Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Retaining My Mouth

Well, my mouth had all of 24 hours of complete freedom. It would now appear that I have traded a mouthful of metal for a mouthful of plastic.

That little word “retainer” sounded so innocent, so unobtrusive, so seductive while I was wearing my braces. Today I went in to pick up my retainers, thinking they would be little nothings that slipped on and off, relatively unnoticed. WRONG! They are these plastic molds that fit over my teeth, causing me to salivate and lisp and be generally uncomfortable. I thought I had paid my dues during the last 22 months. Now this!

As I leave for Mexico this weekend, they are giving me little pieces of advice – if an edge of one of the retainers is rubbing my gum raw, just use an emery board and file it off. Great! Just what I needed to hear.

I’m sure in a week this won’t be such a big deal. But right now it puts me in a pissy mood and makes me wonder if my mouth will ever really be free again. I remember just yesterday pledging on a stack of Bibles to wear the retainers. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I remember that.

The good news is that I only have to wear the top retainer during the daytime since I have a little wire bonded to the back of my front bottom teeth. To that I say that if it is this uncomfortable with just the top retainer in, how in the world am I going to sleep with them both in?

Pardon me while I feel oh-so-sorry for myself. I guess I should just remind myself about the “full YOUTHFUL smile” that my orthodontist bestowed upon me yesterday. Do all smiles of this nature come at such a cost?

I wonder at what age I will finally say to hell with retaining and simply accept the fact that I will be long gone before my teeth have a chance to shift back into utter crookedness again? Hm...

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Immersed in Trope

My name is Batia bat Avraham v’ Sara. In English this means Daughter of God, Daughter of Abraham and Sara. This is the name by which I will be called up to read the Torah for the first time on July 9. I look forward to this day with a sense of accomplishment, a sense of reaching an important milestone in my religious life.

I had been intending to do this for a long, long time. But I had never determined to do serious study. I had never picked a day. When Judith Rosen approached me about a joint “bat mitzvah” sometime this year, I agreed willingly. But until there was actually a date, I didn’t start to work terribly hard.

I could always sort of read Hebrew, incredibly slowly. I knew nothing about the trope marks that define the tunes to which the text is sung. Learning the trope for the Torah actually turned out to be not too hard for me because it was just a matter of looking at the music and learning it. And each of us only has 8 verses. There is the challenge of reading from the actual Torah, which has no vowels or trope marks. So you pretty much have to know your portion by the time you read it.

I decided to take on chanting the Haftarah as well. This has turned out to be a much bigger project because the Hebrew and the trope for this portion are much more difficult. At least with the Haftarah, the vowels and trope markings are visible.

David has been really good about helping me learn the Hebrew. Occasionally I sense that he wonders why I make the same mistakes over and over. But I have overheard him proudly telling people how hard I am working. That always makes me feel good.

We have now practiced with the actual Torah 3 times. I’m OK on the Torah reading, but the Haftarah is a little shaky. I think I will know it by July 9.

I really like the woman rabbi, Susan Warshaw, who will be leading the service on July 9. She told us to say a little prayer of thanksgiving when we got up to read for the fact that women are now able to do this, something that for many years was only done by men.

The preparation has given me a much greater appreciation for what 13-year-olds go through as they prepare for their b’nai mitzvot.

The last couple of mornings I have awakened with the trope in my mind, as though I am chanting in my sleep. I feel like I am really living the Torah in more ways that one right now.

I look forward to July 9 because it is a good reason for my children to come home. I hope they will be as proud of me as I was of them!

Free at Last

Today, after 22 months, I got my braces off! My teeth feel so smooth, so straight, and so unconstricted. I thought this day would never come.

Orthodonture as an adult has been a very different experience from having braces when I was 12. The first 10 weeks with the bite plate, when I had to blend and drink all my food, was enough to make me wish I had never embarked on this project to have straight teeth.

I remember complaining to Rachel several months after I had gotten the braces that I really missed kissing. She laughed and said, “Are you crazy? I had braces when I was dating Thomas and it never stopped us from kissing.” So as my mouth got toughened up to all the metal protrusions, I tried kissing again and sure enough, she was right.

The introduction of rubber bands offered a whole new set of challenges. This is when I really started to feel like I was imprisoned by the braces. When I was wearing Lemon-Lime rubber bands, I could barely open my mouth a slit.

But as of today, this is all behind me. It will just be another one of those experiences that I file away, knowing that it will never happen to me again in my lifetime!

Will I wear my retainers? Absolutely, positively! That’s why I can say with certainty that I will never again have braces...

