RSS Feed

Tag Archives: normal


Today I was looking for blogs on self-acceptance that are similar to mine, and there really aren’t any. Interestingly, most self-acceptance blogs specifically deal with acceptance of your body. Apparently that’s the main thing people have trouble with. I guess I’m in the right business.

Anyway, I realized that the phrase self-acceptance only appears once in my entire blog, and that’s in the little blurb on the top of the first page, so I figured I better correct that. This probably should have been the first post, but oh well. Better late than never.

I believe that, no matter how well-adjusted someone is, everyone has a part of them that tries to make them feel bad about themselves. Call this part what you want–your inner demon, your inner critic, your superego–but there’s no question that it’s there. And there are lots of other parts of us, too–children, warriors, and rock stars, just to name a few. And just like in real relationships, sometimes these parts don’t get along.

We are often at war with ourselves: there are parts of us that we do everything in our power to get rid of and hide from the rest of the world. That’s why people want and fear therapy at the same time. On the one hand, we think, hey wouldn’t it be great if I told someone my deep, dark secrets and she said I wasn’t crazy? But at the same time we think, but what if she does think I’m crazy? That would be terrible. That’s why it’s always a courageous thing when someone goes to therapy.

Therapists have the luxury of hiding behind their professional status if they want to. You don’t want to seem too crazy, or no one will want to come see you. But if you seem too perfect, then it’s hard for clients to relate to you. Although I want to be transparent, I know I err on the side of seeming perfect because it feels safer that way.

But as I get older, I want to be more honest about who I am and accepting of all my flaws, and I want to do this in a way that inspires other people do the same. It’s always better to show someone how to do something than it is to tell them how to do it, so that’s why I started this blog.

Sometimes it’s still terrifying to publish some of these posts, but when someone tells me that they related to one them, that they think just like I do, then I know I’m doing the right thing.

Since some of you liked my last doodle, I thought I’d post another one for you.




I am about to share with you my most shameful flaw so please don’t judge me. And this post isn’t that funny. (Although I always think I’m kind of funny, even when I’m being serious). But it’s the truth, so I have to say it.

I have been in a relationship non-stop since I was 14. That’s 30 years of relationships, and not just to one person. So no pearls for me. That’s the 30 year anniversary gift, in case you didn’t know. I just looked it up.) And sometimes the relationships were slightly overlapping towards the end. And often they were not very good relationships. And I knew this at the time, but I stayed in them, anyway.

In my defense, the marriages were both relationships with two very good guys, but that doesn’t guarantee that a relationship will work, as I indicated in my previous blog. But most of the other relationships were not very good. I stayed in them because: 1) I’m drawn to guys who need psychological help and 2) I am terrified of being alone and am in need of psychological help myself. My attitude was that something was better than nothing.  I didn’t have any empirical evidence to support this, but that’s how fear is. It feels true, even when it’s not.

So in addition to channeling all of my energy into my long-standing dream of becoming a writer, I have also decided to be alone for the first time.

A lot of my married friends say, oh I would love to be alone. I look forward to the times when my husband and kids are not in the house. I, too, appreciated my alone time when I was in a relationship. But it’s different when you go home and no one will be there, and you don’t know if or when someone will ever be there.

It’s different when you could fall and hurt your back and not be able to reach your phone and call for help and people might not notice that you haven’t been around until you stop showing up to work for a few days. Then they would have to send someone down to find you because you’re not answering your phone. That’s not the same thing as having a break from your husband and kids at all.

Last night I tried to change one of the flood lights in my bedroom, but I couldn’t reach it. I tried to use that thingy that allows you to reach light bulbs that are really high up but the floodlight was too big. I probably wouldn’t have been able to get the thingy to work, anyway. I considered getting out the ladder but that would definitely result in bodily injury and/or death. I don’t want to call one of my guy friends and ask them to come over and change one light bulb, so I’ll probably have to wait until several bulbs burn out and exist in semi-darkness in the meantime.

