Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year, New What??

     It's that time of year again. The time during which everyone pretends to open their eyes and realize what they have been ignoring for the majority of their life. That wonderful time when the calendar rolls over and people pretend that they'll truly be making that change this year. After all, they've made their new year resolution!
     If you haven't caught it just yet, I think new year resolutions are silly. Not just silly, but downright stupid. If a person wants to change something in their lives they shouldn't need a date on the calendar or a ball to drop to get them started. Anyone who is serious about change will just work towards it. Individuals who are truly interested generally do not even need a deadline. Change is something that will take time, regardless of who you are or what you'd like to change. There will be setbacks, things will come up. Sometimes the changes are easier or harder than you'd expect and that can effect the time period that it is necessary to put in. To wait for January first to make a change you believe in is silly, and it serves as an excuse to put off change. 
     That being said, everyone around me knows that I've been through quite a bit of change, especially in the last few months, although the argument can be made that real change began a little over a year ago. Last December was when I was interviewing for masters level positions in my field, preparing to leave the job that I'd been at for some time. It was when I met my future parents-in-law. It was when I began to truly become a part of Chris's family, just as he'd been working to become a part of mine. It was when I finally started letting go of all kinds of awful things that had happened and started focusing on me, my life, and my family. 
     I don't hate using the new year as a time for retrospection. It's always a good idea to set aside time to look back and see what has been done and what we've learned from it. It's ok to miss the people we've lost, recognize our appreciation for the ones we've gained, and enjoy the memories we've collected. 
     Use your new year however you like. Try to stay safe, (don't drink and drive!) and enjoy yourself. I'll be using mine to keep growing, becoming a person that I like more and more every day. I'll also be using this year to actually plan our wedding, and tonight I'll be working on relearning how to knit and crochet! 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Tis The Season!

Hey now, don't worry, I haven't forgotten about my darling blog. I've just been busy! I know a couple of the pople who read are fairly regular readers and can become concerned when I haven't written in a while. I may let the entries get farther apart, but I highly doubt I'll be ending the writing I do here any time soon. It's too much of a stress relieving tool for me to let go! So take this awesome web comic and don't worry.

Here it is:

     With Christmas coming up and Thanksgiving just having passed, this is a time of year that most people do a lot of thinking about their lives and the people in them. I, on the other hand, evaluate my life and it's direction regularly, and over the past 2 years have made a habit of paying attention to the people within it and how I feel about them regularly as well. It's kind of like New Year Resolutions. Some people need a certain time of year to inspire thought, analysis and change. I don't make New Year Resolutions because I think that it's silly to need a date on a calendar to make a change in your life. 
     Life changes constantly if you're doing it right. Stagnation (as far as I'm concerned) is a sign of failure. For life to be entertaining and productive I have to have change and motion. The change can be as simple as trying new types of therapy at my job, taking on new types of clients, or working towards adding new resources or programs. It can be more complex, like starting classes or applying to doctoral programs (I've successfully pushed of application for at least another year since I was nervous about it and didn't feel ready. Not my finest moment, but I know that if I start it before I'm ready I won't do as well as I can.). The changes for me can even manifest themselves as something much bigger like planning our wedding and our move. Side note: don't stress out anyone, the move isn't rapidly approaching or anything. It won't be for quite some time, it's just something I should prepare for so that everything goes smoothly and we can be happy with everything that we decide on.
     Now, over the past few months some of the changes in my life were forced upon me without my consent. Losing two of my ex-boyfriends, on of which was a really great friend of mine, forced me to adapt and evaluate certain things before I wanted to. When someone close to you in age, physical proximity and friendship is ripped from the fabric of your universe it can force you to look at many of the aspects of life. Kirk and I used to have a lot of very deep discussions about life, love, and the universe. Now I may have to deal with those deep thoughts on my own.
     Even with the loss of people that I love very much the analysis of my life had a positive result. 

First: I'm happy with my job. It can be really hard work and sometimes I hear awful, tragic stories of neglect, abuse, distorted thoughts, and many other things that can make a child's life difficult to live. That aspect of my work can be very difficult, but it drives me to do my job and constantly work to improve my skill set. For some of the kids I see I'm the closest thing to a functional adult that they have in their lives. Once we get over the irony of that statement and control the laughter that comes with it we can get back to the point, which is that I have the opportunity to change these children's lives. I can help them to repair some of the damage that has been done to them and help guide them to a healthier life, hopefully breaking a societal cycle for some of them. I've had some clients outwardly state that after seeing me they've not only made a conscious decision to do things differently than the people surrounding them, but also feel prepared for the changes and uphill battle that they may encounter. Hearing that from client's is amazing. It makes every tough session or cancellation worth it. I've also seen younger children grow and develop, with the work that I've done with them clearly having an effect on them, and sometimes having their parents tell me how much of a difference I've made. I'd still do my job out of love for the field without these rewards, but seeing and hearing these things may change me as much as I'm told I've changed others. I wish that everyone will at some people have experiences as rewarding as my job is.

