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(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

There are no guarantees when raising children, no matter how hard you try to do the “right” things for them—for some families, getting those children to adulthood leaves behind plenty of scar tissue for all involved. For the most part you try to move forward despite the scars. Then something is said or happens that is like a spark to the tinder that is your buried emotions—anger, frustration, sadness, disappointment, and whatever else connects you to the pain.

From personal experience, I understand my children are not easy to help, so I do have some empathy for those educators and mental health professionals who worked with them. However, I’d have appreciated receiving empathy back from more of them. It’s hard enough to deal with challenging situations with your kids without encountering people whose presumptions get in the way of resolution—when the people in the helping professions turn the problems back at parents based on what they assume is true, we parents feel very alone and begin to lose trust in finding answers from professionals.

For example, just because one of the big problems facing educators today is uninvolved families or families who do not support those in authority does not mean that every student having difficulty fitting into a school system has that problem.

Two of the closest friends I met through PTA and school accountability committees also raised boys every bit as beat up by their school days as my boy is. Again those families had two parents in the home, regular family dinner times, attendance at church, expectations that they would respect authority, and parents who volunteered with the schools and participated in the community activities. In our own ways, we were the Ward and June Cleavers of our generation. We were the families whose kids should have fit like gloves into the schools, but did not. And when our families turned to the schools for help, we were rebuffed. Of course, we also looked to outside help—paying for counselors and tutors—but first received few answers from the schools and little empathy. Each (now) young man and his family continue their educational struggles to this day.

Our son’s troubles began in grade school while our family was dealing with his grandfather’s terminal cancer. Those troubles never went away, but we did keep searching for solutions. High school found him older, but us not much wiser about dealing with his difficulties or how to work in partnership with the school.

Despite having read the 27-page educational analysis report our son had received after costly consultation with a trusted local university, the special education director at our son’s high school asked him questions such as, “Do you want to be here? Don’t you think you should do your work?” Nothing the report said or that his experienced tutors said in 504 accommodation meetings ever changed the school’s willingness to follow the university’s suggestions.

And for us, “Do you check the school’s online system often to see if he’s turned in his work?” Of course, she knew the answer—the system recorded logins. We had stopped checking frequently because the data was updated too infrequently for us to base consequence decisions on what we saw. Besides, why did she think we spent money out of our pocket to have his abilities/difficulties assessed? Partly because we wanted to see if some knowledge could help him to keep up with his work better.

Meanwhile, while our family life had become more and more disruptive due to the homework battles waged with our son as we tried to be responsible parents who supported the school, our daughter was falling apart. She did her work—and worried about her twin brother. She tried just as hard not to cause any more trouble in our family. Add in one grandmother on her way to becoming lost to Alzheimer’s and our girl became one sad kid. Did the family conflict and her grandmother’s illness cause her depression or did her biology exacerbate the problems?

What I do know is that when she was finally hospitalized for those problems it was hard to find mental health professionals who really attempted to recognize the role of biology within her difficulties. So much focus from them fell on the family. My kid didn’t do chemicals or sneak out of the house, but was treated as if her depression were a form of rebellion and we were treated as if we were just too stupid to see that she was lying to us—just as all the other kids did. We tried so hard to complete the prescribed family counseling (20 weeks or so) but finally stopped when we realized it was making things worse for everyone. I could have understood if they taught us and her to work with her biology but the program acted as if biology had little to do with her problems.

What did I learn from these experiences with schools and mental health treatment? First of all, that too many professionals believe that a one-size-fits-all approach works for all. And, secondly, that if it doesn’t then the problems stem from the family.

So, we muddle on on our own. Thankfully, we have met helpful educators, disability coordinators, tutors, student services advisors, and counselors along the way—I thank them with all my heart.

But to those who questioned our devotion, just know that if we could have made our kids fit better into the world just by trying, it would have happened. Please stop blaming the families who seem to have been dealt more challenging cards than others—so many of us are trying so much harder than you’ll ever know. Somehow the systems also need to try harder to figure out how to help those who don’t fit the molds.


