Much To My Delight

Much To My Delight

What it’s like to be a therapist.

This year, more than any other, I’m working with a lot of clients who are grieving. I have two clients who’ve lost husbands this year, and one who’s lost a child. They are some of the toughest sessions to get through, because their pain is tangible.

In seven years, I can remember exactly three times that I cried in session. Not a big cry– I’ve never done that with someone else in the room– but a tiny pinprick in the corner of the eye, the kind another person would never notice.

Actors are trained to cry on command, but therapists are expected to do the opposite. We need to be comfortable with uncomfortable conversations, because the last thing our clients need to worry about is whether  or not we’re okay. I mean, would you feel comfortable if you caught your therapist choking back sobs while you spoke? Probably not.

what it's like to be a therapist

It’s not stoicism that lets us do this, it’s repetition. Anybody can get used to anything, as long as they repeat it often enough. How do doctors perform surgery? How do soldiers shoot a gun? How does my brother–a child abuse prosecutor– look at evidence for his cases and still get to sleep at night?

These days I rarely cry when something is sad, and it sometimes makes me feel like a human totem pole–hard and wooden. I obviously have capacity for empathy (if I didn’t have that, I’d be very worried indeed), but it’s extremely rare for me to get teary-eyed when something is sad. Professional hazard, I guess.

I cry very easily, however, when something is emotionally moving. Wedding vows. Someone offering their seat on the subway to a stranger. Small children or old couples holding hands. The ukulele version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

Last week a high school friend posted a video on her Facebook wall of her 8 or 9 year old daughter opening an email announcing she’d made an elite soccer team. The little girl lost her mind and was literally overwhelmed with joy, crying and exclaiming “I made it! I made it! Mommy, I MADE it!” before crumpling in a ball on the kitchen floor. Hot, happy tears streamed down my face. I watched it four times.

Sometimes it feels really weird to cry so easily at some things but withhold that normal emotional response from so many other experiences.

But last week I read Sheryl Sandburg’s post about losing her husband suddenly, and it absolutely gutted me. I read it traveling home on the subway after having spent a long day in my office, a dark little room where I hear people describe grief like hers every single day.

I read that post and cried, because it was sad and painful to read. I cried the kind of tears other people were likely to notice, and had to use the back of my hand to wipe them from my cheeks.

And it’s a strange comfort to know I can still do that.

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All the Things a New Yorker Thinks After a Weekend in Connecticut

 

New York City can be a bit of an asshole sometimes, in every way possible. It’s too crowded, too dirty, too stinky, too aggressive, too fast, and on top of all that, really expensive. After a while, you start to wonder if you’re becoming a bit of an asshole yourself. Am I too loud? Too aggressive? Too pushy? Too impatient? Did the stink rub off on me?

When that feeling comes over us, Vin and I know it’s time to get out of town for a day or two. And when we do, we like to check ourselves in at a bed and breakfast. Hotel rooms remind me of apartments, and I already live in one of those. But B&Bs are real, grown-up houses with wooden shutters and knick-knacks and windows and elbow space. You sleep in a big room filled with books and plants and a nice person who knows how to make good coffee serves you frittata and scones fresh from the oven in the morning. B&Bs are wonderful, and I’m always surprised when people say they’d feel uncomfortable in one.

So we booked a room in a place called Henrietta House in Ashford, Connecticut and drove out Friday night after work. The traffic was, predictably, an asshole. Starting Memorial Day weekend and stretching into the summer, most people get the same idea as us and head as far away from the city as possible.

We clarified prior to leaving the city that our itinerary was to do nothing, and that’s exactly what we did. We sat on the back porch, napped, read, played guitar, stepped over chickens, and ate delicious food. The air was cool, and we slept like logs under a big puffy cloud of a blanket. Parking was easy so we went in and out as we pleased. The most strenuous thing we did was a very light, short hike.

We were in Connecticut, birthplace of lyme disease, so we navigated the trail with the precision of tightrope walkers, trying not to brush into anything suspect. When we stumbled on a tiny bridge crossing over a lovely little stream, I urged Vinny to sit down, close his eyes, and participate in a mindfulness exercise with me. I crossed my legs, one over the other like a pretzel, shut my eyes and drew in a deep breath. I concentrated on my breathing–in and out, in and out–and tried to focus on nothing but the movement of my diaphragm and the calming trickle of the stream below us.

