Transition Into Your Own Personal Homeslice!


I haven’t written in a very long time, probably almost over a month. I’m not really sure why I haven’t written, especially since I’ve been overwhelmed with material to write about, both professional and personal. I guess I just really haven’t felt it lately; that nagging yearn to throw out there some of my feelings and weave them together in a way that maybe someone will be able to relate. Until tonight. I guess in the last few hours it just kind of all came together for me.

In June my office landlord filed bankruptcy, forcing me to begin searching for a new office space, knowing I was going to have to leave behind the office I began my practice in and start a fresh life somewhere else. The two leasers on either side bailed ship with the first notice of the attorney, but not me. No, I waited until the bitter end, literally begging my landlord to give me a few more days to pull it together and move out.

In July I attended my 20 year high school class reunion. This should have been an incredible experience, which it was, but I was focused on looking back on my dreams and realizing what I hadn’t accomplished, as any good alcoholic or addict does, instead of realizing what I had accomplished. I found myself comparing myself to others; by title, appearance and accomplishment. And in the end, although I had an amazing time interacting with old friends, and making new friends with people I barely spoke to in high school, I walked away from the night realizing I wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be in my life.

And then the crying began. Out of nowhere, on some random Tuesday afternoon, I was driving down the street listening to an old Stevie Nicks song and the tears welled up in my eyes and flooded my face. Literally. And for the next few weeks out of nowhere I would begin crying and couldn’t stop. Everything seemed to make me sad. I’ve worked enough with true depression to know that this wasn’t it…I was just sad. But I couldn’t figure out why? Alex attempted to be as understanding as possible, trying to be patient and listening to me ramble on and on, but somehow I couldn’t explain it to anyone. I just felt as if one day my mind went blank, the purpose left my blood and I was a walking zombie of emotion. And this just wouldn’t work.

September crept up and finally it was the day of the move. I saw my last client that day, closed the front door and walked back into my office. I sat in my chair and looked around the room. I remembered the night I had moved into the office with my mother and ex painting walls and arranging furniture; my mother mostly scrubbing the bathroom floor with a toothbrush. “This is filthy! No sane client would want to go to the bathroom in here!” She went out and got us Wendy’s late at night and we ate outside listening to the patrons of the bar across the street stumble to their cars as the whine and whir of the band down the street whistled a summer tune. I sat in that chair and saw all of these actions around me and realized not only was I leaving this office, but I was leaving those memories as well. It was time to move on.

So I wiped away the tears and said goodbye to my office, watching the late afternoon sun fall across the wood floor one last time as I slowly turned the key and locked the door.

I would love to tell you it got better after that, but it didn’t. The next few days were pure hell for me and everyone around me; especially Alex who tried hard to instill upon me that we would have new memories and create a new segment of our lives together, but somehow it didn’t seem real. Even after I turned over the keys to my old landlord as he said, “We had a good run, didn’t we?”, tears welling up in my eyes as I ran off to my car. It didn’t even seem real as I saw my first client in my new office.

But today, after much sleep, feeling rested and alive, I found myself scurrying around my new office, looking for an address I had written in my old office and stuffed in a box. I stood in one of my three rooms, instead of the only one I had before, I looked around, imagining how Alex and I would put our separate business office in this room. I imagined us coming up there late at night after meeting friends in the area, or arguing over interviews, or brainstorming some new ideas as the sounds from the street rose up into our office. I even imagined putting a television in our office to have constant movies playing to get inspiration from while we worked. Suddenly, I found myself sitting on the floor in that office looking around and seeing all the times to come instead of the past memories and just like that…the old ones were gone. They had filed themselves away into a neat little box and stored on a shelf somewhere in my brain to be brought out and dusted off if I ever wanted to look at them This was the new place.

This was the new me.

The reality is that during my 38 years I’ve reinvented myself several times. In fact, a 20 year old client and I were talking about that very thing today and got excited about the fact that we can reinvent ourselves at any time. Change our hair, lose some weight, listen to different music, change our clothing, change our perspective, be kinder or more generous, sleep later or get up earlier, eat vegan or go all out on meatloaf and tenderloin sandwiches…whatever!!! It’s up to us. We’ve only got one life and it’s ours to live.

