Diving into the Doom

Big things are on the horizon for Cheese Woman (that’s my new nickname, as of right now). As many of you know, I am a mental health therapist. As not many of you know, I’ve recently decided to leave the agency I currently work for, and am in the process of going into private practice.

This decision has come with a full rainbow of feelings. Guilt about leaving clients, especially ones I’ve been seeing a long time. Sadness about leaving my coworkers. Hopeful about relationships with new coworkers. Nervous about having to market for myself in the new practice.

Mostly though, I vacillate between these two feelings:

  1. Over-the-top, click-your-heels-together excitement

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  1. Massive, soul-encompassing fear

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At times, I am filled with hope and happiness about my new job. I can’t wait to have more control over the types of cases I see, and I’m optimistic that I can figure out marketing and get into a comfortable routine. Then, my fervor collides with naïveté and spirals into a whirling tornado of idealistic delusion. With a manic grin on my face, I picture myself becoming wildly successful in my practice. I’ll clearly make kajillions of dollars. It won’t matter whether I’m good at marketing, because people will travel hundreds of miles and ford treacherous rivers with their oxen in order to see me. Other agencies will beg me to give presentations. My former grad professors will look on me with pride.

I will be helpful. I will inspire CHANGE.

At other times, I descend into a neurotic pit of doom. I worry that I will have trouble finding clients. That I will not make enough money to support myself. That I will have to explain to friends and family why I’m struggling financially. That this situation will continue long enough that I will have to take on another job, or else be in danger of losing my savings. I am terrified at the thought of taking a big risk and getting nothing in return. I am sickened at the idea of admitting failure. Instead of picturing people traveling far and wide for my services, I picture public scorn. I envision myself being forced to rent my extra bedroom to a banjo-playing drifter who collects taxidermied raccoons. And who eats my leftover macaroni and cheese.

I am no picnic to be around when I’m in the pit of doom. I may or may not have vomited sheer anxiety all over certain loved ones victims.  And then gave them wide-eyed looks of terror as they were forced to reassure me that I will probably not die from this. Also, I may or may not have asked a friend if she’ll still like me if I have to become a prostitute.

Her answer was yes, if you were wondering.

It sort of feels as though I am a dichotomy* of emotion right now, bouncing back and forth from one extreme to another. But the truth is, as with most things in life, I typically fall somewhere in the middle on the spectrum of experience. Even when I’m deliriously excited, I still have a twinge of nervousness. And even when I’m spinning through the black hole of fear, there’s still a quiet whisper at the back of my brain that’s going, “Hey. You can do this.”

*Side note – Ever noticed how the word “dichotomy” sounds like a type of surgery?

 “Can’t make it to your party on Tuesday – I’m having another dichotomy.”

“Another?! That’s your fourth one this year!”

I don’t think the goal is to be completely without worry in this process. For one thing, that’s just not possible. It’s new, and new things are scary. But also, I think a small amount of anxiety keeps me realistic. I SHOULD be concerned about money. Not having money is bad. That’s a practical matter to be thinking about and preparing for. Rather than convincing myself not to be scared, I think the more appropriate goal is to try for an attitude of “Yes, and …”

“Yes, I’m scared about this… and I’m also excited about it. Yes, this could go badly for me … and I’m going to try it anyway.”

I’m actively attempting to lean in to my fears instead of fighting against them. Diving cleanly into the water will hurt a heck of a lot less than falling into it kicking and screaming.

I hate to admit it, but this deluge of cheesy encouragements is also somewhat helping…

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We’ll see if I’m still holding onto this attitude a few months from now. Or a few minutes from now.

What is scaring (or exciting) you guys right now?

 

When a Grump Talks about Happiness

Nikki over at A Kinder Way has invited me to participate in The Happiness Tag, a challenge to list things and songs that make me feel light and lovely. She actually tagged me a few days ago, but this somehow went unnoticed by me, so I only learned of it today.

