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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Children

One of the few perks of being middle-aged is that people stop pressuring you to have kids.  I still get the occasional, “you never know: my mom had me when I was 45,” but for the most part people have stopped asking.  Not being married helps, too.

Along with the divorces, not having kids is another thing makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong with my life.  You’re supposed to have kids–the Bible says so.  And if you’re a scientist, then evolutionary theory says so.  In my defense, I did try.  Or at least I didn’t try to prevent pregnancy.  But I am relieved that I didn’t get pregnant.

It’s not that I don’t like kids.  I love kids.  I would rather play with the kids at a party than have to interact with the adults.  And I’m really good at playing with them, too.  I get all into it.  It’s not hard, since a part of me is really still a child.  I even have a name for my inner child; I call her Sophie.  She is part of the internal family I mentioned in one of my first blogs.

I know some of you may be thinking I’m crazy right now, but the truth is we all have parts of us that almost seem like separate people, and they don’t all see eye-to-eye.  That’s why we can argue with ourselves about why we’ve stayed in this terrible relationship for so long or why we ate that entire bag of Oreos.  I am sure you can think of at least one time when you were absolutely dumbfounded about why you made such a terrible decision.  And you probably cursed yourself for doing so, too.

Anyway, Sophie gets along really well with my niece, who is 7.  In fact, just this weekend my niece wanted to pretend that we were sisters.   However, the adult in me finds this level of intensive play exhausting, and I can see why parents go to bed so early.  Perhaps the reason why I am a night owl is because I don’t have children.

Even though this is not where I thought I would be at 44, for the most part I am OK with it.  Sophie got to carve a pumpkin with two of my other nieces when I went to BSG, and I got to introduce my youngest niece to football this past weekend.  And she had a great time, even though we lost.

In fact, this post is dedicated to her because she asked me to write about her.

Positive and Negative Feedback, Part 2

So I turned in my first writing assignment today, feeling all happy and accomplished.  I was even fantasizing about how I can put a link in my blog to this article when it gets published.  And then I got an email saying that my article has been reviewed and requires rewrites.

As you know, I am not good with negative feedback, so I tried to prepare myself for the worst:  What if they say it’s all wrong?  Then I’ll just correct it and give them what they want.  That sounds easy enough.  And then I read the comments. 

I have to give the editor credit; that was the most constructive way possible of saying that my article sucked.  I didn’t answer the person’s question.  I used examples more appropriate for middle-aged women than the teenagers and young adults who read the website.  I had one good sentence in the entire article.  I didn’t use AP format.  I didn’t follow the writing guidelines.

I’m sure she was thinking, did you not read any of the materials we sent you?!  I did!  I really did.  Except for the AP manual.  I haven’t gotten it in the mail yet.  I really wanted to get started, and I thought, how different can it be from APA or MLA format? 

Would it be unprofessional if I wrote “Oops!” in the notes to the editor section?

My first thought was to quit since I obviously have no idea what I’m doing.  But then I decided to write myself a pep talk: You work closely with an editor for the first 3 assignments for a reason; you’re supposed to suck.  In fact, I bet they give writers that bonus after the 3rd article because some people get so demoralized by all the rewrites that they give up.

Then I worked on the rewrite for several hours.  I have another draft but I have no idea whether this version is any better than the first one because I don’t trust my judgment anymore.  I guess this is why people are afraid to get their hopes up; the fall is so much higher from the grandiose cloud that I was floating on.

I may not be good with positive feedback, but I am the Mt. Everest climber of impossible tasks.  Knitting pattern that is far more complicated than my skill level?  I’ll have it done by Christmas.  My football team is 2-5?  Well, we still have 4 more chances to win!  My tennis team is 1-6?  I’ll just pretend that we are in our second season, and we’re only down 0-1 in this one.

Sometimes it helps to be a little delusional.  If we made all of our decisions based on what we think we are capable of, we may never take the risk of finding out what is possible.

I’m offically a writer!

So as a part of this whole book writing thing, I thought I would try to get a job as a freelance writer.  For some reason it never occurred to me that there might be jobs related to writing in psychology that I might actually get paid for; up until now everything I’ve written has been for free.  I guess that’s why psychologists don’t make much money–we’re not very business-minded.

Apparently in order to secure a book deal you are supposed to build a platform.  From what I can tell this means trying to develop an audience so that I can convince an agent that people will read my book.  Hence, this blog–which I love–and now this writing job, where I’ll be writing short articles on the internet answering people’s questions about relationship advice.  Luckily the application just asked for my credentials and not my relationship history!

