Category: Uncategorized

Amy and The Old Man

This is a story about a girl named Amy.  Amy was an active soul.  She filled her life with performance and achievements.  She had degrees, publications, and merits.  When there was no movement in her life, she felt stagnant.  Stagnation brought with it, thoughts of worthlessness and feelings of self-doubt.  No achievements meant no advancement in life.

One day after a long stretch at work, calculating her next advancement for a book she was writing, Amy sat on a bench at the park.  She watched as ducks swam in the nearby pond, while mothers pushed strollers, and while an old man with a cane walked slowly along the walkway.  As she sat and watched she listened to the chatter in her head, “get up and do something, don’t just sit there.”  Her mind wandered with the consciousness she had created.  Her inner voice was using the very measurements that she had constructed it to use.  If she did not measure up to her expectations, she was not good enough.  Amy was exhausted.  She began to feel a tear roll down her cheek.  The old man with the cane had quietly sat next to her on the bench.

“My dear,” he said, “Why do you cry?”

“Look,” said Amy, “The ducks have their friends and fun.  The mothers have their love and commitment to another being.  And I, I have nothing.  My work does not bring me joy.  My hope for the future is gone.”

“Goodness,” said the old man, in a quiet, sullen tone. He sat next to Amy with a calm smile on his face and watched as the mothers pushed their strollers and the ducks swam in the pond.

“Well,” said Amy, in frustration, “Don’t you have anything to say?  I mean, I am sitting next to you crying, and you sat next to me!  So you must have wanted to say something to the lonely girl on the bench.”

The old man maintained his posture simply looking up at Amy for a moment then back at the pond.  She continued to talk.  He remained calm and consistent.  He gave her eye contact when she talked and looked toward the pond with wonder when she didn’t.  (He recognized that if Amy measured herself on performance, it was how she measured others as well.  He wasn’t much of a performer.)  His breaths were tempered and consistent.  He sat a long while with her.

“Well, it was nice to meet you Amy,” said the old man as he used his cane for momentum to stand up.

“What?” Amy said in anger, “You sit next to me and let me go on this whole time.  But you give me nothing, no advice, no wisdom, and no reflection?”

“Amy, my dear,” said the old man, “Did you ever consider that each part of life or each relationship is not what you take from it, but what you give to it.”

Amy looked perplexed and walked off in confusion.

The old man slowly got back on the walkway and felt peace in his heart.

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You see, on the other side of the pond away from the people walking, the ducks swimming, and Amy performing was a quiet place called: letting go.  Right next to the place called : letting go is a place called: just being.  These two places are not places we regularly visit in today’s busy society.  It is a part of life that we never fully grasp.  We walk away in confusion and frustration when we can not understanding something.  In its very nature, just being, is not something that can be understood.

The concept of just being was foreign to Amy.  She had lived a life filled with performance.  She had difficulty sitting still and ran quite functionally on anxiety.  She lacked acceptance in the pausing of life.

For some of us, the pauses in life makes us cringe.  Not doing, or moving, or growing means that we are lacking.  We don’t hesitate to take on the weight of the world as our own and to gain love of ourself only when we have performed.  We blame others for not helping us.  We worry about what still has to be done.  We look at relationships for what we can take, not for what we can give to them.

The strange thing is, just being is not something that you can perform.  The very nature of it exudes that.  It is also not something that you can reduce or pull apart or intellectualize.  You can not collect it, teach it, hide it, or even commit to it.  It just is.

 

To Be Single or Not to Be Single

This story is about a girl named Mary.  Mary is my friend.  Mary is currently single, but going on dates.  Now Mary and I have known one another for over two decades.  She and I have traveled to the depths of the dating world together and been single to sulk our relationship losses.  We’ve watched every chic flick on how to be good at being a strong but super cool, chill girl.  (Come, on!)  Every woman in the world is trying to be a good wife, partner, girlfriend, dating person, or single chic.  And being “good” is so subjective.

Then we are given dating advice in Cosmopolitan, or told to be rude by outlandish books;  Why Men Love Bitches.  All the information becomes conflicting and overwhelming.   We are inundated with friends opinions and strangers judgements.  We are overthinking, over-trying, and overdoing.

