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Turkey Toss at the zoo

So last weekend, I took the new boyfriend to the zoo. It so happened that this was the day they celebrated Thanksgiving by throwing raw turkeys at the animals. We got a great view of the bear, who dragged his turkey over to the window we were standing by. Mind you, this was in a viewing cave primarily intended for children. There was just enough headspace for a few adults, but it was pretty much us and a dozen children crammed in there. I didn't get particularly good shots, but there is something pleasant about sitting in a dark cave surrounded by happy kids. I may have talked before about how I'm able to connect with complete strangers at the zoo. We're all there for the same reason, and it's nice to be able to point out to your fellow viewers where the animal is, where's a particularly good angle to look from, and I get to spout animal facts at kids. (I probably should volunteer at the zoo someday.)
Anyway, this is all to say I totally manhandled other people's toddlers by lifting them up onto the ledge where they could see the bear better.

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Life update

Life is still going well. I love my classes, and I even enjoy writing the papers. I'm not doing great, I'm not doing awful, and I'm fine with that since I'm learning tons. My cohort is amazing, and last night, nine of us had Thanksgiving at the house of one of our professors. One of my classmates, a woman from Bosnia, brought homemade falafel, and played the accordian. (which, btw, horribly embarrassed her twelve-year-old daughter. :-)

As much as I love my cohort, they're not quite family. I don't yet feel comfortable being my awkward, pervy weirdo self around them. I <3 you my weirdo friends!

I started dating a guy, and that's also been great. It's been a bit strange, as all my relationships seem at first (there's so few!) This is the first time I've decided I wanted to date someone, noticed that a particular person could be a good fit, and asked them out. It feels very intellectual, but the emotions are coming in quickly, as I figured they would. Plus, he loves road trips and photography...and has a car! So there may be more photos from farther afield in the future. Which reminds me, I've got some zoo photos I can make a post on.
This is also the first time in thirteen years that I've dated someone who lives within walking distance. I'm used to relationships requiring train rides. This means that certain boundaries and limitations which I'm used to aren't there, and it feels vaguely...I dunno...agoraphobic.

Still no writing, which I've come to accept. I am however, going crazy with the camera, and also crafty things. I've made a couple beaded necklaces, and am itching to teach myself crocheting.

I finally got off my butt and started having fun with my hair. (I'm not working at a job where I have to have normal-colored hair!) I rebleached my blonde streak, and started playing with colors. Right now, there's a red streak, which looks good with the gold, but I want to find some good silver toner so I can turn my streak into a candy cane.
There's a mediocre pic behind the cut. The red is really much more red. Plus, you get a bonus shot of one of the necklaces I made.
Keffy says I look like a My Little Pony.
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Thoughts on therapy

After a couple experiences at Orycon, I have a new question to ponder: How does one run a therapy session with a self-aware person, versus someone who just needs to talk? (With the caveat that these aren't mutually exclusive categories, of course.)

I met a man who talked about his heart-wrenching experiences with a mentally ill family member. All I did was sit with him, listen, and say things like, "that is a terrible thing to have to deal with" (and it's a good thing I didn't need to do more, since it was towards the end of a party, and I was smashed.) Another friend had a similar experience with this guy, and as she said, "Clearly, he needed to talk about it." Did I help him? I don't know, but I don't think I hurt him.

I also talked with a friend who has had difficulty finding a good therapist, since he's very self-aware and doesn't need insights he's already gained parroted back at him. I can sympathize, since I've often had that experience myself.

But I have had good (informal) therapy sessions that I think managed to combine these. So I'm thinking about what made those sessions effective. In all of them, the therapist's presence is really the big thing. The people who have helped me have this very solid sense of wisdom about them, and it's pleasant just to sit with them, because it really does feel like they can hold and comprehend all this pain that I've been burdening myself with.

One of those times, I think my friend was telling me things I already knew, (You make everyone's problems your own) but the fact it was _him_ telling me was relieving. Someone I trusted and respected and carried a lot of authority both in his demeanor and experience. (I think he might have actually said, "_WE_ make everyone's problems our own.") There is validation of a path I've been walking, until then, alone.

