Monday, March 30, 2009

Contemplating the End

I sat with a dear friend yesterday--someone who is over 80, and has many friends and family, but no direct descendants. I had my laptop on my knees, and we discussed what would happen after she died. With no children to plan the funeral, who would do what? I wanted to give her the opportunity to have input into her affairs after she no longer was around to speak to the situation.

It was an odd conversation that had moments of "the shivers"--open casket vs. closed? It also had moments of laughter--no lilies on the casket 'cuz she's allergic, and please, don't spend too much on the casket--it's just going in the ground anyway. What would she wear in the casket? Well--it depends on the time of year, y'know--have to dress for the season. And she didn't want me to write down a specific outfit just yet--because she is going to buy a nice summer outfit this season. At first--no salami at the funeral lunch--because she's never like salami--but then, she remembered, she wouldn't be there, and if others liked it, then it would probably make sense to have some with the other cold cuts. We talked about reviewing and updating her choices of songs, scripture, and so on, annually for years to come as she continues to grow and evolve as a person.

Then I started recording her life history--something that may die with her unless it is recorded. The stories of her childhood, the memories of her parents that cause her eyes to redden even now as she thinks about them. The images of her childhood scrolled through her mind as she reflected on those years. Things she hadn't thought about in a long time--things nobody has asked her about for a long time.

It was the oddest afternoon, punctuated by nervous giggles, odd comments about the surreal nature of the conversation, and huge belly laughs. There were times when it felt like we were planning a party, and other times when we contemplated life's meaning, living out values, and leaving legacies. And I left, honored by her trust, and her candidness, and her ability to handle having a conversation about death--something that is inevitable for all of us. We all deny death, somehow leave it out of conversations and our reality. She's got guts...and a sense of humor about it all.

I remember reading Robert Fulghum who talked about the value he took in sitting at his own still-empty grave plot regularly, to develop perspective, goals, and to ground himself in reality that freed a person up to live..."Don't get lost here. Know where you are going."

I'll remember our conversation yesterday. I'll remember it when I will have tears in my eyes at her funeral. And it will be an ongoing reminder to me that there is a bigger picture that I need to be aware of--it's easy to forget that when the garbage isn't taken out...AGAIN! Oh, that the perspective would free me from majoring on the insignificant things in my life that sometimes threaten to take over.

How many of us are willing to do that?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Bergen and Associates is Growing

I have exciting news that I want to share. Bergen and Associates is developing a second location!

We have realized that we are outgrowing our current space, and we want to provide quality therapy services for the community that request it. It's really no fun having to send people away who are asking for help.

Beginning at the beginning of May, 2009, we will be expanding to a downtown office at 143 Smith Street.

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Some clients find their evenings are full with activities or family time and would like to fit counselling into their workday. A client who work downtown and would like to be able to incorporate therapy into their day can walk for a just a few minutes from their downtown office. Daytime appointments will be available between 9 and 5.

Rod Minaker, one of our therapists from our Pembina location will be working at our downtown Smith location. He's excited to be a part of the expansion, and pleased that his carbon footprint will be smaller as the downtown location enables him to take public bus.

I met with the interior designer today and we planned out the room to have a similar approach to bold soothing colors, comfy furniture, and a warm feel that will embrace the clients throughout their therapy. Clients will be able to pay by credit, debit, cash or cheque. Clients will be able to book with our administrative assistant, Melanie, or online with myself for either location. I'm really looking forward to putting the space together and I'm thrilled to be offering our services to more of Winnipeg.

A thought

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain

May your feet find a rhythm, may your soul find the music, may your heart find the joy--no matter your situation today.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

happily married?

John Gottman, author and renowned respected scientist of attachment theory, states that people who stay married live four years longer than people who don't. Further, couples that are happily married (as evidenced by numerous scientific measurements over the course of two days and a night) show a greater proliferation of white blood cells in response to a foreign invader that those whose response to their spouse was neutral or negative. He says (I suspect only partially tongue in cheek) that if people spent a portion of their time working on their marriage instead of the StairMaster that they would get more health benefits.

