Let's talk about work-life balance, and how I achieve it....

Good one. Did I have you going for a second at least?

Instead, I want to muse about the teeter-totter that is my "work-life" balance. Namely, that it seems I can only balance one thing at a time. And that doesn't sound very balance-y, does it?

For example, an interesting thing about my business (therapy) is that it's very seasonal. Did you know that? You would think that my office would be flooded with phone calls around the holidays, what, with all that 'quality family time'? But in fact, most people are just trying to survive the holidays. They don't have time to examine their mental health!

January, is another story. The relatives go home, the kids go back to school, the tinsel is vacuumed off the carpet and WHAM! now there's finally time to realize and devote energy to your mental state.

So this means, at the times when I'm most busy personally (like Christmas) I am least busy professionally. And vice versa.

Doesn't it seem like this should lead to fabulous work-life balance in which my teeth are always white and my clothes always match? I keep waiting.

What it means in reality is that my work pace slows *just* enough to let me catch up on that never ending to-do list. Meanwhile, as soon as I leave the office I walk into a wrapping-paper war-zone full of parties, and presents and ... well, you know the drill.

January comes, life settles, and  I start to think I'm kind of a 'together' person. (I like to savor those moments when they happen.)

Then I walk into my work day with lots of clients I can't wait to see... and a desk piled full of paper that I neglect in the meantime. Tax forms, insurance billing, malpractice insurance... oh my! Running a business at its finest.

Imagine this times a billion... that is my wrapping paper 'organizer'.
What is my point? 

Well partly I just wanted a moment to whine in text (it is so therapeutic!) But also, I wanted to say these very controversial words: I don't believe there is such a thing as a perfect work-life balance. There, I said it.

*Ducking as gurus and shrink-types are likely throwing things at me*

I'll even go one further: The illusion that there is some perfect balance to achieve causes more suffering (I believe) than the imbalance itself. We make ourselves crazy trying to 'have it all' and keep our teeth white... meanwhile we're chasing an illusion.

For me, the work-life balance occurs in the moments between the teeter-totter. You know, the moments where the teeter-totter is temporarily balanced because it is tipping the other direction? That millisecond? That's what I'm talking about.

The trick (I think) is to live in the imbalance. To embrace the chaos. To make room for love and happiness and meaning and connection while you're waiting for that perfect balance to happen. Because (I've got some bad news for perfectionists) you can waste your entire life waiting for the balance to happen first. 

So me? I'm going to drink some eggnog (if my husband has left me any) and wrap a few more presents tonight. The paper is already conveniently strewn about the floor, so I won't even have to hunt it down. (Hopefully my dogs didn't eat it today).
And I will laugh.
And for a moment, my teeth will look whiter and I will feel at balance... even if my teeter totter is still in motion.

Wishing you a life of abundance!


The Tree

"The wind needs to be able to move through the tree" my dad explained. "At least that's what the tree guy said. So every few years you have to cut off every third branch. That way the tree doesn't get disease and it gets nice and full."

I looked at the tree- it didn't look full. Not yet. It looked barren. A two-story clump of sticks punctuated with a few leaves. In comparison to the before-pruning version of the tree, it looked like it was missing something. And yet, according to the expert, it needed to be 'missing something' so that the health of the tree could be preserved.

You see where I'm going with this. (I know you do!)

Often my clients will come into my office because a part of their life is "diseased". It's stagnant, or unhealthy in other ways, and they can't seem to clear the rot. They know the disease well. I often don't even have to point it out- they will tell me it's there on their own. But the inevitable question becomes "What do I do about it."

And then, there is the moment of truth. The moment where things must be surrendered, before the health can be restored. The moment where the tree will feel bare. "The air needs to be able to move through the tree." I try and say in a thousand different ways. "That way the tree can withstand storms, the tree doesn't get diseased, and the limbs get enough sunshine to become nice and full."

But the bare tree is scary. It somehow doesn't add up: cut away green limbs to save the whole.

The air needs to be able to move through the trees...

Wishing you sunshine and lots of fresh air on your limbs,


The Blame Game

How I wished I looked when at home
Okay, I'm gonna give you a glimpse into my personal life and sell out my husband at the same time (sorry hon!) But what else would you expect from me by now?