(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

Last year at this time I was just beginning physical therapy and not feeling so confident that I would get better. I’d been injured for over half a year and had gone through a lot of exercises that only helped so much. I’d moved from burning to do my fitness activities to just wanting the pain to reduce so I could start to move around my house. When an injury drastically reduces the parameters of your world, it’s hard to feel optimistic.

Well, today I did my yoga with no more than the usual pain anyone in my (diabolical) teacher’s class might experience and then I went for another short (Chi) run—and noticed that since I’m getting faster, I must be ready to add a little more distance. What a difference finding the right treatment makes.

Anyone who has been injured knows that finding the “right” treatment is often no easy task. So many providers, so many programs, and so much conflicting advice—bleh.

My therapist kept pestering me to see this physical therapist who she swore had fixed several people who had spent years believing they were permanently wounded. Quite frankly I was getting very annoyed with her for bringing up his name each session when I limped in to see her. She—who had never before really understood how much exercise mattered to me—was starting to understand that if my body didn’t heal, her work with me was just beginning.

So finally I said, “No más!” I called him and began the two-tier odyssey that first got me out of chronic pain and then got me back doing my workouts at a level much closer to my past levels. Quite frankly it was only my own fear that caused me to delay my return to running for several months after he taught me how to start again.

My daughter’s injury journey is much longer than mine. She definitely has learned to live with the pain and her changed lifestyle. However, she is only twenty! A track injury that only healed so much—despite a lot of painful physical therapy—followed by another one that—despite more painful physical therapy with two different providers and several inconclusive tests—has limited her choices. She walks to classes because she has to and she skis because she wants to do so, but otherwise this formerly active young woman doesn’t move much.

Though she has stopped letting herself believe in living an active lifestyle, she still would like some way to stop the pain that comes even without moving.

After my healing, I’m more likely to feel hopeful than she is. In fact, I just signed her up for physical therapy—again. This time she gets to see the person who got me believing again. Trust me, just as Train sings, “I stopped believin’ although Journey told me ‘don’t’ . . .” (“This’ll Be My Year,” California 37) Let’s just say before we call it forever (and a day), we’re going to try one more time. And if I have to do the exercises with her, I will.

You never know, maybe 2013 will be her year—and my year too—to get back on (the) track—or anywhere else we want to go.

(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

My grandfather was a man’s man. From my youngest days he used words in everyday conversations that I was never allowed to say, kept his refrigerator stocked with beer, and played pool almost daily with his cronies at the Elks where he tended the “gentlemen’s” bar into his 80s. But every winter when the light turned low in Nebraska, he got restless. I think he had what we call Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.

Well, I’ve said it before, but I will probably declare it each and every year once Black Friday arrives: I am an Advent person. Advent is the church season preceding the Light coming into this world at Christmas. Advent is all about waiting with expectation and hope for the light that will brighten our days—and our nights. But we are not a world much into waiting these days.

In an era when our culture seems to be experiencing an extended period of SAD—global economic uncertainties, financial difficulties in our own homes and neighborhoods, political stalemates and hostilities, and a real absence of long-term feelings of hope—shortening our Thanksgiving celebrations to jostle in lines to get those shiny new big screen TVs and other devices that run on light is not going to provide long-term light therapy.

No, what we need in these darkest of days is to turn to the true light from true light.

Advent—not this too early, too long, and too lacking in Christ-centered way of celebrating Christmas—is what is lacking in our collective focus.

Even though I am also tempted to forget to seek that true light, my own personal needs have again brought me to my knees. While my grandfather experienced winter blues, most likely my grandmother suffered depression during even the sunniest of days, just as my daughter does. These seasonal changes hit us all, but are often darker for those who struggle with darkness year round.

So I ask for prayers from friends both close and far away, as well as try to pray without ceasing myself. I pray for her, but also I pray for discernment and ideas, as well as for those people, professional and otherwise, who can help her.

What can we do besides pray to reduce the darkness? For one, we got her a light therapy box. Crazy, but the blue lights remind me of Advent and its liturgical color of blue.

We sent her back to college with that box, so our own access to that type of light therapy will have to wait, but for me, light therapy also comes in the lyrics I’ve learned from my choir songs. When darkness overwhelms me so much that I can’t even rest in the peace of sleep, those words arrive unbidden to voice the hope I do not always feel.

