-New photos up on the art and photography page-
-New photos up on the art and photography page-
I’ve added a new art & photography page (see above) that I will update every so often. I may eventually post some pieces that are for sale. Always up for a commission.
“Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.”
Viktor E. Frankl
During the several years I worked as an inpatient mental health therapist, I completed somewhere around 900 mental status exams on children (5-17) admitted for severe psychiatric concerns. Entering the program for stabilization, many of them were experiencing severe symptoms of depression and had attempted suicide. During my work with these kids–when they were ultimately able to identify a “reason” to continue living–9 times out of 10, their reason was a connection with another being.
More and more I am discovering and re-discovering that people aren’t meant to be alone. The soul searches and longs for companionship and connection. Love connects us. Psychologists and researchers have proposed a number of different theories of love. Love is a basic human emotion, but understanding how and why it happens is not necessarily easy. In fact, for a long time, many people suggested that love was simply something that science couldn’t understand.
Psychologist Zick Rubin proposed that romantic love is made up of three elements: attachment, caring, and intimacy. Attachment is the need to receive care, approval, and physical contact with the other person. Caring involves valuing the other persons needs and happiness as much as your own. Intimacy refers to the sharing of thoughts, desires, and feelings with the other person.
According to psychologist Elaine Hatfield and her colleagues, there are two basic types of love: compassionate love and passionate love. Compassionate love is characterized by mutual respect, attachment, affection, and trust. Compassionate love usually develops out of feelings of mutual understanding and shared respect for one another. Passionate love is characterized by intense emotions, sexual attraction, anxiety, and affection. When these intense emotions are reciprocated, people feel elated and fulfilled. Unreciprocated love leads to feelings of despondence and despair. Hatfield suggests that passionate love is transitory, usually lasting between 6 and 30 months. Hatfield also suggests that passionate love arises when cultural expectations encourage falling in love, when the person meets your preconceived ideas of an ideal love, and when you experience heightened physiological arousal in the presence of the other person.
Ideally, passionate love then leads to compassionate love, which is far more enduring, and what long-term relationships are based on. While most people desire relationships that combine the security and stability of compassionate with the intensity of passionate love, most researchers believe that this is rare.
So what is the point? What happens when you have a broken heart? The term is used to describe those terrible feelings of unreciprocated love, damage to our ego, and ultimately disappointment. But I would suggest that it is not only humans who break our hearts, but society as well. We become disillusioned and jaded when injustice occurs, when we suffer despite our best efforts, and when there is no end to this suffering in sight.
However, I would argue that love is bigger than a broken heart. In all of its complexity, love remains capable and present, despite being bruised and battered. When I look at the ways in which a person can love and be loved, my spirits are lifted. We form attachments that include caring for others and their needs. We value other peoples needs and happiness as much as our own. We share, respect, and trust. All of these are choices that we are capable of making as human beings, time and time again. We have freedom to choose our attitude, despite our circumstances.
There is no way to describe the feeling of caring for another person, such that it enables them to identify their own reason to live.
I hope that I will always choose to love and serve others.
What meaning do you live for?
If this were me, I don’t think I would be satisfied with my husband’s professional goal either…unless he was really really good at it.
For several months now I have been ruminating over moving back in with my parents. This has been one of those “mylifehascompletelychangedandnowIneedtofindadirection” things. This started when I was attempting to brainstorm with friends what amazing opportunity I should pursue. Buy a boat, move to another country, move across the country, etc. All of the things that “older” people tell me they would have/should have done, if they knew then what they know now. You know, that conversation that goes something like this: “You’re free now. You just got out of a shitty relationship and there is nothing to hold you back from doing what you want! If I were you, I would just travel and do lots of crazy stuff. “And then they ask “What’s stopping you?” And I say “Well, I guess I have these bills to pay, and my student loans you know.” And then I start to think about how I had done all of things that society told me I was supposed to do i.e. go to college, get married, go to graduate school, get a nice paying job, think about having some babies, buy a newer car, decorate a beautiful home. Check, Check, Check. And now I’ve done those things, but now I look at where I am and I’m still starved for adventure, love, and freedom.
“What would you do if you won a billion dollars?”
“I’d pay off my debt and loans, travel, and buy a place in Europe, and make art.”
“What would you do if you won a million dollars?”
“I’d pay off my debt and loans, and travel to Europe, and make art for a couple months.”
“What would you do if you won 10,000 dollars?”
“I’d pay off my debt, and buy some Starbucks.”
And so I am faced with the question of moving in with my parents, rent free. If I did, I could pay off all of my debt in 3 years, 2 months, and 9 days (or 38.2 months, or 166.5 weeks, or 1,165.5 days). I would be 31 years old.
There’s only one thing to do.
Obviously go to New York for a week and then decide.
“Only my happy old life wasn’t happy anymore. I no longer blithely sang the why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along song. Because now I’d seen poverty, I’d seen perseverance. I’d seen the craters gaping in the level playing field of American education, health care, and economic opportunity. And I’d been humbled, inspired, angered, and most important, change by all of this. Who I’d been before was no longer me…/…I’ve spent the past six months trying to figure out who I am all over again.” -Janna Cawrse Esarey, The Motion of the Ocean
For the last year, I have been crossing a bridge between identities.
