Monthly Archives: March 2012

A Journey Towards Cat Ladydom: II

This is real people.

So during the time my brother and I were attempting to successfully pass through Erikson’s 5th stage of psychosocial development of Identity vs. Role Confusion (facing the questions Who Am I? What Can I Be? which all late teens and early twenty-somethings ask subconsciously) there was and additional question/fear of “will I go crazy when I turn 21?” that we each had. You see, as psychology majors, one of the first things that you learn is that most psychological/psychiatric issues surface by the age of 21. It was like waiting to see if a mental time bomb was about to go off. I’m not trying to make light of the issue (as I am a therapist), but when you are an impressionable youth immersed in studies of the abnormal functions of the brain, you start to wonder about yourself.

Should I have a “late in life” transition to cat ladydom, I worry that my psychiatric admit note would be quite similar to the one above.

A Journey Towards Cat Ladydom

Eleanor Abernathy:
When she was eight, she was a smart and ambitions young girl who wanted to be both a lawyer and a doctor “because a woman can do anything.” She was studying for law school at 16, and by 24, she had earned an MD from Harvard Medical School and a JD from Yale Law School. However, by 32, suffering from burnout, she had turned to alcohol and became obsessed with her pet cat, Buster. By the time she turned 40, she had assumed her present state as a drunken, raving lunatic—entering full Cat Ladydom.
The Cat Lady enjoys “brief moments of lucidity” after taking psychotropic medications. She abruptly resumes her usual bizarre behavior when someone mentions that the “pills” are actually Reese’s Pieces. Her medication helps her speak intelligibly rather than her usual gibberish. She has a hoarding disorder, collecting both objects and cats alike.
Even without medication, she appears to be very intelligent. When the mayor is recalled, she runs for office. During a candidate debate, she is asked what public-policy issues are important to her. Unlike the other candidates (who at as stereotypical dishonest politicians), Cat Lady discusses issues such as health care, economy, and public education in between her screams and gibberish (and a call for cats “in everyone’s pants”).

How does one refrain from taking this journey towards Cat Ladydom? I assure you that as a successful single woman who received full custody of two cats in a divorce, I have been warned by many to be mindful of this slippery slope. Protective factors that I have include; having only one degree in higher education, I’m only 28, I frequently down-size my belongings, and I have remained purrfectly content with only two cats for the past year. So does my state of singledom automatically increase my risk factor for full reliance on cats for companionship? According to my peers, it most certainly does.

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Conjunction Junction, What’s Your Dysfunction?

“The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.” -Alfred Adler

I recall a story my father would tell to some boyfriends over the years. It was a story of my “cute” dysfunction as a child. Well really it was our family’s dysfunction, but I was the one who shed some light on the subject (pun intended).

Per our family history, when I was around 4 or 5 years old, my family (consisting of my parents and my older brother) went to my uncle and aunt’s house for the evening to visit and have dinner. My older brother was the type of child that regularly created mischief and noise, while I was quite the “perfect” little girl (so I’ve been told), being able to entertain myself quietly and without getting into trouble in these types of social situations. However, at some point in the evening, it was noticed that I had been in the kitchen unaccompanied for quite some time. The fact that this was noted as unusual for a child who is able to entertain themselves safely means it was probably quite a long time I was gone before they noticed.

And so my dad enters the kitchen to find me standing at the refrigerator opening and closing the door, over, and over again. Apparently I look up and state quite excitedly “Look! There’s a light in there!” At which time my dad realizes that I have grown up to believe that looking into a dark refrigerator (due to a broken bulb) is completely normal. I’d like to say that my family went and bought a new refrigerator bulb at that point, but I’m sure this story was told time and time again when my various friends and boyfriends came over during the years because they asked why we didn’t have a light in our fridge…

That being said, I walked into my parent’s house this past weekend and was immediately met with a “normal” image from my childhood.

Apparently it’s not normal to have sails spread out all over the living room either. That is, unless you’re a family full of sailors.

