the duration”, as in “Go to your ROOM. You are GROUNDED!” (She barely meant in a humorous way.)
Anyway, I woke up this morning with the profound realization that just as Mother Nature is “culling” our species, maybe even for the planet’s survival, all of this binge-watching, and crafting, and sorting, has provided us all with the perfect background for culling through our own lives….a meaningful distraction from the existential crisis we are all facing.
So being grounded by my Doc is exactly what has worked for me to stay “grounded” and centered through easily the most terrifying time in my life…
It was during one of these paper-sorting, binge-watching times I heard this song in the background. It was on, of all things, Bones. (I told you I am running out of things to watch…) At first, I thought it was Bono singing, but it’s Starsailor, a group I barely remember from the early 2000’s. It’s a beautiful, slightly haunting piece. The melody, by association, now grounds me when I hear it…..I hope you enjoy it.
There you have it. I hope, if you have actually read all of this, you will respond with a comment. Tell me what your favorite distraction has been during our year of pandemic.
A plea from a wall-climbing, screaming extrovert, with no one to talk to!!!
You may have seen the video below. If not, well HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
I meant to post it New Year’s Day but got distracted by other stuff.
And now, all I can think of is the powerful question I woke up with this last Thursday morning…the day after the…uh, insurrection at the US Capitol.
I wondered out loud if the way I was feeling…appalled, furious, disgusted, extremely critical of those selfish, insane people, was the same way my elders felt toward me in the 1960’s when I was willing to risk my life for the things I believed in so strongly…Racial Equality and ending the Vietnam war!
I had to think about that for a long time.
I concluded that violence was the difference. Back then we marched, and sat, and sang, and lobbied, and yes, I even put daisy’s in the rifle barrels of the National Guardsman trying to stop us.
So today, I am watching this Fireworks Video differently.
Each explosion is a failed gun shot, blossoming into glorious proof of the miracles in life.
Brilliantly choreographed scene from my all time favorite movie about my generation…
Huge confession here…It has taken me most of my life to be able to accept, and then finally respect, the “Military”. Well, not the military as a whole, but respect for those who choose to join an armed service, especially for patriotic reasons. All that pledging allegiance as a kid, really meant something to me.
I saw my father cry exactly twice in my life. Once, for a split second, when my mother died. And once when I was very young, and we heard Kate Smith sing America the Beautiful. Talk about imprinting…
Becoming a young adult in the Vietnam War era, I was primed to join those of my generation who were loudly and sometimes, even violently, objecting to that war, but when the protesting became personal…aimed at my returning “brothers” just because they had accepted being drafted into that war, rather than fleeing their homes to run to Canada, I knew I had to find another stand for myself.
Confession: Back then, I could not understand that choice. I myself, would have easily left this country, rather than accepting being drafted to fight in a war that made no sense to me.
I’m much better at standing solidly for something I believe in, than fighting against something I hate.
In my young adolescence, I had already been exposed to the most extreme racial inequality in our country, so for a time, I let that experience impact my life to the degree that working hard for Civil Rights became my primary focus…rather than protesting against the injustice.
Then sometime in my 30’s, I went to D.C. to visit the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall. It broke my heart to have to look up 17 names, but by then, I was starting to see more clearly that I was not the only one permanently inspired by our standing at attention, hand-over-heart, daily pledging as kids.
And along the way, influenced by the passionate commitment of many men and women who had served in the Military, I was able to shift to deep respect and gratitude for their choices, while still maintaining my own stand for peace.
Here’s one of my most beautiful reminders…by the wonderful Karen Drucker.
Oh I am so excited to find this “challenge”! BIRDS!!! One of my favorite topics!
And just yesterday, I found some old photographs (remember the paper kind?) that took me way back to my very first pet, Fluffy, the House Duck. I wrote out the story of Fluffy when I was about 10 years old and won an elementary school creative writing contest. I was so embarrassed (and proud!)
But for this week’s challenge, here are a variety of more recent photos. To me it’s no surprise I have so many pictures as ducks and geese are favorites of mine, given my early water fowl imprinting with Fluffy and all. (Just don’t tell my Crows and Hummers, as they get so jealous…)
First, even though I live in a very country-ish suburban neighborhood, a duck sighting here is unheard of. But this one year (2002), for some reason, I had a visitation.
Then, on a trip to the Deep South a couple of years ago, at the New Orleans airport, I was visited again!
