Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Friday, April 9, 2010
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Friday, March 26, 2010
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Monday, March 22, 2010
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Friday, March 19, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Monday, March 15, 2010
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Friday, March 12, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Last night, two other lives. Neither of which I want to live.
Let me back up. Obviously, I didn't blog yesterday despite my Lent commitment. I'm not going to beat myself up about it because 1) I don't have the energy for that and 2) I think it's more righteous to "try harder next time" than to give up because I didn't measure up to some rigid but arbitrary goal I set for myself. That being said, I didn't forget to blog yesterday... but by the time I was done with everything else I had to do, I just couldn't make myself do it. It's been a really, really, exhausting couple of school/work days. I had only done one intake interview all semester, but I had to do two of them on the same day (Tuesday), and just that little extra time and effort kind of sent me over the edge. Being on the go for 12+ hours a day--especially in this environment where I feel like every move I make is going to be evaluated--is just too much for me. When I got home from school yesterday (and by school, I mean work, lunch, clinic paperwork, research meeting, dinner, yoga, supervision, more paperwork), I was completely spent. I can't remember being this exhausted for a long time. I didn't take any time to decompress or reflect or chill out or pray or even talk to Alexander. I just collapsed onto my bed.
Oh, how I wish I hadn't done that. I had horrible dreams. And I hardly ever have bad dreams. I dreamed, basically, that I was one of my clients. I was still me, but I was experiencing some really stressful interpersonal things that my new client is currently experiencing. I woke up at 3 a.m. (I don't think I've done that since I've been thyroid-less) and was exahusted, but so relieved that "it was just a dream." It took me quite a while to go back to sleep (again, hasn't happened since 2007, I don't think), and when I did go back to sleep, it got worse. In the next dream, I started having a horribly traumatic experience that my other client experienced as a kid. I can't even bring myself to say out loud (or type out loud) what it was. I woke up at 6 feeling more mentally exhausted than I was when I went to sleep.
Clearly, this is not a good situation. Therapists should not be unconsciously experiencing their clients' trauma. It might seem like I have no boundaries and can't leave therapy in therapy like I should. But really, I'm pretty good at that, usually, because I spend waking time reflecting about it so that I can put it away and move on. I've actually been pretty pleased with my ability to do that so far in my "career" as a therapist. I guess it's easy for me, because I naturally take time to reflect, which actually helps these sort of thoughts not to follow me around when I don't want them to. I give them attention when they need it (which is usually right after sessions or in this case, supervision), and then I file them away for next week. But my fatigue stopped me from doing that. The last thing I did yesterday was talk to my supervisor about my clients (and then get their paperwork in order.) Since I didn't have my normal decompression time, all that crap was still floating around unresolved, so it showed up in the worst way possible.
One positive: I have a whole new level of empathy for what these clients have experienced.
Another positive: I have a whole new appreciation for the importance of "self care" as it relates to clinical work. It is so, so important for me not to get so exhausted that I don't have time to chill out.
Lord, come quickly. And bring Spring Break with you.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Monday, March 8, 2010
Saturday, March 6, 2010
I’ve been teaching some gifted teenagers about psychology for the last seven Saturdays as a part of my assistantship, and today was the last day of the program. I’ve enjoyed it; I love teaching, and I’m pretty good at it. I’ve even had moments of thinking that I “missed my calling” (like my boss told me), but today, I’m glad it’s over and that I’m going to spend my life doing therapy instead.
I brought my Sigmund Freud action figure today since we were talking briefly about psychoanalysis, and my kids got a kick out of it. I probably shouldn’t have explained the significance of his cigar, but I did. ;) I stopped short, though, of telling them how this action figure is part of my favorite metaphor for life. You see, someone who knew me very well bought this action figure for me several years ago, along with a Jesus action figure, and these two men have been standing side by side on various shelves in various places I’ve lived (Emory, Radford, Ashland, Hattiesburg) ever since. The point of this gift, of course, was that I am a psychology student and a Christian, so these two guys represent my worldview even though they look like a rather strange and humorous pair.
My worldview, though, is obviously not one half psychology and the other half faith. Faith comes first, and psychology is contained by it, guided by it, supported by it. That part of the metaphor has made itself concrete in the action figures too, much to my amusement and, well, inspiration. You see, the Jesus action figure has a broad base and two wheels on the bottom, so it’s very stable. Sigmund, however, has two skinny little feet that don’t always seem to be exactly level. He falls over backward quite easily. That’s why he has to stand so close to Jesus: Jesus’s hand is always right behind Freud’s, propping him up so he doesn’t fall.
