Oh, Faith-less one

The other day, my husband mentioned that his dad has a new girlfriend.

Herman was widowed last May when my mother-in-law was hit by a car in front of their house. She had dementia – probably Alzheimer’s – but her husband didn’t fight her when she wanted to walk their neighborhood (in tights and a turtle neck but no skirt) or cross the street to get their mail. Their house is situated on a truck route in New York State, with a speed limit of 45 miles per hour.

To be honest (and fair), I don’t know that Herman and his lady friend are actually an item, but this was my husband’s take, and he knows his dad pretty well.

In this moment, the news is killing me. It brings up all the pain of losing Faith, which was my mother-in-law’s name. It brings up my anger that Herman didn’t take steps to keep her safe as her dementia progressed. It makes me judgmental as all hell, wanting to shout to the world – and especially to my father-in-law, that he is truly faith-less. As in, not only living life without his wife of 63 years, but faithless to HER, her memory, and to us, her surviving family.

I am so fucking pissed off, I can barely stand it. I feel so bad and sad I could scream. How could he do this? How could he move on so quickly? What about the woman he recently professed to have loved the most out of anyone in the whole world?

The cynical side of me whispers reasons. He’s self-absorbed, and always has been. He’s self-centered and never will change. He’s of the generation of men that need a woman to care for them. He’s a man, like your own husband, who has physical needs that he/they will not deny, no matter who it hurts.

I am glad I am infrequently in touch with my father-in-law, because then I can feign acceptance of his life choices. This space gives me time to do the work of allowing my feelings in the hope that true acceptance and compassion follow.

After all, he deserves this, as does any human being walking the sometimes–painful path of life.



On Marriage and Writing

Marriage is interesting. Challenging. Befuddling. At least it is to me.

I’ve been a party to this institution for some-20-odd years now. Married to my husband since October 1994, and together since July 1993.

I can’t say all these years have all been fun. They’ve been a thousand other things, which I suppose points to the richness of marriage. But also to the frequent challenges. I find myself angry or frustrated with my partner more times that I could count. I sometimes feel lonely in our relationship, neglected, unseen, unheard, not valued, ignored – and yet, he’s a nice guy, a steady guy who loves me and cares about our family.

So what the hell is the problem?

Me. I’m sure whatever is going on is mostly with – and about – me.

After my last round of cycling through myriad strong feelings seemingly about my husband just this past week, I was exhausted and thankful to have moved on with him into a better place. One that was more neutral and positive. One in which I had some time and space to reflect.

Perhaps that’s why, last night, around 3 AM I had a related “ah-ha” moment. Perhaps, because I asked the questions – Why? And just what the hell is going on? – I got an answer that makes sense to me. And it had to do with my writing.

The awareness that dawned on me carried this message: when I don’t write, I literally go crazy. So I need to write, daily. I need to do this as acts of self-care and self-preservation. To ground me. I must write, I must, I must.

It’s that important for me. I get it now. Whether I prioritize my writing in a day – or not – seems a critical factor in my mental and emotional (and probably physical) health, and the health of the relationships with the various others in my life.

Perhaps those recurrent feelings of not being seen or heard or valued and ignored by my husband have to do with my relationship with myself. And for some reason I project my feelings onto my husband, to whom I turn when I’m lost. And I suppose I’ve felt lost lately. Perhaps my inner desperation about our relationship is merely reflecting the desperation I feel when I allow everything else in my life to take priority over me and my writing.

So I will make a resolution to write. I need to make time to do it, to meet myself on the page, daily.

It’s a valuable insight or theory that I will test. It resonates, it makes sense, so I’ll go with it. Already I feel better – more upbeat and lighter – from blogging yesterday and today. Writing helps me process my life. I need this too. So I will keep on this path and see where it leads.

Hopefully into health and peace and a more stable mood.

May it be so.




Evaluating Therapy

So I’ve been in therapy for – what – 14 years? For most of this time, I’ve done cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with emotional healing work. That’s cathartic release with bonding and it’s a way to clear out old emotional imprints in the limbic system. Essentially it’s work to rewire the brain. Anyway, I never thought I’d be in therapy as long as I have, and now I think it’s high time to pause and take stock.

Right now I’m only doing the CBT twice a month and I’m having some difficulties working with my therapist. I suppose these challenges have been going on for over a year now.

My therapist told me (in an email no less) that she thinks I’m “casting her as my mother.” I replied that I would open myself to noticing this possibility, going forward. The thing is, I’m seeing it all over the place in our relationship now, going back over at least a year, maybe more.

I don’t know how I’m going to be able to do much effective growth work with these triggers operating, but I’m going to see what kind of insights I get from blogging about this situation.

Here are all the ways my therapist triggers me into my mom:

  1. She’s the authority. She’s right – always, even when she’s not.
  2. What she says goes.
  3. Her tough love approach is really just a mask for her meanness.
  4. She invalidates me and my perspectives and my experiences and intuition. I’ve learned how to take care of myself. I really don’t need her to tell me what to do.
  5. I am not allowed to resist her. I’m supposed to shut up and swallow all of her assertions, even when my intuition is pointing me in a different direction. I’m supposed to become a fucking clone of her, I guess.
  6. I’m not allowed to leave. I honestly don’t know when I’ll ever get out of therapy. I have said I want fewer sessions and breaks from therapy to pursue other inner work, and she recommends against these ideas, always.
  7. I feel that as I get independent and move away from her, she sows doubts in me and reels me back into our relationship, where I am dependent on her (which she likes).
  8. I’m afraid to sever ties. I’m afraid it will hurt her feelings, that she’ll feel rejected and abandoned when I tell her I want to leave. I fear she’ll get irrationally angry, and never allow me a future session if I need it. I fear leaving on a negative note.
  9. I’m afraid if I do this, she’ll bad mouth me to all my former comrades in group therapy, which was led by her.
  10. By the way, I’m not allowed to go to group right now, even though I had planned a break to test my wings without this type of work in my life. I’ve been without that particular brand of support – my second family, if you will – for seven months, and I’m really starting to see some big triggers (like this one) and she has denied me access.
  11. We are not equals. Consequently, I feel disempowered in this relationship. She is the one with the power and control, even though I am the client.