I like to think God is telling me to look to Him for the light, while pointing us to resources and support. And, so, in this quiet Advent period (well, in our house anyway) I ask Him to help me to wait, knowing He will in His time dispel the night—and SADness will flee away.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

Ever wonder how that puppy thing is working out for me? Did getting a puppy allow me to feel confident to solve not only my problems, but also those of the world outside my home? Maybe not, but the puppy solution has had a lot of benefits for me.

I realize that you have not heard me at my happiest lately. It’s true. And maybe that’s almost totally tied to the fact that a Trina restricted in her movements is one cranky Trina. All problems appear bigger from the lens I can reach just sitting on my butt!

As Marge in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure told Pee Wee, “Everyone I know has a big but.”

So instead of those buts, I want to talk about what’s really working. And that’s adopting our puppy Furgus and rescue dog Sam in the same week.

As much as I understand that my road trip to get Furgus likely is what stopped me in my literal tracks with the hip/back injury, I am pretty sure that I was heading toward that injury sooner or later. On good days I’ve realized that it’s positive that I became aware of the imbalances before I permanently damaged my hips or lumbar. I still have time to realign as well as adjust my gait—I have been able to do consistent short runs/jogs that always make my injury site feel better, whether right afterwards or later in the day. And that helps me to have more energy to share with my dogs.

Yes, dogs—puppies, especially—are a lot of work. We’ve had too many vet visits already. And the group and individual training sessions, as well as our own training, take a lot of time and effort.

Then there are the rugs and floors . . . the dogs don’t need to be brushed much because they roll off their extra hair as they wrestle. The daily puppy smack-downs between Furgus and Sam leave an incredible amount of hair, especially on the rugs.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

After that relatively brief eight week period this spring when I appreciated how little hair and dirt follow a 15-pound old dachshund—even a long-haired one—I still would tell you the mess and chaos of adding our English Springer Spaniels is worth it just to live in the presence of their happy natures.

Furgus, especially, is an optimist. He is the only dog we’ve ever had who has no trauma in his/her background. Duncan had open-heart surgery and lived in the hospital until he came home with Sherman. Chelsea was chained in her back yard and quite likely beaten. Fordham had been through three other homes before he made us his forever family. And, Sam? We don’t know. He left his previous family after six months and who knows what happened before then.

Furgus acts with the certainty that he is loved and that life will be good. As frustrating as that can be when I am struggling to instill who the real boss is, it is refreshing. He can’t imagine why a person or dog wouldn’t want to be around him. When he got his first ear infection, his howls at the vet’s seemed to be saying he didn’t think this sort of thing could happen to him.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

And Sam. Sam is cautious until we open our arms and then he runs full force into our love. We have encountered a couple surprising frustrations with Sam, but his essentially gentle spirit is well worth nurturing into trust. His joyful willingness to go along with all of Furgus’ puppy-like actions—and that’s saying a lot—demonstrates a pure acceptance of others’ foibles that he also shares towards us.

No, getting these puppies has been the exact right salve we need for healing from our previous losses, even though they add to our workloads.

I am happier for having them as part of our family. They’ve been here with me during some pretty dark storms and they love me anyway. How much more will we enjoy our time together when they discover the runs and long hikes in our shared future.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

Oh no, in a year that so far has provided more loss than gain, my biggest gains have come from Furgus and Sam. While it’s true that puppies can’t end the effects of the U.S. budget crisis or even heal my hip faster, what they can do is allow me to grab my happiness minute to minute throughout each day, one or two close encounters of the canine kind at a time.

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

A couple posts ago I wrote about how certain dates or seasons can stir up emotions. Well, as anyone with a memory knows, a number of things can grab us and transport us back in time—smells, tastes, sights, locations, just to name a few. And if what happened is bad enough, we can experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms when reminded of what we’d rather forget. That’s just part of the baggage we pick up along the way.

The trick is to notice we are only experiencing an emotion in the present, not really going back in time. Of course, PTSD is a recognized mental disorder, so sometimes we can’t just will away our responses, even when we understand why we feel so anxious. However, with a whole lot of work and some more time on our travels, maybe we can lose that baggage in transit—or, if nothing else, reduce the size of the luggage.