It’s a little funny that I’m being challenged to do this activity today of all days, because I’m a bit of a Grumpy McGrump-Pants at this time. Some things are happening at work that are out of my control, and I guess my resolve is starting to wane. Normally, I’m able to complain about it to my coworkers (lucky them) and move on, but right now it’s bugging me a bit more than usual.

So when I saw the Happiness Tag, a part of me wanted to not participate. When you’re cranky, you don’t want to think about lovely, happy things.You want to cross your arms and make grouchy faces like a four-year-old. You want to knock things over for absolutely no reason, and stare down anyone who objects.

And then you want to set stuff on fire, because you’re a flippin grown-up, and that’s how grown-ups show their irritation.

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Unfortunately, the annoying therapist who lives inside of me decided to make an unwelcome appearance, and encouraged me to participate as a way to (hopefully) get myself out of this charming mood. Real Me started to argue, but then Therapist Me reminded me that I say this stuff to clients, and that I’m a bit of a hypocrite if I don’t do it myself. So then Real Me was like “Whatevs! Get out of here, Annoying Inner Therapist!” And then Therapist Me was like —

You know what, I’ll stop there. Let’s just say that things got ugly.

Long story short, Therapist Me, with all her rational and positive thinking, won out. I grudgingly admit that it’s good for me to remind myself of things that make me feel calm and soothed and happy on a day when I feel none of those things.

So, with that, 5 things that make me happy:

  1. Games – board games, card games, made up games – I like them all! Well, most of them, anyway. Monopoly and Risk can go to hell.
  2. Books – I have a rather large collection that has filled up my bookshelf and is now overflowing onto the floor. The cranky four-year-old in me wants to build a cave out of them and live inside of it.
  3. Food – I have a blog that is 39% about cheese.* You should’ve seen this one coming.
  4. When my friends and family acknowledge my eccentricities in a loving way – when someone calls my car by her formal name (Ellie), when someone buys me earrings depicting my favorite beloved animal, or when someone asks me to recommend a good queso establishment – these are things that put a warm little ball of happiness in my heart. Is that a weird thing to say?
  5.  Stationery and journals with different colors and patterns and designs

* = made-up statistic

…and 5 songs that make me happy, or at least less grumpy:

  1. I Love It (Icona Pop) – The peppiness give me more energy on a happy day, and adds fuel to the fire (in a good way) when I’m angry. It’s like the most positive negative song you’ve ever heard. It’s magic.
  2. Where is The Love (Black-Eyed Peas)- I know the whole thing by heart and like to whip this out as a party trick
  3. Hold Back the River (James Bay) – just ’cause.
  4. Anything by Maroon 5 – I was in 8th grade when they came out, and I’ve loved them ever since. Any song by them puts a little smile on my face
  5. Better Together (Jack Johnson) – my best friend and I long ago proclaimed this to be “our song” and it works like a charm.

As it turns out, Therapist Me was irritatingly correct. Making myself think of these things really did make me feel a little better. Shh, don’t tell her. She’ll never let me live it down.

What sorts of things make you happy, or make you feel a little lighter on a down day? What people or items or places put a smile on your face? Let me know in the comments, or feel free to make your own post about it using The Happiness Tag. I think we could all use a little happiness floating around the blogosphere – and that’s coming from a Grouchy McGroucherson.

What I Have

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A few months ago, I wrote a post about my need to maintain hope and positivity when things are really bad. But, admittedly, I’m not Polyanna. I sometimes start to lose sight of the pretty rainbows when there are so many dark clouds and storms and tornadoes in front of me.

We’re all feeling a lot of things right now, aren’t we?

If you’re like me, you don’t want to feel hurt and confused and scared.  You’d rather feel angry, because it’s an easier feeling to cope with. A safer feeling. Anger gives us energy, even if it’s the “wrong” kind of energy, while sadness takes the energy away.

If you’re like me, you don’t want to feel hopeless and helpless. It’s scary feeling, isn’t it? You don’t want to feel cynical and pessimistic.  But you also don’t want to feel like everything will be back to normal next week, because how can it be “normal” when everything around us seems to be falling apart?