Gottman's research is solid and based on research involving thousands of couples. He states with confidence that he can predict whether a couple will divorce by watching and listening to them interact with each other for 5 minutes.
These aren't couples who don't fight--rather they are couples who are able to understand, honor and respect each other and their marriage.
They aren't couples who don't make mistakes, but they are couples who know how to fix them.
They aren't couples who don't ever get mad, but they are individuals who can take responsibility for their behavior and work to actively repair the relationship.
They aren't couples who don't yell at each other, but they are couples who are able to sustain a connection, and continue to give signs of wanting to continue value and continue the relationship.
Couples with positive marriages are ones where the spouses are good friends with each other, who can extend and receive "repair attempts" which prevent negativity from spiralling out of control.

Gottman says the slide down towards destruction starts with criticism, moves to contempt, progresses to defensiveness and eventually gets to stonewalling.

Marriage counselling doesn't teach communication--men and women come to counselling knowing how to talk. Marriage counselling works at the connection--helping people find ways to reestablish between each other, and to find ways to be able to offer and accept it when the negativity puts people in places where they don't trust the other's intentions as safe and loving.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Water water everywhere--musings of a therapist

Like much of the rest of the city, I have become one of those people who rushes to the basement on first entering my house. I feel just slightly closer to my ancestors who were farmers...I grew up hearing people talk about going to take a walk around the land, or check out the I find myself getting my rubber boots and jacket on and grabbing my flashlight for one last loop around the yard to check out my land.

It's frozen over now, and so we've a bit a repreive here, but for several days, I and my kin spent a chunk of every day chopping (yup, got out the axe) passages in the ice piled high to create a little path for the water to escape to the lower parts away from the house--the city sewers. Before that, we were shovelling the water over the banks. The shovelling worked for a few days when it first started to melt, but on the weekend, the rising waters made shovelling seem rather like trying to empty a bathtub with a spoon. That is to say, somewhat effective, but not efficient.

There was a significant level of satisfaction to create the path in the ice bank to the street...though, it didn't come immediately. We worked for probably half an hour without a drop being drained, chopping, clearing, scraping over and over. Even at first, we weren't sure how much water would actually leave.

Two days later, what we had come to know as "Lake Bergen" in front of the house, had significantly reduced in size, due to the human made "River Bergen" which, over the course of time, made itself wider and wider, and more effective at draining the water.

Seems to me that life can be like that. Clients come telling us how very hard they work at a situation--lots of effort, but are concerned or even terrified at the lack of significant movement on the issue. Hearing oneself talk about it, getting another perspective, processing the issue through a different lens and looking at it, with the support of another in a fresh way potentially allows the way for a whole different strategy.

Often, after a first session, it's a little like the axe is starting to create the path, but nothing can drain yet...that's when a skeptic can say, "See, I knew this counselling thing was pointless...what good can talking about it do?"

But the fun starts when new understanding comes, new strategies start being used in neat ways...and then the water starts flowing. Clients come in saying, "I came for help in one area, but I'm loving what is happening in another area in my life that I haven't even talked about"...the path becomes wider, and things happen, even without deliberate effort.

--An example of what happens in a therapist's mind when spending time with puddles and ice for hours.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Working to Escape Life?

The Winnipeg Free Press had a fascinating article yesterday that stated:
During the Great Depression in the 1930s, Kellogg's instituted a six-hour workday in its plants to take up the slack of too many people and not enough jobs, he says. Within two years, workers were accomplishing as much in six hours as they had in eight because they were less tired and more efficient, he says, and the policy was so popular -- even with its accompanying wage reduction -- that remnants lasted into the 1980s.

This fit with my experience, that when people feel good about their lives, they are more able to be productive. However, the extent to which that impacts on work performance and the length of time Kellogg's held on to parts of that in a culture that pushes for longer hours still surprised me.

The end of the article was enough to make a therapist stop and notice:

Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, work hours declined dramatically in industrialized Western nations, he says, with one scholar in the 1930s offering the sunny prediction that people would be working just three hours a day by the 1980s.

