A woman told me a story about her mother calling and asking if there was time to get together. The daughter does not enjoy time with her mother, but did not know how to avoid making a commitment. When she told me she said she needed to check her calendar, she smiled. When I asked her how she felt about getting together with her mother, she smiled. She smiled when she allowed herself to feel the truth: she did not want to be with her mother. Unfortunately, she still does not know how to avoid being with her. She feels guilty.
I wish she could see the smile on her face when she allows herself to experience the dislike she has toward her parent. It is more pleasant than the frown she has when she is with her.
I recently had a table at the Community Health Fair at Alameda Hospital. I advocate teaching children the words that describe a feeling. In my office, I am aware that many adults do not know this vocabulary. I decided to create a game for those who chose to stop at my table.
On a board, I had the words for 30 feelings. In a bowl, I had the definitions for these words. A person took a slip out of the bowl, and tried to identify the feeling. I also had a bowl of candy so that those who played the game were rewarded. Notice, one did not have to guess successful to take a piece of candy. Trying was rewarded.
A man came up and took a piece of candy. I told him he needed to play the game before taking the candy. He said, “I will not play the game.” I told him to put the candy back in the bowl. He gave me a look, but did so.
As he walked away, I turned to the vendor at the next table and said, “People need to not cross the line.” She laughed.
I had the good fortune to be invited to a wedding that occurred on a boat in Alameda. The reception was there also. Once the service was over, we went out to sea and it happened to be the day the Blue Angels were flying over the Bay.
I have seen them in part before and they, for a couple of days prior to the show, fly over my home. But I had never seen the full event.
There were actually three groups that performed. I watched with friends and found it very exciting. When the Blue Angels began to perform, the ship started to pay music that was very American. It was soft and it was a nice background. God Bless America and America the Beautiful were a couple of them. And then The Star Spangled Banner began. I was standing at the railing and all six planes came by. I found myself tearful.
It was a very warm experience. My sense of national pride surfaced in a felt way. At this time, it was nice to be able to feel that way.
It was intriguing to hear how people were responding to the awareness that the hurricane Irma was going to hit Florida. Most knew someone who lives there. It took so long for the storm to hit because it was slow moving, that the anticipation was overwhelming for many. There were predictions of the path; those changed once Irma arrived.
People watched the news and checked their phones. Calls were made to friends and relatives.
Those not in Florida felt helpless. And everyone was reminded of our vulnerability. We have no control over acts of nature. And we, as well as our material goods, are fragile.
It is difficult to be incapable of doing much except to provide support. We try to avoid thinking what it would be like if we were in the hurricane.
How prepared can one be?
Yesterday was when hurricane Irma was landing on top of Florida. Knowing people living there, I have been a bit preoccupied with the prognostication of how and where it would impact. Being a slow-moving hurricane, the subject was occupying news and thoughts for days.
I went to the theater yesterday. While getting my tickets, the woman at the desk said they had opened early to allow people into the air conditioning since it was so hot outside. “Where did this heat come from? I have lived in the Bay area forever, and we are not supposed to get this hot. I am very upset.”
Indeed, the projection of her voice verified that.
I chose to say nothing. I wanted to tell her that it angered me that she was so self-centered when the people in Florida were struggling to survive.
She is entitled to her priorities. So am I, ergo, silence.
When I was young, my mother would not talk to me if I was crying. I never understood her position.
A woman told me someone she knew well confronted her in a way that shocked her. She did not understand the person’s position and felt unfairly judged. She cried, and the confronter looked at her in a way that suggested the crying was inappropriate.
Crying is a way to express feelings. Sadness, joy, depression, anger, are four feelings that prompt tears.
We hold on to too many feelings. We avoid expressing them in words or in behavior. Tears are a way of letting go.
It is unfortunate that adults discourage the display.
I wrote earlier about the response people were having to the Trump presidential election. I am now finding expressions of anxiety and alarm as international events are less than ideal.
Just this week:
Pictures of the effects of chemicals in Syria have angered and concerned people. The bombing of an airport in Syria by the United States scared people. And the tension between the United States and Russia have contributed to a feeling of unrest. The United States used a massive bomb for the first time in Afghanistan and it prompted some to anticipate war. It is suspected that North Korea will test nuclear bombs and it is believed they have one that could reach California.
It does not appear that the emotional reaction is inappropriate. We are kept apprised by the news with pictures, interviews, and stories. Everything is brought into our lives quickly.
It appears that anticipation of conflict between countries is haunting many. There is not much that can be said to provide comfort.
A client told me that she had a painful experience with a very long term friend. They were at a museum viewing a show that was very significant to both of them. It was political and it represented the views they had taken historically. The friend viewed the show in ten minutes and indicated she would be in the gift shop. My client was surprised that her friend had spent so little time at the show.
When she was done, she met her friend and asked her opinion of the show. The friend responded, “It was alright.” My client was troubled by the brevity of her answer.
When she related this to me, she explained that she was distressed because she believes her friend may not want to be her friend anymore since she discloses very little in terms of her thoughts and feelings. I asked her if she has spoken to her about this. She said, “I have asked her innumerable times to tell me more, and she does not. I know where she will go with this so I have not.”
Often we fail to disclose what we are truly thinking and feeling. To say to her friend, “I am concerned that our relationship is changing and I would like to discuss this,” addresses the problem directly instead of adding her own interpretation of her friend’s behavior.
We are not encouraged or taught how to express who we are. It is unfortunate.
The feelings of scare, helplessness, powerlessness and anger have been common in my office since the presidential election. I did not anticipate the commonality of those themes. I know that I am in a progressive community where residents do not live with pervasive fears of segregation, discrimination, violence, racism, homophobia or xenophobia. It is a very diverse area.
And yet, there is fear.
One client travels all over the world and is concerned about not being able to return to the United States at some point. At this time her fear would seem to be irrational.
Another person is an illegal Canadian and is terrified she will be deported. She is married to an American and has a child from that relationship. She wanted to protest at one of the airports, but was too afraid to do so.
Another is frightened that there will be control over the internet. His work and his communication is based on the internet.
A gay client attends college out of state and says all the gays she knows are afraid.
I am pleased I can offer a room where people can ventilate. I encourage action of some sort to countermand the feelings of powerlessness. Everyone can do something. Hopefully each can find comradery by doing so and feel the benefit of contributing to change.
Sometimes there is realistic paranoia.
Working full time. Raising children. Running errands. Taking care of pets. Taking care of the home. Preparing meals. Doing laundry. Taking phone calls. Making phone calls. Taking care of bills and business. Shopping.
There is much to do on most days. Often there is little down time in the evening. We look forward to the weekend, hoping for less of a schedule.
Add one more unexpected phenomenon, like illness, and the overwhelmed feeling goes over the edge.
For the most part, this is how we choose to live our lives. I encourage making a commitment to having a break. Schedule it so that it is a part of our ritual.
Go to a restaurant. Go to a movie. Go to the library.
I advocate this strongly to couples with children so that they can maintain a private, intimate relationship where they can truly catch up with each other. Do this once a week. It makes a difference.