Monday, June 27, 2005

BLOG Fallout

It is important always to be aware of who is reading your BLOG. I found this out the hard way recently when my husband stormed in when I was happily playing the piano and said, “Do you expect me to find out what is going on in your life by reading your BLOG?” He hadn’t read my BLOG for months, so it never occurred to me that he would read about my new therapist Kathryn prior to my telling him about my return to therapy.

I had purposely not brought up the issue of therapy until after I was sure it was going to work, hoping to avoid the inevitable conversation that we proceeded to have. After my initial apology and explanation, he started with, “I assume that this is something that you think you need to do,” to which I answered, “Yes.” Then the issue of money – how much I was now spending – came up. I knew this would be a problem, and for that reason I had already agreed with Kathryn that I would come every 2 weeks, to at least try to keep the cost down. He suggested that I might need to give something else up. The problem is that I really get so much out of all of the things I am doing on a regular basis that it is hard to give anything up.

For a few minutes, I had this desire to be entirely in charge of myself – to be able to determine if, when, and how I spend my money. But I know in my heart of hearts that I would be oh-so-lonely if I were on my own.

We didn’t really reach any conclusions about my “budget.” I did agree to try not to surprise him in the future, but I also reiterated what I have told everyone to whom I have given my BLOG address, “Read it at your own risk.”

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Back on My Bike

I hadn’t ridden my bike in a long time, not since I started exercising regularly, getting stronger. John, the bicycle enthusiast in my office who helped me select a bike, asked me the other day if I was going to get out on my Specialized this weekend. (I had forgotten it was called a Specialist.)

This was a beautiful weekend. So I pumped the tires up since they were completely flat, located my helmet, and went for a ride this afternoon. I had forgotten what a nice bike I own. I had also forgotten a lot about how to shift the gears, which I re-learned by trial and error. I approached the big hill on Braddock Road with my usual fear and trepidation. But much to my surprise I went up easily, not even stopping, in a medium gear, since I hadn’t yet figured out how to get into a lower gear. My legs are definitely stronger. The bike moves so effortlessly and smoothly on downhill stretches.

I noticed all sorts of things that I completely miss when I drive on those same streets. I said hello to an old man sitting out in his yard, told someone else what a nice dog he had, and was award of trees and other greenery that otherwise completely escapes my attention.

This week’s Washington Post had an article on a 3-day circuit bike trip that includes Block Island, Long Island, and some other places in that area. I am hoping that we can talk Linda and Michael into joining us in the Fall to do this trip, which includes visits to wineries, whaling stations, and a whole lot of interesting things.

I hope the bike tires never get so flat again from lack of use. I’m determined to keep riding!

Friend from the Past

Earlier this year I rediscovered my friend Chuck, whom I hadn’t seen since the day I moved to DC – that would have been September 12, 1971, when he was leaving town just as I was arriving. This all happened because when I visited Freddie Lee in March, we went to visit our friend Tricia Kelly, who just happened to have dated Chuck for a while at FSU. I agreed to go home and see if I could find him, which wasn’t all that difficult using the Internet. I didn’t hear from Chuck for a while, because he spends 4 months of the year in his condo in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, so he didn’t get my phone message which I left in Denver immediately. Since April we have been exchanging e-mail messages and catching up on each other’s lives.

When Chuck said he was coming east in the summer, I started to get excited about seeing this old friend again. The trip finally materialized and today he rolled into DC. You have to know that Chuck’s claim to fame when I knew him at FSU was a SHINY navy blue corvette, his pride and joy. Today’s car was also blue and was also a collector’s item, but this time a Porche. Chuck always did go for the best!

When the little blue Porche pulled up, I was so curious to see what a difference 30 years would make. The person who got out was a lot grayer and a little heavier, but still very recognizably Chuck.

I haven’t introduced a lot of men from my past to David. In this case, Chuck and I had probably never as much as hugged each other before, so it wasn’t like this was an old boyfriend. He was just a friend who also happened to be a boy.

David and Chuck immediately hit it off. They were both from Michigan, both Tigers fans, both probably attended many of the same baseball games growing up, and both have advanced math degrees that they put aside to do computer science. It made me realize that it was too bad I had never dated Chuck, because with all their similarities we would probably have hit it off well. They have both amassed huge collections of tunes on small players that they do techie things with. No shortage of things to talk about.

We learned all about Chuck’s life in Mexico, where he basically lies on the beach every afternoon and enjoys the life of Riley the rest of the time. He said you would be hard pressed to pay $15 for dinner in PV. When he extended an invitation to us to visit next winter, we jumped at the chance. Sounds like a week or two in paradise.