I believe now that during the last few weeks I was going through a transition period in my life. These occur any time we are going through a major change in our lives and our old self is resistant to the change. But change is good. Change forces us to look at things in a new way no matter how uncomfortable it feels to us. Imagine if life were the same every day. It would be a little be like watching a reality show and on day 1009 they’re eating grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for the 1009th time while playing a tied game of tic tac toe. That show would have been canceled a LONG time ago!!!

We will go through several transitions throughout our entire life depending on what our goals and needs are at any given time. We should try to be more open minded to these changes and allow them to come and flood through us instead of feeling as if they are attacking us. We can control these changes and dictate how or what direction we want them to come. I believe now that part of why this transition happened for me was due in part to the fact that several of my dreams which I had envisioned(being successful in my private practice, having a healthy and passionate relationship, working at completing a book, having a successful social business and living a fulfilled life)had been completed or were pretty damn close! Therefore, it was, as Oprah suggests, time to dream a bigger dream. And to do that we must stretch our skin and allow ourselves to grow!

On my worst day possible in the last few weeks I arrived home and found that I had received a message from one of my dearest clients. “You are my homeslice!!! Thank you for making me feel better. I hope at the end of the day you know how important you are to people’s lives, especially mine!!! By the way, Congratulations on your new office–I drove by after our appt today..”

And tonight, Alex brought me home a new bamboo plant for good luck, waiting on our kitchen island to be transplanted to my new office. A note begins, “You don’t need the luck BUT…” Who could ask for more than that?

So you see…life does get better. The tears dry up, the sun returns and perspectives change. And sometimes, even in the midst of your own personal crisis, you realize that it’s all part of something bigger. I mean, who could ask for anything more than to be someone’s homeslice?!!! That’s just…incredible and awe-inspiring!!! Aim that big…because we’re on borrowed time as it is.

The Love Bus…Finding and Saving Love

When I was a little kid I used to sleep over at my Grandma’s house on Saturday nights. Date nights or lady’s nights for my mom, I guess. My grandma would make me an apple pie and serve me little bottles of Coke. I remember how she always smelled like Charlie perfume, Juicy Fruit and Salem Lights. I loved her apartment because it was small and I could hear the sounds of her neighbors thundering over us as we watched television, usually Lawrence Welk or Hee-Haw. Sometimes we’d sit at her small dinner table and she’d teach me how to play Honeymoon Bridge and I’d sit, mesmerized as she flipped the cards back and forth across her fingers like a Vegas blackjack dealer. My grandma had perfect hands decorated with perfectly painted nails. At the end of the night, she’d put on her light blue nightie and hairnet and take her “cough syrup”. We’d crawl into her twin beds in complete darkness until she flipped on her nightstand table and I’d fall asleep while she quietly read her Harlequin novels.

My grandma had a bookshelf filled with these romance novels. Every cover tantalized me and made me secretly wonder what those couples felt as they looked dreamily into each others’ eyes. Sometimes I’d ask my grandma why she loved these books so much and she’d simply say that I was too young that I wouldn’t understand.

I’ve thought a lot about those books over the years. I’ll even admit I’ve read a few of them. They’re not bad and some of the authors have written hundreds a books; a feat notable for even the smallest of writers. And maybe people read them and write them because they’re looking for a little bit of romance in their lives. But romance is hard to come by and I think sometimes it’s something that we have to work at to have be present in our relationships and even our daily lives.

Recently though, I’ve been surrounded by friends who seem to be having serious relationship issues. Since I’m a therapist, they often tell me about their situations and even ask for advice. Sometimes it’s easier to give advice to strangers or clients who I know through my professional life. And when I look at my friend’s relationships, I’m not really sure what happened. Was it a lack of romance or passion? A lapse in communication or an unwillingness to work through problems which sometimes just requires negotiation and a reminder of what brought you together in the first place. Or maybe, a combination of all of the above.

Why is so hard for us to remember those first few minutes we met the person we fell in love with and what brought us together in the beginning. I’d love to say I have the perfect relationship and we never fight or argue, but that’s just not the case. In fact, we argue quite a bit, but we try to sit down and have adult conversations and reach some kind of negotiation so both our needs are met. The reality is, we are very different people with very different expectations and we don’t always agree. Our goals are not always the same and our interests are as different as the person sitting next to you on the bus. But that doesn’t mean that love can’t be found on the bus, as we both struggle in the heat of the small compartment waiting for our stop. Sometimes, love is found and exists in the most difficult situations because it is our common bonds with each other that gets us through everything. Love endures all.