If you’re like me, you don’t even want to make funny, lighthearted blog posts because it doesn’t seem right to laugh about anything today.

I want to crawl into a cave and make it all go away. I want to watch obnoxiously cheerful television and pretend that it’s reality. I want to avoid social media sites, where half of my friends are denouncing the entire Black Lives Matter movement, because they don’t truly understand its purpose.

I don’t want to feel sad, nor do I want to feel angry.

If you’re like me, you feel tired right now. Maybe numb.

But…I can take a breath, and dig a little deeper.

I can remember that I’m lucky, because I haven’t personally lost a loved one to any acts of violence in the past few months. I can feel sad, but I don’t have the right to feel completely hopeless. I need to remain positive for the people who truly no longer can.

After all, I can’t help change a world that I have no hope for. If I think that my words and actions make no difference, then I’m part of the problem, aren’t I? I need to come out of my cave and into the light. I need to try harder to see the rainbows, even if I need to borrow someone’s binoculars in order to do so.

This is still a good world. This is still a beautiful life. I have a family who loves me, and friends to laugh with. I have music and singing and Youtube videos of puppies. I have a roof over my head. I have a job that I not only enjoy, but draw meaning from, and I have hobbies like crocheting and writing. I have chocolate. I have queso.

What do you have?

 

How to Be Unemployed

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A couple of summers ago, after finishing grad school, I went through a three-month period of unemployment, where it felt like every day was a battle to maintain my sanity.

I soon found myself maintaining a particular routine, just to try to keep some structure in an otherwise long, purposeless day. If you ever find yourself unemployed, I highly recommend following a similar schedule. May the Job Force be with you

10:00–10:30 – Wake up and force self to get out of bed. Whine and moan a lot.

10:30–11:00 – Eat breakfast. Chew cereal angrily.

11:00–12:00 – Swim laps in the apartment pool for no other reason but to kill time. Pretend THIS guy is in the water with you to make things more interesting:

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12:00 – Try to convince yourself to shower, so that you can get the chlorine out of your hair. Decide that you don’t care if your hair turns green. You’re THAT hardcore.

12:05-12:30 – Shower.

12:30-1:00 – Get dressed, but not in real clothes. When you don’t have a job, you can wear any stupid thing you want and it doesn’t matter. You should take advantage of that!

1:00 – Sit down to the computer to start job-searching for the first time that day. Pray to the Gods of Employment to show a little mercy on you. Consider performing some sort of séance or animal sacrifice to please the gods and increase your luck.

1:05-2:30 – Apply for stupid bullshit jobs that you have no desire to do, but you’re running out of money and people keep asking you if you’ve found a job yet, and every time they do, a little part of you dies, and you can feel yourself losing your grip on sanity and you just want a fucking job, so you just keep searching, and you keep editing your resume until you hardly recognize it anymore, and you keep applying for shitty ass jobs you don’t want to do. Because that’s what grown-ups do.

2:30-3:00 – Weep all over your fancy-framed diplomas.

3:00-4:00 – Watch a little daytime TV on one of your three channels, because you can’t afford Netflix or cable. But you refuse to watch that Dr. Phil pseudo-psych bullshit, because he’s the worst. Even while unemployed, you still have your standards.

4:00-4:05 – Groan some more. Try groaning in different areas of your house to see how the acoustics change.

4:05-5:30 – Throw on the stained t-shirt that you’ve worn for three days in a row, and go out to run your daily errand. (Even if you have multiple errands to run, you can only allow yourself to go to ONE place. Gotta spread things out.) Go to Target and spend an hour staring at the pretty stationery, and then leave without buying anything but a single banana.

5:30-6:30 – Prepare ramen or instant mac & cheese.  Eat your Target banana for dessert.

6:30-6:35 – Take deep breaths as you check your email. Try to convince yourself that if you think positively, you can MAKE a response appear from a prospective employer. Perform another séance for luck.

