Spring Cleaning the Mind


The sun is shining; the temperature is getting warmer (to my liking above 70 degrees) and I have resumed my warm weather goal which is to be outside on every nice weekend. Usually, this is the time of year when people start to reassess and declutter,  for me, that is a must-do with my mind.

Winter has always been my most disliked season, I hate the cold and could never seem to get warm, the early sunset affects my sleeping habits negatively and I am very sedentary. I literally do the human hibernation with the exception for work and grocery shopping, I am inside under the covers. If I should do a self- diagnosis, I would say this winter I was struggling with seasonal affect disorder or exhibiting mild depressive symptoms.

My mood was taking a severe beating these past couple months and it was an immense struggle to use the cognitive interventions i.e. doing therapy on myself 🙂 . So here are my issues: I tend to ruminate on everything. I am solution oriented so when I see problems, then my mind goes to town on finding the solutions. I was ruminating on health issues in my family, being a good daughter, work, finances, my relationship/connectedness with the people in my life and feeling way too involved in people’s lives made extremely easy through Facebook. Coupled with the winter season, the struggle was real!

In the pursuit of practicing good mental hygiene, I decided to make some changes by spring cleaning my mind. Two weeks ago, I decided to cut back on Facebook. This is my only social media connection and over time, I noticed how much time I would spend going through my news feed to see what’s new – marriage, pregnancies, family moments, travel, bitter politics etc. It was all there being absorbed every time I logged on. Frankly, I am happy for other people’s happy moments but I started to notice how much I would compare me and my life even for things I never wanted or in which I have limited interest. Travel has always been a big thing for me so when I see old friends (people with whom I have no real connection besides social media) on vacations, I find myself being a little jealous “I should be doing that.”

After my cutback, I definitely noticed a mood change for the better. Two weeks of not being bombarded by people’s lives-fake or real-felt really good. Sadly, last night, I intended to do a quick Facebook check but it lasted over 1hr and the moment I was off, I noticed how much that clutter of seeing everyone’s stuff put me one step back. Behavior modification: I will not close my account right now but I will restrict how often and how much I view. If someone has something important to tell me, then they have my phone number or can messenger me; so everything else is irrelevant because that information was not intended for me.

Mind Spring Cleaning: I want to help fix things or give good guidance to the people who are closest in my life; hence, the reason why mental health was a draw. I will always be a good listener and I have ridged boundaries when it comes to work but not so much for friends and family. I take on their stuff as I perceive it to be an issue and want to reach out to help as much as I can. It is the desire to make sure I am doing my part as a good friend or family member or coworker when the person expresses a problem. However, it is very draining and extremely tiresome because I have my own stuff that I am also addressing but I am not getting that level of investment from others into me. Sure! so I tend to be the listener than the sharer which makes things lopsided. Sure! so I tend to have a barrier in place that limits my desire to share. Sure! so I think it is my responsibility to fix my own stuff. Behavior Modification: I can listen and be in the moment for the person but I will limit how much I take on mentally. Everyone has their own lives and it is not my job to carry their issues with me to the extent it is too much for me. If God is still listening, then I hand it over in prayer and put their stuff on the shelf.

Mind Spring Cleaning: I have certain expectations of myself and I transition them to the people around me. I wrongly expect certain things from others and when they do not come through then it leads to a sense of disappointment and often times feelings of hurt which leads to increasing my relationship barriers. Behavior Modification: I only have control over me. I have decided to adjust my expectations to whatever the person chooses to give. This will improve the relationship I have with the people closest to me. I need to be more aware of when I am starting to ruminate on the situation that led to feeling disappointment, hurt and frustration and redirect.

That is as much as I can work on right now. I am only one person and as a single, I am taking care of everything by myself which includes everything related to me and some issues related to other family members and my aging and ill parents. The reality is I do not have the mental closet space to fit other people’s stuff. It is my responsibility to take care of me in the best way possible. This is not to say that I will neglect my role as friend or family member but I need to limit how much I choose to carry with me.

Silence Is Golden


There are at least 1-2 people in our lives that we put in the important category. Whether it is lovers, friends or family, these are the people that we support and who can be supportive to us in one way or another. You may have heard the concept that honest and effective communication is important and I am sure we all strive to be that open person in those important relationships. However, being honest, when it is not good news, can be difficult to express.I would be lying if I said that I am always straightforward with others. No matter the connection, there is always silence in a relationship. While this is not the best practice, it does seem to happen.