Second: I'm happy with my personal life. I'm sad over my losses just like anyone would be. I sometimes find myself wishing that some things hadn't happened the way that they did. When this happens I take a look around and see that the people close to me are exactly what I want. The friends that I hold close are different than I've had in the past, and I now have reciprocal relationships (for the most part). Everyone will always have their melodramatic moments, myself included, but I'm finally around people that are not in a constant state of emotional emergency that they need me to fix for them. I finally have friends that are as interested in being supported and helped by me as they are in being helped and supported themselves. For the longest time I thought that friendships were just what I'd been a part of, one girl always needing, wanting, demanding time energy and attention. Those relationships were draining, and after a little while they started to feel more like obligations than friendships. Now I'm old enough and aware of my situation so I can choose my obligations, and I choose ones that have as much return as they require in output. I am fairly confident in my ability to judge character now and even though I might take my time trusting people or letting them get close to me, I judge better and I'm not afraid to admit when I made a mistake in letting a person into my life or keeping them out. I will work to remedy any mistakes that I've made. It's not easy to admit mistakes to yourself or others. Being able to do so takes effort and maturity.

Third: I'm happy with my family. Both the family I was born into and the one that I'm working on creating. Neither one is always easy. My biological family can be very difficult sometimes. It's hard to be a part of this family and have your own life sometimes. Caring for my sister, helping my mother, being an active daughter and sister in this atmosphere can be seriously challenging. Balancing this family and their needs with my own can be hard. Sometimes I have to change plans on very short notice. Sometimes I have to let my needs fall back until my family is taken care of and stable. Beyond needs is happiness, and my family's happiness is paramount. I would give almost anything to make and keep them happy, which sometimes means that I have to wait to help myself to do what they need. It's always been like that, so it isn't new. What's new is the balance I've been working towards and achieving more often. I'm proud of the growth that I've experienced, growth that helps my family and myself. The family I'm building has to try to grow while we maintain the family I was born into. Like a little sapling that's trying to grow in the shadow of a big, fully grown tree. The big tree gets the nutrients, the sunlight, and is seen by people. The sapling has the benefit of being protected by the bigger tree from threats and elements, but has to be strong and work harder because the big tree gets all of the nutrients and necessities, leaving the sapling with what's left. Our sapling is finding a way to get what it needs. That is a challenge. I'm proud of how strong and understanding my partner is. He makes sure our sapling grows. 
(That got super gross and sappy. Gag. Sorry about that.)

Fourth: I'm happy with the direction that I'm going. I'm working hard in almost every area of my life, including the leisure aspect. I've dedicated time and energy to becoming mentally healthy. Managing my anxiety and moods, working on relaxation, focusing on what I need to be a better, happier, and healthier person. I'm focused on today and the future. I'm ready for what life has to throw at me and I'm happy with the people who will be by my side when it comes. 

     I'll never stop missing the people I've lost, but I will always do my best to appreciate what they've done for me. No matter how a person has left my life I will keep the memory of how they have changed me (for better or worse) and attempt to appreciate it forever.
     So if you do New Years Resolutions, start looking at your life, decide what you like or dislike, attempt to appreciate every aspect of your life, and make changes as you see fit. Don't let other people dictate your life or decisions. Take control and take responsibility. When you own your decisions and create your life you can fix it, change it, and take pride in it. True autonomy. Being in control feels great!

Check out this super sweet drawing our security guard did for me!!!

Super duper congratulations are in order (even if they are a little late) to my friend Karla, who achieved her Masters of Psychology in the spring. Caring people make wonderful therapists, so I'm sure she'll be successful!

Also, for everyone who loves gossip and/or drama: The person whose part in my life inspired me to start this blog got engaged. I'm not sure why people want to tell me about what goes on in that girl's life, especially since she's not a part of mine anymore and I'm happy for that. Still, people want to share this kind of stuff with me for some reason. My suggestion to those of you that have told me you've developed some kind of feelings given how everything happened between us is this- be happy for her. I never dreamed of my wedding, and even being engaged for a year and a half I still don't know what I want, other than to spend the rest of my life with Chris. That girl has been waiting and wishing for a husband since I can remember and she'll finally have it. It's comprable to my masters degree. Something I always knew I wanted and was so excited to finally have. So if you know her, congratulate her. If you don't and have some feelings about her just because of me and that situation, add some good will to the pity that goes her way. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Things Bestowed Upon Us