“I am what I am, and that’s all that I am.” –Popeye the Sailor Man

Competentism

Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like the rest of the professional world shares the view of work smarter not harder, or at least this mentality is not a widely rewarded (read compensated) one. My dad’s motto is “make things work better.” However, he and I have both had to figure out that sometimes people don’t want help or to hear from others how they might be able to make something happen in a more effective manner. Although I “get” this, it still seems like pure madness. I most certainly would want someone to share with me the best way of going about something. Why would I want to struggle along and continue to make things quite difficult for myself?! Especially if learning this new skill might allow one to improve other areas of their life. Arrogant, entitled, narcissistic, skilled, competent, bright, smart, organized, motivated. These are all adjectives that I’ve been described with—all being used to describe the same skill set. So what’s the deal? The skill that is usually being described is my excellent ability to help others identify and remove barriers that prevent them from reaching their goals. ( <– I asked my co-worker to craft this sentence so that it was an accurate and unbiased reflection.) Alas, this skill allows me to heed my own advice, and thus practice it through my daily routine. I remove barriers and accomplish my goals. Some take longer than others (like this whole debt thing), but eventually I can make it happen in an efficient and relatively painless manner.

Coming back to my main point, there appears to be a subtle form of discrimination when it comes to ability and competence—competentism (yes I just made this term). The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states “The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.” They outline the different types of discrimination by type (age, disability, equal pay/compensation, genetic information, national origin, pregnancy, race/color, religion, retaliation, sex, & sexual harassment) but this extensive list doesn’t really capture the whole picture. Take reverse ageism for example. Ashley states;

“So what does reverse ageism look like? Well that is probably different for everyone, but for me it typically involves being the catch-all for everything technology related yet being overlooked when it comes to other aspects of my job. You see, another stereotype of our generation is that we know a lot about technology…and that one is pretty universally true. We grew up with computers, iPods, text messaging and the internet. We don’t use the instruction manuals on our new electronics. We turn them on and teach ourselves. So when our employer switches our e- mail system to Outlook, or purchases a new web-based database to track customers, we adapt. And quicker than our older coworkers, it seems. Because of this uncanny ability to learn new technologies, we are often taken advantage of. We are the first (and sometimes only) people to learn how to do something so we are forever the “experts” on the subject. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to help. I will even teach someone how to do something if they are willing to learn. What I won’t do is their job for them every time they need to utilize this new technology but don’t know how. All too often our generation is expected to do this because we are the resident “technology gurus,” but when it comes to other areas of expertise, we are dismissed as young, naïve, or inexperienced.” (Read more at http://entrylevelobservations.wordpress.com/2010/02/07/reverse-ageism/)

Similar to reverse ageism (which definitely occurs), competentism is the act of assigning additional tasks, increasing workload, requiring a person to remain present for a full 8-hour work day etc., in spite (term used deliberately) of the fact that the employee has already finished their original job tasks (and probably some others as well) in an efficient and timely manner. Now, I’m not suggesting that a person do the bare minimum and just slide by in life or in the workplace, but I do think they should be compensated for their abilities accordingly. Let’s say it takes Jane Doe 1 hour to complete a task, and their co-worker 2 hours. Jane Doe should be able to complete the task and then leave early (and dare I say be praised) right? Wrong. Instead, she hears “you’re entitled, you really should help so and so finish,” or “well, can you work on this since you have extra time?” This is discrimination for competency. This culture promotes laziness and rewards a stagnant work environment.

Like Ashley said, I’m happy to help, and I’m willing to teach others these skills, but please don’t call me entitled when I ask for a little compensation here and there.

*Disclaimer-These are just thoughts that I’ve had over the years, which are only meant to be a commentary on general workplace cultures I’ve encountered, not a specific reflection on my current job (which I love 😉 )

Locks of Hair Everywhere

The hair is the richest ornament of women. -Martin Luther

Recently I have been battling with my hair. I’m sure this is common for most women. Things like “that awkward length,” come into play, and women inevitably cut their bangs or hair once again because they simply can’t stand the transition stage—which can last years. This I’m certain, is why most women do not have long hair. Somehow, I have managed to grow out the bangs and get back to long layered locks.

I have had long hair for the majority of my life. I was sold on growing it long after watching Blue Lagoon with Brook Shields’ amazing tresses blowing in the wind.

No one can deny the impact this (soft core) movie had on women’s desires to have long luscious hair.

My battle however, is primarily a phsycial one–as in–if I sleep with my hair down it literally wraps around my neck in the night and starts to choke me! Thus, I have become quite fond of creating a “top knot,” as my nightly “do.”

