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Posts Tagged ‘Psychology’

I was talking with Great Grandma Ada this morning and I mentioned that disrespect, or its evil cousin “contempt,” is a most toxic part of some marriages. I figured this marriage counselor had seen her fair share of marital discord over the years. We started off discussing how Pompeo is holding Congress in “contempt” by refusing to hand over documents relating to our President’s abuse of power in Ukraine, and now VP Pence has joined this “League of Sycophantic Gentlemen Eager to Ignore a Subpoena!” 

Ada pivoted immediately from politics to personality. She told me how she had always wanted to do a study of newlyweds, specifically of videos detailing how they handled the whole wedding cake situation. I blurted out, “Oh, you mean did they smash a piece of cake into each other’s mouth?”

“Yes,” she said, she could usually predict if a relationship was going to last by the way they fed each other cake on their wedding day.

Nine years ago, my reluctant Bride was having nothing resembling a huge, monstrous, wedding cake at her ceremony in an apple orchard. No, she chose cupcakes that would be named after her dogs – Bailey’s Irish Cream and Guiness’ Dark Chocolate – and since we didn’t have an MC to set aside a special time for cutting a cake, guests were served their tiny sweets during the reception on a rooftop downtown. I added small maple sugar candies, the kind the Bride loved as a child in the Berkshires.

They went so fast, I’m not sure if the Bride and Groom even tasted them?

Their marriage has grown into a mutually supportive, loving and respectful partnership. Getting along with your partner in the good times is easy; but getting along through grueling residencies and fellowships, punctuated even now by weeks of MICU on-call-endless nights and emergency phone calls, takes commitment and courage to a new level.

Ada brought up Melania Trump, how she slapped her husband’s hand away. I mentioned a recent video montage of world leaders looking disgusted and appalled at Mr T’s remarks. What are the signs of contempt?

“Here’s some common signs that contempt is underlying the negative tone in a conversation.  Eye-rolling suggests contempt.  An upper lip raised on one side suggests contempt.  So does a sarcastic tone of voice.  Beware if you have these habits, and also if you have been on the receiving end of these negative communications. They are sure signs that someone is not listening or listening to deprecate you (or you to deprecate your partner), not to gain understanding.

Empathy and contempt are polar opposites.  Empathy involves caring about others feelings and concerns.  Contempt is arrogant (“I know best”) disregard, dismissal and denigration of others’ concerns.  Empathy nurtures relationship bonds; contempt invites relationship and marriage problems.”  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201303/how-contempt-destroys-relationships

Will House Democrats have the WILL (I was going to write a different word, but after having to look up “BLANK Strap” thinking Mr T meant “boot strap” which he didn’t, I thought the less coarsening of language the better) to impeach? What will it take for this League of Sycophants to release the documents desired so that articles of impeachment may be served? Will they claim executive privilege once again? Shall we remain a sovereign state? These old white men are in contempt of court and we are a nation of laws. Straight jackets have come to mind.

Meanwhile, here is the Love Bug learning how to decorate a cake. It’s up to us to model  empathy, to teach kindness.

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Virgo has moved on to Libra and my worlds are colliding! There was a full moon the night before the Bride’s 40th birthday, which she celebrated in Asheville, NC. She refused to make a big deal out of it and insists she’s totally fine. Well why wouldn’t she be? She’s got a beautiful family, an amazing career, and just became a certified yoga instructor to boot! According to Oprah, at 40 “…you can stop living your life for other people and start living it for yourself!”

Wait, I thought that happened at 50? I’m pretty sure Great Grandma Ada would NOT agree as she lives primarily to help other people!

But here’s the thing. According to the Bride, her Enneagram Type is 1… The Reformer! Now this is your basic Type A personality; she is the Monica of her friends, the girl who gets things done. Hard-driven, “rational, idealistic, principled, purposeful, self-controlled and…wait for it…perfectionistic.” That’s pretty right on.