I finally opened my eyes and glanced to my right, expecting to see Vin in full lotus, floating off on some higher plane into a state of zen. Instead, I found him playing Clash of Clans on his dumb phone.

“Vinny! Mindfulness!” I yelled. Because everyone knows the way to get your husband to feel more relaxed is to nag him into a meditative trance.

So he powered off his phone and we both shut our eyes. It’s lovely when you find someone you can share silence with.

“I can’t believe this babbling brook doesn’t make you have to pee.” he said. That boy talks too much.

“It does. Let’s go. Mindfulness over.” Sometimes I shudder to think of everything I might accomplish in this life if I didn’t have a bladder the size of a walnut.

***

The next morning we shared breakfast with the owner Marian and her assistant Jasmine, two women I found myself relating to in very different ways. Jasmine had already moved around quite a bit at 26, and geeked out over things like good cheese and coffee, just like me. And the inn’s owner Marian was a fellow Texas gal and UT alum, who’d also found herself out on the East Coast years ago. She was great fun to talk to–well-traveled, well-read, opinionated, bold–and I found myself comparing her to many of the smart, sassy Texan women I’ve known through the years, many of whom I’m lucky enough to share a bloodline with. She has this great old house with deep brick fireplaces and wide-planked wooden floors. She travels, and fills her home with beautiful, special things. She gardens. She loves cooking, and cares deeply about fresh, real food. She has big glass jars of flour and sugar on her kitchen counter where she rolls out buttery scones and homemade pie crust. She belongs to a memoir writing club.

She is living my Act IV.

I’m still not exactly sure which act I’m in at the moment (the latter part of Act II, maybe?) but one day I will outgrow it, of that I am certain. One day I will grow tired of city life, of crowded subway cars and overpriced cereal boxes, and I will want to chuck it all and head out to the country. It doesn’t actually have to be the country either, just some place with slower speeds, cleaner air and better customer service.  I used to picture my Act IV as a summer camp owner, but in recent years “Bed and Breakfast owner” sounds much more appealing because, as my grandpa says, kids can really “clutter up a place”. Clearly, I’m not rushing to get to my Act IV- I still have a few other things to tackle first. All I’m saying is I can see retirement in the horizon, and I think I’m going to be really good at it.

After we said our goodbyes to Marian and Jasmine, it was time to drive to our friends’ Tara and Evan’s house in another part of Connecticut, closer to the city. They were hosting a “porch party” to celebrate the completion of the new front addition to their house. Their home is already very beautiful and surrounded on all sides by lush trees and piles of soft grass. Their new porch is long and deep, wide enough to fit a big wooden table and all of our friends’ running children. When I walked up to their house, I was immediately reminded of the wide wooden porch that stretched across the main buildings at my childhood summer camp, where I’d sit on a rickety bench with a cabinmate, swinging our legs back and forth, trying to catch the ice cream before it melted into sticky rivers between our fingers.

I don’t know how to explain what I felt at that moment. It wasn’t envy; I’m happy for my friends, and I have no qualms about inviting myself over to sit in front of their house and lick ice cream off my hand. I guess what I felt was…confused. Conflicted. Reflective. Vinny and I have been spending all this time researching very specific types of housing in the New York area, but are we making the right choices? Are we looking in the right direction? Is spending all this money on a house in the city the way to go? Are our priorities all screwed up? Am I closer to Act IV than I’ve realized?

The next morning I woke up in a FOUL mood. I’m not a particularly moody person, so when a nasty one comes on it is swift, merciless, and I’m embarrassed to say–very, very unattractive. This one was accompanied by sniveling and pouting and not-hormonally-induced crying. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off; I felt cranky and unhappy to be back in my small Astoria apartment. I had tasted a different life– a life where you shoo chickens instead of people off your back steps, where people are rarely in a rush, where the color green is not the exception but the rule– and I was having trouble finding the advantage of my living situation over that one. It felt like my apartment’s walls were closing in on me, making it difficult to breathe.

“What are we doooooooiiiiiiiiiing?” I cried to Vin. Poor guy had just woken up, and the first thing he had to listen to on his day off was my moaning. “This place is crazy. It’s crazy!”"There’s no physical beauuuuuutttttyyyyyyyyy here. It’s ridiculous to pay so much to get so little!” Sometimes New York City is the asshole. Sometimes I am.

