Inner Demons


In the religious world, there is good and evil and both are always fighting against each other. The Christians are caught in the middle and we constantly struggle to do and focus on the things that are good. It is sometimes a daily struggle hence the reason the bible says pray without ceasing. If you have been in the religious world for a while, then you know there are some universally accepted rights and wrongs.

Christians always have a moralistic struggle at one or more times in their lives. It’s a fact and we run to comfort scriptures like Romans 12:12 “Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulations, continuing instant in prayer.” I am usually deviant in my thoughts and behaviors so during my struggles, I run to scriptures like Romans 8:14-15 “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.  I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” For me, this is just a reminder of my human frailty.

This morning I scrolled through Facebook and someone liked a Christian inspiration testimony. Paraphrase: The lady noted her success in her life: married at a young age, kids and both her and spouse are completing higher ed degrees and she attributed it all to her faith, God’s timing and protection. Maybe it’s due to my line of work, but I read such inspirational posts with some cynicism and my thought is “good for them, you are the lucky ones.”

Lots of people do not have their blessings laid out so nicely and some have greater struggles than others (think Aleppo). While reading that post, I was thinking about two things: My current inner demons and that of a new behavioral health patient.  Patient X’s inner demons are a doozy which were created from childhood to experiencing a number of very traumatic events throughout X’s life. Patient X had held it together successfully for many years but the final trauma pushed X to the edge and X is starting to slowly fall apart at the seams. X engaged in self punishment of personal life and career. I do not compare my demons to X’s but if I did, then mine would pale significantly; actually most people’s worst would not measure up. The point is no matter the nature of the demons, each of us still have to face them and sometimes they seem greater than God’s promise of protection and strength “he will not give us more than we can manage.”

The mental battle is epic. I tell patients that doing the right thing always seem to be the hardest. “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Ahhh… yes.. that peace that passes all understanding can be darn near elusive. However, when you do find it, life is wonderful but it does not always seem to stay too long. Life or the mind gets into a fight to hold onto the peace that is suppose to be so good for you. The constant battle of the inner demons gets tiresome. People fall away from God and decency because we want the battle to be over and we surrender to whatever we were fighting. The loss of hope and not finding even a glimmer of light from anywhere can be psychologically, emotionally and physically devastating. The battle takes a toll. It leaves behind distrust, despair, feeling defeated, emotionally broken and worst case turning to things that are not the best for us such as people, food, alcohol, drugs, sex and suicide.

Patient X is at the beginning of the battle. I would love to tell X that Jesus can make it better but that’s equivalent to telling someone with a gaping wound ‘let me kiss it and it will all go away.’ Unless God plans to do a divine intervention, Patient X has a major fight on hand. God does not take away our struggles or banish our demons- that would be way too easy. We have to make choices about how we will handle our demons. We have to use all the spiritual, cognitive and earthly supports in which we can get. We will make shitty choices ‘do the thing you should not do’ and we will make good choices. We will exhibit our human frailty in all it’s glory, we will get tired of the fight and we will want to roll over and play dead. I have heard enough patients say that they wish they just did not wake up. It’s not about suicide; it’s about wanting a little bit of peace and calmness of the mind. (Matrix fan) It’s sort of like that scene in the last Matrix when Trinity and Neo were fighting the machines and their ship went up above the darkness and clouds and she saw and felt the radiance of the sun and exclaimed “beautiful.”

You know your inner demons and you know the path you have to take or will be in search of the path you need to take. We can’t ignore them. There is no rule that says you have to get it right the first or even third time. The challenge will be to keep fighting until those demons do not have any power anymore.

I am alone path


These past few weeks I have had more patients on my schedule for short term ‘lite therapy.’ It has been a few years since my schedule have back to back patients for behavioral health since I left full time therapy. God gave me what I asked for ‘to be a little more busy at work’ LOL maybe I should have been a little more specific in what I meant. So, the recurring theme with the patients is about them going their paths alone ie. withdrawal from others due to a desire to feel emotionally safe and lack of trust in others. I do understand and recognize how easy it is to push one’s self into the ‘I am alone’ path.

Here is why I understand that behavior:
1. When I was younger, I always asked my mother to go places with me because I was afraid of getting lost. A few times my mother would jokingly respond with “you were born alone” but she would still accompany me. When I was older and out on my own, I came to realize what that meant. I quickly learn that I had to do things by myself and not rely on others for everything.

2. The life of a single person is primarily alone no matter how many friends or family are in your life. As much as people say they will always be there for you, their lives/family always comes first and you are not their primary priority. This is especially true when those friends and family have intimate relationship/spouses/children.

3. When you truly need someone by your side for an extended time, your support system are only obligated to help you for a finite period of time. After that threshold has been breached, then you can be seen as a burden.

4. As a single, you can feel used. People rely on you to give them support whenever they need it. They assume that you can shoulder their stressors or be their entertainment guide. However, you have to take a number when you need their support, your issues are not as dire as theirs (because single people don’t have issues) and you are not on their speed dial for their entertainment plans (unless they happen to be alone and want your company).

Even though being single is not considered a good thing, I have come to realize that functioning and mostly contented singles need to be strong, resilient and self-sufficient or we can easily sink into perpetual feelings of loneliness, despair, desperation, depression, isolation etc. We can sink into and believe in the ‘I am alone path.’ It is so easy to be suckered into that false sense of emotional safety because you experience people come in and out of your lives, you experience your relationship with family and friends change, you experience the feeling and behavior of no longer being important to the people who were your greatest cheerleaders and confidant, and you are not sure where you stand with others anymore.