I have to admit, I don’t really understand where these articles will be published because I don’t go online to look for relationship advice.  I guess I can tell you once I publish one and then everyone needs to go to that site and read it and write to someone–I’ll have to find that out, too–and tell them how this is the best piece of advice that you have ever read on relationships and you would like to see more articles by this insightful and talented writer.

In fact, you can also go to all your friends, family members, and random people you have friended on FB and tell them about how awesome this blog is–how you’ve learned that you’re not crazy, or that we’re all a little crazy, so you don’t really have to feel bad about it.

I also bought a book on how to turn a blog into a book so after I read it I’ll let you know about anything else I need you to do to help me get my book published.

Thank you in advance for your help!

Boundaries, Part 2

As I reflect on my day in Big Stone Gap, I am reminded that parents often do know best. Here are just a few of the reasons why it was good to come home:

  1. It is rare for all of my brothers to be here at once, and when I’m with them I feel like I did when we were kids, no matter how old we get.
  2. Karaoke.
  3. I got to carve a pumpkin with two of my nieces, and now they want to make it an annual ritual.
  4. They’re filming the movie “Big Stone Gap” on location, and one of the locations is my parents’ neighborhood.
  5. Lechon.
  6. The entire Filipino community is reading my blog and they aren’t mad at me.  In fact, I’m probably going to get a lot of gigantic wooden spoons and forks for Christmas.
  7. Birthday cake.
  8. It turns out that blogging about not being assertive is a good way to let people know that you don’t want to hear that you’ve gained weight.  
  9. I got to take some great pictures.
  10. Sometimes my family drives me crazy, but at the end of the day, they are also the people who love me the most.



Massages, Part 2

You know those dreams you have where you’re naked in public?  For me I’m usually taking a shower outside, and once I realize it I’m like, what the heck?  Why am I out here?  There are people right over there!  Oh well.  I’ll just pretend it’s a perfectly normal thing to do. 

There are lots of theories for why we have dreams.  The two most common theories are that dreams reveal unconscious conflicts and that dreams are just a by-product of neurons firing in our brain and mean absolutely nothing.

While I think both of these theories are sometimes true, I have a 3rd theory:  sometimes dreams are dress rehearsals for our emotions to prepare us for unusual events.  For example, it’s not often that we have an occasion to run for our lives from zombies.  So dreams can be a useful way for end-of-the-world enthusiasts to prepare for the zombie apocalypse without inconveniencing the rest of us.

But what does this have to do with massages, you ask? 

I had my massage today, and it did not go well.  I drank a decaf coffee beforehand because I have GERD and I’m not supposed to have caffeine.  Or chocolate.  Two of my most favorite things in the world.  Usually I just have them anyway, but my acid reflux has been acting up lately so I behaved myself.

I went to the bathroom before my session because another one of my many annoying health problems is that sometimes I have to pee a lot.  Like every 30 minutes or so.  Especially if I’ve had coffee.  But it was decaf today so I figured one pee should be sufficient.

But no.  Apparently, there is something else in coffee that makes you have to pee, so I had to go badly during the massage.  I kind of have mini panic attacks whenever I have to pee and cannot get to a restroom but I was determined to stay the course and finish my massage.  So I tried all my psychological tricks to keep me focused, but to no avail; I wasn’t going to make it.

Unfortunately, the place where I get my massage has no restroom.  They share a space with a real estate agency next door, and that’s where the restroom is.  So once I gave in and told her I had to pee, she gave me a robe and I walked barefooted into the real estate agency and peed as fast as I could.  Usually I don’t see anyone when I go in there but of course there was a woman at her desk with a clear view of me looking like I’m about to jump in the shower.  Oh, and there were people in the front office of the massage place, too.

 It felt very much like the naked in public dream.

After my massage they apologized for not having a restroom but at least they don’t have to pay for that space, ha ha ha!  Whatever.  Not a relaxing massage at all, obviously.

Luckily I’ve had some practice for publicly humiliating experiences so I decided to blog about it instead of curling up in a ball and hiding from the world.

Massage!
Olindapully Photography (olindapullyphotography.com)

Eye Exams

I love my eye doctor.  He seems to love what he does and enjoys interacting with patients.  The only problem is, every time I have an eye exam I start obsessing about something going wrong with my eyes.

