OCD Nation: Are We All Destined to Become OCD?

Here’s my short answer:  NO.

First of all, no one can actually be OCD, although someone can have OCD.

But let’s backtrack a bit.  What actually is OCD? OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is “a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and/or behaviors (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.”

We tend to throw around the acronym OCD a lot.  Sometimes, we’re partially accurate in describing the low-end of the spectrum, such as when someone needs his books in perfect order on the shelf or uses hand sanitizer everytime she shakes a few hands.  Other times, we’re much less accurate, like when we say it to describe someone who always goes back to check to make sure their car door is locked. That actually has to do more with conscious memory. A lot of times when we go to lock our door, or put down our keys, we’re thinking about 10 other things and don’t consciously think about the action we’re doing. We’re so distracted that we don’t even remember doing it, so we go back and check.  Really, this is more of a lesson in staying present.  

I could go into a bit more of what qualifies as diagnosable OCD according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders-5 (DSM-V), but honestly, I don’t love using the DSM-V and I don’t want to bore you.  The main thing you need to know is that what constitutes for clinical concern is when the behavior or habit negatively impacts a person’s everyday life. For example, if someone’s habit to keep his bookshelf in perfect order makes him feel better, even if it seems over-the-top to others, I’d consider it a positive or neutral coping mechanism.  On the other hand, if someone needs to switch a light on and off 7x, or clean their house all day to make sure there is not a speck of dust on any surface, even if no one is coming over, and their thoughts are telling them they have to do this even though they’d rather go spend time with a friend, then I’d probably want to work with them figure out the better coping tools and see what’s at root of their habits.

Now that we have a little bit better understanding of OCD, let’s apply this to COVID-19.  Right now, most of us are on high alert in fear we’ll come into contact with the virus. We’re washing our hands more, carefully dis-infecting our packages, keeping physical distance, covering our faces with masks, etc.  This is all important, and taking action to prevent ourselves from getting sick may actually help reduce anxiety.  But what happens when this is all done? (It will be, eventually.*)

*There may be a “new normal”, but we have the opportunity to make it a better normal.  A bit more on that topic below.

We can acknowledge the good take-a-ways.  Most of us, including myself, can afford to wash their hands a bit more and for a bit longer.  Some of us can learn to be a bit more diligent about coughing or sneezing into a tissue or their elbow rather than into open air.  

Also, a lot of us may remember from school that there’s a lot of good germs (bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa) out there. Actually, as a nature-based therapist, I recommend digging your hand into the soil (some studies say that soil can act as an antidepressant).

So what’s going to keep us from compulsively washing and sanitizing our hands or obsessively thinking that everytime we go out we may contract a deadly virus?

Knowledge. Choice. Courage. Love.

Let me clarify, for someone who has a clinical form of OCD, it’s hardly a choice.  It is, however, a fear-based coping mechanism that has roots, often in some traumatic experience.  We also know that the symptoms of OCD can be greatly reduced with exposure and talk therapy. 

* While many people do find our current pandemic traumatic, by working with our emotions and thoughts in the now, we can limit it’s impact on our mental health.

What irks me the most when I hear others say that “we’re all going to be OCD after this…” (besides the “be” vs. “have” part) is that it ignores human resilience.  By saying everyone is destined to be OCD removes our ability to choose our paths forward. Sure, there are some things beyond our control, but whether it is by our actions, attitudes, or responses, we always have a choice.  As Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Victor Frankle said “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

For us, if we can step away from our fear for a moment, we have the ability to look at our options for the future.  To step back from our fear, we must first realize what it is: a natural and primal response to a threat. It activates our flight, fight, freeze response, which is a great response if we’re being attacked by a large predator, not so much if for an invisible-to-the-human-eye virus. In the brain, intense reactions to fear stem from the amygdala, while our prefrontal cortex, the thinking, rational part of our brain, goes offline. In order to get back into a prefrontal cortex, we often need to do an activity that helps us relax.  There’s a ton of options, but physical exercise, deep breathing, going outside, and journaling are the tools I most often share with clients.