To his credit, Vin navigates these moments like a pro. He is calm and patient with me. He’s a great listener. He lets me vent without letting me get myself too worked up. He’d make an amazing therapist actually.

After a good cry, I suggested we go for a walk down the street. It was Memorial Day, and there was a street fair right on our block. I needed New York to dazzle me that day, and I didn’t feel like going far to get it.

New York City’s summer street fairs are the same every time, and they pop up almost every weekend in different neighborhoods. It’s always the same vendors selling bizarre, random junk like $5 handbags, makeup samples, cheap bras and magnets. The humid air makes your shirt stick to your back, and is laden with the smell of sausage and peppers, fried zeppolis, and various meats-on-a-stick. There are bouncy houses and rides for the kids, boardwalk games, and live demonstrations from the Sham-Wow guy. I never buy or eat anything (unless Dough donuts show up–then I can’t resist), but I always walk through when I see a fair. The street fairs are synonymous with summer in New York City, and I’ve been here long enough to feel nostalgic about them.

By the time we reached the end of the street, I felt better. I needed a reminder of why this place is special and interesting, and why Act IV is still a few scenes away. I looked back down the street and smiled at the kids swinging hula hips around their waists, at the plumes of smoke from the barbecue pits, and the beautiful diversity of the people in my neighborhood. Then I looked down, and realized my fly had been open the entire walk. It was a sign from the universe, telling me to lighten up.

 ***

Last week I was chatting with a gentleman who told me how much he looks forward to seeing the pots of tulips on Park Avenue every spring. He goes for morning walks with a pair of scissors so he can bring them home and admire their beauty.

I thought that was a pretty crummy thing to do. Nothing beautiful or special is without sacrifice, and if you want flowers in your home, you should turn over your cash and buy them or turn over the soil and plant them, not steal them from a community flowerpot. And if you’re not able to bring them home, all you have to do is lace up your shoes and go visit them more often.

The natural beauty is there. You just have to walk a little further to see it.

 

 

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The Top 10 Ways to Make Your Post Go Viral

 

I was a journalism major in college, with the ultimate goal to write for magazines. In those days, there were very few things published exclusively as online content. In fact, when I interned at Texas Monthly my senior year, I worked in what was called the “new media” department, which basically involved taking copy from the last month’s issue and retyping it for this crazy new thing they were rolling out called a website. Oh! How times have changed!

Now the whole world’s online, and getting published is easier than ever–especially if you abide by the following ten rules.

 how to make a post go viral

 

1. Make a list.

It doesn’t really matter what’s on it; lists are today’s greatest literary device. Websites really like publishing them, and readers adore skimming them because we all have the attention span of an avocado. Try starting your post/article with a digit and watch the numbers climb! Here are some examples:

10 ways to Lose Weight While Main-lining Cool Ranch Doritos and Vodka Cocktails

My 8 All-Time Favorite Varieties of Hard Cheese

The 6.5 Best Places to Clip Your Toenails in Public without Getting Caught

 

2. Write about S.E.X.

You didn’t hear it here first– but sex DOES sell. People are nosy freaks and they want to know what you’re doing between, on top of and under your sheets. Write a funny little story about shopping for a vibrator, your first threesome, or the time things got so out of hand the neighbors called the cops. Don’t worry about your personal life– it won’t affect it at all!

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3. Reveal your Darkest Secret

The inter webs are the new Maury Povich show. If you have something you’ve been holding close to your chest (i.e.: you have three boobs, you reuse dental floss, you’re really a giant cat living as a human) it’s time to clear the air and find a public forum to spill the beans to.

 

4. Discuss, in great detail, your most painful memory. 

There are plenty of websites that really want you to relive your trauma so other people can read about it. It doesn’t have to be well-written, or provide a message of caution, hope or encouragement to others. Just go there, because it makes for a compelling story and we are all very curious to know more about your misfortune.

 

5. Teach us Something

Put on a hat and call yourself an expert in one of the following areas, because this is what we really want to learn right now. Start your headline with HOW TO and then add any one, or a combination of the following:

make money, save money, find more time, waste less time, get clear skin, lose weight, gain social media followers, grow your blog, shrink your belly, save the planet, destroy your enemies, find your life’s purpose, lose your bad habits, stop craving sugar, raise polite geniuses, go vegan without dreaming of bacon, stop comparing yourself to others, find more joy, organize all your crap, stop farting in fancy places, keep your teeth from falling out, and make this year your greatest year EVER.