Unfortunately this was a short visit, as Chuck had other stops later today. Maybe next year if he comes east, he will stay a little longer. It is always so reassuring to pick up with old friends, even after 30+ years, as though there had never been a break. That’s what proves that friends are real!

Comfort Food for the Soul

You know how foods like chicken soup and chocolate cake just make you feel so good when you eat them? I decided today that the Psalms of David have the same effect on the soul.

80-year-old Harold Sharlin was our service leader today, since Danny takes the summers off. He opened the service by reading Psalm 121, which he reads every morning just after he wakes up. This beautiful psalm leaves behind the Torah's image of God as one who smites people right and left and sends people to war against their enemies. Instead it evokes almost a feminine image of a God who is nurturing and who really cares about us. I think I prefer this God and I definitely like the idea of comfort food for the soul.

*Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills --
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip --
He who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, He who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD watches over you --
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all harm --
He will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forever more.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Should We Hope?

All week long I have been thinking about the passage we read at meditation from Thich Nhat Hahn’s book Peace Is Every Step, in which Thich depicts hope as a barrier. He says that to really be in the present, we have to put hope aside – that it simply doesn’t serve us well in the present.

My initial reaction to this was that this might work for us middle to upper-middle class people who have fairly good lives. But for the homeless who were staying at the shelter down the street, hope was an essential ingredient of their existence. It was only the hope that the their status in life would change that kept them going. I was reminded in particular of a single woman at the Census Bureau whom we have been helping for at least 5 years. She hovers around the poverty line as she attempts to support 4 children and one grandchild on her salary. On Tuesday night her 19-year-old daughter Aisha, the mother of the grandchild, was caught in a drive-by shooting, where she was shot in the neck and left paralyzed and clinging to life. How could Thich deny this woman hope? Finding something positive in her present situation was out of the question.

When I told Rebecca about this discussion, she was outraged and fired back: “This is one of the first things that turned me against Thich. For heaven's sake, what the hell is he talking about? What a bleak world Thich inhabits.”

I have been struggling to see his point. Maybe he just wants to make sure we give more weight to “what is” than “what if”.

I don’t think I can rule hope out of my life. I hope for good health, long life, my children to be happy, all things that seem legitimate to me. After all, there really is a future, as much as we might like to think we can live in the present moment...

Friday, June 24, 2005

My Doctor Knows My Name

Just a little over a year ago I went to a new internist, Dr. L, who was highly recommended by my husband because he was current on all the latest research, as opposed to my old internist, Dr. N, who was a nice guy, but hard to get to see and not so current any longer. Dr. L pronounced me healthy, but noted a goiter in my neck. I said it had been there for almost 20 years and that Dr. N had told me it was only an odd bone in my neck and he dismissed it as not a problem. It was only when Rebecca said, “You don’t have a BONE in your neck there,” that I went back to Dr. L and asked him to pursue it. After putting me off as “not an urgent case” for several weeks, he referred me to an endocrinologist, Dr. C, who after a painful needle biopsy – imagine someone sticking a needle into your neck and extracting fluid and tissue multiple times – concluded that there were some suspicious cells, which then led to the removal of the right lobe of my thyroid with what turned out to be papillary cancer. I felt fortunate to have an excellent surgeon, a woman named Dr. H, who told me how lucky I was to have this form of cancer, which required no follow-up after surgery. It’s hard to get used to thinking about being lucky to have any form of cancer.

I waited and waited for Dr. L to call me and talk about how this might impact my overall health, thinking that that was the role of an internist – to look at the big picture. But the call never came. Dr. L never even called to tell me that he had followed what had happened. So while he was off learning about the latest and greatest in medicine today, he failed to learn my name and failed to know or care about what had happened to me. When I finally realized that he wasn’t going to call, I started thinking about getting a new doctor. I started asking people I knew if they liked their doctor and what experience they had had.

Rebecca said she thought Bill (the double bass player) had a female doctor he liked. Indeed he raved about Deb, as he calls her outside of the office, in the grocery story, walking down Mass Av on Capitol Hill. But he quickly remarked that he becomes Mr. V and she becomes Dr. E in the office – that she has an amazing ability to draw professional boundaries. He also told me that Deb was a first-rate musician, who happened to also play the double bass. That was last fall. I didn’t really need a doctor all year, so I didn’t pursue it.

But recently I decided that it might be a good idea to get a physical. By this time, through a series of odd coincidences I had started playing duets with Deb. I asked her if she was taking new patients, to which she said NO, but that she would make an exception for me. So I made an appointment for the next month.