    My last post was a little sad, talking about the death of my first love. It was a tragedy to lose him, but the summer wasn't done showing me all that it had to test me.
    Shortly after my last post I learned that a very dear friend (Kirk), whom I also dated for a short period of time, had passed away. At the far too young age of 24 he was taken from this world, shortly after moving into a new apartment after returning from a mission trip to Baja. The irony of this is not lost on me. This man was doing God's work and then was called home to him.
    I was angry. Kirk was doing everything he could to be good to the world. He was well on his way to changing it, one little bit at a time. The relationship we shared was one of adventure, learning, sharing and influencing. We were ready to start a revolution. We wanted to teach each and every person how to open their eyes and see everything the world has to offer, just like we did. Together we had lofty goals, dreams of grander. Our friendship had grown to the point where he was even prepared to embrace the man that I am going to marry. Over nearly 7 years I'd watched him grow and change, just like I have, into the type of people we want to be.
     Now he cannot progress any farther. His story has ended. Part of me wishes that he had become so wonderful that he'd achieved nirvana and joined the universal energy, but I'm not sure any of us will ever get to a point where we don't have anymore work to do on ourselves.
     This death has hit me even harder than the last one that I've written about. So young, full of life, and ready for the future... An ever present friendship in my life that grown to be unconditional. A person that had grown with me over many years and stages of life. This loss has caused me more pain than I could have anticipated, even if I had anticipated it.
    One more friend, one more loved one, one more person that I had grown close to, gone and gone forever. This fact makes life much more difficult. Daily life becomes a struggle when you are unsure that you'll have the people you care for with you tomorrow. It seems to me that summers have been an unfortunate season for me, starting with wonderful things that are quickly followed by the worst things I could imagine. We all know about my graduation and engagement followed by the betrayal and loss of a friend. This year wonderful work in my field, just what I've worked for, followed by the death of some of my loved ones. Yes, it's only been two years, but two incredibly and unimaginable years. Unimaginable happiness followed by incomprehensible loss.
     Sometimes I hate how much the world around me pulls and pushes at my emotions. Then I hate how my emotions dictate my behaviors. My self control is limited, but getting better. Even with this discomfort caused by my loving, feeling heart, I would never give it up. It has given me the a gift that makes me able to do my job and do it well. Sure, it takes a toll on me, but at the same time it makes me be able to feel for my clients and truly help them.

Gifts given to us are never our choice if they are true gifts. They are bestowed upon us without our input, and we have to decide what to do with them. I will take my strong emotions and empathy and use it every single day to help myself, my loved ones, and anyone who needs it. 

No matter what happens after we die, you will always be a part of the living world, through the love that you spread and the changes you made to yourself, your family, your friends, and the world as a whole. KMD

Friday, August 24, 2012

Death of a Love

     Recently my online presence has been minimal, and that hasn't been an accident. My career is taking off in wonderful ways, my family has been growing together in a way that makes me proud, and my relationship moves closer to the ideal every day. All of these things are reasons that have kept me busy. Unfortunately my distractions were not all that wonderful.     Two weeks ago someone very dear to me died. My first love (a distinction that wasn't only mine, no matter how I feel about that) took his own life after a long struggle and a painful life. The news was unexpected, especially since I had spoken to him only a week earlier and he assured me that he was doing well. I've always tried to explain to Chris that my emotions are a little more complicated than his, and when I love someone I will love them forever, although not in the same way. I don't think he really understood until he saw my reaction to this death. He's seen my reaction to death, he's seen me in pain, he's seen me mourn the death of something I thought was important and never thought I would lose, but he'd never seen this. I still don't think he understands, and I don't think I will ever be able to explain it to him.
     Regardless of how much pain or joy this person caused me, he was my first love. He showed me a lot of the world, some of which I wish I had never known. He changed me, removed the innocence of youth, stood by my side in some painful situations. He was one of my first experiences of adulthood and he helped me learn what I did and did not want out of life. He caused some lasting damage that has made my relationships since then a struggle. He did a lot of things for reasons I didn't understand. One thing I do understand is that I loved him. I was still very young and had a lot of growing to do, but that fact is unchangeable.
     Since his passing I have taken the time to mourn him. I found the box that I kept our old things in. Things I had long forgotten about. Love notes, a card from flowers, an anniversary gift with a note about how he'd love me forever. This box was opened many times, since that relationship was on again, off again. Each time it ended more things were put in the box, and each time we came back together I would open it again and we would remember how we'd been before. I hadn't even thought about this box in years, and I have known for quite some time there would never be anything more to add to it. Looking through this box, at the pieces of him, the secrets we shared, the love and pain that he gave me... it helped me realize that he will never be back again. I will always know that our relationship was something else. Not healthy, but different than anything I'd known before or anything I'd let myself get into afterward. I will always love that man in a special way, but I almost breathe a sigh of relief knowing that I won't have to witness (or try to help) his suffering anymore.
     Chris has been here with me while I've processed and dealt with this. Every day he becomes more and more wonderful than I had anticipated. I am lucky to be loved by a man like him, and he inspires me to work towards being a better person. I hope that some of my issues surrounding relationships will die along with my first love, allowing me the freedom I need to continue to grow into a happy, healthy person.

