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My Heroes

Helen Keller

Helen Keller

We all have people we admire.  The people I admire the most are the people who are honest and work for acceptance and real social change.  The people who care about others and don’t put reservations on their kindness and caring.  Here are a few examples:

Mr. Rogers

I remember watching Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood as a kid, but I didn’t really start to admire him until I was an adult and learned more about him.  So many people aren’t the same in real life as they who they act like. Apparently, Mr. Rogers really meant it when he said, “I like you just the way you are.”  He’s quoted by numerous sources as saying that he went into TV because he hated it and wanted to change it.  He didn’t just complain about it; he actually made real change.  Mr. Rogers was beloved for as long as his show was on TV, and he proved that entertainment could be gentle and accepting.  Here’s a link I liked.

Stacy Pershall

I first learned about her through her book, Loud in the House of Myself.  I thought it was going to be just another memoir about someone with borderline personality disorder, but what I found was something more honest and touching than a simple memoir.  She talks frankly about what it felt like to grow up as her, and is now an advocate for de-stigmatizing mental illness, for body acceptance, and against bullying.  She could have chosen to be “that girl,” but instead is a writer, advocate, teacher, and bellydancer.  I admire her for choosing her own reality; she’s trying to make the world a better place, not just for her, but for anyone who is struggling.   This is a link to an article about her.

Irvin Yalom

A few years ago, I went to an American Counseling Association conference and was lucky enough to hear him speak.  It was an amazing experience.  Mr. Yalom is considered the expert on group therapy and existential therapy.  He’s also an author of several wonderful books, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, and has a counseling practice.  The reason he’s on this list is because I greatly admire how he does counseling, and I would love to be that skilled one day.  Not just that, but he encourages therapists to be themselves and to be active in the therapy.  Early on in grad school, I had a professor encourage me to practice smiling in the mirror.  I did, and I looked like I was faking it.  It took me a little while to figure out that it was okay to be myself, and that when I smiled and it was genuine, people would appreciate that more.  No one has a better BS meter than someone coming in for therapy.  Here’s an interesting interview in which he’s asked 7 questions about therapy.

Bill Cosby

I really hesitated about putting him on this list because of the sexual assault allegations against him.  If it’s ever proven that he did anything, I’ll be terribly disappointed.  I decided that I wanted to be honest.  Bill Cosby is a man I admire because he’s been funny his entire career without cursing or vulgarity.  Now, I like George Carlin, Louis CK, and Lewis Black, but I have to admire a man who could make his routine family friendly without being childish.  I also loved The Cosby Show.  People will watch quality TV if it’s offered to them.

Hellen Keller

I realize she’s not contemporary, but I couldn’t have a list of heroes without including her.  I grew up watching The Miracle Worker, and I read her book.  I was always inspired by her courage.  I can’t imagine what life was like for her, but she had a life, despite her “disabilities.”  Hellen Keller proved that limitations only exist in your mind.  “Life is a daring adventure or nothing.”  How can you not be inspired by that?

Cedar Park, TX Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Cedar Park, TX
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I’m not a naturally social person.  It’s not that I don’t like people; it’s mostly that I like to be left alone.

I love my friends.  I love spending time hanging out and talking about anything that comes to mind.  But when it comes to strangers, I prefer not to talk.  I believe in politeness and eye contact.  I think that these things are important, and so I stop texting or reading email, make eye contact with the cashier or waitstaff, smile, greet them, and say whatever seems appropriate in that moment.  I do that because I believe that people are feeling more disconnected because of forgetting to do the basics.  However, even though I believe in making human connections with others, I don’t want random conversation.  However, I value those conversations and what I learn about people.  Contradiction?  Yes.  Do I care?  Nope.

I was in the hardware store recently, and as an older gentlemen helped me find the part I needed, I mentioned that I recently moved to Austin.  He started telling me how much he loved Houston, and said, “I’m old fashioned.  I love women with big hair.  In Texas they have more of them, but not as many as they used to.”  People say the greatest and most unexpected things sometimes.  I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

A few days ago, I went to Walgreens because I needed two small items, and I figured it would be quicker to go to the drugstore than Wal-Mart.  Wrong.