On my way in to see her, I suddenly panicked and said to myself, “Are you crazy? This is the person who has become your friend through music. And you are now going to put on one of those skimpy gowns with all the slits and have her examine you? Absurd!” But I decided to go ahead anyway. Dr. E spent well over an hour with me, taking my medical history in the most minute detail. She seemed especially interested in my recent thyroid surgery – more interested in that than in my lousy skin and the fact that I had had three melanomas removed. She did all of the standard examinations very mater-of-factly. She had me sign a release form authorizing her to obtain my medical records from all my other specialist doctors. We shook hands upon completion of the visit, just as I would do with Dr. B or any of my other doctors. She never mentioned our music, but on my way out, said, “See you in a couple of weeks,” meaning the next time we were playing together.

Meanwhile, after the last time we played together, Deb suggested that David and I consider joining her and her husband Neal in Chautauqua for a week in July. As it turns out, David can’t go that week and I am going with my friend Bill (not the bass player). He will take full advantage of the Chautauqua program. I will play music and when I am not playing, listen to music, or ride my bike around, or just read a good book.

All of the blood and urine tests from my physical came back normal, so I assumed that I was pronounced healthy. Deb called me one night this week to talk about Chautauqua lodging and other details. Then she asked if she might change hats and talk about a couple of concerns about my health that had arisen since my physical. She had just that day gotten all of my records from various and sundry doctors. She had actually consulted a well-known endocrinologist about her concern that the surgeon had not removed my entire thyroid gland, with the knowledge that there were two small nodules in the remaining half. It turns out that one of them has increased slightly in size since my surgery. She was also concerned that my thyroid numbers are not where she thinks they should be. Part of me is tired of thinking about my thyroid gland, but another part was jumping up and down saying. “I finally have a doctor who knows my name and who really cares what happens to me. Hallelujah!” She recommended that I get another opinion about how to proceed with my thyroid issues and said she would bring some names of good endocrinologists the next time we got together. She also said that she would carefully monitor my bone density because the loss of thyroid function could bring on osteoporosis. No one else had told me that!

Although I don’t think of Deb as my doctor when we are playing together, it will be somewhat reassuring to know that I am going on vacation with my doctor, just in case I need her professional help! By the way, in addition to being a great doctor, she is a terrific musician, who is incredibly patient with me and makes me feel good about my half of the duo. I feel really fortunate to know Deb, Dr. E.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

In Harm's Way

For about 5 years my office has been helping Tondrea, a single mom with 4 children and 1 grandchild who hovers at the poverty line despite the fact that she has a job at the Census Bureau. Recently this family moved out of the dangerous drug-infested public housing project across the street from the Census Bureau into a house on a quiet street. I breathed a sigh of relief that none of them had ever been touched by all the bullets that constantly whiz through the Suitland air.

On Wednesday morning I got an e-mail message from one of Tondrea’s coworkers saying that Tondrea’s 19-year-old daughter Aisha had been the victim of a drive-by shooting on Tuesday night. She was struck in the neck by two bullets and likely paralyzed from the neck down. She lay in the ICU of a local hospital, living on a ventilator. I was in shock, not knowing any of the specifics of the incident.

Today I spoke to Tondrea, who seems to be holding up incredibly well given the strain that she is under. It turns out that the whole family was there, as they made a stop in the old neighborhood to pick up someone for Aisha’s sister’s birthday party. As Aisha pushed others to the ground when the shooting started, she didn’t get there herself.

What can anyone do to move the black cloud hanging over this family? Tondrea asks us all to pray for Aisha. But I am practical enough to know that prayer may not make Aisha walk again. This 19-year-old may be condemned to life in total paralysis. She will watch her young daughter grow up, never being able to hold her again. I find this all incredibly sad.

Witnesses to this incident have identified those who fired the shots at some boys who escaped unscathed, but seeing them go to jail will do little to right this very wrong situation.

Tondrea has always had the ability to deal well with adversity. She is tough and street-wise. When she talks to children from that old neighborhood, they listen and do whatever she says. I fear that this may be a challenge that even Tondrea just can’t deal with.

I will pray for Aisha... and for Tondrea too.

My Dilemma Resolved

Last week I ruminated all week about what to do about my therapy situation. I was feeling oh-so-guilty as I pondered why I was not connecting with Kathryn, why I wasn’t willing to commit to this therapy relationship.

When we finally reached each other by phone, I was prepared to call it quits. But as we talked, she persuaded me to come just one more time so that she would at least have the opportunity to summarize what she had learned so far. I also started to talk about what was making me uncomfortable. When I mentioned the lack of eye contact, she immediately understood and responded with such empathy that I was really touched. So I agreed to one more visit.