Nonetheless, it was hard to pack away that luggage enough to let our daughter go so far away to college. Despite our daughter’s improved mental health, we were concerned about the distance between her and us, as well as from the providers who knew her and had helped her get back on track. Freshman year is complicated for almost all—even for those who have no record of mental illness difficulties. Dorms are poor places for good health practices, mental or physical. Yet, we figured her breaks would allow her access to her providers and we could re-assess treatment after her first year away.

Good plan except Sherman’s work switched insurance options in July—which left off her providers from our list of those covered. So I began trying to find providers where she would attend college—or through the college counseling center. After several conversations with the director of the center, she and I decided her needs could be handled through the center.

Well, turns out the center isn’t really funded well enough to keep up with the campus needs. After she had a few bungled encounters with different people at both the counseling center and the health center, we no longer felt we could trust those providers with our daughter’s needs. Since time had passed getting to that conclusion, we needed to find providers ASAP.

Finally, we realized we could pay her former providers out of pocket for now and decide later.

Which meant she and I got to visit them in their location twice this week now that she’s home from break.

Yesterday, as we waited an additional half an hour for her scheduled appointment, she said, “I don’t know if it’s me or not, but I always feel sick when I come here.”

Me, too, baby. Just returning to that building brings on multiple emotions and responses from me.

First of all, I don’t want to be reminded of all those hard times our family experienced together in our own home and otherwise. And then, I’m also trying to forget the people within the system who were harmful to us rather than helpful. Additionally, every trip there requires all patients and their families to go through multiple frustrations: difficult highway traffic, constantly changing parking situations, security systems that delay appointment arrival once in the building, lines at the check-in desk, having to wait for providers even though a patient’s late arrival can mean a charge and re-scheduling, etc. Plus, there is always an underlying worry the illness will return and the location will become too familiar once more.

Amazing that all these feelings are stirred up by this place where a few people did bring about great healing—which is why we return despite all the reasons not to.

Thankfully, the providers we saw this week have been helpful. Coming back was the right decision for now. But I think she and I both ought to recognize there’s nothing odd about our mixed emotions when we enter that building. The few neutral emotions we have about the place cannot quite hold up against other intense feelings and responses.

We’ve just got to keep working through what got us there and doing what we can to make sure this is no Hotel California for us—we do get to “check out” even if after each visit it takes some time before we lose sight of the place–and how we were at an earlier date in that place–in our rearview mirrors.

So the best I can do is to turn the car onto the road home and get us away from there as fast as I can. It’s like that Stan Ridgway song “Drive, She Said”—only the baggage she and I carry isn’t stolen from some bank, but something we’re hoping to dump off at the first chance. Yup, I’m driving getaway straight to that pier.

Animas River, Durango, CO

I’m the kind of person who makes her therapist cry. Not really, but I think I’m driving her nuts—which seems a little backwards, doesn’t it?

I started seeing her because part of her expertise is in helping adults who have ADD and I wanted to figure out how to live better with my ADD. Mind you, I didn’t go in to deal with my emotions about ADD, but to learn how to handle my everyday life in ways that my emotions wouldn’t be so much of an issue.

Maybe I should have told her that upfront!

The bigger part of our work together has been helping me figure out how to handle everyone else in my life who has ADD tendencies and who needs my help without all those needs driving me crazy. Sure, this may just be denial on my part, but that’s what I think we’ve been working on.

Anyway, as I am facing Mom’s final illness, my therapist worries she’s not doing enough for me psychologically. The practical person in me is thinking how much can she do? I’m going to have to let go of my mother and deal with how hard it is to do so. She can’t change that.

See the funny thing about me is that I don’t go to a therapist to mourn my losses or grieve through my problems. I go to figure out what I can do about what I can control. And maybe, just a little bit, to understand how my emotions might get in the way of doing those things that I know would help me—if I could only get myself to do them.

In fact, I finally realized my therapist is worried that I am not facing my emotions because I am mostly level-headed in her office. And, without realizing just how crazy this sounds, I thought, “Well, if she’s not sure I’m facing my emotions, why doesn’t she just read my blogs?”

How’s that for not quite getting the therapist/patient dialogue? I want her to “read” how I feel?