When we give ourselves this space, we can then start asking ourselves questions like: What does the science say about the spread of germs?  How do we want to live our life and what is important to us? What behaviors are helpful, and what behaviors keep us from truly living? Collectively, are there any actions we can take to mitigate another pandemic or similar event? (Ex: Vote!)

That fear may still be there.  It may not leave for a while. But remember, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” (Franklin D. Roosevelt).

If the fear and anxiety seem like too much right now, it also takes courage to ask for help.  Actually, asking for help may be the most courageous act of all, so I encourage you to talk to a friend or seek out a therapist. 

To end, my friends, wash your hands (20-30 seconds is just fine!), but remember to take the courage with you that lives deep inside your hearts.   

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Trying to keep your house nearly dust free with a dog, especially when you live on a dirt hill= impossible!

Rants of a Therapist: Stop Using #SocialDistancing

It’s not that I don’t get the term…though it’s not super scientific (more on that below).

It’s that it’s anti-therapeutic.

Social distancing does NOT = equal social isolation. 

Unfortunately it seems like the equation some people are using is that social distancing = social isolation.  And THAT is making people sick.

Maybe not physically sick, not at first.  First it’s sad, lonely, anxious, depressed.  But the physical symptoms do come in.  It might be tired, lethargic, or a racing heart.  And eventually that could lead to a weaker immune system.

Let’s back up for a moment and look at the history of social distancing.

When I first heard the term in early March, it appeared to mean avoiding large social gatherings.  That made sense.  And then it transgressed to basically avoiding contact with all people, keeping a minimum of a 6ft distance between you and the nearest person.

Now I’m not disagreeing with that policy.  I mean, I’m a mental health therapist, not a scientist.  BUT that’s PHYSICAL DISTANCING.  It doesn’t say we can’t talk to each other, that we can smile at others and send all the good vibes we can.  And for our close friends and family who may live in the same household, or who we know have done everything they can to practice good hygiene, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t hug them tighter than ever.

I’ll get into the importance human connection more in a later post, so for now I’ll just say human evolution is based on it (and I’m not just talking about reproduction.)

Now if  we dig into Google Search a little more, things get really interesting.  When I first searched for “social distancing definition” the first definition I can across was from Wikipedia! What’s more interesting is that I just did a quick search again (March 30, 2020), and there’s now 99 references and requests for updates, including a request to change the definition to physical distancing!

On March 16, 2020 Merriam-Webster.com came out with their definition: the practice of maintaining a greater than usual physical distance from other people or of avoiding direct contact with people or objects in public places during the outbreak of a contagious disease in order to minimize exposure and reduce the transmission of infection.

Where Merriam-Webster.com really helped was a note at the bottom that said the first known use of social distancing was in 2003.  That search led me to a great piece of research by David M. Bell and the World Health Organization on SARS: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3329045/.  In their research overview, they didn’t use use social distancing as a definition. What they did use a few times was: measures to “increase social distance”.

Look, I get that #socialdistancing may sound like a cool buzz word/phrase to use and that not everyone is using in the wrong way.  However, it’s time we really start to really rise above buzz words and bumper stick quotes and actually starting thinking about the words we use.  Because it’s not just semantics.  It’s peoples’ health (mental and physical), happiness, and lives.

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For more on the links between connection and mental health: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MB5IX-np5fE

How to Manage Anxiety About the Coronavirus

First of all, let me highlight the title of this article “How to Manage Anxiety About the Coronavirus.”  The key word here is “manage”, both because the article cannot offer a miracle cure, but also because anxiety in itself is not a bad feeling.  In fact, anxiety is often a form of protection. It’s what we do with our anxiety and how we respond to events that matter.

Briefly, let’s take a look at what anxiety/fear/worry/stress is.

Even though we live in the year 2020, our brain still acts as if we lived in the Stone Age when under threat.  For example, if we were being chased by a bear, it would immediately tell us to go into a flight, fight, or freeze response depending on which action would be most likely to keep us alive.  Then, after the situation was over and we made it out alive, our brain would tell us that we were out of immediate danger and our body would relax.* 

*The freeze response is a little bit different, but for the sake of brevity in this article, I won’t go into detail here. 