Then consumerism kicked in, Hunnicutt says, encouraging consumption and discouraging leisure in order to pay for it. Now, he believes our identities are so entwined with our work that leisure time is seen as a frill or worse -- a daunting stretch of nothingness that forces us to face uncomfortable questions about who we are when we're not yoked to our jobs.

"The security of work gives us that meaning, that identity," he says.[bolded words my emphasis]

Something to think about...working hard as a way to manage anxiety about identify. One doesn't have to wrestle with who one is. One doesn't have to wonder so much about what one's values could be (to figure out how to use leisure time consistent with those values). One can then fill endless empty hours that would otherwise be filled with television, movies or video games, which for most begin to seem empty after a while.

The article suggests that the recession has people examine thing they otherwise would not--leisure and work balance, for example. Shame that it takes something as radical as a recession to create the conditions to allow that to happen.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Have you seen this video?

I saw it for the first time on Friday. It's got it's cute moments, but look for the patterns and the way one part plays off the next part. There is a sort of rhythm, almost predictability to the argument--the husband and wife are dancing to the rhythm of the music.

During couple therapy, the therapist listens and watches for the learn the steps and the intentions behind the moves of each as well at the attributed meanings of the moves by the other. While a fight to Beethoven's fifth symphony seems more of an old-time sketch, there is some profoundness to it. Underlying factors drives behavior--often in ways we have no conscious awareness of...the music is inaudible but powerful as it choreographs the conflict in the relationship. A therapist seeks to discover the tune and release the couple from it's beat to allow them to relate to each other in freeing and present ways.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Before it's too late

I was at a workshop today on couple therapy.

One of the topics that came up was the reluctance of one partner to hear the other spouse's pain...and do something about it.

A therapist mentioned the painful picture of having a couple come into therapy after one spouse says: "Enough". Enough of the distance, enough of trying to make the partner hear of the loneliness. Enough of pleading, trying to make something happen. The exhausted, burned out spouse says: "Enough. I'm not doing this any more. I'm done." And means it.

Suddenly the partner hears it, and understands the seriousness of it. The partner "gets it"--big time. Kicks into gear, books the counselling appointment, and in horror and shock at facing the death of a marriage, begins to plead for the marriage. Comes home from work on time. Fixes the things that have been on the "to do list" for months. Actively participates in childcare, shows up at games--all the things that have been complained about for years. The imminence of divorce propels action in frenetic ways.

Only it's too late. When "enough" was said, it was too late. The last chances were already offered and pulled off the table.

When one therapist said this, there were sad smiles of knowing all around the room. We've all seen these couples. The sad part is when it happens, the spouse that wasn't accessible and responsive really is sincere about wanting to make the marriage work (and has wanted to be married all along). Statistically, this spouse is most often male. The distancing isn't about being a's about the challenge of being intimate with someone in a culture that ridicules it and makes it difficult, it's about pulling away from someone who makes you feel like you are never enough and can never measure up. It's turning away from something you feel lousy at, to move towards an area where you have competence--like your job or the hockey team. So often, these men value and love their wives, and want a good marriage, but don't know how, and they pull away from the uncomfortable feelings...

...and don't realize that this results in pulling away from your life's love in ways that seem intolerable to her.

If your wife emails this post to you, or calls you over to read it while she's surfing's not too late. Listen to her (or him if it is your husband that wants you to know this). "Get it" now. Hear how desperate your spouse is to connect with you in a meaningful way, and dare to figure out how to make this work for both of you

...before it's too late.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Struggling with Self Esteem

It was cold--really cold--outside yesterday. Although this time of year I'd rather be running outside, it just didn't seem realistic that I would actually get my body outside in the frigid temperatures, so to the indoor track I went. I musta looked might goofy giggling to myself as I ran around on my own around the track...the latest story about Dave going to the dentist on the Vinyl Cafe podcast made it difficult to run in a straight line at a few points.