So for my birthday I was instructed to take the test! This Libra will be turning 71 soon and figured why not? Numbers no longer bother me, it’s a slow roll to 80 when I’ll probably need new knees. Turns out I’m Type 9 – The Peacemaker! Yep that’s me, always wanting to make connections and keep the family together, a typical Welsh Corgi in the dog eat dog world of life. I avoid conflict whenever possible, but I’m not afraid to stand up to bullies. “Easygoing, self-effacing, receptive, reassuring, agreeable and complacent.”

Complacent?! I’m blaming Catholic School for that one! The Ennegram Institute goes on:

Nines tend to adopt an optimistic approach to life; they are, for the most part, trusting people who see the best in others; they frequently have a deep seated faith that things will somehow work out. They desire to feel connected, both to other people and to the world at large. They frequently feel most at home in nature and generally make warm and attentive parents.

Turning 30 I nearly had a meltdown. Baby Boomers always thought you could never trust anyone over 30, that was the watershed moment; old age was right around the corner! The beginning of the end, the reason to buy black balloons. I was single, childless, and adrift about the big questions. I put a fire engine red henna rinse in my newly permed strawberry blonde hair – it made me look like a lion! Even my sister didn’t recognize me.

When Bob turned 40, we had a “Back to the Sixties” party at the beach and I’m not sure we’ll ever top that one! 40 wasn’t such a big deal for me, although we’d left my beloved New England, my bird sanctuary for the NJ suburbs. I wouldn’t say it was the best decade with menopause on the horizon, but it wasn’t bad either.

One of the highlights of my 40s was leading a group of moms in a No Doubt rendition of “I’m Just a Girl” (Except it was I’m Just a Mom) over a middle school campfire! Why are we here if we cannot embarrass our children? And why does Gwen Stefani still look the same, so gorgeous? And how did I become the mom of a 40 year old?

Consider this my puff piece to the latest breaking news. We’ve been celebrating a lot of birthdays lately and I’m getting hopeful about our country’s future; but maybe it’s just early onset Alzheimers. Or maybe it’s not so early?

Take the Classical Enneagram test yourself, it’s better than the zodiac! And please stay WEIRD! https://www.eclecticenergies.com/enneagram/test

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It was almost 2 am, my mind was a jumble of raw nerve endings. I tried to concentrate on my breath, to meditate my way back to sleep, but I ended up instead tracing the alphabet with my feet. Ankle exercises can be comforting. Then it suddenly got very dark. tomb-like-dark. And it was quiet, no house humming quiet. I wondered if it was just that Bob’s phone stopped lighting up. He had returned from a trip to FL, visiting his brother. But the alarm clock was black; our power was out.

Today it’s supposed to creep up toward 100 degrees, one of the hottest days of the year.

So what did I do? I woke Bob of course, after all maybe it was just a fuse that needed to switch. But it was the whole street, all the street lamps were out, thousands of people without power.

Are you a midnight wanderer? Do you raid the refrigerator at night, or watch TV when you can’t sleep? I’m a Reader with a capital R. So after 2 hours of mingling our feet and talking by flashlight, commiserating about our old whole house generator in the mountains, when the power finally came back on I picked up a National Geographic magazine about Migration.

It was like a crash course in “How Not to be a White Supremacist!” Because 1) tracing DNA has become so affordable, and 2) some tiny, miniscule bone in our inner ear that is the most dense bone in our body has been storing all of our primitive ancestors’ secrets since the Ice Age, therefore 3) anthropologists have been able to trace the Three Great Human Migrations!

“Who Were the First Europeans?” by Andrew Curry is in this month’s issue A WORLD ON THE MOVE. “Europeans living today, in whatever country, are a varying mix of ancient bloodlines hailing from Africa, the Middle East, and the Russian Steppe.” In other words neo-Nazis, get over yourselves and your replacement theory. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/2019/07/first-europeans-immigrants-genetic-testing-feature/

We are all descendants of farmers who tolerated nomads (hunter/gatherers) and then rode horses across continents as plague almost decimated our species. That’s a pretty small nutshell, but some people were dark with green eyes, and some were light with brown eyes and somehow we managed to survive, together. Last night:

I was worrying about the Love Bug who starts 2nd Grade today. We spent the afternoon together and she had a fever, an ear infection, would her parents send her to school?

