Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Pit Bulls and Hockey Moms

I have a sign in my basement that says, “The only difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom is lipstick.” It reminds me of that NHL commercial that used to be on. Two men get on an elevator wearing rival team jerseys. The next time the door opens they both come out looking beaten up. The line is something like, “hockey fans are a different breed” or some similar sentiment.

I get it, but I have to admit I haven’t fully acclimated and I probably never will. Frankie got into his first real hockey fight last weekend and ended up suspended for three games. People of all ages and genders congratulated him for a defense man’s job well done. Even my counselor said that it was good that he was such a tough player. It’s needed in a sport like that.

I repeat, I get it. But I had a stomach ache driving home from that game. While I can mentally wrap around it, every time he checks hard or looks like he might scrap, I stand on the bench, frozen with my hand over my mouth. I will never get used to watching my son in those situations. I figure everyone else can high-five him, but I just can’t. I wouldn’t scold him, but I just can’t bring myself to cheer him on. I worry to death about him.

At another game this week, I was hanging out with a bunch of parents. Frankie had told me they were playing a team that hadn’t won all season. I felt bad for them before I even got there. I remember the year Frankie was on a team like that. It was torture to go to the games. This night, the opposing team was short players too which meant the kids on the ice were utterly exhausted. I kept watching the goalie and seeing his head hang low every time our team scored against him.

Finally, I couldn’t help myself and just blurted out how sad the goalie looked. The parents started to chuckle and one of them turned and said, “Spoken like a true counselor.” That did it. Everyone cracked up, even me. I really am the social work type without even thinking about it. The jokes just piled on after that. They suggested I go over to the glass and try to talk to the poor kid. Maybe I could offer him my card and a free session. I could say things about his self-worth. You get the gist of it. It was all in good fun and I had to laugh with them and even played along with it.

Yep, I’m not a true hockey mom. I just don’t have enough pit bull instinct.

Actually, I have to admit, I’m more than okay with that. In fact, I hope that part of me never changes. (But let’s not tell Frankie!)


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Carly

Most of you may not know that I went to a very conservative Bible college for my Bachelor’s Degree. I got an MA in International Ministries. Anyhow, I am still very much in touch with my first roommate, Carly. With cell phones, there are no longer long-distance charges so we talk several times a week. She lives in Indianapolis.

Carly home schools and also works from home when she can. For a while, she was an editor for a publishing company. That fit in great when I decided to write my books and open the publishing company. With the ease of the internet, she was able to edit both books from home, as well as the other three books the company got out. During the time that Tim was sick, she followed our blog faithfully but also sent us private emails. That meant she never actually got in the books because the entries all came from Caring Bridge. She is now a faithful follower of my blog. She joked a couple of weeks ago that maybe someday she will “make the blog.” Well, here you are Carly. A blog about you.

When I think about my relationship with her, I actually have to cringe. Not because of her, but because of me. I was well-intentioned, but nevertheless I was still a nightmare of sorts in college. I was in my genuine yet holier-than-thou phase. I truly tried to be the best Christian I could, but I remember someone on our floor saying that I talked like I had swallowed a Bible.

I played floor hockey and Carly could always tells when she got off the elevator because the whole floor would smell like Ben-Gay. I got injured more than once. One time I sprained my knee and had crutches. Another time my finger got whacked and my nail turned black. We had to drill a hole in the nail to let the blood out. But we were the champs. For those of you that know how NOT athletic I am, you would have been proud.

Moody Bible Institute- 10 N Hockey champs- Ellen, Darcy, Nancy

Moody Bible Institute- 10 N Hockey champs- Ellen, Darcy, Nancy

One of the most memorable times, was when I fell asleep on the top of the roof. We were on the tenth floor (the school was in Chicago) and it was a cloudy day. I ended up dozing off and got one of the worst sun burns I’ve ever had in my life. It was awful. Carly and the other girls on my floor took turns putting tea bags and cool cloths on my skin for hours. We had a dress code and I had to wear dresses to class. I didn’t wear a bra or underwear til I got better, which in a Bible school was of course scandalous.

One day I didn’t come home when Carly was expecting me. I remember walking in the room and her saying, “Where the hell have you been?” Now that may sound normal to you, but in a Bible college, that was even more scandalous. It was downright shocking. I remember being stunned. She said hell! My how time can change things. Here we are a couple of decades later and I’m praying more than usual. My prayer is that I don’t drop my usual F-bombs while she is here. She would love me regardless, but I don’t want to unnecessarily offend her. LOL!

I did a skit one time and was supposed to look like a punk rocker. You can only imagine the looks I got walking around that conservative campus looking like that. This is Carly and I after that lovely event.