6:35 – Discover that there are no new emails. Decide it is your computer’s fault that you’re unemployed. Punish the computer with your thoughts.

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6:37 – Receive a text from a family member or friend, asking if you’ve found a job yet. Consider murdering them.

6:45-7:00 – Lay on the carpet and cry some more. You’re going to miss having a place to live.

7:00-8:00 – Watch Grey’s Anatomy. Find yourself hoping that the entire hospital explodes into a huge fireball, and that everybody gets mangled. Especially Meredith.

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8:00-10:00 – Begin the second round of job-searching, because for some crock of shit reason, employers have started posting new jobs at night, and if you wait until the next day to apply for them, you’re probably coming behind some overachieving assholes who are even more anal than you are, so in order to keep up with everyone, you’re going to have to up your level of anal, and you never thought you’d say that phrase in your life, but you’ve lost perspective, and you don’t know what to believe anymore.

10:00-10:30 – Consider taking up a new fun hobby, like smoking crack.

10:30-12:00 – Come up with an idea for a children’s TV show about a clog-dancing gremlin named Elvis. Write and illustrate the first 15 pages of the script.

12:00 – Check your email again. Discover that an employer wants to set up an interview with you!!!!!!!

12:00-12:07 – Run around your apartment like a madwoman, waving your arms in the air and making pterodactyl noises.

12:07-1:00 – Try on different outfits to wear to the interview, because even though it’s after midnight, and the interview is still three days away, you need time to prepare, and you’re not sure whether that pencil skirt still fits, and you briefly wonder whether a pencil skirt is perhaps too fancy for an interview at a nonprofit agency, but you don’t exactly have a lot of choices, and it seems like a better option than the dress pants with the hole in the crotch.

1:00 – Feel thankful that you showered earlier. Green hair really wouldn’t go with this blouse.

1:00-1:30 – Research interview tips. You’re going to interview harder than anyone has ever interviewed in the history of interviews.

1:30 – Fall into a twitchy sleep.

For those who have endured periods of unemployment or (other difficult periods), what kind of routine did you develop? What other strategies helped you through?

 

Quote Challenge – Day Two

Yesterday, I was nominated by Mark over at Coloring Outside the Lines to participate in a three-day quote challenge. Woo hoo!

Here are the rules for this challenge:

  • Post one of your favorite quotes(different quote on each day) on three consecutive days. The quote can be from your favorite book, author, or your own.
  • Nominate three bloggers to challenge them.
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you

My quote for Day One was uttered by the jolly Mr. Rogers himself, so it seemed fitting to follow that one with this quote:

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

Who do you think came up with this one? Barney? Big Bird? Perhaps another member of the Rogers clan?

Actually, it was Plato.

Too bad he didn’t spell his name “Playto.” Heh heh, get it? I’ll show myself out.

I chose this quote for a couple of reasons. One – it is actually one of the driving principles behind my career. I am a child and adolescent counselor, and play is a big part of my work with kids. “What a fun job,” you might be thinking, “you just get to play with toys all day!” 

Well, yes and no.

Sure, sometimes play is fun, yes. But sometimes it’s sad, and heavy, and frequently, it’s really hard work. For both the kids and me. Play is the natural way that children make sense of the world and cope with confusing, difficult things…sitting a kid down in a chair and expecting them to rattle off their thoughts and feelings is just not developmentally appropriate.

I could easily go off on a tangent about the amazingness that is play therapy, but then you’d obviously get sucked in and be here awhile, and you’d end up missing the super-fun plans you probably already have, and then you’d be like, “damn it, cheese girl! I was supposed to sing karaoke tonight!” so I’ll stop here.

Reason #2 for choosing this quote: when I think about how adults spend time with close friends and family, I can absolutely see where play comes into the picture. Now, I’m not suggesting that you invite your friend over for the evening and whip out your Barbies.  Or maybe you do, I’m not here to judge. 