As I became a very guarded introvert over the years, I am a prime example of the erroneous belief of the I am alone path. I use every minor negative experiences with people to push myself back on that path. This further solidify why that belief and withdrawal behaviors are sound and just. However, it is a destructive lie in the long run.  I have added that to the short list of things I need to work on about myself.

I had a brief grief moment at work two weeks ago and instead of seeking support I went into rock mode. Interestingly a coworker, who has shown support to me in small ways did a quick check. As usual, in rock mode, I said I was fine and all was well (which I was not because grief has no timetable).  However, with amazing intuitiveness, I was given a surprise hug (I initially refused it due to being in rock mode) and was asked the question “you take care of everyone else but who takes care of you?” My rock mode response “I take care of me.” While that response is true, I make it true because I do not trust enough to allow others to take me off my I am alone path.

I would be lying if I said I do not have support and people who care about me. However, it is so easy to ignore that when something minor goes wrong. My patients who have had negative things in their lives retreated to the false safety of the I am lone path. We hide, we avoid, we pretend.

Of course there will be people who will walk away from you, hurt you, change in a close relationship, betray you or there will be a natural separation due to life. We change, they change, life change. The one truth that I can attest to in my life is when one support door closes I find a way to open another. People have come in and out of my life and I have done the same to others too. I make friends easily and for whatever reason, even with my straight forward personality, I have people who care about me. I really do have people I can call on for help if I choose to make the call. How do I find supports? I have come to realize it is all about how I treat them. I have been a rock and support for them at one moment or another.

Yes as a single I will have to walk the road alone for the most part but my road is not without supports along the sides. I can get so caught up in looking at the journey ahead or even what is directly in from of me and not see the people by my side who are there if I need them. I like being in rock mode, that’s my comfort zone; however, I just need to realize that I do not need to be there all the time and my path is not always alone. It is harder said than done but it is worth the try.

 

 

Refresh Button


Life can be an inexplicable bitch! Whether you are a Christian, heathen, or on the fence etc. The unpredictable nature and the unforeseen obstacles can create a hazardous condition to navigate and figure out your path. This craziness can push you to the edge, break you, destroy you  and or become a challenge to fight through and learn to manage.

When you were born no one gave  your parents a child rearing manual. When we became of age, no one gave us a life as an adult manual. I have to admit that at times I could use one that is written in clear language with bright coloured pictures showing me the way. I know that the Christians will say ‘God is my guide; and the Bible will show us the way.’ Well, if you are to be honest with yourself, then that statement is not always true. God’s picture is like the Ikea instructions which are minimal and it takes a few wrong steps before it becomes clearer.

This year has both been rewarding and challenging. The rewards  are from impromptu personal goals: One was to enjoy my weekends whenever the weather was good and the sun was shinning and another was to get my body into shape. I can tell  you that almost every beautiful weekend I was out, about and loving it. I am also into my 2nd month of my fitness challenge with obvious progress. The challenges on the other hand seem to threaten to defeat the joy of my rewards.

The negative aspects of life weight so much more and last much longer than the peace of life. Between death, family health, family stressors, financial obligations and personal life/choice snafus, I feel like I am desperately longing for the moment I can empty my cache and press the refresh button (computer metaphor for those non savvy techies like myself). I would love to clear out the sludge and refresh the future to something either obstacle free or more manageable. I want a do over with ample warning, an avoidance route and navigation to a better road ahead.

Yeah, I know, I want a lot🙂. The problem is (and this is something I always say) “what I want and what is are never the same.” Oh and please spare me the religious rhetoric, I have heard them all-the biblical ones and the stuff people made up. I prefer honesty and reality-an armour, a sword and a shield (The bible readers should understand that reference). I know that I cannot change my past, the rewards or the challenges, and I know experiences are there to helps us learn and become stronger. I get all that quite well. It is just that at times it would be nice if the glitches in the system were so much less and have limited impact in the navigation of one’s life.

The challenges take away the innocence. David started out as a shepherd and after becoming a soldier, his hands were too bloody to build God’s temple. Challenges create scars and it is so hard to go back pre injury. Your life is forever affected and it takes so much energy to figure out which is a good path and how to get  on it. God truly blessed those who have been able to avoid major challenges or who have overcome and life is easier. Whether you are single, married, Christian, on sabbatical or whatever, we all have our challenges. I sit and I listen to people’s issues everyday and recognize that most people carry their challenges in silence. There is no easy road.  However, what we do have is finding a way to survive, live and enjoy life with the tools we have and pray (and pray some more) that our choices are the right ones or our choices will get better the next time we refresh.

Misconceptions of Sex?


Of everything in the Bible and the modern world, sex has stood the test of time to be the most vilified and misinterpreted act. Yet, it is still an intriguing activity in which  probably 99.9% humans and 100% lower animals engage. Frankly, we could have a conversation about poop more easily than sex. Why is that?

For the religious folks, obviously when God created Adam and Eve, He used the act of sex to be the vector in which to populate the earth.  I can speculate that he surely was not thinking ‘listen heavenly host, I am going to introduce some vile and disgusting method to usher in generations upon generations.’ I mean if you thought about it, God could have come up with another non-penetrating way in order to procreate. Instead, He thought it was a brilliant idea for two people to get the closest you could possible be to another human being AND he added some easily excitable nerve endings to both genitalia in order to have…. wait for it…. pleasure.

I am not sure which part makes people uncomfortable. Is it the intimacy or the pleasure? My conversational library is filled with everything known to man – nothing is too (fill in the blanks) to talk about with adults. However, most adults who are sexually active or will be sexually active find it hard to talk about sex. Ironically, sex permeates our lives and can become an issue if left desolate in relationships.  Yes, a single gal will be talking frankly about sex – deal with it or stop reading. So in the words of Salt-N-Pepper Let’s Talk About Sex.