The story was over before my run was, so I then chose to listen to a podcast of an interview Mary Hynes did with Anne Lamott. It was quite interesting...Anne is an accomplished author of a dozen or so best selling books. She has some interesting insights (e.g. "The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty") which she talks about in refreshingly candid ways.

She is open about her low self esteem and the struggle, despite repeatedly writing best sellers, that she has when she sits down to write. She has trouble believing that she can possibly write anything that anybody might want to read--she doesn't believe in herself. She talked about the little stickie she has on her computer that tells her to just get something down. It's a small way of comforting herself that it doesn't have to be great, or even good--an initial draft just has to start somewhere. That releases her from the endless excuses that can arise (e.g. I must call the periodontist for an appointment next month before I sit down to write a word) that alleviates the anxiety that comes along with not believing in oneself.

I'm not sure how someone who doesn't believe in herself dares to be so open with others about that fact (most people who struggle with self-esteem hide that fact, often quite effectively--leaving another to feel that this is a uniquely awful and lonely position to be in), but it is an interesting listen to hear her talk about her struggle so candidly.

One last strategy she is familiar with using to cope with who she is and her place in the world: three prayers, very simple ones.
One in the morning that says, "Whatever", releasing her expections and opening herself up to possibilities.
One at the end of the day that consists of "Oh well", confessing the shortcomings of herself and others, and releasing them.
One to be used periodically during the day: "Oh, WOW!" as one looks and finds moments of beauty and wonder.

She is an advocate of simple...this holds promise for us all.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Transforming Destructive into Constructive

Anger Management is a cultural cliche in our society, where suggesting it is a way of chiding a person and often, hearing someone has taken it is the source of a joke. Hollywood has had all sorts of fun with "Anger Managment" in various ways.

TDC is our anger management program. We've been running it for just over a year now--two Friday afternoons of three hours for a total of 6 hours. Rod Minaker is a therapist that has developed our program based on a well established understanding of what a person benefits from exploring as part of managing anger more effectively.

Rod just recently finished a session of anger management. When asked on the feedback forms, "How would you describe this course to a friend?" the answers were:

"Life changing. Amazing. My own little secret"
"Would advise them to experience it!"
"Very useful, Related to everything"
There is something quite wonderful about working with people who facilitate growth in people to allow them to have reactions like that. Thanx, Rod.

There is something quite wonderful knowing that in even 6 hours, people can learn about themselves, feeling able to "control my feelings before it escalates", "believe in myself", "like myself", find ways of "letting things go", "moving foward" . Thanx, clients, for taking a chance and allowing TDC to affect your soul in ways that can help you grow. We appreciate the honor of walking alongside you.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Lessons from a Bathtub Drain

I took a shower today, and with immense satisfaction noted that immediately after I turned the water off, the tub was glistening empty. Normally, that's not something that most people take great pride in. But I have reason to be proud.

I have long hair. (These next couple of paragraphs may not be for the squeamish). So, when I wash it, inevitably, hairs are shed, and make their way towards the drain. Some time ago, the water was increasingly slow to drain...recognizing the hair issue, I would unscrew the plug and with tweezer, pull this disgusting blob of hairy yuck up and throw it away.

And things would get sorta better. For a while.

And then it would happen again.

So I would make a deliberate effort to clean out from under the plug regularly. Regular maintenance and effort, I thought would cure the problem.

I thought wrong.

It's an unfortunate thing, really, when the tub doesn't drain quickly...when the water sits in the tub for a while, soap scum and whatever else builds up around the tub (I told you this part wasn't for the faint of heart). Not being someone who has the time or energy to give the tub a full scrub after anybody in the household showered, I took to keeping the shower curtain closed to hide the ugly effect.

Oh, yeah, that hides it, but doesn't really fix it. I know, I know...but I had to do something. Hiding seemed a reasonable option.

The problem began to get rather ridiculous, and I realized that my under the plug maintenance was important, but no longer significantly effective...the problem clearly lay deeper. (OK, right about now, you can probably start catching that this is a metaphor--I'm a therapist--give me a break!)