So, lets get back to Mary’s story.  She had been single before and in other relationships before.  Ones that worked and ones that didn’t.  Ones that ended cordially with a hand shake and ones that ended tragically with cheating.  She has played the field, given up dating to pursue a career and come back around again.  Before she began dating again she saw a counselor.  She worked on some fears, then after another year, she got back out there.  She was not active in pursuing men, but she was attracting good and decent men who wanted to take her out.  She was confident, happy, and fun. She had her contagious energy back that she had before her heartbreak.  But it took Mary time to get there.  Before that she laid on the couch with me and cried, she asked for hugs and she figured out what she wanted.  She rediscovered who she was.

Then something happened.  Mary met someone.  She met someone she really liked.   She was overwhelmed by trying to remember the rules to dating because she actually liked this guy.  She thought about texting in 3 days instead of hours; how to keep him interested; when to introduce him to her friends; when he should meet her family; was she actually ready for a real relationship; what if he rejected her; what if she needed to have multiple people to date at the same time while not making him jealous, while keeping him interested, while trying to stand on her head while sitting in a chair and juggling 4 balls in the air while playing guitar and making dinner for 12 people…….. Mary was having overwhelming feelings and emotions of doubt.  She just had to remember, it’s going to be ok.  She had to remember what she wanted and not digress to the conflicting information.  She had to calm her fears, anxieties, and doubt.

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She had to go back and remember what she had learned.  She learned that just because she grew from an experience that she could not control future situations and that there was no promise she wouldn’t be hurt again. She had to let go of her need to control and she had to be vulnerable.  My point is……we ebb and flow in all stages of dating and relationships.  Relax. Breath. Stop trying to figure it out and enjoy the journey.

Why does it all have to be so complicated?  We get so much conflicting information from so many avenues and it keeps us from developing our genuine selves.  It prolongs the confusion and chaos.   Mary has no idea how to be single.  She has no idea how to date or how to be in a relationship.  Not the “right way”, at least, whatever that means.  But who does?  We are all sort of the blind leading the blind.  This is messy stuff.  This is complicated stuff.  We have to give ourselves room to breath and grow.  We are making it up as we go, learning from the past, and taking notes for the future.  There is no right way to date or right way to be single.  The best you can hope for is good and supportive friends that hang in there with you along the way.  My point is……Relax. Breath. Stop trying to figure it out and enjoy the journey, single or not.

The Customer is Not Always Right

This article begins with a story about a man named Jerry.   Jerry is an Uber driver. He  picked me up today to take me to the airport.  Jerry had moved from a neighborhood near Chicago called Arlington Heights to Orange County, California is the 70’s.  He has four kids, nine grandkids and a dog.  Jerry was friendly and helpful. We chatted about climate change and other miscellaneous topics .  Jerry closed out the ride by telling me, “Well you got 5 stars.”  I giggled a bit and asked if he was kidding. He explained to me that Uber had begun asking drivers to rate their customers.  He explained that when people are just flat-out nasty or inconsiderate of human standards he has the option of giving them fewer stars.  The customer is now being judged.  Consumers have previously been about to rate the drivers on a 1-5 star scale on this taxi app.  Now, they too have the ability to rate the customers. This reminded me of Airbnb, a company that allows hosts to rent out their home or rooms to customers traveling to their location.   House hosts and renters alike can be rated on the site. It helps with accountability on the end of the host and the consumer.
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Before becoming a counselor, I worked in customer service for 15 years. I’ve had over a decade being the customer and the consumer.  I’ve had over a decade dealing with difficult customers over the years or with poor customer service as the consumer. Sometimes we are quick to yell at the waitress or to be short-tempered to the attendant.   Most of the time the temper had probably been building prior to our interaction, but now we get to take it out on someone.  There was an imbalance and that imbalance is being acknowledged.  Workers and staff have always been the only ones held accountable to serve with respect. We incorrectly assume that service is the action that must be taken seriously and in high regard for customer satisfaction. The saying, “the customer is always right” makes us believe that it is okay to yield power over the worker and thankfully times are changing.   In a world where some people just feel “owed” respect the inequality can take a much stronger meaning then that of the shop owner being faithful to the consumer.
Business is about relationships.  Relationships are about a balance and exchanges of understanding.  This article in no way negates the power of good customer service, but it’s an interaction between two individuals and not a right of power for the consumer.  We must hold every person, customer and worker alike to the standards of politeness, respect and service.  The customer isn’t always right anymore.  Every person is held to the human standards of decency. Interactions with people and places take place frequently.  We are all being measured.  The scoff, the smile, and our tones will all be judged.  It wouldn’t hurt us to all have accountability to be polite anyways.  Kindness is contagious.