1. Sex is NOT dirty or shameful. Yes it’s a fluid, sticky, sweaty situation – showers were invented to clean up and washing machines for your sheets. I can’t possibly say anything more about this. It’s either you believe it or not.

2. Everyone is not a  virgin. Have you ever met a married woman or a mother who becomes most shocked when sex becomes a topic? I almost want to slap them (not advocating violence) because if you are in either of those categories, then the whole world KNOWS you had at least 1 encounter with the penis kind. Men don’t have this problem and will never be in such denial.

3. Sex is Pleasure and Pleasure is Good. I acknowledge that due to various circumstances some women and men have difficulty experiencing sex as pleasure. On the other hand, for a large group of people, they chose sex to be a duty. Good sex provides great benefits for the individual and the couple. It was meant to be enjoyed by BOTH. Besides pleasure, it’s also meant to be a fun activity. When you see and experience sex as a good thing, then it becomes incorporated in your relationship as something to look forward to with each other. Anyone who has experienced an orgasm will attest to the pleasure. If you are having difficulty finding sex as pleasurable then move to suggestion #4.

4. Spice and Imagination are Highly Encouraged. Think of sex this way – most people like certain foods, for me it’s chicken; however, if I had baked chicken cooked the same way every time, I would get sick of it. Sex can and does get boring when you keep it in the same place and same position every time. SNORE! Seriously, there are numerous ways to have an orgasm. This hinderance to use one’s creativity in the bedroom comes from the shame and embarrassment of sex. I am not talking about 50 Shades of Grey BDSM but making simple changes to sexual positions, spice up the foreplay, use a different location in the bedroom or house. Take a sex-vacation to put some fire back into the bedroom.

Women Get Your Sexy On. It’s a repeatedly proven fact that it does not take much to get men excited. Do I have to repeat that ladies? Better yet, you repeat that to yourself. Forget about the perfect body BS. If your man is sexually attracted to you (80% of the battle is won), then your body is the sexiest thing on earth which will drive him wild.  So, muster up your sexual confidence and start adding something new such as: Initiating sex, engage in intimate massage, play dress up with the items in your home (who knew a colander could be sexy), use some sexy play on words (all pun intended), take a pole dancing or chair dancing class and show case your skills, leave him a note about your fantasy, smack his tush as he walks by or better yet smack yours  with a little wiggle and see where that gets you… etc. Get the idea!!! KISS-Keep It Simple Stupid.

Men, you are not off the hook. It takes a lot more than flashing your penis to get a woman excited. Women want to feel loved, sexy and appreciated. Lead with that and encourage her to get out of her sex shell. Foreplay! Foreplay! Foreplay! Your hands and lips are magic so learn to use them wisely. If you like to shake your booty, then watch a little Magic Mike. It will be good fun. You are also responsible for finding and creating ways to get her excited. Clean yourself up! Make your woman want you like you are the sexiest man on earth. If it had not occurred to you, women can be very visual, so give them something mouth-watering in which to look forward. No woman gets stimulated by a dirty slob. Keep in mind there is a difference between having dutiful sex and pleasurable sex. If you care about your partner, then the latter is your goal.

5. Know your body. Men understand this more readily than women. Their penises are literally handled multiple times a day and they are easily accessible. For heavens sake, they have nocturnal emissions and involuntary erections to deal with from  puberty. So, it’s no wonder they have a better grasp  on their male parts than women. Women on the other hand have SHAME. Most women do not know what turns them because we are discouraged from finding out – it’s just not proper, not christian, not ladylike. Bla bla bla.

How can you direct someone to provide you pleasure when you know nothing about your likes or dislikes. In therapy, they give people take home practical exercises to help them understand themselves better. There should be a standard sexercise for all women – single or married. Take the time to get to know your body intimately whether by yourself or with your partner. Talk about learning to communicate in a relationship! If you can get through a sexploration exercise with your partner, then there is not a thing you can not talk about in your relationship.

6. What’s on the menu.  When I go to Famous Dave’s BBQ, I know the menu and my go to order but every now and then I try something new. If I were a sex therapist, I would introduce this idea to patients – create a sex menu. Starters would be your warm up activities/foreplay, main menu items – some traditional and other ‘exotic’ positions, and finish it off with dessert of your choice. Use your Spice and Imagination to create your menu: What (sex activities are you in the mood for), where (location! location! location!), Time (a quickie, an intermediate or a marathon), when (wake up call, afternoon delight, late night snack) who (what’s your role).

7. Trade ideas. This is the tricky part. To complete this task you must have good trusted open friends (preferable) or internet search button (set on safe search) or local book store AND you have to overcome your shame and embarrassment and be willing to have a serious conversation. Talk with your friends about what interesting or new things they are doing to spice up their sex lives. You could learn something or share something useful. If your friends are lame ducks in that department, there are a number of wholesome technique/instructional related articles on the internet or YouTube to help give you ideas. Note: I did not say pornography.  Treat sex like any other aspect of your life. There is always room to learn and improve. Whatever new information you acquire, you get to share it – with your partner.

8. Using sex as leverage is an absolute NO. This is a prevailing bad practice which women tend to share with each other. Even the bible says that if you abstain in a relationship, then it should be agreed between both partners. It definitely baffles me that women tend to share destructive things they do in their marriages but are not willing to talk about the things that uplifts just as easily. Sex is not a bargaining tool for either partner. It was meant to build intimacy and engage in pleasure. Once it has become a leverage tool, then sex has start to lose its purpose and this does signal minor issue in the relationship. Plus, it’s very childish which can be  demeaning to the other person.