Now looking at the coronavirus, or COVID-19, we can see that it brings with it the additional issues of being a long-term and uncertain event that makes direct action difficult.  However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things we can do. In fact, our anxiety has most likely already been a protective factor, making us more mindful of frequent hand-washing and keeping us away from physical contact with people we don’t know.  In other words, thank your anxiety!

Still, we don’t want to let our anxiety get out of hand, making us react rather than respond or completely take control of our thoughts.  When I’m feeling anxious or worried, I like to ask myself a few questions in addition to what we just covered.

  • What part of the worry is realistic?  What is unrealistic? (Many of us tend to instantly go to the worst case scenario, without knowing the facts or taking into account how resilient we are.)
  • What can you control?  What is out of your control?
  • For what you can control, what actions are possible?  (More on these last two in a bit!)

Okay, we’ve broken down some of the basics around anxiety, so let’s move on to other actionable steps specifically related to the coronavirus. 

  • Practice social distancing, but make sure you connect!  This means talking to family and friends who you love and feel safe speaking to.  Even if we are all feeling a little anxious, talking to others we love can help us regulate emotions and let us know we are not alone.
  • If you need additional help sorting through your thoughts and emotions, reach out to a therapist.  Many therapists are currently offering teletherapy sessions for clients.
  • Get your news from reputable sources.  For information on the virus and the best ways to protect yourself and others, the best source is the CDC.
  • Limit your screen time.  This includes social media and the news.  Pertaining to social media, there is a lot of misinformation out there, as well as a lot of well-intentioned friends continually participating in re-active posting that can elevate our anxiety.  As for news, even if it is 100% trustworthy, our minds and bodies need a break from the constant flow of information, especially before bed time. This is going to be different for everyone, especially due to different jobs, but I would try to keep social media use down to 20 minutes per day and news to 1 hour per day.
  • Don’t rush into big decisions.  At Girls on the Run, we teach “Stop and Take a BrThRR” (Stop, Breathe, Think, Respond, Review).  This will keep us from thinking with our primal brain and back into our prefrontal cortex, the rational part of our brain.
  • Make time to let your body calm down.  This may mean time outdoors, Yoga, or meditation.  In particular, body-centered meditations that guide you through relaxing each body part will be particularly helpful during this time and many great videos can be found on YouTube.
  • When possible, take action. For many of us, this is as simple as washing our hands, covering coughs and sneezes with tissues or your elbow, avoiding close contact with people we don’t know, and seeking medical care early if sick.  For those of us who may be feeling sick, your best action is truly to self-quarantine and get better! (Also, I still recommend connection, even if it is through FaceTime or Skype…we need each other!) For those of us who are healthy and have time, we can be helpers in our community, offering to get our more vulnerable neighbors groceries, shoveling driveways when it snows, etc.
  • Find the light in the darkness.  Laughing and doing things we enjoy does not mean we are ignoring the immensity of our current situation.  As human beings, we have the capability and capacity to hold the good and the bad. In order to keep the bad from overwhelming us, it is even more important that we find the enjoyment of playing board games with our family, taking a solitary stroll outside, or read that book we’ve been meaning to get to. 
  • Finally, just be kind!  Smile at others. Be mindful when shopping and your impact on others.  Support local businesses while continuing to care for the earth. Truly, the health and well-being of our community does not lie in the false notion of  “survival of the fittest” but “survival of the kindest.” 

Estes Valley, we are “Mountain Strong.”