So, I brought out the "big guns". I used some Drano...not a lot, 'cuz I have a sneaking suspicion that this stuff is toxic to wherever it ends up. And then after that was flushed away, I plunged. Several times. I was thorough, cuz I wanted this thing to drain properly.

It worked.

I still occasionally clear out the just-under-the-plug gucky stuff, but generally the whole thing drains like a charm.

Oh, and I'm not embarrassed when the shower curtain is open. Feels great.

As I was standing there admiring the draining qualities of my tub today, I had pause to think about my clients who come in, confused with why something has bothered them so much. They are clearly distressed by something upsetting, but even in the midst of it, it seems out of proportion to what is happening.

Therapy helps a person connect with and make sense of the deeper issues that get bumped and reinjured with a current assault of some kind. A misunderstanding at work triggers huge uncertainty about one's value, and triggers feelings of worthlessness, loneliness, and failure. One might fear getting fired, and lose sleep at the same time recognizing that the boss is making comments that suggest your continued overall positive contribution to the company.

Counselling can allow a client to explore, with the assistance of skilled counsellor to provide knowledgeable support and facilitation, the understanding of the deeper wounds that activate those powerful feelings. Once those are understood, a therapist can help a person to transform and heal those wounded parts and release the power that they have over a person. A person has the innate ability to do this, but having someone join for the journey provides added understanding and insight. It's a privelege to watch someone transform their anxiety over a great number of things to being able to giver themselves powerful postive messages that are genuinely meaningful and be able to feel truly notice that which evokes anxious feelings and to have a completely different perspective which allows that anxiety to feel less intense and not hijack a person's experience.

How well is the water draining in the drain of your life? Want some help with flushing it clear?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Years ago I happened to be at the school yard in the morning on the first day of school in September. The bell had rung about 5 minutes before...the excitement of the first day of school that had the hard top vibrating only a short time ago was now in the school. However, the fire alarm rang. Suddenly the playground was unexpectedly flooded with people again. Not being a teacher or involved directly at the school, I pulled off to the side to get out of the way. On one end of the school yard was utter chaos...the children in the lower grades were, well, to put it politely, chaotic. Actually, many were completely losing it.

I'm not sure if it was grief that the school would burn down before they had a chance to even experience 1st grade, or if it was terror from what that very loud sound was, and wondering about their personal safety. The first grade teachers--well, they weren't doing so well either...they couldn't line the children up to do a head count, and there was this sense of hopelessness that the class lists in their hand were virtually useless because there hadn't even been an opportunity for the teachers to learn the students' names--if someone was missing, how would they ever figure out who?

The other side of the school yard, where the bigger children were, was completely different. They were more or less organized--they knew about fire alarms and knew that every alarm they had ever known was a false alarm. They were more or less in line, cuz they literally, "knew the drill". Of course, they saw this as an opportunity for an extra 15 minutes of summer vacation--they were laughing and joking--quite content to visit for as long as they could before they filed past.

Post traumatic stress disorder is a condition that follows the experiencing of something that is traumatic to a person. We are all unique, and so 2 people could be in the same car accident, with one person experiencing the event as traumatic and the other being nonplussed by the event.

Usually within 3 months, but sometimes much (even decades) later the symptoms of PTSD begin to appear...there is an intrusive reexperiencing of the event. This might be in nightmares, or with uninvited thoughts during the day. It might be when the situation is similar (e.g. walking down a sidewalk when robbed while walking home from work), or during an anniversary (e.g. having trouble at a certain time of year, or day, or time of day similar to the original trauma). This is disturbing, even alarming--and can be so distressing that a person can begin to avoid certain situations that might trigger that reexperiencing. At times, the reaction can appear out of proportion to the trigger. For example, a person who has been choked with rope may get agitated even seeing someone with a scarf around the neck. There is sometimes a "hypervigilance" where the sufferer becomes a detective waiting and watching and expecting the trauma to reoccur. Often a PSTD sufferer will say that their head knows it's safe, but their body doesn't get the message (e.g. a person who was assaulted in a high risk country with significant security issues still anticipates being "jumped" while walking down a Winnipeg street)

The person can become disengaged with people around them, as the inner feelings of fear are hugely distracting and managing them takes an enormous amount of energy. They may "put up a wall" to avoid being affected by triggers. They may pull away so as not to have others affected by their symptoms which feel so overwhelming.

