January 28, 2008

Pain, energy, and tears.

Timing is everything. I received the comment to my last post today, just before a lunch with a new doctor to the area. I had written about negotiating needs in a relationship, how we have to recognize our feelings, put a name to that churning in our guts when we react to something our date has done, and communicate our feelings and needs. The reader wrote about ...."effortless togetherness, where did that go?!...the effortless, togetherness" and I took it to mean that he or she yearned for the type of relationship that just flowed, where everyone was happy all the time, and all our needs are met without our having to state them. Like a fairy tale, that sort of bliss, but can it exist?

The new doc is a psychiatrist, wanting some inside information on the medical community in which I work. I got her to talking about baggage and having our feelings hurt and negotiating and all that I know comes with a relationship. She said that it is very rare to be without past hurts and that we can react to these hurts by fighting about things that have nothing to do with the real issue. She says that traumas are stored as "potential energy" that is destructive, usually coming out in inappropriate ways, especially when some factor reminds us of the trauma. We all have been hurt or abused or treated badly in some way and, if we didn't cry or scream or deal with that pain, it will come out in other ways, like the steam in a tea pot when the water boils, it cannot be contained. Think of road rage or the guy who yelled at you when you accidentally bumped him or the friend you like but you have to be so careful about what you say so that he doesn't "go off" on you.

Her advice is to spend some quiet time thinking about past hurts and if we mourned or grieved or really reacted to that pain or did we just swallow it and move on. That if we allow ourselves to cry or scream or stomp around, we might be able to finally have the proper reaction to the past situation so that it doesn't affect our life today in negative ways. For me, it's ironic, that as a child I was punished if I cried so it's difficult today to go there, so I somethimes act tough or snippy in situations where I just need to cry and mourn the past. The doctor said that crying with our loved ones and receiving a hug is a great way to create intimacy. That if someone really loves us, they will care about how we feel because that's what makes us who we are. I told her I worried that, once I started with the tears, they would never stop, but she assured me that the tears will stop and then we will heal.

So if you are with me or someone else and you say something that makes us cry, just realize it's a good thing for us to feel the emotions and give us a big hug and a tissue or two. And go ahead and allow yourself the same freedom to recognize and mourn past hurts and heal yourself. And then maybe we'll all be able to have those relationships that my dear reader wrote about, blissful and peaceful and happy.

January 26, 2008

How much time is enough?

I just heard from a reader who is dating a busy guy and is having a problem. She appreciates that he has interests and that he is dedicated to having a successful career, but she has a problem with his time. They see each other twice a week, once during the week and on Saturday nights, but it doesn't seem like enough time to her. She has talked about it with him and asked to spend more of the weekend together and he agreed to that, but he makes plans with her and then has to break them to do these other things. He insists that he loves her and wants this relationship very much, but she's thinks he doesn't make her a priority in his life and she's sad about that. She asked me to help her figure out what really is the issue here.

Sometimes these things trigger old issues. I was married to a guy who always put his interests before me and I got his left-over time, when there was any. I enjoyed him but, as time went on, I became less and less important to him as he took on more interests and hobbies. I dated another guy who made promises but didn't keep them, like he'd agree to take me on a ride on a Sunday and then found something else to do without me. It's easy to figure out that I felt unimportant and unloved by these actions.

I like that a guy has his interests, that he's not consumed by being with me and our time together. I like to do "my own thing" sometimes, too, and appreciate someone who brings his interests to the table, even if only to discuss them with me so I can have a better picture of who he is. But I can understand my reader's angst, that she feels unimportant when he cancels their plans to do something else, that this conveys a message to her that other things are more important to him than her.

So maybe it's not just a trigger to old issues and that we do need to feel loved and wanted and, when a guy doesn't keep a promise or cancels to make other plans, we are justified in feeling bad. I know that sometimes we take our relationships for granted, but relationships take nurturing and thought and care and they will die with neglect or disinterest. It's a big deal to find someone to love and who loves us and we really need to treat that relationship with kindness and effort and thought. I have this analogy of a plant, that we find a beautiful and shiny house plant in the store and bring it home and put it in a special place in our house and leave it there. But the plant needs water and sun and food or it will die, just like a relationship needs attention or it will fade.

So I told my reader to let the guy know how she feels and see how he responds and to watch to see if his actions match his words. Sometimes guys just don't know what to do or how their actions affect us. Guys sometimes have to be taught about us women and a good guy will pay attention and be willing to do things to keep us happy. If he's a good guy, it's worth the effort, isn't it?

January 20, 2008

The message from the Getty.

I've been a bit out of sorts for awhile and, since I don't want to be negative on this blog, I've not written any posts lately, so thanks to all of you patient readers for waiting. It's like I haven't known what to write and I couldn't figure out where to start and then I knew I was going to visit the Getty Museum in Pacific Palisades today and thought maybe there'd been some food for thought there. And I was right.

