I Hate Change

I really do.

 

When the powers that be rearrange the food in Giant Eagle I fall to me knees in despair.   My efficient zip in and zip out grocery shopping, with no time to waste and a job to be done becomes a processed food maze with dead ends and detours at every buggy turn. My product placement familiarity…knowing exactly where to find the often hidden capers…is gone, leaving me devastated. I am beaten.

 

Once they tried to ease my discomfort by placing little maps on the inside of the shopping carts, showing where I might find my favorite gourmet mustard. I guess some young consultant thought Giant Eagle Map Quest would be helpful to the middle aged woman decompensating in the produce aisle. Unfortunately they didn’t consider middle age eye sight. If the map is on the other end of the cart, this middle aged woman can’t even see it!

 

I take this all very personally…as you can see.

 

So when it became clear I needed to change the name of this blog, I couldn’t breath. I discovered that many therapists are as clever as I in naming their blogs. We therapists are so predictable. We ask, “How does that make you feel?” and we name our blogs Off The Couch. I found so many versions off this name I decided to do the unthinkable. Move toward change. Rename my blog.

 

At first I was excited. Self induced change is different from other induced change. I feel more in control. (We love the false sense of control, don’t we.) When I decided to divorce, sell the family home and move myself and Jena to Pittsburgh, the change was take to my bed scary, but it was me choosing the changes.

 

So too with my blog. I began the difficult and lengthy process of renaming. Here are a few I tossed around…

 

Mondays muse-made sense, I post on Mondays…but what if I want to post on Tuesdays?

Listen up missy-something my father often said…no one liked it, they said it was too bossy.

Its not polite to stare-something my mother often said.

Intentionally there, where?

Intentionally unexpected, true.

Hope to get there, please!

Unraveling certainty, I was certainly unraveling.

 

None of these felt right. (You agree?)

 

I began working with a Brander. Someone that names things for a living. She suggested using my last name. She said mine is interesting. Boswell. It has WELL and SWELL in it, which, she explained can catch the blog browsers eye.

 

I thought it was a really dumb idea. But, I agreed to give it some thought. “What adjective would I pair with it?” I wondered.

 

Then, it came to me. The same way my kids names came to me. Divine inspiration. Landon I heard in my head. Jena, with one N, I saw in my mind’s eye.

 

The perfect adjective.

 

Being.

 

Being Boswell. (Like it?)

 

Just like with Landon and Jena, I immediately knew it was right. I had found the capers.

 

I felt immense relief. I told myself if I was being Boswell, that was all I really had to do, right? Be myself. I felt such freedom, confidence, and permission. After all, if I was being Boswell I could say whatever, do whatever, be whatever I wanted. I would just be being me.

 

Then panic hit me with the often asked but seldom answered question.

 

Who the hell am I?

 

(I hate change, see where it leads?)

So Sorry

Last week was a doosey.

My printer stopped talking to my lap top after I replaced an empty ink cartridge. Two  ink cartridges later, because the first cartridge was defective (1 out of 50 are I now know) and a $89.95 visit from the Staples Geek Squad, they are now talking.

My car was feeling funny. So I did what we are do. I took it in to my mechanic. I needed a new axle. So I got one. It still felt funny. I took it back to the garage. I had gotten a bad axle. They replaced it. It still felt funny. The tires needed to be balanced. Last night I drove home smoothly.

I began to see a theme.

Then my intern was working on my blog to make some upcoming changes- I will tell you about them in my soon to follow post-and  Off the Couch when off line. It took 3 days to resurrect. Hmmmm, I won’t even go there.

So I am back. Thank you for missing me.

 

 

A Love Letter

Yesterday Tom and I drove to Ohiopyle to bike the trails with my dear friend. She is more like a sister. I turn to her for advice and support, she turns to me for the same. We love each other a lot.

 

Tom loves her too. She also loves Tom. I used her as my relationship whisperer when I began dating. Since I didn’t trust myself to pick well, I relied on her judgement. If she didn’t like him, neither did I. I remember her laughing after meeting Tom, “Ohhhh friend…you have met your match.” We both knew that was the highest compliment possible. So spending time with the three of us feels like family to me.

 

We haven’t seen each other for far too long. The standard reasons, busy, tired, busy, tired.

