Blog

Doors

IMG 2985


"The doors to the self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door."

Clarissa Pinkola Estés 


Mistakes


"People do not grow in sterile containers with perfect analysts; they grow in messy human relationships with analysts who try their best to do right by their patients  but whose best must frequently consist of reparative efforts vis-á-vis the difficulties they have created."

How do we recover from the mistakes that we make? We recover by recognizing that of course we make mistakes because we are human and it is how we learn. I have been in this work for 40 years and I still make mistakes -- different ones, but mistakes nonetheless. 

 When things go awry because of something I say or do, initially I need to be able to simply accept that I made a mistake, be willing to own that mistake. Optimally the relationship is solid enough that my mistake does not end it and we have the opportunity to work through it, to look at what happened and why and how it came to be experienced painfully. 

Sometimes the therapist's mistake breaks the relationship. What do we do then? Well, we have to sit with it, reflect on what happened to see what we can learn from it. Maybe got some supervision to see if looking at the situation with another pair of eyes illuminates it for us. We learn what we can from it and let the patient go. Pursuing trying to get her to hear the explanation starts to be its own problem.  

Time is on my mind

My daughter texted me today to ask me when she had her measles vaccination. She will be 43 this year so it was a long  time ago. Except that in old age, distant events sometimes feel more recent than last year. A trick of time and memory that lends a vividness to long ago. 

I dream about a little boy and in associating to it in an effort to reveal and understand what my psyche is telling me about my life today, I have a very vivid memory of walking with my son when he was 3. I can feel his hand in mine as we walk along the street and I can almost hear his stream of commentary about things  he sees. Yet that day was forty years ago. 

In another dream I see my grandmother’s kitchen, a room I have not seen in more than sixty years.

How can it be almost 20 years since that Fourth of July weekend when I flew to Detroit to meet the man I am now married to? A vivid image of the fireworks I could see from the window of the plane as I flew back to Maine and feeling they were for me, celebrating what I felt after that wonderful weekend.

Sunday Brain Dump

This morning for the first in what feels like weeks I woke up to sun and blue sky instead of rain or threat of rain. It’s Sunday — no work today except the minor chores around the house. My husband has designs on finally being able to rake the winter debris from the front garden so we can maybe sow seed for summer’s flowers soon. 

I think about picking up one of the half dozen or so books I am slowly working my way through. And I hear that voice inside that says “It’s a nice day. You should go outside.” And maybe I will later but right now I don’t want to. I even feel a bit defiant saying that to myself.

There are just a couple of days left in the blog challenge that has pulled me to write much more frequently. I have some ambivalence about this kind of challenge because of the way the challenge can take over and make posting about it and not so focused on content. If I do another, I want to stay focused on the writing rather than the challenge.

I am sort of simmering a couple of ideas about short workshops I want to offer. The Maine Jung Center is looking for proposals and I like doing workshops so… Maybe something about the meaning of Home? 

Do I Look Okay?

 In his book, Ways of Seeing, John Berger,  the English art critic, novelist, painter and poet, writes:  

A woman must continually watch herself.  She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself.  Whilst she is walking across a room or whilst she is weeping at the death of her father, she can scarcely avoid envisaging herself walking or weeping. From earliest childhood she has been taught and persuaded to survey herself continually. And so she comes to consider the surveyor and the surveyed within her as the two constituent yet always distinct elements of her identity as a woman. She has to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life. Her own sense of being in herself is supplanted by a sense of being appreciated as herself by another....  

One might simplify this by saying: men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object -- and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.

 Last weekend I briefly became embroiled in a somewhat contentious discussion in another group about the pressures on women to maintain a particular appearance. In the way these things often unfold, a couple of men just could not take in that the pressures on women are different from those on men, in much the same way that many men responded when the #MeToo discussions began. Of course men also face pressures but not so much about how they look. I remembered this quote from John Berger and offered it as a way of seeing what I was trying to say. No dice. I got frustrated and left the discussion. Once I would have hung in and tried again and again to make the same point but I have finally learned that doing that does not change any minds and only serves to further aggravate me.

I have realized that I rarely leave the house without asking my husband “Do I look all right?” though he never asks that question for himself. And when I do, I am still scrutinizing myself, still assuming I have to meet some external standard in order to be okay. 

I’m okay. You’re okay.

I obsess now and then about how I am doing what I do — a little meta obsession —like maybe the mixture I have of posts about knitting and other things unrelated in any direct way to my practice and my work might be unprofessional. I get caught up  in things like this from time to time — is the blog okay? is it all right to have my office in my home? — you know, the kind of annoying and not helpful worrying that most of us do. To complicate matters a bit, I am struggling with tendinitis in my right shoulder so some things I would ordinarily do like write or knit aggravate it. What is a person to do? Why rummage around on my laptop and see what I find course. And I find again a poem by Adrienne Rich, a portion of which I offer here now.