Ray Nypaver

Owner of Wanderlust Counseling

 

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Growing Up (in the) Church

Preface:  These thoughts come to me in the midst of a new, budding relationship.  Yes, there is a “new Boy” who’s been nothing but kind and thoughtful.  Still, it’s been a hesitation of mine from the start that he “identifies” as Catholic.  I know identifies is a funny thing to say in defining someone’s religious choice, but for me he’s not the Catholic I grew up with—he’s more of the John Pavlovitz type—to the point where there are times that I want to say to him, “You’re not really Catholic then.”  In my mind, to at least help me make sense of it all for now, I’ve divided it up to the Catholic Church as a business, and Catholic the religious practice.  But to back track a bit, he’s seems (and has stated) that he genuinely does not care that I identify as spiritual.  Which makes me question if I am hypocritical in my own spirituality that I do question the sustainability of our relationship because of our beliefs.  I won’t let myself completely off the hook with that thought, as I do want to make sure that I don’t deny others of the religious and spiritual freedom that I was denied growing up.  However, I do want to acknowledge the weight and heaviness of the religion classes and lectures I sat through as a kid.  I thought I had processed it all before this relationship, but it seems that the Universe is offering me a new challenge.  As a brief example (with the rest being in metaphor below)…I’ve felt the need to bring up things that I normally would not want to do so early in a relationship so the new Boy has a clear idea of what he is getting himself into.   After much stumbling on my words, I told him I had no plans to ever get married (leaving out that if I ever change my mind, I want to get married outside the confines of four walls and by a woman).  I can’t blame all of that on the Catholic Church…part of it has to do with my parents’ divorce, my young and married uncle dying before turning 30, and the narrative I created in childhood around that.  But there is the religion class where we were told that the obligation in marriage was to procreate…and while I love kids I’ve never wanted them for myself (plus, Pacer is the best little girl I could ask for!).  And the whole “two become one” thing always seemed skewed in the man’s favor.  Finally, there’s the whole patriarchal and oppression thing that surrounds most religions…but that’s been written about more eloquently by others, so I’ll end this very long preface now.

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I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe

I try to cry

But I am drowning

Cleansed, I hear them say

But from a made up sin I did not commit

My clothes are white

But then my body grows, and its back to black

I run down the street on wobbly legs

I’m screaming:

Hear me

See me

Acknowledge me

All heads turn the other way.

I am but a ghost.  A Ghost?

No, for I am a woman.

I trip and fall.

I am but a ghost with bloody knees

Is this my cross to bear?

I choose to wear only bones

To be more like a Man or further hidden,

I no longer know.

Still, without this chest

Without my life-giving blood flow

There’s less force to do the things that I am told

Like my body is only for him

And the children to come after

For that is what is required for me to become seen

If I am good

Am I good?

It is only years later that I inhabit my body again

That I realize it wants to sing, to dance

To come forth as only the feminine spirit can

So I choose to run

And run

And run

Miles, valley, rivers, and mountains later

I break free of the chains, my cross

Finally, I have found my Heaven within.

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The evening after writing this, I cam across this amazing video: Be a Lady They Said

 

 

Conversations with the Mountains: Stop Playing It Small

And the mountains said to me:

Stall tall, stand strong.

In our shadows we’ve humbled and strengthened you.

Each summit you’ve earned.

Together we’ve weathered the storms.

Small in stature does not mean small of heart.

Pretending slightness does not serve you,

Nor does it serve us.

For we are not apart.

The scar on your left shin,

A symbol of what you’ve left, what we’ve left in you,

The blood bond that can not be broken.

Our magma core, the power of our love.

Your power to shine.

Like a wildflower growing between the rocks.

The freedom of flight in your wings, no longer climbing but flying between peaks.

With the strength of the mountains, you will soar.

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I Worship with the Trees

I worship with the trees

Everyday, we whisper our praises to the wind

So our prayers of peace may spread

No four walls can contain the magnitude of our love

 

To whom do we worship?

Not a whom or a what

For the too trained mind, we fear you may not see

 

I worship with the trees

We stand tall with our roots, connections to our tribe

We give glory to the birds, nesting in our branches, whose wings grant us higher perspective

 

I worship with the owls

Together we hoot and holler as we

Welcome another starry night

As the deer nest in the fallen leaves below us

 

I worship with the stars

We shine bright as we look down at the lovers staring back up at us

We send our light to them, so filled with hope, despite the surrounding darkness

We, the beacons that will allow us all to find our way home

 

I worship with the mountains, strong and steadfast

We welcome each season, rejoicing in the hot summer sun, 

The changing leaves of fall.