 

We talked about everything as we ate lunch, rode bikes, and treated ourselves to ice cream. We commiserated about our kids. Our frustration with how technology has made a simple phone call to them a thing of the past. We laughed at how we have to call 3-4 times, leave a message that they never listen to but text us asking what we want or how we are, like we never called them in the first place. We laughed that it made us feel very old.

 

We shared details about our own parents and how crazy they make us. We talked about our work, our writing (she is a poet…yes you are), our relationships, and politics. Our long, intimate history deepens our understanding of each others choices, dilemmas, and successes. This makes for very rich conversation. When she joined Tom in teasing me about some of my quirky ways, coming up with a few of her own since she has known me longest, I felt loved and known rather than hurt or judged. Only people that really love you can pull that off successfully!

 

We met up with Jena and her new beau for a light dinner. It touched me to tears when Jena ran into Heidi’s embrace. They held each other like niece and favorite aunt. Heidi asked all the auntie questions to which a mom wants to hear the answers. Then, back in the car, she could reassure me Jena is okay in her transitory life stage because she has known Jena long enough to speak with an authority I trust.

 

This is what sister friends do for each other. We have each other’s backs. We have each other’s kids. We have each other’s hearts.

 

This morning I am richer, fuller, satiated, because of my time with my friend. I feel seen.

 

I am better for having you Heidi.

 

I love you dearly.

(Woman friends make the world an easier place to navigate. Sister friends make your heart feel safe to open. Who do you love? And when is the last time you told her? Do it today. Tell her she is a part of your heart. You will live happier). 

 

VACATION VIGNETTES

1. BARCELONA ON XANAX

Sometimes I have bouts of Atrial Fibrillation. When that happens I will often take a half of Xanax, go to sleep and wake up cardioverted.

 

Our first night in Barcelona-midnight their time, 6 pm Pennsylvania/Toronto time-I went into A Fib. We desperately needed rest so we each took a Xanax and went to bed. We woke around 10 am, my heart had stabled herself. We started our day.

 

So our second night, it worked so well the first, we did it again. We each took a Xanax and went to sleep. Drugged sleep, but sleep.

 

I noticed as we strolled the ancient city of Barcelona with stone walls dating back to the first century, toured the architectural masterpiece La Pedrera by Gaudi and walked the busy, touristy, pick pocket heaven, La Rambla with it’s street artists and vendors, I felt nothing. I was uninspired, unmoved, dull.

 

I also noticed I wasn’t all that crazy about Tom either. He kind of got on my nerves.

 

What was up? I could hear my mother’s voice telling me what an ungrateful child I was. Here I am in a place others would love to see and I am feeling perturbed, uninterested even.

 

Later that day Tom mumbled, “ I think that Xanax has numbed me out. I feel flat.”

 

The light bulb went off. “Ohhhh, I am not ungrateful or pissed off at Tom. I am drugged,” scolded the addiction counselor in me. (Better her than my moms voice.)

 

That night, neither of us took a Xanax. We sleep well waking up mid morning. We headed out for coffee. Amazingly there was a Starbuck’s across the street from our hotel, but instead we made our spot a small cafe with sidewalk seating.

 

As we sat sipping our coffee, mine with warmed milk, and a flakey croissant with jam, I noticed Barcelona is very hermoso (Spanish for beautiful).

 

I also noticed really like Tom.

 

2. WHEN IN FRANCE….

I had never been to the Mediterranean Sea. Since we were only 45 minutes to an hour from it, we packed a beach bag with towels, sparkling water, baguette of bread, cheese, dried meat-our standard picnic lunch while in France-I never eat dried meat in Pa-and found our way to the sea.

 

We followed signs to Serignan-Plage. We saw on the internet it was a natural beach with wild dunes and no commercial buildings.

 

The turn off the main road, if that is what you could call it, led down a dusty narrow road to a large dirt parking lot. We hoped we were in the right spot.

 

We gathered our stuff and headed east picking one of the many paths available from the parking area. We could see other beach goers, also walking east, but on different paths than us. “Were we on the right path-a metaphor)?” we wondered with some worry as we traversed the maze like path.