It’s funny, yes. But it’s also such a clear picture of God’s sovereignty and love. Christ might appear to be just a part of the story, but none of the other characters would be around if he weren’t there first. Even things that are not “Christian” are able to exist only because of the life given them by God. Sigmund might not notice Jesus standing there at all, but Jesus’s presence is the only thing keeping Sigmund Freud (and me) standing.
Friday, March 5, 2010
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
This next piece by Amy Gibson and Andrea Read of colorstorydesigns combines my loves of color and trees with my favorite material to play with: pieces of old magazines! I love that it's three-dimensional like a diorama! These tree shadowboxes come in all different sizes and color schemes, so there's something for everyone's aesthetic. This shop also has some of the coolest mirrors and picture frames I have ever seen. Check them out!
Other color-loving artists included in my treasury were whimsyfish, bdollco, jlovesupreme, ChatonDesigns, MadeMary, woollyfabulous, missmosh, peacockandpeccary, and magicrayons. Exploring their shops will brighten your day, I'm sure. :)
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Monday, March 1, 2010
In the field of counseling, we spend a lot of time researching, writing, and talking about different treatment approaches. Some disciples of certain theoretical orientations or interventions seem to be quite invested in making sure theirs are the “best.” But data (and experience) keep telling us that what we “do” as therapists matters less than how we do it—or maybe even who we are. We use the term “common factors” to refer to things like genuineness, empathy, hope, warmth, and unconditional positive regard—things that characterize good therapists whose clients experience improvement. Sometimes we conceptualize this as “being,” contrasting it with the “doing” of interventions.
I’ve always believed in the idea that the most important thing is that I care about my clients, but sometimes, in session, it doesn’t feel like enough. I can care all day long, but what if I don’t know what to do? I’ve begun to trust my instincts a lot more than I did at first, but sometimes I still wonder if the “common factors” are really all they’re cracked up to be.
But Alexander and I had our third pre-marital counseling session with our pastor on Sunday, and it really restored my faith in the idea that being is more therapeutic than doing. You see, our pastor is 1) very young and 2) not a counselor at all. He makes no bones about the fact that he is not trained in counseling and is largely winging it. I have to admit that I sometimes find myself silently assessing what he’s doing and thinking about all the ways I would do it differently if I were in his shoes. For example, this week, Alex and I completed a questionnaire about the “five love languages” (based on this book), and our session focused on a discussion of our results. Except there was no “processing” of our experience completing the questionnaire or even of our initial responses to our results. We turned them in, he interpreted them, he talked about what they might mean for us. It was several minutes before either of us had an opportunity to say anything at all. Our pastor didn’t ask us if his words made sense to us; he didn’t ask us for examples (though I gave some anyway.) Knowing what I know about using psychological assessment in counseling, I would say that he did it all wrong. And speaking in this technical sense, I might even say that what he “did” was a waste (at least for me), because the information that the questionnaire gave us was not news to me—I already know how I communicate love. I already know how Alex communicates love. I already recognize that these aren’t always the same, and I already work hard both to communicate love in the way he receives it and to recognize when he’s communicating love to me. From an intervention/treatment/ “doing” perspective, it was useless.
And yet… it wasn’t! At all! It was a really, really, really positive experience that I enjoyed quite a lot. Our pastor is very intelligent, and a really nice guy. He’s real with us. He’s present with us. He welcomes us, he likes us, he deeply desires for us to be blessed and fulfilled in our marriage, and he faithfully believes that we will be. We left our session feeling happy, refreshed, confident, supported, loved, and excited about what’s ahead. And what more could I want for my clients than that?
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Friday, February 26, 2010
1. Spirituality, sense of purpose, and faith
2. Curiosity and interest in the world
3. Judgement, critical thinking, and open-mindednesss
4. Capacity to love and be loved
5. Love of learning
I was struck by one of my classmates who was sharing that my "#1 strenghth" was at the bottom of his own list. He said, "I believe, but I don't let it affect me." At first, my (internal) reaction was, I admit, quite smug. Clearly he has missed something. It is impossible to come into contact with the creator of the universe, the lover of our souls, and not be affected. This guy obviously doesn't know God!
And yet... Is it obvious that I do know God? Do I live in such a way that people know I have come into contact with the creator of the universe, the lover of my soul?