Ah, but writing has been my therapist for much longer than she has. I only went to her after I realized that talking to myself, through writing, wasn’t going to be quite enough. Even if personal writing had gotten me through many dark nights of the soul, maybe it wasn’t going to be enough to move me forward.

But in combination with therapy, I’d say writing’s healing power is why I don’t need even more help. Really. It’s been twelve years since I finally committed to personal journaling after I began working through Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way program. That writing habit, combined with prayer, regular exercise, good company, and a commitment to doing other creative activities, got me through for many years.

Still, I came to realize that ADD was managing me. And that’s when I started treatment for the ADD. Good thing that I did since the lives of many I love blew off course soon after.

I promise I do cry and I do lose control of these emotions that can seem so measured to others. I do get down on my knees and wail over my losses—just not in a therapist’s office. Ask my dogs if you don’t believe me.

This post marks a milestone: my 200th post since I began this public blog of my personal writings. Blogging has been one of the best things—psychologically and otherwise—I’ve done for myself throughout the difficult odyssey that has been the last two years of my life.

Now, would it be considered denial just to print out these words and hand them to my therapist?

Trina at Deer Creek, (c) SALYesterday while I was hiking under blue, blue skies, the blues jumped onto my back. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. Sunshine, warm weather, fresh air, fall colors. What was there not to love about the afternoon?

All I can surmise is that since I hadn’t had that much time to think, when I got the time, I thought too much! I turned grumpy when the path we took seemed to be much farther than we had anticipated. That meant we weren’t going to get down to the car until dark. Then I wouldn’t be able to pick up those supplements for my mother that I can only buy outside of our neighborhood. More left to do on my to-do-list. Plus, it might mean we couldn’t visit her—and not only would she miss us, but also I really prefer visiting her with Sherman once in awhile so I’m not alone with her pleas to take her from the memory wing for good.

(c) 2009 SAL

(c) 2009 SAL

That morning we had gone to a session at church on being sandwiched. Oh yes, I could relate. But hearing about the difficulties of my life reminded me all the more about those difficulties. I didn’t leave feeling supported as much as feeling less hopeful. Not the intent at all—because we didn’t have much time to share with one another, those feelings and thoughts had time to grow in my head afterwards.

One of the things we talked about was how much caregivers needed help and how to respond if someone offered to give us some. That led me to thinking about what I need most right now, even though no one was really asking.

What I decided would help me feel better is to have a cleaner as well as less cluttered home environment. I’m the only one who is here all day—I don’t get to go away to a place where the “stuff” is limited by others or where there are janitors and cleaning crews, etc. I’m the one who sees the mess day in and out; however, doing the cleaning is never top on the list of urgent tasks for me. Decluttering and cleaning have always been my weaknesses and when I’m stressed, that’s even more true. What I need now is someone to help me put things away, including finding homes for those items I just can’t seem to figure out where they go. Heck, I need help just dusting and sweeping, so maybe I can clear out the cobwebs on my own aspirations.

The extra time on my hike seemed to bring back those thoughts from the morning—and the realization that I couldn’t even name my aspirations. Then I started thinking about how I had been working on getting out of crisis mode living and becoming better at daily living when the big crises began in our lives. All my life I’ve been good in a crisis, but I haven’t done so well at creating routines that allow me to have time to both do the necessary things and enjoy myself.

Well, this last year has made me even better at living for the moment and for the next crisis. As I struggled with that thought, I wondered if I’d lost all the ground I’d gained in my previous work. Then began the big questions: Who am I without the crisis? What do I do when I don’t have to spend so much time just reacting to the needs of others?

(c) 2009 SAL

(c) 2009 SAL

My hiking was not so different from my life. I could climb like crazy going up. But going down, I was slow and clumsy. I could do what was hard, but not what was supposed to be easy. Story of my life.

I admit that I am most likely depressed over the losses and lifestyle changes I’ve experienced in my life in the last year and a half. I have had to let so many other things drive my schedule, but these days, even when I can control my own schedule, I don’t know where to begin.

I don’t want to be like one woman we met in DBT. She was so depressed because she had some permanent health conditions that limited her lifestyle and would probably shorten her life span. Yet, she could not get out of the chair to enjoy what she was left to her.

