Friday, April 20, 2007

I can hear you breathe

Alternatively titled, Food is Love.

I get a little light-headed, you know, when I'm feeling pressured.

It's been a crazy week, the first full work week after a long holiday, so many patients to see, give or take a couple of cancellations, double the usual number of calls, loads of laundry, house work, family medical nonsense, and

Blogging.

Lots of it, no thanks to a certain massacre in Virginia.

Since I wrote a lot, working it all out as I went along, there was pressure to read and post your thoughtful comments and respond to them, too, which takes time. It's not something I'd really considered when I started writing this thing, but it is undoubtedly a labor of love now.

Still. You should see my desk, a casualty of neglect, and don't ask me where your anything is until Friday when it all gets filed away or shoved into a drawer until I can decide what to do with it. Who's got a match?

So last night was a welcome relief. Went out with a colleague, which took me away from this world, sort of, except for that occasional reference over salad and fish to my Internet Addiction and pressured speech. It was suggested that I could actually post only a couple of times a week if I really wanted. I told my friend that if and when this gets dysfunctional to my family, myself, or my practice, that'll happen.

But so far, everyone's let me slide.

Still, let me tell you something about some of the consequences of doing anything new that disrupts the rhythm of your life. When that happens everyone in your world, including you, has to adapt to it, and sometimes their adaptation is actually for the better. It's called growth.

Growth is a key concept in therapy.

Just this week a patient was saying to me that she didn't know how to develop confidence (she's one of the highest functioning individuals I know, of course). I gave her the No Calculated Risk, No Growth adage, similar to No Pain, No Gain.

No Pain, No Gain is what the skiers all say, but ever since the time I wiped out and lost a ski at the top of a mountain in Utah, looked up at the sky (for there was no place else to look but up), and said, never again, No Pain, No Gain has not been my philosophy.

If it might hurt (physically), it's not my kind of risk and I'm not going to be on board. Unless it's your physical therapist telling you to do it. Then maybe.

But a behavioral stretch without dire consequences? Sure. Consider it. Emotional growth is more likely to happen when you try something different, something new, stretch. Especially if it works out. So we try to make sure, going into it, that it'll work out when we do these kinds of things as therapeutic interventions.

Let's say you're generally a people pleaser. But one day you wake up and you're in the mood for a change. Say your hair has always been long and you're thinking of trying something different. But the significant other might not like it, based upon what's been said in the past.

Still, you calculate that it's low risk even though it's so weird for you to think of yourself differently. But it'll grow back if you don't like it. If he (she) doesn't like it, it's okay, it'll eventually grow back.

Imagine this. You do it and S.O. really IS put off, maybe even makes a not-so-supportive comment at first. But everyone else likes it. Still, you're shaky. After a couple of hours, however, S.O. sees you're sad, looks at you critically, smiles and says, "It's nice. It's really nice."

You say, "You really like it?"

He loves you so no matter what he thinks he says, "I really like it."

He had to grow here, too, had to rise to the occasion. If he didn't, you would have to trot on over to my office or call your mother in tears. Of course, if this had been my case you would have dragged your significant other into therapy with you and we would have strategized together from the get-go so that you would have been supported in your risk.

When the results of change are positive, you're pumped, powerful. When they're negative you find that you still survived, anyway. The confidence light somewhere in the confidence center of your brain (one of those spots on the PET scan, as yet unidentifiable) burns brighter because the risk hasn't turned to disaster, and it won't, face it, when it's a calculated risk.

I'm NOT advocating gambling in this post, okay? I don't consider gambling a calculated risk. It's calculated, perhaps, for you to lose.

Others notice changes like the one in the haircut example and go crazy with delight. They praise you. (Wow, love the haircut!) You're different in their eyes, gutsier. That praise reinforces your emotional growth, your sense of mastery. You are so cool. One small clip of the scissors, one giant step for mankind.

Here's another example, small scale. Maybe not the best example, but it's not a bad story. It's actually a love story. So don't spleen me.

I said to F.D. early in the week, I'm going out with so and so for dinner on Wednesday night. You're on your own. Okay?

He didn't seem happy but didn't say anything.

You have to understand, it wasn't about the food or jealousy. He could live on air. But he usually has band practice on Wednesdays, and this particular Wednesday he didn't, so he could see the two of us going out for dinner or to a movie maybe. He's not used to being the one home alone in the evening. He's the one who goes out, does community activities. So this threw him off, I think.

But he knows I need this female-female diversion thing.

There was a point when I could see his wheels starting to turn.

So I went out and when I got home last night I walked into the house and the smell of his cooking was, I am not exaggerating, was better than anything I have ever inhaled in my life. He's a marvelous cook, although it has been very limited to an occasional omelet and his special barbeque sauce, a concoction he makes to baste a bird on Friday nights. The sauce is always a little different and I get to give it the taste test as he experiments, shake my head and stare at him, mesmerized with gustatory admiration. It's a great sauce.

But he's never seriously ventured into anything besides chicken, probably because I'm always puttering around the kitchen when I'm home and it's a SMALL kitchen.

So I came home on Wednesday night to an unbelievable stir fry. He had used two fry pans, separating the meat from the vegetables, and had saved some of the latter for me, lest I didn't eat enough at the restaurant, which I had. He said, "You'll have this for lunch tomorrow. Try the rice."

And indeed I did.

That red tupperware on the corner of my desk? Yup, that was it.

Now that he's got some confidence, I'm thinking that one night a week for sure, F.D. should be cooking dinner. It'll help me catch my breath, slow me down so that I can stop, exhale and inhale, maybe get close enough to him to hear him breathe, as the song goes.

That, or I'll have to leave him alone more often so that I can get a decent meal.

P.S. You should know that when I suggested this to him he said I was out of my tree. (sigh). And really? He said he made that stir fry for himself. I was going out. Whatever works, I say.

Copyright 2007, TherapyDoc