Lord Jesus, please affect me. Amen.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Monday, February 22, 2010
Saturday, February 20, 2010
In a way, I'm in the same boat now. I'm not sick anymore (I continue to praise God for this), but I'm preparing to try to make something new out my life, which currently feels disjointed. There are a lot of good things my life, but none of them are matched up neatly right now. I constantly have one foot in Ocean Springs and one foot in Hattiesburg, so I feel like I'm not fully a part of either one. Alex and I are growing closer (and happier, and better at working together), but I'm still an hour and a half away and see him only on weekends. I'm a member of a new church (more on this later), but I can't be there regularly. I'm planning (ok, helping to plan) a wedding and a move, but I still haven't guaranteed an internship that is close to the place I'm moving to. I'm trying to maintain relationships with happily unattached friends whom I can identify with less and less but whom I love and want to relate to. I'm jumping through the hoops of grad school even though my mind is not usually in the game. I'm struggling to complete a research project that I care very little about while wanting to focus more on my clients whom I care very much about. All these pieces are just not creating the whole, singular, beautiful, unified picture that my heart longs to be. That is why I have come back to finding solace in putting paper pieces together again--it reassures me that I will be put together too, soon enough.
Here is one of my new creations:
It's my favorite Bible verse, Romans 12:2. I love these words because they speak to a part of faith that many people seem to overlook (or miss out on) but that has been powerfully and beautifully real to me. Christianity, too often for my taste, is characterized chiefly by "touchy-feely," emotional things or by outward, behavioral events. Too often, faith in Christ is seen as something that disagrees with intellect. This may be true in some cases at some times, but I have found that my richest and clearest experiences with God have been when I think--question, wrestle, wonder, study, try to figure it out. I recognize that I will never "arrive" (at least not in this earthly life), but I cannot imagine missing out on this journey.
Lord Jesus, please let Lent be a time of renewal despite the countless distractions; please restore my faith in your perfect will. Amen.
Friday, February 19, 2010
But I am not excited about being named Sara Miller. Not at all. I love, love, LOVE my last name, and I am very conflicted about changing it. I've been thinking about it for a long time and I thought I would've had it all sorted out by now, but I still don't know what to do.
In college, I did a lot of reading about feminism and came to strongly identify with its philosophy. (I am not talking about man-bashing or female supremacy here, but actual feminism, which is really about equality, overcoming barriers that oppress both genders. Just wanted to clear that up.) I became aware of all the "rules" that society gives to women (and men) and the ways that I obey them without question. I began to realize how many of our cultural traditions are rooted in a patriarchal system that was based on the idea that women are property of men. I decided, among other things, that if I got married, I would not change my name. Why should I have to? I am not becoming property of my husband anymore than he is becoming property of me. And no one would ever think to expect a husband to change his name! Why not? Why does it have to be me? Especially when I have the coolest name in the whole world. It was settled.
And to a large extent, this is still how I feel. Except.... I want to be a mom someday. I want to have a family, and this seems to create name issues that I'd rather not deal with. If we have kids, whose name do they get? In most cases, they get the dad's name (which is just as logical as the mom's name, unless you give them different names, which I think is weird.) Do I really want to have a different name than everyone in my future family? Do I want to be a part of the Miller family but not really be a Miller myself? I'm not sure I feel great about this idea.
There is always the hyphen, I'm told. I could be Sara Montague-Miller. But that's a bit of a mouthful and will annoy people to no end, I'm sure. There's also the option of keeping my name and hyphenating the names of the (hypothetical) kids. But on top of the mouthful issue, this creates a whole new set of problems for when they get married. If I had a daughter named so-in-so Montague-Miller who was getting married, she would be having the same conflict I'm having now but with the added problem of a third last name! It's just a mess.
Because of all these kid-related difficulties (not that kids are coming along anytime soon, mind you), I have been trying to convince myself to just suck it up and change my name. It makes things easier for everyone.
But it's participating in a system that I truly dislike. And yet, more recently it has occurred to me that keeping my name does not really get me out of the patriarchy system at all. My name is Montague because of my dad, after all. Even my mom's "maiden name" (I am not a fan of this term) is there because of her dad. So no matter how far back I could theoretically go to find a name to change to, it would still be a "family name" only because it was the name of a man. So if I'm going to have a man's name, maybe it would make more sense for it to be my husband's name and not my dad's.
Except that my (almost) husband's name is Miller and my dad's name is Montague, and it is quite clear which one is better.
My dear brother, who is far more conservative than I am, and also quite an eloquent writer, tried to ease my mind by telling me that I will always be a Montague because "that branding is internal, and eternal." This may be true, but I remain jealous of his male privilege of being "allowed" (expected) to keep the external branding, too.
I guess it seems like I'm still leaning toward "sucking it up," but it's really hard letting go of being Sara Ames Montague. Is that weird?
I would love to know your thoughts.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
"Alex, will you be mine?"
I'm glad that I already know