The blanket snow of winter, 

The sweet rains of Spring. 

 

I worship with the rivers, the rivers that carry our tears away

We shout with joy as our grief turns into mighty waters of something more

We watch with wonder as our tears give reason for the wildflowers to grow

 

I worship with the wildflowers

We turn our faces to the sun, soaking in its warmth

We grow as hues deepen, and celebrate the insects who feed from our sugars

 

I worship with the dogs

We run wild and free on trails that run high and deep

We renew our faith with cool sips of snowmelt

 

I worship with the Sky

We part the clouds and with the show of our rays we praise all that lives below

Could we love more? 

Mother Earth in all Her beauty…

 

I worship with the Earth

We stare up at the endless Father Sky, where possibility hides

We rejoice and cry with our children wandering our plains and valleys

 

I worship with the humans

We laugh and celebrate at the kinship, the strength, a simple touch can bring

We share our secrets, our fears, our ideas, our dreams, our love

 

I worship with the trees

The angels of the Earth

If a tree is near, never can we say we are alone

And so we deepen our roots, raise our branches

Touching the ground below and the sky above

All worlds, all beings, as one

 

I worship with the trees.

 

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Marijuana Use & Sales: Dear Community Members…

(Recently, a community coalition that I am a member of decided to write a letter to “opt out” of legislation that discusses the future sales & regulation marijuana.  The week after, the community voted down a bill that would allow for marijuana hospitality operations.  The coalition still plans to send out a letter, making the topic of marijuana “closed” in our small-ish (6500 people) mountain community.)

 

Dear Respected Community Colleagues,

I’ve been considering this letter for a long time, until now deciding that I wouldn’t write anything, especially as I realize we already voted on the matter to request Estes Park “opting out” on future legislation.  But truly, my wish is that as a community, we remain open to various possibilities of marijuana sales and consumption in Estes Park, despite the fail of the bill to allow for the sale of marijuana in town.

For those who wish to learn more, I’d like to dispel a few myths and share my side as a mental health therapist who has researched this topic and interned at Harmony Foundation.

As a therapist, I am not against the use of marijuana. There are people I know who have used it a few times and have not become addicted.  Some choose to continue to use it recreationally, and others who have decided they do not like and have never used it again. On the other hand, I know of people who have developed some degree of an addiction, and/or used marijuana to self-medicate.  A particular friend of mine did not have access to mental health services and carried deep, traumatic wounds. I never discouraged marijuana use with this friend, as I knew the other option for this friend would have been self-harm and possibly suicide.  In conversations, we talked about some other mental health tools and possibly making more changes when they were ready… if I would have pushed, it would have cut our lines of communication, not unlike if I tried to push a client to quit who came in for therapy and wasn’t ready to quit.

But to get to my points more quickly:  Addiction comes from pain, trauma, attachment wounds… I am not saying drugs/marijuana do not have addictive components, but they are never the sole reason, nor are genetics.  Sure, I can say someone who comes from a family with an addictive parent has a high susceptibility to develop an addiction themselves, but no one can say if it is from attachment issues passed down from the parent, or genetic reasons…especially as research has not been able to find an “addiction gene.”  There are reasons why some people become addicted and others do not. Furthermore, we also know that some people become addicted to fast food and/or sugary foods…but as far as I know, we’ve never written a letter to the town to ban McDonalds or the several taffy shops. Why? Well, these are “socially acceptable” addictions (that also bring the town income)…despite having negative health consequences that include those brought on from society from being overweight (depression, anxiety) and well as physical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and yes, death.  Which brings me to my next point…

Drug prohibition is directly related to the prosecution of minorities.  Even at Harmony Foundation, I knew very well that the white people were receiving treatment while people of color were going to jail.  For more on this topic, I highly suggest reading Johann Hari’s book “Chasing the Scream”. One of my favorite quotes from the book is “The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety.  It’s connection.” In fact, I can not remember speaking to one client at Harmony Foundation felt that in the depths of their addiction that they had meaningful, honest, and heartfelt relationships with others.  Connection may be the most important factor of group therapy.