But just because adults have (probably) put down the dolls and toys, doesn’t mean we don’t play! Play can mean having a couple of drinks on the back porch with your best friend. It can mean shopping and getting your nails done with your mom. It can look like laughing with your older brother about something that happened 20 years ago.

There are lots of different ways that we play, and like “Playto” said – I think you can learn a lot about someone by the things they laugh about and enjoy doing. Probably not more than what you’d learn in a year of conversation, though. I hate to criticize Plato since he’s way fancier than I’ll ever be, but come on – an hour of play being more meaningful than a year of conversation? Slight exaggeration, buddy.

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One Word Inspiration: Secret

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A few days ago, I signed myself up for a Blogging University course called “Everyday Inspiration.” For 20 days, WordPress sends you a daily assignment to help you strengthen your writing muscles.

They encourage you to publish the stuff you come up with, but I’ve decided to only post certain things.  After all, my blog centers around cheese (both in food and joke form), and it’s sometimes challenging to brie funny and lighthearted with these assignments.

Couldn’t resist fitting in a quick cheese pun 😉

Day Three (today’s) assignment was to choose a one-word prompt from a set list and interpret it in the way you see fit. The word I selected was “Secret,” and I decided to make a poem out of it. It’s a bit darker and more serious than what I usually do – never fear, I’ll return to the silliness soon 🙂

Secret

A secret, a secret
Burning a hole
Squeezing my mind,
Hurting my soul.

This secret, this secret
Longs to come out
I’m holding it in –
But dying to shout.

My secret, my secret
Maybe I’ll tell…
My mind might calm,
My thoughts might quell.

But then it’d be out there
Careless, unsafe
No taking it back
No choice but to wait.

Secrets, oh secrets:
Everyone’s got one
Some are harmless,
None are forgotten.

This secret, this secret
Still causing me pain
Seizing my heart
Wounding my brain.

My secret, my secret
Why can’t I tell?
Too many risks –
My conscience is hell.

The whole point of the course is to strengthen my writing skills, so any feedback would be appreciated! Again, I don’t usually do poems (unless they’re fun ones about dolphins), but feedback regarding this post is likely to be helpful for my other posts as well.

And for my fellow blogger friends – if you’ve never done one of these courses, I recommend trying one at some point! The assignments definitely have me thinking and writing in ways that I don’t normally consider.

 

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Optimism

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I’m a little disturbed by a trend I keep seeing. It’s mostly evident on social media (god forbid), and in the comments sections of yahoo articles (why do I keep reading those??), but does happen in person as well.

What’s the trend, you ask?

Individuals saying things along the lines of, “there are few good people left in this world.”
Or, “I weep for the future.”
Or, “I’m terrified for where our society is headed.”

If you’re one of these people, what exactly got your panties in such a knot? What made you lose ALL hope for the future? I ask this because the majority of people I know who have experienced all the hurts and horrors life has to offer, still see the good. These are people who have witnessed enough pain to make the rest of us think it’d be understandable if they hated the world – and they still don’t. They see strengths in themselves, and in their loved ones, and they would give you the coats off their backs if they saw you shivering.

No, the people who fear the “inevitable” destruction of our society, and the annihilation of our morals, did not get that way by experiencing one too many negative life experiences.

Perhaps these people have jobs and lifestyles that don’t provide a lot of positive social interaction, so they miss out on the good, decent people who are all around us. Some of these lovelies are doing HUGE good things – advocating for human rights, conducting research to cure cancer and AIDS, and ensuring that families around the globe have access to clean water.

Some are doing smaller, behind-the-scenes good things that the world at large may never know about, but that still contribute to the betterment of our planet – becoming licensed foster parents, knitting blankets for animals in shelters, and writing blog posts about cheese  volunteering their time in some capacity.

Surely any naysaying doomsdayers reading this can think of recent times when others were good to you? Maybe your coworker left you a sweet note when you were having a rough day? Maybe a taller person helped you reach something you couldn’t get to in the grocery store? Maybe your roommate let you have the last slice of pizza?