 

We both looked at the horizon through our darkened sun glasses at the same time. Before us stood a line of very beautiful, untouched dunes-natural. “Look,” we said in unison, taking in the beauty before us. We stopped to enjoy it more fully.

 

It was then we both, very quietly, again said, “Look.”

 

Walking across the top of the dunes, like a sentinel guarding his post, was a butt naked man. Then another. Then another.

 

Come to find out that in France natural beaches are not referring to the flora and fauna. Silly Americans.

 

“Well, we’re cool. No biggie. Just keep walking,” I told myself. I wasn’t sure of the protocol. Do I make eye contact and smile? Do I say “Bon Jour” to a naked man?

 

I did neither. I walked purposely passed, head down, eyes on my feet.

 

Well I am here to tell you, personal space is a whole different thing when everyone is naked. Thankfully the beach was not crowded. But even so, I was very selective about where we put our towels down.

 

Once we found our spot, laid our towels our perfectly, arranged our basket lunch, we had a decision to make.

 

Yeah or nae?

 

Well, when in France…

 

 

 

Wish You Were Here

I know I left you hanging…desperate for pictures of Toronto from our airport hotel window. I even took some for you to see, but for some technological reason that is waaayyyy beyond me, I was unable to post them. Until now.

But now I have a new, better, wonderful view to show you. The one that comes with the house we are renting in Gabian France.

Pretty amazing huh?

When Tom and I travel we like to bring some tradition back with us to keep that trip alive. When we went to Paris we loved the hand held shower heads. It felt so luxurious to have the shower head directly washing our toes we decided to install one in our shower at home. When we went to Mexico we brought home our love of Mexican food. Now we cook, a couple times a month, as traditionally Mexican as we can-in Pittsburgh. So what tradition do we want to bring back from the south of France?

Morning and evening swims.

Yeah, yeah, I know, minor detail, we don’t have a pool. But we didn’t have a hand held shower head 3 years ago either….

 

Here are a few more pictures I’d like to share with you.

 

We finally got our welcome to Barcelona sangria…They were huge and very good!!!

The guy rubbing his head? That is a couple from Essex England. They were visiting for the week and taking the bus tour of Barcelona the next day. They have been to the US, to California, they liked it a lot. I could tell you more but I won’t…

 

This picture is in the medieval village of Pezenas. There is a great street market there every Saturday. They have  food, wine, baskets, clothes, soaps and jewelry from vendors that speak very little to no English-in fact we have found that to be mainly true here- so our patched together French/Spanish is useless. Pezenas also has shops along narrow castle-like ancient passageways. We bought lots of stuff. I love stuff.

Not quite sure how I will get it home though.

 

Since I have been doing more traveling I have noticed I am drawn to windows and doors in other cities/countries. I made Tom stop the car for this one. I may frame this for our living room.

I wonder who lives there? What are their hopes and dreams? What is their favorite food? Are they happy?

I really hope so.

 

SO I will end here. It is late and we are headed to Provence tomorrow.

Hope you all are well.

xo Patricia

 

 

 

 

CODE RED

My plan was to share with you beautiful pictures of Barcelona. It was a sound plan as we were to be there Sunday at 2pm. Plenty of time to have our can’t wait to get there glass(s) of we’re really in Barcelona sangria, siesta, tour around, take pictures, and indulge in a late evening meal of tapas and more sangria.

 

Well…”the best laid plans of mice and men…”

 

Apparently if there is lightening within a 5 mile radius of an airport a small blinking yellow light at the end of the terminal begins to blink red. It is a very big deal. I could hear the airport officials quietly sharing the news with their compadres…the airport is in  Code Red. I felt the undercurrent of foreboding rippling down the backs of the gate personnel.

 

Code Red means that no airport employee can be on the patio. They can’t load baggage, unload it, or assist planes to their gate. As a result planes full of people sit on the runway or fly in circles above the airport.

 

It also means everyone waiting at the gate to go somewhere gets a bit testy. The swamped Air Canada/United gate-checker-inner kept repeating, “I can’t control Mother Nature.” No one believed her.  She resorted to repeating her lame excuse over the intercom. The only thing that helped was that little light at the end of the terminal changing to yellow again. (Why yellow and not green?)