I was worrying about Great Grandma Ada, because she worries about me all the time so I thought I’d return the favor.

I was worrying about children separated from their parents because I was separated from my Mother the Flapper when I was 10 months old.

This morning I was surprised by how low the Trump administration could go, though I really shouldn’t have been. He is changing the rules and regulations for LEGAL immigrants to obtain a green card, making it more difficult to obtain visas or become citizens. Why you may ask? If a person has relied on any form of public assistance for more than ONE year, they will be invited to leave! The article was hiding inside the BBC News website. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-49323610

This bears repeating – LEGAL Immigrants who do not meet the GOP’s rules of “self-sufficiency” will be deported. So legal immigrants working part-time at Walmart will have to go if they rely on food aid or public housing….

I didn’t go to this year’s East Nashville Tomato Festival because Bob wasn’t here, but also because I’m becoming afraid of crowds. What keeps you up in the middle of the night?

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How to properly apologize should be an AP course in high school. Especially for boys, who seem to barrel through life taking no prisoners, like they are entitled to step on a few toes along the way. Girls and women apologize too much and too easily; what are we so sorry about anyway? “Excuse this mess…Sorry for the inconvenience…Please accept my…” You might think we were born with a need to make excuses for taking up space!

Certainly my Catholic education prepared me for a lifetime network worth of apologies. I’m not quite sure how they did it, but those nuns had us feeling guilty for any minor indiscretion, and made us write, “I’m sorry and I will never do X again” a thousand times on a blackboard. In proper cursive mind you. No wonder we all vied for the privilege of erasing the blackboard after school.

Bob and I watched the Cohen hearing with eyes wide open: I thought it was an act of redemption, while Bob focused on the broken-record belittling by the GOP. The most absurd moment came when Rep Mark Meadows (R-NC) had a Black woman standing in a white cape behind him. Rep Rashida Tlaib lashed out at this pathetic attempt to prove our Commander in Comedy is NOT racist because he hired her. Tlaib scolded:

Just because someone has a person of color, a black person working for them does not mean they aren’t racist,” Tlaid said. “And it is insensitive, and some would even say that the fact that someone would actually use a prop, a black woman, in this chamber, in this committee”—here she took a heavy sigh—”is alone racist in itself.”

Well did he take umbrage? Of course, he didn’t like this woman, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, suggesting that he pulled a racist stunt. HOW DARE SHE! So she immediately apologized in a polite, that wasn’t my intent way, “To my colleague, Mr. Meadows, that was not my intention, and I do apologize if that’s what it sounded like. But I said ‘someone’ in general.” This is called a hedging your bets apology.

OK so I understand it takes a lot of guts for a freshman/woman legislator to call that old white guy to task in a public hearing, and it certainly takes a good amount of grace to apologize and later hug it out. But this morning the Twitterverse would like HIM to apologize to HER. We all know that will never happen, but what if it did?

May I present exhibit A on how to apologize… the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau!

In 2017 he delivered a speech on the floor of the House of Commons apologizing for the dehumanizing treatment of LGBTQ service members and other government employees throughout the second half of the 20th century. It wasn’t the common, half-baked apology, “If I managed to offend your poor little ego I regret it, it was not my intention…” Which is basically a “I’m really the good guy here and you need to grow a pair” kind of non-apology apology.