Do I look fat in this dress?” If you say yes even though it is the truth, it can impact the relationship negatively. While one would say that this should not be the case, it is the reality. Sure, we should all be tough adults who can handle the truth or someone else’s thoughts or questions on a matter. However, people tend to take offense and believe that the other party does not have the best intentions. I remember many years ago I raised concerns about the person a friend of mine was dating. Needless to say, I got a lot of pushback and the friendship ended. When I used to do therapy, I would get the same response from some clients.

A 15 year marriage recently ended due to one individual having an affair. Actually, the marriage probably ended long before the affair started but regardless at what point in that relationship did either the couple or the people who cared about them went silent? If a friend is making questionable choices or acting differently, when is it your place to intervene or keep silent?  If a family member is making potentially life altering choices who says you should always speak up?

I keep silent for a number of reasons. I keep silent because I don’t think the person is ready or willing to hear my observations. I keep silent because I believe I have nothing more I can say. I keep silent because the other person may be too sensitive and may perceive my insight as hostile. I keep silent because sometimes I feel too tired to want to deal with the resistance. I keep silent because I take the person’s cue that he is not open to suggestions at all. Frankly, I keep silent because sometimes I just don’t feel like getting involved.

So when is it a good time to break that silence? When you notice something is a little off? When there is obvious danger? Or after the person have fallen off the cliff and is broken? For people that you care about, it can be very difficult to keep silent and allow that person to find her own path no matter what the consequence. It is sort of like seeing the issue but quietly praying for the best. Does that make you the bad person in that relationship? I once read a book in which a Christian wife said that she knew her husband was making a mistake but she kept silent because she believed it was God’s role to correct him, no matter the consequence, not her. Yep, I snickered and vehemently disagreed. However, over the years, I have found myself in that silent role praying that God or someone else take the responsibility off my hands to speak up.

So, the worse things than can happen if you speak up is to lose a relationship with the intended audience, hurt feelings, or your assessment of the situation could be wrong. What would Jesus do? Well, He had both direct and indirect ways of passing on his messages. Lucky for Jesus, He knew his time was short and he was not highly dependent on others for a lifetime of relationships so his example may not fit. Exhibiting classic cognitive dissonance, I don’t believe in silence in a relationship; however, I do practice the thing in which I do not believe. Welcome to the complexity of the human nature.

Interestingly, if I were the one making errors, I would want the people closest to me to speak up. Yep, totally hypocritical!  I have had one or two people point out some things to me of which I was not fully aware. I had to take a moment to ponder and acknowledge that they were right. It was a catalyst for change. I appreciated those people’s honesty and criticism of my behavior. I have slowly learn that someone else’s view of me can be critical to my life in various ways. However, I am not dependent on others’ views but it is insightful.

Frankly, I am not sure if I have the balls to always be cold-call honest. However, when given the right circumstances and when I am in the right mood, I tend to break my silence – very directly (I have a hard time beating around the bush). I can admit that I am not holding up my end of the relationship bargain with silence. I can admit that it is not the best practice. Silence is not always golden. For the people who are important in our lives, we have taken the role of being the other person’s keeper. Being confronted  IN LOVE and TRUE CONCERN with  difficult questions, harsh truth or criticism, is not meant to be an attack but can be there to provide you with perspective that is different from your own egocentric tunnel vision views. So what if your ego is bruised, you will recover. Sometimes we just need to get a thicker skin with an open mind.

My Struggle to Emotionally Connect


Happy New Year to everyone and many blessings to you all.

My Christian parents came to visit for the Christmas and while we were driving from NY to MD a very familiar conversation ensued. My father asked why don’t I go back to church?Keep in mind that this has been a repeated question almost EVERY time I am around my parents. I give the same answer in a variety of ways but it is not satisfying. The bottom line is I just feel uncomfortable with strangers or large groups of people.

This is not something new. When I was younger, people used words like quiet and shy to describe me. I never liked large groups of people most of the time and I am ALWAYS uncomfortable around strangers. I am very slow to warm up to people. My mind was always social and exploratory but my body did not follow obediently. Ironically, I grew up with family-cousins, aunt, uncle, siblings, grandparents, parents and I shared a bedroom with my older sister. I left my parents to go away to college and lived in the dorm, I joined the military and had to share space. My only alone moment was in the shower (except in basic training) which is still a peaceful place for me even when I am alone. In a swarm of people, I was always trying to find my quiet place.