Although I got my items and paid for them in less than 10 minutes, the cashier started chatting, and before I knew it, a half hour had gone by.  I did enjoy our conversation, but in the back of my head, I kept thinking, “I have things to do.  It’s time for me to go.”  I learned about this woman’s first marriage, and her unexpected third child.  I learned that she likes to travel and works at Walgreens so that she has extra money.  I learned that she has Apple stock, and that she once had a customer who gives all her saved money (like if an item is on sale and she saves $1) to her young son, and that he in turn invests the money, and that at 8, he owns stock.  All very interesting, and part of me is glad when I have unexpected conversations with strangers, while another part of me, the larger part of me, still wishes I never had to leave the house.

I have extroverted friends who love talking to strangers, being nosy inquiring about others’ lives, and just generally meeting everyone.  I’m always perplexed by this behavior, but because I can fake extrovert, I get caught up in some of the same types of conversations.  I just don’t happen to enjoy them as much as others.  I enjoy the end result though, which is having more characteristics for my internal character bank.

So what do you think?  Do you love or hate talking to strangers?  Or are you too somewhere in between?

Sexy Costumes

Yep, that's me.  Halloween 2011.

Yep, that’s me. Halloween 2011.

When I was in my 20’s, I dressed in some sexy costumes.  Who doesn’t use Halloween as an excuse to step a little out of the comfort zone?  However, I really think the “sexy” costumes are getting a little out of hand.  (Is this me being old?)  Halloween is a FALL holiday, and I’m seeing costumes that don’t cover much more than a bathing suit’s worth of flesh.  Is freezing really sexy?  No one has ever said to me, “Those goosebumps look great on you.”

Plus, what happened to being scary or having fun?  Sexy and nurse go together, but sexy and Freddie Krueger??  (Freddie is a burned up weirdo… just sayin’.)  He’s supposed to be scary.  He murders people!  I think it’s cool to dress up like him because I love the Nightmare on Elm Street movies.  But to make scary be sexy (unless you’re being ironic or sardonic) seems just odd to me.  Like writing to convicted murderers looking for romance.  And a sexy nun?  I’m not religious, but that just seems disrespectful.

I guess it all boils down to what Halloween is about for you.  For me it’s a time to watch scary movies, dress up and have a lot of fun.  I like to look good but I don’t have to be “sexy.”  I like ghosts and witches and vampires and Freddy and Jason.  I like giving out candy and smelling pumpkin and apple spice.  I like when it gets too cold to wear skimpy clothes and when leaves crunch under my feet.  I love going to haunted houses and getting the jolt of fear, just for a second.

I don’t like freezing various parts of my anatomy off or having to worry that if I bend over, I’ll be showing off parts I prefer to keep covered.  The bottom line is that Halloween is for fun, and should be about whatever is fun for you.

This year, I’m dressing up as a sugar skull.  I can’t wait to see how my makeup turns out.

While we’re on the subject of sexy costumes: Here’s a link to men dressing up in sexy Halloween costumes.  I love this one.

Here’s another one to 32 sexy costumes that don’t really make sense.  I agree with many of them.  I just shook my head and wondered why.  Especially the crayon.  Who ever looked at a crayon and thought, “I’d hit that?”

So what’s your vote on Halloween costumes?  Sexy or not?  And do you find anything skimpy to be sexy, or does it have to make sense?

Feel Good Friday

Happy Friday!  I, for one, am very happy that today is Friday.  I’m looking very much forward to the weekend.

Gang members feed hungry kids.

Man leaves letters behind for his family to read after his death.

Printer creates 3-D memories for the blind.

Luggage drive for foster children makes moving a little easier. 

Sewage workers go beyond the call of duty to find a woman’s flushed ring.

Go enjoy something today.

Go enjoy something today.

Pecan Street Festival, Austin TX Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Pecan Street Festival, Austin TX
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

It seems like everyone these days has trust issues, if Facebook is any indication.  I see all kinds of posts going around about how people have had their trust broken, about how loved ones are stabbing them in the back, and I think, “Does everyone have trust issues?”

I guess everyone has someone in their lives who have hurt them.  You can’t get through life without it.  The issue is how it affects you.  Do you let those who’ve hurt you color your relationships with everyone, or do you learn the lesson and move on from it?

I’ve had people break my trust, and at the time, it hurt.  I thought I would never recover from it.  Eventually, time and distance lessen pain, and I did move on from what happened.  It didn’t resolve overnight, and when I was able to take a step back from the pain, I found lessons in what happened.  I could have chosen to learn that people aren’t trustworthy, but I didn’t learn that.  What I learned is that people are human, and sometimes hurt you.  Sometimes it’s intentional, and when it is, it’s usually about something going on with them.  Sometimes it’s unintentional.  They’re hurt.  Or depressed.  Or in pain.  Or scared.  And they lash out.  There are some genuinely rotten people out there, but that’s not most of the people I meet.  Most of the people I meet just have their own stuff going on.  But I digress.

