I first saw it on FB (that won't surprise anyone. 1. that it was on FB and 2. that is where I get my news alerts).
A friend had posted that her husband, who works at the Navy Yard, was safe. Confused, I turned on the television only to learn that yet another person had taken innocent lives with a gun.
My first reaction was out and out anger. I was pissed!
After watching too much news coverage on the local news, I returned to the 'source' and saw a friend's FB post about "death to the Yankees" (clearly a die hard Red Sox fan). I gently asked if he would consider squashing or obliterating the Yankees in light of the recent news. He had, of course, not heard about the tragedy at the Navy Yard and quickly deleted the unintentional faux pax (Yankees or no Yankees).
This most recent tragedy is really eating at me. I am an emotional person and always experience the sadness and loss of these senseless acts; but the amount of anger that is upon me was unexpected.
Tonight a client told me about his five year old misbehaving. Apparently this adorable kindergartener had "decorated" his bathroom with his sister's make-up. He did this not once or twice, but as of last night, FIVE times. His dad and I discussed his consequences and how they escalated in severity with each new lavatory masterpiece. We questioned what might be driving his behavior: negative attention, resentment at sister or just a budding artist?
Five times? He took his sister's make-up five times? What can his parents do to help him learn from his mistakes? How can he convey whatever the message is that he is trying to communicate? There is clearly something amiss in the dynamics of this family system.
I return to the latest violence. Five times? I wish it had only been five times that some mentally ill person had taken a gun and redecorated the lives of an innocent family. What is the dynamic of this system? How many consequences need to occur before some parents somewhere get their act together and stop this misbehaving?
I can still be stunned when one of my kids looks at me as the "grown-up", the one to make a decision, the one to make it right. Is it me, my peers, we adults that have to curb the insanity of this misbehaving?
I feel powerless.
I can vote, I can lobby and I can work diligently on the issues of mental health, but I can't stop this insanity. An elementary school, a high school, a college, a movie theater, a marathon. These are our places, these are our lives, these are our friends and families that are getting killed - when will the grown ups make it stop?
Many of us in Northern Virginia heard our alarm clocks for the first time in over a week this morning. After a slower paced spring break we are back to the school buses, packing lunches, homework and shuttling around from one practice to another.
It was so nice to let go of the schedule for a bit. We slowed down, slept in, travelled and played. The kids seemed lighter, slower and relaxed. Many parents that I know took the week off from work, or at least a couple of days. Throw in Passover and Easter to the mix and it's been one big party (well, mostly, unless you observe the Passover dietary rules which is an entirely different blog post).
Last night as we sat around the dining room table for the first time in over a week and ate a home cooked meal, we were laughing and being silly with an edge of "it's time to get back to normal". We had spent MANY hours together, in the car and at meals and in a hotel room, there had been little alone time and we just might have been starting to rub each other the wrong way. My big announcement was "in the morning, everyone is going to leave". One kid rolled his eyes dreading the school bell while another one was somewhat relieved to get back to school and his friends and the routine.
There is something to be said for routine. We depend on some sense of normalcy and patterns. Despite the monotony of it, our kids do thrive with a schedule. I work with a family whose father defied all routine. He wouldn't adhere to meal times, bed times or a homework schedule. The kids were suffering; they fell asleep in class and were struggling academically. With the help of many professionals, this dad began to implement some routine into his daughters' lives and they are doing much better. With a good night's sleep and a consistent schedule the girls (and all of us) perform better in our daily lives.
Flexibility is key; a night out once in a while or breakfast for dinner in front of the television on occasion, but overall, spring break or not, routine is a good thing. Our bodies crave it as do our minds and souls.
As we get back to the grind, keep this in mind while we are rubbing our eyes from lack of sleep and cursing the traffic, there is something to be said for getting back on that hamster wheel.
I belong to this great group called DC Therapist Moms. It is pretty clear who they are: therapists who are moms that live in the DC Metropolitan area. Their main function is to host a listserve where therapists post on a daily basis about anything and everything. Questions about specific clinical topics, looking for referrals for their clients, suggestions on business practices or inquiries about books or conferences including off topic posts like 'in search of a nanny'. It is a wonderful resource and has truly changed my professional life.
They have a mentoring program that I used last year when I began my private practice. I met with a wonderful woman who had been in private practice a little longer than I had and I picked her brain about EVERYTHING. It was so nice to be able to ask every last question that was swimming through my brain. She has since become a friend and is part of my wonderful peer supervision group.