Sleep is often affected. A person can have difficulty focusing, or concentrating. Other reactions can happen as well...increased irritability, impulsiveness, guilt, altered appetite, accompanying depression.

Therapy can be helpful to help work through the trauma of the experience and work to have a client understand their body's reactions and what they can do about it. Over time, the traumatic reexperiencing and other symptoms of PTSD can diminish. Part of this process is understanding bodily sensations of PTSD and knowing how to handle them...

In essence, one of the goals of treatment for PTSD is to help a person handle the re-experiencing like a grade 6 kid, and not a grade 1 kid at an unexpected fire drill. In both cases, there is an automatic complete response--filing out and waiting on the school yard, but the older kids are able to understand what it means and what to do with it in such a way that they can handle the reaction much more effectively.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Walking Wounded

I was having a conversation today about the news story of Stephen and Isabelle Allison, a young couple moving to Winnipeg with big dreams and ambitions. They happened to sit towards the rear of a certain Greyhound bus last summer and their move to Winnipeg hasn't been anything like they expected. They witnessed the brutal killing of a man, imprinted with images that have been indelibly printed like photographs in their brain...perhaps still frames of images with the color red appearing starker than the rest of the frame. The feeling in the pit of their stomach, vaguer now, but reminding them of the terror that immobilized Isabelle, watching the horror, and anticipating her own death as she witnessed unspeakable brutality.

Neither Stephen and Isabelle are doing what they set out to do in Winnipeg. They are the walking wounded, not able to concentrate sufficiently to take courses, not able to maintain normal routines that jobs require, and struggling with finding meaning, purpose and safety as they endeavor to move on.

The interview with the couple states they received compensation to cover their material losses, and six sessions of counselling. Six.


The woman I had the conversation said, "If one of them would have had even one slash on part of their body, on a leg maybe, then they would have gotten so much more care and attention. A physical cut would have received extensive treatment. But the wounds they have are so very real...but invisible...and so they are not recognized and not treated."

The conversation perked my ears up...I got an email yesterday about a videoconference happening today out of the University of California at San Francisco by the PainCARE center on, "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Pain". I couldn't watch the conference as I wasn't near a viewing site, but I found some of its promotional information compelling:

In recent studies:
· 51% of patients with chronic low back pain exhibited symptoms of PTSD
· 50% of patients experiencing chronic pain after motor vehicle accidents showed evidence of PTSD
· Nearly 50% of women with chronic pelvic pain reported a history of sexual or physical abuse with roughly 1 in 3 of those screening positively for PTSD
· Psychiatric casualties from soldiers serving in Iraq were estimated at 300,000 as of November 2007, a significant number of whom also currently have chronic pain
· Patients with chronic pain, IBS, depression, and anxiety disorder in one urban, hospital-based primary care practice accounted for more than 90% of all cases of PTSD
· In this same urban primary care practice, 25% of patients met the criteria for current PTSD, yet only 11% were identified correctly in the medical record.
The numbers are staggering and should concern us all – regardless of our respective areas of practice.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a significant factor that is often overlooked as we look to understand what a person is struggling with. Physical problems like pain in the joints, muscles, headaches, bowel pain are connected to PTSD. Emotional problems of anxiety and depression result from unresolved trauma in a person's life. Relational problems develop as the symptoms of PTSD ripple throughout the relaltionships in a person's life.

I had coffee with a friend this morning who was in a serious car accident..she walked away from the accident, but the car was demolished. She finds herself anticipating disaster, bracing herself at intersections for another collision, and now has less reserve for the normal ups and downs of her life...small things are irritating and potentially overwhelming, she's tired, and finds herself noticing things and dreading some things in ways she is not familiar with. Her doctor diagnosed her with PTSD--this was a relief because she had understanding for what was happening in her body and mind.