 

6. Write about Simplifying

We are all burdened by our over-scheduled, over-crowded, over-stuffed lives. If you really want to please the masses, give us a multi-step, super-complicated instructional online guidebook on simplifying every aspect of daily living. We want pictures of how you threw away everything you owned and started from scratch, starting with your wardrobe and ending with your kitchen utensils. Readers love a clean slate. Writers love a project.

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7. Tackle Controversial Subjects

Please share your personal insights and colorful opinions about ISIS, abortion, sexual harassment, medical marijuana, Obamacare, vaccinations for children, concealed handguns, gay marriage, physician-assisted suicide, affirmative action, animal testing, climate change, evolution versus creationism, and racial profiling. Do as little research as possible, and if you really want it to go viral, write completely out of your ass and have a blast reading the comments section. As an alternative, you can address one of those “open letters” to someone who’s made waves recently in the media.

 

8. Document Your Detox

Give up something vital–whether it’s food, booze, technology, or The Real Housewives franchise. Remember: Show, don’t tell. We all need to feel the withdrawal.

 

9. Let us Inside

Take us somewhere we’ve never been before, and give us something salacious to peek at. I can think of a few places that pique my curiosity, and I’d give an eye-tooth to take a tour through a monastery, a jail, a nudist colony, the dressing room of a strip club, a dominatrix’s den, Bellevue Hospital, and the man cave in the basement of the White House.

 

10. Write about Motherhood

Nothing makes waves faster on the internet than an article about motherhood. People live for stories like “1,000 things I want my daughter to know by age 3″ and “If you don’t breast-feed your children they will grow horns and become a blight on your community”.

Ask these questions to an audience: Should I become a mother? When should I become a mother? What if I don’t want to be a mother? What if I’m turning into my mother? Am I the right kind of mother? Should I work? Should I home-school? Should they cry it out? Should I cry it out? Can I name a girl Sephora, or will people automatically think of the makeup store?

Parenting is no easy task, and people like to share their every thought and feeling about it by reaching out to people they don’t know via computer.

 

And there you have it! Now go out there and break the internet with naked pictures of your butt.

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And I think to myself… what a puzzling world

 

Last Thursday morning I brewed a pot of coffee and turned on The Today Show. As I was about to leave the house for work, a breaking report came on. The headline blasted across the screen IT WAS ON PURPOSE, referring to the airplane crash in the French Alps the day prior, when a co-pilot deliberately turned 150 people over to God. I felt my heart drop to my stomach. It was sickening, horrifying, and hard to imagine.

Thursday afternoon, a coworker walked down our office hallway looking startled, and told us that she’d just seen an explosion around the corner. The storefront had been blown right off a restaurant on the next block, and she had seen and heard the terror that happened afterward as people ran outside, bleeding. It triggered a 7-alarm fire and three buildings collapsed, leaving 19 injured, 2 missing and many without their homes and businesses. It is so upsetting to see a huge hole where these classic East Village buildings were, and so scary to think of what it must have been like for the people inside them that day.

Between these two events, I met with several clients, one of whom, when describing news events completely unrelated to the two just described said: “The world is a shitty place.” I’d heard statements relatively similar to this throughout the week. “Life sucks”, “people suck”, “the world sucks”, “New York sucks”. It’s part and parcel of my job. Many people over many days iterating that the world is a shitty place full of shitty people.

Earlier in the week I agreed with a different client that a lot of bad things happen in the world, on her street, in the city. But I also reminded her that a lot of good happens too, if she can remember to look for it.

Sometimes it’s hard not to absorb the message that everything sucks, and some days–like Thursday– it’s hard to disagree with it.

I cut out of work early that day. I cancelled my last few appointments because our street was blocked off by firetrucks and heavy smoke was making it hard to breathe.

I took a seat on a still-uncrowded subway car and tried to tune out the world. If you’ve ever ridden a NYC subway before, you’re aware this is no easy task. Especially when a little boy– no older than three or four– plops right next to you and starts swinging his skinny legs and chatting his little head off.