About a year ago, I found out that my then husband was cheating on me. Without going into all of the long details about that for his sake and mine (although it may be elaborated on at a future date), let’s just say that by late May I found myself to be 27 and a divorcée. Then the doctor told me that I had some abnormal cells in my bladder, and that I might have cancer, and that we should schedule surgery for August. As in 3 months away August. Sit with that. I sat with it for 3 months. I figured there really wasn’t any control I had in my life anymore and so I just was. I was present with my life. Never did the phrase it is what it is make more sense than during those months. I had started practicing radical acceptance. A therapeutic technique of Dialectical Behavior Therapy that is basically a cross between Buddhism and the Serenity Prayer that states “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference between the two.” It’s all about being present with the internal conflict, and then choosing how you respond, because sometimes that’s the only choice or control one has. THEN a week and a half before my biopsy, I was working late in the psych unit completing an intake assessment, and my stomach just ached. I threw up. It continued to hurt into the next day. And the next. I webmdeed (web-em-deed: the act of searching for diagnostic answers on webmd.com) my aches and figured I must either have appendicitis or totally severe gas. Hmm. On top of this, I had been offered a new job that was supposed to start August 30th so my current insurance was going to be ending soon. (During all of this I completed the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale for myself and my score was 533, no joke).
So, I figured I could either have my appendix erupt, causing my blood to become septic and possibly die (before the cancer, or a double whammy, who knew?) or I could just be quite embarrassed by going to the ED for gas. What the hell right? So I drove myself at 11pm to St. V’s (my parents thought I was being melodramatic about my diagnosis of appendicitis i.e. after I left to return home they had gone to bed thinking I would wait it out and take some pepto.) During my intake in the ED I started bawling like a baby, detailing the events of the last year to the empathic grandma-like nurse. “Don’t you just wish you had a gun sometimes?” she asked referring to the events of the affair I had informed her of. This of course caught me off guard, and I thought to myself “wow, until this moment, I’ve either handled myself quite well i.e. not having shot anyone, or this lady is crazier than she looks.” She laughed and so I did as well. I’m pretty sure they slipped me a roofie/Xanax and I started to settle by the time my CT results came back. Yep, appendicitis. Good ol’ webmd. They tried to call my parents to confirm that someone would be able to be there in the morning, but to no avail. I didn’t have a real emergency contact anymore. You know, I was single and living alone. No one was going to notice that I didn’t come back from the hospital. Welp. Surgery happened at 1am to take that sucker out. Through my belly button. Sorry but this was quite an interesting part of this story. I also learned that the appendix is about the size of a small fist. Not the large looming deflated red rubber kickball that I had imagined. My parents finally got the message at 7am. So I spend the next few days in the hospital. It was actually great. Lots of cream of wheat and a gal came in and cleaned my room, and I wore scrubs and those amazing socks, and I just read smutty celebrity magazines and listened to music. Friends and co-workers came and we had a party in my room. By day three, they were trying adamantly to send me home. This just didn’t feel right, and it wasn’t because I was thoroughly enjoying my inpatient stay, my women’s intuition was just kicking in. Well, they kicked me out. A couple friends took me to my place and we started to play some Mario Kart, and an hour later I had a fever of 104. Hmph. Went back to the hospital–because they told me too if I had a fever, and so I did–and they admitted me again. My women’s intuition was 2 for 2. So in total I was inpatient for 7 days. Remember that biopsy? That was scheduled for day 7. So I’m inpatient after surgery trying to reschedule surgery. I tried to get a two for one deal but that was a no go. So I leave on a Friday and then come back for surgery again the next Tuesday. They punch my I’maregularatthishospital card and do the whole shebang once again. This is also a nice/terrible detail/self-disclosure-they sent me home with a catheter for 3 days. 3 days. Apparently my bladder was going to be “angry” and so well, they didn’t want, well you get it. When I went back in to be rid of the darn thing, the nurse nonchalantly said “Did the doctor tell you that the cells were benign?” “No.” “Oh, well they were. That’s nice huh?” That’s nice huh? Yes that’s nice, I don’t have cancer. Just a string of unfortunate events leading up to I’m not quite sure what.
And so I thought about Job (the character in the bible).
And thus I started my journey across the bridge of identities with a bang. No longer a wife, and with a clean bill of health, I have spent the last year trying to once again answer the questions who am I and where do I want to go in life? I still don’t know. I’ve seen a lot and I’ve experienced a lot. All I know is “what is to give light must endure burning,” (Viktor Frankl) so I have to keep my chin up.
When I was around 7 years old—the time I was learning to sail on my own—My dad thought that it would be okay if I watched Jaws with him. I’m not totally sure why he thought that a small child watching a movie about giant man-eating great white shark was going to work out just fine, but I’m sure it went something like this.
First the girl gets dragged around and then “drowns.” I can see my young self not being quite sure of what actually dragged her down. Then little Alex? I think, gets chomped up on his raft. Oh my, I didn’t swim with my legs dangling down through and inner tube for years. Yes, even in rivers because you never know.
I watched in silent terror, until Richard Dreyfus decided to go swim down (at night) and look at poor old fisherman Ben Gardner’s boat. I shrieked. It was then when my dad realized that having me watch this movie probably wasn’t the best idea (In his defense, it was originally rated PG).
I was convinced that some freak shark had made it’s way in from the ocean, to the Columbia River, and made a home in the Willamette River where I was learning to sail. Shear panic would overcome my little body every time I capsized the boat, leading to my expertise in performing a walk-over.
Up until two years ago, I had re-occurring shark dreams. They always involved me being down at the sailing club, on the docks, and then the dock breaking away from land. I would look down and see the massive gray shadows in the water, with Jaws himself popping up to finish off what’s left of my little wooden raft. The destruction of the docks and and my survival plan would only change ever so slightly.
In the end, I learned how to sail and I love the water. I even go swimming in the ocean now (with a floatie)! We’re making progress!!