Don’t get me wrong–I know that in the grand scheme of things, I’m a very lucky person. I have a loving family and a great group of friends, I can support myself and I love my job, I have a nice place, and I am hopeful that at some point another relationship opportunity will present itself. Still, there’s no amount of self-talk that can change the fact that sometimes it sucks to be alone.

I’m a big proponent of learning how to sit with negative feelings. This is what I tell my clients all the time. I’m often amazed that they start doing it because I tell them to.  They’re better at taking my advice than I am. I’m amazed that I can give them the courage to break up with their boyfriend or girlfriend, even though they were terrified of doing so. At those times I think, why is it that I can help them do it but not myself? It doesn’t work to be your own therapist, apparently.

But now I’m ready. I’m going to face sadness and loneliness and fear if it kills me. I am going to find out whether or not it’s true that it’s better to be in a bad relationship than none at all. Obviously it’s not true, but like I said, fear is not always logical.

And it’s going OK so far. Sometimes it does suck, but it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. Because when I was in a bad relationship, I still felt sad and lonely and afraid, but I also beat myself up for staying in a relationship just because I was afraid of being alone. It’s much better without that last part.

The thing I miss the most is having someone to talk to–someone to share how my day went, to talk about the book I’m reading, or to share any deep and meaningful revelations I’ve had. But now that I have this blog, I have all of you to listen to me. And that helps a lot.

And you know what else? My neighbor called me this morning to check on me because she hadn’t seen me in awhile and wanted to make sure I was OK. I was afraid she was going to tell me she hit my car or accidentally opened my mail again or try to get me to come to church with her. Because those are reasons she has called in the past. But no.  She was checking on me.

I take that as a sign that God is looking out for me.


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.

You Know You’re Filipino if…


When I was younger, I was embarrassed by all of the things that my family did because we were Filipino; other kids were quick to point out that these things were not “normal.” 

For example, most of my friends took baths.  Based on TV commercials, adults took showers.  In my family, we filled a small basin of water and took a “bath” from that.  Once I became aware of this discrepancy, I told my mom I wanted to take baths.  The conversation would go something like this:

Me:  I want to start taking baths.  All my friends are doing it.

Mom:  No.  That’s a waste of water.

Me:  But you want me to fill the sink with water when I do dishes instead of letting the water run.  Isn’t that like giving the dishes a bath?

Mom:  No.

Me:  What about showers? 

Mom:  No.  Still too much water.

Then one day I realized that she couldn’t stop me from taking a shower so I started doing it anyway.

There were a lot of other things that my family did that made me feel different from my friends.  Little did I know, other Filipino families were doing the exact same things; it wasn’t abnormal at all! 

These days I take pride in these shared experiences.  I’m sure my Filipino friends and family could come up with more items, but this is what came to mind just off the top of my head:

  • multiple variations of the Last Supper, Virgin Mary, Crucifix, Rosary, and Nativity Scene all over the house
  • kitchens with a gigantic spoon and fork for decor
  • food eaten with your fingers or a normal-sized spoon and fork, but no knife
  • rice, garlic, soy sauce, and fish sauce (patis) for every meal
  • fish with body intact, including head
  • roasted pig (lechon) with body intact, including head 
  • a Karaoke machine
  • gigantic straw mats big enough for an entire family to sleep on
  • floor space large enough for line dancing
  • lots of uncles and aunts that you aren’t actually related to

Recently I met up with one of my Filipino friends for our annual get-together and she said that she was looking for a gigantic spoon and fork for her kitchen.  What a great idea!  Instead of comfort food, it’s sort of like comfort decor. 

Maybe I can ask my parents to give me a set for Christmas.

Positive and Negative Feedback

positive feedback

Have you ever noticed that when someone says something negative about you it carries much more weight than when someone says something positive about you?