It’s when it’s so long that it becomes a hassle (or safety issue 🙂 ), that I like to take a poll from friends to decide the next steps. The girls say “yeah cut it! It’ll look cute!” and the guys say “NOOO. Do not cut it. Whatever you do.” One male friend even said he wouldn’t speak with me if I cut my hair even an inch! Extreme, but hair is an extreme issue. This gender specific divide leaves me to wonder about the biological undertones of the matter. In talking with a co-worker (also in the field of psychology) we concluded that long hair is attractive to men because biologically, it signifies fertility. Think about it. In extreme cases of health issues such as eating disorders or endocrine problems, hair is one of the first things impacted–becoming brittle, dry, and even falling out. Biologically, men are driven to “plant their seed where it will thrive,” i.e. in a healthy body. Lovely I know (we won’t get into the biology of how often men are planting seeds and in how many places). Therefore, men are likely to be more attracted to long healthy hair. The hypothesis derived at therefore, is that other women are territorial about that seed, and will work to sabotage the competition, encouraging them to be “less fertile looking.” Hmm.

With this logic, I guess I should keep my hair long? Haha ridiculous.

*Disclaimer-this is just silly ramblings and is not meant to be taken very seriously 😉

Adventure is in My Blood

If you ask me what my life might look like a year from now, I would have absolutely no idea what to say. Everyday I wake up, and I think “I wonder if something life changing is going to happen today.”

The problem with this thought is that it’s never just one event that changes your life forever. It’s a series of things that happen very slowly–and sometimes painfully–that get you to where you are. Then we stop and think “how on earth did I get to this place?” What kind of life story do I want? I can’t tell you the details like most people might be able to. I have no idea what I should be working towards. Some have it down to a mental check list; spouse, pet, nice house, 2.5 children, job that is bearable, etc. = Nice happy love story with a happy ending.

Unfortunately my list doesn’t look like this. Actually, I don’t know where my list went. I’m pretty sure a couple things were checked off, then scratched off, others erased, and only a few starred. However, on the bottom of the page–artfully depicted bien sûr–was a little sail boat.

I imagine that one creates their life list based on a combination of factors such as family values, childhood experiences, and societal pressures. I wonder though, how much genetics plays part in the desires of the heart. My grandma Mary, pictured above, was bound for adventure. True, she had some very trying life experiences, and perhaps some interesting ways of dealing with them, but I like to believe that she simply followed the wind. Living in Israel, working as a flight attendant, sailing, traveling the states in a motor home, and enjoying the beauty of meeting different people everywhere.

Adventure is in my blood. I have no agenda, no check list, no pressing life goals. Just a small little drawing of a sailboat. Time to follow the wind.

Beautiful or Useful

Everything a person owns should be beautiful or useful, preferably both.

I have not lived in any one location longer than a year, since I left for undergrad over 10 years ago. Around month 8 I start to get antsy to leave–I need a change. Moving is always the last result, and of course I try everything else to settle myself prior to lugging my stuff into a new place. But truly I have moved into a new home every year out of shear boredom. It’s around month 4 that I start to re-arrange the different rooms of the house to feel as if I’m actually somewhere new. I know it’s no good when I end up with the “original” configuration that I started with when I first moved in–which is when I end up moving. However, this bizarre and nomadic process allows me to purge quite a bit of stuff that has collected over the years. It’s interesting to see what things have made the final cuts. Journals, books, cameras, art, and a few collections of very colorful things such as thread (which I still sew with) and vintage swizzle sticks that my grandpa collected.

When I look around my little home, I imagine how quickly I can pack it up. What would I keep if I was only allowed one backpack?

My (newest) camera (there are 5 on these shelves alone and you can barely see the tri-pod with the 6th extra body on the right) and my passport. I’ve recently been looking into the idea of living on a boat.

I’ve been in my current home for 10 months. I’m back to the original furniture arrangement.

Any thoughts on my next adventure?

Kelly Green

Was it really 6 years ago that Babette and I were in Galway, Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day?

It was absurdly frigid that day. I recall wearing two pairs of wool socks, jeans, two wool sweaters (one purchased from some old lady in Dublin and one I had purchased in the states from the Goodwill Bins–a Goodwill store that sells clothes and items by the pound,which is something that most certainly should be discussed or at least highlighted–but I digress), an overpriced North Face jacket, a pashmina, and still I remember being chilled to the bone. Babs and I had taken a terrible bus from Dublin the night before. Upon awaking in this small town, first order of business of course, coffee.

Neither of us wanted to admit that it was too cold to be walking around. Anyone who knows the relationship between Babette and myself will attest that NEITHER of us was going to admit anything. Alas, we spent the majority of the morning drinking espresso and walking through the town, watching the real Irish prepare for the festivities. A parade, singing, dancing, and of course drinking lots and lots of Guinness.  By the time that it was socially acceptable to begin partaking in said libations, it was about 2pm. Despite the -20 weather, there were scads of people out and about, most wearing wool of some sort. Through the afternoon and into the night, people floated from bar to bar, singing (to be read as shouting) traditional drinking songs which supported more drinking, and giving kisses because everyone is Irish on March 17th.