As I got older and independent, I made a strategic behavioral change to be more social which was a huge effort. I accomplished that goal but in the last few years, my old personality trait is now more dominant again and I struggle to be engaged with people including in a church. Throughout my life, I never had any issues making friends. I have a great personality with some quirks of course. However, something is very different with me now than I was at least 5+ years ago.

I am finding it nearly impossible to make an deep emotional connection with people. It’s concerning. Being on my own, I have enjoyed my single life. I have done a good amount of things with my singleness, I have made good use of my single time and I will continue to do so. However, after years of being in my personal solitude, it feels like I created a distance with being intimate with others. I may have created an emotional barrier that is now taking a toll when I truly do need that emotional intimate connection and support.

No man is an island. I now fully understand that phrase. I find myself being nostalgic of the days when I had my family around me and the strong relationship I had with others. I miss the ability to feel a deep connected love. I miss that support. I was watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 and I envied the main character. I have inadvertently created an emotional island with no easy means of allowing people to share it with me. Interestingly, my mother has a similar personality (she admitted to never having friends, she keeps to herself and socialize when needed, she has always taken care of herself and others) but the difference is she has had my father for over 48 years. I have my island.

Over the years, I have inadvertently created loneliness for myself and I am now feeling the side effects. This is not to say that you cannot be independent and enjoy single life. This is to say that throughout each aspect of our lives we need to stay intimately connected to someone. I did not realize that I was breaking those connections with the people in my life. I can admit that I am emotionally distant, I have walls with reinforced steel and a moat with piranhas swimming below.  I look at the relationship I have with people who are physically in my presence (versus friends and family far away) and I know that I am missing that connection – the connection I was once able to make. I have sat in churches and felt nothing as if I was in an empty sanctuary.

At this age, I do not want to intrude on other people’s lives. They have kids, spouses and other responsibilities that takes priority over me. I know that if I really needed help there are people I can call without hesitation but due to my emotional barrier, I have a hard time making a connection. My emotional health is not heading in the right direction because I can see a life of perpetual loneliness and emptiness. Don’t get me wrong, I will always crave and enjoy those solitary moments and doing things on my own – that is just a part of my personality because yes, I am 90% introvert. However, I am talking about having balance.

Our society now encourages isolation and there are more lonely people than we can imagine. For example, I do not know anyone in the complex I have lived in for over 2 years. I may be able to recognize two people and I have said no more than good morning to a handful. People make friends, date, and live virtually which is something  that offends my old school nature. I briefly dated someone who believed it was better and easier to text than to talk (hence briefly). So, how does someone connect when the world is disconnecting?

I would love to say I found an answer. This lack of intimate connection becomes painfully obvious when going through personal difficulties. The things I used to be able to manage on my own are now overwhelming at times. I become emotionally tired having to be 100% in charge all the time. I have worn myself out by systematically doing everything on my own all the time. I did not create a balance. I have allowed my emotional connection to become tenuous from building a protective wall without incorporating a flexible gateway. My goal is to try to fix the damage I have created. I am not sure what that is going to look like but I have to start somewhere-anywhere.

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.

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.

Wanting What God Did Not Intend


I have to admit that following the Biblical rules can be very challenging. The bible has very set ideas about right and wrong. It leaves no room for in-between and grey areas. This could be the reason why so many of us struggle with feeling like or have committed sins on a daily basis. When God created us with free-will then proclaimed there was a four wall boundary in which to not cross, it inevitably caused confusion, confliction and stress. Maybe that’s the reason most people spend their Christian journey on their knees either asking for forgiveness or discernment in making the right Godly choices.

My single journey has been filled mostly with my own wants and bucket list. I specifically wanted a single, free, do-what-I-want lifestyle and I got it. All of which have been enjoyable and a source of character growth, identity and self-confidence building. I can say that I am very secure within myself that it would take a 9.5 Richter scale earthquake to cause damage to my foundation.  As I am blessed with 39 years of life, the desire for companionship has crept in albeit very slowly. I have come to a slow conclusion over the last 5 years that there is nothing wrong for me in wanting to share the joys and stress of my life with someone else and in tern be supportive to that person on an intimate level.