One psychological theory for why this happens is that when something negative happens this is a signal that we need to change something: be more attentive to our partner, do a better job at work, pick the spinach out of our teeth. When someone says something positive, everything is status quo and we just go about our business.

In fact, because negativity weighs more than positivity, the magic ratio for happiness is 3 to 1: three positive occurrences for every negative occurrence. So whenever someone says something mean to you, find 3 people who like you and ask them to say something nice about you.

For me personally, three positive comments are not sufficient to undo the self-criticism that occurs after one negative comment. I need a ratio of something like 50:1, so brutal is that voice in my head that tells me that I suck.

When I was teaching online, I would have 50 students in individual tutorials, which is a lot of work, especially on top of my full-time job. Most students would give me positive feedback.

Here’s how I would treat their feedback as I went through my emails: I really enjoyed your class!  I signed up for another one next term. (Delete) I loved the  paper assignments.  I felt like I learned a lot about myself. (Delete)  I really loved the textbook. I’m going to keep it rather than sell it back. (Delete)

Here’s what would happen when I got negative feedback: I thought the exams were hard and that you did not give me enough feedback on how to improve my grade. I’m going to complain about you to my advisor right now. (Reread 10 times. Did I do something wrong? I told her the same thing I tell every student after an exam. Maybe I just suck as a teacher. Maybe they’re going to get mad at me and fire me. Maybe this student is just upset by her grade. No, it must be my fault.)

And I would obsess about this for, well the rest of my life, really. I remember every mistake I’ve ever made, even the ones that happened when I was 5 (like stealing that pack of gum from K-Mart). For obsessive people, there is no statute of limitations. You can be charged at any time for real or imagined crimes.

But I have learned some strategies that help me balance the scale between positivity and negativity.

  • Whenever I remember a negative comment from a student years ago and start thinking about what a terrible teacher I was, I remind myself that the other 49 students said that they enjoyed the class.
  • When I start beating myself up because I’m obsessing over a negative comment that a student made years ago, I tell myself that I’m not crazy; I just have a really good memory, and this is one of the downsides of remembering everything.
  • When I get positive feedback I read it over and over again, tell myself to take it in and give myself permission to believe it’s true. I tell someone about it to make the feeling last.
  • When all else fails, I take an Ativan because my psychiatrist said that’s what I should do.

Today I was looking through the registration form for what I thought was a new client, and there is a section where we ask if they’ve been in therapy before and if they found it helpful. She wrote that she had seen me in therapy previously for several months and found it extremely helpful, that she hasn’t been able to find a therapist who she trusts since then.

I have read the comment several times so far and am trying to allow myself to believe that I am, in fact, a good therapist.  In this moment, it’s working.

P.S. Later research found that the 3:1 ratio of positive to negative feedback doesn’t help. So it’s not just me.


I was married once.  Ok, twice.  Twice unsuccessfully.  And I have to say, it kind of hurts your feelings to have 2 divorces. One is ok.  Normal, even.  Two starts to look bad. That’s why I have decided never to get married again. I have not gone through the legal steps to officially get divorced.  That way if I ever have the crazy notion that I want to get married, I’ll have to do a lot of stuff first.

Admittedly, there are other reasons I haven’t officially gotten divorced.  I don’t think that it’s up to the court to decide when my marriage has ended.  I felt like it ended when I bought my own place.  And at that point we no longer shared any property or bank accounts. But I do still have some of my stuff at his house because my place is so small.  I guess if someone ever moves in with him I’ll have to rent storage or something.  But I don’t have to obsess about that today.  Although I was about to.

Also, it costs money to get divorced, and despite being a professional, I am just making it month to month.  I suspect I must be doing something wrong since the average salary for an entire family is less than what I make, but that is for another post. If we got divorced I would have to pay for it all because he didn’t want to get divorced.