Maybe it's a matter of being able to stop my brain dead in its tracks and force me to sit with my own pain, rather than thinking about it in an abstract manner. I mean, I do think that peering at my issues from every angle possible is useful, but in the end, I just need to stop and metaphorically hold in my hands the leaden, velvet-lined casket that is a statement like, "I make everyone's problems my own."


Giraffes in the Mist

Yesterday morning, I went to the zoo. I was lucky enough to spot the new baby giraffe, Misawa, just as I got there. Right when the fog was thickest.

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A journey to Bob Ross Land.

So last weekend, my parents and I went to Montana to visit my Uncle in the Bitterroot Valley. I took the opportunity to get in some alone time and drive down the valley to Lake Como, which I haven't been to since I was a kid.
Now, I've usually been to the valley in the summer or during the winter holidays. I didn't realize exactly how gorgeous fall is there.

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Life update

Class went pretty well yesterday. This particular class is basically How To Be A Therapist, in the sense of relationships and self awareness and such. We're reading the play Agnes of God in class (or, Agnes of G-d, as our Jewish professor writes it.) I already read it a few weeks back, and I'm glad I did. I was taking care of Mom at the time, and some of the things in the play resonated extremely closely with my experiences in those very days with Mom. It was kind of traumatic, and reading it again is class is still traumatic, if less surprising. (The story, if you don't know, is about a court psychologist assigned to evaluate the sanity of a nun accused of murdering her just-born child.)

At the end of each scene, the teacher asks us to talk about what we are thinking. So naturally, I babbled about my mom, and realized my voice was possibly trembling a bit. I sort of feel like I'm letting my neuroses spill out messily. But I also know I shouldn't worry too much about what my classmates think of me. Eventually, I'll get to hear about all their neuroses, too.

I really didn't get any time to process my experience with her, not that I really know what "processing" would consist of. I'd probably go on with my life until something triggered me into a messy bout of introspection--just like what's happening now!

Bleh. But at least I have most of the zillion errands I had to do under control. I should be able to finish up the important stuff today or tomorrow. Also, the nice thing about going to a Catholic school is that there are a bunch of chapels scattered around campus, so I have quiet places to retreat to. The main chapel, in particular, is almost completely free of religious iconography, and is the kind of space I grew up with--lots of light and simple, golden wood.

But hey, I get four day weekends! which, at the moment, aren't filled with homework and crap!

Sep. 24th, 2013

Sunday night, my appendix decided to do its annoying thing, and get all ouchy. It wasn't as bad as it's been in the past (no throwing up this time) for which I guess I'm grateful. Given that it seems to be connected to stress, it seems like the razor thin time between taking care of Mom and starting Grad School seems like an appropriate time.

Well, my appendix (mostly) no longer feels like someone punched me in the gut. I got a lot done yesterday; lots of running and bussing around. A morning of errands was followed up by the Graduate Student Orientation. I got there pretty early, and sitting in the auditorium, reading the brochure on Jesuit values, I realized I really wanted to cry. Crying was, in fact, exactly what I needed to do, given that I was wound up so freaking tight.

Crying in an auditorium didn't sound appealing, but I'm at a Jesuit college, and so there was a beautiful chapel just outside the doors. I didn't cry, but I did get in some quality meditation, and burned off some excess emotion.

I won chocolate and an umbrella at the general orientation. Woo! Then came the MAP orientation. (MAP=Master of Arts Psychology) There are 26 people in my cohort, which is unusually large. They all seem pretty awesome. (duh!) There was dinner and talking, and afterwards a bunch of us went out for drinks. Even though I was tired, I went for a drink, and I'm glad I did. I need to build up my social safe zone.

Still too tightly wound to even relax properly. Hopefully that will change by next week. There's still a lot to do.