In addition to the continual oppression of minorities, we also know from research and history that people in pain and have addictions will find other ways to obtain marijuane/their drug of choice, even if it is illegal.  In the case of the sale of marijuna, it is almost a given that anyone who consumes it will go down to the valley to make their purchase, before driving up the canyon. We can hope they wait to consume it until they return to Estes Park, but again, we can only hope.  While our town only has one Lyft driver, I believe that knowing what we know about drug use, it would be highly worth our exploring if it is in fact not safer to buy and consume the product at a designated location in town. For now, I’m going to dismiss the slippery slope argument of marijuane being consumed outdoors and in public areas, as current cigarette smoking laws lead me to believe that argument has no realistic basis. 

Dr. Gabor Mate is one of the most well-known physicians and speakers on the topic of addiction.  He is the author of the book “In the Realm of the Hungry Ghost: Close Encounters with Addiction”.  If I can encourage community members to do anything, I ask that you please watch this video with Dr. Mate speaking on the topic of cannabis and addiction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2R3_728Xxc 

Finally, to remain closed to further discussion on any topic, and in this case marijuana use and sales, is an unhealthy sign in any community.  Research on recreational and medical use of marijuana is still be conducted, as well as on how the sales of marijuana affect a community.  It is important that we trust future community members and leaders to have educated discussions on how to implement regulations.

Ask “not why the addiction, but why the pain.” -Dr. Gabor Mate

Kindly,

Ray A. Nypaver

 

Self-Partnered though the Holidays

Recently one of my favorite actresses*, Emma Watson, made headlines as she used the term “self-partnered” rather than single to describe her relationship status.

*Partially for her role as Hermione in Harry Potter, partially because of her activism, and partially because my family says I look like her (!).

Additionally, rapper/singer Lizzo has talked, or rather sung, about being her own soulmate.  There’s been a few haters, but more people have followed up with positive comments on this new terminology.

Truly, I love it so much that I wish I could check off “self-partnered” rather than “single” on my voter registration.  (Or rather for me and in congruence with my website name, the proper term may be dog-partnered.)

But, as Watson alluded to, it takes some work to get from single to self-partnered.

And I’m not quite there yet.

Now before all the haters say “see, I told you it wasn’t possible” let me say that I have identified with the term before.

A few years ago, after my heart was torn from a break-up with a man I was still in love with, I was living with my dog, sister, and her boyfriend in a condo we decided to all rent together to save money.  While I still mostly kept to my own, I had people I loved to briefly chat with throughout the day, often lamenting about the joys and pains of graduate school.  Speaking of grad school, I also had a small cohort/friends of other wilderness therapy students that I interacted with constantly.  For an introvert that thoroughly enjoys alone (aka, a dog and her girl) time, my life was full of social interactions and little time to do nothing, or rather, scroll through social media.  I felt content and fun-filled in my life without being in a romantic relationship.

Which brings me to the “work in progress” part now.

For one, my private counseling practice has been taking some time to get going, and my run coaching career is work-from-home, so I’m not spending a lot of time in social environments (though I am currently typing away at the library).  I live in a smallish mountain town, so finding friends is a bit of a challenge.  However, I have made a few friends recently, and that’s added a lot of joy to my life.  I also have a few core friends, though they’re spread out.  Still, our get togethers and chats are a valuable pieces of my well-being.  Additionally, my last break-up came with some small-t trauma, and I’m still processing the pain/confusion of the relationship. I have had some extra alone time lately.

The funny thing is, I rarely feeling lonely.  At this time of the season, I’m pretty happy snuggling with my dog and watching holiday movies (favorite: Elf).  And I’ve made sure to partake in my favorite holiday traditions and activities: my yearly November trip to Salida with my sister, her boyfriend, and Pacer to see “S” Mountain lit up like a Christmas tree, the tree lighting ceremony in my town, and the weird but wonderful holiday parade in the town down the canyon.  There’s been a few times I wished for a Hallmark* style romance in these situations (I’m not going to get into Hallmark movies right now…I find them predictably comforting…and I am sticking to my story for now!).  Additionally, unlike the previous year I’m grateful that I could enjoy the latter two events without an argument with the ex-boy.