As the week progressed I still had pangs of guilt every time I considered stopping therapy – guilt that I hadn’t really given it a chance, that I had copped out for entirely the wrong reasons, concern that my meditation friend who recommended Kathryn would be disappointed. When I saw Rebecca on Sunday and told her about all this guilt, she read my tarot cards and said maybe the timing just wasn’t right. She emphasized that I would know what to do.

But I found by Monday that I was actually looking forward to seeing Kathryn on Wednesday. When she hadn’t appeared from behind one of the many doors by 7 AM (our appointed time), I panicked that I had the date wrong, the time wrong. So I knocked on the door from which she always emerges and she was there, looking happily Chico-ish.

I already knew that this was not going to be the last session, so I focused on how to fix what wasn’t right. She was making eye contact and for the first time I noticed that she has really pretty eyes which are quite friendly. When I told her that watching her write things down for 50 minutes made the situation entirely too clinical for me and that I didn’t like the barrier created by her movable writing surface, she swivelled it out of the way and put down her pen. Immediately her voice relaxed and she started gesturing with her hands – what a difference.

I told her that I was afraid there were topics I wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about with her and mentioned my dream of last week. I told her how very different Anne had been from me – a somewhat frumpy older woman who never emptied her trash can and very likely was a lesbian. And I had already mentioned how very different Rebecca and I are. I never had any problem telling either of them anything, probably because they were so different. I expressed my idea that her similarity to me and to my female friends perhaps made it harder for me to talk about crazy dreams or sexual matters.

But then I said to myself, “What the hell?” and decided to tell her about last week’s dream about the babies. We spent a lot of time talking about its significance, especially given the fact that it was the very morning that I was coming to therapy. She is amazingly good at making important connections.

She told me a little about her approach to therapy, which combines psychotherapy with psychoanalysis. I really didn’t even know the difference. She described psychoanalysis as occurring on a couch with the therapist out of view of the patient. I blurted out, “That is exactly the situation with I am having a massage and my eyes are shut. That’s when I am most able to just let everything go, often not even remembering what I have said.” She also said that patients undergoing psychoanalysis often come to therapy several times a week.

I have been having some worries about paying for this therapy at $175 for 50 minutes. I am sure my insurance will pay as much as half, but it is still pricey. I see myself back in the position I was in at age 5, having to choose between kindergarten and dancing lessons. So I decided to set out one more “demand” and see if she would go for it. I proposed that we meet every other week, realizing that it might be slow going at this rate, but that it made financial good sense. She agreed.

So I will see Kathryn next week and then every 2 weeks thereafter.

Upon the completion of my time, as I got up to leave, I had the distinct impression that we both wanted to hug each other in congratulations for the fact that we had navigated some tricky waters and come out in a calm pool. Everything was resolved, at least for now, and I was encouraged that she was willing to make changes, compromises, to ensure that I feel good about my therapy. Of course, we resisted the hug, following that age-old requirement of no physical contact after the initial handshake. I still think this is a stupid idea, but not one I am ready to challenge! After all, I got everything I really wanted.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Summer Camp

For so many years I have been wanting to go to Chautauqua for a week in the summer. Several years ago, our friend Bill Casey also expressed an interest in going. His wife Kris and my David were never interested – Kris probably because she can think of a lot of other ways to spend vacation time (of which she has very little because she works for a private company) and David because he’s just not a fan of high-brow music and he is suspicious that Chautauqua is a Christian institution.

Recently my latest double-bass partner Deborah suggested that we go to Chautauqua the week in July when she and her husband are going to be there. As it turns out, David is going to be in New Orleans that week at a technical conference, which has absolutely no appeal for me. So I asked Bill if he would like to go with me. At first David was somewhat ticked off since we have never taken separate vacations. But at the same time, he realized just how much I wanted to go and could hardly say no.

As I learn more from Deborah, it sound like there are so many great ways to spend your time in this idyllic environment. Her husband Neal enjoys the group lectures and discussions, as Bill is intending to do. She gets together with a group of people who are there to play chamber music. They play in all sorts of combinations and get coaching from some of the wonderful people who are working as musicians at Chautauqua in the summer, including my friend Bill V and her teacher Curtis. Sounds remarkably like summer music camp for adults!