His mother stood in front of him, and together they started playing a game of rock, paper, scissors. He was so animated and excited to play with her, and she was so clearly delighted by him. They did at least 10 rounds as we traveled through five or six stations together, giggling and tickling each other as they played.

It was a sweet, innocent moment on a day when I’d really needed one of those.

I remembered to look for it.

I found the good.

 

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We Are All Annoying Now

 

Last Wednesday was the first legitimately sunny, pleasant, vaguely warm day we’ve seen in the northeast since late October, so I couldn’t wait to get out of the office and into Astoria park, right along the water. I hadn’t been since at least November, and the first day doing anything after the winter thaw is a momentous occasion.

And it was glorious! Birds were chirping. Joggers were jogging. Dogs and babies got walked. Teenagers rolled weed. All was right in the world.

And everyone– I mean everyone– was taking pictures of everything on their phones.

And I was right there with ‘em. I tried at least six different angles to try to get the money shot- the one of the bridge, the park, the skyline and the water all in one frame. I spotted no fewer than five people trying for the same picture, using their hand as some type of visor. But it was six o’clock and the sun was so high and bright that it kept blowing out my shot. And so instead of soaking it up and letting it warm my face, I allowed the sun to annoy me for getting in the way of my documenting my lovely evening.

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And then I paused and asked myself why I was taking a picture in the first place.

I go walking in that park all the time. It’s not a unique experience for me. And I’ve taken that exact picture before. Skyline, water, bridge. Anyone who’s ever been to that park has taken that shot. I’ve taken it at least 10 times. There’s absolutely no reason for me to take that picture again. And there’s definitely no reason for me to spend five minutes trying to artfully arrange a photo so I can post it to Instagram.

And why is that exactly?

Because… NO ONE CARES!!!

Does anyone really care that I went to Astoria Park Wednesday? No.

Is anyone truly itching to see the sun set over someone else’s piece of sky? No.

Do I really need to humble-brag about choosing exercise over Netflix after work? No.

So why post it? Why do we post photos at all? Why do we take pictures of every damn thing we do and see these days? I’m not judging, because I participate.  I’m just starting to legitimately wonder why.

***

My 20-year high school reunion is this summer. (Please, I know what you’re all thinking…I don’t look a day over 19). As part of the preparations, the planning committee has requested alumni submit four pictures– two current shots, and two from 1995. As you can imagine, it’s pretty easy for me to scrounge up current day photos. I have about 12,000 on my desktop and I can simply aim my phone at my face and create one right now if I wanted to.

But I have been struggling to find two photos from my high school days. Back then, cameras were brought out for special occasions only. When you had your photograph taken, it was for a specific event or reason, not because Hey! I’m on my way to school and my hair looks good so click, click, click!. Pictures of shoes and outfits and coffees and flower arrangements were only taken for catalogs. Asparagus only crossed its legs and posed for photographs when it was about to be featured in a cookbook. It’s not like my mom pulled out pretty placemats and thoughtfully styled her meatloaf so she could snap a picture of it before calling us down to dinner. We would have thought she was nuts if she’d done that.

It’s a strange thing to have a small camera easily accessed at all times. I’ll be honest and say that’s the primary reason I ended up switching to a smartphone–the camera. I can live without texting (I hate it) and can always check email and social media on my laptop. But I loved the idea of joining Instagram, and having easy access to a camera, just in case something extraordinary caught my eye and I needed to get a photo of it.

That was my intention–to have a camera present so I could catch extraordinary  or compelling moments. But the truth of these tiny cameras (on my instagram feed, anyway) is that they capture more relatively trivial moments than anything else. A picture of our feet during yoga class, a pair of shoes on the floor, a lipstick-stained glass of Sauvignon Blanc, a piece of avocado toast. There are some people who appear to create moments out of nothing for the sake of having something pretty to put on their photo feed. There are people who curate little vignettes out of household items to post on their Instagram. I love the concept of finding beauty in everyday things, in taking time to appreciate and share gratitude for the simple joys in life, but sometimes I worry that by constantly documenting the minutia of daily life we are also interrupting the natural flow of it.

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It’s one thing to stop and smell the flowers, but no one does that. They stop and photograph the flowers. And then they tweak the photo for the perfect shade of pink. I know this is true, because I did it last week. I love the image of five champagne glasses clinking at the same time, but understand that creating this image requires one member of the party to cut themselves out of the celebration to jump behind the lens.