About how old I feel when handling poop.
Here's a day in the life of this (part-time) stay-at-home-parent: After a busy weekend, our house is in chaos.  My attempts to cook lunch or dinner are thwarted by the semi-full dishwasher and overflowing sink. My toddler's poop-splosion (yes, it's a word!) in his "big boy pants"  means that I rush with a dripping bomb of clothing to the utility sink (full of other stuff) and then to the washing machine (full of musty-smelling damp clothes). My attempts to throw away the clutter are met with frustration when I find out that there is no garbage can liner... again....

Now, these little irritations are not a big deal by themselves. But when you're exhausted, overwhelmed and alone with a toddler on a messy Monday... and *ahem* some of these events *may or may not* be the fault of an absent member of your household who is now at a beautiful sparkling office which is quiet and poop-splosion free? Well, let's just say my attitude and I had to have a little talk. You pickin' up what I'm puttin' down?

Dramatization of "the text"
I could turn into that wife who greets her hubby with steam coming out of her ears (yup, I've been her before). I could turn into that wife who does the clean up but plays dramatic violin music in her head as she imagines the closeup video shot of her martyrdom (maybe I've known her too). Or.... I could *gulp* skip the blame and ask for help.

Because the truth is, I hadn't been on top of my game all weekend either (its been known to happen!) And I'm perfectly capable of lending a hand with any of those issues above. And somehow, when I have a bad day and I'm not very productive... I look for compassion from my husband; yet when he's off his game- he needs to pay.  And that's not a very happy way to go through a marriage.

My valiant hubby...
So I skipped the blaming text (oh, you know the one!) and went straight for the SOS text- "I need helllllllp!"

And guess what I got? We skipped the fight and got straight to the fixing. Within a short time of my darling hubby's return home- I got a sympathetic hug and all the help I needed.

 Which made me think: I could have pitched a fit (and would have felt oh so justified) but then my overwhelmed and stressed-out self would have also had a fight to fix too. Or, I could make the revolutionary choice to skip the blame and ask for help. Which meant I got what I really needed.

Wow, I learned something new yesterday. :) Just thought I'd share!

pssst- Sorry it's been a while. I've been doing some writing for others, including MacaroniKid


Beyond Words

Out of respect for what real men and women endured, I thought real photos were a necessity. Please take care to avoid this if you need to....

I'll never forget the first body I saw fall through the air. It seemed suspended in air, suspended in time... as I sat staring in suspended disbelief.

I'll never forget the first of the twin towers falling. The sheer enormity of the weight of it. Every cell in my body whispering: "this can't be happening". Every part of me wishing that the scene would stop, the hero would fly overhead, the movie would role credits.

This can't be real, I thought. And yet it was.

September 11, 2001 was a day where tragedy heaped upon tragedy... each moment seeming more unspeakable until heartbreak couldn't describe it.

That was the first lesson of September 11 for me: that indescribably horrific things can happen to people who don't deserve it. That cruelty and hatred and rage can become so murderous... that it can take thousands of innocent people with it.

Oh sure, I've read history books. I stay informed on current events. This was not new information intellectually. But it was new information in my heart: the pure powerlessness of watching people fall to their deaths, watching people crash to the ground with a 1500 foot building, watching people run screaming from the bomb-like cloud of debris and fire. The pure powerlessness that my gasp, my horror, my tears, my cries... could do not one thing to stop the terrible events unfolding in front of me. That is a lesson of the heart. And it was a horribly bitter one to swallow.

But that wasn't all I learned that day. Freeze that frame. Look again.

Because on the same day I learned about the capacity of the human heart for bravery. I learned that a person fleeing for their lives could stop in their tracks to lift someone from the rubble. I learned that firefighters hugged one another goodbye before they charged up the stairs. I learned that ordinary citizens rushed back into the smoke and flames to check among bodies for a single survivor. I learned that people fled the debris without trampling one another. I learned that volunteers assembled on that very day to go back into the warzone they fled, to check for survivors.

You see, September 11 will be a day frozen in my mind. But when it plays in my mind- it includes the worst and the best of humanity. The cruelty and the compassion, the cowardly and the brave. What a moment: the stark contrast of the murder of innocents... against the dignity of caring for another before your own survival. And it is my belief in the "better self" that keeps propelling me forward.