Why is that so hard to remember?

When I work with couples in relationship therapy, the first thing I typically tell them is that reunification and resolving problems in a relationship is much easier than separation and divorce. Having been through a “divorce” of a nine year relationship, let me be the first to say that separating and dissolving a relationship is miserable, sad and in essence, the end of the magic. In my last relationship, I truly believe if we had sought therapy years before, when the problems arose, we might have been able to save the relationship. But the problems continued and persisted, tension grew and the magic died. And sadly, it couldn’t be saved.

Happily, we’re both in relationship which, I believe, are making us both happy today. But that doesn’t happen for a lot of people. Some people stay in miserable relationships for years without trying to make it better. Or dissolve a relationship never to find love again. And that’s probably, to some degree, why my grandma read those books, night after night. Maybe, she was seeking just a little bit of romance she couldn’t find anywhere else in her life.

As much as I love to read, obsessively at times, there is no book that compares to the comfort of a wink, a hug or a kiss. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll buy one of those old romance novels and remember my grandma Ethel a little bit while reading it. But tonight, I’ll close my eyes and smile, listening to my boyfriend breathe softly as he falls asleep, because that is love. And we should love and hold onto love while we can…because we’re on borrowed time as it is!

Stillness…

Years ago I heard about a study where a scientist went looking for an amount of space where absolute silence existed. He went all over the world searching for one square foot of silence but couldn’t find it, not even in the recesses of the western Pacific forests. The reason? Nothing could stop and be silent for any period of time…either a leaf fell from a tree, or an insect moved or someone’s breath made a sound…but nothing could rest long enough for the scientist to measure silence.

Sad really that we aren’t able to find measurable amounts of silence or be able to practice stillness in our own lives.

When I was fifteen I was fortunate enough to go with my father and stepmother to the island of St. Barts. One day we took a boat trip on a catamaran and I remember sitting at the end of the boat, my feet dangling in the azure waters, earphones beating the sounds of Paul Simon’s Graceland into my thoughts. For hours, I played the cassette tape over and over again, listening to every word and every beat as my feet grazed the tops of the waves and my eyes glanced upwards towards the Caribbean mountains of the islands. To this day, that is probably one of my fondest memories, and one of only a few moments of true stillness in my life.

I struggle today with staying still for too long. Either I’m writing or counseling, talking on the phone, planning with friends or Alex, driving here or there…but always moving.

Today was different. I allowed myself to sleep in and then I took the puppies outside to run around with their older brother. I sat on a chair and watched as they played, enjoying the simple act of play which only puppies, who know no better, can teach us. I watched the birds fly overhead, probably wondering what was going on below as they chased each other for no reason. I smelled the dirt and the fresh grass. I listened to the wind.

And then I went inside and as they took a nap, I layed on the bed, fan blowing the sheets around my ankles, and I read some ridiculous suspense novel for probably an hour. Afterwards I placed the book on my nightstand and just listened to the sounds coming through the window. And I remembered that day on the boat and wondered where so many days in between had gone. And the day drifted on and on and on.

When Alex came home from work, we sat on the back patio, planning our garden for the summer, as the dogs again played, never tiring of this game of chase and catch. We talked to our 90 year old neighbor about her rose bushes and we hung up the wind chimes. I sat on the front porch, talking to my best friend Tonya on the phone, watching the worms crawl around in the soil in our mulch and I waved to my other neighbors as they walked down the street. And the day drifted on…

And I remembered stillness; the very act which is so vital like air to our lungs. We forget to take a few moments every day to remember why we’re here and to truly enjoy the simple things, the small things. My mother loved the small things. The sound of rain on the rooftop or the glaze of the first snow on the trees. The smell of homemade, chocolate chip cookies in the oven and the touch of grass on the bottom of your feet at night in the summer. And most importantly, she loved the feel of the crisp sheets against her legs as she fell asleep…and I’m reminded of that every night.

And she doesn’t have the luxury to be hurried anymore or to take these things for granted…because she’s gone, as are many others. But we’re not, which is why we should stop, drop and roll through the spring grass and enjoy the small things…staying still a few moments every day…

Because we’re on borrowed time as it is!

Young Love…Jump Start Your Relationship!