 

I have never seen people organize and move so quickly. Everyone was on the same page…get us out of here before that light turns red again.

 

Our plane took off 3 hours late. We missed our connecting flight in Toronto and our hopes of catching a plane to anywhere over the ocean was dashed quickly upon our arrival in Canada. Apparently they have the same Labor Day holiday as the US so all flights were booked. Who knew?

 

So I thought you would enjoy some pictures of Toronto.

 

What Are You Made Of?

Remember the story of the 3 little pigs?

 

The first little pig built his house with straw and the wolf blew it down. The second little pig built his house with sticks and the wolf had his way with that house too. The third little pig built his house with brick and for all his huffing and puffing the wolf couldn’t blow the house down.

 

Sitting with a client the other day this fairy tale popped into my head. I have come to trust these little “pop ins”…they usually offer some wisdom I would never have come up with on my own.

 

We were talking about her sense of her self. How comfortable she is being her? How strongly she can advocate for herself? How well acquainted she is with herself ?Basically, how strongly can she stand (with herself) in the face of high wind?

 

That is when “the pigs” popped in.

 

When I consider of my own sense of my self using this metaphor of being a house-a structure that holds me-ideally it(I) would be well built. I know for myself, my friends and the women I work with, this is not always the case. Our houses (sense of self, hearts, confidence) are all too often and too easily blown to bits, straw and twigs flying in all directions.

 

 I have been watching episodes of the Big C on NetFlixs. It is a story of a woman, Cathy, who has cancer. In the episode we watched last night Cathy was hired as the high school swim coach, despite the principals concerns she couldn’t do the job because of her cancer. As the new coach, Cathy took charge. She changed practice warm ups, team strategies and confronted an arrogant, undermining swim team dad. As I watched her stand up to him, I felt her belief in herself as a coach. I was impressed. I noticed I sat straighter on the couch. She was made of brick.

 

As the episode continued, and the plot thickened, Cathy and her husband got crabs because their son slept with a prostitute in their bed (too gross to think about on sooo many levels). Thanks to facebook, and the sons now x girlfriend, the word got out. This was all the arrogant dad needed to have Cathy fired as the swim coach.

 

The scene unfolds as Cathy walked into the pool area; clip board in hand, whistle around her neck, only to see the principal, the dad with all the other parents and her team waiting for her. Cathy is told by the principal she is being fired for putting the girls at risk of getting crabs. I could feel myself cave in for her. I imagined myself as her and could see myself slink out of the gym, find my way home and crawl under the covers. I could feel my shame for her. I was made of straw.

 

Cathy, brick house that she is, doesn’t collapse into her shame, instead she confronts them on the improbability of their accusation and threatens them with a law suit if they try to fire the “woman with cancer.” She ends her self absolution by saying she is taking her team, whoever is still on it, for a run. With that she turns, clip board close to her chest, whistle swinging and out she walks out of the gym. Last scene-she is running on alone on the track. One by one the girls on her team fall in behind her.

 

Now I know this is a well scripted TV series, but I was moved…right out from under my emotional hiding place…announcing to myself and the space between myself and the TV, “I want to be like her when I grow up!”

 

To not move into shame when someone huffs and puffs at me. 

 

To feel my house made of bricks and to stand my ground.

 

To laugh I the face of the big bad wolf…and then take a run.

 

Oh yeah, I don’t run. I’ll take a brisk walk instead. Anyone want to fall in along side of me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living in Oblivion

On the plane home from Tybee, I noticed a young woman sitting several seats in front of me and on the other side of the plane. I noticed her because she was flinging her long dirty blonde hair (it may have been dirty blond or it may just have been dirty, I couldn’t quite tell) over the back of her seat into the seat behind her.

 

“Surely this was a mistake. She doesn’t really mean to have her hair hanging in someone else’s very limited seat space, does she?” I wondered to myself. Now some women never touch their hair, some women play with their hair every once in a while (I am one of those) and some women touch their hair A LOT. This woman was the latter. So after the third or fourth time she adjusted and readjusted her hair, she always ended throwing it over the back of her seat.

 

She was oblivious to the guy sitting behind her and her infringement on his personal space. I decided I didn’t like her.