So in my case, the person was all of the above: hurt, depressed, in pain, and scared.  This person lashed out at me and hurt me.  A lot.  In order to protect myself, I had to distance myself from this person, which really hurt me because it was someone I was very close to.  All of the above is not an excuse to hurt others, and I wasn’t going to stand in the way and be hurt over and over again.  I completely cut myself off from this person for about 6 months.  I ignored text messages, phone calls, Facebook messages, and emails.  I took that time to heal myself, and in that time, I decided that I wanted to continue a relationship with this person.  I went back to the relationship, knowing 100% who they were and choosing to accept it.  Acceptance doesn’t make it okay when others hurt you, but acceptance does mean that you’ll be okay, no matter what happens.

To my surprise, when I refused to get angry, our relationship actually improved.  The person got a little healthier and I was a lot healthier.  I didn’t keep opening those old wounds.

My situation isn’t everyone’s situation.  But I do think that forgiveness works in every situation.  I forgave, and it healed me inside.  Sometimes forgiveness has to be done at a distance.  Sometimes when you forgive, you can’t resume the relationship.  It’s important not to continue a relationship with someone who hurts you over and over.  You can’t forgive an ongoing wound; it would be nearly impossible and completely exhausting.

Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.  It’s really just a choice to let go of pain and bitterness.  Many people say that trust issues are their way of protecting themselves from getting hurt again, but I disagree.  Most people with “trust issues” don’t feel good about those issues.  Their lack of trust in others doesn’t make them feel safer or more secure.  Having trust issues means that the person must constantly be on the defensive, must worry about and analyze the intentions of others.  That doesn’t sound like a solution to me; it sounds like a whole new set of problems.

Even though I’ve been hurt in the past (the above is just one example), I don’t assume people are going to hurt me.  I assume that they’ll do the best they can with what they’ve got.  Sometimes, the best they can do in that moment is awful.  Sometimes they’re mean or unpredictable or just not present.  But that’s not about me; that’s about them.  And I could choose to judge them for it, or I can try to understand that whatever is going on in their heads is why they are that way.  And I can understand that nothing I could do or say to them would be worse than them having to live inside their own heads, and I can be grateful that I don’t have to spend time there.

I never give  anything I can’t afford to: money, time, love, energy.  So when I give it away, if I don’t get paid back, I let it go.  Because I didn’t give away something too expensive.  That allows me, when someone breaks my trust, to let it go and know that at that moment, the person I gave to felt that they needed whatever it was more than I did.  I can wish them well and walk away.

Locked in a Bookstore

Innerspace Cavern, Texas Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Innerspace Cavern, Texas
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Did you hear about the guy who got locked in a bookstore in London?  He was apparently upstairs, and staff locked up without checking on him.  Twitter blew up as he waited to be let out, and it took about three and a half hours.

It sounds like the beginning of a good book, doesn’t it?  Why don’t things this ever happen to me?

Part of me thinks it would be the most awesome thing ever, that I’d find a cozy corner and flip through lots of books.  Part of me things I’d be so worried because I wasn’t supposed to be there (I’m a rule follower) that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it.  Either way, take a look at the Twitter feed… it’s laugh out loud funny.

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IMG_5213I’m superstitious.  I throw salt over my shoulder to blind passing witches and will never pick up a penny unless it’s head’s up.  I knock on wood to stun the fairies (they’re mischievous), and I don’t like crossing under ladders.

BUT… I love the number 13, and I love black cats.  Did you know that black cats are the least adopted?  Did you know that October is a dangerous month for these precious animals due to their completely unfair reputation?

I don’t personally have any black cats right now, but I have in the past.  My sister in law has always had black cats, and they’re exactly the same as other cats.  Except, you know… they’re black.  Normally, I like scary stories, but not at the expense of a living thing.

So where did the whole black cats being unlucky thing come from?  Well, it comes from a couple of different places, but it boils down to black cats being evil, and often blamed for being a witch’s familiar.  Because we all know how often “old woman” and “cat” goes in the same sentence, right?  Apparently a witch was just the earliest crazy cat lady.  Here’s a link if you want a more in-depth explanation.

I bring this up because I want you to realize that there are some people who are superstitious out there.  If you have a beloved black kitty, please keep him or her close to home in October especially.  And next time you go to adopt, remember that black kitties need homes too.