Vision begins to happen in such a life

as if a woman quietly walked away

from the argument and jargon in a room

and sitting down in the kitchen, began turning in her lap

bits of yarn, calico and velvet scraps,

laying them out absently on the scrubbed boards

in the lamplight, with small rainbow-colored shells

sent in cotton-wool from somewhere far away,

and skeins of milkweed from the nearest meadow —

original domestic silk, the finest findings —

and the darkblue petal of the petunia,

amid the dry darkbrown lace of seaweed;

not forgotten either, the shed silver

whisker of the cat, 

the spiral of paper-wasp-nest curling

beside the finch’s yellow feather.

Such a composition has nothing to do with eternity,

the striving for greatness, brilliance —

only with the musing of a mind

one with her body, experienced fingers quietly pushing

dark against bright, silk against roughness,

pulling the tenets of a life together

with no mere will to mastery,

only care for the many-lived, unending

forms in which she finds herself,

becoming now the shard of broken glass

slicing light in a corner, dangerous

to flesh, now the plentiful, soft leaf

that wrapped round the throbbing finger, soothes the wound;

and now the stone foundation, rockshelf further

forming underneath everything that grows.

—Adrienne Rich  “Transcendental Etude,” in The Dream of a Common Language, 1978

I love the poem and it helped me to see that, though this juxtaposition is uncommon, the way I  blog  is just right for me. It is how I understand my work and my life. My office is at home, in the middle of my domestic life. I have a basket of yarn in my office -- because I think it is beautiful. I also have there a couple of throws that I knit. I used to fantasize having a house that had a big kitchen with a fireplace and I would see my patients there, in front of the fire, sitting at the table and drinking tea. Because for me the kitchen is the place of transformation. So the homey part of my blog — with its photos, posts about knitting, my cats, and everyday life --is where I locate my work, even the serious part of my work. It’s of the feminine, it’s me and it belongs. There are things in my professional life that I want to explore more deeply, yes, but those things have grown out of ordinary life -- aging, figuring out what it is to be a woman, working at my story, divorce, all of it. 

Knitting myself together

purplelace



I am a knitter. Knitters come in two basic types. The project knitter buys yarn and pattern for a specific project and knits that and only that until it is finished. Process knitters knit to knit. We love to look at, touch and acquire yarn and usually have several projects going at the same time. The finished project is nice but it is the process, the knitting itself that is engaging. Sometimes the project is never completed or it is unraveled and the yarn used again for something else. I love the feel of the yarn as it slides through my fingers as I knit. I stop frequently and pull the fabric into shape and touch it and look at it and enjoy the color and shape. Knitting a sock, knit from top to toe with a single thread that is never broken, I marvel at the genius of the first person who figured out how to "turn the heel" and change the sock from a simple tube into something that hugs the form and shape of the human foot. These days I knit a lot of lace, knit with fine thread on small needles with intentional holes, for lace without holes is not lace at all.

My life with telogen effluvium*

Every morning when I get up, after I brush my teeth, I brush my hair. For months from last summer through this winter, every morning I would find more hair in my brush. Because I was losing hair. Which filled me with grief and embarrassment and, for some reason, shame. I have a very nearly bald spot on the crown of my head, not visible to anyone who does not tower over me. But I know it is there and I cringe inwardly about it every day when I see or remember it.

.I have always loved my hair. Never wished it were some other color. My hair and my eyes let me feel almost pretty, to make up somehow for being fat. My beautiful abundant hair used to be very dark brown with hints of red. My first boyfriend once called my hair “raven red” — I loved that. It was thick and shiny and had just enough curl. 

My hair started to go gray when I had my children in my early 30’s. I covered the gray with hair color until the gray was the dominant color. When I was 55, I stopped covering the gray and gradually my hair became a silvery white which I have loved as much as I did when it was that raven red. The texture changed — the hair became quite fine — and it became curlier. I loved having masses of curls. 

May I ask a personal question?

Personal disclosure is an issue that comes up now and again for therapists and patients — patients wonder if it is intrusive to ask the therapist personal questions, therapists wonder how much to disclose. I have never found this to be an especially difficult issue. Taking a page from an early supervisor, I tell patients early in our work that they should feel free to ask any questions that they like of me. I tell them I will answer any that I feel comfortable with *and* that I think it also important that we consider what the question is about for them. Very rarely has anyone asked anything that felt intrusive or that I felt I couldn't or shouldn't answer. 

But this issue touches into boundaries and frame. And needs to be handled thoughtfully rather than automatically.

Years ago, when I was trying to sort out just what was the nature of my relationship with my analyst and wishing that I could know that we would or could be friends when our work was over, he told me that he considered the analytic relationship to be very personal, as personal as any. That puzzled me because I knew the boundaries -- we wouldn't have dinner together or any of the kinds of things that friends do. Yet the relationship was very close. Therapeutic relationships occupy their own niche -- neither friendship nor distantly professional, but a space which is both intimate and follows its own etiquette. 

Really?

IMG_1165


You do know it’s Sunday, right?


© Cheryl Fuller, 2018. All  rights reserved.