If I could point to any other culprit that I would say is preventing me from fully claiming the “self-partnered” status, I’d blame the time I spend on social media.  A lot of my friends would laugh at this as I don’t even have a smart phone, but again, I work from home on my computer.  And then I’ll check social media at night, scroll through the feed, rather than diving into the book next to me.  There’s quite a bit of research out there on social media and loneliness, and as person who also happens to be a therapist, I can attest.  Temporarily de-activating my Facebook account may be something I try in 2020, while I consider getting a smart phone.  The benefits are getting lost less on camping trips as well as getting work done while on camping trips (with an re-active dog, its hard to find a coffee shop I can sit in and leave her the car, especially when it’s warm out), but I’m fearful of a further social media addiction.

As a therapist, I know that humans are wired for connections.  I know the goal is not dependence, independence, but interdependence.  And I know that being surrounded by people you love, but not romantically in-love with, is the key to being happily self-partnered…and happy when you do have a romantic partner!

With that, here are my tips for being happily self-partnered through the holidays:

-Spend time with friends/family weekly, especially one some evenings.

-Partake in all the holiday traditions and activities you enjoy, whether it is by yourself or with a friend.

-When you do settle down for that holiday movie, place your computer somewhere far away from you.  Commit to watching the whole movie without checking your social media.  (If you can ditch social media more than that, awesome, but I’m going to take baby steps.)

-When you are not listening to holiday music, put on some Lizzo!

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” – Hamilton Wright Mabie

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*Due to Hallmark’s ad pull, I’ve made the switch to Ion, Lifetime, Netflix Christmas movies, Elf, and traditional Christmas movies.

**I’m undecided if I’ll go back to watching Hallmark this Christmas…Hallmark reverses decision.

Reflections

Take, take, take

While I give, give, give

I can’t keep up

Nor can I please

So I cry down mountains

I plead through canyons

Places that were once Heaven

Darkened because of you

Or because of me?

I can never tell

I look back at journal entries

My words do not lie

So why do I question?

I cry more than I laugh

I take what is and is not served

I know what Im doing I say

Your expenses paid by a graduate students credit card

A forgotten Happy Birthday

But it’s okay I say

Until its not

The glass I shattered

Symbolic of more

Your words are the shards cutting my soul

I thought I was strong

My body turns to a shield

You will not hurt Her

I know your  hands will not touch me

But you don’t need them to scare

So we run into the night

Into the moon

A reflection of the light.

opus 4

Fall Evenings at the Cafe

It’s mid October.

Fall is quickly changing to winter here in the mountains.

Dusk comes early.

The trees stand nearly bare.

I can track my dog in the backyard just listening to her paws crunch the leaves.

I’ve taken shelter and a quaint cafe this afternoon.  I am the last customer inhabiting the upstairs loft.

On my left I have a view of the town park and I watch people in sweaters and boots holding hands as they walk past.

In front of me is contrast.  One tree bare, already strung with Christmas lights.  Then a yellow-orange Aspen beside a dark green pine.  The, far in the background, the foreboding and enticing Long’s Peak.

The cafe is closing soon.

Almost time for me to put on my hat.  I’ll stroll back to my car, welcoming the dark and finding comfort in the crisp air.

At home, I’ll give my four-legged fluffball a hug and belly-rub before we settle down for the night, buried under blankets and watching Netflix.

The wind will most likely howl and beat against the windows, but we will feel safe.  The wind only means change is coming, most likely snow.

I’ll say goodnight to the sky, kiss my dog’s wet nose one more time, and bury myself under the covers.  My hibernation won’t be very long, but I relax knowing I’ll awake to another day of Harvest.

It was a pleasant café, warm and clean and friendly, and I hung up my old waterproof on the coat rack to dry and put my worn and weathered felt hat on the rack above the bench and ordered a café au lait. The waiter brought it and I took out a notebook from the pocket of the coat and a pencil and started to write…” -Ernest Hemingway (quote on the wall at Inkwell & Brew)