This week it was my turn to be the mentor. I met with a therapist who is starting her private practice. She is a decade plus younger than me and has a toddler and a baby on the way; talk about different life stages.
It was a really nice meeting; we shared our work histories, that we both went to the same graduate program (of course, she was in diapers when I was there) and various other war stories from the social work field. I processed about a difficult client that I had sat with the day before since it was somewhat close to her area of expertise and I shared with her my special interest in the area of adoption. She hadn't worked with adopted clients so it was fun to be able to answer her questions and reflect on my experience with that population.
We also talked about our kids, day care challenges and balancing it all.
I heard some really fascinating things from this young mom that I hadn't expected. She was interested to hear that I hadn't gone into private practice until recently. I explained that I wasn't ready until my kids were older and I could put more energy into building a business. She appreciated how hard it was to balance the daycare, sick kid and early school release days with a busy practice. I told her that when I had a fixed schedule working for an agency it worked better with day care and now that the kids were older and more self-sufficient, it was easier for me to come and go and have a more random schedule.
As she processed my journey, I was able to see it in an objective way. I hadn't really planned my career path or thought it out, it kind of just happened that way (I tend to live that way, uber planner, I am not). And yet, as I recollected my process with my colleague, I realized that it made sense. My professional career has worked very well with our family life.
I have always been very grateful that since my oldest son was born, I have had the opportunity to work part-time. As I sat in playgroups with other moms of babies and toddlers and we ranted on about family-work balance, I truly believed that I had the best of both worlds. My Tuesdays and Thursdays have forever been my work days; that was when I would put on grown-up clothes, interact with other adults, and continue to learn and practice my profession. The other days were filled with diapers, playgroups, laundry and nap time. I wouldn't have traded that lifestyle for anything.
As I set out for our meeting at Starbucks the other morning, I certainly had no idea that these thoughts would have been generated. I am glad that this young mom-therapist was able to send me on a little tour of memory lane. It doesn't help that we are about to have our basement painted and this morning I removed all of the artwork from pre-school from the old chipped painted walls.
Ah, the journey of life, hop aboard, it is a fast moving and crazy ride.
I just left Costco and am proud to say that I spent under $200!! Woo hoo!! I only bought food that we needed, it was mostly healthy and things that we will enjoy and nourish our bodies (frozen pizza and those flat pretzel thingies included). What I saw when perusing the aisles during a mid-morning weekday was what looked like many moms stocking up their carts for their families. Yogurt, milk, juice, fruits and vegetables and the all too common granola bar of one form or another. Why this struck me, I am not sure. I snickered thinking about the moms in America loading up their carts in this huge wear house to feed their families. I went so far as to imagine moms in other countries trekking to the village to grab many of the same items from local markets also to feed and nourish their families.
That is what we do; we nourish our families physically, emotionally and spiritually. I was listening to a really good podcast today during a walk prior to the Costco adventure. The guest on the podcast, Elyse Resch, was talking about intuitive eating for kids. One of the things that most resonated with me was to create a healthy relationship with food for our kids, we need to first address our own relationship with food. I heard her talk about nourishing ourselves both physically and emotionally in order to be present and grounded to nourish our kids.
I have worked with many women who forget that second piece: the self-care. These are the women that are at Costco and Target, they volunteer at school, make the cookies for the teacher back-to-school lunch and many of them also work. When I ask what they do for themselves the common response is "there is no time for me".
My friends, we have to make time for ourselves, or we aren't any good for those that we love. I have used the metaphor of blowing up a balloon; that is how we inflate ourselves so that we aren't saggy and enervated.
By filling ourselves up in the form of yoga, a good book, a movie date or a girl's night out we can become bouncy and buoyant and playful. I always find that I am more available to help my family and clients when I have filled up myself.
I honestly had no idea where this post was headed after seeing the carts at Costco, but on the way home it started writing itself in my head. I must have sensed that one of the moms orbiting around the grapes and bananas seemed overwhelmed. I saw signs of a saggy balloon and wanted to give her a big burst of self-care.
I am a psychotherapist in Herndon, VA. I work primarily with adolescents, women and adoptive families who may be struggling with depression, anxiety or low self-esteem. Join me here for my thoughts about my practice, therapy or whatever is tickling my mind at the moment.