May my first love rest in peace, and in death finally feel the warmth and support those around him attempted to provide to him in life. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Enough is Enough

    "Enough is enough!" It's a phrase that we have all heard since we were children. Our parents have said it when they're tired of what we get ourselves into. Our friends say it when they've had too much to drink. We even say it on occasion when we've eaten too much for dinner. It's a phrase with a very clear meaning- it's time to stop. Still, the question arises, as adults, when is enough really enough?
    I mean this not so much in the negative way of doing or having too much of something, but rather as a question of self-fulfillment. We create goals for ourselves and set out to achieve them. We work hard to make ourselves and those who matter to us proud. When we hit milestones and achieve our goals we set new ones. It makes sense, and according to certain psychological schools of thought a person can never be "finished" with this process and be happy. We have to continue changing and developing, adapting to our surroundings and working to become a person we are pleased with.
    When is it enough though? How far do we have to go before we can stop working so hard, or at least stop working on changes and advancements of great magnitude? I know people who seem to be ok with who they are and where they are in their lives, and for the most part I think that's great. I'm even a little bit jealous. I feel this jealousy because I've achieved most of the goals I've set for myself, and within the timeline I wanted as well, but every time I do something that I've set out to do I feel compelled to go after something else. Something new, bigger, harder, and more impressive.
    By 24 I've achieved a masters degree in the field that I love (Just to clarify how awesome I am, I was only 23 when I got the degree). I've completed internships and specializations to deepen my knowledge and skill level. I'm lucky enough to have not one, but two jobs in this field, one of which is doing what I've wanted to do since I remember choosing this field, outpatient therapy. This job provides me with competitive compensation and opportunities for advancement. In my personal life I've met a man that outshines any other I've met in the past and have accepted a marriage proposal (regardless of how much I may be dragging my feet on the planning process!). I've taken the tough steps to clear out my inner circle and recognize the truly wonderful friends I have, helping me to appreciate them more than I ever have before. I've continued to strengthen relationships with my family, being the best sister and daughter that I can be. I have pets that I love and care for. I'm planning a future that involves the American dream modified for what I want: a home, a husband, children and a career. By 24 I've created a life that some people can only hope will become a possibility some day.
    Even so, it doesn't seem to be enough for me. I crave further advancements in almost every area. It is not necessarily that I want these things right now, just that I want them. I always want to be better, go farther, and do more. I try to figure out why, what it is that drives me. It's not competition, I've never been too competitive. It's not external pressure, the people in my world don't seem to attached to these accomplishments or live vicariously through me. For now I just convince myself that the drive comes simply from a desire for self improvement, and that I can live with.

Just in case you haven't seen this yet, it's hilarious, and you've been missing out.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Poeple Help Create Humanity

    I think we can all agree that we are who we have become  has a lot to do with the people that have been a part of our lives. As children we have less control of whom we have in our lives, the control in this situation is generally more of the choice of our parents or guardians. They set up play dates that we may or may not request. The people in our lives end up there without us generally choosing, sometimes without us actually wanting it. As we get older we are generally surrounded by peers in school. We have less opportunity to interact with people outside of this group due to our location and lack of mobility... we still rely on our parents to take us places. We grow older and gain independence. We learn to drive and can expand our social circles. If we are fortunate enough we may go to college, expanding our potential social circles to the entire student body, perhaps even some faculty, although most of us restrict our friend group to those that we have classes with, dorm with, join clubs with, or have some other thing in common. We most likely miss out on some great social interactions because of the restrictions that manifest. This particular entry is not about what we've missed out on, though. It's about what we have experienced and how it has shaped us.
    Every interaction we have helps to shape who we become. We meet people and learn things. We learn about them, their interests, the knowledge that they have is shared with us and we grow. We gather information about what we like and do not like, and we use that information to help us determine what we'd like to have and do in the future. Some of us quickly realize what we like and attempt to continue experiencing things that fall into that category. Others of us simply start to notice things that we don't like, note the things we do, and attempt to continue to gather more information through more experiences. I'm generally in the second group. I find things I like and don't like, avoid things I know I don't like (not always very successfully), but most of my focus is set on finding new experiences and meeting new people so that I can keep finding out what I like or do not enjoy, so that I can continue growing and learning forever! Stagnation is frightening to me, so I would rather keep doing new things than stick to something comfortable.
     Of course, as a part of this process people come in and out of our lives. So often the loss of a person can be painful or unpleasant, like in the event of a break up or death. When we begin to associate this extreme negative feeling with the individual that has left our life many of us wish that we could remove all memory of the person from our minds. People wish for an Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind situation. Unfortunately I can't fully understand this. Sure, it can be painful to be reminded of a person once they have left our lives, especially if it was a nonconsensual parting. Still, why would we want to remove a person from memory? At one point we enjoyed their company, they have helped us to become who we are today. Unless you are truly unhappy with whom you have become there is no need to try and forget these people. Furthermore, if you are unhappy with the person you have become, you cannot blame this on others. Taking responsibility for the person you are is a necessary part of maturing.
    To personalize this issue I will mention a few specifics. I invited my ex to my graduation a year ago even though we were no longer together. He helped me get to where I am, being somewhat supportive, encouraging me to pursue my dreams to an extent. Our ending even helped me to a point. By realizing that our relationship would not work out, for whatever reason, I was pushed to be more independent and to find myself, find what I wanted out of life and go after it. Over the years my ex and I have been forced farther and farther apart, and now we do not even speak. I hear he is expecting a child. He will be a loving father and I have only the best wishes for he and his girlfriend. My only wish for myself in that situation is for him to know how much hope I have for him to find happiness, especially given the happiness that his role in my life has helped me to find the same.
    Now, I am sure that anyone who has read this blog from the beginning would be interested in how I feel about the individual that inspired the creation of this blog. There is a person that I gave so much to, that my family opened their home and their hearts to, that I invested time, energy and money into with the only return being a painful, borderline cruel slap in the face. This individual left with hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of dollars of money that she owed (which adds to the irony, since we took her in so she could pay off some of the debt that she felt so overwhelmed by) to me and my family. She walked out of our lives with not so much as a "thank you" or a "goodbye" after we had struggled to give her everything she needed to be comfortable and start her life the way she wanted it. All of this after being in my life for 18 years. She claimed that she felt like we were the family she wished she had, and that I was the best friend she ever could have hoped for. She filled my world with lies and deceit, taking everything she could and giving nothing but pain in return. So wouldn't I want to erase this person from my memory completely?
    Parts of me would love to have no memory of her at all. She gave my faith in humanity a huge blow. I couldn't understand how someone could be so incredibly thankless and inconsiderate, especially with people continually handing her what she wanted, bending over backwards to try and give her what she wanted because they felt bad for her, although all of the sympathy she built for herself was a lie as well. This person has made themselves almost the worst person I've ever known in my head. Every time I hear about her hurting someone else I just shake my head, almost wishing I could have warned them, but I know it's not my place by any means to interfere with other people's relationships. Also, people tried to warn me that she was a liar and not to be trusted, not to mention that I watched her talk about people behind their backs while they helped her on such a regular basis. In retrospect, anything that happened was my own fault. I take responsibility for being so giving and getting walked on. I could have, or should have, been more guarded and kept myself safe, but I chose not to. I have been fortunate enough to learn from this situation.
    The take home message? I know that relationships are hard. I recognize that after these relationships end we can learn from them much better than when we are in them. Good or bad, long or short, ended or not, we are shaped by the people we have interactions with. Some people make us happy and build us up, others make us doubt our judgement and bring us down, occasionally even hurting our faith in humanity. Even with all of this, we have to recognize our own part of this process. We can't blame other people for our lives and how they end up.

