Saturday, October 16, 2010

I made a friend today!

My children have always been quite the social people - ever since they were very young. They would just chat with people, pretty much wherever they went. Naturally, we taught them safety tips about not talking to strangers, etc.  Our daughters seemed to be especially talkative, and, as they got older, it became common for them to tell me about the "friend" they had made that day. This usually meant they talked to a person waiting in line with them for concert tickets at the Ticketmaster outlet in the local grocery store or had talked to another patient in the waiting room of the dentist's office. The new "friend" du jour (whom they would never see again) either had some common interest (i.e., were rabid InSync groupies or watched the most popular reality show) or had shared an interesting story about their life, which my child would then relay to me. It never ceased to amaze my husband and myself how frequently our children made new "friends"; we got quite a kick out of it.

Today, I made two new friends. Maybe they could be classified as just one "friend" because, well, they are married and they were together when I met them. Either way, I may a new friend or two today. I can't wait to tell my kids.

My "real" friend of 22 years and I met for a "give-me-some-sage-advice and kick-me-in-the-ass-if-you-need-to" get-together. She lives in Iowa, which is also where I grew up. However, where she lives and where my extended family currently live are 7 hours apart, on completely opposite sides of the state. I brought my mother back to Iowa (she lives with my husband and me in Georgia) and dropped her off at my sister's and proceeded on to meet my girlfriend halfway between eastern and western Iowa.

We chose a quaint little town in which to spend our few quiet days together, catching up on our children, our husbands, our friends, and our current struggles. We always laugh a lot and inevitably shed a few tears. What a gift a trusted girlfriend is!

As we always do, we found ourselves shopping on the vast two-block stretch of downtown that exists here (it's a really, really small town).   There were surprisingly some charming boutiques with fun, unique merchandise. Not what you'd expect to find in the middle of Iowa. Maybe Demi Moore comes here when her young hubby (who is from Iowa) brings her "home" - so the show owners want to be prepared!

The first store we visited was called "Sue Casa." We were actually in the car just driving past when the name caught my eye so I  asked my friend if we stop there. Her response was, "I don't really like Mexican food." I chuckled and told her it wasn't a restaurant but was a self-proclaimed (via signage) "one-of-a-kind" boutique. The sign jumped out at me because I refer to one of my sisters as "Sue Casa, " - or simply "Casa" for short. It's a long story... but even when I call her on the phone I say, "Hola, Casa!" when she answers. So I just had to go into this store called "Sue Casa" - and yes, I took several pictures.

My friend and I browsed through the store, which lived up to it's promise of pedaling unique wares. Just before we were preparing to leave, we began picking through the jewelry that was near the checkout counter. The owner or owners were seated at a desk/table just a few feet away, engaged in conversation with one another. The woman came over and was talking about some lip balm and we embarked on our new "friendship." During the next 20 minutes or so, we learned that she was from Texas and that she and I had both attended Texas A&M. She met her husband in Texas but he convinced her to move back to Iowa, where he is from. He had lived in the Iowa town my friend lives in (and where I lived for ten years before moving to Texas) and he and I both went to Iowa State University for undergrad. It was a fun and engaging conversation and we exchanged contact information because their child may attend A&M in the near future and my husband and I still own a house there, which they may rent while their daughter is in school there!

Aint it just a small world!?

The point is ... making "friends" can add an unexpected few minutes of happiness to your day, which is wonderful all by itself.  Many times it can lead to even more. Who knows - maybe we just met a future renter?

If you don't very often make "friends" through the course of your day, maybe you're taking life too seriously. If you're not a complete introvert (in which case I understand not making this kind of "friend") - then consider creating a win-win (happy for both of you) situation for yourself and a new "friend" today! The world is a better place when more of its inhabitants are chipper!

As always - if you need to - Get Help - but definitely - Get Happy!

Your "Recovery Conscience" - Connie Stapleton, Ph.D.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I keep teaching myself the same lessons!

I made the decision recently to make some changes in my workaholic lifestyle. Don't get me wrong... I'm still spending as much time as ever being a human "doing" instead of a human "being" (something I'll work on another year)... however,  I have made changes in what I'm spending my time working on.

I like to think of my new "free time" in the evening hours when I used to be with patients as "hobby work." I'm doing things that I hope contribute in some positive way to the world, but in ways that fulfill the "Connie - you've got to take better care of  yourself" message I get rather frequently from friends, mother and husband.

One of my newfound guilty pleasures is a website I had heard of some months ago but never made time to pursue on a regular basis. Basically, the site is for reporters looking for people to contribute to articles they are writing. If  you qualify and are interested in the topic they are writing about, you can submit information to them; if they want to interview you, they pursue it from there. Sometimes I respond as a psychologist, and at other times simply as a person. I recently responded to a query for people who have an aging parent living with them. My mother lives with my husband and me so I sent in a few lines. The woman responded and sent me a list of questions to answer about the topic.

Poor reporter... she got a lot more information than she was looking for, I'm sure. What happened was that I found the questions incredibly thought-provoking. I took the opportunity to "journal" in my responses to this woman's questions. I literally thought to myself a number of times as I was responding that she really didn't need all the information I was supplying, but rather I needed to process my own thoughts and feelings related to having my mother living with us. In doing so, I refreshed my own memory about some lessons I have learned over and over in my life, and which I preach to clients all day long:

1) Taking time to journal IS such a great way to work through  your own thoughts and feelings about things. Just formulating the thoughts into sentences and putting words in front of my eyes helped me to gel these idea fragments that keep flitting through my mind into a cohesive whole. It was like defragging my brain!

2) One of the questions was related to what suggestions I would give others who are taking care of their aging parents who live with them. Two of the things I recommended were really advice for myself. I said that it is important to give yourself permission to have someone in your life that you can just vent it all out to without having to add the "pretty words". In other words, I need to be able to say "The way my mother repeats the same stories over and over and over is driving me crazy!" rather than feeling like I have to say "I know the day will come when I wish I could hear my mother telling her stories over and over... however, today it's driving me crazy." We all need one or two people we can say what we need to say in whatever tone of voice we need to say it in and they won't think we're horrible people for not adding the "pretty" words that make it all nice. These people know us well enough to realize that we're just venting.

The other advice I gave to "others" (ha!) also had to do with permission-giving. I said that caregivers of aging parents also need to give themselves permission to be human and allow themselves to have whatever feelings they have about the situation - in this case, permission not to feel guilty about getting frustrated about things the aging parent does (or does not do - like flush the toilet). Give yourself permission to have whatever feelings you have in relation to the situation. What's important is acknowledging and accepting your feelings (hence, having that good friend to vent to) and making sure you deal appropriately with whoever is involved.

This applies to everyone in any situation: allow yourself to experience whatever  your feelings are. It's not having feelings that gets us in trouble... it's if we deal with them in unhealthy or inappropriate ways that lands us in trouble. So give yourself permission to have all of your feelings and take responsibility to handle them in appropriate ways.

3.) I also reaffirmed to myself one of my favorite sayings: Work Smarter - Not Harder. I am a fantastic multi-tasker and combining my "me time/hobby time" and using it as a way to get some work done as well, is a great way to sustain my workaholism! Sort of like this blog - I get to process things and share it with others!

Ironically, it turns out that my over-responding to her questions turned out to be a win-win. I bragged about my kids in the responses; her son is pursuing a similar job as my son has and she asked if her boy could contact mine! A God thing, I say...

I gotta get to bed... !