So, why am I even in therapy?

Why am I doing this to myself?

Well, seeing all of this stuff – all this mirroring to my relationship with my mother, and the time of my life when I was getting independent of her and ready to launch myself and move out of her house – is really pretty amazing. My relationship with my therapist is mirroring this PERFECTLY. It IS my own bit of personal history repeating itself.

So what to I do with it? Run from it and her (my therapist, that is)? Stay with it, tell her about it and see where it leads? Inquire further into the experience with my spiritual teachers?

No, and yes, yes, yes and yes.

This is showing up for a reason. It’s extremely uncomfortable, but it’s here. It’s my work. I have no idea where it will lead, but moving away from the discomfort will only increase the possibility of this showing up for me some other time and with some other mother-figure in my life. It’s here and up so I’ll look at it. So I’ll take notice and hopefully heal.

Universe, please help me stay with this experience. Please grant me ease and grace as I move through it, and please – please, lead me into healing.


Processing Trump

I am having an incredibly hard time with our current U.S. president, Mr. Donald Trump.

I want to read the news and stay informed but I find it’s extremely difficult for me to neutrally peruse the abundance of news articles describing some recent policy development or statement made by Trump or one of his staff.

I appear to be unable to stay calm when his name comes up in conversation. I find myself getting easily upset, even with people who share my views. It’s almost a Pavlovian response: I hear the name “Trump” and suddenly I’m inflamed. Since I live about a 15-minute drive from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, have neighbors who work for the government, and subscribe to the “Washington Post,” this topic (and my response) occur often.

Interestingly, I’ve noticed that when my husband makes a statement about something Trump-related, for some reason, I automatically relate it to my parents. Just the other day, on the subject of the false Obama wire-tapping accusation, my husband said, “Who says things like that and gets away with it – and doesn’t even apologize?” To which I automatically replied, “My mother!”

Anyway, I’m well aware of my reactivity to Trump, and I’m curious about it. So I’ve decided to write about it. I will explore myself through the written word.

Well, for one thing, Trump reminds me of the worst in people. For me, his toxic rhetoric reveals the following about the one who now occupies the highest office in our land. He seems impulsive, judgmental, bigoted, grossly ignorant of basic facts and generally accepted ways of being in the world, and full of false bravado and toughness.

Mr. Trump appears to possess an inability to see others as human beings who need our compassion (at the very least), and perhaps even our assistance.

He reveals himself as a person who makes statements containing absolutes and black-and-white comparisons and wild embellishments that are typically untrue or only partially true. He appears to be an outright liar who spins his lies as truth. He clearly – at least to me – possesses a skewed view of reality that is frightening.

Trump seems to represent people who disliked, feared or mistrusted a smart black president who was open-minded, caring, fair – and not perfect.

Donald Trump seems to embody resistance to change, and to the world as it is currently evolving. He seems to represent people who want the world to go backwards 50 years in time, to when America was supposedly “great.” When  we were a white, Christian majority fully entrenched  in the patriarchy. When there were fewer immigrants and people of color in our communities, when women and blacks knew their “places” in the world, and globalization was probably an academic concept, rather than a daily reality. When life was wholly “simpler.”

To me, Trump embodies fear. Fear of people and things that are different, fear of change, fear of moving forward into the unknown, perhaps fear of a certain demographic group in our country (the baby boomers) becoming old and obsolete.

To me, Trump fully expresses and embodies the worst of my parents. Through him, and the fact that they have embraced him, I have a clear window into their shadow sides. That is, to the hidden parts of themselves to which they are (I suspect) wholly unconscious.

I think they are afraid of change, afraid of aging, afraid of the immigrants in their communities. I believe they are afraid to see their values, and ways of seeing and being in the world, going the way of the dinosaur.

So my parents resist, they are angry and they hate (though they deny it as devoted Catholics), they are skeptical, they mistrust, and they fight.

They are, in my opinion, quite literally fighting for their lives, and the way life was in our country.

I know they are fighting a losing battle and I feel for them.

To me, Trump just has shed daylight on all about our country that must be recognized and healed first, in order for us to freely move forward into our shared futures.

So, with these insights, I can literally feel my reactions to Trump relax. I know that my dislike of Trump is not really about Trump. At least not entirely. I have my answer, my gifts of understanding through the writing process, and I am grateful.

I see the parallels between Trump and my parents: that as I hope and pray for a wise president to lead us into the next four years, so I hope and pray for wise parents to lead and teach me about living in the world.

Yet my parents and Trump are simply who they are, and where they are in their respective growth and development as souls, and as human beings living in this world. Trump and my parents are people who deserve my compassion and acceptance. For it seems to me that the hidden fears and the ugliness that lives inside them must be simply terrible.

I only wonder whether a Trump presidency will help them feel better. If and when it doesn’t, what will they do next?

I can only hope and pray that they will practice self-inquiry.

I hope they will journey deeply into themselves and mine the gifts of such a practice.

I hope they will become willing do as I do: spend time studying themselves, explore and understand – both the darkness and the light that lives within us all.