There is this sticky issue of lodging, which is scarce no matter what you are looking for. I started out looking for 2 singles and quickly concluded that this was going to cost a fortune! So I then found one double with 2 twin beds and a kitchenette for $1150. Still sounds expensive to me! I continue to look. David and Kris laugh about Bill and me running off together for this vacation. I actually can’t think of a “safer” person to go with. Bill almost became a Catholic priest. At the last minute, he met Kris, fell in love, and decided to try another career. He is recently retired and is working hard to figure out how to spend the rest of his life. We are both terribly Type A and accomplishment-oriented. He enjoys meditation and discussions about spirituality and philosophy. A perfect traveling partner, I’d say.

So I think this trip may actually happen. Deborah didn’t seem to blink when I said I wasn’t bringing my husband, but rather my friend Bill. We’ll see what happens...

Saturday, June 18, 2005

My Dilemma

I recently started seeing a new therapist, Kathryn. I went to my first appointment so full of anticipation, so ready to start over with a new person and then go miles further than I had with Anne. I had loved my sessions with Anne, even though sometimes the topics were painful. I had found it so cleansing to be able to just unload whatever was on my mind and have someone help me process it. It was Anne’s idea that I terminate therapy. She felt she had done all that she could for me. But in my heart of hearts I knew there was a lot of unfinished business.

I asked a very good friend with whom I meditate for a referral to a good therapist and that’s how I found Kathryn. In picturing my perfect therapist, I would have suggested a female about my age, Jewish, someone with a good sense of humor. When I contacted her, I was very up front about needing to know that if either of us thought that this was not a good match, that we could easily terminate our relationship.

I have now completed three sessions with Kathryn. It turns out that she is a female about my age. I doubt that she is Jewish. And I haven’t noticed a sense of humor yet in three hours of therapy. Kathryn is very serious, somewhat tentative in the way she speaks, and she writes a lot during our sessions. In fact, it occurred to me that I haven’t had a lot of eye contact with her. I have to ask myself whether that is because she is somewhat uncomfortable with what we are talking about or whether she is just a shy person who is more comfortable looking at a pad of paper.

It suddenly hit me after our last meeting that I was going to have to make a decision about whether or not to make a serious long-term commitment to therapy. I was starting to think that perhaps Kathryn was too much like me – a somewhat serious person, not very spontaneous, fairly Type A, no real sense of humor. I also realized that there were topics that I couldn’t picture myself discussing with Kathryn. Whereas I woke up on the day of my last therapy session and dashed off a message to Rebecca about a particularly troubling dream, I couldn’t imagine telling the same dream to Kathryn, probably because I thought she would think it was silly. FYI – Here is the message I sent Rebecca:

Just woke up from a dream that really creeped me out: 45 babies all lying on a wooden shelf in something like a storage room. None was crying. I kept wondering, where are the people who are supposed to be taking care of them, holding them? I picked one up and it fell to the ground, where its head bounced on the cement floor. Were any of them real? God, I hope not!

I have no problem talking to Rebecca about just about anything. I even told Anne most everything. So why would I feel differently about talking to Kathryn? I concluded that it is because Rebecca and Anne were so unlike me, whereas Kathryn is just like my upper-middle-class friends who buy their clothes at Chicos and send their children to private schools.

There is also this matter of cost. I had not even asked Kathryn’s rate, assuming that it was something like Anne’s rate of $110 or the rate Rebecca pays her therapist of $120. Kathryn’s rate turns out to be $175! She is constantly urging me to come even more often than once a week and when I suggested that I might want to come every two weeks, she said, “We’ll have to talk about that.”

I decided to terminate my therapy with Kathryn, so I called her up and left a message to that effect. When we finally talked this week, we agreed that I would come one more time just to wrap up what we had done. I also shared my concerns about the lack of eye contact. I didn’t mention the missing sense of humor or the cost as factors.

Since that appointment, I have had the same yucky feeling in my stomach that I used to have when I was about to break up with a really nice guy who hadn’t done anything wrong, but where I knew the chemistry was not right for me. All my best-laid plans of how to gracefully end therapy seem to have evaporated. I was concerned that my friend who recommended Kathryn would now be mad at me, that Rebecca (who first suggested that I go to therapy) would be mad at me, that I would be mad at me, etc.

I’m not sure where this is going. As the week wore on, I began to realize that I would truly miss having someone to talk to in this capacity. Kathryn had actually been a wonderful listener and had made some insightful connections between my early years and my present life. I’m willing to concede that if she will just quit writing and look at me and allow me to come every two weeks, I would like to continue. The thought of starting over with someone new is just more than I can imagine at this point.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Myers Briggs Typing

We had an interesting discussion last night with our friends Kris and Bill, who were over for dinner. Bill is really into analyzing people – why we are the way we are. He brought up the Myers Briggs personality classification. Here’s a link if you are not familiar with it: David and I are both INTJ. Bill is ESTJ. Kris is INFP – the exact opposite of Bill. It’s interesting in that we have all been married for almost 30 years, so type matching is certainly not a requirement. Of the 4 of us, Kris is the only one who displays any sort of spontaneity – she will actually get up in the morning with absolutely no plan for how she is going to spend the day – something the rest of us found to be a foreign concept, but one we would like to aspire to. Obviously this doesn’t change with retirement, because Bill and David are both retired and they still plan every day!