Because if all I learned that day- was sheer powerlessness in the face of hate... then I would have only learned the lesson taught by the few. But if I honor the courage and the compassion... then I honor the lessons of the many. And how beautiful they are.

I'll never forget,


I worked out today (I know, I know. I'll wait for your applause to die down).

Pretty much kicked that gym's butt. And I'm *hardly* even sore. Don't I rock? (Please ignore the dirty dishes, unmade bed, wet towels on the floor and child watching too much tv). 

You know one of the things I LOVE about my job? All day long I get the "real story" behind the veneer. The rest of the world is very well fooled by my clients and how perfect they look. But I get to be a part of their genuine struggles. Not only is this meaningful, but it is a daily reminder that we don't have it all together.

It also reminds me that we ask too much of ourselves in modern society. Somehow, we have the same 24 hours we've always had, but we're supposed to do so much more with it. On a daily basis I am bombarded with messages of "not good enough". For example, right now I ought to be:

-having great sex
-spending time with friends
-working out my core
-eating small organic meals 5 times a day
-keeping a clean house
-keeping a clean house with green, nontoxic chemicals
-using reusable grocery bags
-enriching my child's mind with creative, novel projects that last all day 

And don't forget that I must also be: tan while avoiding skin cancer, a sexy mom without being TOO sexy, using social media ALL DAY but not ignoring my child, making a good income without worrying about money...

Yeah, because I have 30 hours a week to do this!
Oh yeah, and did you know that apparently I'm supposed to take up COUPONING now!? Seriously. 

Something has to give. It just has to. It's not possible to do it all.

But here's the good news: everyone else is feeling the same way. Really. I know because they tell me.

So here's my recommendation: how about we celebrate mediocrity and balance a bit more? Why don't we congratulate our fellow friends on living a satisfied, pretty good life? Salute our brethren for just being normal?

Well okay, at least we could just drop the act. No one has it all together. No one. I promise. 

So today, I will celebrate my successes: working out, showering and exfoliating (oh, yeah), writing a  blog. The failures are always going to be present, no matter how hard I try there will be that *one more thing* I ought to have done. So to highlight those failures means to always be feeling failure, because they will always exist. And to me, that's a sad and frustrating way to go through life. So I'm advocating for less of that, more of self-congratulations.

You're doing okay,

Just Give Up Already!

We all have it: The Boiling Point.

It might not even make sense when it occurs. It could be a long time coming (stresses building up), or it could be seemingly out of nowhere. But when it hits: you know! Suddenly you become some weird, incomprehensible, lunatic version of yourself. This would be where a cartoonist would draw steam coming out of your ears, and googly eyes. Hubby and kids look out! *

You keep trying to keep it together. These Boiling Points usually come at the absolute worst times. You have a big event, an important meeting, a sick child... you get the point. Not now, you're thinking. Just hold off a little longer. I have X,Y, and Z to get done before I can really lose it.

But guess what? The Boiling Point doesn't care. The time is NOW and the place is HERE. 
I like to imagine the Boiling Point looks like this:

What's a smooth-sophisticated-adult like you to do? 

Give up.

Yup, that's right. Give up. 

If only for a moment, let go of any expectation, any work load, and accept defeat.  This will look different for all of you. For some, it's a longer lunch break while you hide in your office. For others, its a road trip. Or maybe you need to go a little nuts and just laugh hysterically. For you mommies, it might mean popping in that video** while you suck your thumb and rock in your bedroom repeating affirmations.

It might mean confessing your Boiling Point to another. It might mean having to ask for help. But I can guarantee you this- a Boiling Point is a gift. (Yes, really!) It is your inner-alarm system. It is telling you to do just that: "give up!" Its like your internal brain is saying, "Uh, hello? You really can't take it anymore. I'm going to short circuit until I incapacitate you to the point that you have no choice but to let go. Don't try to fight me. I'll make you look like an idiot."
(Which is really quite sophisticated language for that guy)

You see, the Boiling Point is here with a message. The message that you are overloaded and need a (brief) mental collapse. That might sound like a raw deal, but it's my personal opinion that the brief mental collapse prevents the major ones. So see, it really is a gift!