Next, very recently, this guy just dropped by to say hello. He spent the afternoon hanging out in my side yard. He seemed quite tame and very amenable to a photography session. His colors were so beautiful and I kept imagining that I was seeing a flash of bright blue along his side…
Turns out a neighbor on the next street over has a large pond on their property and these ducks return to every year. That probably explains the 2002 visit also.
And not to neglect geese…on a regular trail we travel several times a year, from home to the San Juan Islands, if we are lucky, we see this! These are shots taken in the not-yet-blooming Tulip fields by La Conner, Washington, a favorite stopping place for migrating Canadian Snow Geese. The pictures are not great but you get the idea.
I just wish I could share the sound with you. It’s like nothing else. When these geese are having lunch, it kind of sounds like an audience sitting in a Concert Hall, right before the show begins…low conversations, muffled chattering.
Then when they take flight, BOOM, it’s like the explosive standing ovation, crowd clapping and cheering, when Bonnie Raitt finally walks out on the stage!!
All in all, Ducks and Geese figure bigly in my life!
Thanks for a wonderful challenge!
Now off to play a favorite childhood game…Wonder if we can do it and stayed Socially Distanced??
This is the last of a four part series on lessons revisitedand solidified during the pandemic.
The first 3 posts on Scarcity, Three Human Hungers and Structuring Time, are issues that for me, have definitely floated to the surface during my confinement.
And here is the fourth.
I started seriously considering the possibility of the existence of Dual Realities way back in the 1980’s. I found my Psychotherapy practice filled with those who were diagnosed as “Borderline Personality Disorder”, an unfortunate label. I mostly didn’t use the suggested DSM whatever-number-it-was back then. I didn’t want to stick my clients with a reputation that might limit them in some way. So when I got a referral called Borderline, I started switching it to Borderline Personality Organization. I also encouraged my therapy community, especially my trainees, to adopt this different perspective.
I bring this up because the clients with this “diagnosis” were most therapists’ worst nightmare. No one wanted to work with them back then, and tried to limit their practices to one Borderline at a time. No surprise. A person whose personality worked that way, could frustrate the most experienced of practitioners! A “Borderline” tended to be quick, smart, combative, testing, and successful at what they do (healthy or not). Typically, they were extremely creative…but mostly at proving their own strongly held mistaken belief that they were unlovable, and that you too, would eventually abandon them….another thing they were successful at…getting a therapist to give up on them.
I never felt that way. I absolutely loved the ingenious ways they could get all of us therapists to fight over them, to disagree about them, to “split” over them. It reminded me of me and my sisters growing up.
Talk about immersing one’s self all the way into a pre-decided reality…all or nothing, black and white, no gray. Brilliant. And a lot of therapists bought right into the reality, compelled to choose a side, or a singular definition of right or wrong.
(imagine a photo of the yin/yang thingy here)
But see, I was raised by my Dad, a brilliant, but covert, Master Teacher, who from day one, taught me that one thing, two things, even three could be completely true at the very same time.
He had three daughters and out of necessity I suppose, quietly negotiated, and mediated, and helped us see things from each others’ perspectives.
It may have been easiest for me though. Not because I was his oldest, but because, though he was my Dad, he was not my father. (He married my mother when I was two-ish.) It took me until well into adolescence to straighten out that conflicting statement.
“You’re my Dad but you’re not my dad? Huh??”
I had lived the proof throughout childhood, that two seemingly opposing things could both be true. I had enough experience with it in other parts of my life, that when I started getting calls from frantic therapists, throwing up their hands wanting to refer a Borderline (remember, labeled with affection by me), that’s what I set out to teach my new clients…exactly what my Dad had taught me…
“You’re Mother left you. AND Your Mother loved you.”
The real anchoring for me of the concept of Dual Realities came right after 9-11-2001.
Immediately following the attacks, in my search for understanding I stumbled across a PBS Special. The program was interviewing religious leaders, teachers and philosophers from all over the world who, in my opinion, were valiantly trying to prevent the next world war…trying to get us to consider the event from other perspectives.
Anyway, what grew for me out of those experiences was an idea…my version of a primary theory, like my mentor’s all-encompassing idea about Scarcity forty years ago.
What if there really is only one single task for every human being to accomplish during their time on the planet? I now believe there is.
We need to learn how to be separate and connected at the very same time.
Talk about conflicting states, or dual realities! How can both of those be true simultaneously?