So I’ve had losses. But how do I get back to enjoying what I can? Like enjoying a hike as an opportunity to relax and do something for myself? I don’t want to sit in the chair and miss the fact that I do get to control so much more than I could just a few months ago. My time is coming soon: my kids will be in college and, sadly, my mother will be gone, too.

The kids have even been gone a lot the last few weekends. With and without Sherman, I have known how to amuse myself. I’ve had fun with my husband. Seriously, when I’m not packing the blues, I wonder if more time alone really will resolve much of this dilemma for me. Although I have a hard time separating myself from others’ problems when they’re close by, when I have some physical space from the people, I do a much better job with boundaries. It’s not quite out of sight, out of mind, but a more balanced approach nonetheless.

(c) SAL

(c) SAL

The season when I get to be more in charge of my life is not so far away, yet I still have so much work to do on my journey to what’s next. So today after everyone left, right away I returned to the writing that had been interrupted by Christiana’s breathing crisis. Then I started this writing, even though I should have been preparing for a meeting with a financial advisor about my mother’s needs. I’m going to yoga. The sun is shining for another incredibly warm fall day. There is still time to be me, even if I’m a bit stymied by the process of figuring out how I want to be when I get the chance.

Last night, as the dusk deepened, together Sherman and I hurried down the path toward our car, the only lonely vehicle still in the parking lot. We’d hiked over ten miles together, but I’d been alone in my head for almost half of that trip—unless you count the blues I was packing with me. However, once I got into the car, my blues just slipped away—almost as quickly as they’d arrived.

I suppose sometimes I’m going to have to welcome them on my journey to what’s next, but I’m not about to carry them on my back the whole way.

Deer Creek (c) 2009 SAL

Deer Creek (c) 2009 SAL

“It takes a lot of time to be upset.”

Sherman thought that was a funny statement. But I was serious! This is just this logical person’s view on the chronos of emotions. Just try to quantify how much time being upset takes from your day—even if being upset’s a normal part of human existence.

Let’s say you’re rolling along following your schedule. You’re going to do this at such and such a time, that at another time, etc. You’ve got your eye on the clock, paying homage to chronos as you check things off your list. Then, boom, something happens to bring you out of your plans. And, if whatever occurs does not feel like good news, you can be thrown into kairos—and I don’t mean the pleasant side of kairos.

You may not know what chronos and kairos time are, but you’ve lived them. Chronos is quantifiable time while kairos is more qualitative, such as the times when you lose track of time. When experiences are enjoyable, we’d often rather stay in kairos even if we need to get back to reality and the inevitable marching of the clock’s hands. But when things don’t feel so well—say during childbirth or dental extractions—we’d be pretty happy for time to stop feeling so infinite to us.

In our DBT sessions, we are studying emotion regulation. Now, I might be tempted to think that I will do OK in this section because I consider myself to be a reasonably even-tempered person—except when it concerns my children. Which pretty much means I haven’t really been an even-tempered person for about seventeen years now. And probably won’t ever be again . . .

I looked at the homework for this week’s session and froze. I’m going to guess that the answers that might appear good to the world aren’t going to appear so great to a staff of therapists. The world seems to reward composure and “sucking it up”—yet those aren’t always healthy reactions, depending on the situation, of course.

Yet, my answers are what they are . . . for now. On the checklist I’m supposed to detail how easy it is—or not—to show certain emotions. Gosh, I like to keep things neutral and, a lot of times, outwardly, I succeed. That’s why when we had to draw the face we show to the world and the face we have inside, my worldly face was pretty complacent with a slight smile and a calm brow.

The inner face was neither. Christiana said, “Mom, is that Jekyll and Hyde?” Um, that wasn’t quite the effect I was going for. Then, sadly I realized it was more like that stupid doll my grandparents gave me one Christmas: Cheerful/Tearful. They said it reminded them of me! Full disclosure here: I’m not bipolar, just ADD—and people with ADD tend to be intense and reactive to their environments and others’ actions.