So what is it with all the photos? Is it narcissism? Is it “branding”? Is it bragging? Or is it just plain fun?

If these photos were postcards, “Wish You Were Here” wouldn’t be written across the top of them. It’d say something more like “Look Where I Am.”

When you live in a walking city, it’s easy to see these phone-and-photo offenders because they are absolutely everywhere. NYC is a very instagrammable city, and everywhere you go, there is bound to be a phone in the air pointing at something. If they’re not taking pictures, they’re looking at them. They’re in line at the grocery store, ignoring the clerk and obsessing over the phone. They’re colliding into us on the sidewalk, looking down when they should be looking forward. They’re at the gym, monopolizing machines for twice as long because they’re scrolling their feed between sets. Yesterday I spotted a girl in the locker room who stood there, topless, for at least ten minutes simply hypnotized by her phone. (Part of me thinks she was just an exhibitionist though; she had really good boobs).

I don’t blame the phones. I blame the people. Phones don’t annoy people. People annoy people.

Sometimes I picture a group of aliens coming down from another planet to check out our species and report back. I think they’d be pretty weirded out by our culture right now. I’m a little weirded out every time I ride the subway home and look to the bench of people in front of me. It’s so hard to find someone not looking at their phone. It is actually incredibly rare for me to see someone without their phone. They have become extensions of our bodies, as critical to walking out the door in the morning as house keys. Many of us are accomplishing tasks in little fits and bursts, interrupted by time-outs filled with glassy-eyed scrolling. I know it’s not just me.

***

As I read more and more articles about the rapid changes in technology, I can’t help but think that eventually there will be some kind of revolt or pushback about the way phones are to be used in public.

When we went to the Louvre two years ago, the Mona Lisa was impossible to admire because there were 75 iphones or Ipads covering her face. It was gross, and I can’t imagine the museum will let that shit go on forever (I hope not, anyway). And the other day, while walking by a shop selling macarons–the ultimate in photogenically girly baked goods– I spotted a small sign on the window urging passerby to not interrupt their bakers by taking photos. I feel like we’re on the precipice of a “Stop the Insanity” moment.

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I’m still not exactly sure the point I’m trying to make with this post. I’m certainly not about to make a pledge to stop taking pictures of things with my iphone. I’m not asking you to stop either–I enjoy looking at your pictures, I really do. Ultimately, I think most people share photos because we all have our own stories to tell, and photos are a way to offer others a sliver glimpse into our individual worlds. And that, I think, is pretty cool. And how could I judge that? I blog, for chrissakes!

So next week, when I’ve forgotten all about this little rant and post a photo of me sitting in a field of tulips, holding up my perfect hamburger while relaxing in the pinky-orange glow of the setting sun, I hope you will do me the favor of clicking like.

I can’t explain why, but I find it very validating.

 

 

 

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About Therapist Confidentiality…and Compassion

 

If you’re familiar at all with the therapeutic process, you’re well aware that the number one rule is confidentiality. When a client sees me for treatment, what they share with me is sacred. I can’t reveal any of their identifying information. I’m obligated by law to keep my trap shut. Their stories are not mine to share.

If I’m being honest though, there are times when I wish they were. But not for the reason you’re probably thinking. I’d be an unforgivable unethical jerk to turn my clients’ stories into a book. (But trust me, they’d make an amazing one.)

I hear fascinating stuff in sessions. People lead very interesting lives in this town; far more interesting than mine. Many people have also been through some extremely hard, extraordinarily painful situations. I find myself feeling moved, inspired, surprised, and humbled at least a dozen times a day. And my clients and I laugh so loud and often people strolling the hallway must wonder what in the world goes on behind my office door.

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So yeah, on occasion, I have the shameful wish that I could be more open about who my clients are, what they’ve been through, how they’re changing and what they’re feeling. It’s amazing how much you can learn about yourself when you’re listening to someone else.

I became a more compassionate person when I became a therapist. I had no choice. It’s the foundation of the job.

And sometimes I think if other people heard what I have the privilege to hear, the world would be a more compassionate place.