9. Make time for sex.  You make time for everything else under the sun (include watching tv shows) but sex gets tossed in the dirty pile and is constantly left there. Sex is Pleasure. How often do you give up a pleasurable food item because “I am too tired; I don’t have time.” If you are constantly busy and tired 24hrs/7 days per week then there are other issues to address. Life requires prioritizing and so does sex with your partner. One partner should not have to beg or make snide comments about lack of sex. If you both were communicating and making time for each other, then this should not be an issue. Oh and quit with the BS about not having time due to kids.

10. The Bedroom is the Couple’s Sanctuary. It has become a disturbing trend in which the marriage bed is crowded with kids and animals. The quickest way to push a marriage apart and kill intimacy is having anything in the middle of the couple (physically, emotionally and psychologically). Unless you live in a tiny one room abode, then the animals and kids should have permanent residence somewhere else in the house at bedtime. A strong relationship with your partner comes from the connection you share. The more things you put in between the couple for an extended time the more problematic it becomes to maintain that strong connection. Spontaneous sex will be dampened/discouraged when you are too concerned about waking dog, cat and children. Oh and teach your kids to knock before entering your bedroom.

11. Communication and Sex. The old phrase about let your body do the talking is… well old. I hate to break it to you but one sex act does not fit all. For e.g. not all men find max pleasure from getting oral sex or not all women like ‘doggy style.’ Each person has different turn ons and turn offs; therefore, the only way to know (not faking) is through communication with each other. A couple who cannot talk frankly about sex is not mature to have sex. This would be the reason why many (mostly) women go through their sexual lives and never experience sexual pleasure because of silence. For e.g. A husband stops having sex with his wife, not because he doesn’t love her, but because she has hygiene issues. A wife says she is tired all the time, not because she is overworked, but because the sex position her husband is fond of does not stimulate her at all.

Communication is the key in every aspect of a relationship and it is no different with sex. The couples with the most pleasurable sex life knows how to communicate their wants in the bedroom. It’s such a simple concept but a difficult feat for so many. For majority of the couples having issues, the underlying problem is a lack of communication-lack of listening and the lack of expressing one’s self. Most relationships can avoid disaster by practicing this one simple tool – learning to listen and to speak. Here are ways to open the conversation: I like it when you (do an act in a certain spot), I am more turned on when you (do this) than when you (do that). If odour is a problem, then make a rule that before sex you both take a shower. To change-up a routine, suggest you love the regular activities but you would like to change it up a little and add something new. Exchange notes with fantasy wishes and talk about how to accommodate each other. KISS.

12. Sexual Confidence. Yes that is a thing. We were not born with the all-knowing how-to-guide on sex. It comes with time and knowing yourself and your partner. Both men and women can become intimidated by performance which can lead to anxiety and poor sexual enjoyment. If this is an issue, talk about sex with your partner – talk before, talk during and talk after. Women are more plagued with this issue because we are not taught to be sexually confident with ourselves and therefore not able to do so with our partners. We were taught to expect the men to do everything. However, a number of men like it when women initiate sexual innuendos, make initial contact or even take charge. It can make men feel desired.

13. Sexual compatibility. In life we tend to do well with things in which we are compatible. Friends, family members, jobs, spouses and sex. Each person has varying degree of libido and interest. I saw a Oprah special about “Where are they now?” in which years ago the woman complained that her hubby was not interested in sex and he agreed. Well, the recent follow-up indicated nothing had changed. She became complacent and accepting  of a sexless marriage due to his lack of desire. I do not advocate ‘test driving’ for those who choose abstinence, however I do strongly advocate for communication about your expectations. You do not have to engage in sex to know your sex drive. Unmatched sexual compatibility will result in someone being very dissatisfied in the relationship.

14. Sex Mistakes. Like everything in life sexual screwups happen. A position did not work too well, someone jumped the gun and orgasm early, unforeseen interruptions etc. The good thing about mistakes is to learn from them and do things differently. There is NO place for shaming or belittle when it comes to sex. This is actually a good time to experiment with different things in order to see what makes the menu and what gets thrown out.

15. It’s Ok to Love Sex. If someone admits to loving steak, jet skiing, baseball or a ferret, no one blinks an eye. If that same person admits to love having sex, then it is deviant or frown on. Why? I go back to the shame and embarrassment issue surrounding sex. The fact that most people have engaged in some form of sexual activity should be an indicator of its popularity. However, this normal activity has yet to be normalized in our sexually active world. This is obvious when a recent celebrity couple who choose to engage in abstinence  until marriage then disclosed that they had an enjoyable multiple occurence sex-filled honeymoon. The comment section was filled with “TMI” type responses. In my mind, TMI would be going into specific details but not when a married couple express that they had a multi-pleaurable end to a celebration filled day. The fear and myth of sex is so great it’s hard to distinguish normal from deviant. If you love having sex with your partner, then that is a great thing because there are too many sexless or bad sex relationships that have taken the place as the norm.

Now go out and enjoy pleasure filled sex. Feel free to fill in the blanks and share your knowledge to debunk the misconception of sex. Don’t keep the good stuff to yourself.

 

A Child Is A Blessing But…


When I was 16, my older sister gave birth to my niece, who passed away recently, and I was over joyed to be an auntie. I am from one of the Caribbean Islands so it is not uncommon for families to live close to each other or live together in a large home. In this situation, we lived at the same residence. When my older sister went back to work, I, a recent high school graduate with no job, became the auntie and full-time babysitter for over 1yr of her life. This was my first close encounter of the parenting kind.