Compromise vs. Collaboration in a Relationship

What is the difference between compromise and collaboration in a relationship?  Is one better than the other?  Is there something we can do to make sure that we are not giving more than the other person in our relationship?

Thank you to Dr. Kyle Weir for sparking my interest on this subject.  The word compromise is heard over and over again when we are talking about couples learning how to cope with each other’s differences.  (I have also used it several times myself.)  It was a concept that not only made sense, but had something that it could be measured against: sacrifice.  But is sacrifice really something that we want to do in a relationship?  The dictionary definition states that each side is making a concession.  That sounds easy.  Except for when you have two people inside of a relationship that are unwilling to budge on a matter and just want the other side to give in.

Humans are passionate when it comes to opinions.  Two people working towards a life together are going to come across a lot of them.  Compromise is something that is needed, but it is also something that assumes one partner will give in.  Collaboration on the other hand is working together towards a common goal.  Collaboration supposes that you already have the same goal in mind.  In a relationship, you should have similar or same goals in mind.  These goals include: what the future looks like and what passions you both have as individuals that you can work together towards in the relationship. In this journey, one partner may make compromises for the other, and then when the time comes the positions need to flip-flop.  You should never be the only person to compromise in the relationship.  During these times of compromise you should be collaborating towards the goal.

For example: if you have been offered a new job, your partner may have to compromise to move with you to keep the relationship going.  However, you will both have to collaborate about what this means for the other partners’ job or schooling.  A compromise can not take place unless you have discussed what that looks like.

At the beginning of a relationship, a couple tends to be directed towards either compromise or collaboration.  Too much of one person giving in at the beginning of the relationship can be a red flag that collaboration will not be part of the relationship.  A collaborative person will be present to work towards the relationship and making sure it is successful and happy.  These are items that we can asses early on in a relationship to understand our partner’s and our own investment in the relationship.

A relationship build on compromise (even though we have to make them at times) will not last, but a relationship build on collaboration will be able to stand difficulties and trials.

Quick Life Lessons to Happiness

We all have something we wish we could have changed.  You take chances and risks in life. You let go and you learn.  Open your heart and turn risks into knowledge. Life is filled with quick lessons.  Here are some key lessons to finding happiness.    

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  • Be willing to change and be open to growth.
  • Use sincerity in everything you do.
  • Decisions will have to be made, whether they are good or bad.  My best advice is that you stick to the decisions once you make them.
  • Date clumsily, but with conviction.   Learn what you want in a partner and don’t be willing to compromise your needs.  
  • Accept apologies and apologize.
  • Never let money become more important than green and cream paper.  Manage it and don’t let it manage you. 
  • Let your pride go immediately after it comes. 
  • Go to the movies by yourself at least once.  Learn how to be alone.  With a movie, with a book, with yourself.  It’s amazing what you learn when all the other chatter is gone. 
  • Learn something from a stranger. 
  • Don’t be afraid to wait.  Don’t be in a hurry to marry, have kids, go to college or do what everyone else is doing.  Do it your way and make it right. 
  • If you have a strong passion for something try making it your career. 
  • Be with your loved ones as much as you can.  And when they are gone, remember them as much as you can in the little things you do.  
  • Exercise. 
  • Observe people rather than judge them.  Leave categories for arbitrary things like plants and food, don’t reduce people to categories. 
  • Find something or someone that inspires you.  
  • Try to find the silver lining.  Venting and complaining are not known to help the psyche feel better.  Positive vocabulary leads to a positive attitude.
  • Be open-minded.  
  • You will not always win, you will rarely be the best.  Learn how to take this with grace. 
  • Don’t let other people’s bad moods or attitudes become yours. 
  • Be careful what you do in public social media forms.  Don’t post anything you wouldn’t be comfortable showing your parents, your boss, or your future children.  
  • Live life with poise and passion and never give up on any of your dreams. 
  • Don’t place too much weight on epiphanies.  
  • Laugh as much as your can for as long as you can. 