I talked about this with Rebecca this morning. She admitted to not being very organized in general, but on work days having more or less a list of what she had to do. But her approach to non-work days was to live them spontaneously. Maybe this is a good balance. She suggested that I do something spontaneous on the way home – just to see how it feels. So I parked illegally and made a quick trip to the Sackler to see a fantastic exhibit of a weathered fishing boat filled with broken pottery shards, including hundreds of statues of Guanyin. Here is the link to a description of the exhibit:
It was definitely worth the visit and it was especially nice that I didn’t get a parking ticket.

David and I have both determined to work on loosening up our lives and staying more in the moment instead of having so many plans. Probably a lot more healthy...

Friday, June 10, 2005

Hablo Espanol... After All

WOW! Did I ever have fun this afternoon!

After being told by the Foreign Service Institute that they didn’t have a class at my (low) level, I was getting panicky about my Spanish ability for this upcoming trip to Mexico. The Director of the Census Bureau was supposed to go, but decided that family commitments would not permit him to travel over July 4. So I am going to have to represent the Bureau at this conference! Gulp!

For 2 weeks I have been leaving messages for hispanic teachers who never seemed to call me back. Then all of a sudden I found Edwin from Peru who can devote as much of the next week as I would like to my Spanish review. He came over today and we spent 2 wonderful hours just talking and talking with NO English. He has this nice way of correcting you without making you feel like an idiot. Spanish is such a nice, friendly language. It was like getting reacquainted with an old friend.

Edwin is going to work with me Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of next week. I think by then my confidence will be restored and I will be close to ready for Mexico.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Love, Marriage, and Affairs

Excerpt From Captain Correlli's Mandolin:

When you fall in love it is a temporary madness, it erupts like an earthquake and then it subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots are so entwined together that is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the desire to mate every second of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining he is kissing every part of your body. No don't blush, I am telling you some truths.
That is just being in love, which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over, when being in love is burned away.
Doesn't sound very exciting does it?
But it is.

We recently went to two weddings in one weekend. Both of these couples had been living with each other for several years, so they had had enough time to get beyond the insanity that we all feel when we fall in love. As they exchanged their vows, looking with so much optimism and trust at one another, in two very different ceremonies – one a formal Catholic mass in a beautiful stained glass chapel, the other a mixed, but mostly Jewish wedding outdoors at a camp – I wondered how long these marriages would last – 10 years, 20 years, or a lifetime? For most couples, the wedding marks a clean slate. It is only later that growing apart, indiscretions, the strain of raising children, or differences about money erode the commitment that starts out so strong. I can honestly say that I believe both of these couples, in their mid-twenties, will last.

I have another friend, however, who is having the most fairytale like relationship with a man considerably older than she is. And she is over 50. They have known each other for over 30 years, having corresponded and remained the best of friends all this time. But they had never allowed anything more than holding hands once, and maybe one kiss. She told me that he is the only person she has ever been able to trust. Thirty years of pent-up passion has now erupted into a romance to end all romances. He writes her a real letter, mailed with real stamps, every day. The only problem is that he has been married for more than 40 years. Until just today, I had reveled in my friend’s newfound happiness; I hadn’t thought about this from the wife’s standpoint. What suddenly hit me is despite all the wonderful sex and current infatuation, in the end at least one person is going to get really hurt. Or it could be two. Or even all three. It makes me very sad to think about this. I am especially glad I am not the wife. But I don’t think I could bear to be my friend either, having to share the person I loved with someone else.

I have had an ongoing discussion with this same friend about monogamy. She is in favor of non-monogamous relationships. I really believe that if you love and trust another person – spouse, partner, girlfriend, boyfriend – you don’t have room in your heart for similar feelings about anyone else. I just can’t imagine that it would be humanly possible to condone your lover’s sleeping with someone else. Certainly for those of us who have been married as long as I have, the breathlessness described above is a thing of the distant past. You know every inch of your lover’s body. You have tried and true ways of making love, that may not vary greatly. We all fantasize about that long-gone passion, but the cost of recapturing it with someone else is a high price to pay for something that may burn away and not yield the real thing.