The things I discovered was a baby is cute, smells good, and needs to be protected. The other things I discovered was that a baby/toddler is demanding, needs constant supervision and can be extremely annoying and exhausting. As soon as my sister got home each day, I was waiting at the door with her bundle of joy because I needed a long break. Years later, I did the same thing for another sister during my between college take-a-break transition period. So, I have empathy for stay-at-home mothers and fathers.

Being the youngest child, with many siblings and therefore many nieces and nephews of varying ages, I have had a wealth of experience with kids that most parents have yet to encounter. I used to work in a child behavioral health clinic for a number of years which showed me the not so sweet side of children and bad parenting. I seem to have been saturated with all things children for most of my life. I should have been overjoyed at wanting my own little blessing. On the contrary, I decided during my early teens  that I never voluntarily wanted to be pregnant and gave birth to anything. At one point in my life, I thought adopting was a good idea because there are so many children who could use a good home and I also knew that I would be a good mother if the opportunity every arises.

However, at the age of 40, I still do not want kids. This was clearly re-enforced a few days ago at a family event in which 3 people I knew had kids under 2y/o. Again, they are cute, they are funny, they are a blessing but they are annoying and exhausting over an extended period of time. I had to briefly watch two of those munchkins while Elmo was playing on the computer screen. After 15 minutes, I was anxious for the parents to come get their little blessings so I could enjoy some adult time.

I am very happy for the families or singles who choose to be parents. It is hard work and one of the most important tasks to choose in life. However, children are not for everyone. Those of us who know what we don’t want are perfectly happy with that choice. Yet, those with kids seem to feel the need to dictate to others about their reproductive rights. I witnessed an uncomfortable conversation in which a friend who has one 2y/o was being told she needs to have another because the child needs a sibling.  I know people are not intentionally trying to be rude but there is a prevailing idea that ‘what is good for the goose is good for the gander.’

Kids are life altering. Unless you have a 24/7 nanny or you are a bad neglectful parent, then the burden of responsibility is always on the parent to take care of your child/ren. This is not a burden that everyone wants or is suited to handle. Those little buggers demand your attention, energy, sleep time, constant direction and instruction, you as an adult who knows children shows and songs by heart, they can be frustrating, irritating, and aggravating. They are sweet and sour all wrapped up in one cute body. A parent made a bargain to take on the good and cute with the bad and smelly when it comes to parenting. That is your choice! So, while a child is a wonderful blessing, it is a choice that some made and others rejected.

No More Tears – Processing Loss


On Sunday, 19 June, Father’s Day, I was going about my life with a friend as we were enjoying a wine and music festival. I received a missed call and eventually listened to the message a bit later. The message (yes, I do have my cell phone message set up and I do listen to messages) was short and blunt that one of my nieces had died. She was a pregnant 23-year-old.

Please note that this blog entry is not about soliciting sympathy but processing loss from my view.

The first emotion was distress due to shock and the first thought was disbelief. I, as the auntie, who took care of her from a few days old to her earlier years expected that she would out-live me. I was expecting that she would have fond memories of me when I died not the other way around. I speak so casually of my death because I have had occasional thoughts about dying and death. It is an inevitable part of life and to ignore it is naïve. In this crazy world, here today and gone tomorrow is such a frequent recurring concept.

My place to be was with my family in order to share and support each other in this unfair and miserable situation. My distress was not comparable to that of my sister who loss her first-born and first grandchild. I felt helpless for her – my grief was pushed aside for her. Sadly, my sister and I had a tiff a few days before but in that moment, it was not about my loss but hers. It was an automatic response. As another sister said, we are family no matter the disagreement we had in the past.

My darling niece had a Facebook account so her younger sister and I used that medium to pass on the news. I made a subtle tribute to her and ever so slowly people started catching on that my family had a loss. My parents and her parents were fielding a stream of phone calls while her younger sister managed the Facebook inquiries. There is not much to explain when a seemingly healthy young woman suddenly dies.

I appreciate people’s condolences. I have always been a solitary person so, I am not comfortable with letting other’s know I had a death in the family. I prefer to grieve in isolation and letting a select few aware of what’s happening. However, what I prefer is in conflict  with what is the socially right thing to do so, in such instances, I defer to the latter.

I find myself being egocentric in this process. For me and my family, the loss and everything following is the most important thing now. For some ridiculous reason, I expect others to see their lives from our point of view. For example, I went on Facebook and was slightly bothered that some of the people who made condolences had already moved on to their regular lives. People were posting happy pictures (this was Father’s day weekend), funny jokes, political stuff etc. My tragedy was but a blip for them. The last time I was on Facebook before this tragedy, I would read and ‘like’ people’s pictures and posts. However, after the tragedy, I find most of those posts frivolous. I was not capable of extending myself to see their point of view about what was important in their Facebook sharing lives.

I am aware that life does not stop even for our family. I became more aware listening to the news about the people who died in freak accidents etc. I wondered what their families were experiencing at this ‘here today gone in a second’ event in their lives. I imagined the shock and disbelief, the notification to family and friends, the condolences phone calls, the explanation of what happened, the dealing with never seeing that person again, and the funeral arrangements. Interestingly, I somehow could not fully grasp what those families are experiencing even though I and my family are going through a similar situation.

The passing made mortality the forefront of my thoughts. Despite my tenuous relationship with God and Christianity, I never once thought of blaming God. I never thought of why us, why God allowed this to happen or any such things. “Shit happens” whether I like it or not and God already knows I don’t like this shit happening to us. People said they would pray for my family. Funny thing is I have not said a prayer in regards to this situation. It’s like an avoidance of this issue with God. Maybe I am expecting the prayer of the faithful to have more weight than mine. I really am not sure why I have not addressed this issue with God.