It was a good and proper apology, one that my old nuns would approve of, if they ever accepted the human race as sexual. It was eloquent and moving, hitting all the right notes, and I happened to read it again on a quilt last weekend. You can read the text here: https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/full-english-text-of-prime-ministers-apology-to-members-of-lgbtq-community

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Waiting is a big part of “adulting.” One of my parenting mantras was, “Want? Work. Wait!” Teaching our children to wait, and not decompensate over an ice cream cone, is serious business. Eventually we must all wait for a plane, wait in line for a coffee, wait for a paycheck before paying the mortgage. Like Penelope, weaving by day and unraveling by night, we women are experts at this waiting game.

When I was little, I’d wait by the door for my father’s return from work. In one of his pockets he had hidden a small trinket. I can’t remember what they were exactly, only that they could fit in the palm of his hand. Maybe it was a colorful rock, or seashell? Perhaps it was a barrette? It didn’t matter really, because my memories of him are his many small acts of loving kindness.

We would collect popsicle sticks until one summer day he built me a dollhouse.

We would roll up coins from my piggy bank and deposit them in my savings account.

We would always stop for an ice cream sundae at Zanelli’s after Mass on Sunday.

Until one day years later, I walked into Daddy Jim’s hospital room and he didn’t remember me. My visits with him at the end of his life, coincided with finding Bob again, in that same hospital. Great Grandma Ada stopped me by the elevator and said, “Come with me, you’ll never guess…”

Last night I was visiting with the Bride in her ER. I’d accompanied a friend and neighbor to the hospital and we were given the royal treatment. She had an EKG done while I was parking the car! Then, while I was waiting for her tests and scans to be read, I simultaneously read a post about “Waiting” from my dear friend Bess. She too had been waiting in a hospital:

As for me, I watch and wait, and try to be who he needs right now. We are all headed down this road. John is just a few steps ahead of me. Acceptance of the new limitations of our bodies, re-evaluation, re-prioritizing, using everything we’ve learned over a lifetime to figure out how to navigate in a new reality where the only certainty is uncertainty.

My heart goes out to Bess and her husband. May this next procedure work its magic. And my heart is breaking for all those federal employees who are working now without pay. To all those furloughed and waiting at home to get back to work. To our fellow citizens who must choose between a trip to the grocery store or an electric bill.

It’s hard to accept our new reality, with a toddler-in-chief at the helm. The uncertainty of this time in our lives can seem overwhelming. The L’il Pumpkin must wait for a new helmet before he can ride his scooter. The Bride had to wait and see if the Love Bug’s new passport would be renewed. And I am waiting for Bob’s safe return from NJ.

I will not look at ridiculous pictures of McDonald’s sauce in silver gravy boats at the White House; it’s not funny at all to me. Instead, I will drive my neighbor to T’ai Chi, because it’s Tuesday. And leave you with a thought, some of us are better at waiting – insert crying/laughing emoji.

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Growing up, I was always told it’s unbecoming “for a girl” to show anger. In fact, one of my earliest memories was getting angry at my foster parents for one thing or another, running into my bedroom, slamming the door and turning the crucifix around on the wall above my bed. After all, I didn’t want Jesus to see me like that!

But later, as a young feminist, I learned to appreciate and harness my anger. Why should I have to come home earlier than my brothers? Facing any injustice, I would tap into that feeling, because I knew that it was like the wind before a storm. And after a storm, the air would be pure and clean.

Well I hate to admit it, but I’m getting angry again, just like everybody else who’s been paying attention. And it’s not only at cable news and social media or our Liar-in-Chief. This past week Bob and I attended 2 “holiday” ie Christmas parties… and  our local Planned Parenthood Center has stopped providing abortions:

In a statement, Aimee Lewis, the Vice President of External Affairs and Chief Development Officer for Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi said: “We are 100% committed to meeting our patients’ family planning needs in Nashville, including abortion services. We believe that the ability to control fertility is fundamental to human health and well-being. We believe that your body is your own, and when it isn’t, you can’t be free, and you won’t be equal.”

They believe that statement, and I believe it to my core, except the clinic’s reasoning has been obscure – they are no longer accepting appointments for abortions since they are doing some quality control “…and will return with those services soon.”