I have a job where I meet and learn intimate details about people that are, by and large, vastly different from myself. I meet people who think and behave differently than I do. People who come from environments that feel like foreign countries to me, even if they’re only a few subway stops away. People whose interests, choices, behaviors, personalities and backgrounds are completely opposite of my own.

In my personal life, how often do I connect with people who are vastly different from myself? Not very.

Isn’t that what makes Humans of New York so beloved? He plucks the average person off the street, takes their photo and passes them the mic to briefly share their story. And even when their story involves something society generally disapproves of (ie: crime, drug use), there are floods of comments showing compassion, support, encouragement and understanding. A lot of people see a junkie on the corner. Brandon (of HONY) sees a whole person with many different facets, who is hiding behind a mountain of pain.  And once he shares that on his site, other people are able to see that too.

I’m fortunate to have a job that pushes me to find the good in everyone.

And the great news is that you don’t have to be a therapist to do this.

You can simply choose to.

 

 

I’m writing this today as part of the initiative to find 1,000 bloggers to write about compassion today so we can flood the internet with good. You can find other stories about compassion by searching #1000speak on twitter.

Be kind, for everyone you know is fighting a hard battle.

 

 

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Too Old to Blog

 

I had a few alternative titles in mind for this post including:

“I am not a millennial.”

” 35+ is the new 22. TRUST ME. I’m your elder.”

“Damn. I really can’t relate to GIRLS at all.”

“The Oddball on Your Facebook Wall”.

But seriously, I wonder: Am I too old to blog? Is it silly for a girl woman of a certain age to share her thoughts in what is essentially an online journal? Is it sad? Weird? Awkward? Boring?

 

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Is this blogging thing too hip for crotchety Gen-Xrs? Is mine a voice that resonates with anyone?

I ask myself this because blogging or otherwise, I find myself fitting into a strange, small segment of the populace.

I am a woman over the age of 35. Married. No children.

If you fit into this funny little niche, give me a call sometime. We’ll compare notes on eye creams and bemoan the uncertainties that accompany advanced maternal age.

Most women my age are mothers. I have no statistical evidence here, but I feel fairly comfortable stating it as fact. And it’s not that I can’t relate to women with children. Nearly all of my close friends are mothers, and I never feel like there’s some great divide that keeps us from having funny, meaningful, enjoyable conversations. With real friends, there will always be something to connect to, even after the circumstances that once bound you change.

But when it comes to feeling a connection to someone else’s blog, essays, or personal writing, I do feel like a basic overlap in lifestyles is somewhat essential. When we read about others’ experiences, what we really want to do is connect to something that reminds us of ourselves. People are a little self-centered, aren’t they? Fiction is another realm altogether, but when it comes to personal, first-person writing, if you don’t find yourself thinking, “She took the words right out of my mouth” every now and then, the writing probably doesn’t resonate all that deeply. I haven’t found a lot of blogs written by people my age that aren’t associated with parenting in some way, so I have a hard time connecting to them. Our lifestyles are too different.  Mothers: Did you find yourself fascinated by sleep training years before you became a mom? I didn’t think so.

So then I find myself occasionally tuning into blogs written by women younger than me, who are either single or married, without kids. It probably isn’t even true, but it often feels that the bulk of blogs out there are written by women in their early to mid 20s. At this point in my life, it can be hard for me to relate to the 20-something experience. I remember it fondly, but it also feels really far away. I’m also not sure that someone in their early 20s would find anything compelling in the content on my blog.

So I wonder…where are the other bloggers in their mid to late 30s without kids? Am I really that much of an oddball? If you know of anyone who fits in my niche, I’d certainly love to know about them. I still get a kick out of reading all kinds of blogs, but it’d be nice to find a few new ones that echo some of my own experiences.

And since I was the one to throw it out there, I’ll go ahead and answer my own question.

I’m a better writer at 37 than I was at 22. I’m less self-conscious, and more trusting of my own voice. I know myself better, and think more interesting thoughts. I censor myself less and challenge myself more. And at the end of the day, I have weightier life experiences to reflect on and write about.

So, no. I don’t think I’m too old to blog.

But I’m definitely too old for crop tops.

 

 

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My First NYC New Year’s Eve

My first New Year’s Eve in New York City was a special one. We were ringing in the year 2000, and everyone was expecting the world to explode at the stroke of midnight.