So maybe to avoid the Cheerful/Tearful label, I’ve learned to look neutral to pretty much everyone but those in my family. They know that I can be really happy or really unhappy—and it’s pretty much in response to something that’s going on in my life. I suppose the therapists at DBT would say that by trying to be all Switzerland about things, I run the risk of blowing my top or being really unhappy because I’m not being truthful about how I feel.

Let’s face it, taking time for emotions doesn’t seem like a very useful way to spend the kairos of my life. When will people like me learn to accept the logic that for every minute of chronos spent avoiding the kairos of the messy sides of life, down the road it’s going to take exponentially more chronos to get out of the kairos moments of facing what can never really be buried for good?

I still think it takes too much time to be upset, but maybe it’s the only way to get to the next step—and learn how to both experience and demonstrate the cheerful side within me.

Spring Fever is hitting me hard today. After last week’s big snowstorm, I want to experience Spring—now! So I did. This morning I took myself for a run along the Highline Canal. I didn’t want to worry about cars, plus I did want to experience the quiet of the countryside. The view was pretty incredible, with the blue sky serving as a backdrop for the bluer mountains that were still holding onto some of that snow. Oh the mountains would have looked the same in my neighborhood, but I preferred to see them behind the wild grasses that were starting to green up versus behind houses and warehouses.

So that got me thinking about how I rather dislike running in my neighborhood, but it doesn’t keep me from running there. It’s just that I’ve finally given myself permission to go running in other places when I can, even though it’s more practical to run from my own door.

While running, I had plenty of time to ponder the word dislike and why I’m still cranky about that particular word being chosen for our family at DBT. Dork that I am, I started to visualize a little +/∆ chart in my head. Then I realized that +/∆ is more about things that are not working and that you plan to tweak than about things that just are. So then, in my mind, I flipped the chart, with the first column being about certain running places or situations I dislike and then the second column being about how I improve the situation when I have the option. I am so lucky I didn’t run into anything with that all that visualization! See why I don’t like running on the streets alongside cars!

In a way, what I do is look at my running from a dialectical way. If I gave in to my dislike, I would only run when the conditions were just the way I wanted them to be. The opposite sides of the coin would be run or not run (or “do or do not” as Yoda said.) Yet what I do is find a middle ground where I can do—and as often as I can, also avoid the dislike.

Sometimes dislike is about where you come from. You can try to stop feeling that way, but something about how you learned to do things gives you a preference one way or another. One year I worked with a guy who grew up in Phoenix. He thought I was a bit of a whiner because I didn’t like running as much once it got over eighty degrees. I also disliked getting up really early and wasn’t about to get up earlier than my 5:45 wake up time, so I just had to run in the evening when it was hotter. Then Fall came about and, as I got happier about running, he began to complain more. If it was less than forty degrees out, he was not happy about it. Me, I didn’t really approach dislike for running in colder temperatures until it dropped below fifteen degrees. But in the end, Joe and I both kept running, even when we disliked the temperatures—I’m sure our co-workers wished we’d kept our dislikes to ourselves, though!

What else do I dislike? Running on pavement with lots of side traffic. What is it that gets me to do versus do not more often? Finding opportunities to run in parks or on trails as much as I can. And that’s what I did today.

I know lots of people who say, “I hate running. How can you do that?” Although it might seem otherwise in an active state like Colorado, more people in the general public seem to dislike running than those who like running. Once at my son’s school, he heard a comedic monologue performed by another student who was ranting about running. One of the big punch lines was about how if we found out how to cure cancer and heart disease, then no one would choose to run. Jackson didn’t get that joke and neither did I. It’s as if the comedian believed we disliked running as much as he did and would love to have an excuse not to do it.

Like I said before, sometimes dislike is about where you come from. Just because the larger society considers one dislike odd and another dislike appropriate doesn’t mean it’s wrong that some people see it otherwise. I assume a lot of people like lilacs because they have a pretty scent—turns out I don’t like them because they make it hard for me to breathe. Neither viewpoint is wrong or right in general, but makes sense based on how lilacs make a person feel. This world is full of all kinds of people with a variety of likes and dislikes.

And that’s OK.

Life is so ironic sometimes—or is it?