Meanwhile the lovely state of TN has a 48 hour waiting period requiring 2 trips to a clinic. This is a costly and overtly Republican ploy to shame and humiliate women seeking such services. Nashville women will have to travel to Memphis or Knoxville twice.

And last night driving home from the Grands, I heard an ad on the radio about a convenient website for men seeking Erectile Dysfunction drugs – they could avoid the embarrassment of talking to a doctor by simply clicking on this wonderful website!!! A whole month of little blue pills will be delivered discreetly in the mail! How wonderful for men. I was almost surprised it wasn’t an App already.

So I say to myself, yes there will be more women in Congress next month. Michelle Obama wrote a wonderful book. The Love Bug told me she’s glad she’s a girl cause she won’t have to shave her face! Every night I list all the things I’m grateful for because I know that anger can consume you if you’re not careful.

The Atlantic published a compelling essay on the universal rage we Americans have been feeling for far too long. If the holidays seem a little too jovial about now, this might be required reading, “The Real Roots of American Rage” by Charles Duhigg:

Cable news, Twitter, politicians who now do more campaigning than governing—their every incentive is to keep us angry. But we own some of the guilt, too.

I’m not proud to admit that I know what it feels like to relish seeing an opponent get his comeuppance. I profess to hate what cable news is doing to the national conversation, but I still tune in. I decry the nasty discourse on Twitter, then check back the next hour to refresh my outrage. I deplore the nation’s rank partisanship, but I rarely split my ballot.

My anger has become a burden. Perhaps yours has too. And yet we can’t turn away. The anger impulse is too deeply encoded, the thrill too genuine. So where do we go from here? https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/01/charles-duhigg-american-anger/576424/

When they go low, you’ve got to fight as if your life depends on it. There is a storm brewing – suppressing our fundamental rights to vote, to govern our own bodies, to not get gunned down in a school or a mall. Are you angry enough yet?

This was a Victorian Christmas with our neighbors. I thought my 80s yellow leather jacket was a propos?!

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We picked up the L’il Pumpkin at school mid-morning. It was going to be a fun day, going to the Children’s Theatre to see The Little Mermaid, then lunch and on to Hannukah. But we had a long holding session in the lobby before the play with a few other schools, so I headed over to the large center table covered with paper, crayons and writing prompts.

“Ariel and her father the King are having trouble understanding each other. What do you wish adults could understand better about children?”

“What do you think,” I asked my little grandson.

“Listening,” he said without missing a beat.

And a light went off; I thought about the term “active listening,” like some ancient artifact that had washed ashore in my brain, back before parenthood. While studying child psychology, I knew even before reading a text that some people are checked out when it comes to their kids, and some are just naturally checked IN.

This was long before we had tiny smart phones to ding and buzz our attention away from our children. Just as we need context to read and comprehend, we need to hear between the lines in order to communicate well with little people. Sure meltdowns can happen, but if we are paying attention, we can usually avoid them.

I was recently involved in a conversation with one of Great Grandma Ada’s friends. He had been a professor at Vanderbilt in his youth, now well into his 90s he liked to paint beautiful, vivid landscapes. I was aware of how effortlessly we spoke, and it’s hard to remember what exactly we spoke about, but it started with Brexit. The rare thing of beauty was that here was a man who was listening – he wasn’t turning his head away, or nodding, or looking at his watch. He was engaging, and our words flew elegantly back and forth.

You don’t have to be a Disney princess to get into hot water with your parents. The L’il Pumpkin told me he was glad Ariel smashed the magic shell containing her voice, thereby breaking the sea witch Ursula’s spell. I thought about the many voiceless women, throughout his/herstory, who were destined to live a constrained life; tied up in apron strings, never learning to drive a car (like Nelly, my foster mother), living in a “Doll’s House” like Nora herself, or Shakespeare’s Rosalind before her.

I hope our grandson grows up to be a good listener, to be a mensch. Watching him skip back to our car, holding Bob’s hand in the parking lot, my heart melted a little.

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