I went out to a bar anyway, because if you’re gonna go, might as well go wearing sequins and holding a vodka martini. Not that I was cool enough to drink vodka martinis at 22. It was probably a daiquiri or flat coke.

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My boyfriend had broken up with me the week before– on December 26th actually–while driving me home after spending Christmas with his family. He gave me the whole “It’s not you, it’s me” schpiel, and it only took me about three minutes to realize he was absolutely right. It was my first holiday season away from my family, and I didn’t have the energy to feel sad about this too.

So on New Year’s Eve, I called one of my new city girlfriends and dragged her out to a bar. It was a $50 cover, which sounds reasonable 15 years later, but at the time, blew my mind. Time. Perspective. Inflation.

Oddly enough, my ex-boyfriend’s sister was at the same bar that New Year’s Eve. We chatted for a little while, then went our separate ways so I could kiss a pole at midnight and not feel too embarrassed. But, really there was nothing for me to be embarrassed about.

I was young, single, and had just found my first real job at a magazine in New York City. My entire adult future was still ahead of me. Nothing was set in stone, and everything was up for grabs. I had more energy than I knew what to do with, and was so starry-eyed and idealistic it’s almost comical in hindsight. I was hopeful. I was free. I was 22.

The world didn’t end that night. It had just begun.

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The Things I Find Difficult To Blog About

 

I was fortunate enough to have been gifted a red Mustang on my 16th birthday. I’ll be the first one to point out that I was born privileged in a lot of different ways, and having generous parents who could provide a new car for me was only one of them.

One of the best restaurants in my hometown sat squarely in the middle of the housing projects, and my friends and I ate there frequently. One morning while driving to the restaurant, a cop pulled me over. I wasn’t speeding, hadn’t run a stop sign, and all my tags were up to date. He pulled me over to ask why I was driving through that neighborhood, and encouraged me to leave quickly because he worried I wouldn’t be safe there. It was 9:00 in the morning.

I found the experience of being pulled over by the police much more frightening than driving through the projects.

In light of the events of the past two weeks, I look back and wonder what the cop might have said had I not been a small, young white girl driving the nice, new red car. Would he have asked where I’d gotten it? Would I have been pulled over at all?

I respect all life, and the many different cultural experiences that make the world and this country more vibrant, complex and interesting. I shook my head in disbelief the first time I watched that video. I feel it is important for me to express that because I am a social worker, an empath, and a human being.

I also respect the law, and the people who often risk their own safety to enforce it.  It worries me that the same type of generalizations that are applied to marginalized groups are also being applied to police officers. Not everyone in law enforcement uses excessive force. I feel it is important for me to express that, because I am a law-abiding citizen and the sister of a criminal prosecutor. But as my friend Kerri so clearly explained in a facebook post: There needs to be better training for anyone put in a position where they can take action that divides life and death. And if they show a willful disregard for this monstrous responsibility, then there need to be consequences.

I have heard things over the past seven years as a social worker that have stabbed at my heart and troubled my soul. Individual acts of prejudice and judgment are so hurtful, but institutional and systemic racism is a real thing, and it changes the trajectory of peoples’ lives. I can take a million classes on cultural competency but I’ll never be in a position to truly understand the daily experience of being part of a marginalized group.

Like I said, I was born privileged in a lot of different ways. Having a small white body that no one will ever be afraid of was one of them.

 

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Let’s talk about blogging.

 

I’m going to try something new. New is good, right?

These blog posts of mine are getting kind of long. And very infrequent. Time to strike that. Reverse it.

I’m getting to a place with writing where I want to save some longer form pieces for other things, and writing involved blog entries is interfering with my ability to do that. I think I’ve made everything a little more complicated than it needs to be with blogging, which leads to me not posting for weeks, and also not spending the time to craft longer pieces either. No bueno.

So I think I’m gonna bring it back old school and use this blog as a daily online journal of sorts. Short, concise, minimally edited little clips from my daily life. I live and work in New York City, so it’s not like it’s difficult to find something weird to report every day. I mean, just today I saw a man with a huge spiderweb tattooed across his entire face. Imagine? I still wince plucking my eyebrows.

Anyway. As usual, please hold me to nothing. I’ve changed my mind about this blog and the way I use it several times over the past four years. But isn’t that the beauty of registering your own online space? The freedom to make it whatever you want?

Hope to check in with you soon…like, tomorrow!

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