unFramed

(or 2,700 seconds)

The therapeutic frame.  That pillar of the therapeutic relationship draconically enforced by authoritarian therapists and equally loathed by clients everywhere.  Or so I thought.

Shrinky term:

frame (noun, frām) – the setting of boundaries or ground rules for the contractual aspects of therapy. [1]

The therapeutic frame governs the rules and expectations of therapy: time, place, fee, confidentiality, contact.  It is a crucial element for the creation of safety, for both client and therapist.

I spent 4 years in therapy where the frame was decidedly gray.  I’ve spent much of the last 9 months having to re-learn how to be in a healthy, boundaried therapeutic relationship.  All that time, before, I thought I was fighting against boundaries.  Now I see that I was actually reacting to a distinct lack of boundaries.  Just as children do better with well-defined boundaries and expectations, so do therapy clients.

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Go to Quiet Places

(or This is NOT a “My Therapist Has Cancer” Blog )

Whenever I get really angry or upset or sad or confused, my default mode is to go quiet, to be very silent and still.  Sometimes when this happens, my FitBit will actually register that I am “sleeping” even though I am wide awake and most likely on heightened alert.  I think I go into this state because I’m scared to move until I can regain my footing, get my bearings and figure out what is going on around me.  And only once that happens do I dare to speak into what I am experiencing and venture out from whatever place of safety I’ve retreated.

And so I think that’s what has happened with this space over the past few months.  It’s not that I’ve struggled for ideas of what I wanted or needed to write about – I’ve been wrestling with thoughts on boundaries and closure and growth, but also on what I wanted and needed this space to be.  When I started to write this, I never could have imagined that it would become a blog about having a therapist with cancer.  And I’ve felt over the past few months that this space has become more about her and less about me, and I wanted to take it back and reclaim it as my own, but was unsure of exactly how to do that.  I tried to map out a plan of the things that I still needed to say, in what order, to resolve that part of the story.  But I’m starting to realize that it will never be a fully realized and complete story.  There will always be an oozing wound, although it doesn’t bleed nearly as much as it once did.  And I’m sure it will rear its ugly head every now and again, maybe when I least expect it, and that I will just need to stop and address whatever is rising to my consciousness, even if it doesn’t fit neatly into my current trajectory.  I’m never sure where this journey will take me or the detours that will arise.  But this is my attempt to get back on the path, and continue onwards.

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Manifesto

(or Shout It From the Rooftops!)

I’ve been re-reading old writings and notes and emails, trying to retrace my path of the past few years.  I’m looking for patterns, for what has changed and what hasn’t.  I’m trying to see where I’ve moved forwards or backwards, where I’ve gone in concentric circles, where I’ve stayed in place or just gotten stuck.

In seeing a new temporary-therapist, I’ve had to recover familiar ground and revisit old injuries.  I’ve had to adjust my schedule, contort to fit into a new space, negotiate a fee.  And I’ve had to contend with a whole host of new feelings – ones of loss and rejection and minimization – that caught me off guard.

I’ve had to let this other person into a space that used to only be occupied by me and my therapist.  I’ve had to tell her about our relationship and things that worked well and things that didn’t.  I had to rehash the Impasse, which has always felt like a dark cloud that continued to lurk over me, occasionally unleashing a torrent of anger and rage when I least suspected it.

One of the ways we found our way out of that impasse (although we still sometimes go back in) was by writing a Manifesto.

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Upset

(or The Only Thing We Have to Fear is…?)

For the past few weeks, I’ve been in a state of emotional paralysis.  It started before Election Day, when the pundits and media were still re-assuring us of a Hillary victory, even though I feared, back then, that they weren’t telling us the whole truth.  I clung to the New York Times and FiveThirtyEight and Rachel Maddow.  I remember a feeling of relief well over me – relief! – that Rachel was hosting a show on the Sunday night before the election, so that we only had to get through Saturday without her calm presence and analysis and experts reassuring us that it was all going to be okay.

Since Election Day, I feel like I’ve been trapped in the opening sequence of the movie Groundhog Day.  Every morning I wake up and it’s if my mind has to re-learn the fact that we have, actually, for real, in all seriousness, elected Donald Trump to be the next President of the United States.  It’s as if my brain so completely cannot wrap itself around this fact that I have to forget it each and every night in order to go to sleep, then am forced to re-learn it every morning when I wake up and am confronted with this new reality.  It’s everywhere and can’t be avoided – social media, old-fashioned media, the distraught faces of my fellow citizens of these great Northeastern States of America.

Before the election I had several blog posts in the works.  Ideas, musings, even some sentences loosely constructed and strung together.  But those thoughts are all blocked, and I have to get my thoughts on this election out before anything else can emerge.  I’ve read and reacted to the thoughts and reflections of so many of my friends, who all make up my own “bubble” of kind, empathic, moral people.  But I wanted to leave my own thoughts here.

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Tinkering

(or A Path of My Own)

My son is a tinker-er.  He likes to figure things out for himself.  Just this week he taught himself to dive off the diving board – just by watching other kids do it.  He studied, mimicked, tweaked his form – and then splash! – he was diving in on his own.

I don’t know why this so surprised me. This is, after all, the same kid who potty-trained himself and and taught himself how to tie his shoes and probably taught himself a whole host of other things I’m not even aware of.

And he is my kid, the son of an engineer (by training at least).

Truth is I also need to tinker, but in my own way.  Sometimes it’s to figure out how to use a new technology or to repair a broken toy or solve a problem at work.  I even had to tinker with this blog, and some very early readers got to see that as I played with themes and structure and ideas as I attempted to make this place my own.

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The Guessing Game

(or Why Can’t You Just Read My Mind?)

I’ve wasted many, many therapy sessions waiting for, hoping for, my therapist to guess what I need to talk about that day, or in her words “where do you need me most?”

It can be agonizing to sit across from the person you are supposed to be able to tell anything and to still have the words catch in your throat.  I have this problem in a lot of my relationships.  Sometimes words just escape me altogether.  But more often, the words are formed in my head and I just can’t get them out.  They get stuck and I can’t seem to translate what I am thinking in my brain into actual words that can leave my lips.

So I just sit there and wait and hope that she – or anyone for that matter – will figure it out by mind-reading.

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Through The Eyes of a Child

(or The Things My Kids Say)

One of the things I have most enjoyed about motherhood is the chance to experience life through the eyes of a child.

To them, the world is a mystery, one great big never-ending science experiment.  Every day brings something new and exciting.  Discoveries lurk at every corner.

(Although, I think we’ve proven more times that necessary that, yes, dog food does in fact float.)

I’ve loved watching the development of language, as gurgles and coos give way to words.  It’s enlightening to witness them navigate the English language, especially as they encounter and react to all of the “exceptions to the rule” in our language.  You can hear them apply the rule, and then watch their little face scrunch up as they realize it doesn’t sound right, and then try to figure out what went wrong with their logic.  I reluctantly correct them because their mistakes are often so adorable:

T(wo): What did we do on my 2th birthday?  What about on my 3th birthday?

It is particularly interesting to watch them find their own voices in this Digital Age.  For them, there has always been the internet, iPhones, iPads, Amazon Prime, On Demand TV, Google, YouTube, Facebook (I’ve stopped trying to get baby books made – it’s all documented on Facebook anyways!).

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