The remodeled Getty Museum is a copy of a villa from 79 AD in Greece. It seems that there was this village that was buried by a volcanic eruption and then another town was built on top of the long-dry lava. It wasn't until the 1700s when this town was digging for water and came up with bits of glass and marble that someone realized what was under them. So J. Paul Getty, the wealthy oil magnate, built this amazing copy of the original villa, from careful pictures drawn by the excavators, to house his collection of antiquities. It is a beautiful museum with gardens made to imitate what would have been in the home of an early Grecian, definitely worth a day of your time. (There is another Getty Museum in Los Angeles - see http://www.getty.edu/visit/ for details of each one.)

So what does this have to do with my recent funk? I've been, for decades it seems, uncovering layer up layer of my baggage, undoubtably created by my childhood reaction to a rather unpleasant and unloving family life. Since I abhor the victim mentality ("I can't function now because my dad yelled at me when I was five...") I have almost ignored the difficulties I had growing up in a troubled household until recently when it just all came bubbling up to the surface. My reaction has been anger, yes, this soft and kind person has been angry and, sorry to say, taking it out on a few of my closest friends.

So, upon hearing of the magnificent village beneath the surface of this new town, I realized that I could also think of myself in the same way. That, even though I'm come to face some nasty stuff in my past, what really has surfaced is a lovely me, that I was a sweet and beautiful child, and I was not deserving of being made to feel unwelcome in my own family. I tell this story because I think many of us grow up believing the messages we hear from our family or teachers, that we're stupid or unworthy or not going to amount to anything, and their words are just wrong, but by now they are a part of our life and influence our actions every day.

The morale here is to really, really see who is the person under all the baggage. To really figure out what negative messages we have learned to repeat year after year and to contradict them with loving messages. And to think of ourselves as beautiful and perfect, just as we are today.

January 1, 2008

Your strength gives me courage.

It's that time of year when we reflect on our lives, what we accomplished, what we hope to accomplish, how we are right now. Last week, Wow had its holiday meeting at Lauri's house, a lovely townhouse full of flowers and candles and lights, all warm and sweet and lovely, just like Lauri. We had our usual yummy potluck and visited and then gathered in a circle to talk about the year.

I asked the ladies to each talk about their accomplishments, to share something that they had conquered this year, some moment of triumph for which they should be proud. For some it was a year of healing, how they survived major surgery and realized the value of the friends who rose to help them. One of the ladies, who had been in mourning at the sudden loss of a husband a few years ago, went on a trip by herself for the first time. Another experienced the death of a mother and a sister, learning during their illnesses to share and delegate their care. Another learned to pole dance from one of this year's speakers and from another learned that, to be cherished by her man, she needed to respect him and change her attitude and found that he is, indeed, cherishing her. One said that she survived the loss of her mother and a friend and four cats, realizing through these tragedies that she is resilient and strong and ending the year with a great sense of peace. Another found such peace by forgiving an -ex and another by having the courage to change jobs and another by facing her fears for the first time.

These are amazing women and amazing accomplishments. These are women who are brave and strong, and it's worth the time for them, and all of us, to stop for a moment or two and take stock of what others might think of as "little things" or things that are just part of life. There are so many times when I, and other women I know, push away compliments, saying that what we've accomplished or how we positively affect others is meaningless, and I'm here to tell you that each "little thing" is a big thing, that our courage helps others to be brave, that our strength helps others to keep fighting, that our kindness makes life a little easier for someone else.

So at this time of year which brings endings and new beginnings, I must say that, as tough as life is for me sometimes, I am grateful for the encouragement of my friends and loves ones who make it easier to face my fears and do scary things and look at my shortcomings and the same friends who are there to applaud me when I succeed. Creating Wow has changed my life in more ways that I can count - I looked around at the ladies at the meeting, these beautiful and talented and strong women who so freely share their hearts, and realized that none of them would have been in my life had I not reached out and invited them, these ladies who were strangers to me, to join together in this group.

I want to share a poem I received today from our newest member, Sheri, a delightful woman who blessed the meeting with her charm and humor and even brought her college-age daughter who lit up the room with her youthful vitality and insight. After her first meeting with us, she put into words the essence of Wow:

A woman alone
Reaching out to share
I find Ellen
And oh does she care

Looking for friends
Oh, how I've tried
You shared your group,
You were on my side

I spoke to you
On the cruise
Thats when you gave me
Very good news

You invited me
To your group
It was like sipping
The best Chicken Soup

All nice ladies
I want to know
With this group
It'll help us grow

Thanks to all of you
For uniting as kin
A Happy Healthy New Year
For all to begin