I hope you Cranky McCrankypants can think of something, because the only thing that terrifies me about current society is the idea of living around people who all think our world is wretched and doomed.

And no, remembering that there’s good around us doesn’t make us “Polyanna.” It doesn’t make us naïve. If anything, it makes us human.

Okay, I’m done.

Rather than apologizing for getting a little rant-y, I’ll instead say a “thank you” for reading this to the end. Like a lot of other bloggers, I usually prefer to keep my writing light-hearted and humorous – mainly because it’s more fun for me 😉 But when something a bit more serious is poking at your brain, dying to be written about, sometimes you just have to give in.

A little bit of loveliness to make you feel better about the world

Letter to Future Me

I was nominated by Erin at http://bubblesandbeebots.com/ to write a letter to my future self – the February 2017 version of me, if you will. If you’re unfamiliar with Erin’s blog, I highly recommend visiting it, because she’s a great writer and has lots of stories about her adorable, food-loving little children.

My first reaction to this tag was excitement, which moved into slight panic as I couldn’t think of anything to say. Now I’m just feeling happy that I completed it 🙂

Here are the rules:

  1. Tag the letter under “dearfuturemetag”
  2. Write a letter to yourself to read again in a year’s time. You can answer then if you’d like.
  3. Nominate other bloggers. (My nominees are at the end of this post)

Dear Future Me,

First off, congratulations on still being alive! I guess all the quesos you’ve eaten haven’t yet given you a heart attack, so that’s good to know. How many quesos have you tested up until this point, anyway? I wonder if Sazón is still your favorite, or if some other place has taken that top spot.

Second, congratulations on finally being a fully-licensed professional counselor! You’re in the big leagues now, lady! Or, at least, I hope you are: three years of graduate school and two years under supervision were no easy picnic for your mind – or for your wallet. At least you’re no longer eating peanut butter crackers for every meal, simply because they were easy to eat in between clients, or while driving from one place to the next.

Speaking of food, I’m holding out hope that you’ve magically sprouted into a fully-functioning grown-up human woman by now. You do pretty good on a lot of adult tasks: you work full-time and you pay those bills like a frickin’ boss. You even do laundry on a semi-regular basis. Keep up the good work on those fronts!

The problem is, you often come home and have cereal for dinner. Or cubes of ham, straight out of the plastic packaging. Not because you’re out of food, or incapable of cooking something else, but because you just don’t want to.

Let’s try to do a little better at that, shall we?

While we’re wishing for things, I also really hope you’re still doing this blog. Sometimes, you fear that you’ll eventually run out of ideas (or that some sort of technological apocalypse will erase all the blogs from the internet), but you enjoy it so much. You’ve always loved writing, and the blog seems to encompass all the things you loved about being a yearbook editor – playing with fonts and designs, finding relevant pictures, etc. Plus, it’s fun to read all the other funny, amazing, and inspirational blogs out there.

Future me, you should continue to do things that make you feel happy and alive.

Another hope I cling to is that you’ll have finally figured out how to style your own hair. Right now, you only have about five options for hairstyles:

  1. Down and straightened
  2. Down and wavy
  3. Up
  4. Hmm…
  5. ????

…Oh, look at that – guess you only have three styles.

Let’s see, what else might be important to ask you?

Oh I know – do you still have your terrible laptop? The young and modern side of me is crossing my fingers that you’ve embraced new technology, but the nostalgic, easily-impressed side of me will be fascinated if you’re still using a computer that is now 11-years-old.

Enough about me! Let’s talk about you, future me.

If you’ve already forgotten, the February 2016 version of you is in a place where everything feels a bit uncertain. You might be working at a different job now, and maybe even living in a different city. That concept scares 2016 you. You like fresh starts as much as the next guy, but you hate the feeling of “flying by the seat of your pants,” and always have. You want to know where you’re going, and what’s happening, and who’ll be there. You crave the security.

I don’t know what you’re up to now, but wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing, I’m sure you’re okay.

