One thing that I enjoy doing (at least most of the time) is working with couples. It’s a different dynamic than individual counseling and there are a lot of moving pieces. I was reflecting on how long I have been doing therapy and I realized that it’s been almost 8 years since I’ve started. Over the years I have started to notice patterns and the process has become more intuitive as opposed to theory. I like encouraging couples to build a new relationship and helping them to negotiate new rules and guidelines. They have the opportunity to ask questions and to be intentional about building something that provides each partner with a sense of security. It’s rarely straightforward but there’s nothing like witnessing an “aha” moment when things start to come together. It’s stressful to hold all the emotions in one place but I have learned that it is important to compartmentalize and to take breaks when needed. Many times couples get together without truly knowing what role they want the relationship to play in their individual lives. It’s up to each couples to establish a new normal and to find something that works for each partner.
I just got back from a ten day trip to Portugal and wanted to share a few pictures. It’s a great country with a lot of history as well as some really nice beaches. If you ever go, you have to do a port wine tasting in Porto.
I’ve come to appreciate those lightbulb moments that make you pause and contemplate your life. Recently, after two weekends of work I decided that I needed to get away for a bit and go on a road trip. It wasn’t really planned but I knew that I wanted a change of scenery and that I didn’t want to drive too far away. I drove to the next state over and found myself at my alma mater. I guess I should give the background story. My college experience was the first time that I had ever lived away from home. Outside of staying with my grandmother for a few nights, I had not been allowed to spend the night anywhere else. I packed way too much stuff and had to send most of it home. I was incredibly studious and was hyper-focused on making sure that the balance of my school bill was paid. I took a lot of classes and worked several jobs so that I would finish my degree as soon as possible. I lived in the library and sang in the choir. I knew a lot of people but was never invited to a party or asked out on a date. It was so nostalgic to walk back on campus eight years later with three additional degrees and years of professional practice. I had the opportunity to speak to students in the same classroom that I was taught in and it felt incredibly weird but full circle to be introduced by the title of “Doctor.” I was reminded of the fact that I’ve learned so much over the years and as a result my worldview has shifted a bit. There’s nothing like being reminded of where you came from and I think that acknowledging the past can be a way to give ourselves permission to create a future that we want.
I started to read some of my older blog posts around Valentine’s Day and honestly really nothing has changed. This year it came and went and I didn’t mind at all. There wasn’t any sense of loss or mind numbing loneliness that once permeated the day. It was lovely. While I can’t say that I don’t care anymore I can say that it matters much less to me than it used to. I’ve had the opportunity to accomplish many of the goals that I set for myself. I’ve traveled internationally twice already this year and I still have a few more places that I plan to visit. One thing I’ve learned is the importance of creating a life that you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be fancy but it should meet your standards. So many times we define our lives by the presence or the absence of a person and that isn’t always the best thing to do. At the end of the day you have to live with yourself and the choices that you made. You owe it to yourself to make good ones.
This morning I was reminded of the fact that today marks a year since I defended my dissertation. It was one of the most nerve wracking experiences of my life and it was one that I didn’t really prepare for. You heard that right. I started practicing what I would say about two hours before it happened. I did horrible on the practice tries and my voice was shaking because I was so nervous. Afterwards, I just sat with a glass of my favorite wine and waited until I saw the email that confirmed I had passed. It was an incredible feeling. I wrote around a year ago that what I wanted to have a more permanent home base and that I wanted to seriously consider settling down. I moved several times and finally settled down and started working in my field. I started three new jobs and had an entire life overhaul. I’m a bit closer to believing that finishing the degree was worth it in the long run. I would still be paying back the loans regardless of whether I finished or not. I’ve traveled to several countries and decided to work a more flexible schedule. It’s been a roller coaster with a lot of changes. I’m still writing a lot but most of it is in response to my students and the traveling bug continues to bite me. I’m curious to know what the next year will bring.
On a recent 11 hour flight I had the opportunity to catch up on some movies that I did not make an effort to see while they were in theaters and I ran across Nobody’s Fool. The premise of the movie is pretty simple. There’s a successful woman who has a sister released from prison and the sister comes to stay with her. This woman is in a yearlong relationship with a guy she has never met in person. The movie revolves around finding out the truth about the mystery guy and a budding romance between her and a local coffee shop owner. However, the more subtle messages that seem to accompany most of Tyler Perry’s movies were definitely front and center with this one. Most of his movies involves a successful woman who is missing out because she won’t give a guy with a colored background a chance. Or, the heroine is with a good guy already but she wants excitement so she gives it up for someone more attractive and loses everything in the end. In this particular movie, the main character was struggling with being attracted to someone with a felony and history of substance abuse. But he had changed his life and was now a productive member of society. It’s not a secret that everyone is not born with the same opportunities. Mistakes that are made between the ages of 15 and 25 can drastically change the trajectory of someone’s life. While I understand the importance of not judging someone based on their past, it’s also important to take their past into consideration. The movie ended on a happy note with the successful woman professing her love for the changed man in the rain. She had found someone who loved her but she just needed to look past his past. It was a (seemingly) lovely message but the real world tends to be just a bit more complicated. Changed people aren’t always changed and sometimes old habits can die hard.
This week has been one of the most emotionally challenging ones that I’ve had in a while. I had to to say goodbye to my dog that I have had since I was 16 or so. He was quirky, stubborn, spoiled, and a bit slow at times but he was mine. I remember when my family first got him. He jumped into our car after we opened our garage one day and just stuck around. He lived in four different states and took road trips from Georgia to Michigan and Colorado. The great thing about him was that he was very good-natured and loved children. I never had any worries about him becoming aggressive as he was always incredibly gentle. He had the most expressive brown eyes that expressed his displeasure when he didn’t get the food he wanted or he wasn’t taken outside soon enough. He also loved carbohydrates in all forms including pasta, pie dough, and ramen and preferred a boiled egg to any type of dog food. He slept beside me every night for years and would often hog my pillow as he sprawled out across the bed. He was alive for every major heartbreak of my adult life as well as some teenage ones. Unlike most dogs of his breed he enjoyed chilling out and wanted to be held and cuddled most of the time. He would often fall asleep on my lap or chest as I was doing my homework. He hated loud noises which included gunshots and fireworks. Whenever it stormed I would stay up with him all night because he was so scared and would shake uncontrollably. He was lost on several occasions, he was trapped in a hole for a day, he suffered a brain injury from an attack from another dog, and he almost hung himself from our deck after jumping off and getting caught by his leash. He also ran towards cars instead of away from them. This dog was a freaking walking miracle. And yet he remained unbothered and continued to demonstrate poor safety awareness up until the very end. He was the perfect sized dog to pick up and pull out of any immediate danger rather quickly. Despite all his flaws I knew that he loved and trusted me until the very end when he put his little head on my chest and sighed before he went to sleep forever. It was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. He lived a long, adventurous and full 17 years and I’ll miss him forever. Life will never be the same without him and his quirks.
R.I.P. Sam 2002-2019