Responsibility is something we try to teach children, but so many adults still don't grasp the concept. We are exactly what we are, we've become so by our own choices, even if the only choice we had control over was how we react.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Ethical Lines Drawn Oh So Finely

            Recently NPR ran a story that briefly discussed a historical anecdote involving a young man who suffered an accidental gunshot wound to the abdomen, leaving him with an interesting condition known as a fistula. Essentially, the man’s wound never completely healed, leaving an opening to his stomach covered by a simple skin flap. He continued to live a fairly normal life although his condition obviously prevented him from engaging in certain types of work. A doctor was very interested in this condition and engaged in some experimentation, similar to the work of Galileo in which he would tie a string to a piece of food, swallow it, and then pull it back up at various times after ingestion to observe the progression of digestion. This doctor, however, bypassed the esophagus completely, directly inserting the food item into the stomach, and conducting similar observations by removing the food and documenting stages of digestion. Of course the doctor provided the man with compensation for his participation. Even so, this man decided that he didn’t want to be a guinea pig anymore, left the service of the doctor and attempted to live a normal life.
            As previously noted, this man could not participate in certain types of work. His life was difficult, and at a point it became evident to him that he needed the income provided by the doctor to participate in these experiments to live. He was forced to return to the doctor and allow him to conduct these experiments simply so that he could have enough money to live. The man had no other choice, he could not work and support himself due to his condition so he had to return to a situation that he was extremely uncomfortable with simply to survive.
            Back then we had no disability income. There was no other option that the man knew of, and this benefited the doctor (and in a way science as a whole) because the research could be completed. Even with the wonderful advancements that it provided, it was essentially against the man’s will, and therefore should be considered unethical. Even with the obvious ethical dilemma this situation, even by today’s standards, would provide no issue with any board of ethics since the man came “willingly” and was compensated.
            This situation brings up so many questions regarding ethics in today’s world of psychology. I’ve worked in an inpatient unit. There I learned about the very interesting concept of declaring people incompetent to make decisions for themselves. Given their incompetence the treatment team can force medication on these people. There are certain medications that we can give by injection providing a long term, extended release that can last up to 60 days. Mental health incompetence generally would not last quite that long. A crisis situation can be resolved with less serious medications and therapies within as short of a period as a few days. The interesting thing here is that, during this window of “incompetence” doctors can make the decision to give them a medication, against their will, that would last for 2 months. A mentally competent individual can refuse medication even if it may be helpful.
The choice to struggle with or without medication (for whatever reason) is a right of every man, woman, or child that is confronted with that decision. For us as professionals to rob the individual of this choice, be it for days or months, is an injustice as far as I am concerned. In this field we are here to help, and part of helping is to respect the wishes of those with whom we work, whether we agree or disagree with the decisions that they make.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Knowing how to say "I'm sorry."