What does play in my mind are the what ifs. What if the hospital staff had done a better job when she was there a few days earlier. What would have happened if…? Did she pass peacefully? Did she know she was dying? What were her last thoughts in her last moments? Was there anything that could have been done differently? When I see the face  my  darling niece, the disbelieve comes rushing back. My sister wailed “she is never coming back” repeatedly and that was the kicker. The next time the family sees my darling she will be in a coffin-the breath of life gone. A shell of the person she used to be. I remembered that coffin view with my grandmother and it was a very difficult moment. The thought of her lifeless body is exceedingly distressing. I can’t imagine…

I am still in the early stages. My whole family is in the early stages. My sister, her husband, the remaining children, and not to forget my darling’s significant other will have a much more difficult time than I in the days, months, and years to come. I know there are more tears to shed and more disbelief and feelings of emptiness in the future. I will eventually come to an emotional peace that life continues for everyone. However, for myself and family who had a loss, life will go on outwardly as we learn to deal with the absence of one member of our family. The positive from all this is that I hugged tighter and said more “I love you” than I ever uttered in my 40 years and meant every word. Loss can either destroy or bring others together.

 

Misplaced Identity


I do believe that events in our lives have a significant effect on our personalities (a set of traits we display throughout our lives) and subsequently, the choices we make which forms our identity. There are those who spend their lives living for others – pleasers/givers – who never took the time to find out about themselves. There are those who believe the world revolves around them – narcissist/takers – whose sole purpose is about them. There are the rest of us who fall on the spectrum between the both.

For the last few months, I saw a recurring theme in my life and few others. I recognized that no matter how much we think we know ourselves, at times, we misplace our identities when we become desperate and in need of something we want. What I mean by this is I saw a woman who professed to have strong Christian beliefs become disparaging and demeaning of anyone very easily because she is experiencing work  burnout. I heard a conservative single person accept suggestive behaviors from someone who is considered newly married with a young family and professed love for spouse. I see compromise of long held values bent to fit a desire. I see loss of self-respect due to fear of the unknown. I see a willingness to compromise on things that will not be healthy in the long term. I see putting one’s better judgment aside to cater to someone else’s selfishness. I see the wearing down of time which makes people go soft on things that would not have been tolerated.

In life we want the perfect everything. We want a perfect God, perfect families, perfect spouses, perfect children, perfect friends, perfect jobs etc. Please don’t lie to yourself if you say you don’t want perfection. However, we know there is nothing on this earth that is perfect. So, when we are saddled with less than sublime contentment, our views and behaviors deteriorate over time. We go after or accept people and situations that require us to put aside or modify our values and beliefs. This pushes us to make less than ideal choices with a short-sighted view of a moment in the rest of our lives. We misplace our identities.

How many times have we read/watched a news story and someone always says “[he/she] was a good person. [he/she] would never have done….” For Christians, David was a good boy who turned into God’s champion; however, this was the same man who arranged a murder and engaged in infidelity. Judas was one of Jesus’ 12 and he was chosen because he had a consistently good character like the others but allowed himself to be bribed by money. Samson’s strength came from his beliefs which manifested in not cutting his hair; however, he compromised for love and companionship. The Bible and real life are filled with people misplacing their identities in a short-sighted compromising view in order to find a piece/peace that was missing at that moment in time.

We all want to feel whole -emotionally, physically, psychologically and spiritually. We all want to wake up every morning and truly thank God without asking for anything. However, for the majority of this broken world, we wake up and say a prayer of thanks along with a request or two. Some requests have been years in the asking and others are from recent overwhelming stressors. Whatever the situation, a feeling of desperation, urgency or last resort, can reek havoc on the identities we have carefully crafted to give us strength which are grounded by certain values and beliefs.

Do not be fooled. We all know or have that gut discomfort when we stray from ourselves. We know something is wrong but we are not always ready to face it or fix it until we find our confidence in our identities again. Life is not fair buttercups and sometimes it hands us and we accept a bag of sh*t (that may or may not explode). In reaction, we compromise or stray from what we hold dear because we truly believe this is the best way to feel in control. It’s that accumulated moment of weakness, desperation, frustration, longing, tiredness, impatience, out of ideas, dissatisfaction, disappointment, disillusionment etc that can be powerful. So powerful, we forget who we are, what we belief,  and what we are about. We forget our identities; we forget ourselves.

The bottom line is people make mistakes and err in behaviors. Sometimes we identify it quickly and sometimes we make it drag on for years. However, there is something liberating when you find your identity again and put yourself back on track. There is something freeing – our stomachs aren’t in knots, our minds aren’t constantly preoccupied, we aren’t always uneasy – that happens when we make those changes. This is not always easy because it means we have to undo a situation or take responsibility for uncharacteristic behaviors. When we remove the *cognitive dissonance, then our minds, bodies, beliefs and behaviors are in sync again. Life is a series of ups and downs and we all have our weak moments. We all have lost a bit of our identities in the past, currently and will in the future. However, its only tragic when we allow ourselves to be defeated and stay defeated. To err is human and you know what else is human? To change,  to recognize and acknowledge that we make less than great choices in a state of defeat but we can still find and reinstate our misplaced identities.

*cognitive dissonance (partial definition): mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual performs an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas or values.

 

Our Choices are Important


Life is like a box of chocolates most times you DO know what you are going to get. I have always believed that people make relationship choices based on the reality they have distorted in order to satisfied their own wants and desires. I understand the pressures of wanting to have a companion for life and the preverbal family ideals which consist of a loving spouse, kids, maybe an animal, house and a comfortable and happily-ever-after life.