Maybe you’ve even mastered something incredible. Maybe now you know how to make a perfect soufflé, or you’ve completed a decathlon, or become mayor.

I know, more than likely, none of those things is true. A year from now seems so far away, and yet it doesn’t seem like a long enough amount of time for me to have enacted any major changes. But the point is, you should remember that the world is your oyster! You can have whatever you want if you work hard enough!

…Except for the decathlon thing. You love cheese and television too much for that to work out.

Sincerely,
Current, 2016, Work-in-Progress, Me

My nominees for this fun tag:
https://myleastfavoritechildtoday.wordpress.com/
http://momsranting.com/
http://wwww.rockandrollsupermom.wordpress.com/

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Therapy is a Mental Work Out

In my yoga class the other night, I had an epiphany. Yoga-induced epiphanies are probably pretty common, but I’m going to guess that most of them revolve around how to achieve inner peace within our chaotic world.

Mine wasn’t.

Let’s back up. I attend a yoga class on Tuesday evenings after work, and over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that there have been quite a few more yoga-doers than usual. Considering we’re still early into 2016, I’m guessing my suddenly-busier class is the direct result of New Year’s resolutions.

Although I don’t usually make a resolution myself, I genuinely admire those who do. Resolution-makers want to live healthier, happier, more-enriched lives, and are (hopefully) taking the steps needed to make that happen.

These courageous souls are attempting to cut back on wine or delicious fattening foods.

They’re joining gyms.

They’re…gulp…exercising.

I’m especially in awe of the people who just jump right in and go from Couch Potato-ing to Insane Psycho Spin Class-ing overnight. That shit’s admirable. The closest I get to taking a spin class is attending a yoga class that happens to be held in a spin studio.

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Even if the new routine doesn’t last as long as they’d hoped, at least the resolution-makers are giving it a shot. Meanwhile, I’ll growl and punch you in the face if you try to take my chocolate away.

Getting a gym membership isn’t the only way that I’ve seen people attempting to help themselves or others – as a children’s counselor, I’m seeing more kids in therapy now than I was last month. Granted, this is probably more of a Susie-needs-help-but-let’s-get-through-the-holidays-first phenomenon more than an actual “resolution,” but the idea of making positive changes and starting over fresh in the new year is still much the same.

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Keeping all of this in mind, I was in the middle of downward-dogging in my class when this epiphany hit:

Attending therapy is a lot like working out at a gym.

The more I thought about it, the more similarities I came up with. After all, both (may) involve:

  • Acknowledging that there’s some sort of challenge or problem
  • Seeking out a means to working on that problem
  • Talking with a professional to get support and/or guidance
  • Being honest about uncomfortable and vulnerable things
  • Giving up flawed coping mechanisms in favor of healthier ones
  • Doing a lot of “heavy lifting” (whether mentally or physically)

Call me biased, but I do think the mental work involved in therapy is a bit more intense than the physical work of being at the gym. At the gym, you might do several different exercises in one trip – maybe you warm up on the elliptical, move to free weights, and then cool down with stretches on a mat.

But being in therapy means doing a lot of exercises at the exact same time. Imagine your hippocampus jogging on a treadmill, while your Broca’s area does bench presses and your prefrontal cortex swims some laps.
Nevertheless, both activities can be really scary, especially in the beginning. Both might be accompanied by a loss of hope and motivation when there are setbacks. Both might make you feel worse before you get better.

And both take a lot of courage.

Maybe I Don’t Want Kids

I decided I wanted to do something a bit different for this post, so it’s both longer and seriouser than what I usually write. Fair warning.

I’m just going to come out and say it: I’m really not sure that I ever want to have kids.

I have liked children and enjoyed being around them pretty much my entire life. I was still in elementary school when I started baby-sitting younger children in my neighborhood, and by middle school, I was watching babies.

(Now that I’m an adult, I seriously question the sanity of any parent who would leave an infant with an untrained eleven-year-old, but that’s beside the point.)