    Working with small children the word "sorry" gets thrown around a lot. "It's ok" is another phrase that usually follows it. As children we learn that when we do something wrong we apologize (even if we aren't really sorry) and we also learn that when someone says they're sorry you accept their apology (even if you really don't).
     As adults we learn that we don't have to say that we're sorry if we aren't. Occasionally we may throw out an apology that we don't completely stand behind simply to move past a situation, keep the peace, appease others, or even just to look like a nice person. We apologize for many reasons, and not all of them are because we are sincerely sorry. More importantly we learn that we do not have to accept these apologies. We can listen to them or not, and make up our minds to let the situation go and accept the apology, accept it under conditions such as change in behavior or some type of penance, or not accept it at all and leave the apologizer to live with the knowledge that they have done something we feel is unforgivable. In the last situation we are presented with yet another decision, which is to continue in whatever type of relationship we were engaged in, or end said relationship due to the indiscretion.
    We learn these things as adults fairly early. Something I don't think we necessarily learn in a timely manner is when and how to be and say that we are sorry. We often believe that we are justified in our actions and have no desire to apologize for something justified. Sometimes we view the interaction as something that should not be held to be meaningful, leaving an apology unwarranted. In some situations we simply can't or won't take the time to attempt to understand the other side, learning how something we've done could possibly be upsetting or hurtful to another human being. If we do acquire these skills it can lead us to a whole new set of problems: a set of problems associated with another set of skills.
    Forgiveness. Not even just forgiveness, but sometimes the skill to hear a person out in their apology. Sometimes we are so hurt or upset that we don't even want to hear what a person could possibly have to say after they've done or said something so hurtful. Perhaps we even feel justified in punishing them by refusing to listen at all. These actions are our rights as humans, and we exercise them regularly.
    I bring this topic up not because of some recent slight against me or mistake made by me, but rather in reflection on a lot of things in my adult life. I have been considering my relationships with people and the ends of those relationships in contrast to those that have lasted. It occurs to me that I (to the best of my recollection) make it a point to at least listen to a persons apology if it is offered before I decide to accept or refuse it. I feel like it is crucial to make an informed decision. You made my baby sister cry? I'll never forgive you for it, but I'll certainly listen to whatever poor excuse or apology you have for it. And you know what, if the situation was that she had her period and you mentioned the name "Pat" and it threw her into a fit of tears because her friend Pat just died, I may just forgive you. We have a complex world, in which every single person is living a life that we don't necessarily know about. As far as I'm concerned, it's worth hearing someone out, even if you're pretty sure that I've made up my mind. It isn't smart to make a decision and stick to it without at least trying to gather all of the information.

     All of this said, I only wish that other people were as open to hearing what people have to say as I am. I've made mistakes, I've had people do things that have upset me. I think that if we could all simply focus on what is truly important and give each other a chance we would live happier lives. I mean, we chose these people to be in our lives at some point, didn't we? Why should we let a mistake end that relationship, especially without trying to understand how it happened first?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

You are my sunshine...

    So much has changed in so little time, which seems to be the pattern in my life. I can't complain of course, stagnation and complacency bore me. Change is a necessary and exciting part of life, a part that I wouldn't give up... even if it does mean that stability is more difficult to come by.
    Chris has managed to test out of his classes and come home. He has found a wonderful job with a stable company making enough to help us start our life together in a more responsible manner. He is looking into apartments that will be lovely for us for the next few years while we make strides in our lives and careers. He demonstrates his dedication to himself and me by taking the time to responsibly set up our future, unlike the last time we found an apartment which was rushed and almost frantic. This time around we are taking time, saving, budgeting, shopping, organizing... taking care of everything that should be taken care of the right way. He makes me proud with the changes he is making to his habits as well as the way he chooses to demonstrate his commitment. 
    I've started a new job and should have a full client load by this weekend. I'm still on at the job I've had since August and doing my best to keep my enthusiasm there. It finally looks like what I've been working for is coming to fruition. Even with these amazing career steps I'm taking I keep the idea of school in the back of my mind. My intention is to make application by the deadlines this year, and start in August of 2013. It's slightly later than I'd originally intended, (you know, when I was like 12) but it will be an appropriate time. I'll be 25 when I start, hopefully finished by 30. These numbers are frightening but I recognize that in the grand scheme of things I'll still be relatively young and able to have so many things that I've wanted in my life. In addition I'm reminded of the joy that education brings me. I love learning and studying, so the prospect of returning to a university makes me excessively happy.
    In addition to the changes that have happened more are sure to come. Within the next six months I expect to be fully committed to my new job, have put in application to at least 5 schools, moved into a new apartment with my future husband, gone on vacation with an adorable married couple, adopted a dog, really begun planning our wedding, celebrated my beautiful sister's 21st birthday, and hopefully grown even more than I have in the last six months. I have high hopes that the next six months will allow me to once again look toward the future, rather than focus on the day to day of how to keep everything afloat. The idea makes me smile and brightens my days.

We take events from our past and use them as motivation for our future. If you have events like these to draw from, you are truly lucky.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A cat, a rat, a woman and a man. That's what we call a family.