What’s your favorite superstition?

Feel Good Friday

Hello, it’s Friday, so there are lots of reasons to feel good today!  Here are a few more…

Army veteran gets a happy surprise.

People thank people who have helped them.

Dogs stay with an injured woman until help arrives.

Man regains some sight with a bionic eye.

Facebook users save horse from an uncertain fate.

abrahamlincoln137180

Mystery Castle, Phoenix Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Mystery Castle, Phoenix
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

When I was in college, I ran a recreation program at an inpatient state psychiatric facility.  We did the normal things like art projects and games, but one of the men I worked with liked to play what he deemed, “The Word Game.”  I was puzzled by The Word Game at first.  The game was played by him saying a word, and then me saying a word.  They didn’t have to connect in any way.  There were no winners and losers.  We would just say words back and forth to one another, with his occasionally interjecting, “Oh, that’s a good word!”

Flash forward, years later, and I met a friend who started texting me random words.  It had been years since I played The Word Game, but I was reminded of it almost instantly.  We once spent a Saturday afternoon texting words back and forth.

I was reminded of how much I liked words just for their own sake.  Yes, I like putting them in order and forming sentences, but sometimes exchanging a word like “cimmerian” can be fun for no other reason than I’ve not run into that word before.  Through the new and updated Word Game, I’ve learned the meanings of new words.  This is different than a boring word of the day program, and it leads to interesting discussions about how the correct pronunciation of cimmerian makes it sound less interesting than it did in my head.  I “know” a lot of words, but I’m sometimes a little embarrassed when I try to use them out loud in a sentence, and realize I have no idea how it’s pronounced.  Or even worse, I sort of know, but just can’t make my tongue cooperate.

In any case, I missed The Word Game.  When else do I get to use words like “psychopomp,” “chimera,” “soporific,” “phantasm,” or “troglodyte?”

(Incidentally, troglodyte has always been one of my favorite words, though I do love psychopomp.)

Do you have a favorite word?

Cedar Park, Texas Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Cedar Park, Texas
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

The world is loud.

I never knew that before. I was born with a hearing impairment, not a really bad one, but just enough to make certain things annoying. Like when I had jury duty. Or talking to soft spoken people. Or eating with a friend in noisy restaurants. I probably could have gone my whole life without hearing aids, until I became a therapist. Then I realized it was just impractical to be with someone who just told me about something awful and emotional, sometimes their first time telling anybody, and have to say, “I’m sorry, could you repeat that?”

I intended to get hearing aids back in Arizona, but then I found out we would be moving, and decided to put it off until I got to Texas.  Once here, I got tested by an audiologist, and got my first pair of hearing aids ever.  I told her that I primarily wanted them for work, or in as needed situations.  She laughed and said she was pretty sure that once I got used to them, I’d want to wear them all the time.

Um, no.

The world is a loud, loud place.  I never realized it before because I’ve always been insulated by my own limited hearing.  My first day, I wore the hearing aids for two hours, and then I had to take Excedrin from the pounding headache from being able to hear everything.

And they’re not even turned all the way up yet.

I’m so grateful for this wonderful technology, and I’m grateful that I had enough money in my HSA account to buy them.  But to wear them full time?  No.

You see, silence is one of my favorite things.  I love to sit and read or write or surf the internet in silence.  If I do put music on, it’s quiet.  I love being outside, but I can hear the birds chirping or the wind rustling in the leaves of the trees.  I can’t hear traffic.  Or my neighbors.

I knew that for me, hearing aids would primarily be a tool, but I didn’t realize how they would make me understand that my limited hearing has never been a limitation for me at all; it’s been a blessing.  I get to hear the world in a very different way than others do, and that’s not a bad thing.  When I want to hear more, I put my hearing aids in, and suddenly, the world is louder.  It’s easier for me to understand other people speaking and pull in background noise.  And when I take them out, the world is quiet again.

I asked my husband if he minded if I didn’t wear them at home, and he shrugged and said that after 14 years, he’s used to speaking loudly so that I can hear him.  <3  I guess most of my friends are.

Back to my audiologist… it occurs to me again that it’s an extrovert’s world.  She assumed that I would like hearing and like connecting with the world around me, when it’s the opposite.  I don’t feel disconnected.  I connect with the people I want to and leave the rest in the background.  I don’t mind not knowing what’s going on behind me or around me.  I don’t mind missing background noises or sounds.  I like my life’s soundtrack to be quiet.

Where do you weigh in on silence vs noise?

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