 

Driving to work the other day I sensed the woman driving in the car beside me wanted to move into my lane. I usually know this because drivers will unconsciously start to ease toward the line when they decide they want to switch lanes. When I feel this float to the center, I don’t wait for blinker, I adjust myself to make room ahead or behind me, which ever makes safe sense. In this case I slowed down to make room for her. As I predicted her blinker came on and into my lane she moved. I waited for the thank you wave in the mirror. None came (Not only am I a defensive driver, like Mr Anderson taught me, I am a polite driver. I wave my thank you’s. Sometimes I wave another part of my hand, but that is another story.)

 

Further down the road this happened again with the same driver. This time I had to slow down quickly because she was switching lanes regardless of where I was.

 

She was oblivious and a rude, bad driver. I didn’t like her either.

 

I began to think about these two events and get interested in my attention to them. “Out of all the possible things to notice on a plane, and while driving, why did I notice these?What is it about me that I observe and have a strong negative reaction to oblivion?” I wondered.

 

It didn’t take long for me to get my answer.

 

I never let myself be oblivious!

 

I learned at an early age to be hyper vigilance of other peoples needs. I can walk into a room and tell you who is thirsty. I am always considering my effect on the personal space, needs, wants, desires of the other person. For gods sake, I know when a driver wants to pull into my lane before they do. Sometimes I am exhausted making sure I don’t step on anyones toes.

 

Okay, I got it. Again. This is certainly not the first time life presented me the opportunity to learn this lesson. These two women were my mirrors, reflecting back to me my lopsided sense of responsibility for others. My lesson is to learn to be more oblivious. To not notice as much. To not care as often.

 

Anyone with me on this? Want to pay less attention? Care less, relax more?

 

I just noticed as I was writing this last paragraph I mindlessly made a hand held ponytail in my hair and flipped it over the back of my chair. Granted my hair is not that long and there is no one sitting in a seat behind me, but I’ve gotta start someplace…

Where Have I Been? Again…

Missing in action.

 

I do this sometimes. I have since I was a kid. I disappear from view, a ‘time out’ of sorts.

 

Historically these MIA’s have been a result of my wish to be found, usually by my family. Would they notice I was gone? Would they care? Am I important enough to be found?

 

If I am honest there was some of that in my absence the past several weeks. (I wish I could say I am beyond that insecurity, I manage it much better these days, but I doubt it will ever be completely gone.) But, more than that, I ‘checked out’ because I lost my vision and my energy. I began to question my decision to become a blogger.

 

Two years ago I didn’t even know what a blog was, let alone how to manage one. So I have been learning. It has been a very left brained-not my strong suit-endeavor, which was painfully tedious. Then there was the need to develop a blog readership. That means social media. So I acquired a facebook page(s) and a twitter account. My facebook page continues to feel like an unorganized closet full of people I don’t know-is that a good thing?-and messages/invitations to things I am not the least bit interested in. I just don’t get it. As for twitter, I have know idea what to tweet about.

 

My exasperation worsened when I realized that there are soooo many Off the Couch blogs written by other therapists. My brilliant idea was not so unique, special or trademarked-which means some other therapist could ask me to “cease and desist” if they started their blog before me. That was the last straw. My discouragement became exhaustion and I let go…of my vision and my desire. I do that to. I sometimes let go of my dreams from a place of exhaustion and overwhelm.  But what I also do, if my dream is in my blood, I pick myself and it back up and start again.

 

So here I am. I am back, starting again, but, this time with the help of a 22 year old intern that is waaayyy smarter about all of this blog and social media stuff than I am. Karen is going to help me clean my facebook closet, tell me what the hell to twitter about, and rename my blog.

 

This is where you, my readers, can help. I need your input and ideas. We are going to start with rebranding Off the Couch blog. I will miss Duke as my mascot. I love the double entendre. But I need to let go, this time of Duke and not my dream to be a top 100 women’s blog.

 

So if you don’t mind, I will run some fresh names for the blog by you.  Let me know what you think. And if you have any ideas to improve the blog, an idea for a new name, social media strategies, or anything else, by all means let me know.

 

I also want to apologize to those of you that look forward to my Monday morning posts. I am sorry for the last 4 weeks of radio silence. I also want to thank those of you that reached out to tell me you missed me. It’s good to be found…