This is not new. We have each been dealing with this exact issue since our very conception. Think about it…even as we were growing our separate little bodies inside our mother’s womb, we cannot, and will not, ever be any more connected to another human being than that!
It may also be the oldest existential discussion of all. We are whole entities, completely unique, and separate from all others. No one can ever fully be in our shoes, and on our death beds, we will all take that final breath completely alone.
But at the same time, we are completely connected to everyone else. (Hey, all those people at Woodstock would tell you they were ONE with each other!)
We are certainly connected as a species, and some would say we are linked, attached, and related to ALL living things on the planet.
Well, as if we needed a reminder of these facts, in case we needed to learn this lesson experientially, along comes Covid 19, throwing us all into the ongoing, daily circumstance of being separate and connected at the same time.
We have had to literally separate ourselves, to socially distance, to hunker down and isolate in order to slow down or stop this virus.
But what is also true is that we are all in this together, finding creative methods for proving and anchoring our connections, all while frantically searching for the way to save our entire species.
In every single moment of our lives, based on our individual and collective stories, we are choosing a perspective, a way of seeing, defining or experiencing the world.
I never thought I would be quoting one of Mr. Trump’s staff, but his Dr. Birx said the following, actually as I was writing this:
“We need to protect each other at the same time we’re voicing our discontent,”
And an even more surprising resource for me to share is about the video made by former President Bush:
In a three-minute video shared on Twitter on Saturday, Bush urged Americans to remember “how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat.”
“In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants. We are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of god,” Bush said. “We rise or fall together, and we are determined to rise.”
What the virus is teaching us, shoving in our faces really, is that we have to find a perspective that includes both being separate and connected at the very same time….
And we have to find it soon.
As always, I’d love comments. Helps me feel connected even if you disagree with me…
In Part One, of this 4 part series, I wrote about Scarcity. In Part Two, the Three Basic Human Hungers, one of which is a hunger for Structure.
In this post, I want to talk about how we all might be structuring our time during our various forms of isolation and distance from others.
I searched other people’s definitions of this hunger and came across a beautifully written article about Eric Berne’s original theory of Time Structure. In this article, Chris Crouch talks about these concepts in a way that connects so well to what I previously wrote.
I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I did.
I’ll be interested to know how you might apply some of this theory to whatever your current circumstances are.
(Any difference in text color in his article is my attempt at highlighting his words, either referring back to Part One or Part Two, or so that you might consider it in relation to yourself. I have also made a few additional comments in this same Bold Blue.)
Have you ever thought much about the various options for spending or structuring your time? Psychiatrist Eric Berne thought about it and came up with the following six options:
From Berne’s point of view, this was important because the different ways of spending time result in different outcomes in terms of getting and giving strokes. And strokes are extremely important when it comes to mental health. Before I continue, perhaps a few comments on strokes are in order.
A stroke, in this context, is any act implying recognition of another person’s presence. Human-to-human stroking is the fundamental unit of the social interaction process. If you and I encounter each other and I say “hello” to you and you say “hello” to me, that is a two-stroke transaction. Something Berne calls recognition hungeris programmed into the human psyche. We need strokes to survive, prosper and satisfy recognition hunger. Just as food satisfies physical hunger and keeps us physically healthy, strokes satisfy recognition hunger and keep us mentally healthy. For example, one of the worst punishments you can inflict on a person is to put them in solitary confinement, depriving them of any opportunities for strokes. People usually experience mental breakdowns in these circumstances.
In terms of strokes, here’s how the different ways of structuring time stack up. They are listed roughly in order of how well they satisfy recognition hunger:
Withdrawal – This is when a person, for whatever reason, makes the decision not to interact with people and eliminates any chance of getting strokes from others. We all need brief periods of withdrawal (especially introverts), but for most people, doing this over a long period of time is not a good choice in terms of their ongoing mental health.
I’m wondering how many people are experiencing “sheltering at home” like Berne’s definition of “withdrawal”…
Rituals – This is a safe form of social behavior. Rituals are highly predictable (church services, weddings, funerals, board meetings, your morning walk or Starbucks stop, etc.). With rituals, people can remain somewhat withdrawn from each other and still get strokes.
I don’t know how it is where you live but right now, all “rituals” are cancelled in my town…no gatherings of any kind…leaving many without the solace and comfort of knowing they are not alone…
Activities – Activities allow us to structure our time and get strokes in productive and socially acceptable ways. Work is one of the most common forms of this kind of time structuring.