I read an article reviewing the research on pain and PSTD in the Psychotherapy Networker the other day (it was an October issue, but better late than never, right?!), recommending sincere and effective collaboration between physicians and therapists to work in their areas of expertise to help people with that which they struggle:
Cummings estimates that at least 60 percent of physicians' patients seek treatment for conditions with major psychological components, such as stress, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, digestive difficulties, eating disorders, nausea, headaches, and certain kinds of arthritis, that are usually more treatable with therapy than medications. Physicians are so eager for the kind of help therapists can provide that therapists who've integrated themselves into medical settings get substantial boosts in their caseloads and incomes.
While physical symptoms need good medical care, they may also need good psychological care. And with trauma of the magnitude of Stephen and Isabelle Allison, psychological treatment will need to be more than lip service. Six sessions--that's lip service.

More on PTSD in a couple of days.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I love you

Being a therapist, I find ways to expose myself to different ideas, so my home page on firefox has a variety of news feeds and quoteable quotes.. This one caught my eye:

I love you.
It's not a weight you must carry around.
I love you.
It's not a box that holds you in.
I love you.
It's not a standard you have to bear.
I love you.
It's not a sacrifice I make.
I love you.
It's not a pedestal you are frozen upon.
I love you.
It's not an expectation of perfection.
I love you.
It's not my life's whole purpose (or your's).
I love you.
It's not to make you change.
I love you.
It's not even to make you love me.
I love you.
It's as pure and simple as that. Anonymous

It struck me as significant because so often there is an agenda to loving someone--and that is accompanied by feelings of disappointment, anger and betrayal when someone doesn't deliver the (hidden) expectations. So often, a person isn't even aware of these expectations--they catch both by surprise.

Love lavishly, freely, joyfully.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

In Praise of Gangs

There's been talk in the news lately about money in the government budget to fight gangs. Gangs are seen as the source of much crime including the proliferation of drugs, financial crime with money laundering, and violent crimes against each other, where innocents can get caught in the crossfire.

I'm all about reducing crimes, but I'm "pro gang". I don't think we can get rid of gangs. We all have a built in desire to belong, to have people who consider us their "homey", to go where you are accepted, respected, and cared for. I realize that gangs are dangerous places...but they can also be safe places--they endeavor to take care of their own--we are created to want to belong.

My kids are involved in gangs. The gang leaders encourage them to shoot, to drive hard, and to not give up in the pursuit of their goals. They are told to hit, and are given techniques to do so. They learn defensive strategies to protect their territory. The gang leader yells at them to go harder, push more. Their fellow gang members egg 'em on--encourage 'em, and go nuts when they get a good steal, or block somebody.

I love it, and I love the lessons they are being taught.

Their gang leaders, you see, are coaches. And their "gang" is centered around basketball or volleyball (depending on the season).

I was sitting behind a coach yesterday. Overheard:
Coach: Sit down guys. It's respectful to let others see. You don't sit now, you don't play later. I mean it.
Coach: Hey, boy. Gonna offer me some of your chips?
Boy who is eating potato chips: Ummm...yeah. Sure. You want some?
Coach: No, I don't. But I appreciate being asked.
Boy (vaguely confused): You sure you don't want some chips?
Coach: Nope. Really--offering is consideration and respect--part of being a team. How's school goin'?
Boy: OK
Coach: Good. How's your grades?
Boy: They're OK too. Science is hard, man. The teacher--I just don't get it sometimes when he talks.
Coach: You gotta work for it, man. Hey...Billy gonna try out for the team next year?
Boy: Think so. He wants to play.
Coach: Hope so. Hope he wants it bad. He's gonna have to work hard y'know. We don't let no lazy guys make the team.
...and on they go.

This is a gang any parent would be proud of to have their child belong.

Not every kid is a sports kid. Bands can be gangs. So can dance classes, youth groups, chess clubs, photography group, drop in centres and so on. Families can be gangs--a place where it's hip to belong; where a kid feels safe and accepted and welcomed; where a kid knows that someone's got his back.

My kids are gang members...and they are turning from good young men into better young men for it.