Break-Up Bod

Forbes magazine debunked the idea that a habit can be formed in 21 days.  That goes to show us that quick fix self-help won’t ingrain habits in the long run. However, active and consistent participation in self-help can maintain habits and provoke change.  With honest conviction, we can change.  So, yes, this will be hard, but I am going to get up and work out in the morning! 

Unfortunately, no Smart phone app will directly induce weight loss, secure relationship happiness or help with job perseverance. Sure, devices make situations easier, but we can’t just turn on the treadmill and watch it rotate.

Too often we make temporary changes that won’t form lasting habits.  We get motivated to work out because of our recent break-up.  We stop smoking because of a bad cough.  Don’t wait to form habits, form them daily!

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Here are some tips to form habits and sustain them:

  • Too Much Too Soon.  Sometimes we start with high expectations for ourselves or we get burnt out on the rigid regiment that we have set for ourselves.  Cut your beginning goals in half and build them over time.  Start small.

 

  • Know Yourself.  Do you like variety? Do you need to be pushed?  If you are not self-motivated to work out, a plain gym membership is not going to do you any good.  You need classes, trainers, or a work out buddy.  You need accountability.   My friend went to this amazing local Pilates class.  They had a cancellation fee so with finances being her priority, she got her butt to class.  Do what works for you. 

 

  • Discipline.  You have to be willing to meet your goals by setting them and achieving them often. Use SMART goals as a way to set up these goals.  Set them often.  Set them SMART. 

 

  • Excuses.  Successful people will be the first to tell you that they don’t use excuses.  You move forward, you take risks and you take responsibility.  Change happens when we stop excusing and start doing.  

 

  • Give Yourself Grace.  If you get stuck in a rut, have a pre-planned way to get out of it.  Shame will keep you stuck.   Give yourself grace to move forward. 

 

  • Reward Yourself. As adults we can have anything we want anytime we want it.  Be your own parent.  Allow yourself to have a treat, whether it is a new outfit or a fun vacation, but not until you reach a certain goal.   If you are motivated for the reward, the system works.  

 

I hope this article inspires your break-up bod to be your all- time bod! Get motivated and embrace change!

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

Even been dating someone and you are not sure if he (or she) is into you?

We begin a relationship where our partner seems like our knight in shining armor; they listen to us about our bad day and they send flowers just to make us smile.  You have that goofy smile that you can’t get rid of and you talk about them to all your friends.

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Then something changes; your partner doesn’t go out of their way to do the little things they did in the beginning.  They lose interest when you discuss something that is bothering you.   You may have experienced this before, where the relationship changed.  Unfortunately, the relationship was probably always like this.  It’s time to stop pulling those petals off the flower with, he loves me, he loves me not….  It’s time to take control of the situation. Trying to understand or fix the current dating situation will likely not work and the red flags will always be present, but here is what you can do:

 

Self-Care.  Get some exercise, good sleep, and eat nutritious meals.  The emotional rollercoaster will calm down if you feel physically good.

Positive Affirmations.  This experience may have you feeling less than great.  Listen to positive affirmations, pick up an inspiring book, or talk to helpful friends.  You need to feel good mentally as well.

You Have a Choice.  You get to choose who you date.  That is the best part.  This can also be the hardest part.  Our past experiences draw us to certain people, but our future doesn’t have to be the same.

Your Realization.  If you are feeling inconsistencies with your dating partner, it is likely that they are feeling the same way.  For whatever reason one or both of you are just not into the relationship. You have the realization, then you move on.

I Love Me.  If the person you are dating doesn’t show up when you need them emotionally or physically, remember – you love you.  Be your biggest fan and surround yourself with friends who love you and remind you how awesome you are.

Don’t Stop Dating.  The unrequited love may have left a damper on your ego.  However, sitting on your couch in your sweat pants is not going to help that ego dry any quicker.  Get back into dating and find someone who is consistent in the way they treat you.  You should never have to wonder if someone likes you.

 

 

A Message from the Author: 

I am a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern located in Huntington Beach, CA.  I am supervised by Jeffrey Kullmann (L.C.S.W. LCS 13661).  

I believe in helping others to develop happiness and grow emotional strength.  I work with individuals and couples to navigate life goals and relationships.  

Please visit: www.lauriekcounseling.com  to get more information or schedule a counseling appointment. 

 

-Laurie Kjelstrom, M.A.