I am a self professed commitment phobe. Life can be so much easier when you have only yourself to think about. As I had watched my parents marriage over the years, it had taught me the importance of and hard work required to have a committed relationship. Ironically, it was that realization at a young age that pushed me down the single path. I was not ready to give that much of myself to anyone but me.  In the last few weeks, I have been having some very frank discussions with a male former single playboy now married with family coworker. I had to verbally acknowledge a few things I already knew about myself. It has been disconcerting to hear someone point them out and me verbally admitting to certain things to someone beyond myself. It was not eye opening but more real awareness. I learn so much about myself from people who have the balls to give me such honest feeback.

So, what is it that I want that God did not intent? I want the best of both the single and married world. I absolutely love being single and free to go and do what I wish. I love making last minute decisions about what I want to do for any given weekend. I love planning my life according to my schedule. I love the idea that I can pack and move to another state just because I can. I love the fact that I can choose to eat out or dine in and not worry about another mouth to feed. I love not having to give an accountability as to whether I am going to be late or why I am late. I have my own bed to myself  and my things are just the way I like them. I love the autonomy of being single.

On the other hand, the things I love about the marital benefits include having an available social activity partner to try out a new restaurant or event. I love having company when I don’t feel like being alone. I love the idea of being able to release sexual tension and enjoy sex when desired. I love the idea of having someone concerned if I am late to get home. I love the joys of intimacy, having an available helper, and someone close with whom to share good and bad moments. I love the pleasure of companionship.

See my dilemma? Obviously, those two things are on the opposite end of the biblical spectrum. In order to get the best of both worlds, my lifestyle would have to exist outside what God intended. What would that look like? Sort of like Oprah and Steadman – two single people who have their individual lives but come together as wanted or needed. No marriage, no living together, no sharing personal property but an unconventional nontraditional relationship.

In the Christian world, it is either one or  the other not both. So obviously I have a decision to ponder. Do I stick with the joys of singleness and sacrifice the natural desire for companionship? Do I get over my commitment phobia and learn to share my life fully with a compatible partner? Neither of which are the easier road because they require giving up certain things. Can I be certain that if I find a compatible partner I won’t still yearn for the days when it’s just about me? The issue is I only know about the pleasure of singleness because I have yet to meet anyone who had enough pull to entice me to the marital side. Could it be that I need to find the right guy who can change my view of marriage being a stagnant, limiting, excessively compromising institution? I do not have any answers to these questions so until then the most attractive aspect of single vs married is having the best of both worlds.

Recognizing the Greatest Blessing is Love


In the last few weeks, I had an inordinate amount of interest in my single status. No, it’s not men flocking to ‘rescue’ me from being single but friends who want to save me from an eternal single life. I guess they think being 39 with minute interest in marriage is not normal. I handled the issue like a pro, which means I did not go crazy and spout the “I am woman and don’t need a man” mantra. :-). I understand their well-meaning intention because all those friends are married. Ironically, one friend who has been married for ages is having issues with connecting to her husband, the 2nd person is new to married life with a toddler, and the 3rd, her husband is out of the country for a few months and she is stressed with their few months old baby.

I had the privilege of taking a week of vacation with a long time friend. While on vacation, not realizing the resort was adults only when booked, I was surrounded by majority couples. Is that a sign or something?! (I say sarcastically). I had a few minor uncomfortable moments when it was just me sitting by myself for the nightly entertainment or on the beach to relax. Nothing like being physically alone amongst strange couples to highlight one’s singleness. This was not my first or will it be the last in such situations; however, those things never deter me from doing anything I want to do. There is a certain amount of strength that comes from being able to enjoy life fully as a single and not constantly fearing what others think about being a party of one.

Small Blessings
Small Blessings

So, I just came back from the vacation with lots of pictures in store and decided to resume my lost hobby of printing all my pictures which are stored digitally (a few years worth) and chronologically placing them in albums. As I am going through organizing pictures which starts from year 2010 and choosing a few for my collage picture frame that sits on my mantle 90% empty, I realize a few important things.