Sep. 13th, 2013

I've been catching up on Breaking Bad, and this has me thinking about Prestige Television. (A term I find slightly amusing because it seems to mean, "tv that is actually good, possibly because they are on cable and have a budget big enough to hire quality talent.") Looking over Netflix's recommendations for me, I wonder if it thinks I'm a middle-aged white man. Among my favorite tv shows are Breaking Bad, Justified, and Deadwood. All those shows have good female characters (Justified could make a spinoff called "Margo Martindale Deserved Her Own Show" and I'd be happy. Her character could be an anti-hero I'd love to explore.) but they are definitely primarily focused on the men, and have incredibly insightful explorations of masculinity.

It's arguable whether or not someone like Walter White of Breaking Bad could be replaced with a woman. While any gender could be driven to desperation by illness and love of family, Walt's arrogance, which drives him into the darkest depths, is likely connected with his sense of masculinity. It would be a very different, but still compelling story.

So I thought, what Prestige TV actually centers on at least one female character, but isn't Sex In The City? I'm not really pop culture literate, and my tv viewing is limited to what Netflix and Hulu and the library give me. (I'd be all over Game of Thrones if I got HBO. I think that definitely fits into my category of having women carry an equal share of the story.) Dexter probably qualifies, but it is still called Dexter, not "Deb" or "My Brother's a Serial Killer!" But if you were take Deb out of that show, it would be far weaker for it.
Mad Men probably also qualifies, but it seems like while the women are still vital to the story, Don Draper and his understanding of his masculinity is still the focus. Besides, I watched a few episodes, and though it's clearly brilliant, I couldn't handle the suburban angst. I should probably give it another try one of these days.

In the previews to The Butler, I saw Masters of Sex, which looks promising, (though it's on Showtime. Another one to wait until it hits the library!)
What other shows can I explore?

Photos - Raab Park in late summer

After having a chocolate milkshake for breakfast (hey, Mom wanted to go to Jack In the Box) I decided I needed to do some walking. So I lugged the camera up to Raab Park at the top of the hill. There's a nature trail that winds it way through the woods up to the park, and I've been roaming it since I was a little kid. Nothing's changed much about it, but in the park itself, they put in a public garden. That made for a lovely photo expedition.

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Mom and R.D. Laing

I spent the evening practicing Spanish on Duolingo, and discussing it with my Mom. She's a whiz when it comes to grammar, and despite her frequently saying it's been 40 years, she remembers an awful lot. I appear to have hit upon a subject that bypasses most of the irrational pathways in Mom's head. (and I'm crap at grammar, so I learn stuff from her) I can't do this forever, but I think for three weeks, I'll survive.

We also talked about her desires and the things that bother her about her life, and they really do make sense if you listen right. She's got a lot of standard issues (I'm not a woman if I don't do housework!" "I'm becoming an imbecile!") Just take those standard desires and neuroses that everyone has, and imagine voices telling you that you can't do things to address them. For instance, Mom wants to comb her hair, but the voices tell her that if she does, then she'll get fat. Imagine that, plus being forced into a loop where you have trouble connecting past and present, cause and effect. She said she does sometimes go against the voices and comb her hair. I said, "did you get fat?" She said, "well no but..." The outcome means nothing. She is trapped in the cage of "if you comb your hair you'll get fat."

R.D. Laing is one of the main figures of the "anti-psychiatry" movement, which basically tried to strip mental illness of its stigma, and get us to treat the mentally ill like anyone else. He did a lot of work with the families of schizophrenics (frequently people who desperately wanted their family members to be "fixed") and he found that in talking to the schizophrenic, they made perfect sense if you just listened. I can see what he's talking about, and maybe, in treating my mom more like an equal with reasonable concerns, she'll feel better about herself and her life, and the negative aspects of her schizophrenia will lessen.

This is hard to keep up, though. There's a horrible sense of tragedy talking with her about these things like combing her hair. She is trapped in a state that she can't escape, and I can't help her either. But one of the things I know about being a therapist is that the most important thing they do is simply to listen to people, and be that one person they can trust to take them seriously and withhold all judgement. In refusing to tell someone they need to be "fixed", you defuse that voice in the person's head that keeps telling them that they're broken. If a person can accept that maybe, in fact, they are not irredeemable, and all those weird things about them aren't just there to be hated and avoided, then they can take the first steps towards being a whole, happy person.


Elizabeth Coleman

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November 2013



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