Darcy, Janet Pollard-Carr

Darcy, Janet Pollard-Carr

Here is a real cringe moment. Back then, even though I wanted to be a missionary, I also had visions of being a counselor. I have totally forgotten this, but when Carly reminds me (as we giggle) I have to admit that it sounds exactly like something I would have said. I used to tell her on no uncertain terms that she unconsciously hated her father. I just knew she had unresolved issues with him and she needed therapy to deal with her hatred. Yikes. I shiver when I think of my audacity, and frankly my complete wrongness. Her dad is a delightful British guy with an accent that will melt your heart. She recently almost lost him but thankfully he is on the road to recovery.

Life sure has a way of changing things and humbling you. And sometimes, rare people like Carly just love you through all the phases and changes in spite of yourself. She arrived last night and we went to Applebee’s for a late night dinner. We both got the chicken pecan-crusted salads. Aren’t we well-behaved? The first thing I did was spill the entire container of dressing on the table. It was oily and messy and not easy to clean up. We had our waitress come over and clean it. I told her Carly was the one who had just driven all day but I was the one who was the clutz. She had to bring over spray to clean it so I had to hold the salad up so it didn’t get sprayed on. We laughed. And then before she could gather her things to leave, Carly spilled her entire cup of dressing on the table. Thank God our waitress had a sense of humor. We laughed so hard I’m sure we turned some heads. And of course, not a drop of alcohol passed our lips.

I can’t remember if I slipped out an F-bomb but I’m sure some curse word fell out. Carly just laughed. So glad she is here, even if briefly. Old friends, dear friends. Love you Carly!


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More Purpose

Last week I wrote about purpose. This week on Facebook I posted a quote from my psychology magazine. Today I noticed that the headline of the article reads “Fulfillment of Purpose.” Hmmm…

I am going to repost that quote and add another from the same article by Mark Hubble, Francoise Mathieu, and Scott Miller. The article is talking about the purpose of therapists. “In the end, we don’t fulfill our purpose by providing caring, empathy, and compassion, no matter how lovingly extended. We do fulfill our purpose, however, when we consistently engage in the kinds of therapeutic practices that objectively promote the client’s improvement. Further, genuinely and demonstrably helping people improve is the entire point of therapy and, in the end, the best of all ways to show that we really, deeply care.”

I had mixed feelings when I read this. Often times I am amazed by the way my personal life dovetails with what is going on in my professional life. This is one of those times that as I read those words, I can’t separate how I feel as a therapist, with how I feel as a client myself, or how I feel as a human being in general.

The ultimate goal is progress, change, growth. When I run groups, I stress that. We are here to support each other, but if we aren’t working toward change, then you are paying for a bitch session. Come and spill your guts, get validated, but then let’s talk about how to move forward.

When that happens (i.e. we have an “aha” moment and actually move forward) in therapy or in life, it is very gratifying and satisfying. Knowing that things actually “work” is a great experience. But what about when we are stuck? And what if that statement is even wrong? Being “stuck” implies that you should be moving forward. What if we are just meant to be where we are? What if right now is as good as it gets? There also seems to be wisdom in that Eastern thought of contentment exactly where you are.

I recently had a talk with one of my clients about this before I read the article. I’ve been seeing her over ten years. I’ve been seeing her husband less than that, but still for several years. They were having one of those repetitive arguments where they both had good points. He said, “We’ve been talking about this for years.” She looked at me, shrugged her shoulders, and said, “I got nothing.”

I was listening to them, thinking the exact same thoughts. They both have good points. I don’t know that they can/will change. I have no idea how to help them past this one. (Wasn’t a life-changing argument, just one of those annoying living with each other things.) I looked at them, shrugged my shoulders, and said, “I got nothing either.”

And they pay me!

Later, she and I were talking in her individual session. It was one of those conversations about angst and the circular problems of life. You do everything you can, but fundamentally things don’t change. I could totally identify with her. I said that sometimes I feel like I would do her a better service if I referred her to someone new who had more wise things to say other than validate her frustrations. She emphatically told me that she would end up walking away from a therapist like that. One of the reasons she has continued all these years, is because I am genuine and real, and she feels like I really get it.

I’ve been seeing my therapist for 15 years. People ask me sometimes if I should change it up. I guess what I’ve concluded is that even if my life doesn’t radically change, I feel good for that 50 minutes I am there. He knows me inside and out. He challenges me and tells me things that are hard to hear sometimes. But overall, it just feels better to have a compassionate ear.

All that flies in the face of what that article says. I guess I don’t fully agree or disagree. I think ONE of the purposes of therapy IS to deliver compassionate care. But another very important purpose is to help people change and grow. I guess that is the bigger purpose. Perhaps the steps to get there require the caring.

In my own life, and my professional life, my purpose is to grow and change, by providing compassion and love. And when the change is slow or non-existent, and I am left with people who care, I prefer not to think of that is failure. Sometimes that is as good as it gets. And if you truly have that love and understanding, that is pretty damn good.