Growing old together poses a lifetime of challenges. Love and trust increase the odds that two people can make it together.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

The $50 Ripped Page

Yesterday I accompanied Morena, Santiago’s mom, to her meeting with the Flintstone Elementary School (yes, that is really the name of the school!) staff who had recently tested Santiago. Before the meeting as we were sitting around waiting to be called in, she showed me a letter that Santiago had brought home which stated that he had to pay $50 for a lost textbook. She explained to me that the book had been returned to the school with a piece of tape over a tear in one page. The letter clearly stated that her son would not be allowed to proceed to the next grade unless the fee was paid. OUTRAGE! This is what poor immigrant families are faced with all the time. After a few inquiries, I found a person who knew something about the textbook situation. She pulled out the official rules and found something that said that the fine on a book that was not actually lost would be prorated according to the damage and that “normal wear and tear” was to be considered. She was white, whereas every other face I saw at the school in an administrative position of any kind was black. Am I prejudiced? Without a doubt when it comes to things like this that demand thinking and reasonableness. By the time we left, the fine had been dismissed and her son, who still can’t read, was eligible to be graduated out of the 4th grade.

I’m trying to get geared up for a crash tutoring course over the summer to teach this kid how to read. The tests show that he has some ability, which I intend to tap into. I don’t have training as a teacher, but I am a firm believer in phonics. If you are reading this and you know ANYTHING about how to teach a non-reader, please let me know so that I don’t waste his time and mine. I will feel so good if by the time he goes to 5th grade he can read. I would feel even better if he came to LIKE reading. Reading will be his ticket to worlds he will never be able to afford to visit otherwise...

Friday, June 03, 2005

Why Am I Not Writing?

I think I am the only person who has noticed that it has been over 2 weeks since I posted anything. I have really missed writing – it is one of my most relaxing and fun things to do.

I am totally overcommitted right now. Here is what is happening in my life right now:
– I am working hard at the Census Bureau on things with real deadlines, as opposed to 2 months ago when I could actually write in my BLOG while I was at work because I didn’t have anything pressing. The enormity of this processing job – 3 million households a year forever – with my little staff of 6 is starting to scare me!
– I am playing serious music with 2 people – both double bass players. This means I try to practice an hour a day. That is hard to fit in.
– I am preparing for a Bat Mitzvah on July 9. This entails chanting 8 verses from the Torah – Numbers 20:22-29 – and chanting the Haftarah portion – Judges 11:1-11. This shouldn’t be a big deal because nobody comes to services in the summer. But it is my first time to do this and it is an incredible amount of work to learn all the necessary tunes for the various trope markings. This takes about 20 minutes a day.
– I am dealing with Santiago’s plight in the public schools again. I did force the issue of testing this child. He obviously cannot read, just as we knew 2 months ago. The school doesn’t seem to be taking a lot of responsibility for dealing with his particular problems. So I am planning to organize some tutoring over the summer to see if we can’t get him to the point where he can decode words. I would also like to take him to the hispanic learning specialist I had identified earlier.
– I am still attempting to exercise every morning and I now seem to have enough exercises to fill about 40 minutes. With each pilates class, the list of exercises grows.
– I am in charge of opening and closing the space where I meditate 3 times a week – Monday and Friday AM and Wednesday PM. This means that I have to show up.
– I just started psychotherapy with a new person. I see her once a week and she is located in NW Washington.
– I still need to sleep at least 7 hours a night.

So this is why I simply haven’t had time to write. Here are the topics I have thought about writing something on:
– My weekend workshop on aromatherapy with Mikael Zayat, a Canadian alchemist whose family has made essential oils for centuries, coming from Egypt originally.
– Singing for Teddy’s 20th anniversary service.
– Our marathon wedding weekend, where we went to a 5 PM Saturday wedding in DC and an 11 AM Sunday wedding on a lake north of Detroit, Michigan, with very little sleep in between.
– David’s increasingly crazy family.
– The tragedy of growing old and deaf, as my mother-in-law is.
– My first session with Kathryn, my new therapist.
– Saying goodbye to Gordon as he goes off to the New Mexico desert for 6 months.
– Looking forward to a visit from Chuck Prins, whom I haven’t seen in 30 years.
– My wonderful pilates teacher Chris Mahle.
– Trying to figure out why I never hear from Freddie Lee, Mollie, Ina, Guerry, Barbara Paul, or any of a number of other people.

I have to find a way to reclaim my writing time. It’s one of the few ways I have of staying in touch with myself. I think things will be less pressured after July 9. But who knows for sure?