Part of it is definitely me.  I worry about everything, in case you haven’t noticed.  First of all, I get stressed out if I can’t read the lines that I’m supposed to be able to read.  I know it’s not a test but it feels like I’m failing, and I hate failing.  Today I found out that in my left eye I could see far away but not close up, and in my right eye I could see close up but not far away.  I thought, oh no!  My eyes are going in opposite directions!

However, I think part of it is his fault, too, because he gives me way to much information–about eyeball health, glaucoma, retinal tears, detached retinas.  It’s sort of like when someone has a phobia but they’re fascinated by the thing that they fear.  I want to hear the information so I keep asking him all of these questions but then I worry that I’m going to develop whatever it is he’s talking about.

When I turned 40 he told me that at some point in my 40’s I would start to develop farsightedness.  He described how it would feel and what corrections could be made once it happened.  On the one hand, I was reassured that my tennis game would not be compromised once I became farsighted.  However, every day I wondered if this was the day it would happen.  Can I see now?  Is this normal vision?  I was constantly giving myself vision tests.

When I turned 43 it started happening.  I had a hard time going back and forth from looking at something close up to something far away.  I couldn’t read tiny print.  In my mind, it was the telltale sign that I was officially middle-aged.  I was depressed about this but fully prepared to go in today and find out that it was time for trifocals and accept my old-ladyhood like the warrior that I am.  (More on warriors in a future post.)

But it turns out that this skewed left-eye/right-eye development is to my advantage; it actually makes it possible for me to see both close up and far away.  He said he was going to hold out as long as possible before taking any additional corrective measures, so he didn’t make any changes to my prescription.  I passed the test!

After thoroughly examining all other aspects of my eye health, he told me that I have healthy retinas and that most people at my age do not.  So of course I needed to know what distinguished a healthy retina from an unhealthy one and how I would go about rehabilitating my retina if for whatever reason it suddenly became unhealthy.  Because of course now I have to worry that this might happen to me.

By this time he realized that it was not a good idea to give me even positive feedback without some reassurance that I would never experience any deterioration in my eyeball functioning whatsoever.  So he told me that I wouldn’t have to worry about unhealthy retinas for at least another 80 years or so.

I’m not sure this is as scientifically accurate as the other information he has given me, but it made me feel better, anyway.

Boundaries

When I was in grad school, everyone talked about how important it was to have good boundaries.  At first I thought, boundaries?  What are those?  I guess that was a sign that I didn’t have good ones.

In my defense, Asian cultures have a different definition of boundaries than American culture.  For example, it’s perfectly acceptable for any Filipino adult to tell you that you’ve gained weight and look fat now, that you should have a baby, that maybe you look fat because you’re about to have a baby?  OK then you’re just fat.  This is one of the downsides of having all of those aunts and uncles that aren’t actually related to you.

These kinds of conversations are difficult for many people, and this is where therapists are supposed to be helpful.  In assertiveness training, you learn how to say things like, it hurts my feelings when you say things like that.  Or I’m not comfortable with this conversation. 

However, in Asian cultures, you are expected to be respectful of your elders, so they can say whatever they want to you, but you really don’t get to say whatever you want to them in response.  I have found this difficult to explain to my therapists.  Sure you can!  Just tell them.  No big deal.  Except it is a big deal. 

In fact, it’s because of this power differential that people engage in passive-aggressive behavior.  You’re not allowed to say, well you’ve gained 20 lbs. yourself!  I guess we’re both fat.  Instead you might do something like ask in your most sincere voice, how is your son doing?  The one who got a DUI?  Is he out of rehab yet?  Then they get to be the ones who feel bad about themselves.

Another option is to be completely passive and not go to any Filipino functions.  Or leave early.  Or hide in some room somewhere with your siblings who also don’t want to have to answer rude questions and only come out for food.  This is actually the route that I’m more likely to take.

This weekend I am going to a mandatory family gathering.  Since it’s so hard for all of my brothers and me to come home at the same time, my parents have decided that they are going to force us all to come home for my nephew’s birthday, and no amount of inconvenience is an acceptable excuse. 

I’m nervous about it because my dad keeps asking me if I’ve lost weight (I have not) and if I’m taking the appetite suppressants he gave me (I am).  I talked to my brother this weekend and my dad is telling him the same thing–that he’s fat and needs to eat less.  I think this sudden interest in our weight gain is because he has gained about 20 lbs., but like I said, I’m not allowed to point that out.

I am sure that there is some way to set boundaries even in Asian cultures, but I haven’t yet figured out how to do so.  So I’m just going to grab my food and hide out in the TV room and play with my niece.