1.  I have done quite a few things in my lifetime. I have travelled in and outside the US and have fun evidence of my adventures

2.  I have made friends where I go. I am an introvert who sometimes have a difficult time connecting with people. However, my pictures show that throughout the years I have developed friendships/relationship with others at different moments in life

3.  I have created some good memories. Memories fade but looking through those pictures reminded me that I had good times with people whose company I enjoyed

4.  Caring is sharing. I was blessed to share my life with people who were and some still are important to me. There are pictures with a few people with whom I no longer have a relationship due to falling out; despite that, I can look at those pictures and remember when the relationship was good

5.  A snippet of my life. Those pictures are snippets of good times in my life. We tend to remember the difficulties rather than the pleasure. Those snippets are reminders of pleasurable moments in my life.

6.  God brings people in and out of my life. We tend to forget the people in our lives when things are difficult. We tend to forget the support that surrounds us. Those pictures remind me of the supports I have had throughout the years and sometimes do not realize it. Most of us want to be martyrs by carrying the weight of the world alone. However, when we step back far enough and pull our heads out of our derrieres, then we realize just how many and who God brings into our lives for support. Plus, we see those with whom God has placed us in their lives.

7.  I should not feel unloved. I know that my single never married no children state will at times be a sore spot for me and particularly for others who are uncomfortable with my unmarried status at my age. Feeling Loved is not exclusive to married or coupled people and singleness does not have the exclusive rights to loneliness. Those pictures are a reminder that I was always loved or cared about by someone somewhere (not that I thought I was not).

8.  Acceptance of me. I have difficult personality traits (which I particularly like about me). I am not easy to get close to, I can be very upfront, and I don’t apologize for me. I truly like me. Those pictures show the handful of people who accept all that about me. I am not afraid to be myself around friends. I value the friends who come in and out of my life which make the relationship more authentic and trustworthy. The right compatible people accept you for who you are not who you pretend to be.

The collage picture frame is complete and sitting on my mantle with images of friends and family taken at different points in my life. In the center of the collage that takes a 9×7.5 picture sits my favourite bible passages 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8, 13 – the love chapter. “The greatest of all these is LOVE.” I think we become so wrapped up in the image of love being a husband and wife and forget that God blesses us with love and care from many different people at different point in our lives. I sometimes lose sight of God’s blessings and need to be reminded on occasion with mundane things like organizing years worth of photos in an album.

Abstinence In A Sexualized World


Surfed the internet lately? If yes, then you may have seen a few headlines relating to sex in the Christian community. First, there was the Duggar’s older son inappropriate sexual touching before he was married, Billy Graham’s grandson’s infidelity in a crumbling marriage, and Bristol Palin announcing her 2nd out-of-wedlock pregnancy despite being a public advocate for abstinence. In the old days, all these visible Christians would have been publicly shamed for the rest of their lives.

The reality is we are all sinners, prone to temptation, and each and every one of us have committed sins and will commit sins in our lives. Welcome to the reason why the Bible talks about redemption. Despite knowing that, I do get a sick pleasure when limelight Christians screw up. Why is that? Because it shows that no one is immune and we need to be careful of our actions when we decide to put ourselves in the forefront as perfect Christian leaders.

Let’s chat about abstinence . First, let me say that I do not believe in abstinence only education. Our society is not set up to re-enforce that concept. Second, abstinence does not address some important biological and situational nuances that typically lead to breaking that vow. Third, abstinence is a difficult practice to maintain especially the more sexually charged you are and the length of your intimate relationship.

I believe there are two kinds of abstinence: one is the letter of the law abstinence and the other is the spirit of the law abstinence. When people talk about abstinence they are referring to no sexual penetration using the male and female sex organs. Therefore, if two people in a relationship never have coitus, then they have fulfilled the letter of the abstinence law. This letter of the abstinence law is very important for virgins and those who want to remain “pure” until marriage. However, the spirit of the abstinence law is very different. This is in reference to ALL sexualized behaviors ie. mutual masturbation, over and under the clothes touching of breast and genitals, anal sex, oral sex, foreplay and everything that stops short of penetration. If Christians should be judge by the spirit of the abstinence law, then a great number would be found guilty.

I applaud the concept of no sex before marriage. It’s a great idea for a number of reasons; however, by the time most couples get to their wedding night they have already engaged in various sexualized behaviors “to take the edge off,” and the only thing left is the grand finale. True abstinence is not an easy feat. Christian couples engage in the same dating style such as spending quality and alone time with their partners. Like all relationships, the two people are instinctively and biologically sexually drawn to each other, and each intimate alone time breaks down the abstinence defenses.