I don’t like to play Charades. I don’t seem to be able to think of different ways to show something when I’m on the spot, although later they might come to me. Sherman and Christiana feel the same way. We are all pretty creative, but in an aside way—and sometimes we have problems working with a prompt. Jackson, who often hates prompts in his classes, loves to play Charades. He comes up with many logical, yet out-of-the-box, ideas and is so animated.

Of course, as life goes, Jackson wasn’t with us when we got to play Charades. We were on our own, not feeling too excited about the Charades assignment at DBT. Each family group was supposed to present a feeling or mood together. It didn’t even occur to us to collaborate to come up with a group action—we all did our own actions, figuring people might get the word because of our differing actions.

Caught us, didn’t they? We didn’t work as a group. I think we all had our own pictures in our brains of how it would look. We didn’t really want to discuss it—we just wanted to do it. I get that we are too often in our own heads, but that’s really not so unusual for introverts. We just have to remember to work together when it counts.

Turns out the DBT leaders chose the words for each family not so randomly. No matter how hard I try to feel otherwise, I’m more than a little bit miffed because our chosen word feels a little judgmental—and possibly ignores that there may be biological reasons for the way people respond to the world.

We are sensitive people who sometimes get overwhelmed by stimuli. By sensory experiences. By being around too many people.

Yes, our word was dislike.

I already said that I dislike playing Charades. I dislike eating certain foods, either due to their textures, smells, and/or tastes. Being in a loud chaotic environment can unrattle me. I prefer to have a small group of close friends. Yet, believe it or not, most people who know me don’t think that I am a grumpy person who doesn’t like anything I come in contact with.

I’m not the person complaining as I wait in line. I don’t send back food to cooks unless it’s not what I ordered. I will strike up conversations with random strangers in public places or respond to people who maybe I would rather not. More often than not, I just try to live in a world that doesn’t jar my senses all the time.

I’m an Introvert and I have ADD. It’s not uncommon for either Introverts or people with ADD to be overwhelmed by environments. I do what I can to soothe myself in situations that I dislike. If I need to wait somewhere, I bring along my journal and write, even if there are loud taekwondo ki-yaps or pre-election newscasts in the background. I try to plan my day so I get proper nutrition and exercise, knowing that those things help me deal with challenging stressors. Out in public, I seat myself in the least stressful area for me that I can find.

I do try new things, even if I tense up beforehand. I am a good sport—heck, I’ve been one the whole time in DBT. I spent three months living in a home in Spain, only refusing one food item after I tried it—eggplant—even though I really preferred a much more limited diet. I do activities with my kids that aren’t comfortable, even if I would not choose them for myself. I often keep my sensitive nature to myself in situations where it would make things less pleasant for others.

And I love a lot of things in this life. Do I really have to act like I just got called to “Come on down!” on the Price is Right to show that? I write in a Gratitude Journal daily so I will remember with joy those things I enjoy. I participate in this life—I run, I laugh, I volunteer, I attend performances and athletic events, I read, I sing, I hike, I ski, I love my husband and children, spend time socializing with the people in my family, I reach out to others who I don’t know, I talk with close friends, I pet my dogs, and I pray to God.

Does it make me a bad person if I’d rather not be in crowds or eat strong foods or listen to Pop music or play games? Is that close-minded or is it just being aware of my biology and taking care of my own needs?

I know there is a thin line between taking care of your own needs and giving in to a general dislike for things outside your comfort zones, but I submit that I do not live in that general dislike, even if I take occasional day trips across that line. I believe I am selective or discerning in my experiences, not just rejective.

I guess what really offends me is that there are many positive or neutral words besides dislike that convey our family’s approach to life. I don’t see two sides to the coin of the word. Dislike feels like a judging word, versus a word that conveys both the positive and negative value of choosing what works and what doesn’t (which is one of the DBT “how” skills).

Our subconscious minds and bodies work hard at self-preservation, sometimes saying “no” out of a misguided urge to protect us. But at other times, our minds and bodies recognize when we are faced with something that is dangerous or stressful to our health, even when others might find the same situation positive or neutral. For example, a dislike for a food can sometimes turn out to be the body’s warning that we have an undiagnosed allergy. Different people have different needs and sometimes experience dislike for valid reasons.

And, that’s why I disliked our assigned word.

Oh, there I go again—judging.

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