Do you remember having crushes in high school? That feeling in your stomach when that person would walk by and you’d just stare out of the top of your eyes and wish, just wish, they would look over at you and say hi. Or get to your locker only to find an anonymous romantic note from someone and wonder who it’s from, hoping upon all else, that’s it’s from that guy you were staring at earlier in the day or that girl that was watching you skate with your friends around the parking lot. Well, what I’ve learned in my fifteen years of working with adolescents and generously being allowed into their lives, is that love at 15, really isn’t a whole lot different than love at 28 or 37. The feelings are the same and the my stomach still drops when they enter a room and look right at me.

Alex and I have been together for some time now and what I know is that it takes work. Love comes naturally, but it takes some work to keep that excitement and passion alive. I remember being single before I met Alex and my friends would ask me what I was looking for and I would reply, “someone who will walk around a book store with me on a Sunday afternoon and then go home and read in bed” or “someone who will stare at me across a room like I’m the only one they see” and finally, “someone who looks across the table at me during dinner and tells me they want to skip the rest of the meal and hurry home.” And all of that came true.

As most of our friends will tell you, we’ve had a rocky past. It wasn’t easy getting where we are today. And unlike Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher who swear they don’t fight…we fight all the time. Well, maybe not all the time, but enough that is continues to cause struggle in our daily life like walking across a bridge whose ropes might collapse at any time. But we’re still here dammit!

And honestly, I think Valentine’s Day is a perfect time to remember how important you are to one another. Every day I hear people say, “But you should practice that every day.” and “We don’t need one day a year to make me feel inadequate when I treat them well every other day.” My reply is simply a smile, but what I’m really thinking is that Alex better remember it’s Valentines day and buy me some damn flowers! And he will, because we’ve started to communicate our differences. We’ve started to explain to each other what’s important to the other one.

When I first got sober over 15 years ago, I dedicated my first year only to staying away from alcohol and drugs. It was so hand to mouth for me that I couldn’t understanding the thought process behind addiction and I couldn’t enjoy the benefits, past not being in jail or financial ruins, of not using. 15 years later, it is not a drinking disease to me but a thinking disease. Every day I enjoy what sobriety gives me including being able to stay calm in difficult situations like my mother’s illness and death, or to be patient when something doesn’t go my way or to try and understand where other people are coming from. Love relationships are the same. The first few months or year should be dedicated to the hand to mouth. The phone calls, dates, stayovers and random texts. After that, the true understanding of your bond begins, and although difficult, as were the later years of my recovery, the benefits are much greater because now you have a true understanding of one another.

No relationship is perfect. Everyone argues and everyone has differences. Imagine a Japanese man and a Swedish women in a relationship speaking their own languages. At first, they won’t understand each other, although they will assume they do through facial movements or eye gestures. After a few months they might start picking up a few words and finally being able to understand one another and truly speak to one another. That’s what we do every day in our romantic relationships. And a lot of us don’t try and pick up those small words…we just stay focused on the non-verbal cues, ruining what could be truly communicated. And some of us, like myself, probably say too much. Sometimes, less is more.

Honestly, and I don’t care what anyone says, we all want to be in love. It makes us feel good. Love DOES NOT suck! It’s awesome. We just need to jump start our hearts every once in awhile even if that means taking a risk. Allow yourself to be laughed at. Wear some sexy underwear or costume and heat up that bedroom, even if it inspires laughter. What greater way to get to know each other again than to be each other’s favorite comedians. Buy flowers…or pick them, hell, even a dandelion on a summer day makes me a little happy. Mustard plant and grass in a small glass jar can even look pretty. Make cards, or children’s books for each other. Cook for one another or buy them a slushy. It doesn’t take much to think outside the box. And not to toot my own horn, but I’m really good at this stuff so if you need any suggestions…please contact me.

What I’m really saying is, love yourself and your partner enough to do whatever it takes to get that car rolling down Lover’s Lane again. I’ve even started 2-3 session Cupid Couching Retreats for couples to help them spice up their life and allow love back into their daily lives and find that love they felt when they were 15. (If you’re interested please contact me). It’s in all of us. Young love. I want that…don’t you? I want a note on my windshield and a stare across a room. Now, I just know I want it from Alex.

So no matter how much you hate Valentines Day or think it’s corny or Hallmark’s way of making money, which it is but who cares, dedicate this Valentine’s Day to either improving your relationship or improving yourself…because we’re on borrowed time as it is!