When was the last time you went on a date with a chaperone? Do you always kiss your partner on the cheek with a side hug? When the phone conversation turns intimate do you stop and say “God would not approve because we are not married?” or have you instituted a rule that you don’t talk in the bedroom and not past a certain hour? When was the last time that the most intimate thing you did with your partner was holding hands for longer than 5 minutes?

If true abstinence is to be practiced, then the Christian couple has to become puritanical in every sense of the word. If you cannot do that, then it’s time to have the talk (You should have had this talk already if you decided to be in a long-term relationship). The talk should involve what to do if you can’t wait or the it-just-happened moment. It’s time to have the real sex talk and not the ignorant watered down ‘Christian’ version. The version in which birth control and pregnancy are a reality. The version in which when things go too far how do you work through it instead of being riddled with guilt, shame and sometimes blaming.

It’s obvious that Ms Palin, the abstinence advocate, found her own message difficult to uphold – twice. If it was not for the pregnancies, which is how most Christian couples are outed, she would have been able to hide the hypocrisy. I could take cheap shots at her; however, her failures show the holes in the modern-day abstinence message. I do believe that most Christians are very sincere when they take on the abstinence challenge. However, they fail to see and prepare for the inevitable obstacle which is to underestimate how strong one’s normal sexual desires can be in the presence of romantic partner.

For those who intend on practicing the abstinence spirit of the law, I wish you God speed because you will need it. I also wish that you put in place preventive methods instead of reactive measures. Abstinence in a relationship is a good thing; however, ignoring one’s natural sexual urges will make it a feat to truly accomplish in avoiding ALL forms of sexual activities before marriage.

The Power of Communication


I would be the first person in line to advocate and admonish how important it is to keep the lines of communication wide open with the people in your life. Due to my dabble in behavioral health, I would estimate that the destruction of 99.9% (made-up number) of relationships is due  to the lack of communication.

As Christians, we are taught to have an open line with God. It typically crops up in every church sermon and it’s practiced in every religious setting. That open line is prayer. We are taught to bring it all to God (even though He already knows what is going on). However, we are not encouraged to talk to each other as openly as we are to express ourselves to God. God hears all our stressors, dirty secrets, desires, pain, and even joy but we leave out a lot of things with the important people in our lives.

Lack of communication destroys relationships! Lack of communication breeds misconceptions. Lack of communication creates hurt, animosity and sometimes it allows our thoughts to run amuck. Even though most of us know this, it is sometimes the hardest act in which to engage. Why is it so hard to share with the people closest to you? No one wants to take blame or admit wrong. No one wants to offend the other person. No one wants to point out the speck in the other person’s eye or your own. No one wants to experience that awkward moment(s). No one wants to be uncomfortable.

So, in a marriage, when one spouse is hurt or unhappy it’s easier to shut up and ignore. In a friendship, when the bond starts to loosen, it’s easier to think the worse than talk about the problem. In a parent-child relationship, it’s customary to say that each does not understand the other due to the age and culture gap. I can go on about the mountain of excuses we tell ourselves because we are too uncomfortable with being open and honest.

For me, I have made similar mistakes with people in my life. The irony is that my job requires me to ask tough and some times uncomfortable questions in which I won’t even blink an eye. To put the importance of communication in prospective then think about: How many times have we dated and even marry the wrong person because we are uncomfortable to openly communicate about things that bother you? How many marriages have been destroyed because the easier road is to find solace in someone else’s arms or push a person away rather than deal with your problems? How many good friendships have been loss because we choose not to speak up?

While I pride myself on being outspoken (a confidence which has increased with age), I do have my moments when it is easier to let things go even though I knew something was wrong. I need to take blame for being a poor communicator at times. One would think that I should know better because this is what I do and teach for a living.

However, in a recent incident in which I was close to writing off a good friendship, I have learned that I need to do better with my communication with people who are important. I saw my mistakes after they happened and I did not take the responsibility to address them in a timely manner. The funny thing is that once “the elephant was acknowledge” it became so clear how a simple misunderstanding could have been resolved before it became an ongoing issue. It was one of those Whiskey Tango-Foxtrot moments that could have been avoided.

So, the question is how many important relationships have you screwed up/unhappy with because you were too uncomfortable to openly communicate? What are you going to do differently to become a better communicator?