Many of us have changed how we work daily in dramatic ways during the Pandemic. Working from home for many has been a creative solution, and there can still be strokes, but in a different and limited form.
Pastimes – Semi-ritualistic discussions about superficial topics such as the weather, sports, current events, family, hometown, or other commonplace topics. This is a form of social probing to help decide whether to broaden, continue, or terminate the relationship. Networking events are often based on the pastime format of structuring time.
Another form of structuring time sadly, but officially cancelled in our area for the foreseeable future…
Games – Games involve interacting with a surface meaning and a hidden meaning and involve a payoff (usually a good or bad feeling). For example, person A might feel superior/good by making Person B feel inferior/bad. Strokes are so important that in the absence of positive (good feeling) strokes, people will pursue negative strokes when seeking recognition. In terms of time structuring, the main thing to understand is that games, although unproductive and at times quite frustrating, offer significant opportunities for getting and giving strokes. The majority of the time in most people’s social life involves playing games. I may elaborate on games in a future post since they are so much a part of the human experience.
Classic, a universally recognizable game!
Intimacy – Intimacy occurs when you develop a relationship with another person based on honesty, openness, and mutual respect. Intimacy, although rare, is the best source for meaningful, high-quality strokes.
It is difficult to develop or engage in existing intimacy when ALL of our senses (and learning styles) cannot be involved. Even with all our miraculous technology, it’s hard to read body language or hear voice nuances, or see facial expressions fully on SKYPE or Zoom. We each need to be aware of our most used senses, and look for alternatives when those are not available for access. Example: I won’t get what I need, or be able to fully give what I have on just a phone call. I am not “auditory” enough to make the best use of that. I am an extremely visual and tactile person. So adding the screen aspect current equipment provides is helpful to me in an intimate conversation.
But it does not address the tactile deficit we are all experiencing right now. SO far at least, even Microsoft has not come up with a way to “hug” online!
According to Bandler and Grinder, there are four modalities of walking through the world: Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, and Tactile. I believe we each have a favorite, but one or more of these may be unavailable right now. To compensate (just as with a learning disability) time to highlight (beef up) the others, and develop some work-arounds.
In terms of joyfully and productively participating in life, achieving intimacy with a least a few people (or even one person) is a great strategy. Nurture relationships that allow you to be open, honest, and authentic with another human. Hopefully, this is the kind of relationship you have with your life partner and a few close friends. As a friend of mine once told me, “a true friend is someone who knows you – and still likes you.”
My main message today: Even if you only experience short periods of intimacy with another person, value and nurture this kind of relationship above all others. They offer the best chance for high-quality strokes and are important to your ongoing happiness and mental health.
Can you identify your intimate relationships (most people have very few – unfortunately, some have none)? What are you doing to nurture them?
I really wonder what Eric Berne would say about this current Covid 19 state of affairs.
Forced Isolation is very different than the occasional solitude we all require for good mental and emotional health.
Rituals, Pastimes and Activities can be managed even during Social Distancing, and sheltering at home.
Games…well, let’s just all take a break from those during these life and death times, shall we?
What is a bit more difficult, and requires some serious creativity, is achieving, and maintaining true intimacy during a time when the behaviors we are most familiar with to express deep and honest connection, are limited.
Here’s my solution and suggestion: When connecting with your closest people, use all the OTHER learning styles, and engage all of your available senses.
Maybe for you, it would be watching (or listening to) one of the amazing videos all over the net these days created by people making music together while in their own living rooms. But do this WITH someone else. Do it together while on SKYPE or ZOOM, etc.
If it’s someone you are really close to, try listening to a meaningful song, while looking into each others screen eyes. Powerful!
James has been on the other side of the state for weeks now but most nights, we will at least share a TV show on Netflix or Prime. We synchronize, pushing play so that we are seeing it at exactly the same time, sometimes texting the comments we might be making if we were watching together in person.
What are some ways you can be close to those you love even when you can’t touch each?
To finish, here is a free training that could be helpful right now.
This post is a departure from my recent attempts to be uplifting and entertaining. A month and a half into being sequestered, there are still sweet stories to be found everywhere, but we are learning hard lessons too.
At least, I am. Some lessons are mind-blowing, and some are embarrassingly simple!
I have been semi-retired since last summer, so I was already reviewing my life’s work before the virus hit, trapping me in this endless solitude. But being faced with mortality daily, in such an urgent and graphic way, I find myself in hyper-drive examining my 40-plus years of professional life.