For this terminally single gal, I have never had that image for myself; however, I sometimes run into a bombardment of relationship stuff. The funny thing is the outer shell for most relationships is in stark contrast to the reality. Maybe it has something to do with my field of work that sheds a harsh bright and less rosy light on the inner thinking and working of the happily-ever-after. Someone asked me if my experiences in behavioral health have affected my desire or approach to relationships. He did not finish the sentence before I said resoundingly “yes, absolutely.” I have loss the virgin eyes of this world and it is hard to go back to seeing things as ‘perfect’ when my 8hr days are filled with imperfection masked in ‘perfection.’

I am damaged goods. My perception of others, depending on the situation, is covered in distrust and suspicion. Each person has to prove his worthiness before being allowed into my inner sanctum. It is my choice to protect me until the intruder is identified as friendly. For most people, it’s the opposite – safe until proven dangerous. I haven’t afforded myself such a luxury because it’s against my world crafted nature. I am cynical when it comes to the idea of ‘”the one.” I think I have always been cynical since I was young. Despite growing up with married people around me, I had great anxiety about marriage and long term relationships. I believe that anxiety came from recognizing the role of self and the level of giving that is required in order to foster a healthy long lasting relationship. I can be absolutely selfish about my life which is not conducive to male-female long term bonding.

There is hope for me yet🙂.  In the last 5 years, I have soften my hardline approach to relationships.  As I age, I become more and more confident with myself, understand the power of making choices and taking full acceptance of the outcome of those choices. I  recognize that I have the power to change things that are not conducive to my physical, psychological,  and emotional wellbeing (I am still working on the spiritual). I fully recognize the importance of taking care of me above everyone and everything else. With this change, the idea of choosing a mate has been bumped up 1-2 points from the bottom of my list.

Temptation is real. We all have different temptations when it comes to relationships. The temptation to hurry into a relationship; the temptation to stay in a bad relationship, the temptation to engage in a forbidden relationship, the temptation to compromise values, integrity and self-esteem/image, the temptation to delude ourselves etc. No matter the temptation we have the power of choice. You can quote the scripture that God will not give you more than you can bear but I disagree. We have broken people-emotionally and psychologically because we are given more than we can manage at times.  The choice is to accept defeat, ask and accept help, learn and grow from our brokenness.

I never point to a couple and use them as my ‘relationship goal’ actually I never use anyone as a goal for myself. I know better and in my world, what I see and hear are more brokenness than contentment. I also know me very well and I am aware that what works for others does not always suit my fancy. Every choice I make has some varying degree of importance for me. It shapes me. Every choice I make about the people in my life has a huge impact. People – how they treat you and how you treat them – play a vital role. It is imperative that they are worthy of me and I of them. Sometimes someone may be good for us but we are bad for them which inevitability make for a disastrous union. When you know who are, then you know who/what you want in your life. You easily recognize the unhealthy and you put the trash to the curb.

Choices

 

 

Is God Silent?


The answer to that question depends on each person’s definition of God’s communication. For some, God is speaking through the occasional ‘miracles’ we experience or read about in the news. For others, God is speaking through the craziness of this world and for another group, things are set in motion and God is on an extended vacation from humanity and no one is minding the crazy house.

My personal answer to that question is yes actually a resounding yes. I do believe that God is silent and everything good, bad or indifferent in our lives is up for interpretation as to whether it’s God’s hands or other. Take for instance, the death of a child can be a blessing or a curse. For the family who loss a child, it’s hardly a blessing but for the family whose child received a vital organ from someone else’s loss, then that’s God’s answers to their prayers. As fallible human beings, we classify certain events as ‘blessings’ to desperately make sense of the chaos-whether these things are blessings or not remain to be seen. If the child rejects the organ and dies sooner than expected, then was that a blessing with a curse or all blessing or all curse? Should each parent be grateful to have had a short period with their child? Was that God’s will  or the devil’s will or both? or should I just leave God out of it all together because shit happens?

Looking at the world’s dysfunctional stage, there is no denying that human beings have progressively loss their compassion and kindness for fellow men. While there is still ‘good,’ it seems our humanity has been allowed to denigrate to something less than animalistic. A systematic repeat of history. Around every corner of world events, the Christians become alarmist to the antichrist or the end of the world. If you believe in your Bible, then accepting that piece of prophecy is inevitable. As a child growing up in one church or another, there have been varying degrees of the signs of the end times and various figures identified as the ushering in of the age of the antichrist. As we denigrate and destroy ourselves through the misinterpretation of what we think God meant by this scripture or that belief, we start to lose the basic teneth of “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” or if we want it broken down clearer, then reread the love chapter 1 Corinthians 13.

As I have said in previous posts, I find this good vs evil dynamics to be a very twisted and sadistic game-a game of pain and destruction in which the believers are instructed that suffering is good and they are expecting some kind of happy perfect paradise ending. The hunger games on steroids. We all want that prize which is specific to our beliefs-heaven, virgins, good karma, higher caste or peace on earth.

There are very few things in this world that I would attribute to divine intervention and they have nothing to do with miracles but human beings making conscious decisions to “do unto others.” While the Bible tells us to not look to man but look up, I disagree wholeheartedly with that simplistic line and concept. We should do both because our lives are not lived in a God in heaven vacuum. If we took the idea of God and heavenly rewards out of the picture, our lives should still look the same which is the desire to do the best we can with what we have – somewhat like this man: CNN Heroes Tribute Narayanan Krishnan. (If you type in his name in YouTube, you will see how his choices makes us put ours into perspective). While one group interpret words on some pages and behead others in the name of their God, someone else sees suffering and renders assistance in the name of choice which gives glory to his God.