Next time, try giving up. It will be the best thing you can do- nothing at all!

Wishing you would just GIVE UP already,

*Please note: this is all hypothetical as I have never experienced any said unrefined melt-down. I've just heard of them.
** You know it, it's the one that makes you crazy and you never want to see again. But it somehow manages to enchant the ankle-biters.


You Are What You Marinate In

Let's pretend I am a normal person and not a "therapist" for a moment. It will make this easier to admit.

There are days I think angry or unkind thoughts about my husband.

It usually happens when I'm feeling overwhelmed at the sheer enormity of the task before me... and then I trip over something he (unknowingly) left in my path. He doesn't even have to be there, but in that moment, the emotional force of all of my frustration finds a bulls-eye! I go from stressed-out mommy to "innocent and unappreciated" martyr in the span of 5 seconds.

It's not pretty. In fact, it's entirely petty and childish and mean-spirited. I guess I should be thankful it all happened in my head, huh?

Oh yes, you know "the look"
But here's the thing: regardless of whether or not anyone knows the depths of my thoughts, they will still change how I feel and interact with my husband later that day. I might be completely "over" the latest annoyance... and yet as soon as he walks in the door and does *that thing that makes me crazy*, I'm a lot less likely to chalk it up to a cute character quirk.

I like to make up terms. In this case, I call it a "Love Buffer". You see, when I spend all day marinating in angry, resentful, hateful thoughts... it depletes my love buffer. Suddenly my capacity for patience and understanding is drained. Things that might have been a "2" on a 10-point scale are now an "8". Suddenly, I'm fighting over something that doesn't truly matter to me. And the craziest part is... I might not even realize that my current fight is being influenced by my earlier private martyrdom.

But I've come to realize: I am what I marinate in.
-when I marinate in resentment all day, I eventually become resentful.
-when I marinate in hateful thoughts all day, I eventually become hateful.
-when I marinate in bitter musings all day, I eventually become bitter.

So does this mean I ought to suppress any momentary irritation with my spouse? Pretend he's perfect in my mind and expect that to solve everything? Hardly! But it does mean that once I've communicated my frustration to him, and we've worked it out, it's my job to make sure I'm redepositing back into my Love Buffer.

How? I marinate in the good with as much relish as I did the bad. By searching my memory banks for the recent kind and considerate things he did. By making mental lists of 3 things I truly love about him. By re-playing special moments in my mind: our first kiss, our wedding day, the birth of our son.

In other words, by doing what newlyweds do naturally: marinating in the love so that I have enough buffer to endure the bad. Because after all, I am what I marinate in.

Wishing you a squishy marinade full of love,


What I'll Be Doing This Memorial Day (AKA A Love Letter To Veterans)

I (like many of you) grew up thinking that memorial day was a day of BBQ and swimming. It was a day to enjoy some grilled corn on the cob, and good friends. Oh yeah, and it was a day my veteran father put a flag out on the front of our house.

As an adult (and a therapist who has had the privilege to work with some fine combat veterans) I realize that memorial day is so much more. For me, it's an exercise in gratitude and patriotism. Its a day to "remember the fallen." For for my combat veteran clients- "the fallen" have a face, a name, and a family. It's a day for me to bring out my flag. For my combat veteran clients- that flag was protected with the lives of their friends.

And so will I BBQ on memorial day? Absolutely. Will I enjoy good food and good friends? You bet! But I will also be taking my son to a local memorial service at a cemetery in the morning. I expect it to be rather difficult (with a toddler) and not a great deal of fun in the traditional sense. But I want my son to know: his freedom came at a high price. 

I live in peace with my family. I live without fear because countless strangers (men and women with their own families) gave their life for it. And so, I want to say thank you. "Thank you" noble and dear veterans. Your service and sacrifice makes my cushy life possible. My gratitude seems like a small return on your investment... but I offer it wholeheartedly.

With Gratitude and Respect,


When Your Loved Ones Care TOO Much

Someone lamented: "Why can't my family and friends just love me without trying to change me?"

Good question. My answer: "Because they can't."