This last reason is irrational, but whatever. People do all kinds of irrational things. Even psychologists. Even though I already tell people I have two divorces, it’s different in my mind to actually have two separate slips of paper saying you’re divorced. They’re not even full sheets of paper. And it’s not anything important looking like a certificate. Like when Homer Simpson got a certificate and a stamp that said Not Insane after he was released from the mental hospital. I love that episode!  Maybe they should give you something like that when you get divorced so you know it’s important.

In fact, the slip of paper looked so unimportant that the first time I got divorced I threw the thing away. But then when I was getting married again I found out that you actually need that little slip of paper, so then I had to get a copy of it.  Which I did keep this time.  Although I have no idea where it is at the moment.  But that’s OK, because I’m not getting married again.

Despite my claims that this slip of paper is not important, I don’t want two of them on my record.  It’s like having two strikes against you.  Two reminders that you have not been able to successfully maintain a marriage.  And who needs that?

However, if my unofficial ex were ever to ask for a divorce because he wants to get married, I would do so. That way he would have to pay for half of it.

Night Owl Syndrome

adventure animal avian beak

Photo by Pixabay on

I spend a lot of my waking hours thinking about sleep.  I have to be vigilant about getting to bed at a reasonable hour, which for me is before 1 am.  This is difficult because I am a night owl, and I have to make myself go to sleep during the part of the day that I most enjoy just because the world revolves around the early bird’s schedule.  Plus people judge me for staying up late and waking up late.  I consider this a form of prejudice and discrimination that Ben Franklin is at least partly to blame.

I read recently that night owls are more prone to feeling depressed because they are forced to conform to an unnatural sleep cycle.  I would have to agree because four out of six of the people in my family are night owls and we all have mood disorders.  To make matters worse, people with mood disorders are sensitive to disruptions in sleep because they can trigger a depressive episode.

It’s a lot of work trying to make myself sleep early.  I have to take at least 1 mg of Ativan every night, sometimes 2.  I am also prone to anxiety, and at night I’m rushing around trying to do all these things to minimize my stress for the next day like take a shower, dry my hair, pack my lunch, set the coffee maker, pick out my clothes, pack my tennis stuff, stretch, etc.

The problem is that doing all of this stuff to reduce my stress is also stressful, so I end up being wired before going to bed.  Kind of like when you have an exam and you’ve spent all night studying and by the time you go to bed formulas and vocabulary words and theories are still running through your head.

So then I have to do all of this stuff to try to exhaust my brain–usually some kind of mind game.  I used to do Minesweeper, but I get so pissed off when I make a mistake that I have to keep playing until I win, or at least have to guess 50/50 on the last square, which means I end up staying up later than I intended.  Lately I’ve been doing the expert level of Sudoku because it’s still challenging and doesn’t take as long and you can make 3 mistakes and still win.

But it’s hard to get myself to stop playing even after I win.  I am really competitive, and I have this need to train myself  to concentrate even though I’m exhausted.  Like it’s some kind of military mind exercise or something.  I have to talk to that competitive part like it’s a child and say something like, OK we agreed that you can play until 12:30 so you have to put the game away now.  I’ll tell you more about my internal family in another post.

I also need more than the average amount of sleep–more like 9 or 10 hours–which makes getting enough sleep a challenge.  Usually I can squeeze in a cat nap in at lunch, and sometimes I can get in another hour or so if I have an opening in my schedule.

But then I feel guilty because I’m sleeping at work.  And even when I have the time to sleep late, wake up late, and take a nap and have permission to take the Ativan as needed I still feel guilty because I feel like I’m not living life correctly or something.  I’m not doing what normal people do.

My job has really picked up in the last few weeks, and it’s only going to get busier from here, so I have no choice but to try to be an early bird, at least during the week.  So far so good, though. Even though I had two tennis matches last night, I was in bed by 12:30.  And because I didn’t have a 9 or 10 am appointment, I was able to sleep until 9.  And I don’t feel guilty about it.  So I’m feeling pretty good at the moment.