(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.

Continue reading “unFramed”

You Are Not Alone

(or This One Time, At Summer Camp…)

Twice a week, just after lunch, you can usually find me downstairs in the fitness center where I work, suiting up for yoga class.  We are very lucky that we have two wonderful yoga teachers, exceptional in their own right and not just by traveling corporate yoga teacher standards.  We have not had nearly such good luck with the substitutes, though.  There was the one who didn’t know the class was only 45 minutes, and had to bring everything to an abrupt end when the angry meditators assembled outside the door, impatiently waiting to be let into the room.  There was the one who simply ended the class without shavasana.  For those of you who are not yogis, this is practically sacrilege.  Many of us spend 40 (or more) minutes in practice twisting our bodies into strange poses and awkward forms just to get to those blissful 5 minutes of corpse pose that is promised at the end.  There was the one who was so overly obsessed with proper form I have sworn to turn around leave the class if she ever subs again, such was my irritation level at the end of the last class she taught.

And then there was the one who brought along a playlist unlike any other I have ever encountered in a yoga class.  It was bold and loud and so completely out of sync with what I need to practice yoga.  And then, about halfway through the class, a familiar tune rose up:

Another day has gone
I’m still all alone
How could this be
You’re not here with me
You never said goodbye
Someone tell me why
Did you have to go
And leave my world so cold

Continue reading “You Are Not Alone”

Left Behind

(with Unfinished Business)

It’s been 15 days (and counting) since I last saw my therapist.  The last time I saw her I was still functioning under the illusion that she and her doctors were working, slowly, methodically, through a long diagnostic process.  Initial signs, along with a family history, pointed to MS, but in order to diagnose, they had to work down the MS rule out list.  There was a long list of possibilities to test for and that would take time to get through.  I did not sense any urgency.  It seemed sensible to remain calm and carry on with these rule-out tests.  Cancer was in the mix, and mentioned, along with the caveat that it seemed unlikely.  At one point, less than a month ago, there was even talk of just needing back surgery, with a mere 10 days to recuperate.

So I wasn’t worried.  And I wasn’t prepared when the very next day, the cancer diagnosis was made.  I had no time to prepare.  I didn’t know we’d be heading into a long, traumatic break.  When she took a 3-week break last spring, we had time to prepare and plan and find ways to explicitly stay connected.  This time, the bottom just fell out.

Continue reading “Left Behind”

The Missing Piece

(or Simple Questions, Complicated Answers)

People can ask the darnedest questions.  I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve been asked “Are you going to have a third?” or “Do you want to try for a daughter?”  Usually this comes in the form of idle small-talk and meaningless banter.  I have to hope that the questioners are just naive, and that they haven’t given much thought to the myriad of ways one could answer these seemingly innocent questions.

No matter how often it happens, it always takes my breath away, even for just a minute.  My heart wrenches, a sadness overwhelms me.  I might pause for a minute to think about how to respond – or how I would like to respond.  I usually defer to simple answers: “oh, I think we’re done” or maybe even “you never know.”

Truth is we already have a third child, a daughter.  She was our first and had to leave this human realm before we even had a chance to hold her.  She wouldn’t have survived here on earth, but I have to think she is somewhere, without pain, in the great beyond.

Continue reading “The Missing Piece”

Around and Around

(or I ♥ School Supplies)

As a kid I loved buying school supplies at the start of every school year.  I loved everything about the process: going to the store, carefully picking out everything on the list, coming home and opening everything up – oh the smell of new pencils and notebooks!  Then I would methodically lay everything out on the floor, survey my new supplies, this new school year landscape.  And then I’d pack it all up and put everything in my bag, just so.  And I would repeat this process for as many days as I had before school started.  I’m not sure how many other children “played” with their school supplies, but I sure did.

When my son started school last year, my wife gleefully announced that she had bought school supplies through the Parent Teacher Association.  Everything he would need would be in his classroom, waiting for him on the first day of school.  Now I know this makes so much practical sense, as no parent really wants to run to every store in town trying to track down all the items on the shopping list, but I was gutted.  The buying of new school supplies had always given me such pleasure, and I was looking forward to doing it all over again with my son.

Continue reading “Around and Around”

Free Fall

(or A Day to Forget)

I wrote this out last year, long before I started even thinking about a blog.  It was too much for Facebook, and seems more appropriate to post here anyways, this marking the 15th anniversary of that horrible day.

Last night (9/11/2014) as we looked over the river to the beams of light, what I noticed most was the sound of the airplanes.  Lots of airplanes.


And it made me remember the silence of the city that September night.  It was eerily silent and still, except of course for the steady stream of the sound of sirens.  But even those seemed to fade into the background, leaving the world all too quiet.

I remember the smell.  It’s a smell I would much rather forget, but don’t think I ever will.   It was an unavoidable smell that hung over the city for months – a combination of burning jet fuel and melting iron, dust and ash, flesh and death.

I really dislike the mantra “never forget.”  Many need to forget, in order to be able to move on, to be able to keep on living.

Continue reading “Free Fall”

Change of Terms

(or Me vs. the Horseshoe Crab)

I walked into my therapist’s office the other day to find that it was all packed up.  The bookcases were empty, the knick-knacks were gone.  There were stacks of boxes and rolls of bubble-wrap.  She had momentarily left the room when I arrived, so I had several minutes to devise a list of worst-case scenarios.  Was she moving to a new office?  In the same suite?  Same building?  Across town?  How would this move impact my journey?  Or worse: was she retiring?  Closing up shop?  Had she had enough?  Had we all driven her completely crazy?

When she returned to the office I immediately demanded to know what was going on.  She seemed shocked that I would ask, as if walking into your therapist’s packed-up office was completely normal.  No, she was not moving or retiring.  Her office was just being repainted and new flooring was to be installed.  And did I really think she would move or retire without giving me months and months of notice so that we could process it together?

In short, yes.

Certainly a move of office would be a much easier scenario to adapt to than losing her to retirement, but even so, I was uneasy with the thought that anything about this therapeutic environment might change.

Continue reading “Change of Terms”

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.

Continue reading “The Guessing Game”

Time Warp

(or Why I Hate the Buzzer)

I hate the therapy buzzer.  There, I said it.

Nothing quite says “time’s up” like the disruptive sound of a buzzer.  Wrap it up, move along, the next person is waiting.

My therapist is terrible at keeping time.  This is kind of a liability for a therapist.

I noticed the absence of any clock in her office the first time we met.  Most therapists seem to have at least two – one for them, one for you.

I asked her about this: “Are you the keeper of the time?”  To which she replied, “I am the Time Keeper!”

Frankly, I’m relieved that there is no clock in sight.  It takes the pressure off.

However, I don’t think she answered the question fairly.  It is her job to keep track of time, but she’s so bad at it, she really could use some help.

Time seems to be such a part of the therapy frame.  45 minutes.  Not a minute more or less. It’s the part of the frame that I most struggle with, the part that I rail against the most.

Continue reading “Time Warp”