Oh sure, acceptance is important for love. And it's a form of acceptance to leave loved ones "as-is". Surely, none of us enjoys being "the project". But that said, when your loved one is suffering it is natural to want to make it better. Why? Because their suffering causes us suffering. That's the beauty (and the ugliness) of being in a loving relationship with someone: We want them to get better so we can ALL be better, because their pain gives us pain.

In other words (I'm sorry to say) loved ones have an agenda when it comes to your emotional pain.

This is where the "magic" of therapy enters. A therapist is someone who cares for you and your pain... who is trained to help you find solutions and health. At the same time, a therapist doesn't share your personal life. They don't suffer at the hands of your pain. If you lie awake at night full of anxiety- a therapist cares, but will not be losing sleep next to you. If you refuse to leave the house because you are awash in depression- a therapist cares, but will not be house-bound with you. If you find yourself getting angered too easily with loved ones- a therapist cares, but will not be the one getting yelled at day after day. If your sex life is suffering because of your poor body image- a therapist cares, but... you get the idea.

A trained professional who cares, but who is not personally harmed by your suffering is a valuable tool in the process of growth. They are able to see with clearer vision.  

It's not that the "agenda" of your loved ones is bad. It's just that it's unhelpful. Let me give you an example:

Grief is a process that is non-linear. It doesn't follow a prescriptive pattern. It is messy, it is longer than anyone wants it to be. Rarely do you hear a grieving person say "Wow, that was fast! I feel all better now!" Not only is grief long-lasting, but it is pervasive. It affects all aspects of your life. It makes you withdrawn, prone to anger, prone to depression, unfocused... the list goes on. A loved one who is affected by your grief will want you to *snap out of it*... and quickly. They want "you" back- the person they love. The sooner, the better. And that says nothing of their own grief (since loved ones frequently share losses).

But in this case, rushing grief is not only unhelpful- it is harmful. Rushing the grieving process is akin to prematurely shutting it down. Unfinished grief doesn't disappear- it causes harm to the person harboring it (depression, anger, anxiety, insomnia etc...) In this case, an "uninvolved" party who cares- is the exact person you need. Someone involved enough to listen, to care, to point out areas that need attention... while not "needing" your wellness.

Many clients experience my office as something of a "relief". It's as if they exhale for the first time when they walk in my door. A whole session hour- just for them. No one needing anything for themselves. No agenda on my part. Just a space and time where they can work through their stuff at their own pace. 

What a gift!

So if you are one of those people suffering, and thinking: "I don't need therapy, I have family and friends" please keep this in mind. If you find that loved ones are not helpful any longer... or you're feeling "stuck" longer than you want to be- it just might be a case of "loved ones' agendas". The good news is: their agenda is based on love. The bad news: it can get in the way of your needs. This is the magic, and the gift of therapy. Why not give it a try? There is nothing to lose.

Wishing you a space and time of your very own,


When I Need To Kick A Little Butt

I have a good luck charm.

Okay, don't laugh at me. I realize that this might sound ridiculous. And for the record... I don't really believe it brings me good luck in the traditional sense. But this one article is my "go-to" whenever I need to remember that I'm a part of something bigger than myself. Whenever I need to remember that I have a cheering section behind me. Whenever I need a little extra feisty edge.

Are you ready? Here it is:

In case you can't see it (let's face it, my photography isn't particularly stunning). Its a small gold necklace with the letter "M" in fancy script on the front. The "M" stands for Marie: my grandmother's name, my great-grandmother's name, and my middle name. This necklace has been around for at least 100 years, and I get to have it for no good reason- except the name I was given at birth. How cool for me? (Sorry, Sis!)

My grandmother who wore this necklace was a feisty wartime bride who lived out most of her young motherhood in foreign countries where she didn't speak the language or know a soul. And she did it while never forgetting her lipstick or her pearls I'm certain. Now, don't go feeling sorry for her. She wouldn't appreciate it. Marie was a strong individual (who was an acquired taste) that would judge our presidents by their first lady (I like to think of it as feminist of her).

She once walked up to a stranger with a Washington DC license plate which read: "Taxation Without Representation" and said to him: "I don't think you all should have the vote. You have the nicest and cleanest streets already."

I mean really, what do you say to that?