God is watchfully silent and we play the game. We interpret his words and make choices based off those beliefs. We have the choice to hold out our hand to someone else or point a gun. We decide to perpetuate hate due to differences (you name a difference and there is prejudice) and at times we delude ourselves into thinking God sanctioned our actions or choices. Life can be both a blessing and a curse; however, for some, more curses than blessings and others more blessings than curses. So which is it God’s intervention or your choices that results in consequences?

Despite my ongoing conflict with the concept and role of God plus the thought of attending church as an unproductive use of my time, I still say a prayer when I wake up and when I go out of the house. I still say grace over my food. Ironically, I still pray for things and ask God for guidance and answers. Maybe it’s a force of habit or I still have a mustard seed worth of faith. I guess I am still not ready to toss the idea of religion and God into the trash.

What is the Purpose of Marriage?


Let me start off by saying Happy New Year to you all and many blessings for 2016. As always, I did not make resolutions but continue to live life as thrown my way and make adjustments accordingly.  I was motivated to attend a church service in the new year and will try to make more attempts to get back into church life – we will see how it goes.

So, I am privy to the workings of strangers’ private lives. As they seek behavioral health services, it is my job to ask various personal questions. While this is not new, in the last few months, I am more aware of how many couples underutilize the main reason for getting into a long term relationship-companionship.

Marriage is now easily disposable. People get married for various reasons but the underlying need is a desire to have a suitable companion. The problem I have been noticing for various couples, who are having minor to major marital difficulties, is they have either forgotten or did not establish solid reasons for getting married in the first place.

Here are some things I understand are the basic purposes for marriage: Companionship-to share your life with someone. Support-having someone there when needed and vice versa. Communication: Verbally sharing various aspects of one’s thoughts and experiences. Pleasure: Sex, intimacy and fun. Monogamy: The only. Cooperation: Working together to make each other’s lives easier and better. Understanding: You may differ on issues but are still able to show empathy. Trust: Closing ones eyes and fall backwards knowing your partner is there to catch you. Responsibility: 100/100. Communication: Learning and knowing how to talk to each other. Adapting and Growing: Learning to navigate the changes in life together. Commitment: It’s you and me baby.

As a lifelong bachelorette who is nearing 40, I am getting hit from all sides from married couples about my single status. However, as I look at their relationship lives, I amass even more reservations on joining their ranks. As a single, I make an effort to enjoy my life and as I look at theirs here are the recurring themes I see: Boring: They rarely make time to do fun things together.  Sex and intimacy have started to dwindle significantly. Lack of cooperation between each other creates frustration, pent up anger and isolation. Inability to communicate their stressors or needs with each other. One spouse takes on more responsibilities than the other which creates stress and resentment. Flirtatious behaviors with someone not their spouse. Inability to listen and understand the other person’s needs. Third Party Interference: Everything is more important than your spouse-kids, the game, the other’s selfishness. Complaining about everything. Physical Neglect: Spouses stop taking the time to look good for each other. Loss of affection because of ongoing separation. Blaming: Its the other person’s fault. Infidelity: The misconception that starting with someone new will solve your problems.

Marriage gives couples a built in purpose to enjoy life and share that with someone who is sleeping right beside you. However, most couples have loss the insight about their purpose of marriage and ignore their ill-behaviors towards each other. I have sat through conversations in which a spouse will use sex as a weapon, one partner spends money recklessly, child care is only expected of one partner while the other occasionally ‘babysits, couples’ idea of spending time together is completing chores around the house every weekend. Date night is something they have on Valentine’s and Birthdays. Feeling sexy and being sexy is only for single people in new relationships. Communication is “I just can’t talk to him/her.”

Most singles are looking for a date to try out a new restaurant but many married couples, who have a built in date partner, have not gone out together unless it’s to Chucky Cheese or stay at home to enjoy take-out. Singles are sexually frustrated from an absence of a partner while married people have someone sleeping beside them every night and most can’t readily think of the last time they had sex much less enjoyable sex (you know…the one that does not feel like an obligation). A romantic night for a single involves fun; a romantic night for a couple involves the television. A single will feel lonely but s/he is a single, however, a spouse can feel isolated and lonely while staring across a table at their partner.

I am not naïve to expect married life to be daily fun and excitement. However, the repeated dullness and the habit of taking each other for granted tend to build over time until the marriage is “like living with a room mate” or “we are only together for the kids.” You would be surprise how many times I have heard similar statements. Relationships die over time from neglect. As I listen to the patients and to some of my friends, I start to see the early warning signs of the reasons why relationships fall apart.

As a single, I have started to ‘keep out of their business’ because I recognize that most couples do not appreciate the observations from those who are not married. What they fail to realize is that being married does not put you in a special behavioral category that only certain married people can understand. Behaviors are behaviors and it does not take a genius to see certain red flags.

I will always be baffled as to why people are so eager to be married but once they are in that situation they easily lose sight of the reason why they wanted to be married. The laziness, complacency, taking their partners for granted and neglect in putting effort into the relationship usually ends in disaster. It’s like having a million dollars in the bank but if you never use that money to buy groceries, then you will always be starving.

If anyone has ever done relationship counseling, then you will know that one question from the therapist will always be “What made you fall in love/want to be with that person?” The reason for such a question is to remind the couple about the purpose of their relationship, then to re-establish those feelings and ideas, and help them to proceed forward with those foundations at the forefront of the marriage.