For a few summers in a row, I even held “mini camps,” where all the children in my neighborhood could descend on my house for a few hours for snacks, art projects, and outdoor activities.

The camps were lots of fun – and also probably illegal, once you took the child-to-caregiver ratio into account.

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It’s a bit tricky to explain my line of thinking in regards to having kids. I think most people hear about others not wanting children, and assume it’s because they either dislike them, or because they have circumstances that get in the way of child-rearing, such as fancy, high-powered jobs.

Neither of those is true for me. I have worked at daycares, I have worked in foster care, and I currently work as a child and adolescent counselor. I’m also quite close with my niece and nephew. I very much do like children.

But I still don’t know that I want my kids of my own.

Through all the baby-sitting, child care, and counseling, I have experienced many amazing moments with kids. I have rocked sleepy babies, I have witnessed toddlers’ awe at discovering new things, I have giggled with preschoolers, and I have had fascinating conversations with older children and teens.

I have felt total elation at being a part of so many “firsts” – first steps, first days of school, first time swimming without floaties. I have played dress-up, acted as a tickle monster, made up songs, painted tiny fingernails, and cooked pancakes in the shape of hearts – all while genuinely enjoying myself.

However, I have also experienced what it’s like to hold a screaming baby in one arm, stir dinner with the other, and shout at the toddlers in the next room to share their toys. I have changed diapers, only for them to be dirtied again with seconds. I have been in public with bloodshot eyes, a pale face, uncombed hair, and spit-up on my shoulder.

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I have known the bewilderment and frustration of having a child throw a temper tantrum for reasons I don’t understand, and can therefore do nothing about. And I have, at times, dare I say, been annoyed by the antics of overexcited kids.

Gasp. Better notify the church elders.

If you’re a parent, or have provided childcare in some way, you’re probably thinking, “But everyone gets annoyed with kids sometimes! Everyone has days where they want to pull their hair out!”And you would be absolutely right.

But the difference is, on the days that I feel annoyed and stressed out, I am still being PAID for my services. Big difference.

Also, at the end of a long day, I can go home to a quiet apartment, take a hot shower without little hands banging on the door, and go to sleep in a bed not covered in cheerios. Parents don’t have those luxuries.

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Maybe this is selfish, but I find the idea of having to cater to a tiny person’s needs, 24/7, with NO time for myself, terrifying. Props to all of you who do it.

One thing I’ve learned through countless discussions with parents, whether in my role as a children’s counselor, or simply with friends and family, is this:

Parenting is hard, y’all.

It is a never-ending job in a company that you have no hope of moving “up” in. There are no lunch breaks, no sick days, and the boss is not at all understanding if you find the work overwhelming. There are many, many “thankless” jobs out there, where employees don’t receive much positive feedback from customers (or employers) – but parents have it way worse.

Children actually don’t say things like, “Thank you for prohibiting me from skateboarding in the street, Mommy. I understand now you were trying to protect me from being run over and killed, and I appreciate your concern for my safety, and your desire to see me live. Let’s have some tea.”

Paradoxically, even though everyone seems to understand and agree that parenting is difficult, everyone on the planet LOVES to criticize parents – especially other parents!

We shake our fingers at those who we perceive as being too harsh, and roll our eyes at those we see as being too lenient. We turn up our noses at the sight of toddlers tantruming at Walmart, disregarding the times that our own children (or baby-sitting charges) did the same thing.

We conveniently forget what it feels like to be that stressed, confused, embarrassed parent, in favor of judging them so we can feel better about our own skills.

 

Is it really so odd that I might want to spare myself from these types of challenges?

For me, the advantages of having children are about equal with the disadvantages. The one thing that may very well push me over the edge is fear – if I don’t have kids, I think there’s a very real possibility of reaching old age and regretting my decision. To be fair, it’s also possible that I’d reach old age and feel perfectly content with my choices, but the fear of maybe being regretful and sad just might be enough to convince me.

We’ll see what happens.

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