I started my practice as a Psychotherapist through both a very direct and also an unusual route! Direct because I was “called” to do this work at Church Camp in the 4th grade and have never once veered off that course.
But things also evolved in a round-a-bout way, starting my practice in the back of my Conversion Van, in the parking lot of where I was still waitressing, while finishing school. (A long, fun story for another day…)
During these last 45 days of isolation, quarantine, sheltering at home, etc., I have had many hours to contemplate the most important learnings of my life so far.
Here is what has risen to the top of an endless list.
I have four concepts, tenets, or theories that are the core of my therapeutic and life philosophies. I try, by the way, to have those be the same thing…practicing what I preach, etc. I know where some of these originated, but they have been with me so long now, I have no idea how much I have changed them in the process of making them my own.
And some I thought up by myself…
It seems like a perfect time to write about (and share) these four models. I really want folks to read these, and comment, so I am putting them in four separate posts.
I do hope you will indulge me in this summary of my life’s work. And as always, I would love your comments and/or questions.
In this first post, I want to address the concept most obvious to me during these Covid 19 days….Scarcity.
I had a wonderful Teacher/Mentor/Adopted Mom for 30 plus years. Elaine Childs Gowell was an amazing woman, way ahead of her time. An ARNP, and public health nurse, with a PhD in Anthropology. She grew up travelling with her family on various religious missions in Africa. She lived in New Orleans, practicing as a Public Health nurse, and working for Civil Rights. Then she moved to Seattle where she became a well-loved professor in the Nursing School at the University of Washington, while she started a private practice in Psychotherapy. She also studied Shamanism all over the world, and eventually became one herself…a very loudly outspoken spiritual leader respected by thousands.
Her most steadfast belief was that absolutely every issue, personally and globally, was caused by Scarcity…. literal or imagined.
Nothing, not one thing, can bring up people’s emotions and unfinished personal-growth issues faster than the belief that there is not enough of something!
Elaine moved on to her longed for “light” almost 13 years ago now, but she may as well be alive because I can hear her unapologetic proclamations daily, and loudly, during this pandemic. Pointing out to all the blatant proof that her theory was correct.
When all the factories and businesses shut down and those skies started clearing over Wuhan, I could just hear Elaine’s irreverent “Duh”.
She could tell you in a minute, what your personal/psychological scarcity issues were-whether perceived or literal…not enough time, not enough structure, or stimulation, or recognition or love!
At one point, back in the 1990’s, we even created an amazing 5-day therapeutic retreat called Experiencing Enough. It was designed to provide, for all who participated, the experiential, literal and symbolic healing effect of truly having enough. Plenty of time and attention and food and staff (and support for the staff) and sleep and fresh air and exercise and above all, love!! It went on twice a year for a long time. So healing for so many.
And Elaine could trace every single world problem back to a belief, imagined or true, about something of which there was not enough. Power, money, and natural resources all at the top of the list. (There are certainly some world leaders that could have benefited from attending Experiencing Enough!!)
Long before Oprah started talking about our life’s repeated lessons, Elaine was preaching about how our scarcity issues were going to bring us down as a species if we didn’t learn the lessons…and fast….lessons that first tapped us on the shoulder, and eventually smacking us upside the head with a two by four.
At the beginning of this pandemic, I decided I needed to have a “talk” with her.
She was pissed! After she got finished with her “I told you so” tirade, she quietly said, “I guess we’re finding out what comes after that two by four upside the head…”
Elaine was a Master of the Big Picture. She could see it all, the whole layout of the universe. And she knew there was enough…of everything…and for everyone! Even in her passing (she had a stroke), she hung around in her coma for way longer than her Doctors predicted possible, even “surfacing” repeatedly to connect with the current visitor to her home bedside….but the rest of us were not at all surprised. We knew why.
She was making sure all the people, who were coming from all over to pay their respects, to say their good-byes, had more than enough time….
I think my specialty is the Little Pieces, I can see minute details others miss, so I have always chosen to focus my energy, for myself and for those I work for, on the small blessings, the individual stories, and the next steps to be taken each and every day.
My goal? To learn, and live, and to show that Elaine was right. It’s always about Scarcity.
There may not be enough toilet paper or gloves or masks, but there is certainly enough beauty!!!
Thank you for reading…..and forgive me for not knowing how to do a “screen shot”. 😊