It was amazing. I wouldn’t have wanted to be there with anyone else. Babette, it’s time to plan our next adventure across seas.

Cheers. xoxo

Creating Cozy

I’d like to think that making things “cozy” is one of my very special skills. It’s a little difficult to define, but can at least be broken down to a the creation or collection of colors, textures, lighting, and events that evokes a feeling of serenity, calmness, and internal warmth.

Similar to the studies of Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi (MEE-hy CHEEK-sent-mə-HY-ee) one of the world’s leading researchers on positive psychology and the effects of happiness and creativity–and the attainment of these–on the individual. In his seminal work, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Csíkszentmihályi outlines his theory that people are most happy when they are in a state of flow— a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. It is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter (Csikszentmihalyi,1990). The idea of flow is identical to the feeling of being in the zone or in the groove. The flow state is an optimal state of intrinsic motivation, where the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing. This is a feeling everyone has at times, characterized by a feeling of great absorption, engagement, fulfillment, and skill—and during which temporal concerns (time, food, ego-self, etc.) are typically ignored.

Creating Cozy will therefore be my own theory similar to Finding Flow.

As an art therapist, I have been specifically trained to understand additional information in regards to how a person’s mind can be effected by the visual language. How color can connect to emotions. How we not only process through words and actions, but through the senses. Most certainly it can be agreed upon that looking at “beautiful things” makes us feel good. Similarly, I should like to suggest that being in a state of “coziness” can support self-soothing strategies we attempt to implement to decrease the anxieties and stress of daily living.

I have had many requests from people through the years–two today alone–to help them organize their homes/lives and make things cozy. This may seem silly to some, but not to those requesting the support! I hope to document some examples of this process along the way, and may even turn this endeavor into a small business of sorts.

Time to get our cozy on!

Reference

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper and Row. ISBN 0-06-092043-2

Help Them Hope

http://www.crowdrise.com/helpthemhope/fundraiser/emmanelson

HERE’S THE STORY:

Help Them HOPE is excited to Partner with Personal Philanthropy, a 501c3 in the USA who serves as our fundraising partner, assuring all US donations are tax deductible and fully accounted.  All donations receipts will demonstrate the name Personal Philanthropy, who themselves keep no portion of the donation and pass 100% to Help Them HOPE.

About Help Them Hope:

Help Them HOPE is an organization that works toward increasing independence for disadvantaged youth with disabilities in Peru by supporting education, employment, independent living and personal responsibility. Help Them HOPE was originally founded by John Whelan, from Ireland, who saw the need for more opportunity for disadvantaged youth with disabilities throughout Peru.

In 2006, John visited Peru and volunteered at the Hogar de San Francisco de Assis, a home for economically disadvantaged children and young adults with disabilities and medical needs. He soon realized that the children’s potential to gain education and employment once they left the Hogar was very low.

Upon this realization, John sought to establish an organization that would provide the needed resources, support, and programs these individuals require in order to achieve their educational, career and independent living goals. John wanted to give these youth a chance to escape from the cycle of poverty that so frequently affects those with disabilities. He believes that with a little support, there is hope and opportunity for the youth to better their lives and change the way we all see the world.

Getting Down to Business:

We are working to raise money to cover ONE YEAR of overhead costs for the Center for HOPE in Lima, Peru. The Center of HOPE is designed to further the education of the youth with disabilities that they serve and offer them resources and guidance to create their own plan for a more independent future. Below is the itemized cost scale so you can pitch in to help keep it running. 

Gas, Water, Electricity for the Center: $80/month, $960/year

Internet and Telephone for the Center: $150/month, $1800/year

Legal and Accounting Services: $130/month, $1560/year

Office Materials: $50/month, $600/year

Food Costs for the Center: $100/month, $1200/year

Books for Students: $40/month, $480/year

Transport Costs for Staff and Students: $100/month, $1200/year

TOTAL: $650/month, $7800/year

 

Just A Thought…

Think about how much most of us spend per month on the non-essentials of life. How much do we spend on dining out, books, pedicures, new shoes, drinks after work, concerts, airplane tickets, home furnishings, clothes and the movies? For one month, I challenge you to put a little bit of that aside and give to Help Them HOPE. If 100 people gave just $78.00, which, let’s be honest, is less than most of us spend out to dinner or on a grocery run, we’d reach our goal. Come on, just do it!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!