    Chris is visiting me for the first time in a while, and so much has gone on since my last blog post. Life is fluid, it's constantly changing, and healthy people change with it.
    Since my last post I've applied for/ interviewed for a job in State College to start taking steps in my career as well as get closer to Chris. I've applied to a few jobs around here as well, and today I scheduled training for an outpatient therapy job in North Philly. Sometimes I feel like there aren't very many options for me in my field right now, other times I feel like there are too many choices. I'm constantly reminded of the studies that show how people with more choices have higher rates of depression and anxiety, and I relate. While deciding on my next step I have a lot of anxiety about making the right decisions not just for myself, but for everyone involved. I want to make the choices that will benefit my family (both the one I was born into and the one I'm working on creating), my clients, my career, my bank account, my education, and the parts of the world that I touch. It's a lot to take in and a lot to consider when making decisions such as where to work and where to live. My conclusion so far? Apply anywhere I find interesting and when offers come in compare and contrast them and take what looks the best. The thing about it is that I'm apparently rather marketable... a 23 year old master of psychology is something that people seem to interested in.
    While I've been making these decisions Chris has been away in State College, studying and having fun. Our decision to have him got there was a tough one, but what he didn't know until recently is that I pretty much made the decision for him. Since his move here he's seemed like he missed his college life, complaining often about not being able to be with his friends and talking about how cool he thought State College was. I don't necessarily feel the same way and have even felt like I would rather be anywhere but there at points. With all of this I decided to push him to go back. I felt like this would give him the opportunity to return to his ideal college world with his friends... and without his fiance. He could spend some time independent of me and the responsibilities that come with a serious relationship (while maintaining fidelity, of course). He could play in the world that I feel like I grew out of a while ago and figure some things out, grow up and out of it, and figure out what exactly it was about that place and those people that he missed so much. All in all, I'd say this has been a successful venture, even though we've missed each other quite a bit.
    Now that Chris has nearly had his fill of frat boy type college behavior and realized what he finds to be truly important he seems ready to come back here for multiple reasons. The irony of the situation is that while I've been finding a career path close to State College, he's found one close to me. It's quite a Gift of the Magi situation. At this point he's adopted my philosophy of pursing interesting opportunities and waiting until offers come in. Once we've got some things on the table we hope to be able to be back together and back to building our future again.
    Another decision that has come up is that I've decided I will be making application to doctoral programs. I'm ready for the next step in my education, and I haven't given up on the idea of being Dr. Danielle. I know I can do it, I'm certainly good enough, and it is what I want in the long term. Lucky for my I've got an amazing support system to stand behind me and help me achieve my dreams. Between my family, Chris, and the few awesome friends that I have I know that I've got enough people to help me, guide me, and support me through any decision I make. So, ladies and gentleman, if you have suggestions of a doctoral program I should look into feel free to share. I've only got 3 that I know I'm applying to and I'd like to bump that number up to 6.
    In mundane news, my baby sister is coming home for spring break next week so I'm super pumped. It's always nice when our little family can be together. I'm looking at new cars because mine is 12 years old and I don't think that it would hurt to have a more grown up car, what with me being a grown up now and all that. Chris and I still have no date for the wedding, which I really appreciate. I don't think I could handle the stress of wedding planning right now and it's comforting to know that the man who asked me to marry him isn't pushing me to find the time to actually do it either. It's nice to have someone who is on the same page with you, regardless of where that page is in the book.

I try to recognize just how lucky I am on a regular basis. I am blessed with so many things others don't necessarily have. Some of these things have been dropped into my lap by good fortune, others came about from a lot of hard work and determination. Either way, I am one lucky girl. There is no question about that.

Friday, January 27, 2012

I said it really nice, I asked "Can you be my savior?"