She believed children were to be seen and not heard (that included her own grandchildren). And she also wore Estee Lauder faithfully every day of her life. When she died, there were TUBS of the stuff in her refrigerator. Why she bought in such bulk, I don't know. But that was her in an nutshell: expensive face cream bought in bulk, gold jewelry and fancy hair with a simple button-down collared shirt. She was quite a lady.

And so, when I need to remember that her blood runs through my veins, I wear this necklace. (Oh okay, and sometimes I wear it because it matches my outfit.) But I always think about her when I put it on: my namesake.

And mostly what I contemplate (for half a second while getting ready, because, really: moms don't have a lot of prettifying time) is that part of growing up is looking at your ancestry with all their flaws. Really knowing their warts and seeing them for what they are... and then loving the good of them, and honoring it in yourself.

And then I stop being so deep, and look at the clock, and realize I'm running late for the office again.

Wishing you roots that run deep,



5 Reasons Why I Gave Up My Laptop

Psssst... I have to type fast.
Sadly, no beautiful photos today (my favorite part of blogs). No fun formatting.

Why? Because instead of typing this at home on my laptop, I'm sneaking my blogging in between client appointments.

Shhh. Don't tell. 
When colleagues see my door closed, they assume it must be important. Let's leave that illusion in place, okay?
Why am I doing this? Because, for 30 days... I did the unthinkable: I gave up my laptop. Gulp.

You see, my laptop and I have a love affair. It answers all my questions, calms all my mommy fears, provides socialization on rainy-stuck-inside-days-at-home. It also lets me watch my TV favorite shows for free- a fact I don't take lightly. Yes, my laptop suits me just fine.

And that, is the problem.

It beckons me "for just a moment". To check the new movie time, get directions, see the weather forecast. And before I know it, time has passed, and my toddler has trashed 2 rooms, gotten a "snack" all over the floor and is sitting on me in an attempt to finally steal my attention back.

So my friends, it had to go. Because
no matter how much I love my laptop- I love my toddler more. 

I won't lie to you. It's been rough. I'm just over a week into this experiment and there were times I was thankful that I separated the power cord and laptop in places far enough apart for me to think clearly before I could get them both. But a funny thing has happened in just this last week:

1. I've played more with my son.
2. I've gardened more (something I love).
3. My house is cleaner, warmer, and more lovely to be in.
4. I'm more emotionally present with clients (because I didn't "rush" to get there!)
5. I go to sleep earlier. (No glowing screen urging me to keep clicking...)

And so I keep it up. Because I'm convinced this is worth every inconvenience. My love (the laptop) can sit in the guest room closet for a while longer. Right now, my son has things outside he wants to "show me". So please forgive the formatting errors, or spelling errors, or just... the whole rushed aspect of the thing. I'm busy doing things that I love, and it feels good!

Wishing you more connection,


Why I (Kinda) Hate V-Day

So, I had considered writing another love-based post. You know, it's Valentine's Day and it seemed like a natural fit. Who better than a marriage therapist to post lots of hints for love and romance?

And I couldn't stomach the thought.... Why? It just seemed too contrived. Too cutsie. I couldn't do it!

So love and romance will wait for another day. Today, I want to talk about why I (kinda) HATE Valentine's Day. First of all, if you're single- I feel for you. I don't feel for you because you're single. I feel for you because on V-day... the entire world seems ready to tell you why you are inadequate. And that's lame. Don't listen.

But if you're with someone, I think Valentine's Day might actually be worse. Why? It all boils down to one thing: expectation.

Doesn't he look hopeful?
Nope, sorry. You're fired.

Let me put it this way:
a bouquet of roses any other day of the year
= sweet gesture.

a bouquet of roses on Valentine's Day
= a warm up.

And you don't get to know how much you're supposed to give to your sweetie either. It is an undisclosed amount that varies based on mitigating factors (like how much his/her friend was spoiled for Valentine's Day). And this sums up why I hate Valentine's Day: it's too much dang expectation. And if there's anything that kills love like undisclosed expectation, I can't think of what it is.

So today, I'll be saying roughly the Valentine's Day equivalent of "Bah Humbug".... And wishing that instead we would all just be upfront about what we truly want with each other.

(And honey, if you're reading this, just ignore me. I love V Day. And Roses.)

Wishing you and your sweetie a Happy "Death-Of-Love" Day (ha ha),