Like millions of other people, I had the New Years Resolution of becoming healthier. For me this included going to the gym instead of just thinking about going there. As much as I like the idea of being healthy, I like doing what I want as well. But this week I decided a change was in order. I actually joined a gym and paid a pretty penny to do so. My goal isn’t to become a bodybuilder or anything–just to fit more comfortably in an economy airline seat. The gym I joined offers fitness classes 6 times a week and I decide to go to 4 classes a week. I wouldn’t have to make up a whole routine–I could just try to keep up without passing out. There’s a personal trainer who leads each class and provides direction. A decent start. So I started out on the first day just hoping that I wouldn’t die. I had been dreading the class the whole day and knew that I just needed to get it over with. It wasn’t impossible but it was difficult. But I made it through the first class, and the next one, and the next. The soreness was excruciating but I pushed through. Now I don’t know if I’ll see any difference or notice any changes, but at least I’ll be consistent.
Recently I had a very long conversation with a friend of mine regarding a similar experience we were having. Don’t get my wrong, I’m glad that I chose my particular career path. Social work/counseling is a good fit for my personality and I genuinely enjoy helping others. However, one sees things in a totally different light when you’ve studied human interactions and behaviors from an academic point of view. When you’ve met with hundreds and talked at length about their personal challenges and relationship woes. The way you perceive the world around you changes when perfect strangers feel comfortable walking up to you and sharing details about the personal life and current problem because (apparently) you have the “trust me I’m a therapist/safe person” face. One thing my friend and I discussed was how hard (somewhat impossible) it is to separate professional knowledge from actual emotion in personal relationships. As a therapist you question everything. One’s hidden motives, past history, emotions, and body language to come to a conclusion on the best course of action to help them. I think that’s one of the reasons it’s so hard to take anything at face value in personal relationships and the tendency can be to overthink. If overthinking was a professional sport, I would be a pro. I love connecting the dots and making sense of complicated and complex information. It’s a great professional skill to have, but using a professional skill for personal use definitely has a downside. I think it comes down to taking it a day at a time and becoming okay with not knowing all the information up front. Which, by the way, can be very frustrating but also necessary to cultivate a healthy balance.
Not too long ago I had the opportunity to brush up on my therapy skills and put them into practice. Like anything, there are certain things you forget when you don’t have to use a certain set of skills consistently. While it’s easy to get back in groove (like riding a bike), the process requires additional preparation and planning. Something that stood out to me was the role of vulnerability in a successful intimate relationship. We have an impact on each other and walls are sometimes necessary because they serve as emotional protection in the face of real or perceived emotional danger. A certain amount of baggage typically comes along with two people entering a relationship. It’s not about finding a “perfect” person but more about choosing someone whose problems and emotional baggage complement yours. Vulnerability requires a certain amount of trust in the other person. The lines of communication have to be open without any topic being off limits. It’s interesting to witness adults in a variety of situations shy away from being assertive and discussing expectations about an uncomfortable topic. When I think about being vulnerable I think about watching dogs play and fight. Typically one dog wins when the other one surrenders by laying on its back and going belly up. It’s literally a position of vulnerability as it exposes vital organs leaving the dog at the mercy of its opponent. But it also signals the end of the fight. I think it’s important to remember that getting to that point of vulnerability takes time with human relationships. But it can be so worth it in the end when both people can communicate on that level without feeling attacked or judged.
I’m sitting sipping coffee before I report for a 12 hour shift that will most likely end up being a 14 hour one and I think, “why not do a blog post?” So here goes. This week I got a chance to experience something I’ve never done before. A salt water soak. So apparently my trip to the ocean last week was not an adequate amount of salt water for me. I’m always up for a good adventure and I saw this great deal listed on Groupon and decided to try it. Apparently there are lots of great health effects derived by soaking in salt and its supposed to promote wellness and a good immune system or something like that. I didnt really care but wanted to try it. First off there was a whole studio devoted entirely to soaking in saltwater. Apparently these soaks range from 90 minutes to overnight soaks. So I go into the studio and sign my life away on a waiver promising that I wont sue if something bad happens. Then to get me relaxed the staff directs me to an inversion table where I lie upside down and listen to ocean waves with low pulsing beats. It was at this point I realized that I might be incapable of relaxing all the way. Lying upside down with headphones in a room with dark lighting probably isn’t the best for someone with slight trust issues. So after an eternity (20 minutes) I the music stops and I go into the float tank. I should preface this by saying that I’m not super claustrophobic but if I was I would have a HUGE issue with the tank. You open up the door and climb in and close the door behind you. From this point on you’re supposed to float in 10 inches of warm water that’s more salty than the Dead Sea where you WILL NOT sink. Now, I havent swam in about 5 years but I figured that it shouldnt be hard to float and it wasn’t. However, the tank is about the size of an oversized coffin and you are enclosed in absolute darkness for about 60 minutes. The only think you can hear is your heart pounding in your ears. Really relaxing right? I don’t like staring into darkness so I just did what came naturally and slept for the whole time just floating in the saltwater coffin. I don’t know if it was relaxing but it was a new experience I just might try again. Self care right?
Back in May of this year I took a weekend trip to Dallas and was introduced to this book by some friends. I’ve always been wary of self help books, but this one was different. Lately I’ve been running into a lot of people who just seem stuck. They work, go home and repeat for years without really doing anything different. They always talk about places they want to travel to but they know they’ll never go. Their lives consist of the mundane without any plans to change their routine. I am deathly afraid of becoming one of those people. This book was honestly one of the top three books I read this year. It focuses specifically on becoming the best you that you can be by making use of your unique talents and gifts. Jakes uses great examples and simple language to encourage the reader to take inventory of his or her passions and then use them to make a difference in the world. The biggest challenge in doing this is that it requires you to get out of your comfort zone and leave the familiar. You’re exchanging security for freedom. But the end result to doing this is fulfillment and the opportunity to actually leave a legacy that you’re proud of.