    At this point in our lives I truly believe that people my age are at a very interesting place. We are, legally and by all rights, adults. At the same time we are children in so very many ways. Some of us are still children because our parents have allowed it (or perhaps forced it by hindering our development in one way or another) while others are children because they choose to be, or are clinging to the care free youth they recall and avoiding adulthood at all costs. Regardless of the reasons, I know that I personally look at life sometimes and realize I am so not ready/old enough/prepared for this. I'm thankful for these realizations, whether they're about big things like life and work, or little things like "OMG how do I have so much money in bills?!?!?!" and the fact that I'm still really uncomfortable being at home alone over night. If we never see where we have shortcomings then we can never develop and make the effort to become fully developed and healthy adults.
    Recently I was forced to face some of the parts of me that are very much still childlike. One being staying at home alone over night. I could have had a friend stay with me so I wasn't alone, but this friend was a boy (probably the preference if you're concerned about protection), and I believe that (even if they stay in separate rooms) a respectable and engaged young woman should not spend the night alone with another man. I got to sleep lightly, waking up at every sound... but I made it through. I doubt I'll ever be comfortable staying alone, but I can do it, and I know that my decision in that case was the adult one.
    Other things I have been forced to face. My shortcomings in adulthood have been thrown in my face in certain instances. I didn't like it at the time, but I doubt anyone could like to be told how they aren't good at life. Luckily for me, the things that I fall short at were cushioned by being brought to my attention through the love of my life. No, I don't like hearing about where or how I suck, but if I had to hear it from anyone I'm glad it was Chris. So many people can say things simply out of meanness or to be hurtful, but this way I know that the things I should work on are genuine issues, and I also have a barometer. I'm in no way hesitant to ask him how I've been doing on my self work, and he isn't afraid to tell the truth. That kind of relationship, while sometimes is harsh, is hard to find... even in a therapist.
    In case you're wondering how I'm not so awesome, I'll go ahead and give you some of the things I'm working on. I know we all like to see people struggle, so why not give the voyeuristic part of you something to smirk at. You can know what I might not be happy.
1) I pick fights, especially with the people I love. I like fighting. I feel like it's a cathartic release, and can be a very important part of a relationship. It creates a forum to express emotion honestly, even if not directly. That is to say that if you are upset or hurt about something and you fight about the dishes not getting done it can give you an opportunity to get out all the hurt you've been harboring. It's immature and inappropriate, but sometimes figuring out how to have a conversation about how you got hurt over something that couldn't be helped or had to be done, or finding a way to express your frustration with life becoming mundane... These things can be difficult. I am in no way saying that I'm suddenly against fighting, I just think that I need to work on when, where and what about. Some issues will inevitably end up in a fight, but I don't need to mask my pain about feeling second place by picking a pointless fight that will, most likely, get way out of hand. I'm going to have to try and be mature and quite frankly a little more respectful about things like that. Chris especially doesn't deserve to have me harp on him about nothingness when there is something I should come out and say.

2) When you take my age, education, career and life experience and combine it with an underlying insecurity and sometimes downright disliking of myself an interesting thing happens. I have a habit of projecting an air of thinking I'm super awesome (as I believe someone with my age, education, career and life experiences should be) and since it's so much work given my underlying insecurity I really throw myself into the act. This full commitment requires a little bit of focus, which can lead me to being slightly less considerate of the thoughts and feelings of the people around me. One of the very first things that Chris ever said to me, in the history of ever, was that I was a little brash. I try so hard to distract myself from insecurity and discomfort that it is sometimes becomes at the expense of others. The worst part? I don't even notice it on most occasions. It's almost funny because my day is filled with listening to other people, really really listening, watching their body language, and monitoring my body language and what I say very closely. It's my job. So when I think about how many people are surprised by what I do, and to hear that I'm rather good at it, it starts to make sense in a really messed up way. So I'm working on paying more attention in my personal life. Being more careful not to offend people even if I might feel like they aren't worth the attention.

3) With that last comment I think it's obvious what the next one is. I've had to make some apologies. I have said and done things without consideration to how it might make people feel. Most of the time it was pure negligence.. I didn't even consider it because I was wrapped up in keeping my facade of happiness up and I had that act to worry about. Some of them, however, I just didn't care about offending or didn't realize that they may have become offended because these people are the type to keep it to themselves or brush over it with a joke. Now anyone who really knows me knows that, with very few exceptions, the last thing I want to do is hurt people. If I say or do something that upsets another person and it's brought to my attention I'm quick to try and explain and apologize right there. I hardly ever mean to offend people. The only time I can think of that being something I might enjoy was when I was younger and a certain person and I used to sit around and judge people. Retrospectively, I think it demonstrates how horribly insecure she must have been as well.

4) I really have to work on trusting people. I have a long history of people disappointing and hurting me, and I have always been the kind of person that needs to have their trust earned, I don't give it away. About 7 months ago I had this super duper series of events with people really hurting me in ways that were new and unexpected, and it seemed to happen just one after another, over and over again. When that happened I stopped being nice and sweet. I don't think I've done very much at all just to be kind to other people since then. True altruism has left my life, and it's only because I can't trust in other people. Being kind to others without the expectation of anything in return has the ability to make you vulnerable. I was blindsided by people left and right. People being cruel, inconsiderate, harsh, mean, vindictive, malicious, and being just plain bad people. The only reason that I was susceptible to that was because I had an underlying faith in humanity. I trusted that people were good with no evidence to support it. Since then I haven't trusted anyone, I've just been waiting for people to disappoint or hurt me. It is a defense that I don't like, and I really need to work on it. It will still take time and effort for people to earn my trust but I have to let the option exist, and lately it hasn't.

    That's 4 of the many things I'm working on. I've got more, but lets not give it all away just yet. :) Of course the darling love that pointed them out didn't get into as much detail as I have, but sometimes this blog gets to be introspective. Now I won't say that Chris (and the rest of the world) doesn't have their own things to work on, but quite frankly that isn't my business to share all over on the internet. Not only that, but everyone has to get to the point where they're ready to work on things in their own time. Part of growing up is realizing that you can't dictate the life development of other people. That's a lesson that some people never learn.

Every day we grow and learn. Our lives and personalities are fluid even if we don't realize it. We'd be boring as a race if we weren't. The trick is to notice how you're growing and changing, own it, and make it into something that you want.